Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Ghosts of Christmas
Christmas comes but once a year. As I ran the gauntlet of waddling men in trackie bottoms dutifully trailing their strident current partners, revealing sweaty arse cracks as they lurched along, half-supported by their bulging shopping trolleys, even as their own trolleys lost the fight with gravity, little did I know that all over social media a gathering storm was, er… gathering. As embittered fathers tried to control errant kids their rabid mothers foraged for a vegetable that most people only ever regard as a penance and for no known reason. And thus engaged in the hunt, all were ignorant of the events about to unfold many miles away.
It’s the time of the year when everybody is reminded of our mortality as ancient celebrities pop their clogs to be lionised by the media despite never having done a single original thing in their lives. Mediocre, yet long-lived actors, famous for a brief flowering in the seventies, singers with a single hit record, itself a cover of a greater talent’s work. But eulogise or despise them they had their time in the light and are thus fair game for criticism, so even when the Joe Cocker jokes were flying few were genuinely offended.
But, in the bustle for baskets piled high with biscuits which are only ever munched on Boxing Day, when the good ones have all run out; as chaotic couples telephoned each other from adjacent supermarket aisles, desperate to secure one of the last several thousand tubs of goose fat; as frantic families fought as if for their lives to procure the festive feast they truly believe they deserved; as all this was going on, in Glasgow some people they had never heard of were about to lose everything to fate.
People die every day, in their millions. Some of them suffer unspeakable and lonely misery, some of them perish in floods and earthquakes; a few even choose to put themselves in the firing line for a cause. And some, a small number in comparison, succumb to sheer accident. But unless it is somebody with personal significance to me, I refuse to be cowed by the bleating grief-seeking masses who want to turn every parochial calamity into a national tragedy. And when did it become an actual crime to not adopt this self-imposed, self-righteous rending of garments? What was in it for those who turned on the idiot who tweeted a joke too soon? I blame Diana.
For what it’s worth, my thoughts are never going to ‘go out to’ or ‘be with’ those in whose personal tragedies I simply have no involvement. It doesn’t make me heartless, it merely shows I have a more refined sense of empathy, focused on who is important to me and not turned on by whipped-up, mawkish sentiment; I refuse to be defined by my readiness to cry to order for people I will never know. Peace on earth and goodwill to men has to include – just as with freedom of speech – those with whom we disagree.
Santa's little accident...
But you know the truly most offensive thing about the Glasgow incident? For the first few hours, everywhere you looked, the BRITISH online media were describing the bin lorry as a ‘garbage truck'. Now there, surely, is something we can all rally around and join in the unanimous condemnation of. Now, get back to your own Christmases and stop worrying about everybody else’s.