If you missed it – the beginning of the end of the world – it’s because you are one of those people who, at the cinema, would still be discussing popcorn protocol by the time the moody hero had already stared moodily for the third time into the camera from the moody CGI backdrop.
Laugh all you want at the Mayans and those gloomy guys with the placards reading ‘the end of the world is nigh’. Frankly the only bit they have wrong is the immediacy of the event. They should simply take note of what T.S Eliot wrote in his dark masterpiece The Hollow Men (1925) –
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper”
In light of what follows, I should make it clear that I interpret the end of the world the way I believe Eliot means, i.e. the end of humanity. The world will keep turning for many millennia after we’re gone. Let’s face it, not only is there precedent for that scenario in terms of planetary genus, WE of all species who have ever existed, are actively (if blindly, stupidly and partly subconsciously) working towards that end.
If you ask me – and why on earth should you, I’m just a writer – there are a few chaps on this planet at this moment who should be contemplating camels and the eyes of needles.
It’s a shame really that, in the West, have got into the idea of thinking we'll live forever or at least that death has nothing to do with us. If you don’t believe me just listen to Money Box Live on our favourite 6th form debating society radio station – the Worried Wealthy wanting advice on how they can keep as much money hoarded away and prevent anyone else getting it. Go a few notches up to the real nutters with their offshore bank accounts hiding amounts of money that would make Midas blush, money that could not be spent if they had three lifetimes. As they shed wives for younger models, surround themselves with Yes men and flunkies, maybe they have convinced themselves that they can take it with them.
And so another Red Nose day passes. £75m raised, applauded from all quarters and no doubt those involved in the jolly japes all patting themselves on the back. And who am I to rain on anyone’s parade if their exhibitionism makes them feel better about the state of the world. Yet there are people on this distressed planet who could hand over that amount from their personal stash and not notice a change in their standard of living.
I heard an interesting statistic a couple of weeks ago - The top 100 richest people on the planet have sufficient wealth to extinguish global poverty.
The top 100 richest people on the planet have sufficient wealth to extinguish global poverty.
But the world is not a globe it is a human pyramid where the majority struggle and suffer and an infinitesimally small minority live a bizarre rarefied existence at the top. It was never meant to be like that.
I do not believe it is coincidence that there is no major religion (even the ones that envelop themselves in earthy splendour and opulence) or philosopher in history that envisaged a pyramid shaped utopia. Even the worst dictators who ever existed have the decency to pretend, to cloak themselves in some shabby sheep’s clothing, claiming to be working on behalf of the masses, aligning themselves with some dissatisfied group or other for general betterment. No one ever asserts that they are in it for themselves. Why? Because human beings, even the crap ones, intrinsically know it’s wrong; hence the spaghetti of justifications. For example, those bankers genuinely believe that they are worth the bonkers bonuses, they really think that they are in more responsible positions, taking more risks, more worthy of those preposterous pay packets than, say, a nurse in an HDU on an understaffed hospital ward making life and death decisions in the middle of the night on a 12 hour shift.
So why am I banging on like this in this week’s post?
Well, it’s what I do but also you may recall that in last week’s blog (if you are a regular bleader) I mentioned three events: gigging in Bristol, Writer-in-Residence-ing with the lovely pupils from Newbiggin, Lynemouth and Ashington AND a new short story anthology that plopped through my door the previous Friday 8th March. Well it’s the anthology that set me off on this tack again.
A shorty of mine included in the anthology, ROOT (published by Iron Press, available in bookshops and at www.ironpress.co.uk ) takes its intention and tenor from the T.S. Eliot poem mentioned above. The story is called The Remainder and it is a theorised snapshot of that chilling end-of-world whimper viewed through the eyes of a lonely, obsessive throwback.
And don’t worry if you were thinking of buying a copy, the other stories are not like that and The Remainder is discreetly near the middle towards the back of the anthology – about the place on the bus your mum tells you to sit to avoid getting travel sick.