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.