Tagged: happiness

“Shinier than a diamond in a goat’s arse”

Yesterday I spent half a day washing my car. Now, to many of you that sounds liek a boring prospect. Indeed, to ME it sounds like a boring prospect. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t doing it on my own. I was doing it with my father.

Me and dad have had a strained relationship over the years. There’s times he was there for me, times he wasn’t. Times I later found out where he fought my corner but never told me. We had a LONG period where we barely spoke to each other. There were many times I vowed I’d never be like him.

But recently, we’ve been building bridges. He has helped me out a LOT with my house, dealing with the shit time at work, and he’s mellowed out a lot. And so any opportunity I get to spend some quality time with Dad, seems like a good thing to me.

He had this cleaning treatment for the car called “Diamond White”. It’s some chemical compound you apply to the car, wait half an hour, apply a different chemical compoud, wait an hour, then buff it up and it’s all shiny and supposedly you don’t have to wax your car for 5 years.  We spent the morning applying this crap all over the car, talking about the news, my trip to Cuba, and all manner of other things. It was great.

At one point he gave me some metal polish so I could “get the chrome bits shiny as a diamond in a goat’s arse”. I told him it wasn’t chrome just plastic. “Just do it!” he said. Then he told me to do the wheels.
“The wheels aren’t chrome,” I said.
“I don’t give a shit, get them shiny, ” he replied. This should give you some insight into the sort of person my dad is. Still, I got those wheels shiny as hell. I’m glad he talked me into it.

After the car was gleaming brighter than the sun, Dad took me out for lunch in town. We talked about how much the place has changed over the past twenty years or so and shared travel stories. After that, he took me to a health food shop to buy me “some vegan goodies”.

It was one of the best days I’ve ever had. Not just because my car was shining and I get some sweet seitan jerky. I realised that for all our faults, me and my dad are actually pretty similar.

And I’m pretty proud of that.

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Well that certainly raised the bar…

Yesterday I attended Swingamajig, an all day electroswing festival held in Digbeth, Birmingham. The festival ran for 15 hours, from 2pm through to 5am and featured a plethora of superb acts. I can say without a doubt that this is the best music festival I have ever been to, and I have been to many.

The entertainment was superb, the environment was atmospheric (the main stage was hosted under one of the arches of the old railway bridge), and the sound was spectacular. However, the thing that left the biggest impression on me was the people.

I have never before met such a friendly group of people at a music event. There were no pretensions, no judgement, no cliques. Everyone was friendly and approachable, and smiles were in abundance. These people were united by a solitary purpose – to have as much fun as possible.

I got numerous comments on my dancing, and a few people asked me to teach them. I did what I could of course. However, as good a dancer as I may be, I’ve always been a lone-wolf. Watching accomplished swing dancing partners tear up the floor was a sight to behold, and it filled me with joy.

So it’s the morning (or afternoon) after, and I am aching. My legs ache from dancing around on concrete for 15 hours. My face aches from the virtually non stop grinning. My throat aches from the scintillating conversations I had. So all I can do is say thank you – to the organisers, to the performers, to the coffee vendor, and to the people I met: Kathy; Simon; Jess; Lee; Liam; Ed; Kelly; everyone else who came and said hi (if I missed you out, it’s because I’m terrible with names unless I have a register!). All of you conspired to make yesterday a superb one.

Maybe I’ll see you at Shambala!

Generation pain

This post is an edited version of a comment I posted to this blog a few days ago. The post in question refers to this article, which discusses possible causes of depression and dissatisfaction in young people.

I tend to have issues with these articles about generalised intergenerational differences, or “generational identity”. This is in part due to the fact that they rarely if ever cite any peer-reviewed scientific papers on the issues they are discussing, and also because the vast majority of them seem to pertain to life in America, which, although it is trickling over the Atlantic and corrupting us here in Europe, is largely very different to European life.

It’s true that many of the so-called “Millenials”, or “Generation-Y” have ridiculously high expectations which are not tempered by any true experience of the real world. However, it’s not just the 16-30 year olds who suffer from things which are flagged as triggers for this dissatisfaction, such as: the erosion of long-term careers; the over-reliance on raw figures as indications of productivity (I refer here to the insidious introduction of school league tables, which rely on standardised test scores and do not take into account that those data are PEOPLE, not numbers); and the rise of acceptable slave labour *ahem* sorry, “internship programs”. It’s everyone in the “job market” at present (and by Goddess I hate that term).

Raising children to believe they were special or destined for greatness or that they could “be anything they desired” came about because their parents (so called “Baby Boomers”, if we’re falling back on generational generalisations) had grown up in the most economically vibrant time the world had ever known. They had solid careers, so why wouldn’t their kids? They bought a house at 18, so why couldn’t their kids? They enjoyed free education regardless of their background, so why couldn’t their kids? Well there’s no single catch-all answer. A number of factors (increase in populations, increased automation in the workplace, a dwindling job pool, the sub-prime mortgage crash) have combined to leave the playing board as it currently stands – but when we look deeper, many of these factors were outside of the control of the Millenials. Put simply, the reason these kids can’t get a solid career, can’t buy a house at 18, and don’t enjoy free education regardless of their background, is because once the Boomers reached the top, they kicked the ladder away.

That’s another uncited generalisation, of course, but a lot of the woes that younger people are facing in the work place (long hours for low pay; unpaid overtime; no domestic manufacturing base, forcing manually skilled but academically poor workers to seek employment in service industries which make no use of their talents whatsoever) stem from the economic reforms of Thatcher and Raegan in the 1980s. It is only now, after their death and long after their terms in office that the full impact of those short sighted policies are being realised.

Until people realise that monetary wealth is second in value to “social wealth”, which by its nature is unquantifiable and therefore cannot be plugged into a spreadsheet to monitor productivity, the spiral will continue on down. Interestingly, there are parallels of this reliance on data to the old Soviet Union, where huge amounts of labour and unnecessary transporting of goods were employed in order to meet productivity targets which essentially meant nothing. (Crampton, R. J. (1997), Eastern Europe in the twentieth century and after). In fact, as an aside, it is well worth studying the conditions in the latter days of the Soviet Union and drawing other parallels with post-9/11 America, especially in the area of freedom of speech and of the press – but that’s a discussion for another day.

So where does that leave us? Are we stuck this way until an entire generation dies? Well not necessarily. The current machine is reaching the end of its shelf-life. The introduction of The Internet has thrown a lot of the old models of doing business up in the air – many businesses have adapted readily to this, but a good portion (mostly in the recording industry) are desperately clinging on to the old way of doing things, which became largely irrelevant at the tail end of the 20th century. I don’t know how to fix it all, but I do know that the system is broken; continuing on with the broken system in the hope that things will return to the way they were in the latter half of the 20th century is folly. Building a new system is the only option, but it will be fraught with challenges, not least of which will be those people who are living well by the current system attempting to foil the creation of a fairer, more workable system.

However, no generation lives forever. The people who eventually build this new system may be Millenials, they may be a later generation (although hopefully the new system will be built by people who are united regardless of when they were born). However – and this is critical –  the only way they will do it is by actually trying to make the changes.  The old dreams held true in the old world. But that world is dying. In order to build a new world, the builders need new dreams. They need to discard the hopes and dreams they inherited from their parents, and replace them with something they have devised themselves.

For the record, I grew up in the UK during the tail end of the Cold War – I don’t claim allegiance to any generational group, but I am a staunch advocate of change, and I generally have a socialist viewpoint when it comes to politics.