Monday, 2 December 2013

Avoiding responsibility: or how I learned to stop worrying and love being a pain in the arse

Most of us, at some stage of our lives, have wanted nothing more (or less) than not to be in the firing line for something which, quite clearly, was our fault. 

When I was younger, this often masqueraded as a pseudo-sincere attempt to relate the unfortunate misadventures of my intrepid feline (read “blamed the cat”).  Alternatively – and what I believe to be the other mainstay of the guilty unjustly accused – deny everything.   I mean everything.  No matter what.  Even if that means refuting the very laws of physics:  That sneaky cigarette enjoyed from a friend’s bedroom window; that one relished when too young to legally buy a pack of fags; the one that dropped onto the garden furniture below, melting the plastic seat which was discovered by my compadre’s father the following morning and which led me to stand in the firing line for more than a few hours.  Did I break?  Did I fuck!  Did it mean denying the obvious trajectory of falling fag end?  Yes it did!  “It must’ve been flicked over the garden wall...”  Believe me, this was clearly bollocks.

But it worked . . . sort of.  I mean, everybody knew it was me.  There was no one else it really could have been.  Yet, my utter refusal to back down in the face of the blatantly obvious had stood me in good stead.  Incalcitrance flavoured with the merest hint of a garnish of wilful self-delusion – this was clearly the key to success.

Older now, I’ve learned that this isn’t necessarily so.  Until quite recently, I didn’t even have a cat.  Although, I seem to be coming across an increasing number of examples of people that don’t seem to have learned the same lesson.  Granted, their techniques and general approach may appear a little more well-honed but the same adolescent approach to divesting themselves of all responsibility nonetheless pervades.

What got me on to this train of thought was the recently reported story of a woman who complained about theHalloween decorations of a house she frequently passed with her son.  Her son who burst into tears each time he was confronted with the horrific display.  Well, I say horrific, but personally I think the whole thing’s rather tame.  High street Halloween decorations never seem to have the ability to strike mortal terror into the heart.  Then again, I guess I am – nominally at least – an adult.  And, some might say, a slightly skewed one at that – although I can’t help but think this is a prime example of raising insipidly wet children.

And, before I’m lambasted by a nappy-bag and burp-cloth wielding mob of irate dwarf herders, as a relatively recent inductee into the esteemed ranks of parenthood, I am, for some reason, allowed to say this, whereas the childless multitudes are apparently forbidden from uttering such statements.  Not entirely sure why this is, although I think the cause may be the same one that makes it acceptable to go to the supermarket wearing vomit stained PJ’s and mismatched shoes.  Then again, so does alcohol, so maybe the less said about that incident the better.

The whole absurd incident culminated in the police getting involved and telling the child-traumatising Halloween devotee to block the display from public view.  Now, there’s a few things going on here, even without bringing the whole ‘done for charity’ element into proceedings:  Firstly, for the amount of time we have to spend listening to how over-stretched our police force is, they seem more than willing to get embroiled in petit bugbears of people with nothing better to do than find something to be offended by.  Secondly, covering the display with a black tarpaulin is, in my opinion, far more sinister.  Who’s to say that beyond the visual barrier, instead of plastic skeletons and fake cobwebs, the lawn is piled high with dead hookers and missing children?  It’s like the forensics department getting into the seasonal mood!

So, what does this have to do with responsibility?  Well, since obtaining my dwarf herding licence, I’ve added to my mental resume:  Not only is it now filled with the aforementioned sure-fire tactics of blame avoidance but also the import of certain other duties and the wider responsibilities thereby entailed.  Particularly pertinent is the one that says “don’t let your sprog grow up to be unjustifiably scared of inanimate objects,” closely followed by the one that says “neither shall you let them think it acceptable to call local law enforcement because you happen not to like something perfectly legal.”

It comes down to penguins.  Well, one penguin in particular:  This particular penguin is of the plastic variety, has a face like a duck on crank and careens about the place in an unpredictable fashion while making unintelligible noises.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that my son reacted badly to this when it was first plonked in front of him.  But where was this going to end?  An irrational fear of plastic?  Existential terror at the sight of penguins?  Dreams haunted with a soundtrack featuring the lyrics “one, two :  Pingu’s coming for you,”?  Maybe he’s the future mayor of a small village and would be destined to establish the annual avian round-up where anything with feathers is grouped together and forced into a crusher?  Well, I guess it’d do wonders for any local bird-flu outbreaks, but I’m sure the potential backlash would be catastrophic.

Well, I wasn’t going to stand idly by and let my son face the end of his political career, just like that!  It took several attempts but, with a little perseverance, I managed to turn this fearsome figure into one of his favourite toys – at least until he found the remote for the TV.  Why?  Because it’s my responsibility to teach him that there’s nothing to be scared of – to make light of something that scared him while still offering the parental support that was necessary.  Now, maybe it’s me, but isn’t that all that was required by the woman above?  If it failed – take a different route!  If she really thought it necessary – speak to the chap in person! 

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I had it right when I was younger.  Maybe what I should’ve done is prosecute the friend who purchased the penguin and sued them for damages – mental scarring, don’tyerknow?

In fact, it all makes sense:  I’ll sue the ISPs for sending me porn, the milkman for sending me a bottle which went off and made me ill when I left it in front of the fire, the office for the numerous paper-cuts, the movie studios and book publishers for everything I’ve read and seen that I didn’t like, put on the straightjacket, take the drugs and walk into the nearest padded cell where I can stick my head in the metaphorical sand and let someone else worry about my mental and physical welfare.

And if everything goes to shit?  The cat did it!