Belfast Telegraph

Spare us Arlene's guinea pig Facebook post or Gerry's teddy bear tweets - politics here is no laughing matter

By Lindy McDowell

Oh no! Not the guinea pig. For dear's sake, anything but the guinea pig in the 'love glasses' meme. In the immortal words of May McFettridge: "Surely Ulster has suffered enough?"

At the height of one of the greatest political crises in years (and that's saying something for us), the First Minister of Northern Ireland last week posted a picture of a small rodent in heart-shaped specs defying "all my haters".

Now, there is no doubt Arlene must has been under hellish pressure in recent days - and with an election looming there's unlikely to be let up in that any time soon. Some of the online flak has been just vile.

But the guinea pig is something you'd expect from a 14-year-old schoolgirl. Or Gerry Adams...

Gerry's tweeting about his teddy bears is on a similar scale of cringe. Local politics, serious enough at any time, surely deserves better right now than this sort of infantilising nonsense.

Tragically, however, such nonsense is everywhere these days. Generally I'm all for a bit of levity, myself.

But there's a time and a Facebook page...

For example, would it not fit better if, instead of police officers posting witty memes and matey advice about being safe out there, they took to the streets more to ensure that citizens actually were safe?

The inspirational slogan has long been at the forefront of this mass movement to embrace immaturity and naffery. (As one senior academic puts it, we live in an era when adolescence now starts in childhood - and lasts forever.)

I have a friend who used to bombard me with inspirational emails every day of the week.

"Don't wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect."

"Be yourself. Everybody else is taken."

"If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough."

"Always know how fabulous and uniquely beautiful you are."

Did this fill me with love and uplift and a warm glow of self-worth? Nope. It made me want to strangle her. Or at least throw her laptop against a wall. Very hard indeed.

After a while she stopped of her own accord. I think even she finally had it up to here with the blue bird of happiness.

I always wonder about people who work in places where they churn out those sloganed T-shirts and posters adorned with this pap.

Does there ever come a day when they themselves rush home from the day job, load up the Volkswagen camper van with the Dulux dog in the back and the surf board on the roof and set off, as advised, to "Live. Love. Dream"?

Or like the rest of us, do they think as they turn up yet again for the daily grind, that's all very well, but where do I get the money for the road trip to Goa, the visas for nations in between, the dog to accompany me and the surf lessons?

Oh, and how to tell my partner and kids I'm off to live, love and dream, while they get on with sorting out the leak in the back porch, the money for the mortgage and their GCSEs?

Like Arlene's guinea pig and Gerry's teddies, we've surely had enough of this guff. A bit of harmless escapism is called for, now and again, yes. So is a bit of maturity.

Social media engagement can't always be fun when you're a public figure. But that goes with the territory. Politicians need to stop trying to be Gwyneth Paltrow.

Because, apart from anything else, the online wits always get the last word.

Over Christmas when Gerry tweeted a cheesy description of how long it took genial old him to switch off all his Christmas lights, a fellow tweeter came back with: "Surely you know someone who could fit a timer?"

And Arlene's post about how with her love specs on she couldn't see "all my haters" promoted the response: "That's not how you spell heaters."

Listen to your inner child, says the T-shirt.

Don't listen to the T-shirt, I say.

Belfast Telegraph


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