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Corona Diaries: Welcome to the Demented Season

June 16, 2020

We all seem to be finding our own ways of going bananas in this interesting time. I’m seeing a serious increase in barmy stories in the media that cause me to ask the question why. Or, if you’re a lover of textspeak, WTF?

First off: why, if you owe your acting career to Harry Potter, would you feel the need to comment on JK Rowling’s stance on the trans issue? Is it the need to feed your hungry social media following? Would it not have been better either to keep silent? Or do you not have the wit to play a straight bat to questions that seek to embroil you in the argument that isn’t of your making? Or are you so important that you feel the need to wade courageously into subjects that will excite a thousand trolls?

Next: why, at the beginning of lockdown, did so many local councils, including my own, think it was a good idea to shut the toilets in parks? Mine, by the way, disingenuously put a sign up saying that they were “closed for refurbishment”. Did they think that people wouldn’t be caught short on their mandated thirty minute walks? And why, therefore, since they were happy to provide poop bags for dogs, would they not provide larger versions for humans? And designated pee trees for men who can’t find a suitable monument?

And then why, as reported in today’s London Times, would you be so desperate to avoid tax and protect yourself from nasty viruses that you would choose to live on a “seastead”, a platform on the sea? Even if your watery pod was “powered by solar energy and natural gas, with rain catchers for fresh water”, and “hydroponic gardens, “living walls” of greenery and “smart” glass that serves both as window and touchscreen computer”? Show me a sea that doesn’t turn into a broiling hell every so often and upend everything impertinent enough to float on its surface, and I might accept that a seastead is a good idea. Otherwise I’ll need a lot of convincing that those who are promoting them aren’t completely off their rockers.

Now for a slightly more serious question. Most of us are educated at least from the age of 3 until 16. That’s 13 years of education at, say, 9 months a year, giving a total of 117 months. 3 months of missed schooling represents 2.5% of the total. – And that’s on the dubious assumption that the kids have learned nothing during lockdown. Are we saying that our children are so stupid that they can’t catch up, or that our teachers are so lazy and inflexible that they can’t help their students make up for lost time? Surely not. In which case, why are a few months of missed school or reduced school work from home, being described in the media as leading to a “lost generation”? I can understand that time gets more critical the closer you get to leaving school, but are primary school kids so irreparably damaged? Are we really so hopelessly addicted to curricula, and so sadly lacking in resilience and invention?

And finally, back to the trivial: English Heritage, the organisation that puts up the blue plaques on houses to commemorate the famous people who lived in them, is planning to inventory their plaques in order to identify all of its subjects with dubious aspects of their lives that might offend our vigilant Wikipedia inquisitors. What will they do when they find an offender or two? I have an idea for them. Why not put a little coloured sign indicating the nature of their offence? Or, if they really want to splash the cash, why don’t they add a little phrase to the end of the bio, which reads “and sometime racist/slave trader/fraudster/paedophile/wife beater” (select whichever malfeasance applies)? Or, to keep things simple, why don’t they take a leaf out of Twitter’s book, and put a little circled exclamation mark on the plaque to indicate that this person had a dodgy history, and if you want to know more, you should use your initiative and do your own research?

Once upon a time, we British had something called the Silly Season. It ran from the time when Parliament departed for its summer holidays until September, when it returned. The newspapers, lacking what they considered serious stories, and figuring that we workers didn’t want to be bothered with weighty stuff while we were guzzling our ice creams on the promenade at Bournemouth Pier, would pack their pages with all kinds of nonsense that wouldn’t have deserved a look-in any other time of year.

Now, it seems, most stories, whether “serious” or not , are tinged with unreality. And since we no longer have to rely on the newspapers for stories of the daft, the slightly unhinged and the barking mad, it would be fair to say that we’re in the middle what should be regarded as the Demented Season. Except that thanks to the social media, no season seems any less demented than another.

Perhaps, in fact, it would be more appropriate to say that we’re living through an Age of Dementia.

  1. Andrew Robinson permalink

    As the father of “rather successful” electronics-engineer trans-daughter happily ensconced in a loving relationship with a girl, I hope that JK Rowling’s blue plaque contains the words “Advocate of Menstruation”, silly cow. Stick THAT up your Quidditch, while you’re still sanguine.

    • I’m still sanguine, but unfortunately I don’t have a quidditch. I’m pleased for your daughter. Happiness is the best we can hope for for our kids.

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