Coronavirus: getting its power from the media

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Yes, it’s two posts in a row about the hot topic of the moment: the Coronavirus. Now, I’m as sick of hearing about this damn virus as you probably are, but what I have to say in this post felt like a topic in its own right so here it is.

I want to discuss whether we – as a species – are overreacting to the Coronavirus and granting it too much power over us.

But a little disclaimer before I get into this shit. I’m in no way attempting to downplay the Coronavirus or pretend that I am some sort of expert with an inside line. Here, on this blog, I have previously spoken about the importance of accepting that you know nothing and that you must always prepare to be wrong about something, and I continue to subscribe to these philosophies. I’m no scientist or medical expert and I accept that I could be totally wrong with my regards to the Coronavirus.

In defence of the seriousness of the situation:

  • The virus is highly contagious and spreads ridiculously easily
  • There is no vaccine available
  • The elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are at a real risk

It’s this last one that’s particularly important because it’s easy to bang on about how we will endure the Coronavirus as we would the flu, but there is an entire section of our community that doesn’t feel as invincible and with good reason. A standard flu could be fatal for them but at least there is a vaccine available. What I’m saying is that it’s a bit ignorant and selfish to only think about ourselves and those in our age bracket.

That said, I remain sceptical.

While I agree that the Coronavirus is a serious threat, I DO believe that we are overreacting. Shutting everything down. Panic-buying toilet roll and hand gel. Crippling the economy. The panic-buying is down to people being idiots. The rest? Well, the media and the governments of the world need to take a good look at themselves.

What SHOULD be happening is an appeal for calm. We need to try and carry on as usual and not live in fear of somebody in the same room sneezing. Unfortunately, the media LOVE this shit and the more dramatic and apocalyptic they can make the Corona sound, the better. As I said, we need to get our shit together and not give the virus so much power over our thoughts and day-to-day life. Understandably, it’s pretty difficult when the news channels be like

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The first thing to realise is that our media is incredibly misleading. Only last night, for example, I heard the BBC news refer to the Coronavirus as a “disease”. That’s factually incorrect for starters.

Next, they like to highlight the seriousness of the situation by repeating how many hundreds (or thousands depending on where you live) are infected. The thing is, these figures are the total confirmed cases that have been recorded since the beginning of the outbreak. What the media doesn’t do is subtract all of the people who have recovered. Instead, they keep on stacking the cases up, implying that all of these people are still infected and recovering (which is false).

Thirdly, every new Coronavirus-related death is hammered home for maximum effect but you have to look beyond the headlines. Every person that has died here in the UK for example, has been of an older age and already suffering with underlying health conditions. Yet, millions of fit and healthy younger people are absolutely bricking themselves. I don’t have any actual figures but I’m reasonably confident that as many, if not more people, have succumbed to the regular flu since 2020 kicked off.

The news media is doing the world no favours by broadcasting Coronavirus updates on a 24/7 loop. What they are doing is fueling the fire and encouraging panic, forcing governments to react accordingly and cause MORE panic by taking drastic measures such as quarantining entire cities or cancelling public gatherings. When measures such as these are taken, it MUST be an end-of-the-world scenario, surely? I saw the following post on a forum that I’m a member of and I have to say that it hits the nail squarely on its head:

“I’m not worried about coronavirus.

It’s the various governments, medias and general population’s panicking in pants-wetting fear reaction to coronavirus that I find worrisome.

Overreaction to new threats is part of the human condition but I’m feeling increasingly uncomfortable about our current media and leaders apparently being unable to resist the drama and seeming hellbent on putting the shits up themselves and everybody else when they should be calming things down.”

I have wondered: what if this virus had never been given a label? What if it wasn’t being given the top billing on every news bulletin? Would we all just be walking around complaining about how much flu was going around? I think we might. After all, doctor’s waiting rooms were heaving last December with flu-riddled patients so, given how inaccurate and suspicious China’s reporting of the Coronavirus has been, how do we know that it wasn’t already doing the rounds before the official announcement of the outbreak? Obviously, that’s just a loose theory, and I’m sure that I can be proved incorrect, but hopefully you get my point.

The news media has transformed the Coronavirus into a boogeyman and given it an incredible amount of power over us that I’m not happy about.

