Blimey, according to some sources, it’s 3,500 years (next Tuesday) since Moses descended Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. In truth, they haven’t aged all that well. Despite his innovative dual-tablet presentation of the All Time Top Ten Things It’s Really Best Not To Do, Moses’ prescriptive vision has fallen a little flat in the digital age.
Without the aid of real-time video and lacking any Google-friendly keywords (except, possibly, ‘adultery’ and ‘ass’), it’s frankly a miracle they went viral at all. In these enlightened times, it’s best to give them little heed (though don’t go coveting no oxes, just to be on the safe side) and instead adhere to My Eight Thoroughly Modern Commandamentoes. They’ll set you in far better stead than all that biblical guff, and use the word twat at least three times. Result.
1. Everything You Have Ever Been Told Ever is Bollocks
There was a time, maybe a mythical one, when information was shared out of a desire to enlighten, to entertain or simply to nurture a little kinship. Those days are gone, as if they never were. Now nearly every communication is laden down with pecuniary advantage. You just have to know where to look.
Whether it’s self-serving office badinage, masquerading as advice or detached consultation, or media messages writ large with regard to your health or planet-wide sustainability, they are all more suspect than the serial puppy licences of a 70’s celeb.
If you want to lose weight, eat less – don’t buy the latest diet book, only eat carbs every other Ash Wednesday or pay for the limited joy of being the third fattest at the weekly weigh-in. If you want to know how serious this week’s global threat is – follow the money trail. Who’s making money by resetting your Millennium clock or matchmaking your carbon trading?
2. The Only Politicians with Convictions are Now on the Right
Political convictions on the left died and were buried along with Michael Foot and his donkey jacket. While Foot wasn’t actually interred until 2010, the idea of any left-leaning politician being capable of winning high office pre-deceased him by at least 20 years.
Nowadays, driven by Daily Mail dogma and an underlying disregard for any degree of nobility or selflessness among the electorate, Labour politicians take a view on immigration, social security and the finance sector that is more concerned with keeping their electoral hopes alive than keeping their consciences clear. It is their obvious lack of faith in the wider populace that is the surest sign of their perdition.
Politicians on the right, of course, have no such scruples and no need to pay lip service to any outdated concept of community or concern. The politics of the right have always been about duplicity, shamelessly persuading the lower orders that voting them in is ultimately in their best interest, when, of course, it never is.
With self-interest and social irresponsibility now, again, the political norm, right-wing politicians can once again wear their convictions on their shirt-sleeves, as they, ironically, get blacker by the day.
3. No-one is Interested in Anything You Say, Ever
For most people, the death of their best friend’s mother means less than the loss of a hard-to-replace button on their second favourite shirt. Whether it’s due to the end of the extended family, the erosion of traditional communities or World of Warcraft being re-released with a slightly shinier cover, our ability to share sorrow has never been lower.
Ironically, our penchant for self-congratulatory demonstrations of concern has never been greater. With a greeting card (or some apposite online doggerel) for every misfortune, we are more than equipped to ostensibly mark our fellow-feeling in an unmissable fashion while scoping Amazon box-sets.
In truth, extremity but highlights our casual indifference to one another, with most conversations merely tokenistic exchanges of tedious trivia, meriting less acknowledgment than a fat girl’s hat.
4. The Work Cycle Defines Everyone
With communism now globally out of fashion*, save in hawking distance of Fidel Castro’s ear trumpet, it may seem odd that one of its tenets is now Truer Than Ever. Never has the inclusion of anything non-vocational on the school syllabus been more stridently decried, nor has the selfishness of those souls thoughtless enough to live more than 3.8 years after the statutory retirement age ever been more forcefully denounced.
Blimey these old folk, with their worn-out limbs and saggy organs, are a bigger blight on the NHS than even the Tribble-like reproductive cycle of the Poles. Make coffin-dodging a capital crime (or at least a crime against capital) and get hair-dressing, plumbing and call centre etiquette on the pre-school national curriculum now, me hearties.
*I don’t know what precepts they run the PRC by these days, but it ain’t anything Uncle Karl would t-shirt.
5. Honesty is Truly an Affectation
Dishonesty, embellishment, evasion, misrepresentation, duplicity, cant, equivocation and bearing false witness – just as the Inuits have more than one thousand words for snow, we have, at the last count, 463 words for fibbing – though I may be lying.
With the pronouncements of public figures of every hue and varying stature inevitably self-serving, deceptive and steeped in mendacity, it’s small wonder they are inevitably post-scripted with an “and I really mean that”, an “and I’m not just saying that” or even an “and you can quote me on that.”
With our default setting now being to assume that every public utterance is bollocks, such additional citations of honesty are pretty much tantamount to: “Now, I know I habitually mislead you and you should usually take my recommendations less seriously than you would a blind man’s cravat collection, but this time I’m porkie-free. Honest.” If you can fake faking sincerity, you can fake anything (except probably seeing I Love My Country as a fine career move by Frank Skinner).
6. Britain is Not Coming Out of Recession; It’s Getting Nearer to an Election
Recession is a tricky thing for the Tory-dominated coalition. On one hand, you have to demonstrate a little economic progress. You can’t forever demand apologies from a Milliband for The Mess You Lot Left Us In (regardless of the tangled roots of the financial crises and their forgotten enmeshment with US sub-prime mortgages and the fact that Mrs Thatch, God rest her, sold British industry for some magic beans and hat that looked the Queen’s).
