You keep feeling sad about the state of the world.
You don’t know why that feeling is getting worse.
You try to shrug off this sense of doom.
Then you change channels and watch Question Time.
You bloody idiot. You were the problem all along.
Stop encouraging them with this addiction to the constant confirmation of the justness of your outrage.
We are masochistically entertained by our own pain.
Dug deep in our sub-conscious, perhaps we believe that one of the many bête noire politicians will destroy themselves before our eyes and their career will be mossy driftwood by dawn, but that won’t happen. TV ordains you. Whatever happens, the most important thing is you were on telly. You are alive. You are real. You are worthy of being on telly, so you are worthy full stop.
Tonight is another hellish panel from the BBC’s question based adaptation of 120 Days of Sodom, so don’t watch it. There are so many better ways to entertain yourself that do not feel like getting septicaemia from a rusted barbed wire bottom plug. Some of them may even delight you.
In the time you watch Question Time, you could:
1.Watch Laurel and Hardy in Blockheads, their fighting is far more interesting than the pale and weary word war that gloops forth from the seats of Question Time (look, I know Will Self is on tonight, you can wait until someone splices together his well-spat acid on youtube).
2. If it’s Will Self you hanker for, then read Psychogeography, it has the added bonus of Ralph Steadman’s gory splatter delights.
3.Listen to Leonard Cohen’s last album, You Want it Darker, it is worth of endless repetition. Listen to it more times than Nigel Farage has been on Question Time, it is a voice that should be heard over and over again.
4. Listen to Janne Teller on Book Shambles. I am not saying this because it is my podcast, I am saying it because she is fascinating and a better sort of human than most who get picked for the spectacle of the political panel show. She has seen human cruelty up close and she has reacted by trying to combat it through words and actions. You could read her most recent book, War, too.
5.Open a window and just breathe. Observe the silence, see what breaks it, but all the time, compare the silence, occasional train rattle, and sound of air moving through objects and imagine how putrid that air could be. Occasionally, hear the screams of your neighbours who have not be as wise as you and have swapped rickety silence for Farage and Mensch.
6.Stare at the sky for 52 minutes. See how many more stars appear to you the longer you stare. Briefly contemplate your own insignificance, then remember they are insignificant too, but have the gall to deny it t themselves.
7. Start reading The Great Gatsby again, bloody hell it’s good. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made”.
8. Go and stand in front of the bathroom mirror and stare directly into your own eyes, after a while your face seem to visually change, then return to its usual shape and form. Make a note of each facial transformation, find an old paint set in the back of that cupboard and try to recreate them on scrap paper. Place them on your fridge and whenever someone comes around, just say, “that’s what I did instead of watching Question Time, would you like to buy one.” (that facial change thing really appears to happen for 80% of people, but Neil DeGrasse Tyson didn’t believe me the other night. he looked at me with bemused suspicion). This is a more fun way of changing your face than constant grimacing lit up by reflected TV light.
9.Make a weird humming sound for ages.
10. Imagine what David Attenborough is doing right now.
Watch David Attenborough doing anything, anything at all. Watch him with Bjork. Watch him with Komodo dragons. Imagine him in a tree.
11. Have an early night. Sleep with fewer nightmares. Enjoy the dawn instead of writhing through the night.
These are just a few possible things you can do. Please feel free to add your own ideas. Do something that gives you hope, don’t voluntarily dash your hope. Recharge your humanity, don’t drain it just so someone can say, “good guest booking, look we’re trending”.
“It’s fun to have fun”
Plenty of Book Shambles to choose from – from Sara Pascoe via Chris Hadfield to Alan Moore.
and if you want to lurch into a horror story, try Dead Funny Encore, Josie Long’s ghost story is as charming as you might imagine.
(oh, and should you make it through the night, and I hope you do, and live nearish London, the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition should delight you. I wrote about it here.)