Social media has also played its part by allowing everybody to post images of empty supermarket shelves and whip the populance into a panic-buying frenzy that is entirely unnecessary. The hysteria on the likes of Facebook and Twitter is possibly more destructive than the traditional news because millions are constantly viewing their feeds and gradually being convinced that they too must surely need to start stockpiling supplies. After all, if everybody else is doing it, it has to be the right thing to do…right? FOMO and all that. Baaa.

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There are some nuggets of positivity that have come out of social media’s Coronavirus coverage however:

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That’s the sort of can-do attitude that we need! None of this miserable doom-mongering.

My outlook on the Coronavirus is simple: there’s only so much you can do. I’m going to be cautious, keep washing my hands (as advised) and do what I can to keep my germs to myself but, at the end of the day, if it’s going to happen, then it’s going to happen. Worrying and losing your shit isn’t going to help.

I firmly believe that we need to remain calm and relieve the pressure on our society and economy by NOT giving the Coronavirus so much power. Above all, don’t be a stupid fool and fill your spare room with bog roll. If everybody carries on as usual, and shops as normal, then there won’t BE shortages. All of these shortages are entirely artificial and caused by people stockpiling for no reason. Automated re-ordering systems in shops aren’t prepared for such a sudden influx of sales and will take time to catch up. That doesn’t mean that X item is no longer available. It just means that businesses and systems run on projected sales that are based on past shopping trends. These systems are being overloaded by monstrous sales volumes that they haven’t anticipated. Likewise, the  manufacturing sector wasn’t ready for such a rapid upturn in demand.

Don’t be a sheep.
Don’t stockpile like a greedy, panicky douche.
Don’t assume that this is the end of the world.
And, just maybe, don’t keep checking the news every hour.

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Coronavirus: Exposing our world’s greatest illusion

Yes, even Unfiltered Opinion isn’t immune to the dreaded Coronavirus. I’m not infected here at UO Towers but the situation has provided me with some food for thought.

Heading off on a brief (but wholly relevant) tangent, one of my favourite series’ of books ever written are Robert E. Howard’s Conan adventures. It is in one of these entirely unapologetic and totally non-PC stories (Beyond the Black River, 1935) that I came across a fantastic quote that has stayed with me ever since:

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

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We put an incredible amount of faith in our civilisation, society and – above all – the controlled order of things. We believe ourselves to be intelligent, highly sophisticated and far above the primitive nature of our caveman ancestors. Furthermore, we assume that everything around us is here to stay forever – as solid and dependable as Conan’s muscles.

The reality is that we, as creatures, haven’t actually changed all that much, and major epidemics such as the Coronavirus expose our civilised world for what it really is – an illusion. It’s an extremely thin and terribly fragile illusion too, as illustrated by how quickly we fall back on our primal survival instincts at the first signs of trouble, discarding all of our learned concepts of order and rationality. There could even be an argument to say that we are heading backwards when it comes to our behaviour and mental strength.

If you doubt me then may I point you to the utterly bonkers panic buying of toilet roll in Australia.

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What we see here is wholly irrational activity that makes zero logical sense. First of all, there have been no indicators to suggest that toilet roll – of all things – is going to be in short supply during a Coronavirus epidemic yet a lot of Australians are shitting themselves (pun totally intended) at the prospect of being caught short (another 100% planned pun) and not having access to a doomsday bunker’s worth of bog roll.

Secondly, why in hell is toilet roll being bought out above FOOD?

Thirdly, Australians are acting like sheep and buying crazy amounts of toilet paper because they see other people building these entirely unnecessary stockpiles and believe that there MUST be a reason for it. They don’t want to be left behind. In short, people are imitating their neighbours and fellow shoppers without asking themselves if it’s really necessary. Even the OG toilet paper panic-buyers had no evidence or inside information to justify what they were doing so what hope is there for those who are switching off their brains and following the herd? Blind, instinctive reaction is trumping calm rationale.

Point four: we have become entirely dependant on our lifestyle of convenience and consumerism, where everything is produced and provided for us in pretty packages. It’s a far cry from a time when we humans had to go out into the wild and gather resources for ourselves. Whatever we want, it’s there on a store shelf, available 24/7 – no effort, risk or skill required. We are totally domesticated and painfully vulnerable, depending on this structured way of life like a baby clings to a big, reassuring, milk-dispensing breast.

