Thursday, 7 August 2014

Two Young Men

It is a bright and sunny day here in Edinburgh, and next up on my housekeeping schedule is the guest room. However here am I blogging again, to link to this sobering article that rather calls the importance of social media into question. In short, a young man dies due to medical negligence, and an expert witness, whose nom-de-plume is Theodore Dalrymple, decides to learn something about him.

After the case was over, I looked up the deceased on the Internet and though, as I have said, he was not in any way remarkable or extraordinary, I found quite a lot about him and by him, most notably a video that he had made about himself and the kind of shoes that he wore. Even here, as far as his taste in shoes was concerned, he was not at all extraordinary: I think he wore the kind of shoes that everyone, or at least everyone of his age like him, wore. The film lasted more than five minutes, and consisted of him putting on and taking off various of his shoes and holding them up to the camera. This was done to a background of rock music, which I muted as quickly as I could.

The banality of this surprises Dr. Dalrymple, who thought he was too old to be surprised, and he seems to suggest that the more trivial stuff about you on the internet, the more trivial you may be.

Well, it is fun to poke fun at the over-fed masses and their low-brow tastes, I guess. After all, I live in the UK where people make snap judgments about you based on your accent and no, I'm not American, and no, I'm not offended. I take a bus where tattoos pulsate like open wounds yet feathery hats get me strange looks, so I might enjoy giving the lumpen proletarian a going over from the safety of the internet from time to time.

However, this morning I also read the story of another trivial-seeming young man, one who very likely may not live very long either, but in his case, he took real action in his life by embracing the seventh century.

His page on the social media site VK suggest a young man apparently obsessed with his body - it is dominated by a series of pictures of him in a gym, showing off his toned physique.

Now he uses Twitter to glorify the "Caliphate" of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, and to post gory pictures including one of two heads in a basket, which he compares to the heads of sheep that can be ordered for the table in specialist Egyptian restaurants.

Hipster Jihadi seems to be having oh, what a lovely war, inviting his mother to come and live in a nice flat near the Euphrates river.

"My son," she said, "what would happen if the owners of the flat came back? What will you do then?'

"I told her not to worry", he said, "They are dead and gone."

So although growing a beard and cheering the slaughter one's enemies and taking their homes and perhaps raping their mothers, wives, and/or daughters may seem like more meaningful activities than making videos about one's stupid shoes, I am tempted to think it is a shame that the first young man died of a treatable disease, not the second.

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