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Be good February 14, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.


OK, the link’s vague, but I can pretend what’s brought my attention to this idea is my constant pondering of matters affecting children in war and while that is something, of course, that disturbs my feeble mind when I think about it, I must say it was actually stumbling across the idea here that got me interested. So, a project, like the Shaggy Blog Stories book before it, making a book out of blog entries and making money for charity at the same time. Pimp the project and your own blog all in one go.

But philanthropy has been on my mind of late. Maybe it’s a late-30’s thang. Or hating my job. Or thinking it’s a silly contribution to make to the world, translating nonsense, when I could easily be doing something much more useful, like being a painter and decorator, or a school-teacher or a stevedore (although this last one’s only for convenience’s sake because my name is, by a queer twist of fate, actually Steve Dore). My translations are only good in the sense of getting one man to dig a hole and another to fill it in. It keeps a few of us queer types busy and the wolf from our door.

Yet I’d struggle with usefulness. Intellectually, I can agree with it, but then I think a desire to be useful need naturally spring from a love of the society you’re being useful to and, by extension, a love of your fellow man. And while I’ve loved a few of my fellow men in my time, I still think we’re mostly a shower of cunts. But there are all sorts of little devices for getting round that nagging little fact. Firstly, we mostly know we’re a shower of cunts with ghastly natures but we pragmatically reason that, seeing as a life nicely lived is more pleasant than one where we live according to our natures, we suppress our cunticity and counter one logic with another and attempt, at some level – a cultural one, I suppose – to be ‘nice’ to each other. Or at least not actively nasty. Good is cultural. (Darlings, I’ve got a feeling this is what Dawkins’s memetic theory is all about. I didn’t know meme was his coinage. But, anyway, a meme, being a cultural unit, so he says, I think, presuming I haven’t got the wrong end of the stick, which I might easily have, of course, is subject to a cultural version of evolution. Good or useful cultural memes survive. I think it’s how he explains away religion, in fact.)

Which I’m all for, actually. If we’re going to pretend we’re someone we’re not, and then actually, by dint of pretending for so long, actually become someone we’re not and be social (beyond our direct little social unit, I mean) animals, then I’m a great believer in making the whole charade as delicious as possible – not believing in god may add some urgency here, not that I’ve been majorly adept at getting my skates on, be it said. And not to say that the godly don’t do good either, of course – and doing good and being kind to your neighbour and helping the less fortunate and saving the world and eradicating poverty and violence and… and… and everything. And translation – at least not the types I do – just doesn’t contribute too much to anything.

Still, I don’t want to get too good lest you all be blinded by the glint off my halo. And then we have to retain a modicum of honesty, do we not, as we go about our daily lives. So I’ve thought hard about how I can contribute. Encourage charity, yes. But how can I push myself? How can I make it be the essence of all I do to improve the lot of my fellow men, all the while harbouring a cosy grudge against them? How can I be a misanthropic philanthropist?

Bingo! No, not actual bingo. Bingo, as in eureka. And, oddly, translation DOES come into it. Oddly, I need to make a fortune to do my good. I don’t know the first thing about anything other than translating, so I’ll have to carry on translating my bollocks off and earn a fortune. Then, to quench my disdain for my fellow man while also taking the reprehensible edge off the evil of my act, I’m going to buy cars for all the people I hate so that I can go and let down their tyres. Don’t you get all uppity with me. I’m going to try to target my hate at a remote community that needs means of transport. I know slashing their tyres will put a temporary downer on the good I’ve done but it’ll create a need for tyre-repair people, thereby creating jobs and wealth, and I’ll spend money on stamps in local, community-based, post-office co-operatives to send postcards home on my tyre-slashing trips.

No time to waste. But before you all have your philanthropic eureka moments, go and help War Child and pimp your blog in the meantime.



1. Blonde at Heart - February 14, 2008

I used to check you blog once a week or so, see that you are too busy to blog, and then think “I should e-mail BiB”, and then forget about it, because I am busy and forgetful. And then I miss checking your blog for one week, and suddenly the blogging muse found you and I encounter not one, but three new posts when I checked your blog this (rainy and cold) evening. Kudos!