As Dr Rohan Miller from the University of Sydney says…

“We’re not used to shortages and scarcity, we’re used to being able to pick and choose what we want, when we want. So the rush to get toilet paper is just this sheep mentality to maintain that status.”

My fifth and final point?

Police were even called to a dispute on Wednesday, with reports saying a knife was pulled out in an argument over toilet roll between panic buying shoppers.

Head in Hands

To summarise the Australian toilet roll madness:

  • Irrational behaviour
  • Fear taking control
  • Utterly fucked priorities
  • Herd mentality
  • Instincts > rational thinking
  • Violence and aggression

Now, does ANY of the above belong in a civilised, ordered society where we claim to be “better” than our ancient ancestors? Does any of this gel with us supposedly being more intelligent and resilient than ever before?

This is where I was going to sign off, point having being made. However, in the time that I left this post unfinished, I have been on the frontlines of this madness. Yes, the bog roll panic-buying has come here to the UK – again, for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It has crossed over from the land down under without requiring a human-to-human transmission, so you could say that this braindead stupidity is far more infectious that the Coronavirus itself.

I work in the wholesale business and it was with great dismay, on Saturday, that I noticed customers wheeling big trollies of toilet roll to the tills. It wasn’t their fault, mind. Their shops had been cleaned out by rampant panic-buying crazies and so they had to come in and re-stock.

Worse still, we were cleaned out of painkillers and some medicines because, clearly, these are also hot commodities that any respectable British citizen needs in their Coronavirus-ready fallout shelter. Antiseptic liquids were another casaulty but these were being purchased by enterprising profiteers. One such businessman laughed and happily told me that people are buying anything with the word “antiseptic” printed on the bottle so he was stocking up to cash in on the situation.

The cracks in our concept of civilisation are growing a little wider it would seem. I can picture the borderer from Beyond the Black River nodding sagely as I type this…

Little notebook of wisdom [Part 2]

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Previously, I posted about how I had decided to utilise one of my (many) empty notebooks as a place to record snippets of practical wisdom. It would be a place to return to and remind myself of useful nuggets of truth whenever I’m in need of a good kick up the arse. This is another selection of the wisdom that I have jotted down.

Link to Part 1

Why do we fall?
So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Yes, this a much-overused quote from a certain bat-themed superhero movie but, if you subtract the pop-culture and t-shirts emblazoned with this quote, you will find that it remains an incredibly useful piece of advice. We seem to be petrified of failure, whether it’s due to being afraid of letting ourselves down or losing face in front of others. It also doesn’t help that our society and the media are set on punishing failure. However, failure is absolutely necessary in order to facilitate growth because how else are you going to learn what does and doesn’t work? It is only through failure that we can let go of our fears and learn to take risks. It is only through failure that we learn to analyse what went wrong, modify our approach(es) and become more adept at something. It is only through failure that we learn how to take the punches and move on from setbacks, rather than dwelling on them for prolonged periods of time.

Ask yourself: who is really living their life? Person A who takes risks and sometimes fails, but is at least trying new things and amassing experience, or Person B who stays inside their self-limiting comfort zone and devotes time and energy to mocking or criticising Person A’s failures?

Never ask advice of someone whom you wouldn’t want to trade places with.

This one seems obvious but we all do it from time-to-time, myself included. We ask the wrong people for advice on our problems and wonder why we get no closer to solving them. We need to learn to surround ourselves with the right people and not imitate those who are crashing and burning or hurting others for personal profit. As an example, a player of a man might be shagging multiple women and walking around with a big grin on his face right now, but would you want to be in his shoes when it all (inevitably) goes horribly wrong and his wife/girlfriend finds out?

Action > Inspiration > Motivation

Do something – anything

I – like many people – used to believe that you had to be inspired first in order to gain the motivation needed to take action. This isn’t entirely false as we all occasionally find ourselves struck by inspiration while going about our everyday lives. However, subscribing to the “Inspiration First” method is far from guaranteed to yield results. It’s why so many people don’t accomplish anything or better themselves; because they are sitting around waiting to be inspired – waiting for somebody/something else to come to them. It puts you in the passenger seat and can lead to a self-victimising attitude where you blame the world around you for not providing inspiration, when you should be out there hunting it yourself.

