All eyes were on America last week as voters streamed to the polls.
The results were greeted with widespread rejoicing. That’s right, folks. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted to legalise marijuana for recreational use. They’re certainly going to need the weed to keep calm over the next four years. Possibly eight. Although it’s hard to imagine the giant orange cockwomble serving his full term.
“Good morning, Assassinations R Us. We are experiencing high volumes of calls right now. Please hold the line for the next available assassin.”
I suppose I should make a few pithy comments about the other plebiscite that went so tragically wrong this week. Thing is, I’m a bit pithed off and am finding it difficult to mine the situation for humour. There are a lot of very anxious people out there right now. Poor little Cuba has already announced five days of military exercises. Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is still partying.
I’ve been trying to understand how almost 60 million Americans voted for Donald Trump to become the most powerful man on the planet. That’s nearly 50% of the electorate. Or, in their case, the expectorate. They went into the voting booths and spat out their venom.
Sure, it was a broken socio-political system that poisoned them in the first place, but the right person to fix things would have been Bernie Sanders. Or me. The Democrats have only themselves to blame for losing the White House to a confederacy of dunces.
The dumbing down of America is complete and Jarvis Cocker’s 2006 anthem Cunts Are Still Running The World has never seemed more appropriate.
It’s all smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand, anyway, and it’s becoming harder to judge what’s really in our best interests. Political shysters and corporate shills are up on their soapboxes vying for our attention, our money and our votes. Turn on the radio or television and you’ll find chiseling dissemblers of every stripe shouting about what’s good for us, why we need this more than that, why one god is better than the other.
Extremism is the new apathy and we can expect to see a blind lashing out at seen and unseen enemies the world over.
Speaking of irrational behaviour, I once had a girlfriend who asked me to shoot her if she ever got a Clicks ClubCard. She even had the gun for it. I found the idea rather exciting and suggested she pay for me to go on some sort of shooting course. She got quite angry at this point, not because I’d asked her to pay, but because I’d have to be a dribbling moron to miss. Apparently I wouldn’t be taking her to the woods and setting her free, then stalking her and firing whenever a clear shot presented itself. Apparently I’d do it at home, while she was asleep. That didn’t sound very sporting at all and I had to inform her that all deals were off. She wouldn’t have sex with me for a week after that. Well, it felt like a week. It was probably only an hour.
I never really understood why she had such a pathological aversion to a Clicks card. Yes, getting a card is an appallingly middle class thing do, but then so is recycling, and we don’t necessarily believe the garbage-separators who live among us should die. They’re a pain in the arse, sure, but they do have a right to live. Besides, if we’re going to elevate prejudice to that level, I’d say we start with the gluten intolerant.
But it’s more than just a bourgeoise thing. Having a “loyalty” card of any kind in your wallet marks you as a sucker. You’re one step away from sending money to that handsome Nigerian you’ve befriended on Facebook and whose sister will almost certainly die if she doesn’t get a new set of kidneys.
When it comes to the mugging that passes for commerce these days, there is no such thing as loyalty. They want your money and there are no depths to which they won’t stoop to get it. Shop owners factor in discounts when they set their mark-ups. Their profits are not only unaffected by giving you a pittance off your purchase, but they stand to make even more money because, with that piece of plastic in your wallet, you’re emotionally conditioned to not shop anywhere else.
It’s the questions that annoy me more than the cards. Tellers at an increasing number of chain stores mumble something as you start unpacking the over-priced rags and artery-thickening filth from your trolley. I get caught every time. “What’s that?” I say, leaning in to the cashier. I suspect they’re asking if I have a card, but because they’re mumbling I’m not absolutely certain that they’re not saying, “Your fly is undone” or “Would you like to go for a drink when my shift ends?”
There should be no questions at this stage of the transaction. Minimal eye contact and no heavy sighing. Just start ringing it up. If I have a card and forgot to produce it, that’s my problem. And if I have seventeen items, don’t ask if I want a bag. It’s unlikely I would prefer to make nine trips to the car carrying everything by hand. If there are questions to be asked, I’ll do the asking. It’s called Pick n Pay, not Pick n Interrogate n Pay.
I bought hundreds of rands worth of groceries the other day. After paying, the teller pointed at the slip. “You get R1.40 off the next time you shop here.” I threw my hands into the air with a cry of “Praise Jesus!” before sinking to my knees and tearfully thanking management for their extraordinary generosity.
Be on your guard. Christmas is a shell game and there’s a lot of baiting and switching going on at this time of year. You might think that “Buy any 3 gifts & get the cheapest 1 FREE” is the deal of the century, but it’s not. Your reptile brain is responding only to the word ‘free’. That’s why it’s capitalised. It’s psychotypographically designed to turn your anterior cingulate cortex into the equivalent of a Labrador coming across a bowl of lightly boiled chicken thighs.
The other thing is that if you give someone a gift set, he or she will forever wonder if that was the free one. You might as well give them anthrax for all it says how much you care. I say he or she, but I really mean she. He wouldn’t care what it was or how much you paid for it. He knows he’s lucky to be getting anything considering the way he’s behaved all year.
You might have noticed your Sunday papers gaining weight. Not because there’s suddenly way more news than before, although there certainly is. I suppose you already know the answer because you’d have spent some time on your hands and knees, either in the cafe or at home, picking up the avalanche of glossy Christmas supplements that have fallen out.
Clicks has one that’s as thick as a short novel. On the cover is the magical word FREE. How frightfully decent of them not to charge us for a publication advertising all their stuff they want us to buy. As if that’s not generous enough, they don’t even have an entrance fee to their shops!
Bless their calcifying capitalist hearts.