When they ask what you were doing that day you can say you were commenting on the new Samsung Galaxy S8. You know ? The one that kept catching fire. That was considered an unhelpful feature in a device designed to be held in a hand or carried in a pocket. If it’d been marketed as a device that might, at random, come in helpful on a camping trip when you had a bunch of twigs but no lighter nor the desire to rub sticks together for a long time – and believe me you have to do it for a long time – then things might have worked out okay for the South Korean tech giants but it wasn’t marketed as that. It was marketed as a phone. Hey, good to hear from you baby. Just hearing your voice makes me feel warm. Wait a minute. Really warm. Like, shit, my hand is on fucking fire. Nobody wanted that. So now they’re giving it a three month unconditional refund and everyone wants to talk about that. Everyone, that is, that doesn’t want to talk about the film version of Stephen King’s “It”, or the twentieth anniversary of Buffy, or John Legend playing a piano in St Pancras station or Coca-Cola. Slow news day, right ? Nothing going on.
When did we get so stupid ? So bovine ? If there’s anyone left to study History when we become history – assuming of course that we haven’t Goved our way out of studying any History that isn’t some painstaking, chronological recitation of Anglo-centric dates and “facts” rather than any attempt to understand the lessons the past has to teach us – then what will they say of us ? Will they draw out the underlying fractures in our society, the fissures created by a model of capitalism and globalisation that widens the economic divisions between people ? Will they nod sagely at our instincts to look for scapegoats and people that might appear a bit different ? Note that we failed to learn the nationalist lessons of the twentieth century and took for granted the 70 unprecedented years of peace in Western Europe ? Or will they laugh and wonder at how we gave up on thinking, learned to distrust debate, and came to value invective over information ? Maybe they’ll be researching all of this on some future Samsung device that also catches fire and they’ll do none of these things: they’ll just die in some school disaster as an inflammatory piece of technology bursts into flames as they try to get to grips with an inflammatory time.
I reckon the exact moment we got so stupid was emojis. LOL. What’s that you’re carving up there on that cave wall, Grunt ? Go with it, okay ? I know Grunt is a highly stereotyped name to give our imaginary caveman and it’s intensely patriarchal for us to make him a man but just go with it. These are stupid times so let’s get involved. What’s that you’re carving ? A pictoral representation of a hunting scene ? Oh, I get that. It’s a means of communicating some of the things that we do, so that we might learn and take pride in that time that you guys (and it would have been the guys) brought down that giant fucking mammoth or whatever it was they hunted. I’m not that au fait with anything that that happened pre… well, pre 1649 to be honest. Chopping the head off a King got my attention. So it’s a picture that produces a permanent record of something we should remember. Hey, Grunt, as we learn to, well, to grunt at each other and those grunts become recognisable sounds that are different to each other and attached to specific objects maybe we could learn to somehow write those grunts down. We could describe that picture. We could call it language. Eventually we could have a rich and varied way of articulating ideas and emotions and facts and we could have a means of communicating with each other that opened up the beauty and full extent of human interaction. We could have sentences with too many “ands” in them. We could self refer in text. It would all be meta and it will all be wonderful. Hey, you could even use some of that language to critique what I’ve just written. It was rubbish. I can see what it was trying to do but it lost me back up in the Samsung phone section to be honest. We could do all of that or we could send each other little smiley faces. Or sad faces. Or that really annoying crying face which I think is supposed to be laughing-so-hard-that-I’m-crying. It’s so annoying that we need an annoying face that we could use to respond to it. We have one ? It’s red and frowning with some steam coming off it ? Got ya.
I’m not saying emojis are the only thing to blame for Brexit. Maybe they’re not even part of the slow march to stupidity. What’s left of our language is so abused that we “trigger” articles. How do you trigger an article ? I know it can be a verb. “To cause to function” right ? So, yes, you could cause an article to function I guess but it’s so clumsy. But I suppose it’s helpful given the connotations when you consider the word as a noun. You only really pull a trigger on a gun. The real question is who’s on the other end. Maybe we’re pointing it at our own face ? So we trigger articles and we “reach out” to someone at work when we mean that we’re either trying to talk to or e-mail someone. And we are forever “going forward”. And we “touch base” without ever playing baseball or rounders or softball. As an aside how did we end up with three variants of a game where someone throws a ball at someone who tries to hit it out of a diamond marked at its four points by fielders, where the principal variant between them is either the size of the bat or the ball or the velocity at which the ball can be thrown ? We don’t need three versions of that surely ? Maybe that was when we got so stupid. Either then or when Rugby figured that the world needed slightly different versions of people running into each other with an ovoid ball. Don’t even get me started on American Football. At least they throw it forwards. Whilst wearing armour. I could buy a version of baseball / rounders / softball where they wear armour or there’s a spike pit between second and third base or something. Shake things up a bit.
I’m rambling. I get like this recently. I want to say that I feel like Don Quixote tilting at windmills but if I’m honest I don’t remember why he was doing that, if indeed I ever knew. So I’d just be borrowing it as some kind of badge of intelligence, hoping you wouldn’t call me on it. Which would be stupid. Perhaps that’s the first step. Admitting to our own stupidity and then we can go from there. Gather round some digital cave wall, someone can add some emojis, and the rest of us can grunt at them for a while until the noises start to make sense. We could call it language, have a conversation, start a debate, learn to co-operate, and then see where that takes us.
This is a sort of spiritual successor to Moonshot which I wrote last year. Just a stream of consciousness vomit inspired entirely by the list of trending conversations on my Facebook page today. Charitably you might call it an exercise in “voice”. I think March 29th will be an ignominious day in British history. I hope I’m wrong.