Killing The Black Dog
Writers are required to have a somewhat raised level of sensitivity. It’s in the job description. The upside is that it can massively improve the quality of your work. The downside is the Black Dog.
It’s hard to explain depressive bouts to others. I once believed there was no such thing, and was on Sid James’ side when he gave advice to Bill Kerr in Hancock’s Half Hour; ‘Pull yourself together, you ratbag.’ When I was 41 a catastrophic, surreal series of events triggered a change. I lost five stone and slept for the best part of a year.
Why on earth would a writer of minor importance or interest to anyone beyond a small band of book-lovers be driven to express political opinions online? I did this week, and was trolled into a low mood. (To place this in context, on Friday night my partner suffered a gruelling 22-hour journey that should have taken 4 hours, then was mugged. His reaction; a shrug and ‘It happens’.)
This was a strange, disillusioning week in the UK anyway. Some of my fellow writers have been in fine opinionated form (Philip Pullman’s splenetic piece was remarkable, here), but many said not one word for fear of damaging their sales.
Then I read about the concept of Cognitive Democracy. There’s a complex piece here about the upside of divisive argument, including the idea that diversity of viewpoints helps groups find better solutions. Unfortunately, Cognitive Democracy requires the inputting of truthful data, and the referendum was full of misinformation.
Leave voters were told there would be fewer migrants (retracted), better NHS funding (retracted), more jobs (untrue) and benefits for poor communities (mere wishful thinking). On Friday many corporations held emergency meetings about downsizing or relocating, with several of my friends badly affected.
Behind all the name-calling and blame-throwing it was hard not to feel that many decent, reasonable British people who voted democratically in order to be heard were manipulated and lied to by the self-serving press and politicians. Betrayed by Labour, ignored by Tories, they were backed into a corner – and bit back. They failed to realise that it wasn’t a protest vote but an economic decision.
The disadvantaged cannot have their voices silenced by government
It needs to be understood and accepted that half the country was angry. Whether they’ll be happy now that they’ve won remains to be seen, but we shouldn’t feel schadenfreude if they don’t. I can’t believe anyone wants to reverse decades of tolerance and replace it with extremism. But the disadvantaged cannot have their voices simply silenced by government. It’s a lesson Johnson & co will do well to show they have learned in the coming hardships.
Then there was the matter of what to do about my own job. Yes, it’s just fiction and to quote Samuel Johnson No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money, but I care about what I do, as anyone should whatever their work, and I needed to sort this out.
The answer was obvious, in my mystery novels at least. Bryant & May are thorns in the side of the establishment. So they’ll continue to be just that. In the next book, ‘Wild Chamber’ I’m upping the ante again, although at his rate I’ll soon have them blowing up the Houses of Parliament (I’m starting to understand the mentality of Guido Fawkes). The detectives always wonkily reflected my views, although I’m careful never to push subtext. There will also be a new crime series which will allow me to give full rein to darker ideas. You have been warned.
Meanwhile, dog be dead, it’s onwards and upwards and back to business.