They lurk in the shadows, those ghosts of ambition, plaguing the mind with their insidious whispers about ‘relevance’ and ‘legacy’ whilst at the same time miming the futility of achieving either with their pithy, pathetic anti-corporealism. The poor soul that they so mercilessly torture can do nothing but stand mouth agape, and thoroughly confused at the contradiction they present, eventually withdrawing into a tiny corner of the mind, on the mental floor with metaphorical knees to chest, and hands covering ears, praying for those malevolent spirits to quickly depart and leave it in peace, so that it may live out existence in blissful ignorance.
Sleepless nights, restlessness borne of millions of opportunities squandered, in turn, by listless days highlighted by the most trivial of accomplishments, followed by intoxicated evenings retreated within to forget the former and ignore the latter. Eventually, the alcohol fuels a limited unconsciousness, from which the mind eventually emerges, to repeat the cycle once again. To what do we owe such fine company? The grim spectre of death haunting every waking moment? The urgency borne by the recognition of one’s so very fragile mortality?
The liquor within the bottle, once liberated, fails to quantify an answer with any certainty.
Every wasted moment is followed by a dozen other moments reflecting in guilt and sadness over their loss, leading to nothing more than an increased sense of worthlessness, further solidifying a pervasive belief that one’s life will truly amount to nought, no matter how much effort is made to avoid such an ignoble fate. It’s as if watching a slow-motion movie, in which one is trapped inside a car hurtling towards a cliff, unable to push on the brake or steer away for fear that such an action will only itself lead to a different, but equally destructive destination. Ambition is not a demonstration of failure, rather failure is the end result of a toxic fear of ambition.
So, what then? Do we simply stumble along through life, making our best to ignore what haunts us, taking shelter in simple pleasures and base accomplishments, gradually rolling down the hill and coming to rest at our own grave? Or, do we fight back the fear that our precious emotions, invested in making our own way, will be lost, our efforts come to nothing, and instead forge a path forward with the intent of making a mark upon our world that will be remembered?
This is a choice that must be made every day, lest we forget it, and become mired once again in our own stubborn resistance to make any gambles, yielding to an acceptance of a life of mediocrity. For mediocrity is the true human condition, a desire to do only what is necessary to survive and nothing more. But with mediocrity comes the price, those spirits who lurk in the shadows of the mind, whispering unwelcome thoughts about ‘relevance’ and ‘legacy’ while reminding us that it’s likely a pointless exercise to want for either.
They glared at me in my slumber, with their beady little eyes, evaluating me as if I was an exhibit at some tawdry, low-rent circus sideshow, deciding if I was worthy of their menial expense of a twenty-cent piece, and finding me sorely lacking. I woke up then, and quickly moved to the more immediate agenda item of making the choice I referred to a paragraph prior, and determined that perhaps, today, mediocrity was acceptable.
To damn the voices! I would force myself to find solace in a mundane existence for today, at least. Tomorrow, it would be different. Tomorrow.
Streaming through the curtains, I blinked glibly at the noon-day sun, and had moved to upright myself when I received an urgent telegram from my lower back, informing me by way of considerable discomfort that it was not at all pleased with the direction of the venture I had recently embarked upon, and encouraging me to strongly reconsider my terribly rash action. I paused for a moment, reviewing the option of simply surrendering to sleep once again, but promptly decided that revisiting the carnival of the mole-people was far less preferable to a few fleeting moments of extreme agony.
Shuffling down the hall, a small cat wove his way through my legs in a frenetic effort to get attention. Much to his annoyance, I ignored him, my back not comfortable with the concept of bending down to tend to the emotionally-needy feline at right that moment, and instead, I eventually made my way to the toilet for my morning constitutional. There’s the Australian coat-of-arms on the toilet-paper roll. I’m not convinced there’s any valid connection between an emu, a kangaroo, and wiping one’s arse. Is it a political statement, or just patriotism gone horribly wrong?
The second, fatter cat appears now, and attempts to stuff his head down through the toilet seat, behind my backside, to examine what I’ve deposited in the bowl. The filthy pervert gains a mild smack on the nose for his efforts, and he scrambles back down the hall as if a crab marooned upon on a polished sheet of ice.
The air is heavy with moisture and the house has already warmed up to thirty degrees as I contemplate the idea of making a cup of tea, soon abandoning it for the far more sensible notion of consuming nothing. Three guinea pigs lay in their hutch, sprawled out, doing their best to ignore their unpleasant circumstance. I replenish their empty water-bottle and cover the window, hoping that the shade will bring them some relief, and then I make my way to my computer, to discover what idiocies the world had managed to engage in since I had previously bidden it good night, and dreading them.
