By Huntress Thompson
You know that person in your office who, every now and then, you look over your mug at and think, “I will never understand you”? Not the usual “Fuck, you’re annoying”, but “Seriously, I have no idea why a human being would say something like that with their mouths.”
Offices are fairly arbitrary collections of people, and while you have some things in common with your co-workers (like skill sets, or cafeteria indifference) there’s nothing to say you’ll share any other traits at all. And more often than not, there is someone who is so far removed from your personality that it takes serious, almost athletic ambition on your part to talk to them. You have to imagine how they would respond to what you say (which is impossible because you have no common ground) and then afterwards you have to work out whether or not what the two of you have just done counts as a conversation.
For me, those people I can’t relate to are always people who are blithely arrogant. They’re self-confident when they have no right to be, because they’re awful human beings. They’re also deeply, irreversibly in love with themselves, and they won’t ever think that’s wrong, and that won’t ever change as long as you both shall work together.
The reason I will never have anything in common with these people is because I, and most of the people I like and am friends with, am fully aware that I’m a bit shit. There are no misconceptions about the idea that I might be fucking fantastic – I’m one of those fundamentally self-deprecating people. Everything we do is shrouded with some awareness that it might not work, and everything we say is prefaced with the thought “Ok, try not to sound like too much of an idiot with this one…”
This doesn’t mean we never think anyone is great – we just never think we are those people. We still think we deserve things, but we don’t deserve them over anyone else. It’s not anhedonia – we don’t believe wonderful things are impossible, we just never expect them as a default outcome. We don’t have anything figured out, and we think anyone who says they do is wrong. We live in the Age of Self-Doubt.
Running alongside this timeline is the Age of Arrogance. You can’t ever cross over from one to the other. In the Age of Arrogance, people actually enjoy it when a room is focused on them. They assume that all rooms are.
Part of this is obviously symptomatic of The Times We Live In. The social media narcissism, the indulgence of broadcasting your every thought, the self-obsessed delusion that the world will find your every stray mind fart profound and fascinating – all of this has been hashed to death by social observers, but that doesn’t make it less true.
One product of The Age of Arrogance is that it creates some of the worst, most odious teenagers you will ever have met. I’ve heard Joburgers (or, as I call them, Jobergines) describe these teenagers as “Fucking Sandton Kids”. I have not argued against that descriptor. Louis CK described this generation as “Non-contributing product sponge cunts”. I won’t argue with that either.
There is no ambition, because they already believe their existence is an accomplishment. Their personalities are built around a sense of entitlement – “I don’t need to validate my existence by adding anything to the world. The world exists to entertain and impress me.” They’re often “ahtists”, because no one has the heart to tell an 18 year-old that they have no talent, and that buys them 5 years of fucking around right there. And they’re fine with that. There’s no restlessness to make or have made something, and there’s no guilt over time wasted. They aren’t interesting enough to have issues, but they might fabricate some to justify their not doing fuck all with what might be the prime creative years of their lives, other than Instagramming pictures of themselves.
BTW: If you’re an 18 year-old who’s an artist but you’re talented and hard-working, I’m not talking about you. You’re on the other timeline. Every talented and hard-working kid knows what it’s like to sit next to a kid with no talent who doesn’t work at all, and have people call them both artists/designers/writers etc, and it’s one of the most demoralising things in the world.
Here’s what people in the Age of Arrogance look like when they’re closing on 30. They’re almost aggressively unattractive to people on the other timeline (and vice versa, I imagine). They live at home, because self-adoration hasn’t turned into a paid employment option, and because they’re in a state of arrested development. They’re children forever. Except now it’s not adorable, or excusable, to assume that all social situations are about you, and no one puts your drivel up on the fridge. Your band is shit, and it won’t get better because that would require you admitting it’s not perfect right now. While you must have been the funniest guy in the world to hang out with when you were 20, you’re now 30, and it’s funny in the worst possible way – it makes people dismiss you as a joke.
And five years after that, they work across from you in your office. They speak in meetings about things that have nothing to do with anything, to hear the music of their own voice. They talk about how they have a clothing budget for the month, because every daily appearance in the office is on par with their matric dance. They bark over the co-worker who’s telling the story of how they got engaged over the weekend, with a pre-rehearsed monologue about how they can’t get to the end of their driveway without being hounded by suitors. They do nothing, but put on such a show of self-importance that everyone assumes they’re enormously busy.
I don’t understand you. And I am now finally realising that all the people I’ve ever hated are the same person.
In the vacuum between dark and light, Siouxsie Sioux and Emmylou Harris, Amelie and Travis Bickle, Huntress Thompson is an idiot lost, and reporting from the field. If you’re after irrational rants about cupcakes and Johnny Cash (and you probably aren’t), she’s grumpy, but she’s your girl.