They were out in the streets again, I noticed. On Saturday, streets overflowing with students, revellers, party-goers, clutching beer cans, going from one pub to another, wearing togas, chatting, laughing - people devoted to having that most recondite of all behaviours, fun. Having fun is, of all modern rituals, the most gruelling, the most time-consuming, the most difficult to master, the most exhausting and horrifying, the most exacting and degrading of them all. Maybe it is just me, but it’s not – don’t these people know how healthy it is to have a good scowl? How life-affirming and satisfying it can be to indulge in the occasional moment of social awkwardness, to harrumph misanthropically at nothing in particular, to became inflamed with outrage at a misplaced comma in a local newspaper?
All ages produce a chimera, a false God to mislead the people, an anti-Zeitgeist – a Blightgeist. In Victorian and Edwardian times, it was being ‘Nice’. Being nice was what children were advised to be, what adults were to one another, and what you could describe a cake as being like: a quality shared by children, adults, and cream puffs. By the middle of the 20th century, the Blightgeist was the New: art was new, architecture was new, music was fairly new, and communism and fascism were very new.
Today, we have Fun. The machinery of Fun is Entertainment and Parties; people go to a party, or indulge in entertainment, to have fun; the end result of the having fun is, supposedly, happiness. But strangely, people who are having fun never seem to me very happy, and happy people are by no means the sort who like to go out and have fun.
Entertainment has largely replaced art, but to what end? An entertainment is neither guaranteed to be entertaining or to give fun. It is cheaper to be loud and have lots of diverting special effects than to be properly entertaining; it is easier to imitate entertainments from the past, and lift script ideas from other writers, than to come up with something original and interesting on your own.
There is very little fun or happiness in a party: go to a party, and you will have to spend a lot of energy shouting at other people in order to be heard over the other people who are shouting louder than you in order to be heard over the music that is playing louder than anyone in order to be heard over everyone who is going to start shouting even louder than the music in order to be heard. This is a strenuous activity, and no less strenuous are the other regular exercises you might undertake at a party in preference to shouting at other people, and in pursuit of the never-ending goal of fun – getting wasted, smashed, fucked up, senseless, falling down drunk, or getting into fights. If such activities are indulged in more by the young than the old, it is not because the young are any more likely to have fun or be really happy than the old; rather, it is because they are healthier and fitter and more able to withstand the arduous and monotonous task of modern-day fun without complaining. (If, on the other hand, these activities were indulged in merely for the sake of themselves, they would not be half so harmful; indeed as the example of the Ancient Greeks or Ancient Germans shows, they can be the foundations for a flourishing civilisation.)
If these false deities, Fun, Entertainment, Parties, and Happiness, had a pantheon, then Happiness – the ruling fake God of the Blightgeist – would be the head, the cause of so many errors. Happiness as an idea is both extremely simple and utterly intangible; so that anything that might be said about Happiness, then, can only be taken on faith or rejected on faith. A person may say that they are happy, but they can in no way prove this; there is no pill for happiness, no button to press, and there are no definite results from happiness. A man may be happy because of or in spite of circumstances, and occurrences will occur because of or in spite of a man being happy. In spite of this fact governments concern themselves with happiness surveys, constitutions have been written based on the ‘pursuit of happiness’, and books are written to aid people in the pursuit of happiness. It is rather like thinking you can become unified with God by wearing a certain colour of socks.
It is foolish to think that we can be happy all the time, entertained all the time, and have fun all the time. Life is not lived in a monochrome fashion, consisting of one perpetual state of neverending bliss. Life gains its meaning and piquancy by its different moods, its moments of gloom and times of calm and content; and while it would be infantile tyranny to insist on making other people suffer so that their happiness would be all the sweeter, it is equally facetious to attempt to legislate happiness. Perhaps, though, it is because of the intangible, unproveable nature of happiness that makes fun so utterly all consuming, subsuming the time, the world, the very life of its adherents: the more fun one has, the greater the end result of happiness is supposed to be.
No, we have had enough of fun. It is time to be sombre and sober, melancholy and languorous, mildly cheerful or slightly fretful, pragmatic or pedantic, indulgent or forgetful, moderate or decadent – to lavish in the mild emotions and the moderate virtues; for fun, that corruptor of souls, that destroyer of all that is good and pleasant and noble and joyous and fine, has been the tyrant over our world for too long.
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