There is a certain type of person, of which we all know at least one. She doesn’t pay much attention to the world around her – except as it is interpreted for her by Twitter or – say – People Magazine. Should you dare to put the question forward “What do you think about the NSA spying?” or “Have you heard about the bugging of the Chancellor’s phone?” or “Fine weather we’re having, wouldn’t you say?”, she will immediately turn red and say something like “well, I don’t really watch news”.
The last is inflected as if asking a question.
I believed for a long time that I was both called to educate those of her ilk and to wildly and passionately hate her. How dare she live in this world and not give a good goddamn about it?!
This “type” of person, who relies on the world to just go on around her so long as it doesn’t impinge on her soirées and fêtes. It’s something you’d find in the New Yorker, maybe written by Mr. Shawn before he finally fucking died (sorry, but the man bored me to death – as did his magazine, when Christopher hadn’t written something for them).
I encountered such a person today. A lady, as it happens. Very high up in the local government, as it happens. She is such a person.
What does one do when faced with such willful ignorance? How does one react to such cultural nihilism? And while we’re at it, what the fuck does she talk about at her soirées and fêtes? The consistency of the custard? The feeling of caviar bursting in your mouth?
As nice as all that may be, there is a place for it. There is also a place in each person’s life – a duty, even – to be aware of what is going on around them, both at home and in the world. With the advent of the Internet (my GOD, how many times have people written that six-word phrase – I make myself sick), there is no excuse to be so willfully ignorant of even the most basic news.
What saddens me more than her lack of interest in the world, is all of the tension, wonder, hatred, obscenity, humour, love, duplicity, kindness, evil, all of the “stuff” that makes us part of something larger than ourselves, she is – well – missing out on. If only I could assure her that it is so much more interesting and rewarding to be part of than the consistency of the custard.
Alas, that is the plight that we face as journalists, purveyors of truth to the masses. The faster the world moves, the less time it has to sit and read and learn about this world. As I sit writing this I am looking at the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. This issue (it is published bi-monthly) is over 180-ages long. I hoovered it up in one go, as I do whenever it graces my mailbox.
We live in a world that has convinced us that we no longer have the time to sit and read a newspaper, let alone a copy of Foreign Affairs. But that’s just it. It’s an illusion. If I can make the time, then surely anybody else can. Even our friend with the fondness for the soirées and fêtes.
I suppose my point is that the world is getting willfully stupider and there doesn’t seem to be anything that we can do to “sell” our way back into the lives of our readers. That we are in this situation is sad. That we have yet to find a reliable remedy; that is heartbreaking.
Important note: This article is about a “type” of person as I noted at the outset. A “type” of person can be male or female. It so happened that my encounter this afternoon was with a female.