datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Month: October 2017

To My Hypothetical Son

I took the decision, many years ago, to not have children. Mostly because I’m a selfish pessimist who fully expects the world to end in flames and screams. But there’s another reason. The unspoken tension all prospective fathers of sons have. The conversation. That conversation.

The first issue is when. When to have that conversation. Does one decide the appropriate time based on age or size? Have you seen the size of young fellas these days? I don’t know what they’re being fed, but they are huge. Not too long ago one could wait to have that conversation late into the boy’s teens. No longer. They may not have the emotional equipment, but they have the size. And it’s the size that makes the conversation necessary.

I’ve imagined the conversation many times. Despite my surfeit of well-chosen and sensitive words, it does not go easy. I call him into my study. Yes, I have a study in this scenario. It’s a gorgeous study, all manly and booky. The desk is replete in wooded stereotypes. I love that desk as much as I love my hypothetical son.

I would have my son sit. He’ll know this is serious as I don’t usually allow him to sit. I’m surprisingly old-fashioned in hypothetical world. I watch fear and worry cross his face. What have I caught him doing? Which of his boyish schemes and misadventures is he being carpeted for? Will he finally be sent to military school? My hypothetical world does seem overly influenced by American films of an older vintage. This is very disappointing.

“Is there something amiss, Father.” Yes, he calls me father, what’s wrong with that?

I will look at him with something approaching sympathy on my face. This will confuse him as it is a look usually reserved for my dogs on those days we must visit the vet. Now he’s wondering if he’s dying. This irks me as obviously that would be a conversation his hypothetical mother would conduct.

“What age are you, Son?”

“I am thirteen, Father.” Notice he answers in full sentences. My hypothetical son is well raised.

“And what height are you?” I watch him do some mental calculations. He is of course metric while I retain my quaint reliance on imperial. It’s eccentric and endearing. I said it is eccentric and endearing.

“I am six-foot one, Father.” He’s a fucking monster.

“Yes, you do appear to be ridiculously tall which is why we must have this conversation.” He nods as he adopts the pose of attentive and dutiful son. “What know you of women, Son?” Ha, that rattles him. He was not ready for that line of attack. Damn, I must remember this isn’t an attack. It’s an imparting values and knowledge conversation. “It’s ok, Son, I have no doubt you are conversant with the biological facts and have even begun some practical forays into that world. This more concerns your awareness of yourself.”

My hypothetical son steels himself, his openness to my words writ large on his honest face. My pride in my hypothetical Aragorn is boundless. Well that’s what I wanted to call him but his hypothetical mother shut that shit down early doors. I considered Frederick as an alternative, but I did not want a hypothetical son of mine called, Fred.

“Tell me, Son, are you aware that women are scared of men?”

“What?”

I also considered Alexander, but only in Star Trek is that name not reduced to the sobriquet, Alex. I do not like Alex.

“Yes, most women, in almost every situation are just a little sacred and sometimes a lot scared of men.”

“Why?”

I considered Edward too, but they tend towards unhappy kings. Fine name though it is. I eventually settled on Richard. It’s a fine name, Richard. And, the hypothetical mother of my hypothetical son did agree that in consideration of the proffered compromise, that she would stab anyone who dared shorten, Richard. The hypothetical mother of my hypothetical son is hard-core.

“Experience.”

Though I will let you all into a little secret, as a hypothetical father I often imagine Richard as Aragorn. I suspect that as a hypothetical father I look for vicarious glory through my hypothetical son.

“I don’t understand, Father.”

Oh, how I hate this conversation.

“Without wishing to be indelicate, I assume you have noticed the girls your age experiencing some profound physical changes in the last year or so.” He has the good grace to blush rather than demur. “Yes. And as you have noticed, so too has every man they have contact with. And this is where it gets unpleasant, Son. Many of those men will have taken the liberty to point out those changes, in lurid detail, to those girls. Men of all ages, men known to them and unknown to them, of all stations. And repeatedly.”

I watch his face, a mixture of shock, disgust and a soupcon of recognition. I must wonder what level of guilt he may share with these men of low morals. I will not ask, this is for the conscious his hypothetical mother and I have instilled in him. I must hope our hypothetical efforts are not found wanting. Who’d be a parent, even a hypothetical one?

“I ask you to further consider this; if men feel entitled to comment on the bodies of children, what leap is there to assuming a right of access to those bodies?” I watch him put his privately educated mind to work on this simple but monstrous proposition. Yes, my hypothetical son is privately educated. Come at me.

I watch horror dawn on my hypothetical son’s face. “Do all girls and women experience this?”

“It’s very ubiquity can make it seem invisible.”

“What can I do?”

My hypothetical son is an idealist. Well he’s thirteen, so I have high hopes he will grow out of it, but for now I must endure his doe-eyed belief in hope. But I tire of this conversation. I’ve alerted him to the reality he need not endure. My job is done.

