When did we forget how cathartic it can be to get really, really angry?
Remember when student protests were a national event? Nope, neither can I.
I do remember a blissful time, probably in my late teens/early twenties when the world made me really bloody angry, although student protests were infuriatingly useless at the time, mainly as we were far too comfortable, which is quite the opposite problem to today’s selfish, inward looking recession graduates.
When I was 21, we invaded Afghanistan and I was super pissed off at the wholesale abuse of power our government exerted. I simply could not see the logic behind it and would tell anyone who would listen and most of those who would not.
When I was 23, I was in the streets shouting angrily about the injustice of the invasion of Iraq. As a resident of the granite city of Aberdeen, I was denied the chance to march in a meaningful demonstration, most likely due to the fact that a city which had made its name through the exploitation of oil wealth had no appetite for opposing wars in the middle-east.
I also remember the Aberdeen protest for one clear reason, or chronic lack of reason. With all the protesters gathered at the city’s Castlegate, one key speaker declared that ‘we should not be invading Iraq, we should be invading Israel’ – tragically demonstrating his lack of awareness of the purpose of a peace march.
Now I’m 30 this summer and i’m as insipid and impotent as the next corporate fool, playing it all off as someone else’s war and someone else’s problem. “We tried to tell you and you didn’t listen. Don’t expect us to mop it up when we have jobs to find”. It is someone else’s war, someone else’s problem.
I have longed for a time of anger and have derided the lack of courage that exists amongst my peers and, most of all, within me.
The man is ANGRY and it reminds me of all that is great about rage. I had genuinely forgotten.
We, as a nation, have lost our love of protest and I blame the dreaded ‘credit crunch’.
There is nothing like a financial downturn to make everybody a simmering introverted wimp in the face of all that is obviously wrong in the world.
As we get lost in our own selfish financial woes, we have forgotten what it is like to look outside of our reality and immediate sphere of influence to remember to stick up for the rights of others.
And no, I’m not talking about Haiti. The western response to immediate disasters is heart-warmingly rapid and sincere, but mainly as there is no complicated political agenda to an ‘act of god’.
What I’m talking about are the tricky, muddled, ongoing sores of Iraq and Afghanistan – two illegal invasions which have caused the death of millions of innocent people. Just so we’re clear. This is my blog and personal issues will appear.
And, let us never forget, a recession a fantastic excuse for selfish behaviour in the absolute.
My 21 year old self would have punched my lights out by now. So awash was I with my own need for ‘survival’, as if a slight tightening of the purse strings is in any way comparable to the plight of war-torn nations, that I totally lost sight of all that I used to be so very bloody angry about.
I have been told so many times by the news that I should be poor that I have almost started to believe it. Perhaps when the news tells me that the recession is truly over, I shall feel bountifully rich again. Either way, it is not an excuse.
There is a feeling when you get older that you used to be idealistic and somehow gaining a grander comprehension of the realities of the world as you get older is a suitable excuse for selling out on all that you used to hold so dear.
As a 21 year old, I promised that I would never sell out on my principles. As I aged, I came out with statements like ‘the world is not black and white, but shades of grey’ and ‘the older you get, the less you know for sure’.
Well, right and wrong is not a transient issue. Right and wrong will always be right and wrong, no matter how your conscience wishes to disguise it. The only things which get more complicated are your excuses for inaction.
My copy of Generation X seems grossly underused these days. Where did it all go wrong? Douglas Coupland has managed to write a follow up,Generation A – and he’s a lot older than I am; why have I lost my way?
So, against this existential woe, enter Mr Stanhope – an American comedian who resists the ‘new Bill Hicks’ label like Pinochet avoided the Nazi label, but who is inextricably intertwined with the heritage of angry US political comedians trying to make us view the world in a wider context, through tightly gritted teeth and deeply sceptical lenses.
Stanhope’s skits for Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe have been the revelation of my year so far and have reminded me why it is so valuable to absolutely loathe what deserves to be so very loathsome.
Take his comments this week (episode 4), about how population control is at the core of the environmental debate. We can all recycle, drive hybrid cars (if they manage to stop) and buy fair trade goods, but the best thing we can do is NOT REPRODUCE.
As Stanhope says, it is not a popular viewpoint and even the most ardent environmentalists like Al Gore don’t want to share this information with us, but the most harmful thing we can do in our lifetime is to have offspring.
“Sodomy is eco-friendly” – the best quote I’ve heard all week.
The world has passed the point where our population is manageable in comparison to our resources, but nobody has the balls to say ‘stop reproducing’ (apart from China of course and I’m not suggesting their model as a template. Images of discarded foetuses in the street will haunt me forever).
I admire Stanhope immensely, mostly because of his outspoken rants rather than in spite of them. He may have gone a little far when he told an Irish audience that ‘Irish men f**k kids because Irish women are so very ugly’, but the man has a forceful way of getting his point across.
Agree or disagree with his standpoints, this anger has deserted us in our selfish credit crunch days. Being angry at the world is healthy and, I would say, necessary.
Fair enough, Bill Hicks galvanised a generation like no other, but that generation has moved on and the current generation needs a champion who says ‘you are right to be pissed off, celebrate it but use it to achieve something’. Dissent is a vital part of any democracy.
Doug Stanhope is not Bill Hicks and, for every heckler who suggests that he is treading on coattails, he is at pains to point out that he doesn’t want to be another Bill. He does however remind us of a vital function of being a citizen in a democracy and the importance of holding up to ridicule the things which simply should not stand.
Afghanistan and Iraq are two such issues.
Let us get really angry because, looking around, there is so much to be terribly angry about.