Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cry Me a River

If anyone these days could actually be bothered to thumb through historical text, immersing in fusty chronicles (probably handled by an officious stern-looking man clad in snooker ref's gloves) one would be able to recount tales of triumph and misadventure bobbing in a sea of adversity. We would witness how historical failures would be treated in an almost casual shrug-shouldered acceptance that it was ever thus. When King Harold was about to be rendered into bite-sized kebabs on the field of Hastings I bet he pursed his lips and offered his arrow-sieved head for Norman butchers. When a mud and disease-caked tommy clambered out of some dysenteric Flanders foxhole to be gassed and bayoneted in the face by advancing Germans his last words were probably a cheeky "Cor blimey, Kaiser lad, yer've got me dead to rights -and make no bloomin' mistake."

Of course this is all bollocks. But the reason I mention it is to illuminate a contrast between the daring heroic sagas that filled the two-colour adventure pages of latter-day childhood comics, such as Victor and Eagle, in comparison to the blubbering effete milquetoast wastrels that haunt our society today.

We live in the lachrymose generation; a place in time where the tear duct has dominion. These days it's as ubiquitous as dogshit in a municipal park to witness grown men and women suddenly erupt forth with a whining outburst as soon as the TV cameras are pointed in the direction of their pointless self-indulgent stupid moist little faces. This odious display is designed purely to pull the public along on their pissy-pants cart of histrionics, seemingly expectant of a huge societal "Aw, blesssssss" as we huddle together blubbing in a huge saline lake of sentiment. Where indomitable spirit and a cheerful disposition kept us collective under the twin sieges of disease and war, now a sense of togetherness is fostered by the daily domestic anguish of a nondescript untalented reality TV reject who claws at our equilibrium by wiping away grizzled snot while publically exposing their hideous psychological entrails.

These hell riders of the emotional rollercoaster attack in various guises, and include:

a) The semi-literate talent show auditionee whose IQ and ability to hold a tune is in direct ratio to the amount of gold sovereigns on display. Upon the inevitable rejection they spontaneously inflate into something resembling the critical mass of a wailing marmoset's bladder, before erupting forth in a tsunami of repugnant self-pity, proclaiming "this is my life... it's all I've ever dreamed of", while clutching a small picture of a dead child. Oh yeah. What sort of life ambition can be measured by public ridicule from a sleazy millionaire in chest-hugging trousers, a hyperactive Irish gay irritant and two slightly movable female mannequins?

b) The sporting icon who, following an embarrassing and ill-conceived comeback, hastily calls a press conference to announce -to anyone still interested- that they will be retiring again. This is then punctuated by some clich├ęd platitude such as "I gave it my best shot, but it didn't work out..." before the statement trails off as the sniffling deadbeat croaks a barely audible "sorry", puts his/her hand over the microphone and dabs at a big girly tear. And, just in case there is anyone still interested who hasn't torn out their own spleens, the washout reappears in 6 months to hold another press conference to announce to a shocked world that they regularly took drugs ...and the whole rotten melodrama is repeated ad nauseam until they suffer a fatal coronary on UK Living while attempting a minority sport tenuously associated with their former selves.

c) The former c-list celebrity venturing to glean soulful catharsis by spilling their guts on a prime time chat show. This usually consists of a revelatory checklist featuring abuse, addiction, illness or the death of a parent. Major tabloid gold dust is mined if all of the above apply. Most of us meander about our lives marginally concerned about a bald tyre or if that third piece of toast was really necessary, our memory banks barely recalling that time we saw a tramp taking a shit in the bus shelter. Celebrities however drag themselves torn through mascara-stained battlefields of brutal gang rape, crystal meth rehab, recovery from terminal cancer and "I never got the chance to say goodbye to my mam...". Maybe if they had spent less days mewling to assorted TV hosts and magazines they might just have been able to pop into see their mother, presumably for a quick photoshoot from the death bed. Wankers.

Of course it hasn't always been like this. Our culture never seemed to yearn for a pick at the tender scabs and weep at every available opportunity like some hired mourner at the funeral of the psyche. We can trace this disease of the poignant gland to two significant events: the 1990 World Cup Semi Final, and the death of Princess Diana. Under normal circumstances we'd lampoon the moron Gascoigne, despite his staggering footballing talent. However a mis-timed tackle moved him out of the pantheon of great-but-flawed footballers and onto the laps of cooing maternalism. It's a widely held view that Gazza was crying for England when he received the booking that would potentially cost his team dearly. Bollocks. His shirt wrung out tears of self-pity because the dull twat wasn't going to be playing in the World Cup Final. He was crying for himself. However, as an almost weird echo of wartime propaganda, created to boost the nation's morale (such as the collection of metal items from households to help the war effort, even though it was all dumped in a large incinerator or ended up as Grace Jones), the press played on it as Gazza's Tears for Unlucky England. At the stroke of a journo's pen he went from drunken Geordie amoeba to some sort of deity who, as a man, was not afraid to shed real tears for his country. Gazza has a lot to answer for, because since that time we've had to endure the public nausea of a whimpering Tony Adams and a sniveling Paul Merson, banging on at length about their own self-inflicted obstacles with lager, horses and marching powder. And where exactly are we supposed to feel pity for a millionaire footballer so hammered that he passed out behind the wheel of a car and ploughed into a lamppost? Unfortunately, Kerry Katona was not frozen in the oncoming headlights, otherwise Adams would've been knighted for services.

Diana's death was a vile illustration of moral panic. Almost as if we'd kept a whining grizzling genie that looked like Stan Laurel incarcerated under the stiffness of upper lip. When this pampered sloane (who was not averse to doing the well-eyed Bambi routine herself) became embedded in a Paris tunnel, a sudden surge of fervid lava engulfed us like the people of Pompeii. Drowning under a sea of Interflora and Elton John, we all enlisted to grab an even bigger slice of the sentimental pie than the next person. Thus, we saw crazy scenes of scuffles breaking out in Woolworths as grown men and women battled to grab as many copies of 'Candle in the Wind' like pickers at a doomsday harvest. Groups of complete strangers shared bodily fluids as shoulders were used to wipe away the mucosal discharge of a million dolorous group hugs. The most abhorrent facet of Di's death was the sense of societal compulsion to grieve for her. Overnight the country turned into the closing scene from a Romero movie as red-eyed zombies shuffled aimlessly about our towns and cities, moaning and dribbling. Shoot 'em in the head. It's the only way. My son had the right idea. He was five when Diana copped it, and the school insisted that all the children did paintings of remembrance, which would then be sent to Buckingham Palace. Whereas most kids concocted romantic scenes of an ickle Princess, with wings ascending to the heavens; my lad opted for the Francis Bacon approach and produced a melting coffin emblazoned with Rest In Pieces. I was later called for discussion with a 'concerned' headmaster.

But where do we go from here? Is the Maldives being systematically submerged due to global warming or the voluminous crocodile tears from a national outpouring of faux dejection? Can precipitation be blamed upon Michael Barrymore and Les Dennis on a self-help weekend in Snowdonia? Are the Tracks of My Tears about to be taken over by Network Rail? Please don't ask me anymore ...I feel as though I'm starting to well up (croak) sorry, (sniff)....

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