Strange Times II: The New Normal


In this morning’s press, six police officers gun down a sleeping black man in his car at a Taco Bell. There should be riots on the streets over this, but it’s too frequent a news item to gain traction. In the UK knife crime has reached a high, but exclusively among ethnic street gangs, and while the police are doing everything they can the gang members hamper them in every way, and the public isn’t interested.

The purpose of publishing these stacks of facts, gathered and verified by me (not a fun way to spend a morning) at the time when I was writing another collection, is to show how little things change.

Our language continued to devolve. ‘Global warming’ became the softer-sounding ‘climate change’. ‘Creationism’ became ‘Intelligent Design,’ and ‘Liberalism’ became ‘Godlessness’. ‘Post-9/11’ became shorthand for anything we should be wary of. ‘Democracy’ was rebranded as ‘Free Market’, and came to mean ‘Something You Choose To Have Or We Will Bomb You’. Definitions have of course continued to change since this piece was written, especially in the minefield of gender politics. My current favourite is swapping out ‘vegetarian’ for ‘plant-based’.

As the lines between Labour and  Tory started to vanish, bad news became something you could bury, courtesy of Labour aide Jo Moore. As there bombing of the World Trade Centre unfolded on our screens she wrote, ‘It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors expenses?’

Taxpayer-subsidised Channel 4 announced its latest adventure into the amelioration of the human spirit: ‘Wank Week’.

Surveys were published with some interesting demographic data tucked inside them. Only 60 per cent of women in the UK are now sexually active. Over a million British schoolchildren are experiencing mental health problems. Over a million elderly people go an entire month without seeing someone they know. London’s most rapidly growing demographic group is deemed to be single people living in single apartments filled with gadgets, getting all their food delivered from takeaways.

Experimental drugs tested on six English volunteers placed them at death’s door and inflated their heads ‘like the Elephant Man.’

Chinese cockle pickers returned to Morecambe’s beaches despite the fact that nineteen employees had drowned in one afternoon while digging for shellfish.

In County Durham, a giant inflatable sculpture designed to create a sense of harmonious calm took off with thirty people trapped inside it, killing two and injuring a dozen others.

A Russian spy died after being poisoned by a radioactive spray applied to his sushi. And the dead journalist Alistair Cooke had his legs sawn off and replaced with drainpipes by New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, a modern-day Burke & Hare company prosecuted for trafficking in body parts.

With CCTVs adopting face-recognition strategies and electronic tracers of every kind invading British society via hackable smart items like fridges and toasters, Orwell’s concept of a Big Brother state truly became a reality when a contestant on Big Brother admitted she had no idea what the title of the show meant.

A devastating cyclone killed thousands in Burma and left many more without shelter, food, water or electricity, facing the ravages of disease. The Burmese militia responded to this by banning emergency aid imports and handing out DVD players to homeless villagers who had no food or power.

At this time the fifth most-read item on the internet was the crash of world stocks. But the most-read story was someone getting voted off ‘Big Brother’ for spitting. As the credit crisis deepened, columns about collapsing banks finally took the lead over tales of exploding hamsters or supermodel Naomi Campbell’s latest screaming fit.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Sarah Palin, the gun-toting cartoon-brought-to-life former running mate of Senator John McCain, once asked her librarian how to go about getting books banned, as there were some she didn’t like. Oil-worshipping Sarah was Alaska’s biggest polluter, but promised to give everyone in her state a $2,000 cheque in return for destroying it.

More whacky laughs with the human race tomorrow.

5 comments on “Strange Times II: The New Normal”

  1. Jan says:

    This continuing thread ain’t exactly reasons to be cheerful is it?

    What’s all the fuss about? I’m sure life was equally dire in the 1950s+ 60s its just that bit more obvious to us now

    1. Because the world’s much more connected and results more easily and speedily quantifiable for e.g as soon as the weather turns really cold it seems we all buy different grub and different sorts of shower gel apparently (why shower gel changes are made is anybodies guess but they are allegedly) and this information comes right back at us through bar codes and computers. We can all find out about things faster and also get to know more grief on the way.

    2. Because most of us seem to be older, grumpier and more likely to pontificate on this stuff.

    Honestly most of us are that comfortable we don’t know we’re born. I work with a young girl, a single mum, who is funding herself through University based registered nurse training and whose worries include the number of visits she can make to the food bank annually. Think that one through when you are planning your next vacation or pondering how much you are paying for your private health insurance.

    Honestly stop it off this is tedious whinging middle class twaddle. Give it up.

    Mind you I did like Snowys bit about the bbq and the indoor bog. Priceless. Only item which made much sense at all

  2. John Griffin says:

    Nice one Jan.
    My eldest sister and I upset (online fortunately) some of her friends who had ‘gone vegan to save the planet’ by pointing out that when we were young it was called being poor, except we didn’t have ingredients with massive airmiles and negative local environmental and political impact like quinoa and almond milk, and maybe their efforts would be better spent politically. My sister – who was a nutritionist – also pointed out the nutrition problems, farming issues and other complications. I said people forced to use foodbanks were probably none to fussy about the provenance of their protein.
    Barrel of laughs, we are.

  3. admin says:

    Two points –
    Jan, I’m through apologising for having worked hard, so you can dispense with the guilt-trip. I don’t play the class card and neither should you.

    Two, I think you’re looking at this with entirely the wrong attitude. Rich or poor, left or right, people are people and always interesting – yet infinitely surprising. The notes made me laugh.

    You have two more days to go, so you may want to come back next week.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    The Texas tiger story is the reason I don’t give up on people. I heard an interview with a woman from the organisation responsible for re-housing the tiger. She was adamant that she was not concerned about the marijuana that was the reason for the finder’s trespass. Her only concern was the welfare of the tiger. No one seemed to be overly concerned about the danger of a large predator in a residential area. The animal was “very friendly and not disturbed by people.” Apparently people in Texas often feel that it is cool to have exotic pets. It’s an open carry state so perhaps that’s why they’re not disturbed by dangerous animals.

  5. Jan says:

    I am not dispensing with a guilt trip Chris (I don’t really think so. No I’m not) I thought it was just a miserable list of tons of rubbish. Was depressing + barmy.. Having a black sense of humour is one thing but most of that was beyond me. Well beyond me.

    Maybe I do see it in a wrong way but you can only see u things to he way you see them .

    Back next week? Unless I’m banned or you don’t put anything interesting on here.

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