This isn’t to say that you need to become a larger-than-life go-getter who travels the world and seeks crazy adventure. “Taking action” means doing anything, as long as it’s something. For example, if you want to write but feel as if you are lacking inspiration, just resolve to write something – anything – to get the wheels turning. If a big essay needs writing but you aren’t feeling motivated, or are intimidated by the figurative mountain of work before you, simply decide to write a single paragraph. You may well find the pressure on yourself lifted and one paragraph will become two, then three. Before you know it, you could have filled several pages with words without noticing how long you have been at it.

Even with this blog, I’ve sometimes not wanted to write but I say, “okay, I’ll just type out the introductory paragraph.” More often than not, I’ll go on to produce the entire post or, at the least, a good chunk more than that opening paragraph. Often, it’s the act of getting started that is the most difficult but any small step towards achieving something can be enough to stoke your boiler, build up a strong head of steam and find forwards motion.

Book Review: The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy, 2010)

compound-effect-1Year: 2010
Author: Darren Hardy
Publisher: Da Capo Press (version reviewed)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 172
ISBN: 978-1-59315-724-1

No gimmicks. No hyperbole. No magic bullet. The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will take you either to the life of success you desire or to disaster by default. Darren Hardy, publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine, presents The Compound Effect, a distillation of the fundamental principles that have guided the most phenomenal achievements in business, relationships, and beyond.

I’m always interested in self-development books, especially if they promise to be something different. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy did just that so I decided to give it a go.

It’s a good book with some practical ideas but I can’t say that it had the same sort of lasting effect that Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck did. I guess I prefer a straight-talking, cut-the-BS book that tells it like it is and forces you to realise and accept uncomfortable truths.

The premise behind The Compound Effect is sound. Hardy explains how positive, constructive actions stack up (or compound) over time and how the opposite is also true when we fill our faces with bad food, waste money on crap or slack off. Realistically, it’s all very basic stuff that we should already know but, to the book’s credit, the so-called ‘Compound Effect’ is illustrated with some particularly eye-opening examples. One that really made me sit up and pay attention was the cost of a $4.00 take-out coffee over an extended period of time. Assuming that you bought one of these on your way to work every week day (so five days), that’s $20.00 a week, $80.00 a month and almost $1,000.00 a year. Over a twenty year period? $51,833.79!

We all know that this is happening. It’s basic maths after all. But the sheer scale is pretty terrifying when it’s laid bare like that. This is Hardy’s Compound Effect in action and the point of the book is to get you to apply this to your own life in order to improve it.

This book is all about building consistency and momentum in your life in order to harness the power of the Compound Effect. It also goes into detail on adjusting the influences in your life (the people you associate with, the news you consume etc.), discovering what your “why” power is and not giving up in the face of adversity.

It’s all positive stuff but I felt that there were a few core points that were being dragged out via endless examples and figures/charts that were a little unnecessary. Also, despite the fact that this book is billed as a way to improve your overall life, it often seemed to be coming from a career/business/money-making angle, assuming that you – the reader – measure your success and self-worth by your status and bank balance. If, like me, you’ve already decided that this isn’t how you are going to define success or happiness, then it could be a deal-breaker.

Also, the book contains some worksheets at the back to use in conjunction with the different exercises that Hardy prescribes. The problem is that these aren’t the full versions and you can only obtain those by getting onto a mailing list at the book’s website. Once I did that, my email inbox was regularly spammed with advertisements for Hardy’s seminars and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the guy isn’t going to give up his time for nothing (and shouldn’t be expected to) but I would have thought that purchasing a full-price physical book was enough.

The Compound Effect is a decent book with some good ideas and messages that I will certainly take away with me. However, I don’t feel that is does a lot to dig deep into the human psyche and really help you overcome stubborn problems. It’s surface-level positivity that essentially tells you what you need to do but not necessarily how to remove existing mental roadblocks or explain why they are there in the first place.

As with all self-development books, however, this may have a greater impact on you than it did for me, depending on where you are currently at with your life and where you want to go.

 

 

Balance is everything

When I am cobbling together a post that falls beneath the umbrella of “self-development” or “life”, I frequently find myself including the word ‘Balance’ somewhere in said post. Maybe I’m exploring ways to have a balanced life, or perhaps I’m making a point then presenting the counter point in order to maintain – yep, you guessed it – a balance. After all, an actual legitimate discussion has little (if not zero) credibility if it is entirely biased with no tolerance for opposing points.

