Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Are you a virtual litter lout?


Say what you have to say and get off the page – Me.

I’ve been writing for forty years. Longer actually. That’s a long time. I could tote up how many novels, novellas, short stories, flash fictions, poems, plays, children’s books, songs, blogs and essays I’ve written and if I did—I’m not going to—it would not be a figure to be embarrassed about. It would be more than a great many great writers. In fact I’m often taken aback when I look up such-and-such and find he’s only published, I dunno, three novels or something. What’s he been doing with his life? I don’t write a lot these days. Last year I only completed eight poems and (surprisingly) a novella but that was it. So far this year I’ve written a single poem. It’s a good poem. But it’s still only one poem. Maybe by the time I get round to posting this I’ll have written a second.

And then I go online and listen to what everyone else is doing and people are doing SO MUCH STUFF and it’s… well, it’s depressing. That I’m easily depressed doesn’t help but that’s life. And that’s the thing about depression, being around happy people is, well… it actually can drag one down even further. For the record I’m not depressed. At least I’m not depressed-with-a-capital-d. Not at the moment. But I have been. And it is not fun. Some people run hot, some cold. Most people looking at me would think I’m a bit down in the dumps but I’m not. I’m normal for me. But I do wish that people wouldn’t go on so much about what and how they’re doing.

I’ve mixed feelings about the Internet. In principle I’m in favour of it. It has many positive and time-saving features. I can write an article and have it out there for the world to see in minutes. Scary really. I don’t work that way. I write my articles, send them to my wife to edit them in case I’ve said something politically incorrect (which I have nearly done on several occasions)—“Jimmy, you can’t say that?” “Why not? It’s true.” “You just can’t say that. Not that way.”—and I’m grateful to her plus she fixes my many (sometimes many, many) typos and brain farts. And then I usually sit on the damn thing for weeks so that by the time I get round to posting it I’ve forgotten what the hell I was on about in the first place. That’s the good thing about the Internet.

The bad thing is all the other people. I don’t really get this social thing. I’m on Facebook and Twitter and I do endeavour to participate but I don’t really get them. My personal view of them is that their core function (for me at least) is a way of reminding people I’m not dead. Because I don’t have much to say and what I do have to say I tend to reserve for blogs like this or if it’s really important then I’ll write a book or something. I don’t find there’s that much important going on right now. Not to me. I listen to the news on the good ol’ BBC and I know there’s stuff going on that matters, that should matter but I find I don’t have anything to add that wouldn’t get lost in the morass of comment that already exists and then again who cares what I have to say?

My opinions on the things I care about are known. Most other things I don’t pay enough attention to to have an opinion. Most of what I’ll ever have to say has been said already. If not by me then by people cleverer and far more articulate than I’ll ever be. I have bits and pieces lying all over the flat, half-finished poems and beginnings to novels (I’ve got three of those at least) but I can usually tell pretty quickly that they don’t need to be finished. Mostly I can tell before things need to be started. Which makes me wonder: What’s all this stuff that other people feel they desperately need to say? I wonder how many other writers ask themselves that question before they put pen to paper or open up a new Word document. In 2012, according to The Booksellers Association—the last year figures are available for—there were 75,000 paperbacks published and 58,000 e-books in the UK alone—and I really would like to know how many of those books needed to be written. No, let me correct that. How many needed to be published. People write books for all sorts of reasons and then they do the right thing and stick them in a drawer and forget about them.

I’m wondering now if I need to write this. I’m not saying anything radical. We all know there’re not enough hours in the day to do the things we have to do including read the books we want to read let alone write the books we need to write. Maybe now I’ve got this out of my system I’ll just delete this file and go and watch some mindless TV. But I won’t. Even as I’m typing this I know I’m going to post it. I need to post it. I’m expected to post it. I committed to posting regularly. People would worry if I didn’t post. Because Jimmy always posts on schedule. Because that’s the kind of bloke he is. They’d start dropping me e-mails asking if Carrie was poorly.

(Just as an aside that’s what happened the day my dad had his first heart attack. One of his workmates—Dad only worked over the hill—walked over, knocked on the kitchen door and said, and I remember his words so clearly, “Jimmy, your dad’s not at work. Is your mum all right?” My dad was like me—well, the other way round—he was dependable and I take pride in being too.)