“I don’t know what you can do, Son, but I will leave you with a scenario to ponder. It is dark, you are walking down a street, you notice a woman is walking several yards ahead of you. What do you?”

I move to return to my reading. We are in my study after all.

“I offer her my protection of course.”

I feel vomit in my throat. My hypothetical son is a gobshite. “Why is heaven’s name would you do that?” Oh no, there’s earnestness on his big dumb face. I’m really glad now his hypothetical mother prevented me from naming him, Aragorn. “What would possess you to approach a strange woman on a dark street and presume to speak with her? Have you not heard a single thing I’ve said?”

“But she thinks I might hurt her, I have to let her know I would rather die than hurt her. Not all men are predators.” I wonder if my hypothetical son’s hypothetical mother can be blamed for this. I quickly review my parenting over the previous thirteen years. I see him for breakfast every morning, I allow him visit my study every night before his bedtime and listen to him describe his day. He goes to a private school, paid for by his hypocritical mother, I even wear one of those silly hats at his birthday parties. No, I’ve been the perfect hypothetical dad. I even used the word ‘dad’ in my review.

But then my attitude softens. It is neither unnatural nor uncommon for little boys to want to be thought well of. That egocentric hypersensitivity is something boys do grow out of. I have no doubt that by his next birthday, and the trial of those god-awful hats, he will have realised how indescribably ignorant it is to think one’s need for approval trumps a woman’s hard earned right to fear a strange man on a dark street.

I send my hypothetical son from my study with what I think is an appropriately affectionate pat on the shoulder. I will have to write a report on the meeting for his hypothetical mother. She can be quite pedantic about my contributions to her task of raising a hypothetical son. At least now she will know that Richard (still possibly Aragorn) requires a crash course on not thinking his pathetic need for approval is of equal importance to a woman fearing an attack. I don’t know how she will do that but as I’ve already lost interest in this hypothetical son, it’s no longer my problem.

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Rational, Sort Of

I like to think of myself as rational. I know, rationally speaking, that I’m not rational. But it is a delusion vital to my image of myself and how I perceive the world. I insist on believing that when the facts change on a topic, so too will my mind. My reaction to the Fianna Fáil caused recession went a long way to propping up my delusion. Most of my adult life, I have been on the right of the political spectrum. I’ve even flirted with libertarianism. I was a member of the Progressive Democrats. There were a couple of years there, in the noughties, when I was feeling pretty vindicated. Taxes were low, the economy was flying, my wages were up, the weather seemed better, I didn’t have ear hair, it was a good time.

Of course, what I didn’t realise at the time was that there can never be a positive outcome when one part of a government is busy reducing taxes while the other part of that government is increasing spending. I was an idealist. I wanted the State reduced because I thought that humans were quite good and just needed more freedom so that they may flourish. Yet I still manged to maintain the delusion of rationality. Humans are weird.

I confused reduced taxation with a reduced State. It never occurred to me that with my wages going up and ever-increasing job opportunities (I worked in the Public Sector after all) that perhaps the State wasn’t being reduced, only its access to the resources needed to maintain a growing State, was being reduced. Here’s where I say hindsight is a great thing, but bloody hell, what the fuck was I thinking? I even bought a house, less than a year before the crash. Rational, my arse.

So, the crash happened. The PDs disbanded themselves and I had a lot of thinking to do. I joined Fine Gael. What? I didn’t say I was good at thinking. In mitigation, I will say that part (and only part) of my motivation in joining Fine Gael was the idea that Fianna Fáil needed to be crushed beyond all hope of recovery. I assumed that my fellow humans would see why this was necessary and FF would disappear. The stage would be set for a proper left-right contest between FG and Labour.

It hadn’t occurred to me that everyone else was as delusional as I am. There’s every chance that Fianna Fáil will lead the next government. And Labour spent five years in power doing everything it could to alienate anyone and everyone who looked to them to lead the left. And without noticing, I got old. I seem to be part of the shrinking demographic that remembers the blood on Sinn Féin’s hands. I still had to do a lot of thinking.

Thinking is hard. A rational person is supposed to be good at it, but I’d stopped thinking the moment I assumed I’d found the answers. I want an ideology, or religion if you prefer, so that I have at least some pointers when forming an opinion on every-fucking-thing I encounter.

I’ve had to look at some of the foundational values that guided me down the blind-alley of being right wing on the economy and left wing on social issues.

As ever, I looked first at what I wanted for me. Freedom, protection and support were, to my surprise, still to the core of what I wanted from the world. I remain, it seems, a liberal to my fingertips. That surprised me and also rattled me a bit. Everything I’d believed in had proven to be pants. Humans, given more freedom, were actually selfish and thick. Capitalism was beyond irrational. Equality of opportunity is unattainable because it is a lie. Parochialism, its horrible child, nationalism, and their crazy cousin religion, are more important now than they ever were. Science is losing out to charlatism. And in the face of Climate Change; nothing but Healy-Raes.

