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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 49. The intentionally ignorant.

There are people in this world who make themselves dumb deliberately. Seriously.

Now first of all, a confession. I am a news hound. I have to watch or read the news at least daily, and a trawl of my search history will reveal that my homepage is BBC News (and that I usually read at least something from the site everytime I open my browser) and that the last thing I do before shutting the computer down is check the website again. Since getting digital TV, it is also quite likely that BBC News 24 or SKY News (more rarely - I have standards) is playing in the background when I am doing other things. When I visit friends for the weekend, I have been known to sneakily switch the TV over to the news just to grab the headlines when everyone else has vacated the living room to use the bathroom or get breakfast (we still tend to do the student sleeping 5 on the living room floor thing). I have an RSS news feeder ticking away discretely on my desktop when I am working.

So for that reason, I am perhaps a little less tolerant of those who wish to wrap themselves in cotton wool, stick their fingers in their ears and sing La La La loudly, whenever anything regarding current affairs is mentioned.

The most blatant example is, I'm sorry to say, related to me. A few years ago, you may have heard something about a little known doctor by the name of Harold Shipman. Yeah, you remember, the GP (family physician) from Hyde in Greater Manchester who is known to have killed 150 or so of his elderly patients and is suspected of killing anything up to 500. That guy.

Well it was the week of his trial. Pretty much every newspaper in the country had his photograph on the front cover and most devoted several pages to reporting every salacious detail they could get their hands on. The first 10 minutes of every news bulletin was dedicated to him. Just sitting on the bus, you could hear people discussing it. That weekend, after the guilty verdict, I was attending a family wedding. Waiting for a lift to the reception, I found myself with my 23 year old cousin. To say that we have nothing in common would be an understatement. We only saw each other rarely as kids, and generally tolerated each other. There is no animosity - it's just that only thing we have in common is a pretty small percentage of our DNA. I'm casting about for a conversational gambit and coming up dry. I then remember a rather off colour joke told about Dr Shipman at another wedding the week before (not to go into detail, it was simply told by the father of the bride, involved his mother-in-law and the necessary forms to change GP... make your own punchline). She looked at me blankly.
"Who's Harold Shipman?"
"Umm. The doctor that we wouldn't send Nana to to get her bunions removed?"
She looked even more mystified.
"its in the papers and on the news. He has just been found guilty of murdering hundreds of his elderly patients"
"Ohh. I never read the news it's boring". Followed by a giggle.
I'm told that I looked as if she'd just informed me that David Icke was right and that the Queen really is a 12 foot high alien lizard in disguise.

So what brought this to mind?
One of my new colleagues at the sport centre. We shall call her Anna. She follows the same philosphy as my cousin (but at 35 years old really ought to have outgrown it). When she has to pull a late shift with me, she has 2 sources of reading matter to keep her occupied. An amateur romantic fiction website (I kid you not) and Mills and Boon novels. Yes she is single. Yes she still lives with Mum and Dad.

Normally, when I come in to work, as the only non-driver using public transport, I am promptly mugged for my copy of the free Metro newspaper. Not Anna. When I offered her the newspaper one evening, she turned her nose up and said that "I don't read the news". Amazingly, when I left the paper on the side, she picked it up and didn't even look at the lurid headlines, before binning it. I watched her eyes. Nothing. Try that sometime - I defy anyone who can read to pick up a newspaper and not at least glance at the frontpage as they move it. I swear it is an inbuilt reflex.

Later that evening, the TV (tuned to BBC1 for Neighbours - sigh...) moved on to the 6 oclock news. Before the headlines had started to roll, it was promptly switched over to some american soap opera
"I don't like the news". She's duty manager, I can't exactly argue over the TV channel.
Naturally, I tend to forget this and so when we sit gossiping in the evening (she's a very nice woman - don't get me wrong, and pleasant enough to work with) I might start a conversation with "did you see on the news last night..." to which the reply is "I don't watch the news".

When I chat with other people about what is happening in the world, she either walks away or I keep on having to explain basic common knowledge to her. Like who the leader of the Conservative Party is (she didn't know who the former leader was either) and forget about discussing Charles Kennedy's resignation for a drink problem (leader of the liberal democrats, the UK's third largest political party). I try not to be patronising, but it's really hard.

But anyway. I award a Twat award to these people, because they are lazy. Never in all of human history has it been so easy to know what is going on in the world. To not at least glance at a (free!) newspaper or catch the headlines before turning over is shocking. Celebrity Big Brother does not constitute "Current Affairs". And we let these people vote. Thank god they don't!




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