I’m concerned that the world’s gone a little bit mad. Apparently the most pressing problem we have right now is the fact that Starbucks’ red cups don’t feature any reference to Christmas this year. This is such a big deal that a presidential candidate has felt the need to get involved and suggest we all boycott the chain.
Then again, the candidate in question is Donald Trump, so I don’t really know why I’m surprised. Although if he thinks red cups are a crisis, then that’s just one more reason to pray he doesn’t get elected.
But seriously. I know this is something I talk about a lot, but it never ceases to amaze me the things people will get upset about.
It’s not just the Starbucks cups. There was the whole fuss on Sunday over Jeremy Corbyn and the fact that he apparently didn’t bow properly at the Cenotaph. Whatever you think about his politics, you have to feel a bit sorry for the poor guy, because he was never going to win in this situation; the press were out to get him on any charge they could think of. And call me crazy, but on a day that’s meant to be about honouring those who sacrificed everything for our freedom, it seems quite ironic to be criticising someone for not doing exactly as he’s told. No?
These days, I find Facebook to be full of complaints – about traffic, parking, train delays, dog poo, rude kids – oh, and fireworks, which seem to have been a much bigger issue this year than previously (just me?) as people got increasingly outraged on behalf of their pets. I’m not dismissing their concern – not being a fan of loud noises myself, I have every sympathy for the terrified animals, but surely this isn’t a new issue? Why has it suddenly become such a big deal (and, just to be clear, on one group I’m talking several threads every day for at least a week)? Maybe it’s not that the animals are more scared; maybe it’s just that we’re more angry about it.
The sad truth is that most of us are just looking for an excuse to be outraged, most of the time. And there’s nothing wrong with being angry about things, if you channel that anger into actually achieving something. Look at Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s clearly furious about the plight of refugees and our government’s inadequate response to the crisis. But he didn’t take to social media and rant pointlessly about it to his equally annoyed friends; he stood up and used his considerable power to make a difference (and ironically made quite a lot of people angry in the process). I don’t know how much money was donated in the end by the Barbican audiences, but I’m guessing it was significant enough to at least have some impact, not to mention the awareness raised. And – again – whatever your views on his stance, you can’t deny he at least did something productive with his frustration.
When all we do with our rage is to go on social media and tell other angry people how angry we are, it doesn’t achieve anything. All it does is create a cycle of rage in which everyone gets increasingly wound up, and nothing ever changes – like sitting in a traffic jam and leaning on the horn. Nobody moves, but other people will probably join in the noise. After a while the outrage starts to almost feel like a competition, as everyone gleefully tries to be the first to get in with a new angle on an old issue to complain about.
What’s worrying about this is that eventually we won’t be able to see any of the good things in life any more, because we’ll be so focused on everything even slightly bad that’s ever happened – or even that we’ve just perceived to be bad. And it seems like there’s enough genuinely negative stuff in the world, like war, poverty, disease, crime, corruption… – if we really want to be angry about something, shouldn’t we be focusing our attention on those issues and trying to solve – or at least ease – them? And then when we want to turn our attention to the small stuff, it can be little happy things rather than little grumpy things.
Maybe the Starbucks ‘controversy’ has been blown out of proportion, with more people laughing at the sheer idiocy of the whole situation than are actually offended – but the fact that anyone thought this was important enough to try and ‘start a movement’ speaks volumes.
So to Donald Trump, and all those people who put their energy into getting worked up over the little things – chill out. It’s nearly Christmas (whatever Starbucks says).