Balance has to be applied to everything in life if you wish to live it well. The Yin and Yang symbol might be a cliche to wheel out these days but it really does symbolise Balance better than anything else. It depicts two opposites in perfect harmony.

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To me, it also illustrates that you can’t have black without white; light without dark. And, to take it further, good without evil. This last one can be a particularly thorny discussion because there are millions of people in the world who believe that our ultimate goal, as a species, should be world peace – a world without war, hatred or division. It’s undeniably a good goal – a noble goal – to aim for as a race but it’s ultimately a flawed goal that will never be achieved for the simple reason that it is impossible to fully eradicate evil, just as it would impossible to cleanse the planet of good.

After all, if one “side” were to fully dominate the planet then its very identity would cease to exist due to the fact that the nature of good cannot be defined without the existence of evil as a comparison and vice versa.

Dark versus Light

More importantly, we ALL have good and bad within us, as uncomfortable as that may be for some of us to come to terms with. Nobody is a 100% saintly individual. The bad parts of said people may be buried deeply and they may rarely surface but they ARE there, just as even the most callous and evil amongst us will have some goodness somewhere, even if you may never see it. Take the London Bridge attack that occured last year (2019), for example. One of the heroes who attempted to stop Usman Khan was in fact the convicted murderer, Steve Gallant, who was serving a sentence for his part in bludgeoning, kicking and punching another man to death. Before the bridge incident, many would have looked at a man like Gallant and branded him as an irredeemable individual who should be locked away forever and not given a second chance. Now, I’m in no way excusing Gallant’s crime or trying to say that he “balanced the books” (no pun intended) for his part in stopping Usman Khan, but his actions last year show that we, as humans, aren’t simply either black or white; good or bad; light or dark.

“I saw injured people.

“Khan was stood in the foyer with two large knives in his hands.

“He was a clear danger to all, so I didn’t hesitate.”

It’s my personal view that it is healthy to be aware of our dark sides and to acknowledge them, while we are striving to be better people. Suppression or denial doesn’t solve anything. Accepting that we have these bad urges, selfish desires and perverse fantasies is the way forward. Understand and manage them because that balance needs to exist. Anybody who believes that they are a whiter than white and above it all are probably full of bullshit. It brings to mind one of my favourite snippets of philosophy from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest

It’s better to be honest. This can be difficult in a society where saying the wrong thing or making a controversial admission can make you an outsider or even land you in prison. However, you can at least be honest with yourself, in your own mind. If an unsavoury thought or dark idea pops into your mind, don’t think, “why did I just think that?!? That’s not who I am! I’m such a terrible person!” It’s better to simply be aware of the thought, acknowledge its existence and allow it to drift away of its own accord. You are a human being. You are a flawed, imperfect creature and, as such, you will have dark thoughts from time to time.

It’s acting upon bad notions and violating another person’s rights that is the real problem. There are many, many reasons why some people cross this line or believe it to be acceptable but I’m no psychologist or expert so I’m not going to delve any deeper into these reasons. All I will return to are the acts of suppression and denial. It’s my belief that denying thoughts only makes the individual more curious about them. Further, suppressing a thought draws greater attention to it because you must be consciously focusing on them in order to force them to the dark recesses of your brain. This is why letting them breathe and float about innocuously in your head is a good thing to do.

The Scales of Balance

Away from the heavy, existential exploration of Balance, we can all benefit from looking at our everyday lives and identifying areas that are not balanced. You’ve probably heard of the phrases, “Everything in moderation” or “Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.” These nuggets of philosophy are thrown around all the time but they are on-point. Most things are perfectly harmless when they are consumed or enjoyed in moderation, and that includes items that are widely considered to be harmful or “bad”. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, videogames, junk food…all of these things are okay if they are enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle.

Unfortunately, a lot of us get a taste of some of these vices and throw control out of the window, indulging excessively until we are slaves to what we consume. There is a self-control epidemic in our society and it has resulted in millions of people eating themselves into obesity or watching so much extreme porn that their perception of women and sex becomes dangerously warped. In both cases, there is a major imbalance involved and it can destroy lives as well as those of others close to the person.