But I still want freedom, protection and support. What has changed? Nothing much, though to me, it feels dramatic. But rationally speaking, it really isn’t. I’ve had to readjust my attitude to the State.

Nothing, and it still pains me to admit this, can be achieved without the support, be it tacit or active, of the State. Only it, the big, dumb, self-serving, behemoth that it is, has the reach and resources to elicit change.

And change is needed. The world is unquestionably better now than it was fifty years ago. But is it better than it was ten years ago? Stupid is on the rise and so are the oceans. But I’m a liberal. If the majority of the world’s individuals decide that the sacrifices required to combat Climate Change are just too big, then so be it. But the very least the State can do is inform everyone what the stakes are?

For the first time in my life, I agree with the idea of increased taxation. For both ethical and practical reasons, I do not think it sustainable that I’m well-off compared to so many others, here and world-wide. It staggers me that the capitalism I supported, has gifted wealth on an unimaginable scale to such a tiny few. It staggers me that when I worry about the cost of going to the dentist, our Taoiseach still thinks tax cuts will address that concern. It staggers me that we treat property rights (and I’m a firm believer in property rights) as the Americans treat guns. It staggers me that one can still accurately predict an individual’s health, wealth and time of death, based on where they were born. It staggers me that in this scientific age we still can’t convince people of the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. It staggers me that nothing has changed since the Great Recession.

It staggers me that despite every attempt at a cynicism inspired insouciance, I still give a fuck about a species I no longer think highly of. It’s incredibly frustrating. The one thing I do know for a rational fact, is that I’m wrong more often than I’m right. And that is the only hope I can cling to. It’s why I remain politically active. It’s why I still write. It’s why I still try to work out what I think. Why I still read and talk and listen. Why I try to act as I imagine a rational being would act, despite knowing I’m still a collection of prejudices, unconscious biases and selfish desires, all wrapped in a ridiculous beard. But fuck me it’s hard to hold on to that hope in a world full of flag wavers, homeopaths, leaders who refuse to learn and people who insist on being led.

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At Least The Pic Is Interesting

I haven’t written anything for over a month. I haven’t been able to bring myself to express or create. I have encountered and am enduring the type of vicissitudes that do not reduce my pleasure in using the word, vicissitudes. But they have left me incapable or indeed unwilling to leave my own head. A week ago, I deleted all the computer games from my PC. Last night I moved my desk and changed my chair. This is what I have been reduced to. Today I am lapsing into a ‘woe-is-me’ blogpost in the hope it might shake me from this ennui. I need to escape this enervating malaise. I am hoping that using words like ennui and enervating will remind me of the simple joy there is in words.

I have even tried journaling. Pen and paper to unload the thoughts that are building and becoming more confused. The emotions that need to be expressed. The frustrations that need safe passage. But it turns out that writing is writing and I haven’t been able to write.

I write because I wish to engage with the world. Engage so that I might better understand it, understand my place in it and ultimately to shape both it and me so that we better fit each other. And I write because I am an ego with a beard who must be read. In this instance it may be my fathomless ego that might rescue me from this rut. I miss being read a near imperceptibly amount less than I miss writing. And it is an itch that can be easily scratched. One has to merely write and someone will read it, even if it is only my wife who will unavoidably see the words as she proofs this post.

I merely have to write. The words are there. The desire is there. All that prevents me from transferring that will into action is an inescapable feeling that the more I seek to understand the world the more I wish to disengage from it. Retreat from its blistering stupidity, viciousness and the inevitable disaster that is our species. It’s not a very original thought, having one’s curiosity met with a handful of slime, but it’s new to me. I see in myself so many of the stereotypes one associates with men my age. I get increasingly frustrated with the petty stupidities; the poorly parked car, the cyclist without high-viz, the pedestrian on a country road at night, deranged buffoons with nuclear weapons and homeopathy. I begin to doubt the merit in trying to know more when there is all this nonsense to swim through.

But that stupidity has always been there. We are an incredibly stupid species. What has changed, is me. I am older, my knees hurt more, my hearing isn’t what it once was, I think about death less as an abstract phenomenon but as my inevitable future, I’m a bit more cynical and I worry about how little I really am and how big the stupid really is. And I’m feeling sorry for myself. Middle aged straight white man who simply wants everyone to see the world as he sees it so that we may all enjoy paradise.

I’m feeling sorry for myself and it is difficult to engage with the world when one is feeling sorry for oneself. I am feeling sorry for myself because I am old. I am feeling sorry for myself because I do not like my station in life. I am feeling sorry for myself because I remember a time when I was optimistic. And I am feeling sorry for myself because I don’t know if I’ve lost that optimism or have temporarily misplaced it. I am feeling sorry for myself because I am feeling sorry for myself and I am reduced to writing about how sorry I am for myself. And I am feeling sorry for myself because my ego demands that I be read so I am writing about how sorry I am feeling for myself. And I am feeling sorry for myself because you are reading this. But I am writing and you are reading. So, there’s that.

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