Just one week has passed during the most substantial election perhaps ever. And, already a confirmed fatality.
Not a real one. Nor a significant one. But, a fatality nonetheless.
That fatality is me. Apparently.
The cause of my untimely death? A meme. A fairly innocuous one at that.
Yes, modern life is digital. Unreal, in the main. Lacquered lives are lived online.
My demise is hardly heroic. Perhaps, a loose definition of “tragic,” instead. I posted a meme.
Yes, it is a brave new world. Teeming and thrumming with online somas. Magical nothings. Disposable friends. Each the God of his own dominion, who shares that dominion subject to a vague omnipotence.
The meme lacked spice, to be honest. A waggish poke at our culture of depression chic. You know, everyone has “depression” now. The cure? Ribbons of “You’re so strong!” and love reacts and likes.
That meme featured a male and a female. The male (representing a genuine depression case) had one microphone before his face. The female (representing the models of depression chic) festooned with over twenty microphones.
Not exactly Cézanne. Not exactly requisite of a fine art degree. The meme, as subtle as a brick between the teeth.
To most, anyway. A progressive friend of mine then aired her predictable indignation. That meme, “Christopher,” was tantamount to the abetting of suicide.
“Someone could read this, and hurt themselves, Christopher.” The brick. My chipped, jolting teeth.
When explaining the meme’s intention to highlight the very real problem of depression chicsters drowning out the genuine, my point bobbed somewhere along the Yangtze, lost—forever.
Being my age means enduring friends whose “educations” taught them little but the primacy of feelings. Nuance, and rationality are now impregnable to discussion or debate. I tried to explain its intention—my intention—to waxed ears.
In this divided, clickbait age, if I say I like pizza, this means I hate salad. Worse yet: I am calling for all salads to suffer grave indignities. Because, I said I liked pizza.
That friend, whom I shall not name—but let’s call her “Brucey”—later unfriended me. Banished, digitally—the postmodern equivalent of leaving the lame for the lion. The internal chaos of the “add friend” button.
This kind of silly prinking has only thickened since Boris Johnson finally got his election. The nation is divided, and threatening to make permanent its Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
We are split. Rent asunder. Leavers whisper to other Leavers, while Remainers conjure the whispered words into articles of social impeachment. We deplore, detest, defriend.
Nobody wins. Especially not those like my estranged friend, Brucey. The “progressive.” Those who peacock their virtue, yet parrot their prejudice.
I voted to leave the European Union, after all. Such a crime blanches me helplessly dense. Each well-meaning conversation with a Remainer swamps into suspicion. “You probably hate foreigners.” And they probably read The Guardian.
We, both “sides” (as that is what we are now degraded to) hold prefab opinions of the other. We hear what they say. Yet, this is “what they really mean.”
This sad folly played out perfectly this week. Jacob Rees-Mogg, appearing on the radio, made comments on the Grenfell fire which killed 72 people in 2017. The charred hollow block still rapes the Kensington skyline.
The word itself synonymous with pain, torment, grievance. With one side all too keen to anguish the living, on behalf of the dead.
Remember, Rees-Mogg had just finished reading a report suggestive that the fire service’s “stay put” command meant more charred bodies. He said the survival rate would have increased if people ignored the “stay put.”
Trapped, he would have left the building.
“It just seems the common-sense thing to do,” he said. “And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen.”
Of course, his comments erupted online. Jacob Rees-Mogg had mocked the victims of Grenfell, went the trope. The media, celebrities, everyone, sharpened the same pitchfork. Some even suggested Rees-Mogg meet his own flammable end.
Because, in essence, (to one side at least) that is what Jacob Rees-Mogg really meant. He said he liked pizza—death to all salads.
Of course, his statement implied nothing of the sort. He said it was a “tragedy,” that the victims of Grenfell did not ignore guidelines—which ignoring perhaps would have saved their lives.
What I found most striking: not one person, offline, fevered himself with the madness of the crowd. Online: Jacob’s gangly head lay plattered, still twitching. His last sentence napalmed for narrative.
That narrative being that anyone daring to vote for Boris Johnson (and Brexit) is kindred with those who mock the dead of a tragedy that stains the British soul.
Such lurid dishonesty taints already the most important election in our modern history.
To re-elect Boris Johnson with a sizeable majority not only would secure Brexit, but an agenda of One-Nation Toryism fashioned in its common-sense appeal to the vast majority.
To lose would mean a subtle Hell. The revocation of our democratic vote. The realization of political correctness. The reification of identity politics. Every tragedy, like Grenfell, knotted, and necklaced around the wrong.
Which explains the behavior of those who lost in 2016. They will never accept it.
It’s going to be a long six weeks. And a long American 12 months. Soon, we will know if it is all over, or if it has just begun.