(or challenges of relating to the modern world)
Once upon a time there was a fractious baby who cried and wailed until her desperate mother fled… Who became an obstinate toddler that wandered from her mother’s side when she felt ignored… And a child whose sympathy for her tortured classmate was tempered by relief… Then a teenager, a twenty-year-old, a thirty-year-old, a forty-year-old who believed lust was love and love was acceptance.
Now, there is a woman who spews anachronistic ideals across social media to the wilfully deaf, while arrogantly imagining herself as the balm to cure conformity; part of a transcendent few resisting societal pressure to grieve dead monarchs*, hate foreigners, accuse the poor of laziness, excuse the greed of the rich, and support one occupied country while ignoring the others.
This flawed, and probably unsympathetic, character’s life might be easier if she abdicated responsibility for independent thought, uncritically accepted “facts” espoused by bots and mainstream media and tore from her shoulders the mantle of the outcast. Many readers, endowed with a brief sketch of her backstory, might suspect this somewhat perverse desire to protect the powerless is borne by memories of her tortured classmate’s pained expression, pricked by impotent guilt that she was neither brave nor self-aware enough to intervene where teachers turned blind eyes.
Furnished with this flimsy and somewhat two-dimensional portrait, the reader is left to decide whether the self-aggrandising antihero quit work because she felt unsafe. Or did she quit because she prevented a desperate child from escaping with their loot, in effect choosing order over chaos, protecting the property of a faceless corporation while delivering a bewildered teen to the same authorities she claims to despise?
The hypocrite sits at her laptop, typing out lines, trying to understand her motivation, replaying the climactic (if somewhat clichéd) scene where a split-second decision forges an alliance that shapes the player’s fate and stains their conscience, and realises her so-called immunity from social pressures is a lie she perpetuates to explain why she feels so at odds with the world and herself.
*One reason football matches have been cancelled is that fans cannot be relied upon to toe the line and respectfully grieve dead monarchs, preferring rather amusing chants. Only one among many examples that show many working-class people are not proving their subservience by publicly mourning the death of an old, privileged, amoral woman. Solidarity makes me smile and helps me accept my imperfections. I guess that’s the real balm—humour in adversity.