Monday, April 07, 2008

the greeks had a word for it

as someone who has never needed a dog needing a walk as an excuse for taking himself for a walk as and when he felt like it (and is therefore doubtless considered at best eccentric and at worst - well, cry havoc and let loose the poodles of paranoia), it goes without saying that I don't 'do' sponsored: whether it be swims, runs, pub quizes, or we're all mad here gurnathons, count me out - what I do for fun, I do for fun, pure and simple, not tied to some delusional excuse that I'm actually doing something worthy at the same time.

it's become almost impossible to consider walking around the world, or indeed anything slightly more adventurous than picking your nose, simply because you feel like it, because you feel like having an adventure, any more - there always has now to be some specious charitable justification for anything that's considered in any way outside the box of normative, taxable behaviour - yet one more example of the triumphantly - and eye-wateringly cynical - rebranding of parsimony as philanthropy.

the ever-widening rift valley that keeps the ever-richening rich from having to have any truck at all with the ever-poorening poor is a landfill of reneged pledges planted with a minefield of excuses and evasions. that there should be such a shortfall between the functioning requirements of the health and education services, for example, (the two categories that spring to mind as seeming to be most commonly associated with fund-raising funathons) that they have come to rely on this regular income from sponsored haircuts and three-legged races bespeaks a doctrine of abject despair in regard to our commitment, as a society, to an equitable distribution of the common wealth to the common weal. clearly, tragically, given the choice of kicking the latest cabal of self-serving dickheads who presume to serve us out of office and back to the troughs they came from for failing to do so or helping some fake-titted and -tanned local TV newsreader airhead up the teetering career ladder by sponsoring her arduous and plucky attempt to stay awake through a repeat of last year's Eurovision Song Contest to raise funds for who cares what - we'll opt for the latter every time. it's become a cultural habit, through a very very clever piece of social engineering that's turned unofficial taxation into a feelgood whilst keeping us blind to the reasons why such extra taxation should be necessary in the first place.

I suppose if I were to try to explain this by suggesting that the only - the only - substantive purpose that slebs serve is to suck us dry of our own sense of self in order to serve theirs, which, in turn, is entirely and utterly in thrall to the relentless meatgrinders of the oil, pill, and war economies that sustain the culture that promotes them, you would (quite rightly) start looking at your watch and remembering a pressing prior appointment. it used to happen to Cassandra all the time. it happens to be true, is all. you know I'm right, really.

charity - as in Christian charity (and, presumably, in all its analogous pan-religious manifestations) - is by definition selfless - a quaint idea that got lost in all the me-me fun of the nineties. I'm not one to bash the book very often, but there is some stuff in there that's so sweet it bears as much repetition as any episode of the Simpsons. in the catchily-titled Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, for example, he talks about agape (Greek for selfless love - but you knew that of course) thusly:

*agape (chapter 13: verse 4)

* is longsuffering (i.e. tolerant, patient)
* is kind
* is free of jealousy, envy and pride

and (v 5)

* does not display unseemly behavior
* is unselfish
* is not touchy, fretful or resentful
* takes no account of the evil done to it [ie outwardly ignores a suffered wrong].

- and more of the kind, until verse 13, where he summarises, fairly famously, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

thus was born the central tenet, not only of the religious movement that dominated and defined Western culture for the next two thousand years, but of all subsequent spinoff notions concerning elevated interpersonal relationships that involve the use of the word 'love'. (confusingly, agape got translated as 'charity' when Jerome made a proto-bible in Latin from the original Greek in the fourth century, and that got carried over into the Authorised King James Version in 1611, but all that's best left to the theology scholars to explain.) it's something you either dig or you don't - the idea that love isn't on the market for trade of any kind: it's either freely given, unconditionally, or it has to be called something else. a surprising number of people don't subscribe - the ubiquitous pre-nup is evidence enough of that - for much the same reasons, I guess, as words like 'equality' and 'freedom' are bandied about as totems of belief in blatant defiance of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. the momentum of the commodification of everything is as near unstoppable as it's possible to be short of some sort of extinction event right now, but hey, who wants to live in a world where crazy men can't mutter to themselves and take solitary walks just for the hell of it?

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