2. annie - February 14, 2008

I used to work for an HIV/sexual health charity which specifically helped asylum seekers and refugees. It was a mundane job, but I did feel like I had a big, shiny halo (and wings) whilst I worked there. (And interestingly, it was the friendliest, happiest office of people I’d ever worked with. They loved their jobs, and there was no politics at all… )

I don’t think it’s worth measuring our jobs in usefulness though. Being a poet is not particularly useful but apparently poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world (P.B. Shelley)… Teaching is very useful, but I don’t feel good about it, because I don’t enjoy it. If you hate it, that’s another matter. I know everyone has to pay the rent, but there must be something else you’d like that you could do…?

3. pleite - February 15, 2008

Ooh, Annie, which one? Except do you have to say it in code? I volunteered for a similar organisation in London which was stimulating and interesting and I was all young and idealistic. Became a buddy to someone, which actually just became a friendship, so was nothing like working or volunteering at all. Plus he was hilarious.

Actually, a job I really really did enjoy, although many of my colleagues were despicable, was working for a charity in Russia. The project I was involved with helped (but not much really, but we didn’t do them any harm, at least, I hope) children from poor backgrounds. Russia, inner-city poor, so fucking poor (though it’d probably be worse in the countryside, actually). One room for a whole family in an enormous flat turned into bedsits of similarly destitute families. (Or, but rarely, a real homeless kid. One was 11, looked 4. And was sent away by one of the wicked, loathsome witches I worked with, whom I so hope now has permanits, for having nits. Nits! He was homeless, you stupid cow, and we were a charity. He never came back. Probably froze to death. Livid just thinking about it. ALL she wanted to do was read the kids the bible. Sorry, I have to stop.) Violence. Hatred. Filth. But the kids were largely great. Really wonderfully great. Little bastards, of course, but I was so happy to see them pretty much every day… But I just can’t go back to living on a third world pittance again, especially not if I want to start my tyre-slashing project.

BaH, and did you see I even mentioned your footballing tip in one of them? I was reading about that mad, sort of Bobby-Fisher-like man who invented blogging somewhere or other not long ago – I think the lovely Ben led me to him – and he was giving his tips and pearls of wisdom to bloggers and I think one thing he said was, I am completely paraphrasing, maybe even inventing, that it is basically axiomatic that when someone’s life gets busier, they will blog less. In my case, it is the EXACT opposite. If I am not blogging, it is because I am staring at the wall feeling guilty about not doing anything useful. If I am blogging, it means I am feeling guilty about a ton of work I should be doing but this is a second of light relief.

4. Mr D - February 15, 2008

There was a time I could easily write five posts a day. Quality posts they were – inventive, and often quite long. Sometimes I could have written more, but I stopped myself for fear of writing too much for my readers to keep up with. At the same time I was commenting all over the place, and my blogroll was at least twice as long as it is now.

I wasn’t working at the time.

The last few months I’ve been working harder than ever before in my life, with lots of other things also to deal with. And my blogging’s been shite, both in frequency and quality. I’ve even resorted to filling up the spaces with photos, hoping they’ll say the thousand words I haven’t had the time or energy to write.

So the quote(-ish) appears to be spot on for me.

Ever tried http://www.freerice.com, by the way?

5. Katchita - February 15, 2008

As someone who’s made a career out of altruism– health/environment advocacy, research, & teaching — too much of it bloody UNPAID (ooh, don’t I make myself sound so admirable), I can tell you that I’m an unqualified misanthrope. And although I do tend to specialize, I don’t limit myself only to the male of the species. I guess it’s raw anger that drives me; I’m determined that if I have anything to do with it, the bastards won’t get their way. And the only way I’ve been able to convince myself might be even a tiny bit helpful in reversing the inexorable human drive toward self-interest is to educate/advocate for underserved/impoverished women. Though you’d never know this from my blog… And anyway, all the people we need to hate already own plenty of cars, so you see, I’ve saved you the whole 1st step of getting rich… And there’s plenty of good people & options in X-berg… both the tire-slashing and the educating women.

6. pleite - February 15, 2008

Katchita, really, what type of people and options? Maybe I need to get my social-worker head back on, although I worry I might have got too set in my ways to be a normal person with a normal job ever again. And I’m not qualified to do anything. I’ve even contemplated prostitution but I don’t like the cold and the heels might make my varicose veins flare up.

