Offbeat 04 March 2016

I ‘m not good at groups, except the one that forms from time to time at the pub, to sit outside on the wall and smoke, shoot the breeze and discuss the relative merits of whatever clouds the day brings us. Now that the former right honourable has banned us from smoking inside, we seem to end up on that wall quite a lot.
We have to sit on the wall. The owner had to move the chairs, tables and umbrellas inside because of the uncivil swines who thought that pillaging chairs was a good, free alternative to actually going to the furniture store and buying a couple.
Perhaps it does serve some kind of purpose, that gathering outside. It’s an honourable thing not to share second hand smoke and, if we smoke enough, perhaps Namibia’s carbon emissions will increase so much that the country will be able to claim some kind of subsidy for carbon reduction, or whatever they call it. But I know that we still have a long way to go before we can compete with the pollution of vehicles, which the former right honourable did not choose to ban.
The groups that form there feel fairly good. I never have to move much, at least not much further than back inside to get a refill and talk to whatever unsuspecting person is standing at the bar, from where I place my order.
Aside from the fact that it is painted green, my favourite colour, and it is just the right height for a comfy seat that can’t be stolen, one of the other things I like about the wall is that I never really have to move to go somewhere, else aside from brief trips inside.
Maybe the people know me well enough to understand that I would not feel comfy leaving this outdoor lounge, and don’t invite me elsewhere. They don’t engage me in debate about where we might go together, and that is where this column’s riff kicks off.
It feels like everyone wants to belong, only the club just got larger or perhaps the village got smaller.
I remember donkey’s years ago, when I was more open to being a social animal, that there were long debates about where to go and what to do.
It reminded me a bit of haggling in the market. The most masterful of people would ultimately be able to obtain consensus in his or her favour about the next destination or activity, and everyone would follow.
I got the impression that in almost all instances of this sort of social horse trading that the venue became a secondary aspect to many. Even if a person didn’t want to go to a specific place, the benefits of the company outweighed disadvantages of the venue. If group leaders were sufficiently popular, they could sway the group to move on to a party in that section of the rubbish dump where a pile of rotting offal accumulated.
It’s the same with thought, it appears. People will go along with anyone who is sufficiently charismatic, even if that charisma entails utterances of racism, genocidal intent and even an obsessive fixation of the latest teen pop star.
I keep on looking around and seeing this. Thought or personal preference doesn’t enter into the thing at all.
So where do we get change from? Once thought patterns are fixed, it seems be heresy to suggest that there might be an alternative.
To illustrate the point, who decided that Justin Bieber was an idol, and that everyone should like him? How many people actually decided to like him because they liked him, not because of belonging with someone else?
And who was the person who decided that he should be vilified, sweeping a whole bunch of people along with that strand of thought.
Both of those people must have been people who thought the impossible, something that nobody might have believed, or ‘beliebed’, otherwise, or even paid attention to.
Thinking the impossible, and charting a course changes the world. At least for Justin Bieber. And it also got a couple of people to the moon.
I love the wall outside the pub. It allows me to join in with other people and what they believe, and when the group disperses, I can go back home and think the impossible again. Cheers.

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