(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
Every morning, when I am woken up by the sweet chirping of birds outside my window, I look at them and shake my head in faux anger while trying to suppress a smile. Then I go outside and feed them and refill the trough of clean water I put outside for them to drink from. This wonderful morning routine really puts me in a good mood and I wave to all the morning walkers passing by my house. Some stop to have a fun chat while those in a hurry wave back and make a promise to catch up later. I even smile at a stranger, because, maybe a smile makes their day, causing them to forget whatever is stressing them out for a minute and they go home happy. They say nice things to their spouse and give their kids a hug. Their kids go to school in a good mood feeling loved and wanted and don’t feel the need to bully their weaker peers. This fosters an environment of tolerance and acceptance and all those children grow up with a sense of self respect and a healthy attitude towards life. And two hundred years later we’ll be able to achieve world peace because one fine morning, on a whim, I smiled at a stranger. Is there anything more empowering than that?
No, don’t worry. I didn’t fall into a cauldron of self-help books when I was a child. Recently, many people with ‘inspirational’ stories have been exposed as frauds. So I thought I’d capitalize on the void left by these charlatans by making up and selling some ‘inspirational stories’ of my own. If you can keep a secret, let me tell you what really happens every morning: When the chirping from those birds wake me up, I drag myself out of bed, pick up the gun lying on the side table and start shooting at those winged messengers of terror. Then I go outside to add more rat poison in the water I put out for the birds to drink in the vain hope of killing enough of them so that someday in the future I would be able to sleep through my hangover. Then I shout my favourite cuss words at all those idiots passing my house while on their morning walk. What sort of sociopath gets up early in the morning, voluntarily? It’s disgusting and unnatural! The worst people are those who smile at you for no reason whatsoever. Is there anything creepier than smiling at a stranger? When someone I don’t know smiles at me I curse them because I spend the rest of the day wondering what I did wrong to cause them such amusement. Do I still have shampoo on my hair? Do my socks not match? Is that spot on my shirt where I dropped gravy last week still visible to the human eye? Why couldn’t that hateful stranger just let us pass each other without trying to connect with another human? What part of ‘keep looking at your smartphone so that you don’t have to acknowledge other life forms in your vicinity’ is difficult to understand?
Don’t tell any of the rubes I’m trying to sell my untrue inspirational story to what I just said because they get really upset when the object of their inspiration does something they don’t agree with. In fact, they feel betrayed and outraged. How dare someone succumb to the human condition? Why wouldn’t people conform to the standards I set for them? If my heroes do drugs and/or kill their girlfriends, then what is the hope for any of us?
The reason people buy into these stories is because they imagine that one day their life will take a similar turn. They’re going to make it big, too! However, it’s not just their own hubris that makes them think this way. We get them started on this slippery slope of magical thinking by brainwashing them with lies from the time they are very young. We tell them that they can be anybody they want to. Just do your best and when you grow up you can achieve anything! Nobody tells those kids that by anything we mean that when they grow up, most of them will be doing a shitty job in a mediocre company with a salary that will always keep them in need of employment, making their daily commute seem worse than a one-way ride to a concentration camp. And this will be fate of the people who are lucky!
People like their inspiration to come in pre-packaged too-good-to-be-true stories. It’s not believable until it’s implausible. They don’t even realize that for every person who supposedly makes it, there are a thousand who don’t. The thousand that have to live with the harsh reality of having their dreams crushed and their reason of getting up every morning taken away from them, forever. The thousand who will spend the rest of their life in a zombie like stupor, feeling numb and broken, biding their time until they receive the sweet release of death.
What sort of monster finds that inspiring?