But do I need to post this? We’re all about being green these days. Click on this link. Go on. It’s a link to a site called worldometers. And you can watch, live, how many blogs are being posted this very second. Around the world an estimated 2.73 million posts are written every day on average. I doubt that much litter’s dropped in a day. (Actually I checked: 2.25 million pieces of litter are dropped in the UK alone! So I’m way off. But you get my point.)

earthhourparodyTalking about being green, you might’ve heard of Earth Hour. Earth Hour’s a worldwide grass-roots movement for the planet organized by the World Wide Fund. The event’s held worldwide towards the end of March annually encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to the planet. Does it make a difference? The Earth Hour Global FAQ page states:

Earth Hour does not purport to be an energy/carbon reduction exercise, it is a symbolic action. Therefore, we do not engage in the measurement of energy/carbon reduction levels for the hour itself. Earth Hour is an initiative to encourage individuals, businesses and governments around the world to take accountability for their ecological footprint and engage in dialogue and resource exchange that provides real solutions to our environmental challenges. Participation in Earth Hour symbolises a commitment to change beyond the hour.

What do you think would happen if we all boycotted Facebook for a day or skipped one blog a year? Probably nothing. It’s probably way too late anyway for empty gestures anyway.

There used to be a TV programme back in the seventies (although, on checking, it seems it ran right through to 1995) called Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead? Do I really need to explain what the premise of the show? Someone should start a podcast: Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Computer and Go and Do Something Meaningful Instead? I wish I could. I wish I could do more meaningful things. It’s not enough to do less boring things. It shouldn’t be enough anyway.

Of course I’m oversimplifying. But it’s something to think about. And I think it was worth writing about too.


Tommaso Gervasutti said...

A series of interesting and engaging reflections Jim, especially the "Do I need to post this?" In some way it's a question I have been asking myself often except when I have just written a poem that I feel needs to be posted immediately, in that case I have no doubts.
Anyway this world of blogs and facebook, different from each other but also similar as cousins could be, has created a Whole new "system" of needs and questions and inner and outer "demands", sometimes so urging and at the same time hamletic at such a level that they become baffling.

Jim Murdoch said...

Of course when you write a post like this, Davide, you realise you’re pissing in the wind. It’s like when people say you should cut down on your sugar or salt or alcohol or quit smoking or exercise more or be nicer to your mum because she won’t be around forever. We all know there’re things we could be doing to make the world a better place but habits are hard to break which is why the world will end far sooner than it needs to because we’re too lazy to do anything to halt or even slow down the inevitable. We don’t like change and so we muddle on moaning as we go. I’m not on Facebook, for example, because I particularly enjoy it; I’m there because I feel I ought to be on it. It’s like an office party I feel obliged to attend but one that never ends. I’m not saying I never look at a cat video but there are just too many trivial and silly things posted for my tastes. Maybe my friends are just sillier than I give them credit for or maybe I’m just an old fart getting. (Yes, I know the grammar’s all skewwhiff there; just accept that’s how I say it.)

Kass said...

I'm glad you're not dead and I'm glad to be reminded of that fact with regularity. I'm glad for the internet and social media. I do better with reality one step removed. Maybe I have Asberger's.

Jim Murdoch said...

A part of me is jealous of you, Kass. I do so little now compared to when I started online but even what little I do do feels like too much. It’ll be seven years in August for this blog although I started all the preparatory work and research long before that as is my nature. A part of me is bored with it all though. I never had that much to say and I’ve pretty much said it all. Now I struggle not to repeat myself and it’s getting harder and harder. But we’re not dead yet and I’m glad and I’m glad you’re glad about that. It’s these wee pats on the back that keep me going.

Kass said...

Glad that you're glad about my being glad. Isn't GLAD an interesting word? Sounds more like a city....I just googled it. It is a city in Hungary. And then there's all the Biblical references.

See what happens when one runs out of things to say or write about.

Jim Murdoch said...

Like you, Kass, I find words fascinating. Any word. What I find particularly interesting is how the sound ‘glad’ has come to represent what you and I think of as gladness. I’m not saying that every word should be onomatopoeic but some words just don’t seem to go with their meanings. And when you look at where the word came from—in this case [Old English glǣd; related to Old Norse glathr, Old High German glat smooth, shining, Latin glaber smooth, Lithuanian glodùs fitting closely]—it does make you wonder what any of that’s got to do with the particular kind of pleasure we associate with gladness. Then again, not that I’m necessarily in favour of a Newspeak-style reduction in our language—one has to wonder why we have a word like ‘glad’ when ‘happy’ or ‘pleased’ does the job adequately. Oddly ‘glad’ is not a word that I automatically associate with biblical texts. Maybe I just don’t dwell on all the glad texts.

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