Thursday, 19 April 2012

Markets, Situationists and "I Lost My Job And Found My Soul" Memoirs

I wrote this last year when all the markets were going to hell.

As I reach for my second memoir of someone who lost their job and found a life in as many days, I wonder if I’m going crazy. I would not blame me. After all, strolling out of the office, on my way to Starbucks for the evening cuppa, I see the following headline screaming across the screen: “World in Danger”.

As if everyone wasn’t tense enough. And so the stock market continues to fall. I would go into complete avoidance mode except that I work in a newspaper, a business one at that, and I get a daily report from my morose father who has lost a fortune in a few days and is wondering where all the flowers have gone.

In moments like these my mind turns to Neil Postman. And his masterpiece, “Amusing Ourselves To Death” where he talks about the uselessness of watching world headlines, because there’s nothing you can do about it, nothing you can affect in a real way, and you’re simply scaring (or amusing yourself) to death.

Instead, he would have us go for local council meetings and listen to debates of things that actually affect us. Except, he reasons, we can’t. Way back when, semi-educated people could follow six-hour Lincoln-Douglas debates without flinching and come back for more of the same for a whole week. And they spoke in long, complex sentences. Today it’s soundbytes, punchlines, or nothing.

So I bury myself in these memoirs which have been appearing in greater frequency at all the major bookstores. Think about it. If you calculate how many people have been fired since the global financial meltdown in 2008 and extrapolate from that figure the number of talented writers, and from that figure, the number of talented writers who have not sunk into depression, alcoholism, drug dependence or checked out early, you would get an idea of the number of such memoirs still to come.

I picked out my book of choice, paid for it and took the long stroll back to the office to show a colleague who looks corporate and respectable, but is a hippie in disguise, my new purchase. He thought it showed an unhealthy obsession, although I tried to tell him that such books are ultimately uplifting. For all my hard sell, he declined to borrow it once I got done.

We got to talking about Situationists (as one would in the natural course of conversation) and he agreed to borrow another book I had just bought on “How To Be Free” by Tom Hodgkinson, the editor of this delightful magazine called The Idler, which included advice like play the ukulele, ride a bike and live off the land.

A Situationist, for anyone who is as unfamiliar with the term as I was, just a week ago, are a cool group of people who advocate experiences of life “for the fulfillment of human primitive desires and the pursuit of superior passionate quality.”

In other words, not the kind of people who would be too fazed about the “World in Danger” headline (basically because they wouldn’t see it), not the type of people who would get on the computer as soon as they got back from their cataract operations to see just how much further their portfolio had fallen. Not the kind of people who would read (or work in) a business newspaper.

No comments:

Post a Comment