We Brits are very attached to BP. Or our pension funds are, at least. And since our pension funds are rapidly falling apart, any Brit intent on mitigating the looming indigence of old age needs to come to the defense of this great British institution. So, as an expatriated Englishman whose pension policy is to be a burden on BP shareholders, let me suggest a different take on recent events in the Gulf of Mexico.
That’s the first paragraph of a spoof editorial I recently contributed to AOL. I was mildly surprised they accepted it actually, since its entire tone was heavily facetious, treating with willful frivolity a subject that is genuinely distressing for those on the front line. Predictably enough, when it appeared, the piece provoked a reaction. Here are a few of the responses.
1. “Hi Charles...I completely agree with you. I wanted to share the above link to an article I wrote just the other day just to show you that not all Americans are blind to the plight of BP and some of us are actually critical our countrymen's rush to judgment.”
2. “Mr Davis, So, you're saying the acts, thoughts and opinions of those in office reflect that of the entire country? Thought you might possibly have an IQ higher than that of room temperature, however if that's you're opinion, you apparently do not.”
3. “Oh, i just noticed you are a "literary fiction writer', that explains a lot. Please, if you are in the U.S., go back to England. By the way, people aren't upset about the spill. They are upset about the obvious lack of a plan in case something went wrong. We all, at least Americans, know that things happen. The big stink is when you know a problem of this magnitude is possible and you don't plan for it.”
4. “Kiss my American Ass, you british have time and again tried to rule the world and only ignorant in-breeding has prevented it, thank God. I am insulted by your crappy writing am tired of you American bashing. This country does more to help the world than any other and we lead the way in about everything you could imagine. You should find another career because reality has eluded you.”
5. “BP and every other facet of the oil industry can go under for all I care. I ride my bike 99.9% of the time anyways. As for your pension, boohoo. I was laid off for two years, retirement funds were nonexistent to me. And as for intolerance to Americans, I could care less what the French or any other country in the world thinks of me. Not every person in the states is egotistical and meat-headed. I could base my opinion on every person in the world strictly by their Government's behavior (I don't, I have more class), or in England's case, Royal behavior, mind you is equally as disturbing as America's Hollywood.”
As you may imagine, I found all this rather disturbing. It wasn’t that some guy out there (and I fear it is a guy rather than a girl) wants me to commit an act of osculation on his bottom, that ‘literary’ is apparently a damning epithet, or that a grasp on reality should be considered a prerequisite for making-up stories. Nor was I particularly troubled by the contempt, incoherence, and the many solecisms, implicit and explicit, historical and grammatical, logical and rhetorical that litter these comments. I could even overlook the curious connection between my IQ (undoubtedly commensurate with room temperature, a pretty cool and poorly insulated room at that) and an opinion I didn’t really express. Admittedly, I was a bit peeved that someone seemed to think I had a pension lined up. This was mildly galling, given that my current plans for retirement revolve around purchasing a harmonica and a Styrofoam coffee cup. But what really bothered me was that, good or bad, perceptive or purblind, literate or otherwise, all the feedback suggested readers treating a trifle with a degree of solemnity that is as risible as it is regrettable.
Facetious. Frivolous. Ironic.
These words are worth learning. The concepts they represent help break up the weight of the world, making friable and therefore lighter the burdens born of mankind’s multiplying stupidity. By contrast, the literal-mindedness displayed in the comments above is as pernicious to wellbeing as the corporate cupidity of which BP is the current exemplar.
However, in one thing my critics were right: “Americans lead the way in about everything you could imagine.” They’re certainly way out in front when it comes to surrealism. The other ‘comment’ posted on my piece went as follows:
I represent Lanaia Lee , author of Skulls of Salvation, a book about the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy and the crystal skulls of Belize, which came out in October. We would love to have a chance to appear on your show. Please let me know if you have any open dates. Lanaia is also quite the dark poet, with two published anthologies and the recent release of her first C.D. of dark poetry.
Lanaia's most recent work includes Prey of the Scavenger, a seriel murder mystery in the editing stages and her work in progress, a book about Hitler's ongoing evil legacy. Lanaia is an amazing person who is also in a wheelchair from a massive stroke and all her books are typed with one hand. She has appeared on more than 50 radio shows and gets rave reviews for her interviews. We look forward to reaching a mutually acceptable date for her appearance.”
I appreciate that, I really do. Lanaia, you are welcome on ‘my show’ anytime you like. Please picture a little smiley face here in case you think I’m being serious. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, spot the inverted commas, a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse. Geddit-do-you, do-you-geddit, I say do-you-geddit?
Causes Charles Davis Supports
Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace