Easy Words / Hard Words

Three people dead and more in hospital after a stabbing in Reading and the troglodytes on Twitter were bouncing with nervous energy. They needed a name, a nationality, or least a skin colour, before one side would be able to claim the high moral ground. Was it a white nationalist and a member of antifa? They needed to know…

In the end, it turns out it was a Libyan asylum seeker, so CHING! CHING! We have a winner! We’re back on the old turf of blaming immigration for our troubles, which I shouldn’t have to say, is complete ballcocks. Nothing is as that simple, since it dismisses the complex fabric of economic, societal and cultural forces at play, let along the even more twisted web of human psychology that made one man go crazy with a knife. Some of the best people I’ve known are/were immigrants (including my grandmother) and all the worst people I’ve known were native born…

I was pondering all this last night, watching the coverage of Donald Trump’s speech in Tulsa. Isn’t it disturbing how it’s much easier to say “I hate you” than it is to say “I love you”? The former might elicit a shrug (because being hated feels so contemporary) but the latter makes us instinctively take a step back. “Oh, that’s a bit weird, isn’t it?” we’d say. “Wonder what they want…” And the same is now true of compassion, empathy, and any act that is selfless. We treat everything good with suspicion and a more than natural cynicism. This is the Trumpian worldview, where every relationship needs to be transactional.

Nothing feels less like the America I remember than “America First” because alongside all the characteristics of that nation – the unthinking swagger, the boasting, the spectacular achievements, as well as the guns and the god – there was also generosity. (And qualifying everything I say gets so tiring yet we live in an age when we all have to watch our back, so I guess I should add that none of this diminishes the flaws with America, especially around racism). What I am saying, however, is that Donald Trump is the perfect president for our current plight. It’s why the likes of Katie Hopkins have become such potent forces among that portion of our population who like arguments that are contained with ten words.

I wish I knew what the answer is but I doubt if my solution would work for everybody, which is to stop using social media and start writing a blog. I’m a firm believer in the theory that language and thought are bound together, which is why “bad thinking” occurs when people have a limited space in which to write. Simply writing this small piece today I ran up to moments where I thought “now I must qualify that”, as I did with the bit about racism. That’s how thinking works. It’s a dialogue you hold with yourself, which feels to me to be entirely contained and structured by language. Do enough of it and you reach moments when you realise your thinking was flawed, you need to add a qualification, modify your position, or abandon it completely. 240 characters on Twitter isn’t enough space to reach that moment of critical reflection. It’s not long enough to think. No social media provides that space and, even worse, encourages people to converse through memes, which is why the old world was so much better in this respect. We left ourselves room enough to think, which is why “I love you” and “I share your pain” and “I understand that things are more complicated than that” were so much easier to say. Now, we’re in a glib age when only glib things are said, remembered, and repeated… ad infinitum.

So, in that spirit and given the awful news, the general hostility in the world, and our alienating society, I hope you’re all keeping well. I probably don’t say it enough, but I really appreciate all of you who keep coming back to read the blog. We’re in this together, which sounds glib but there were about 700 words before it, which I hope gave it context and sincerity.

***

In other news, had a long day at the coalface yesterday. I got the cartoon book up to 34 cartoons, which are all finished and cross-hatched. These are all new cartoons (minus a few I stupidly posted her over the past few weeks) and I haven’t reached the state where I start using cartoons from my pretty big back catalogue of the gloriously rejected. 34 cartoons means the download fee is still only 58 cents but the book needs to be at least twice this length before I can hit the minimum price I’m allowed to charge whilst getting 70% of profits. Amazon’s pricing structure is really strange. If I charge less than $2.99, I get only 35% of profits…

Anyway, today I intend to decide how many more new cartoons I’ll draw before I start dropping in older cartoons. I might draw more but I also intend to rest up a bit with the football and generally prepare myself for a new week. If I feel motivated, I might even write a long piece about American politics. I’ll have to see… I must also give Tim a nudge about the podcast. He’s writing a book and is very distracted. Even more distracted than I’ve been with this blog and my book of short stories (sales thus far: still 0!)

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Why Dunciad.com?

It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?

Really?

Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.