Please forgive that I seem to be thinking along the common theme of childhood at the moment. This post shall be another visit to the origins- I wonder how much of this has been affected by having considered doing an origin story for the Youtube channel “The Good Stuff” run by the Wheezy Waiter. Never could get the courage up to put myself in front of a camera again. I had tried, somewhat frantically, but came to the conclusion I should only return to the vlogging endeavor when it felt less pressurized and less daunting.
The origins of this idea are the Boogie monsters of our culture. A trend I can note upon is that when you are a child you tend to be afraid of some imaginary thing, be it a monster from a story or a notion like darkness. As you get older you still seem to have a need to fear something, and truly I must stress the word need. We don’t seem happy without a balance of something to love and something to fear, also something to be opposed to and something to be in support of. We begin to fear either some social situation or some future possibility and into our adulthood we may keep some of these constructs or become afraid of some current cultural opponent, adopting the fears of others in a weird tribal unity. Let me relay examples from my own history (this is a personal blog after all).
I was raised with my cousin, Graeme. His mother had died when he was a babe and after much moving around members of our rather large family ended up with our Gran Molly (both very Scottish names compared to mine duly noted). My parents split up when I was 2 and my Mum and I had moved back to Scotland where she might better regain her independence with family support. Support looking after me you understand. It helped Gran for Graeme to have a play mate his age and although we didn’t live with them it helped my Mum to have free child care when she was at college. Graeme was afraid of the dark, and I was afraid of monsters that lurked in the dark the difference being in his claustrophobia and my dislike of the unknown. We developed into different fears that were similar in level, but still individual- this is how I come to say I see a trend.
My fear became of a future possibility that I might become unsuccessful and in my childlike presentation “someone who works at McDonalds.” I was afraid of having a less than an ordinary life. Graeme didn’t fear that this would happen to him instead feeling destined for a colourful future as a performer of some description. He was certain what he would do, for all it was a general description of “I’ll be famous.” His fear was of social rejection, which I never understood. Our being raised together included being in the same school- the same class in school! His wit and smile were popular with everyone and he rarely fell out with anyone. He was… a cool kid and next to me he looked destined to be a jock, although in a change of culture in actuality became hipster: winkle-picker shoes; fully buttoned check shirt; skinny jeans; side-burns. The last thing he could have handled was being rejected by his peers, so thanks to my apparent inability to fit in he felt the need to bully me just as much as the other kids did. He seemed to feel that this would ensure his popularity would never devolve. When we were at home we might argue but on the whole were loving brother and sister. That school gate was like a switch to his brain, however; fear kicked in, and group mentality would take hold. Again we changed with age although much later.
During puberty there were old lingering fears and new worldly cultural fears getting all mixed up and confusing, something you hear people note about the pubescent years often. I started to be driven by fear of how awfully people treated each other. I had been bullied before, yes, but I had never done anything about it. I’d never told those kids that they were “just meanies” or hit them or even grassed on them. When the elders in my life found out it was because they had caught the perpetrators in the act or had found me crying, eventually beginning to presume that it was because I had been given a hard time by some other kid every time it happened. Unlike Graeme, I couldn’t fear being rejected by peers and this was because it was a permanent state. I was sick and tired of being treated like this and at the same time became afraid of becoming that. They say that happens to people who are bullied; they become bullies. My fear kept me from doing any real damage, but if ever I felt the people around me were picking on an underdog I would get angry at the injustice. This anger stemmed from fear that all I had learned about human altruism in my pursuit of the differences in the evolution of homosapians, was being lost right in front of my eyes by my own generation. I was afraid of what society would become when these were the people running the show. With age I came to realize the folly in this fear and adopted a much broader one. Graeme became fearful of being held back by our old town and being stuck in “this smelly old hole.” It wasn’t like my previous fear of having a mediocre life. It was a not wanting to be here where everything was stale-ly familiar yearning instead to see the world and have an adventure.
In current affairs the world over there seems to be a rise in fear of different races and religions (at least certainly in American media sources) and in a certain wariness of immigration. Even certain members of my family have expressed concerns that immigrants will steal their jobs if Scotland becomes independent and the SNP fully take hold- their fear is of Polish immigrants, same race but still “outsiders.” In America their perpetual need for war with the middle east seems to come from 70% of the country being Christian thereby any Christian politician is supported regardless of policy, and the misconception that the entirety of the middle east is Muslim and that there being different denominations of Islam and a gradient of positions being irrelevant to the American media. Any mention of Sunni and Shiite differences is apparently irrelevant because “we are Christian and they are not.” I can’t prove this really, it’s just a sense I get watching different American news channels whether it be Fox news, CNN or MSNBC. Being attacked by Muslim extremists, integration of Sharia law and immigration are the boogie monsters of Western peoples. During the cold war the fear was of integration of communist fascism, during World War II the fear was of Nazi imperialism/social fascism on our part and of humiliation on their part… you see what I’m pointing at?
I call these Boogie monsters not because the concepts aren’t real but because we fear the extreme. Communism as an idea isn’t bad, it’s just generally adopted by those who want dominion over their people. Socialism is the same with the exception that it still allows for individuality and growth by democracy. Being afraid of people losing altruism is foolish when we have only grown in this and the reach of humanitarian law, and also that social conflict is just as much a part of human nature as kindness is. Being afraid of things that are stale is useful when the world needs shaken up by progression and innovation, but to tie staleness to a place doesn’t make sense as staleness can just as easily be called the comforting safety of the well known compared to the unknown. Darkness cannot crush you for all it may feel like it and there are no monsters just because you cannot see, but at the same time when it’s dark you may well bump into something and hurt yourself or your cousin might jump out from somewhere you couldn’t see and scream “boo” so that you near enough pee yourself.
There are real monsters to be afraid of, but there are so many more Boogie monsters that you need to get over. My current Boogie monster is that people, for all it is natural to be in conflict, demonize each other wrongly. Not all Muslims are terrorists (you knew that), Sharia law strictly applies to Allah’s people so the only people that should have qualms with it are Allah’s people, and Polish people aren’t deliberately out to get you and they can’t come in droves such to the extent all the jobs will be gone. (I have noticed the level of unemployment and that’s because companies give out less jobs, not that someone else occupies them.) My fear of demonizing wrongly is likely to mean that I will be far more tolerant than is necessary and thereby deny real concerns that we should face, purely because the demonization of the extreme desensitizes the whole topic from criticism for those who don’t want to get involved in the irrational fear. I have to admit there will be parts of immigration that are bad… just generally not the big focal points. In immigration for example, those who come here and send money home that has come from benefits which is essentially British peoples taxes… not good. Really, that would be a genuine problem. Our taxes are paid to help our society. It’s the melt pot of our people trying to help each other and our people are in need of that help.
The real monsters are there, but we cheapen them with our imagination.