Sometimes I just want to stop the world and get off. I feel as if I’m completely out of step with the world, as if one of us went quietly mad and forgot to tell the other one. What happened? I’ve had a good think about it and here are my very individual thoughts about the state of the world and my place in it.
1. Yesterday a man was stabbed and killed in my local Poundland. A few weeks ago a young woman was shot dead on her doorstep in this quiet market town that I live in. I have no idea how to process this information. I know that far worse things have happened and are happening in the world but I never thought it would arrive in rural Oxfordshire. I was genuinely shocked that such seemingly senseless violence could happen to an ordinary man shopping in Poundland – I used to work in that store and it stuns me to think of what folk I worked with went through yesterday. I can’t understand the sort of world where people do this sort of thing to each other, it is beyond my comprehension.
2. There seems to be more rudeness around than I ever remember. Lots of people pepper their speech with swear words and profanity. You can’t walk sown the street without hearing the F word and people think nothing of swearing in front of children. When I was growing up no-one would dream of swearing in front of a child. So it’s no surprise to hear young children swearing, it’s what they’ve learnt. When I was teaching I had zero tolerance for swearing in my lessons, whether they were swearing at each other or me. Some kids were tongue tied when they couldn’t swear! Why are we as a society so accepting of foul language? It seems a small step from swearing at people to abusing them and using violence towards them. If there is no respect for others then it is easy to abuse them in all kinds of ways.
3. There also seems to be more unkindness around too. People are more unkind to each other than I ever remember them being. Social media is the worst for this. People think nothing of trolling folk for their own views and opinions. People leave mean comments on blogs that upset the blogger, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. I know that there have always been bullies around and I guess most of us have bumped up against a bully during our lives. But there seems to be so much more of it around these days.
4. I am also shocked at the things some people, mostly young women, are prepared to do to get some ‘fame’ (notoriety is nearer the mark in my opinion). There are constant stories in the media of young women debasing themselves, exposing themselves, so that they can have a tiny sliver of the spotlight. They almost seem willing to do anything if it means they can ‘go viral’ or get their picture in the papers. It’s hardly surprising when you look at some of the ‘celebrities’ around at the moment. I’m thinking in particular of people like Kim Kardashian who rose to fame by making a sex tape – not sure my mother would have been as accepting as hers has been about it but then it has made her family very famous and very rich so … I’m also thinking of Miley Cyrus who seems to think she has to be more and more outrageous in order to keep her profile high – she’s nearly been as naked as Kim K which is going some. Celebrities go to events in more and more outrageous outfits – dresses slashed to the upper thigh, necklines split to the navel. It’s almost as if there’s a competition to find the outfit with the least amount of fabric or that shows the most skins. The day can’t be far away when a ‘starlet’ struts down the red carpet in diamonds and heels an nothing else. These are the kinds of women that our young girls are looking up to and aspiring to emulate. Whatever happened to respecting yourself, of wanting to be the best ‘you’ you could be, of wanting to achieve things through your talents rather than by flashing your naked body to all and sundry?
5. I don’t understand the madness in the world. The terrorism, the bombings, the terrible suffering inflicted on innocent people by others. We went through two World Wars in the C20th and we seem to have learnt nothing from all that suffering and destruction. We are still behaving in the same appalling ways towards each other and there seems to be no end to it. We are now bombing Syria and Iran, hoping to put an end to terrorism, but we have no idea what will happen when we run out of targets and the bomb smoke clears. How will those left behind rebuild their lives and rebuild a decent society for themselves? Parts of this world seem to be broken and there is no sense of how it can be fixed. I worry that this world will continue to break and fracture, that there is a real possibility of us slipping into a conflict or series of conflicts that will spiral into another World War. Ironically I felt safer during the Cold War!
I try not to worry too much about things that are out of my control but that’s easier said than done. I may just be a worry-wart and that’s fine. But I do worry that this world is breaking and I worry about the safety of my fellow citizens, just trying to go about their daily lives.