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A Charter for the Weary

Counter-culture guru Timothy Leary urged us to Turn on, Tune in, Drop out. Reject the mainstream. It’s time to repurpose his famous exhortation, says Colin Montgomery

Tune Out

The news cycle is a battered corpse on a gibbet. And it’s stinking up our very souls, ahem. So much so that this one-time current affairs junkie can’t abide it. I used to think ‘turning off’ was the action of a coward, refusing to face the reality around us. Now, I can’t wait to turn my head away from it all, rip off all my clothing, and be done with it.

They should stick an obituary in The Times blazoned with the headline ‘For Shame’ with nothing but a picture of that twat Nadine Dorries beneath it. Because shame is dead and gone in public life, opening the door for all fresh hells to enter.

Maybe it’s an age thing, but a sweaty bedfellow to the news cycle from Satan’s armpit, is the noise of it all. The clunking chatter. The fog-horning lies. The incessant babble. And the psychobabble – ironically supposed to act as a salve to our weary souls, is just as bad.

It’s all trite therapy speak that has somehow discovered Mum’s make-up drawer and is currently masquerading as ‘deep insight’.

I swear anyone who speaks of ‘working on yourself’ needs a spell in the salt mines, the sodium might help draw their own head out of their arse.

It’s remarkable what hangs about in your head. For example, somewhere just below my front lobe, left of the hippocampus and a few twists and turns shy of the old basal ganglia, I have, secreted away, many of the state capitals of the USA. Bismarck, North Dakota anyone? Frankfort, Kentucky? Or the state motto of New Hampshire: Live free or die? They sure do go hard up in old NH.

All of it plucked from my noggin. Apart from the odd pub quiz tie-breaker it is useless pish of. Not to people of said places to be fair. After all, imagine if your capital just disappeared. It would be inconvenient to say the least. Wake up one morning and there’s a hole. A capital-sized hole as big as the yawning orifice inside my soul at the moment.

Self-pitying drivel? You’re not far off. I can feel torches burning and see pitchforks gleaming as I write. After all, there’s enough hardship out there without some rent-a-gob hack pishing his frillies in print to pass the time, right? Yep.

But… and it’s Kardashian sized ‘but’… hear me out for a little longer before the lynching commences. There is a semi-valid observation lurking in amongst all of this re-tossed word salad.

Turn Off

I refer you back to the title of this unholy screed: the ramblings of the spaced-out sage, Timothy Leary. I say ‘ramblings’ but ultimately, his acid-aphorism was far from asinine and made perfect sense at the time.

A quite reasonable response to rampant consumerism, the threat of global conflict, reactionary forces in the ascendancy, faced down by free-thinking idealists who… wait a minute… are we talking 1967 or 2023? The vibe feels a little familiar – minus the flower power bit admittedly. But yeah, there are a lot of overlaps in there for sure.

Except… except… It’s all gone a bit awry. Instead of ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’, first uttered in public by Leary at an NYC speech delivered in 1966, I think we need to rebel against the monstrous ‘now’ with something different: turn off, tune out, drop deid.

A rather bleak take on it, I grant you. But it does make perfect sense in the face of the relentless race to the bottom now called ‘reality’. Even if it’s just for the sake of our own mental health. For the avoidance of doubt, and for this not to read like a suicide note, I’ll explain

I’ve heard this a fair bit as my advancing years get the better of me. My days as a chiselled lantern-jawed Adonis are far behind me. Wait a minute, they were never in front of me. So, scratch that. No, we speak not of arousal here but quite the opposite: the refusal to be roused by the sewer that passes for daily news. Nothing new in this lament, I know, but I’ve gone all Withnail/Bill Shakespeare: “I have of late, but know not where, lost all my mirth.”

Drop deid

A clarification. No matter how cynical you get, courting death’s sting is neither big nor clever. Life - however whiney this jeremiad - is still worth living.

What I mean is to show the enemies alluded to above, no quarter. To simply give the bullshit short shrift. Idle political promises in particular.

Those mountebanks heading for the doorstep, with a suitcase full of panaceas like true believers, who think ‘independence will rid us of our ills’. Labour branch office runners claiming to be able to ‘make Brexit work’ or just sad little Tories being, erm, sad little Tories. Do not doorstep me, I no longer have the will to entertain you: Turn off. Tune out. Drop deid.

Not Timothy Leary. But a charter for the weary. ■


Tim Leary In Nirvana, Digital Art by Juan-Oaxaca

I’ve gone all Withnail & Bill Shakespeare these days: ‘I have of late, but know not where, lost all my mirth’



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