I live by the words, ‘If there’s nothing to say, then don’t speak.’
I’m not a man for small talk. I’m not a man for what is commonly called ‘tact’. I have no patience for small talk and I’m generally very direct. I wouldn’t, however, call myself tactless. I have this idea that a lot of what people call tact now is that odd way of addressing a subject without ever speaking about it. The kind of thing politicians call, “diplomacy”. It’s characterised a lot of back channel language and under-the-surface chatter and faux niceties. It can also simply be a watering down of what you have to say in the first place. And worse still, it can be a refusal to speak. I get angry every time I hear people mention subjects that people ‘shouldn’t discuss’ because those subjects are divisive. Because they cause friction. Because they can cause conflict.
This is why small talk exists. This is why people cultivate vast networks of connections and still feel disconnected.
Stop avoiding conflict.
A few weeks ago a thirty-year-old woman told me she was old. I told her to shut up. It wasn’t malicious, and it was clear I wasn’t really telling her to stop talking. But it needed to be said, in my opinion. Each and every person reading this blog, right now, has had the same experience. Your friend is between twenty and thirty-five and she’s told you she’s old. And you’ve probably said nothing or just run with it.
The reason I tell young people, who tell me they’re old, to shut up, is because they know it’s not true. They’re not even that serious about it. They know it’s bollocks. I know it’s bollocks. Everyone in earshot knows it’s bollocks. But we accept it anyway. An 18-year-old model told us, on the TV or YouTube or a poster in the street, that by 30 we’ve gotten past our peak. It’s all down hill from there. And we didn’t really take it in – because we’re smart enough to know that it’s bullshit – we still somehow accepted it. As a culture and as a society. I suppose if you have anything repeated to you over and over and over again, for years, you’ll start to subconsciously believe it.
We still laugh about it, every time another young man or another young girl tells us that we’ve got five or ten years left before we better start checking for rust before bed, every night. But I think it’s become ingrained. Because there’s always an edge every time someone tell you they’re old. There’s always an edge to the silence or the laughter that follows. None of us believe it, but we won’t deny it. We don’t reject it out loud.
Why? Because, in some twisted way, it has become a truth. We don’t question it because questioning it opens up a can of worms. One question always leads to more questions. More observations. More discussions about things that eventually start to scrape at your nerves.
Here’s where I step back and address the thing you’ve been cocking an eyebrow at for the last five hundred words:
‘Yeah. Ok, mate. Stop jerking yourself off – this isn’t a revelation.’
As I said: nobody in their heart of hearts believes anyone is old by 30. We say it and there’s more than a little mockery.
Perhaps I should have started with a more controversial subject. Perhaps that would have been more fitting.
What’s your political stance?
How do you feel about porn?
What’s your take on the NSA or GCHQ?
How do you feel about drones in the Middle East?
How do you feel about governments spying on their own citizens, or any attempt at censorship of the Internet?
What are your thoughts on Syria?
Have things gotten better or worse, objectively, since Saddam Hussein was killed?
What about Christians?
What about Muslims?
Do you know much about Hare Krishna and how potentially fucked up some of those groups are?
What’s your philosophy?
Do you have a philosophy?
Why don’t you have a philosophy?
Should we stop slandering the Bankers?
Was the Occupy movement a waste of time?
What’s your economic stance?
Have you ever heard, or walked in on, your parents having sex?
Take your pick. I’ve got more.
I hear people advise other people to avoid talking about things like politics, religion, and philosophy. Because they cause conflict.
But conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You are advised to stick to small talk. “Conversation” that is “safe”.
There is Only Chaos is going to be a regular part of this blog going forwards. I’m going to make opinionated statements on just about anything. Not necessarily this long, but over the next few weeks I will be expanding on this topic. If I wrote it all down in one chunk it would be an essay of a few thousand words. I know the Internet generally doesn’t have that much patience. We’re all busy people. There are cats to watch, memes to make, and porn to leave sad comments on.