Worse still, it paves the way for pleasures being considered problems. Authority steps in, bans or censorship are introduced and a whole bunch of other problems then emerge as a result.

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I like to think of Balance as a set of scales. Any pleasure that we put on the scale – alcohol, unhealthy takeaway dinners, blowjob compilation videos on Pornhub – has its own unique weight. To get that healthy balance in your life, you must place an equal amount of weight on the other side of the scale. The problem is that we tend to have to do more work on the other side of the scale in order to make it balance and most of us simply aren’t prepared to do it. For example, a quick Google search reveals that it will take approximately twenty-five minutes of non-stop, moderate effort freestyle laps of a swimming pool to burn off a single Mars Bar. Most of us probably aren’t aware of this seemingly ridiculous price to pay for enjoying a quick treat. That two minutes of eating weighs a lot on the Scales of Balance, though, so it means that the other scale needs to be absolutely fucking loaded with effort in order to maintain that healthy balance on the dietry front.

It’s the same with everything. Going out on the town for a big night out involving a load of drinks is fine but do it too frequently and your life will be affected by the growing imbalance. I don’t see anything wrong with watching pornography now and again but if it gets to a point where you are binging on it every single day then there is a problem and it WILL damage your mind.

Look, I’m not making this post in order to tell people what to do or how they should live their lives. Nobody likes a preacher after all, and if there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s people telling me what to do or how to live my life. This is just my interpretation of Balance. I believe that it’s important to get to grips with and utterly essential if you want to get the most of out of life in the long term.

Imbalances inevitably come with consequences regardless of whether you agree with my views or think that I’m talking a load of old bollocks. You always reap what you sow in the end, after all.

 

Positive Practices: Doing the Right Thing

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, but it’s a new year and time for Unfiltered Opinion to rise from its festive slumber…

Zombie Hand Rising Out Of A Grave

So, let’s kick 2020 off with the first in what will hopefully become a series of posts about positive practices. In this post, I want to discuss the art of doing the right thing. It may sound patronisingly straightforward and completely undeserving of being a discussion point but, if that truly were the case, the world and the people in it wouldn’t feel so utterly fucked so much of the time, would it?

But how do I define “doing the right thing”, then?

As always, I am only sharing my personal take on life, but “doing the right thing” in my book is all about being selfless and doing right by other people regardless of whether your actions and decisions will benefit you personally or not.

It’s about treating others the way you, yourself, would wish to be treated.

It’s about putting aside greed, selfish preferences or personal gain to do what you – deep down – KNOW is the right thing to do.

It’s about being honest and virtuous, and treating other people as the ends rather than the means.

It’s about doing things that are right without trying to (consciously or subconsciously) calculate what sort of “trade” you will be doing in the process i.e. only doing somebody a favour because they will owe you down the line.

It’s about striving to protect something higher than our individual selves.

I was inspired to make this post by – of all things – an ebay transaction last week. In a nutshell, I purchased something for the approximate value of £25-£30 just before Christmas and it still hadn’t arrived nearly a week after New Year. I messaged the seller and explained that I understood that the post was sluggish around this time of year but that I was just a little concerned that the item I’d ordered wasn’t coming. I asked them if they had any tracking information and they got back to me to say that they couldn’t find said information but that, yes, I should have received the item by that point. They apologised and issued a full refund. I was content with the solution and that was that.

Two days later, the item arrived in the post. According to the post marks, it had been posted on the nineteenth of December with a “Special Delivery” next-day service.

Whoops.

At first, I thought, “Get in! I’ve got a my item plus all of my money back”. It seemed like a major score.

But then I thought about it some more and remembered one of my all-time favourite philosophies: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So I contacted the seller, informed them that the item had turned up and offered to reverse the refund.

They were grateful for my honesty with the situation but it wasn’t their thanks that I was seeking. I just wanted to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. I wanted to preserve the value of honesty.

Yes, I could have easily gotten away with my free purchase, and I’m sure that many would have done just that and lost no sleep over it. It is, after all, a dog-eat-dog world at times and any unexpected bonuses we become the beneficiary of aren’t easy to relinquish. At times, we even feel that we deserve these moments of good fortune for the suffering or hardships that we’ve faced. Or as compensation for the times that we’ve been screwed over by somebody else. And that’s fine but I try to draw the line at plussing at the expense of somebody else, especially if they haven’t done anything to warrant it.

