“What an inspiration.” Whenever I hear this I think one of two things, either someone has died or someone who is in no way inspirational has inspired an uninspiring non-entity to mediocrity. Often it’s both. In 1984, Bob Geldof was considered an inspiration, rather than the singer in that shit band that did I Don’t Like Mondays, which is how he was known in 1983. Thirty years on and most now see him as the narcissistic bully that spawned Bono and the latest crop insipid diet cola flogging haircuts to do that clutchy headphone, sincere furrowed brow act, while imploring us to feed the world.
We are right to be cynical (those of us that are) and right to be tired of the self-righteous sweary routine that we either fell for or were shamed into supporting thirty years ago. It’s a tactic that still exists today. Last week I got a leaflet about homelessness through the mail that said “It’s OK, David is used to being ignored on the street as well.” It was supposed to shame me into not ignoring it, it worked, I swore at it before throwing it away. Passive aggressive charity campaigns can turn a saint into a cynic, but this isn’t an endorsement for cynicism, that’s too easy, too adolescent.
What we need is genuine inspiration, just not the type they espouse on talent shows. Where can we find it? We need look no further than the humble dog.
I grew up with dogs and would recommend any would-be parent to add a dog to the family home. I learned more from those furry little buggers than I did from any of my peer group in regards to love, affection and loyalty, and none ever dared me to steal biscuits from the local church or set fire to the abandoned house at the back of the estate .… I digress. It is not possible for someone who has grown up with a beloved pet to be capable of cruelty or disregard to animal suffering, because it is obvious that any being capable of love, especially the depths dogs love, demands respect. Their kind of purity twists my inners into a pretzel because it seems as if those most capable of love are destined to be the most vulnerable. Not only is the world indifferent, it seems wilfully cruel.
We live on a planet where factory farming produces death on a holocaustic scale every hour of every day, and I do not use that term loosely. In countries not so far away, people like us are being tortured, raped and murdered as a matter of course. It seems that not only politics, but life itself sets it up so we simply cannot afford to care, to even contemplate it is to commit an act of self abuse so shocking as to render the person worthy of sectioning.
We can throw money at charitable causes, we can sign hundreds petitions and we can protest passionately, all potentially worthwhile endeavours, but ultimately unsatisfying and frustrating because life is not experienced on a mass scale, it is experienced in the miniature, the local, the familiar.
Whenever I see the word community I cringe, partly because I know the more that the word is plastered across a library, doctor’s surgery and youth centre wall, the more broken that area is, but mainly because, like inspiration, it has been used in unrelatable ways by those that cause many of the fractures in the first place, politicians. It is time to reclaim the words inspiration and community from the marketers and conmen, to regain our affinity with those in front of us.
The impotence of the individual on a global scale should not have us veering from idealism to cynicism, not every one is cut out to save the world, to think you can is narcissistic anyway. Dogs do not want to save the world, they just want to give and receive love. You know who wants to save the world? Bono. If we all aspired to be a little more like a dog and less like a Bono, you might genuinely inspire and be inspired, and the world might just be a better place. Your iTunes certainly would.
© Copyright Dean Stephenson 2014