Call me a curmudgeonly old fool but, as life progresses, I can’t help but find the list of things that annoy me grows inexplicably longer. As a young child, this list was made up of little more than a small number of minor inconveniences, ranging from the sand pit being full, to having to wait a full hour for my neglectful babysitter to remove me from my well-soiled nappy.
Today, such issues seem so trivial. These days it is not uncommon to find myself longing for a return to problems like these, pants soiled and all, if it meant I never had to receive a sponsorship request on Facebook from someone I haven’t spoken to since the aforementioned days of shitting my pants.Almost every day, someone I barely even remember from primary school decides their previous twenty-two years of complete and unashamed apathy to the problems of the world can be forgiven if they can only raise eighty quid for walking five miles of the Leeds Country Way in a Pudsey Bear costume.
Each time I decline the group invitation, a little voice in the back of my head begins to nag, muting the feeling of exhilaration I get whenever I reject anything or anyone on social media. “It’s for a good cause”, it says. “He’s only trying to help”, it says.
For a moment, my conscience lures me in, bringing me devilishly close to donating a fiver just so I can go the rest of the week being able to look the Big Issue salespeople in the eye knowing I’ve already done my part in world saving. Take your wares somewhere else, good sales-woman, my conscience is clean. Then I remember FS. Then I remember DONT WALK. Then I remember the exorbitant prices they charge for a ticket and how much I’m contributing to charity by just going to these events. My attendance at these two shows alone means I probably raise more than any of my less fashion-conscious friends who feel obliged to guilt trip anyone and everyone on the internet into giving them a couple of quid.
Then I remember I DONT go to these douchey events and so I stump up a fiver for Pudsey Bear and co. Great, I’ve given to charity. Well done, Dave! Nevertheless, I still can’t resist looking at any homeless man on the street with piercing eye contact, ashamed of nothing as I walk past, lying about my lack of change. It’s the only way I feel like ever writing about American politics. I corrected him in that I only ever write about eighteenth century American politics. Much as the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are admired as the culmination of Enlightenment thought regarding republicanism and liberty, the Constitution in particular embodies a far more interesting idea that has since been virtually forgotten.
Rather than meaninglessly extolling the wonder of human dignity, the greatness of a people, their right to the labour of others, and all the Continental claptrap that appears in almost every other similarly styled document, the Federalist Papers and the Constitution demonstrates an acknowledgement that government can be bad as well as good, and outline a unique practical attempt to architecturally avoid this unfortunate possibility.
The result was a thriving civil society that spawned the most prosperous nation in world history. Civil society involves people thinking for themselves, engaging, producing, consuming, developing and advancing culture. It does not involve forcing people to do what you want. Football clubs and cat collars count; Robin Hooding does not.
Wherein lies the heart of my libertarian propaganda; if you believe in particular practices of government, that is nothing especially bad, but neither is it anything especially good. If you just don’t care, then say so. I want to see people who fanatically don’t care, who are proudly lethargic, who engage in militant apathy. They could cooperate, volunteer or produce. Rather than scheming for control of the lives of others, they might even find themselves enjoying their own. I’m getting my money’s worth.
You may judge me if you like but should you choose to do so then something about sin and casting stones immediately springs to mind. This behaviour is no doubt tight-fisted and uncaring, but we’re all guilty of it. There’s hardly a man or woman on the planet who has bought every copy of the Big Issue, donated a little change, or signed every petitioned whenever they are asked.
Does this make us bad people? Of course not. It’s simply a sad fact of life that people asking you for things is annoying, no matter how trivial or deserving their request is. All of us have it within our means to give a little change to charity every now and then, regardless of our own financial situation. Yet giving a couple of quid on the way to the coffee shop means you will have to take out more cash on the way to afford your flat white, and that is surely annoying.
The worst part of it all is the guilt. Even when I do fork over some cash I can’t help but feel guilty that I haven’t done more to help. It’s almost worse because now I have acknowledged the worthiness of their cause but still decided the effort to rid southern Africa of AIDs is only worth the equivalent of a small, but apparently not a large, coffee.
Sometimes it’s too much to bear. Indeed, as I write this article I find myself ‘adopting’ a World Wildlife Foundation tiger. I can’t help but feel that unless I now receive a real life, tamed Shere Khan through the post then I’ve mugged myself off. You can’t win, and it’s bloody annoying.