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May 13, 2022

FEELING lonely and depressed?

Why not try reaching out to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for a chat in what remains of Mental Health Awareness Week – a slickly sickly patronising and condescending bid by moronic marketing mavericks to desperately soothe privileged collective consciences by getting entitled Slebs and royals to affect to know about something they’ve never experienced and never will.

Can’t get through to them? Try calling the surgery for a chat. Can’t get through to them, either? Keep trying. Fifty minutes later, after pressing buttons and holding the line as you move from 15th to first in line, you finally get Sceptic Sally, the carefully complicit passive/aggressive “care navigator” ever watchful for micro-aggressions like pesky people having the offensively rude and objectionable tendency to demand to see a GP within days because they think they might be dying. She’ll offer a carefully plotted and planned route for you back to the chemist again, that new little shop that charges for removing wax from your ears, or an “advice hub” on tinternet (in fact, anywhere but the surgery or anywhere you’re likely to rub up against other people and have a natural chit chat in natural surroundings but where you almost certainly will be 15th in line for an automated response).

Hearing Kate and William – two silver spoon fed pampered pretty people who never, ever, have or ever will want for company – appealing for me to reach out to someone by offering to meet for a cup of tea made me want to scream VERY VERY LOUDLY.

Samaritans remain closed to callers in person because of COVID-19, the University of the Third Age has gone online along with family history societies which used to offer a lifeline to the lonely in libraries and other public buildings as the drift to “virtual” from “real” speeds up so that eventually we will be virtual beings rather than human ones.

A booming industry of “futureproof” modern tech and marketing moguls is now encouraging everyone to move from person-to-person meetings to “safer” online ones via a variety of “chat” platforms which placate, patronise and marginalise by enforcing curatorial and managerial oversight by a select approved hierarchy of voiced worthies who see and hear each other whilst enjoying the power to be able to mute a huge rump of ordinary mere mortals and consign them to passive watchers not active participants.

Politicians, too, wary of angry and confrontational people in real life who might want to raise a few inconvenient issues in an inconvenient place and time, will take the safer option and go online for interaction with those they represent.

The Free Speech Union, a body of people with whom I have natural affinity and empathy, have “Speakeasies” which – conversely – are online events carefully curated to ensure the speaker does not face argument, confrontation or even heckling and abuse because the least approved participants can be muted.

Even, perhaps especially, in that organisation, we are seeing the death of face-to-face personal physical interaction and all the brilliantly unpredictable authentic possibilities which it brings when individuals are uncontrolled, uncensored and blissfully unrestrained in close proximity with each other.

William and Kate know that an enforced “safe distance” too often now means that we no longer have a voice and instead are just an audience for another star attraction.

Stop talking down to your audience and pretending that this answers real need or even begins to address loneliness.

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