Monday, 28 April 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 3

I am aware, trust me, of how ridiculous all this looks. Other people's impotent rage is a comedy staple. Think of Basil Fawlty thrashing his Mini, Oliver Hardy doing his nut... And now here's me fuming at, of all things, my shorts! Then there's the hose at the nursery, somehow independently wrapping itself around things that were no where near it, and my bike, neatly propped up, then somehow, as I walk away from it, falling over. Almost none of the technology I use works properly. As I mentioned before my VAIO laptop has self-destructed, my portable Roberts DAB radio won't work on its batteries (this is the second one. I sent the original back but it's happened again. On both occasions the fault followed a fall off the shelf onto he floor. 'Ah well...' you say, but a portable radio should be able to suffer the odd knock without packing up). My car's electronics, as I think I mentioned before, are behaving randomly. It's over ten years old now but the main problem is the stereo which is designed to revert to a preset volume when you switch it off. The ventilation likewise goes to a preset when you start the car - not the level you had it at last time you used the car. The result is that when you start the car the vents drown out the music. Brilliant. Now this seems just one of those things until you think that somebody somewhere was paid to set the car up this way. It's not an inescapable consequence of the physics. Somebody has actively thought 'Wow! What a cool new feature!' As a result I have to conform to someone else's idiotic idea of what is 'cool' when I start my car, each time resetting it to what I, the customer, wants. Whatever happened to customer choice? Because of this no doubt totally cool bit of tech - with the volume being able to turn itself down without the knob turning - now when it becomes faulty (because of its age) adjusting the volume becomes a precision procedure. If you turn it up too quickly it goes down to inaudible so you have to really concentrate, turning it up tiny notch by tiny notch, which means you either have to stop the car or not concentrate on the road.
Of course you can argue that it was my choice to buy this car, and further that if I'd worked harder, longer hours and done more research I could have afforded a better car. Of course it's my fault. It's always my fault. And yet it's not. A simple old-fashioned dial volume control would do the job perfectly, and when the car starts to deteriorate (as it inevitably will) it will still work, because it's nice simple bit of tech. But the tekkies don't want that - it has to be new and sophisticated, and the possibility that it might not work doesn't occur to them. Modern designers seem to work on the assumption that their creations will be operating under optimum conditions all the time and not need repairing. Either that or, shock horror, they like to make them so they fail quite quickly so the consumer goes out and buys more of them and they make more money. The number of kettles, toasters and DVD players we've got through in this house... the waste...

I'm aware that most people don't get so outraged about such things, or if they do they don't make their outrage so public and most of them don't seek to justify their anger rationally. Why do I feel I have to explain? Most people seem to feel quite entitled to complain, or else they just let it go, put it down to experience. Shit happens. Life's not fair. I on the other hand don't feel entitled to complain but I can't just let it go. I'm not allowed to complain because after all, it is at some level my fault (I bought it. Better products exist. If I'd read up, worked harder etc etc) I only have myself to blame. At the same time I also know there are people producing crap goods. This is not a paranoid fiction. Modern capitalism, as I have argued at some length elsewhere encourages manufacturers to cut corners and generally make goods as shoddy as they can get away with. The world is set up for novelty and waste because that's how profits are maximised. Conscientious responsible manufacturers will sooner or later be bought out or forced out of business by larger corporations because they are less profitable. We've been though all this. Stupid design is everywhere. Products are clearly not properly tested. My dad hated bad design too. I remember him one day with me in Woolworths, pulling the bristles out of some kids' paint brushes. I was mortified at the time but like me he simply couldn't see why anybody should get away with selling things that were going to fall apart almost immediately. It infuriated him, and it infuriates me. He didn't want kids to get them home and be disappointed so he did it to show people how crap the products were. He didn't want Woolworths to get away with it, and I feel the same way. I can't bring myself to say 'Oh well - it was only cheap. Shit happens. Life's not fair' because why should I? Why should they get away with it? The car stereo and the paint brushes are trivial examples but part of a larger economy that is filling the world with crap and making a few people incredibly rich. I can't think of a less trivial thing to get riled about.

