Life, Dearth and Anything But


Posted by in May's Magazine

We’re running out of giraffes. It’s no tall story. In fact it’s not even a new story seemingly (my daughter referred to it in a panic this very morning, but a quick check online confirms it’s passé to bleat on about giraffe shortages; they were doing that back in 2016). Anyway, point being, thanks to the egregious excesses of bell-end poachers – and those fat Yanks you see grinning over giraffe corpses on Facebook – we’re low on the old long-necked ones. It’s not like you can pop down to Giraffes R Us to stock up. Actually, you can’t even pop down to Toys R Us anymore…so long Geoffrey.

That achingly contrived giraffe/mass redundancy reference (a rare species of shoehorned prose worth preserving I think – although I gather they’re hunted down for sport by irate Editors who have indulged me long enough) is somewhat misplaced in the context of this rant. Truth is, despite high-profile casualties in the retail sector, we’re not running low on jobs. Yet a dearth of sorts persists. As in a dearth of decent, well-paid, secure employment with, you know, luxuries, like guaranteed hours, sick pay, time-off, etc etc. Not to carp at entrepreneurialism, but calling yourself self-employed loses its glamour when you’re really just some overworked slave, grubbing away at the behest of fate.

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Such cynicism eh? We’re clearly not running low on that front. Not when this particular curmudgeon is around…I have limitless reserves, following a Faustian pact. But on a serious note – and to make sense of this rambling essay – we are, despite the swagger of the super-rich, living in straitened times. I refer not just to disposable readies (the squeeze continues to hurt in that department, even if wages are now threatening to nudge a little), I refer to the distinct dearth of qualities that used to define the better side of our species: objectivity; evidence-based thinking; tolerance; mutual respect; heck, even the tendency to not overreact to perceived slights is now looking a bit thin on the ground. A worthy list I know. But it’s becoming genuinely tiresome…my tolerance is running low too.

I can only compare it to a mass outbreak of ‘hangry’ – that hair-trigger tendency to snap, gurn and grumble that only a fish supper or yard of Haribos will cure. A rather cutesy definition admittedly of a psychological malaise that could ultimately lead to our collective end, but I fear there’s a dearth of solutions to this ruinous slide. It’s a lot easier to become entrenched than it is to emerge from the mud, pristine and sparkling. Which is to say, the dearth of values feeds off itself. Once it becomes acceptable to wilfully lie, obfuscate, bait, distort or ignore the mote in one’s own eye, it sets a new standard devoid of standards if you will, becoming a pernicious gauntlet tossed down to the rest.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I won’t start cherry-picking examples from our ever more absurd politics; let’s just say my radio alarm has even taken to shouting down the Today Programme of a morning. It had a furious go at John Humphries the other week; I had to retune it to Classic FM lest it blew a gasket. Nah, better to stare at the ceiling with the sound of birdsong and distant motorbikes for company. To all those still burning with the fire of activism, be my guest, but I really don’t have the stomach for it right now. A dearth of will? Perhaps. But always better than a Triumph of the Will.

That last reference wasn’t intended to invoke Godwin’s Law. It was, I suppose, to suggest that becoming emphatic does not come without a price. There’s a dearth of decency, nuance, understanding and dare I say it, mea culpas – as if admitting a mistake was too much for a supposedly muscular world-view to contend with. It’s a steroid-fuelled mindset that is again, with great irony (we’re in no danger of running out of irony, as a rather splendid Martin Rowson cartoon in the Grauniad made light of recently), rather brittle and lacking substance underneath the skin.

And with that, I feel there’s a great dearth of frothy knockabout humour in this month’s download. We can’t let spurious cod-philosophy crowd out puerile references can we? That wouldn’t do. So to try and salvage a guffaw or two – they’re also in short supply these days, or maybe I need to up my medication again – I will end this miserablist splurge with a round-up of things that require an urgent top-up before it’s too late. Let’s call it an alternative endangered species list. Minus animals.

Seasons (status: endangered)

It’s fecking snowing. In April. Don’t listen to those who recall fond days of snowman building in spring. This is absurd. If we don’t get a summer this year, I’m handcuffing June, July and August to a radiator, just to watch them suffer. 

Thank Yous (status: endangered)                                                               

This is straight out of the old geezer’s handbook, but honestly, people don’t say thank you nearly as much as they used to. Maybe it’s just me. I’m sort of the guy who apologises for someone else bumping into me with a supermarket trolley.

White Dog Shit (status: critical)

Albino dog’s eggs were a ‘thing’ when I was growing up. But where have they gone? Consigned to history along with childhood fridge deaths, electrocution and puppy-wielding pederasts? Who knows? Or dares to dream.

A viable alternative to this ongoing pantomime (status: ?)

This is a contentious one. Maybe there are loads of them out there. Hiding in a bush on the Links. We can only but imagine. Until this elusive quarry surfaces, I shall take solace in my jazz mags. Until we meet again…

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