Now, I’m not trying to put myself across as a saint. After all, I did initially feel pretty fucking good about having my (very tasty) cake and eating it when it came to that particular ebay situation. That I cannot deny.

But I did question my actions and arrive at the conclusion that I’d rather do the right thing, even it meant forfeiting my small splash of fortune. I sacrificed a chance to “plus” and did right by the ebay seller because that’s how I’d like to be treated myself. After all, you can’t really roll around bitching about how people are so dishonest these days or always out to screw you over if you are going to behave the same way.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy and for a good reason: it usually means going out of your way for somebody else – or making a sacrifice – with no expectation of a reward. It means being selfless for the sake of preserving important, high-level values such as honesty and charity. There are a lot of people who will only do the right thing because they are – in effect – bartering and doing good deeds so that they can call in favours down the line or extract something from another person in exchange for their help. This doesn’t count as “doing the right thing” because you are doing something as a means to your own, personal ends.

baretering

Doing the right thing becomes doubly hard when we are surrounded by people who are only interested in themselves and think nothing of doing whatever it takes to get ahead, regardless of how their actions affect others. It is, unfortunately, an attitude that can lead to much material, superficial and financial success – you know, all those shiny things that we want in our lives – and so it becomes an attractive way of life.

And that’s why adopting high-level values and doing the right thing is such a difficult thing to do. You might not get the fat bank balance. You probably won’t get to bang all the hot girls. And you likely won’t have such an easy, comfortable time of it.

Nevertheless, I still believe that it’s a positive practice to always question yourself and your actions – so that you can analyse whether you are really doing the right thing or whether there are some selfish motives lurking beneath the surface of your consciousness. I feel that if you want to surround yourself with the best, most genuine of people, then this is one big way to move forwards in that direction.

Of course, you have to strike a balance, because there are so many people who will – consciously or not – take advantage of another’s honest, charitable nature. “Doing the right thing” doesn’t mean that you should be permanently bent over and taking it up the arse from users and those looking to use you as a stepping stone. Saying “No” and recognising where to draw a line is just as important as doing right by others.

Bear in mind that this is just my viewpoint. It is not my intention to get preachy or encourage anybody to do as I do. I’m no master of doing the “right thing” all of the time, after all. I mess up constantly and always try to remind myself that I’m likely wrong or incredibly ignorant about most things. But pausing to question what I’m doing is one of the big things that I intend to keep working on going forwards.

 

Social media isn’t reality

Against my better judgment, I often find myself scrolling through the news headlines and articles on my phone. I say “against my better judgment” because

  1. There is nothing more untrustworthy than the news.
  2. Most of what you read is hyperbole or sensationalist bullshit containing the words “allegedly” or “apparently”. Fantastic, fact-checked journalism, then.
  3. News items are often spun to maintain the us-vs-them or left-vs-right narrative and get the public wound up in order to sell papers or generate ad-revenue via clicks.
  4. Many news outlets are biased towards either the political left or right.

What I’m saying is that regularly reading or watching the news is downright harmful in my opinion. The relentless torrent of bad news can get you down and the way in which it is presented can easily warp an individual’s perception of the world. You have to be able to fish out the raw facts from an ocean of stinking sewage and arrive at your own conclusions but, even then, you may still never know the actual truth.

But this isn’t a post dedicated to bashing the news. I’ll save that for another time.

This is a post inspired by a news item that I read on the BBC’s website (after scrolling beyond the usual headlines involving Brexit, Trump and other misc. death and destruction).

The item in question is called Cuffing Season: When a Partner is just for Christmas

Summer is a time for festivals, long lazy days in the park and for some of us… being single.

But come September, as the daylight hours get shorter and temperatures drop, you might find yourself wanting someone to cuddle up with.

That is basically the premise of “cuffing season” – that’s when people who are normally happy being single decide it’s time to find a plus-one for the Christmas party.

And then swiftly dispose of them before their trip to Ibiza in the spring. Brutal.

“Cuffing Season” has even made its way into the Collins English Dictionary according to this article. It goes on to speak to a few twenty-somethings who have jumped aboard the Cuffing train and the general picture that I got is that girls want to snuggle up with you on the sofa and watch Christmas movies together during the winter, then discard you in the new year so that they can be free and single again, unburdened by the presence of a partner that they chose to invite into their life. I guess this is part of the new Woke way of living where it’s acceptable to flit between, “I don’t need no man!” to “Oh gawd, I’m like so lonely! Won’t somebody go to a Christmas market with me and cuddle in front of the fire?!?”