And yet. There's the bike and the hose. They're not badly designed (some sort of hand brake on the front wheel of a bike would be a good thing though - to stop the wheel swivelling around, making it easier to prop up and also as a security measure - patent anyone?) but I still am furious with them, and at my body which overheats easily and the amount I sweat when I am trying to get things done and how it makes me itch, and at the flies that come and hover in front of my eyes, and at the rain that means I end up as wet in a waterproof as I would be without one. And at the branch that whips back and smartly smacks me in the face. And at the slugs and the caterpillars - I hate their moronic single mindedness - destroying my things. All these things are beyond anyone's control and yet a bad day will see me raving at them as if they were malicious beings intent on making me look stupid and making my life as hard as possible. I can feel them enjoying my useless fury, cackling as they wind me up or else looking at me in moronic disbelief ('What's he so upset about?') as I tread piles of the little snot-beings into the gravel or, like the other day, flush as many as I can find into the septic tank accompanied by a generous dose of toilet cleaner. (Nya-ha-har!) I can see exactly where the old animistic beliefs came from - I can see exactly. I don't believe it of course, not really, and yet... I sort of do.

I guess everybody has a few of these things that really piss them off but I feel like I have too many. Somehow it seems personal. My life is easy by most people's standards, certainly by the standards of many other parts of the world. (I saw the recent film Captain Phillips over the weekend. Watching the Somali pirates in their little motor boat trying to get their ladder hooked onto a seven storey, speeding, swerving container ship it occurred to me how incredibly desperate, how completely and utterly without choice, a person would have to be to try to do that. But anyway... I digress.) And yet when these moments come when things don't go according to plan, and especially if I am tired and/or hungry, it feels like everything is against me. Sometimes it is partly true - like in the case of the technology and the politics above but sometimes, as in the case of the bike and the humidity and the slugs it is not. It really is just how things are. Nothing's perfect. Things go wrong, and some tekkies are no doubt doing their best despite the overwhelming pressures of business. In some ways it doesn't matter though - whether there is a grain of truth in my complaint or not. The feeling is there anyway. They're trying to make me look stupid - trying to prevent me doing things - arbitrarily stopping me, because... why? because it's fun, because they're stupid and narrow minded, because they want to put me in my place, and because they can. Because I'm on my own and they are together and they can do what they like. They do things the normal way and I'm the one with all the weird ideas. There is no excuse. I can't justify my complaints, because I didn't get up as early as I could have, I didn't prepare for every eventuality, I didn't work every single hour God sends. It is therefore always, somehow, my fault. I should just stop whinging and get on with it. That's life.

No doubt my family were trying to teach me that you can't just blame other people when things don't go your way. You have to take some responsibility. I'm sure that's what they'd say, and quite right too. And yet somehow I seem to have taken from this lesson that it's always somehow my fault and I can't blame anyone or anything else at all, ever. 'A bad workman always blames his tools' said dad, ergo, there is no such thing as a bad tool. You just follow the instructions, do as you're told, and there is no excuse for getting it wrong. 'Everyone else can do it - what's wrong with you?' I have a very clear memory of going with my dad to buy a 90cc Honda off one of his workmates. I wasn't keen but I needed a vehicle to get to work. It was outside some lock-ups somewhere. They showed me how to start it then he and his work mate chatted while I got the hang of it. I'd put it in first and turn the handle but each time it roared off and fell over leaving me standing. I remember so well those looks of disdain and exasperation as they tried to ignore me, and me with my frustration and shame. We bought the thing anyway and I discovered that in fact you really only use first for hill starts because it's far too fierce. Normally you start in second.

I'm not saying that sort of thing happened all the time but it seems sort of typical - a good illustration. No doubt that lesson - 'you can't just blame other people when things don't go your way' would have been a good one for some other kids I knew to learn but I wasn't really like that. My parents made very sure I wasn't 'spoilt'. Somehow though, it felt like things were against me and that somehow it was because of something I'd done, and that they were all looking on, infuriated, contemptuous or amused as I struggled. There was furthermore no point trying to work it out. It was too complicated. That's why I kept my own company, because at least then, with only my imagination and a few simple materials, I knew I could do stuff. Somehow though I'm still carrying them around, even when I'm alone. It's as if they're still there, watching, judging, not helping. I know what they'd say as I'm late again, struggling with the hose, trying to get the nursery watered, and I am furious with myself and with them equally, and I take it out on the hose, which is no doubt very funny to watch. I can't think properly and I bang my head or my elbows and trip over things and I want to cry and I want to destroy everything. Bastard shits. I hate them all so much. It's not funny.

Where did all this crap come from? What's the reason for it?
Because one thing I do believe is that these things always come from somewhere. People like to talk about souls and spirits or they say 'I don't know where he gets it. He's just like that' but that's a cop-out. Essentialism I think it's called. These things come from somewhere. I'm not interested in just blaming someone but I do want to know how I came to be like this, and then maybe somehow, try to change it.

to be continued...

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