Look, there’s no getting around it: 2016 hasn’t been the best of years.
Hottest year on record. The Middle East is getting hotter. The Great Barrier Reef’s on life support. Bowie’s gone. Rickman’s gone. Prince is gone. Britain’s committing a very public economic suicide. The USA is looking for ways to one-up them. Australia is governed by miserable, visionless turnips and there’s no new bloody Doctor Who until Xmas.
But as the great John Goodman once said, I’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness. So I am declaring this November to be a Month of Relentless Positivity. Every day, I will post about something I love, or at least like enough to draw your attention to. Something positive. Something harmless from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us.
It could be a song I like. Or a movie I watched. Or something from that frightening virtual stack of comics backed up on my iPad.
Frankly, most of it’s going to be pop culture stuff, but I reserve the right to post about anything. The important part is that it will be fluffy, and happy, and offer momentary respite from the implacable horrors of reality.
Join me all this month for stuff that cheers me up, and offers a tiny sliver of escape from this long waking nightmare from which none may emerge unscathed.
Don’t think you’ve quite got the hang of this positivity thing yet. Here is an extract from one of my efforts last November:
“I give myself this command: seek a sense of proportion yourself, first. Take the beam out of your own eye. What does it matter what happens to Western Civilisation? It has been fatally injured since 1914. It has done what it came into the world to do, it has spread its seeds, it has brought the Declaration of the Rights of Man to the shores of the Ubangi and the Summa Theologica to Vietnam, and there is no corner of the world where the ‘good bits’ of Western Civilisation are not ceaselessly alive, a vision in the minds of men. So it is dying, now, but it has been dying a long time, and every day it is a smaller proportion of the world’s population, the world’s wealth, the world’s knowledge. Remember, never have more people lived healthy and productive lives then right now, today. Never have we known more; never have we had more. Look at the world, and exult at it. What is happening in the parts of the world where most of us live? The Renegade Mainland Provinces have abandoned their profoundly anti-human One Child Policy; is this not the best piece of news of this century? Of course it is. Look at India: when you were young, remember how it was mired in unproductive economic policies, a hairsbreadth away from dictatorship? Remember a little more than a decade ago, the trains burning in Gujarat? See how Modi, the leader of the free world, is pursuing policies that lead to economic growth, is avoiding communalism. Look at Indonesia: a peaceful democratic change of government is not news anymore; remember what happened there, in the last years of the 20th century. Remember what East Timor was, and what it is now. Look at Nigeria: there has been an election, and a leader has stepped down, and a new one has stepped up; no tanks in the streets, no massacres. Look at Chile: how much better is it there now, then when you were young. Look at Myanmar! Look at Turkmenistan, even: is it not better there than it was, a decade ago, when the fruit loop was running the show? All across the world, there are places that were charnel houses when I was young – Cambodia, Mozambique, El Salvador, Uganda – where people like me go on holiday now, where the inhabitants are gainfully employed making things to sell me, where there is no-one with serious traction advocating policies leading to poverty and genocide.
How crazily, unbelievably better of this world is then what we imagined when I was in grade school? The nightmare futures of overpopulation and nuclear war they scared us with? This is an awesome world.”
I remember that essay, and it’s a great reminder that the world is always making progress (and that it’s important to look beyond the tiny borders of our sheltered Anglo-Western existence to see that there’s good in the world).
– and yet, I really do feel that some massive backward steps are taking place.
There’s a creeping air of fascism, authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism rising in places where it was rightly disdained and suppressed for many decades. I have what I believe are legitimate concerns about the likely effects of climate change on social progress (not to mention, you know, hundreds of millions of human lives and vast swathes of the planetary ecosphere). And I remain genuinely upset about Bowie, who for his flaws was the cornerstone of popular music for my entire life.
So yeah, the world is better than it was, but it’s not as good as it could be, and I refuse to lower my expectations of an uninterrupted upward curve toward some hypothetical future utopia, however nonsensical those would be in reality.
Relax, the net effects of any scientifically plausible level of climate change are positive for the biosphere and humanity. They really are. Your society is just drunk with a love of despair and needs looming catastrophe to feel alive because its leaders grew up under the shadow of Nuclear Armageddon.
I see your point about Bowie. Have you tried watching Alizee on YouTube for 4 or 5 hours non-stop? I have also found renewed faith in God and humanity by watching South American boy bands.
I have just been reading Dorothy L. Sayers on Sloth (because, y’know, All Soul’s Day) and I find myself agreeing with her that it is the great consuming sin of our age:
“The sin which in English is called Sloth (Accidia or Akedia) is insidious, and assumes such Protean shapes that it is rather difficult to define. It is not merely idleness of mind and laziness of body: it is that whole poisoning of the will which, beginning with indifference and an attitude “I couldn’t care less,” extends to the deliberate refusal of joy and culminates in morbid introspection and despair. One form of it which appeals very much to some modern minds is that acquiescence in evil and error which readily disguises itself as “Tolerance”; another is that refusal to be moved by the contemplation of the good and beautiful which is known as “Disillusionment,” and sometimes as “Knowledge of the World;” yet another is that withdrawal into an “ivory tower” of Isolation which is the peculiar temptation of the artist and the contemplative, and is popularly called “Escapism.””
1) In my newfound spirit of optimism I shall choose to accept your climate assurances with no further inquiry 🙂 But I’m still going to get rooftop solar as soon as I can afford it!
2) Mostly I have been listening to catchy downbeat New Romantic and post-punk rock from the eighties. My musical tastes are notoriously boring, but I have so far resisted the allure of all forms of boy-banding because I am an instrumentalist snob.
3) I would quibble with some of Sayers’ terminology, though not her thesis. I do find her closing remark a bit odd coming from a celebrated writer of detective fiction.
1) Yes, you should definitely get rooftop solar!
2) My musical tastes have become wildly diverse over the past decade, because 2a) I’ve got teenage children who play me all sorts of weird stuff, and 2b) If I just start something on YouTube and go offscreen to do something else, as I often do, it will go and on like the road at Bilbo’s front door extrapolating from what it guesses I might like to see next and eventually take me to some Moldavian folk-rock trio doing a capella Midnight Oil covers.
3) Yes- that is odd. I wonder what she would say in response to that. I’m pretty sure whatever it was it would convince me, as I am easily led, so I will assume she’s got it sorted. Maybe we can assume that detective fiction is *not* escapist, despite its reputation, but is intended to train the reader to deal with the serious moral quandaries they are likely to encounter at parties at English country houses?
Hi David, this is exactly what I need!
Looking forward to sharing your month of relentless positivity and pop culture!
Thanks Georgina. Welcome to the party – I hope it won’t disappoint you.
(Oh God, now there’s pressure. Hold it together, Versace. You got this. Only 29 days to go).
I intend to be positively relentless in my appreciation 🙂