Speaking as a man, I can’t say I care for this Cuffing Season thing. I have nothing against consensual, casual sex or a non-binding Friends With Benefits arrangement – as long as it’s clear that that’s what it is from the off. But Cuffing Season isn’t that. It comes off as being used to fill a void during the winter season, but not necessarily being informed of it. I wouldn’t want to start dating somebody during the winter months only to find out that I was being strung along so that the girl I was seeing could post pictures and shit on Instagram and Facebook of us being “happy” and together at Christmas. I know it isn’t necessarily as callous or pre-meditated as that but, hopefully, you get where I’m coming from.

I would want to know where I stand from the start. Are we just having sex or are we dating and hoping for this to go somewhere? All of this in between crap or anything that doesn’t fall on either side of the fence isn’t for me. I don’t want the hassle or the games. I don’t want to waste my time.

And this is where I finally get to the point of this post: the reasons for the existence of Cuffing Season and why so many people are desperate to be with somebody at Christmas.

The pressure of social media.

She says there’s an “unspoken pressure” to be in a relationship at this time of year, and that social media definitely influences it.

“Whether it’s decorating the Christmas tree or going to family events – people’s partners are everywhere.”

She says there’s “so much pressure” to find someone to go on Instagram-worthy festive dates with, which isn’t helped by a bombardment of happy couples putting pictures up with cuddly toys they’ve won at Christmas fairs.

So, in a nutshell, young people are seeing pictures of others being happy and together at Christmas and feeling envious. Then, they feel left out and uninvolved if they too can’t post up selfies with a partner.

We are being bombarded by these pictures of happy, smiling, loved-up couples at Christmas and some of us simply cannot take it. If you aren’t able to post similar photos of your own, then your life must suck, right?

wrong-1

The problem with social media is that people are only uploading the positive moments from their lives. It’s just a highlight reel of their best bits and doesn’t really reflect their life. Nobody’s life is an endless rollercoaster of happy selfies and good times. Bad shit happens to everybody and the other 80-90% is simply mundane and very un-sexy. Like going to work, filling the car up with fuel or brushing your teeth.

But the likes of Instagram and Facebook have successfully brainwashed millions into believing that they are inadequate or that their life is terrible just because it looks like everybody else is having an almighty blast. They genuinely feel this unspoken pressure to live up to the standard set by the uploads of others. It’s absolutely nuts if you stop and think about it.

As Mark Manson puts it in his excellent book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck:

All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop.

This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average most of the time, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough.

Technology has solved old economic problems by giving us new psychological problems. The internet has not just open-sourced information; it has also open-sourced insecurity, self-doubt and shame.

There’s nothing wrong with uploading pictures to social media, viewing the pictures of others’ or commenting on them and all that jazz. But there IS something wrong with feeling like a failure or a loser because you can’t “compete” and add something of your own.

So some people are happy and loved-up at Christmas…so what? Good for them. It doesn’t mean that I’m somehow worthless. At the very least, it means that I’m not in a Cuffing-style relationship and destined to be dumped come spring 2020!

You need to be able to think, “fuck what everybody else is doing” and get on with your own life. At the time of typing this, I’m single so yes, I would be lying if I didn’t feel even a little bit envious of lovey-dovey couples at this time of the year. It’s human to feel that way. But it isn’t some major crisis for me. I don’t give a fuck about what Facebook is saying or what the trend is on Instagram. I don’t want my perceptions of success and happiness to be defined by what others are doing or what social media says my life needs to be like in order to be “normal”

I don’t need some sort of false, temporary relationship over Christmas. Either it’s real or it isn’t. If it’s pre-mediatated and plotted during the autumn months by a woman that simply doesn’t want to be left out of the selfie festivities come December, then that can fuck right off.

I have food. I have beer. I have family. I have a few days off work. That’s a good haul as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not going to upload any of it to Instagram because I don’t need anybody else to like or comment on it to enjoy it.

I hope everybody has a swell Christmas but I honestly don’t give a fuck about what they are doing.