(The original first column I wrote for changingmediagroup.com which my esteemed editor called 'a magnificent torrential tirade of misanthropic glee' while also telling me it was unpublishable. Ah well, but it's too much fun not to post...)
The Melancholy Muckraker
I want to begin this column by saying that the very fact that I’ve agreed to write for this website causes in me a twinge of self-loathing. I’d feel like a whore if I weren’t so desperate to whore myself out in the cause of getting more readers for my other blog (evantucker.blogspot.com – read 800 words on it every day and all your dreams will come true).The assignment of the columnists is to write something devoted to social change. Would it be irresponsible of me to write a column on how society should be changed for the worse? I have that power.
I wish I could say I was alone in that regard, but you too have the power to change society for the worst as well, and you use it far more often than I do. You utilize that ability with every soul-destroying well-intentioned cliché you employ in the name of making the world a better place. Social change, real social change, is unpleasant in the extreme. And yet most people who claim to want affect social change do so as a lifestyle – a way of feeling solidarity, self-congratulation, and creating social clubs as a means of validating their self-images as fighters for the greater good who think for themselves in exactly the same ways as all their friends. It never ceases to amaze me that such people really think they’re making the world a better place rather than a more obnoxious one. Perhaps that social club is their church, or perhaps it’s their food co-op, but the motives of those who say they want social change are usually selfish at best, and occasionally even dangerous. Most people want to affect social change as a way of feeling good, but the process of affecting change is about the most inconvenient and unpleasant ordeal on the planet – every action contains its own anxieties and leads to an ever-increasing series of new anxieties as the ramifications of the change you effect increase exponentially. As Larry David would say, if you’re one of those idiots who needs to feel good, go get yourself a foot massage.
(John Cleese on extremism)
I’ve met dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of people over the years who would not pass the ‘Cleese Test.’ No doubt there were a number of years of my life when I wouldn’t have either. To be sure, one doesn’t simply pass the test by holding centrist beliefs – you pass it by retaining an independent cast of mind. The problem, fortunately, is not that people shouldn’t insult each other. The problem is that the groupthink of movements gives people the cover they need to act like jackasses while still retaining the illusion that they are good people. Speaking for myself, I have far too much anger in me to see myself as anything but a jackass, but I wear your scorn with a badge of honor. Given that the first thirty years of my life have been rather mediocre – I live alone with my CD’s and books and do very easy work in my father’s business – there is nothing in life from which I derive more pleasure than deflating the illusions of other people’s moral righteousness. It is the one pursuit in my life at which I know I’ve been successful.
Please think of me as that relative you dread – you know, the one who makes a scene at weddings and ruins every holiday with his soul-deadening criticism of everybody’s life-choices and only associates with the rest of the family so he can make them feel as miserable about their lives as he feels about his. The purpose of this column will be to show the unpleasant, ugly, compromising acts it takes in order to make the world a better place – and how even after we’ve accomplished our long sought-after goal, we still have no idea if we’ve not affected more bad change than good. The name of the column is The Melancholy Muckraker – mostly because I couldn’t call my column Paul Krugman or Savage Love or some other name that would bring many more readers. In short, this column exists to grind your nose in the shit (apologies to Ms. McGarry). If it’s successful, you’ll love to hate me. And who knows, you may thank me later just like you thanked that relative for being the only family member to tell you that you have a drinking problem.