Friday, November 14, 2008

today : Difficulty quitting

Here is a short precis of the long piece of writing I have been attempting over the past two or three weeks, but have been struggling to finish for many and various reasons that are too boring to go into now. It is all about how different groups of people are trapped by their ideology and even when shaken out of it are desperate to retreat into it's comforting cocoon. The banking crisis shook up the entire system. Pretty much the writing was on the wall for the particular capitalistic model we've been following for thirty or so years. In some ways Reaganomics or Friedmanomics or whatever you want to call it is possibly the last writhing gasp of modernism. When will people realise that ideology is stupid. Yes, it's comforting but the world is too complex to be fitted into nice, hermetically sealed theories. Yet it took about two weeks of panicking for the banking community to fall back on their bonus culture - even though we were told that, with the system all but privatised, it would have to stop. No bankers traded in their Beamers for a low-emissions city runaround.

Obama's election was a game changer. A 'major watershed in Anerican history' (TM). Yet it took politicians and political hacks about 36 hours (the hangover and the early night) to start approaching his tenure with cynicism. Once Michelle picks a school then it will all blow up.

In British football, this year everyone agreed that it was time to stop abusing the referees. Managers and players all supported the idea. Yet it took about a month of the season for managers to start blaming refs for bad decisions and calling them names.

Change is incredibly difficult to achieve.
it's even more difficult to sustain. The idea of the tipping point is such a lovely and seductive one that I want to believe it. But I can only see any declared tipping point as a tentative, fragile, teetering beginning of change.

A couple of months ago I spent some time in hospital and had to quit smoking for a few days. Stocking up on the nicotine gum, I managed it quite easily. It helped that my impulse to find some way to smoke was severely compromised by the fact that I was bedridden and hooked up to oxygen and intravenous miscellany, and that the reason for my stay was a pretty major ankle operation. I quickly became comfortable with the fact that I was trapped and genuinely had no choice but to not smoke. I guess the intravenous drugs might have helped, as they put me in a hazy, altered state. I declared to myself that I would continue in abstinence when I got out.

It lasted about five minutes, as long as it took to find a place to stop the car and light up. And I forced myself to smoke. First cigarettes are something we endure. Anyone who has quit and started again is thrown back into the moment of their very first cigarette. I didn't cough on my first smoke - a bad sign - but it tasted bitter and unpleasant, and aways does.

(Unrelated to the topic of this piece, but related to smoking, I do like a nice Havana cigar. The problem is that the flavour is so fantastic that going back to boring old American cigarette tobacco is kind of a let down, like drinking supermarket cola.)

My point is that my hospital stay was a tipping point, but my addiction to the old ways of addiction was too strong, and I blew the chance to change. If you like, I tipped back.

And this is what the banks are doing. They appear to have taken our money and gone back to their gamblin' ways. How much smoke and how many mirrors can you buy for a billion quid? Same with the journalists and the footie managers. They just couldn't bring themselves to change their ways, even though they know that to stay the same would perpetuate the problems they are responsible for.

the picture btw is nothing to do with the writing (apart from the presence of an ash-tray), it's just one of my favourite pictures by Georges Brassai

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