This week, we’ve learned two things. Saying monkey while standing in the same postcode as a black person means you are a racist and refusing to offer your seat to a pregnant woman is indicative of a general decline in chivalrous behaviour among men, but complaining about it is sexist.
Neither is particularly ground breaking in tone or intent – indeed each could be interpreted as standard practice for English tabloid media outlets. A twenty-four hour rolling news culture cannot sustain itself by simply reporting news, there isn’t enough of it happening in the world unless you include the depressing stuff in unfashionable areas of the world like Africa and the Middle East, and they don’t. Far better sales can be gained from mining an otherwise straightforward incident for angles and wringing every last drop of controversy out of it.
Hysterical debates erupt from the most harmless of landscapes and to a greater or lesser extent, we’re all drawn in. What exactly is the point of social media if you don’t have an opinion?
While over time, this brave new world has eroded traditional reference points for most things, it has yet to discredit science completely, (those familiar with Daily Mail’s scaremongering about the cancerous effects of pot noodles aside) and Newton’s laws of motion remain true at the time of writing. There will be consequences to this action.
We’ve seen what can happen when a spotlight shines relentlessly on an object, in this case the England football team. Players play with creativity and verve for their club sides and yet when the England shirts come out they twist and turn and burn in the intense heat like ants under a cruel child’s magnifying glass, until they’re reduced to crisp, blackened shells of what they once were.
Even when they qualify for the World Cup, less than thirty-six hours later, the biggest selling newspaper in the country is attempting to discredit the manager. Could you work well in those conditions?
But that’s just football. Players are well compensated for their travails and sympathy for their plight is in short supply. But this intensity is being applied to our emotions; they are being pulled and pushed in directions we’re blind to in the glare of The Sun and its cohorts, and the increasing number who haven’t been fortunate enough to receive an education decent enough to shade them from the worst of it are having their emotional spectrum burned and reduced to binary reactions: right or wrong, yes or no, we care or we don’t.
There’s a bitter irony to be found in the fact that global, twenty-four hour information dissemination is grinding the tolerant, gentle, understanding and fragile shape of humanity we’ve spent thousands of years working towards into distinct, chewy and hard to swallow lumps in the primordial soup we once emerged from.
But it’s just one cloud. Surely there’s something wrong with you if you spend sunny days scanning the sky for signs of impending rain.
Images via twitter, dailymail, zmescience.com.