Level 3 Panic Warning; or, Cooking up a Panic

From what I can tell, blogging gets in the way of writing (my new novel), and work gets in the way of life. Add in there a few insecurities, miscommunications, and stick in lambing time for good measure, and you’ve got a nice, stressful base.

The tangled mess of modern life can either be organised – fairly strictly – so that everything has a time slot; or it can be left to mulch into a squelching wet mass. Sometimes it looks like roadkill.

It’s almost a recipe: take one tired person, two Weetabix, half a pint of milk, a strong coffee, an effervescent vitamin tablet and 330ml water. Shake. Transfer onto a baking tray, make it prove itself for about 8 hours in a tepid, air conditioned atmosphere, then give it a roasting for 40 minutes at 220 deg C. Transfer into warm, fuzzy clothing, switch on a flashing, noisy box in the corner, and that’ll keep it nice and soft until you want to use it. Not that it’s clear what it’ll be good for after all that. Too long in the fuzzy clothing, and it’ll go off its game. Miss out the last part of the process and something may grow (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – remember penicillin?).

The media have been on about this for years. It’s some kind of culture-trap we’ve fallen into, this idea that there’s no time for anything and that everything should be quick, easy and accessible. But it isn’t. But we think it should be. Of course there’s no time for anything if you sit in front of the TV every night. (More people do this than actually admit it. I can’t prove that, but I observe the defensive reply that ‘the TV is hardly ever on’ from nearly everyone I meet (those that don’t know me) after I say I haven’t got a TV; as if there should be guilt attached to the association. As if. I openly stare, unashamed, at the ever present box in other people’s houses. I love TV and sometimes miss it, but it’s a time killer and mustn’t win.)

‘Time killer’. See what I did there? Look at the language used now: ‘grab a sandwich’; ‘hit deadlines’; ‘kill time’. How violent it is. And fast.

It’s easy to understand how people can become nervous wrecks through being exposed to the constant panic of time running out. Stress anywhere – even if home is a happy place – permeates your reactions to outside stimuli, like parents, children, choir practice … Even in your comfort zone, there’s no protection from its effects.

At least one of the entertainment devices used to reduce the stress probably induces it further by propagating the so-called ‘culture’. Even if you’re not a rampant consumer blown by the winds of buy-and-sell, you’re still bombed every 17 minutes with half-baked utopias sponsored by mobile phone companies and banks. More, if you use the internet regularly.

The world will never really be like that. Those utopias? Bullshit cooked up by a ‘creative team’ in a ‘breakout zone’ in an otherwise corporate office, but everyone knows that, right?

We’re all thick skinned and media savvy, trying to reject such blatant begging for our custom. We on purpose refuse to compare our lives to the dramatised ones on the goggle box. But what we don’t realise is that underneath our thick skins we’re already in a panic. Not only is our world not idyllic, but we’re running out of time. If you don’t keep up, you might never catch up. If you can’t afford it, you’ll never fit in.

Giant bills from massive companies, with the threat of prison if you’re too poor to pay (but not poor enough). No news is good news, especially if it’s national or international. Weather reports are now characterised by the alarming ‘weather warnings’ on a scale of 1 to 5. Doesn’t leave you much room for the inbetween variations of weather. A sudden overnight snow storm of wet, sloppy stuff – vanished by 1pm – gets a Level 3 warning. What does that even mean? What about the documentaries telling tales of the disappearances of species and habitats – whose fault do they usually put it down to?

All this, without even mentioning the demon ‘convenience’ food. More panic when uncaring people fed us something without our knowledge and we couldn’t do a thing about it. What if it hadn’t been horsemeat? What if it’s something else?

The ‘culture’ doesn’t just promote sales. It promotes hazardous panic and unpleasant stress, subtly, subliminally, and without ethics. Welcome to Britain.