Mr D, I have been to free rice before and wonder if it was you who got me there in the first place. And of course you’re right, and he is too, about the blogging+time equation. For me it’s good in an emergency, though. When I’d otherwise be running round the room, punching myself in the face and worrying because I had, ooh, two whole things to juggle, blogging or Schubert or Im Nin Alu will vaguely calm me back down.

7. IAF - February 18, 2008

Varicose veins never stopped me turning a trick or two and I got them when I was 19. Okay, I got them when I was 19 and in Kuwait City working with the Red Cross to try to track down what had happened to all the foreign maids working there after the Iraqi invasion and I managed to fall through a roof and knacker the valves in the vein in my right leg.
See? That’s a story to win over the girls – kinda, sorta war zone, but not actually with those nasty, military types (although I have a great, possibly non-PC respect for US Marine helicopter crews), a ‘war wound’ – a scar at the top of my leg/groin from the operation. It’s a win-win story – kind and helping, but with that manly, in a dodgy place, not totally macho, but still with the “ooh, he must be brave” element. Add in a little “No, no, it was nothing, I don’t like to talk about it” and it’s a guaranteed winner with the laydeez. Especially when I’m wearing my heels.

I have to agree with Mr. D with regards to the blogging – if I’m working (and actual, real work as well!) 12-14 hours per day in front of a computer I generally can’t be bothered to sit and write blog posts. Or read others. Or reply to e-mails. It’s a shocking state of affairs. Still, unemployment beckons….and then the blog will be fantastic!

8. marshaklein - February 18, 2008

Hmm, it was an over-developed sense of altruism (and an overwhelming ignorance of the real world) which lead me to my first job on leaving university. I joined the civil service because I wanted to be a useful person (yes, I know!) Instead, I spent 3 miserable years helping the Thatcher government massage the unemployment statistics. Eventually I ran back to university, which left me with another qualification (community education) and a mountain of debt. A voluntary, then paid, job as an adult literacy tutor followed. Oh, and a baby!
Actually, the tutoring job wasn’t all bad. I wasn’t very good but I did feel I’d been some use to one or two people. Unfortunately, the work was REALLY erratic (adult education wasn’t a statutory provision in Scotland then. Maybe it still isn’t, who knows?) Anyway, baby number 2 put paid to my (not very committed) tutoring career. The upshot of all this is no real career to date (hence belated attempts to “re-train”)
What I’m trying say is, it isn’t a bad ambition, wanting to be useful but be careful where it leads and it isn’t a crime to enjoy what you do.

Oh and just in case you think I’ve been supping too long at the worthy table (what DOES that mean? Sounded better in my head!) I would like to add that this post made me laugh like a drain.

9. pleite - February 19, 2008

Marsha, thank god it made you laugh, though, now that I am in love with Charlie Brooker, I think no-one else should ever write anything again, ever, and we should just read him. So marvellous. I feel like slapping a writing ban on myself, at least.

IAF, swoon! That is all very dashing, and if you’ve even got a scar out of it, and in your Intimbereich to boot, I quite agree that it’s a win-win sitch. So will there be a nice lady who’s fallen for these charms to tend to you while you dash around looking for another job?

10. bering - February 27, 2008

misanthropic philanthropy! or was that philanthropic misanthropy? or is one of those passive? i guess it’s probably safer to be a misanthropic philanthropist. easier to keep up appearances. being an openly active misanthropist would probably sort of get in the way of the whole philanthropy side of things, no?

in any case, well said. echoed a lot of my current thoughts.

i’m considering getting t-shirts printed.

something along the lines of:

Misanthropic Philanthropists.
we love you, now f**k off.

11. pleite - February 29, 2008

Bering, happy to have you on board the misanthropic philanthropy love-train. Though, if I’m in a bigging-up-humanity mood, which I’m not, really, but let’s say I am, for the sake of argument, we’re all a bit unintentionally philanthropic, aren’t we? I mean, in that we’re all vaguely serving each other at some level, all us upstanding members of the community. Not that I feel upstanding, really, but I’m not a criminal and not leeching off anyone – oh god, I’ve just remembered my debts – and my priority when serving others is probably serving myself, but still.

On the keeping-up-appearances front, though, Germany’s not a bad place not to hate humanity. On the surface, this is an innocuous, nice-enough place. People friendly enough. Civilised enough. We all know, though, that underneath the veneer the wicked old Tschermans are a seething turbine of torrid emotions, grimier than the water on a dark wash in a twin-tub washing-machine.

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