Those mighty forces of equality from the left were once again doing brave battle with those champions of Godliness from the right over the largely mundane, and the mostly absurd. It was what the media landscape had become. ‘Balanced’, by itself, was now a dirty, eight letter word, corrupted to be silently followed with the all-important clarifier, ‘in our favour’. If media outlets were ships, most would be listing all the way to the waterline, eternally just a few centimetres away from capsizing completely.
The mast on the USS Murdoch was almost horizontal, pointing to starboard, whilst the HMAS ABC sported a mast pointing strongly to port, and the HMS Fairfax rolled between the two so often its crew had no real idea where they were going, making a futile attempt to follow a path of so-called ‘public opinion’ generally dictated to their readers by the silver tongues manning the other ships in the fleet, and not their own.
Conservatism and liberalism were both ramped up virtually to fanaticism that day, making the majority of ‘news’ nothing more than opinion dressed up with a few selective ‘facts’. Modern journalists, haunted by their own ghosts, are desperate to become relevant, addicted to their influence, and enjoy getting ‘high’ by putting their own pen to public policy through nothing more than gross emotional manipulation of their readers and the encouragement of ideological division, of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Democracy is dead.
People are sheep, to be tended by the media, and separated farther and farther away from each other in an unspoken agreement between each side that politically moderate ‘lambs’ who wander between the two are nothing but trouble, and must be indoctrinated, one way or the other.
Do you like dogs?
Do you like small dogs? You must be a liberal. Do you like big dogs? Well, then you must be a conservative. If you like big dogs, you must hate gays. If you like small dogs, you must be gay, you may just don’t know it yet. If you like big dogs, you must abhor gun control. If you like small dogs, you must be for a complete abolition of personal firearms ownership. If you like small dogs, you must be an atheist. If you like big dogs, you live in the fear of God. If you like big dogs, you must be for the prohibition of drugs, but the free and un-taxed sale of alcohol and tobacco.
If you like small dogs, you must be in favour of legalising marijuana, and taxing the hell out of booze and smokes.
If you like big dogs, you must never like small dogs, not even for a moment, for if you allow yourself such an awful indiscretion, it will pervert you to the small dog agenda, forever. Conversely, if you like small dogs, you can never admire any big dog, to do so might sway you to the evils of conservatism, and turn you into a Nazi. Since no sane person could ever intentionally like both big and small dogs, we the media can assume that no such person exists, neither in our readership, nor in those about whom we report. Thus, we can conclusively state that this person who likes small dogs is also in favour of gay marriage, and that this other person who likes big dogs wants to shoot the person who likes small dogs dead, out in the woods where the wolves can get at his rotting corpse, and remove that filthy sinner from our ‘happy Christian world’.
This new paradigm makes reporting so much easier! One-question polls can reveal what the populace thinks about virtually any issue, and since we’re only catering to one part out of a grand total of two, who really needs to think about what they write? Big dog? Drugs are bad. Immigrants are ripping you off. Small dog? Asylum seekers are good. Medical marijuana is safe. Our side likes big dogs, their side likes small dogs. Easy done. Balance, who needs it? They’re balancing off against us. That’s balance. So what if their readership only reads them, and our readership only reads us? People like to hear what they like to hear. What’s wrong with that? It sells papers, or clicks, or page-views. This is an industry in crisis, after all. Do you want to see us fail? Do you want all of our staff to end up unemployed and out on the street? No?
Make your choice, then. Big dog, or small dog.
Moving on to the international news informs me that Americans like slightly bigger big dogs, and slightly smaller small dogs. The Canadians like their small dogs a bit larger than the Americans, and their big dogs a wee bit smaller. The British follow the Canadians a little bit further down the same path, but not too far, for even they have turned to the big dog, small dog model. They’re everywhere, Rupert’s dogs. He owns them both, after all, the big and the small, having realised some time ago that by controlling those who like big dogs, you can inversely control those that like small dogs, for they are simply everything the big dogs are not, and so all you have to do is express an opinion counter to the opinion you wish the other side to have. ‘Conservatives don’t like green socks. Damn those green sock-loving liberals!’
It’s a depressingly mad, but effective genius. The free press is no longer free, but then again, perhaps it never really was. The ghosts have always been there, they only needed to be set free, by the magic of ideological division, and the wonders of corporate political agenda. Now, every story must make a ‘point’.
‘Those dirty little small dogs!’ ‘Those big dogs are nothing but a menace!’
Why can’t a dog just be a dog?
