a dreadful person says…

God knows I’m no paragon of virtue. I’ve been wrong and done wrong plenty of times. I’m not even that nice, generally speaking, personality-wise. People who like me tend to be those people deemed to be unsavoury, beyond-the-pale types, or those who have a certain reckless joy de vivre (erm… I think these people might actually be dogs). So I’m not standing on a pedestal (or a horse) when I say, I’m pretty sure some things are just wrong. Aren’t they?

Like, I think if you try to defend the practice of threatening to rape a woman to death for saying something some people didn’t like even though they have no idea what she said and are making up outright lies in order to justify rape and death threats and kill-your-children threats and put-your-abuser-on-the-front-page-of-a-national-newspaper threats, then there is probably something a bit wonky about your moral compass. Can compasses be recalibrated? Because that’s what I’d recommend.

But then, I suppose, I could be wrong about that. Maybe it’s okay to send a deluge, a plague, a tsunami of rape-to-death threats, kill-your-family threats, hope-you-get-cancer threats to people you don’t like? I doubt this point of view would ever have occurred to me, were it not for the fact that it is the point of view espoused by so many people I happen to know. To be fair, most of these people exist mainly on twitter, which as we know, is the place where independent thought goes to die, usually in the throes of some histrionic demonstration of pure, mad outrage. Desperate for those likes and retweets. Pure desperate.

I watched The Social Dilemma the other evening and thought, jesus god, this explains so much. I’d already ditched my social media months ago (one day I’ll get through a whole blog post without congratulating myself for this) so I was able to enjoy this horror story whilst clutching to the thin comfort of my own smugness. But thin comfort it was, indeed. It will take a lot more than a few of us deleting our social media to derail the crazy train. Social media is a giant mind control experiment, and there are a lot of minds being controlled. How else to explain people defending and justifying rape-death-cancer threats? How else to explain the furious urge to cancel and silence all dissent, even that which is simply the expression of basic moral principle?

The idea that other people aren’t subject to the mind-control that you’ve succumbed to must be utterly enraging. And the deeper you sink into the giant mind, the more likes you get, the more retweets, the more addicted you become, the more this jealous bewildered fury consumes you and the more you lash out in rage at all you cannot control. Dear god, you are being eaten alive!

50,000 bumholes

A wise person once said that opinions are like bumholes, in that everyone has one. This has always struck me as the perfect expression of distaste towards the unsavory practice of having opinions. I would, however, counter it by saying opinions are not at all like bumholes, in that no one has 50,000 bumholes.

I myself am in possession of several thousand opinions, few of which have the slightest merit or basis in anything other than sheer whimsy. Indeed, I have been known to opine at length on subjects in which I have literally no expertise, knowledge, or even interest. I consider this to be a terrible character flaw, albeit one which I share with most of the population at large. Hardly anything is less pleasant than listening to other people’s untutored, unfounded and ignorant opinions. But to be the expounder of such opinions is delightful. It’s so much fun to just talk, to say whatever inane nonsense passes through your brain, without a care for truth or honour. It’s especially fun to get worked up into an outrageous steaming froth about the sputterings of some random twitter egg or facebook not-friend.

(As I am one of the elite and enlightened few who has eschewed social media, I no longer suffer from the constant urge to express myself online. I now reserve this disagreeable activity for close friends and captive audiences at bus stops and in the post office queue.)

Another way in which opinions are not really like bumholes is that hardly anyone identifies with their bumhole in any meaningful way. Most people probably couldn’t even pick theirs out in a line up, unless it was an especially fancy one. Yet many people do very rigidly identify with their opinions and consider themselves to be the sort of person who thinks this, that, and the other. The thinking of this, that, and the other indicates to the world that they are the right kind of person and that they are very good. Such individuals tend to have clusters of opinions that go together and often these clusters merge with other clusters to form one giant opinion which is taken so seriously and treated with so much gravity that it takes on cosmic mass and becomes a giant bumhole of groupthink. This enormous bumhole hoovers up all the messy freeform thought that swirls around it, and pulls it down into its dark mysterious depths, never to be seen again. Now the person-with-important-and-correct-opinions finds themselves in thrall to a giant bumhole, a position which requires some careful manouevring if they are to escape unsullied. Many individuals, however, seem to take comfort in the giant bumhole, which is warm and crowded with others just like them, and they find shared purpose in patrolling its rim, defending its integrity from critical observers, and fighting off anyone who attempts to help them get free.

A third way in which opinions are unlike bumholes – and yes I am now fully committed to this analogy, although I admit I do have some regrets – is that while a bumhole is a sturdy thing that with luck and care will last you a lifetime, opinions tend to be fickIe and flimsy and floaty. There is nothing really basic or fundamental about opinions. They come and go, briefly providing the illusion that you know what you’re on about, before disappearing in a puff of logic, evidence, growing up, or having a change of heart. Opinions drift about like brightly coloured balloons, looking joyful and attractive until they float into a tree and explode. Weeks later you find their withered fragments shamefully littering the grass. They are, put simply, not to be trusted.

Maybe, then, we should detach from our opinions. Maybe we should all be less concerned with what people think, and a lot more interested in how they think. The ability to use logic, reason, deduction, evaluation and analysis is more profoundly valuable to society than knowing the right things to say to appease the great giant bumhole in the cloud – or even to rail against it. There is no reason to aspire to having good or correct opinions, any more than one would waste time wishing for extra bumholes. Far better to aspire to knowledge, insight and wisdom, the lubricating unguents which soothe the inflamed haemorrhoids of cancel culture, thought-control, and always-being-right, and which should, therefore, be applied liberally.

To torture the analogy to its painful conclusion, I propose that opinions, like bumholes, should be a private and somewhat embarrassing concern, of no interest to anyone outside your most intimate circle. Forget about your opinions. Cultivate ways of thinking, learning, and knowing; aspire to wisdom and insight. Develop your core values, decide what is of fundamental importance – I humbly submit that you will find deep cares for truth, justice, freedom and equality, cares which seem to be baked into most human hearts. Identify with these, and let your opinions go like so many farts, dissipating into warm air.