Why it is usually quite unnecessary to pay for entertainment when so much is provided freely by so many

Image credit: Kennedy Center Arts Edge

One of the many charming consequences arising from every one of us being involuntary members of the species homo sapiens is that we are regularly treated to moments of unintentional humor by our fellow sapiens, albeit mostly humor of the head-shaking, deep-sigh-inducing, eye-rolling variety.

A friend of mine goes daily to a gym wherein she is exhorted to pick up a bottle of disinfectant fluid and assiduously employ it to clean whatever machine she wishes to use, both before and after engaging with said machine to perform her visually appealing exercises. In someone’s mind this doubtless passed for excellent hygiene theater of the sort so popular in our present days of comforting mass hysteria.

The problem, as anyone blessed with more than no functioning neurons in their frontal cortex would instantly perceive, is that the bottle of disinfectant fluid has thus been transformed into an ideal vector of transmission as it passes unwashed between countless hands during the course of each day.

This is, gentle reader, more than vaguely similar to sending multiple text message instructions on the topic of not reading text messages while driving, to people who are busily engaged in such aforesaid vehicular conduction.

In another example of inspiring human ingenuity, many long and weary years ago a concerned individual pondering the condition of habitual alcoholics perchance came upon the sight of one such destitute imbiber swilling from a bottle of surgical spirits. Troubled by the potential harm resulting from the consumption of pure ethanol, our concerned individual hit upon what presumably seemed to him an idea of pure (and stable) genius: add methanol to the ethanol, thereby guaranteeing catastrophic metabolic damage including, but not limited to, blindness, brain damage, and kidney failure.

This delightful ruse, and the inevitable deleterious consequences it engendered, was quickly adopted by nations around the globe, all equally eager to protect their less fortunate citizens and without doubt also the revenues they obtained by means of taxing more traditional alcoholic beverages. We cannot but feel our hearts glow with warmth when we think of how devotedly our governments tend to the lives of those over whom they so benevolently watch.

Doctors, being primarily people and only secondarily having any passing acquaintance with the complexities of human health, have always been devoted exemplars of human ingenuity. Sadly, however, doctors no longer consult Galen as their primary source of inspiration and so we are not able today to view the sight of patients being bled copiously in order to restore the balance of the four humors within their (rapidly fading) bodies. Nor are we regaled with prescriptions for compounds rich in lead, arsenic or mercury, all of which were favored by physicians for many centuries. Leeches likewise have sadly fallen by the wayside and are rarely seen in today’s ICU despite not so long ago having been the typical doctor’s primary method of treatment, regardless of the ailment being treated.

No, gentle reader, though it pains me to admit to the fact, today we must content ourselves merely with watching doctors diligently and relentlessly over-prescribing antibiotics and thus rendering these little tablets increasingly useless as bacteria evolve to become drug-resistant. We must comfort ourselves with local quirks such as the USA’s 30% rate for Caesarian sections while less fortunate nations trudge along with a mere 1% or so. Other countries surely look on with open-mouthed envy as US doctors create one public health crisis after another: the Valium problem in the 1960s and 1970s, the Prozac problem in the 1980s and 1990s, and now a plethora of utterly delightful crises resulting from gleeful over-prescription of Ritalin to small children and various irresistible artificial opiates to adults of all ages.

It is clear that the idle physicians of lesser nations have a great deal of catching up to do; we must hope they rapidly become as diligent as their US counterparts lest hundreds of millions of people are forced to forego the pleasures and benefits of gloriously expensive and hugely damaging self-created public health disasters.

As individuals, we sapiens do our best to entertain one another with displays of superb solo stupidity but it is when we are cosseted within the supporting structures of organized groups that we perform to the highest standard. What nation is without its police force, devotedly keeping citizens from harm by beating them with sticks and spraying them with teargas? What country is without its bureaucrats, diligently instructing supplicants in the virtues of endless patience? What realm lacks its share of oleaginous politicians posturing and prancing in front of television cameras, earnestly professing virtue while quietly expediting worthy projects in return for appropriate recompense?

It is, sweet and tremulous reader, wholly unnecessary for a group to be in possession of an imprimatur or other mark of official recognition in order to be highly efficacious in promoting their marvelous and indeed occasionally breathtaking acts of glorious ignorance, obduracy, and sheer mindless folly.

We may thus stand in silent admiration to witness magnificent hordes of obese dull-eyed white men transporting their fleshy bulks upon flatulent antique motorcycles towards a group of fellow-citizens holding signs proclaiming that racist values are perhaps a little less welcome than they were yesterday afternoon just before tea-time.

We can look on in awe as these same men disentangle themselves from their failure-prone steeds of metal and oil and bravely waddle forth, each one an exemplar of manly courage and moral strength. Without any semblance of conscious thought these denim-and-leather clad colossi seek out their targets: the old and frail, the under-tens, and pregnant women, with whom they will now remonstrate and make plain their disapprobation.

Sweaty sacks of brainless blubber though these lardy heroes may be, they still retain sufficient instinct for self-preservation to avoid risking an encounter with anyone who appears to have even the slightest potential to cause them harm. Moral giants they may be; fixed in their cause they certainly are; pugilists however they are not, for alas their bloated and beer-raddled bodies are insufficient to the task of unarmed combat. By way of compensation for their unfortunate physical condition, many will have brought with them firearms; some will even have managed, mirabile dictu, to avoid shooting themselves or their friends due to negligent discharge.

At least, recently…

As for the rest of us, we are surely entertaining someone, somewhere, as we gaze uncritically at our flickering screens, absorbing whatever we are told by our favored arbiters of truth, for these newsreaders and late-night-show hosts are people who have scaled unimaginable intellectual heights to master the art of reading someone else’s words from a teleprompter. It is evident that from such as they, all statements must be irrefutable.

Were gods and goblins to exist outside the banal imaginations of children and the simple-minded, Olympians, Asgardians, and all those others who dwell upon nameless clouds would surely be laughing riotously at the spectacles we daily and unwittingly present. As indeed may we also laugh, if we happen to reach the time in life when age and dispassion permit some slight semblance of distance. For then we may think on the death of Troilus as recounted by Geoffrey Chaucer:

Or, in a more modern vernacular no doubt more palatable for contemporary readers, let us come together in fellowship at the very end and conclude with the pithy observation of Charles Chaplin, esquire:

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store