March 01, 2015

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When deafness comes they will claim public assistance to obtain the best possible hearing aids and other forms of subvention. It will be made illegal to discriminate against the self-inflictedly deaf, and children’s books will have to include deaf characters to prevent hearing-ism. I think you will agree with me: those who walk around with earphones should be locked in a room in which Schoenberg is relayed at maximum volume without pause for 10 years.

Oh, how easy (and pleasant) it is to work oneself up into a fury of indignation! Just as the banks privatized their profits and socialized their losses, we privatize behavior and socialize the consequences. 

Then there are the automated telephone messages, telling you that your call is very important to us, followed by a decision tree that makes the average oak look like a telegraph pole, then ghastly music interspersed with lying, prerecorded apologies for the delay in getting through to one of “€œus.”€ When finally one does get through, as often as not, it is to the wrong department, so that the whole process has to start again while the call is redirected. One expresses one’s irritation and then feels bad, because the person to whom one has expressed it is not the person responsible, and is only a poorly-paid and no doubt bored cipher of his or her employer. One vows never to lose one’s temper again with such unfortunates, and keeps the vow until the next time.

The switchboard of one newspaper for which I occasionally write (without much raising its abysmal standard) drives me to distraction. “€œSwitchboard is very busy today,”€ it says; switchboard has been very busy today for the last 15 years at least. It is not a lie in the strict sense: switchboard is very busy today, but the addition of the word today implies, without saying so literally, that there are days when switchboard is not very busy. I think I would prefer a full lie to half a one. 

I could extend my list of irritations indefinitely, and so could everyone else. That is why tolerance is so imperatively necessary in the modern world, for without it life would be like the sky in Flanders during the First World War, full of explosions. By melancholy coincidence, the last of Charb’s little squibs is “€œDeath to those who are afraid to die!”€ He was clearly not of their number, or he would not have done what he did. His suggested punishment for those afraid to die was that they should be provoked to suicide by projecting a film of their lives with only scenes of them doing the washing up.           


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