Having no motivation or ambition, I decided that for today, I would be a good sheep, and exclusively like small dogs, sneering at the big dogs, because it was easy, and it made me feel like I belonged to something, rather than simply drifting in the vastness, arms and legs flailing about, desperately trying to get anyone’s attention, but finding that nobody is interested, since they too have all decided if they like only big dogs or small dogs, and no longer care to hear from the other camp, or for that matter any camp other than their own, within which they find safety in an arbitrary commonality impeccably designed to relieve themselves of the unfair burden of free will.
That was a hideous sentence, suitably appropriate for hideous subject matter, and I will not apologise for it.
The little cat sits atop the air conditioner, beckoning me to turn it on, having no understanding about the cost of electricity both to my pocketbook and to the environment in general, only knowing that he is hot and uncomfortable. A bead of sweat forms on the tip of my nose, and I decide to sin, but only just a little, setting the cooler to 28 degrees and granting the poor fur-bearing beast a small modicum of respite from the repressive heat. Poor bastard. What cruel people brought cats to Australia? Never mind cats, but Huskies and Malamutes? I have seen little stranger than the sight of two full-coated Malamutes being led down the street on a 40-degree afternoon. How they survive such conditions I cannot fathom, but if I was them, I’d have bitten the hand that fed me long ago, and ran off, to be with the cows, huddled under the gum trees by the dam, in the shade.
I wouldn’t harm the cows, for I only eat birds and fish. However, that could be a difficult path for a non-anthropomorphic canine to follow, since they are neither good tree-climbers nor great swimmers. I leave my redundant musings, then, having abruptly realised their redundancy, and return to the even less relevant world of those who like small dogs.
Activism suits small dogs well, with their yappy demeanour, constantly insisting the world know how they ‘feel’ about ‘things’. A large dog just barks once, putting forth a well-supported argument that if you do not listen to him, he will simply bite you, and that will be the end of it, but a small dog does not have the luxury of making such a threat, and must instead repeatedly tell you their message over, and over again, to such a point that they themselves become so invested in their cause that they simply forget how to be quiet, and not yap, even if you have heeded their words and acted upon them a long, long time ago.
Even if you have, if you choose to ignore them this time, they will eventually start to nip at your heels, until you kick them away, at which point they will change their message to one describing in vivid detail how you so unfairly assaulted them, and that they were doing nothing wrong, and only acting for the greater good of the world, and that you must be firmly against their first message, for that was what they were yapping about just before they bit you, you fascist neo-capitalist misogynistic racist homophobe.
Even though it turned my stomach just a little bit, I was forced to cheer for these yappy little dogs that day, for I had decided I liked small dogs, and there was no such thing as ‘middle-ground’ any longer. They yapped about refugees, and I applauded. They yapped about homosexual rights, and I applauded more. They yapped about the environment, about climate change, and about the rights of indigenous peoples. Fair enough. They yapped about the cruel treatment of poultry, especially the terrible lives of the common turkey.
Hold it right there. Turkeys? I might have a tiny bit of compassion for chickens, even though I consider them to be far from being truly self-aware, but those turkey-creatures are so stupid, if you don’t herd them in during a blizzard, they will freeze to death. If you leave them out in a hailstorm, they will not seek shelter, but instead permit themselves to be pelted to a pulp by the stones. You want me to feel guilty for the poor plight of a creature with less intelligence than a two dollar pocket calculator? Who appears to feel no pain, and has absolutely no will to live? No, I simply cannot lend my applause to the campaign to liberate turkeys from their existence of injustice, no matter how much you yap about it, or nip at my heels.
Does this mean I really like big dogs?
Yeehaw! Let’s get the twelve-gauge and pump all of them damn turkeys full of lead! Blam! Blam! There isn’t any better meal then one where you have to spit out the shot back onto your plate. To Hell with the turkeys. To Hell with the kangaroos, the koalas, the wombats, the deer, the rabbits, the lyrebirds or anything else that gets in front of my gunsight. You’re all here for me to shoot, and maybe to eat, but only if I decide I’m hungry.
I resigned myself back to liking small dogs. They could be right about the turkeys. What did I really know about turkeys? Did some kind of turkey-whisperer make contact with them, and did they demonstrate an as-to-yet undiscovered intelligence? I could be wrong about the whole thing. Being mistaken would permit my return to the comfortable small-dog-liking fold. My position began to change. Turkeys must have fair and equal representation under the law, I thought. Turkeys must be free to roam the countryside without fear of persecution!
Emancipate the turkeys! Hallelujah!
I made my new-found feelings known on all the social networks, and then felt good about myself. I was a wonderful human being and I had done the right thing, even though it would mean that I would have to eat nothing but fish from that point onwards.
Nothing but fish.
Maybe tomorrow I will like big dogs.