From passive-aggressive notes on ambulance windscreens to bilious political discourse, it feels as though society is suddenly consumed by fury. What is to blame for this outpouring of aggressivenes?
A neighbour objected to a young couple from Newcastle being naked in their own home.” We are sick of seeing big bums, big boob and little willy ,” was the core message of the note, crescendoing to:” We will report you both for indecent exposure .” It is such a small thing, banal, without consequence. It connects to no wider narrative and imparts nothing but the bubbling inconvenience of human beings living near each other. Yet when Karin Stone( one of the nakeds) posted the note on Facebook, 15,000 people pored over it. An Australian radio show interviewed her. I have got to be honest, I am heavily emotionally invested in the story myself and I do not regret a second of the time I have expended reading about it.
There is a through-line to these spurts of feeling we get from spectatorship: the subject matter is not important. It could be human rights abuse or a party-wall conflict; it does not matter, so long as it delivers a shot of righteous rage. Bile connects each issue. I look at that note, the prurience and prissiness, the mashup of capital and lower-case letters, the unlikeliness that its author has a smaller hobo or a bigger willy, and I feel sure they voted for Brexit. The neighbours are delighted by their abhorrence for these vigorous, lusty newlyweds, I am delighted by my abhorrence for the neighbours, radio listeners in Australia are delighted. We watch rage and we meet it with our own, always wanting more.
There was the mean note left on the car of a disabled female (” I witnessed you and your young able-bodied daughter … walk towards the precinct with no sign of disability “); the half-crazed dyspepsia of the woman whose driveway was blocked briefly by paramedics while they tried to save someone’s life. Last week, Highways England felt moved to launching a campaign against road rage, spurred by 3, 446 recorded instances in a year of motorists driving straight through roadworks. Violent crime has not gone up- well, it has, but this is thought mainly to reflect better reporting practises- but violent fantasies are ablaze. Political discourse is drenched in fury. The things people want to do to Diane Abbott and Luciana Berger induce my eyes pop out of my head.
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