Something For The Weekend (145)
To survive the modern world with its facade of niceness, manufactured at huge expense for our consumption, requires a certain amount of cynicism. A world where the paternalism which comforted previous generations has been withdrawn, and job-security and pensions have been swapped for corporate concern for the polar bear, is a world of ambiguity and pragmatic lies: only a fool would take it at face value. Its a world where the greed-is-good brutalism of the Eighties has been sugar-coated, to disarm any sort of political backlash. A world of benign dictatorship where all imperfections are all said to be extraterritorial. We've never had it so good: even if the propaganda runs counter to our own personal experience.
Being a cynic, just proves that you are awake to the reality and are taking notice. Although, I myself, am not a cynic, just a defeated romantic, but they are hard to tell apart, even on close inspection.
It takes an agile and supple mind to prevent that cynicism from contaminating your personal humanity. And it is a brute who does not seek respite from the Machiavellian dictates of economic-necessity. Indeed the state we find ourselves in, is the requirement to be the fully-functioning 21st century schizoid man. Keeping a balance is both a daunting and endlessly challenging struggle. How do we avoid having our higher wishes used against us? How do we fully function as human beings?
F. Scott Fitzgerald said that the test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. But as he drank himself to death, I don't
suppose he thought it was an easy thing to do, either. Judging by the Americans' love of schmaltz, the need for sentiment and romance, actually increases proportionally to how cynical the business
environment becomes - Capra found his audience in the depression-hit Thirties. The worse it gets, the more we need to escape.
It therefore follows that in these days of the f**k-you employer mentality, we need a place where our sentiments can flourish even more than ever. And, there's no better place than a football stadium for letting your feelings off the leash and suspending the workaday cynicism. There has never been a better or more needful time to be a football supporter. Where else can a person safely suspend his own self-interest and show solidarity with his fellows? Where else will the state allow it? Where else can sentiment cost you so little? Where else can you allow yourself to hope and not be disarmed and disadvantaged by it?
Unfortunately some of us are far too long in the tooth to forget a lifetime of training and it only needs someone to utter the words Bennie McCarthy (a player Villa fans were told the club would sign for what seemed like a decade) to banish the most carefully nurtured green-shoots of optimism. So despite me giving a fairly decent impression of someone wafting along on cloud-nine these days, deep down I really can't bring myself to actually believe Villa are going to be buying big this summer. There is comfort in knowing that I am not alone but seeing is believing.
To be a successful football supporter requires a special talent. Winston Churchill defined success, as the ability to go from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm and although it is unlikely that he had the beautiful game in mind, there are no better words which come close to capturing the absolute essence of a proper supporter.
But on that arduous path many fall, never to rise again. Other braver souls carry on and although they may sometimes falter, they keep going despite the doubts and disappointments, inspired by the many Villa faithful who trod before them - undaunted and unflagging, through rather bigger letdowns and deeper crisis. Bigger betrayals, even.
The last few years were a bit crap to say the least and to anyone with only one eye open, it was obvious that the mediocrity was built-in and for me personally, knowing that, was sometimes unbearable. For me and many more, it will take a long time to recover a faith lost too long ago to remember and I am sure that the only thing that will do it, will be full houses and team performances, that leave us wishing our long-dead Villan's were here to witness it.
What I really crave is that occasion, when Villa are so good - so astoundingly good - so obviously excellent and so obviously of a status, not seen for twenty-five years, that the wish is forced upon my lips, that my dad could be here to see it, taste it, feel it and celebrate it. Only that will banish my cynicism and set me aright. And I am sure that many feel the same.
I have been disgruntled for a very long time - so please can I have my gruntles back?
Of course the club being absolutely and totally professional about these things and fully understanding how damaged and traumatized we are by of our recent Villa experiences, have gone out and recruited some absolutely top local talent, to try and remedy this. A girl who knows how we feel and how us cynics need to be given a lesson in sweet dreams. Its a voice that addresses the child within us and which yearns to believe and hope once again. So all the way from Sutton Coldfield and to Villa cynics all over the world.
Here is her message to you:
And, I mean that most sincerely - I really do!
By the genius that is Steve Wade