Kingdom of idiots
By Chris Taylor
I recently employed a girl who was a fine art student. I did this largely so that when I asked what she did, and she replied “I’m a fine art student” I could reply “Yeah. You are.” Unfortunately I never got the chance to drop this sizzling Wildean witticism into conversation, which in retrospect was probably for the best. Instead we had very long, very involved, and massively one-sided conversations about art, culture, and the role the two play in shaping the minds of the populace.
Her thesis centred on the theory that we are moving into an intellectual age of darkness. That in days gone by the idols of the masses were the inventors, the painters, and the great thinkers; people famous for progressing and enriching society. And that the idols of the masses today are reality telly stars, footballers, and manufactured and heavily marketed nobodies. People famous for being famous and making little or no contribution to anything at all worthwhile.
“Hmmmm.” I pondered. Is this not in fact us just reverting to type? In Ancient Greece the people initially worshipped not the thinkers but the beautiful and the sporting. Was the age of enlightenment not an aberration, and the people have always looked up to those more pure in physicality than mentality? Look back, I continued, to your school days. There was a distinct correlation between popularity and sporting prowess/physical beauty. If you happened to be shit-ugly, but good at chess and spelling, people wouldn’t invite you to roller-discos (or whatever the cool kids got up to) they’d just piss in your Head bag all over your pristinely covered text books. I’d imagine.
Clearly she was impressed by my degree in classics from the University of Fronting on Nowt. But does she have a point? Has there been a general dumbing down of the population over the past few years? Or have people always been this thick and shit, but I’ve been too thick and shit to notice it?
Over the past few weeks football has again and again dragged itself through the gutter, seemingly intent on tarnishing whatever vestiges of that clichéd Beautiful Game bollocks was left. From Terry to Suarez to Tom Adeyemi via countless witless and uninformed blogs, tweets and Joey Bartons, football seems to have spiralled ever downwards in to a wretched and bottomless pool of moral Steveturpitude.
Yet far more troubling than any heat of the moment utterance from Suarez has been the associated reaction from Dalglish and Liverpool FC, whose head-in-sand-we’re-the-victimness led to a mass show of rank stupidity from fans of both Liverpool and Manchester United.
(Some) Liverpool fans showed unwavering loyalty and uncritical support for a man who used the colour of another man’s skin as an insult. And (some) Manchester United fans managed to turn one of society’s greatest ills into a side show of schadenfreude and petty tribalism. Nice one, dickheads. There is a clear and obvious timeline linking the Liverpool players wearing those ridiculous Suarez solidarity t-shirts to the abuse received by Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi and the man being ejected from Anfield for making monkey gestures at Patrice Evra. Though, in fairness, as much as I’d like to blame him, Dalglish can’t be held responsible for the latter’s horrendous cable-knit cardigan jacket.
With racism in football back in the public eye, and a cause for debate once more, the black footballers and former footballers brave enough to try and start a public discussion on the subject became the target for sustained and disgusting racial abuse. One tweet to the surprisingly bright and erudite Stan Collymore even claimed there was no such thing as racism, it’s all just banter.
Banter. The last refuge of the cunt. The language of the suit-wearing, jagerbomb-downing, Tim Lovejoy-inspired, pub-ruining fuck. You can say what you want under the umbrella of banter without fear of comeback, because it’s banter. And lads love banter. The sort of banter that sees Evra labelled a grass for being the victim of racial abuse. That sees Anton Ferdinand sent a bullet in the post for being the alleged victim of racial abuse. That sees Rio Ferdinand booed for the crime of having a brother who was the alleged victim of racial abuse. That sees a fucking law student call Stan Collymore a c**n on twitter without once thinking how his alarmingly thick actions would influence the rest of his fucking life.
In 1972, as someone quipped the other day, British popular culture was all about Bowie. In 2012 it’s all about TOWIE. We now live in a society where over 17million people watch the X Factor final. Where hundreds of people think it acceptable to not only turn up to watch Big Brother live evictions, but to boo at them. Where The Sun is the best selling daily newspaper. And where people queue around the corner to get in to Madame Tussaud’s waxwork museum (I accept this may be a more personal gripe, but I still find it unfathomable that people pay good money to see wax-based likenesses of celebrities). Meanwhile over 600 libraries face closure and the arts have their funding slashed. Maybe the girl had a point all along?
It’s easy to avoid getting disheartened about football being shit, it has long been the case and I’m more than used to the fact. But the people blindly defending racism, or in the worst cases spouting abuse of their own, aren’t just football fans. They’re parents. Teachers. Kenny Dalglish. People with influence over shaping the minds of others. It’s terrifying.
Sadly I don’t have the answer to this maelstrom of fuck-up. I’m torn between education and annihilation. I’m a great believer in redemption and rehabilitation. But I’m also a great believer in a swift, Eric-style boot to the chest. Which although solves nothing in the long term, does give a great sense of immediate relief and enjoyment. You can’t always make people change their beliefs, but you can make them realise that to vocalise them will end badly.
Thankfully and mercifully FC United is largely free from all this savage wankery, and on the odd occasion it does try and rear its ugly turtle’s head it gets very quickly shouted down. I’d like our club to be a trial run for a utopian society where there’s no sexism, no racism, no homophobia, and we should all be prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that this is the case.
As it says in the club manifesto, we should be accessible to all. Though we’ll take the unwritten ‘as long as you’re not a small-minded, bigoted moron’ as read, shall we?