Obligingly, as the presumably goldfish-like memory of the electorate has to be primed with Good Things This Administration Has Done, as 2015 hoves into view, so various bodies, enlightened with grievous self-interest, do the business. Things have never been so good – and you can quote us on that, say the Association of Small Businesses. “We think a corner has definitely been turned and we’re not just saying that,” promises the CBI.
With the figures bandied enthusiastically by Sky News at every conceivable instance (“With the economy definitely improving, let’s see if the weather is too…”), the right-of-centre tabs and every self-interested pundit on a nice little lobbying refresher, such nonsense soon becomes front-of-house orthodoxy, with the Labour front bench too timid or too busy tanning to take issue.
Fear not, such economic bonhomie will be decidedly short-lived. Come the flip side of Cameron II: The Sole Poll Redemption and frugality will be back on the agenda. The Global Economic Downturn is, after all, 9/11 for the Right and they won’t give it up lightly. After all it’s not ideology or dogma that has closed a kindergarten near you; it’s The Mess You Lot Left Us In and I Mean That Most Sincerely.
7. Apologies are a Licence to be Lambasted (Unless You’re Famous)
We forgive the famous pretty much everything, save masked YouTube rapping at contract renewal time and, of course, kiddy-fiddling. Somewhere, like the Dark Net (where paedo-porn abounds and a heroin hit is just a mouse click away), there is Dark Dave. Dark Dave, flagship of the under-cable, features back-to-back Top of The Poppery, perennially hosted by Jimmy Savile and the Hairy Pornflake, where Jonathan King and Gary Glitter’s cover of Save All Your Kisses For Me is always number one, and, with a knowing leer and a front row wink, Stuart Hall plays backing maracas forever.
While the denizens of Dark Dave have all the redemption potential of a soiled Green Shield, other celebrities spring from infamy with Get Out of Jail Free alacrity following a public apology, no matter how stilted or staged. For a masterclass in insincerity take Tiger Wood’s public apology to his Mrs and his legion of badly-jumpered fans. For an A-class celeb caught hiding the sausage, don’t cite opportunity or random randiness, take the sex addict defence and spend three weeks rehabilitating with Michael Douglas and Kanye West for company.
The Priory has become the naughty step of notoriety, a place from which celebs return forgiven and, maybe, just that little bit more box office bankable. Had Hitler blamed World War II on a bad childhood experience and a paint allergy, he would have had his own game show by 1951, after sad faces all round at Nuremberg and an obligatory three weeks in the Berlin Priory with Lindsay Lohan and a Beegee.
For mere mortals, though, apologies are a far sorrier story. In real life, only decent folk apologise. Such acts of expiation then give a mandate for the wider world of shameless twattery to see any acceptance of past culpability as an instant passport to accepting all future guilt – “Are you sure you didn’t start the Balkan conflict, after all you did lose that stapler in 1972?”
The mantra you learnt after your first post-adolescent fumblings with alcohol and subsequent carpet damage to house party hosters still holds true – never apologise; never explain. Not everything you were told as a teenager was untrue, just all that stuff about Jesus and fulfilling your potential.
8. Empathy could yet save the world
Despite all this downbeatery and eminently useful neo-realisms, I do see a twinkle of hope for the world. While I may yet sue the estates of sundry dead Beatles for misleading me into youthfully believing Love Is All You Need, subpoena Jennifer Rush when it comes to gross misrepresentation of the Power of Love or indeed indict Wet Wet Wet (just for being Scottish and twats), I do believe other emotional resonances may yet save the world, if only from itself.
Empathy is a much over looked emotion. While there have been 82 UK number one hits with the word “love” in the song title (115 in the US – the soppy gets), there has yet to be a poptastic chart-topper highlighting the E word. Even in brackets.
Where love falls down in the redemptive stakes is its requirement for abject selflessness on the part of its proponents. It requires a generosity of spirit that was long ago deemed Not Wanted On Voyage by the knocks and blows that hew out the contemporary human.
Empathy, on the other hand, is all about self-interest. Who among us could DarkYouTube a Mexican drug mule being beheaded by a rival cartel and not have a wince of I’m Glad That’s Not Me? There’s a wisp of Don’t Do Unto Others What Their Surviving Dependants Might Get a Chance To Do To You With a Pointier Stick and Some Suitably Sharpened Callipers about it after all.
Imagination is the knowing consort of empathy and without the apt application of its good services this enlightened self-interest will not fall on fertile ground. Take those groups whose lack of empathy is the stuff of legend – the Germans of the 1930s and 1940s, the Taliban and, of course, the Germans of today. Had they but applied their imagination to “taking the role of the other” rather than taking over Europe or taking an IED up their jacksies then then the world might now be a far more pastel place.
Other Commandments, Many of Them Less Sweary, Are Also Available
Before he got into the commandment business Tony Murray was the editor of Adline, The Marketeer, The Drum and Hong Kong’s Gafencu Men. He is now the least civil servant in Asia’s World City. For other choice nuggetry, you can visit: http://tonymurrayblog.blogspot.hk/