Thursday 27 January 2011
Julie Burchill: Say goodbye to the Enlightenment. We are living in the age of goatsuckers
They call him THE GOATSUCKER. Or rather they did. Because the chupacabra – a fearsome monster first spotted in 1995, who according to the Fortean Times, is the third most famous mythical beast after Bigfoot and Nessie (which sounds like an R&B producer duo about to open shop with Tinie Tempah) – has recently been revealed as a hoax by the other, smarter FT.
A sham. A fix. You don't say! But that would be the point – they DID say. Loads of them! Otherwise sensible, sane people started banging on about the goatsucker after one Madelyne Tolentino said that she glimpsed the aforementioned nanny-nibbler near her home in Puerto Rico more than 15 years ago.
Mad-Tol did a reasonable job of describing the capra-cruncher, it must be said. Eyes like fathomless pools of murky mercilessness that went right the way up to the hairline – check! Four feet tall, walked upright like a human but had only three fingers/toes at the end of each limb – get IN! No ears or nose, but a spiky back – back of the net! This single sighting of the goatsucker – a creature so named as it had the nasty habit of draining the life-fluid from our bearded mates, apparently on a whim – went straight into dozens of books and on to a whole bunch of websites as an actual fact.
Yes, there were inconsistencies. Mad-Tol joked with her mum about the chupacabra's lack of an anus. She didn't once panic – ladies like to do this, whether the issue is a spider in the bath or a football offside, I find. However, not only did none of these little niggles stop scribblers setting the spotting down as fact BUT – the ultimate heads-up – a "standard" image of the creature became available all over the world, drawn by one Jorge Martin.
You'd think the Fortean Times would get behind this type of super-luxe lunacy. But the account in the current issue shows such clear-eyed wisdom that it actually shows up the allegedly sensible – the Israel-hating, Muslim-sucking, organic-food-munching, global-warming-fearing Horrifieds of Hampstead – for the superstitious clowns they are.
"For the past 15 years, the chupacabra's origin has remained shrouded in history," writes the brilliant Benjamin Radford. "What, if anything, did Tolentino see? Was she lying, telling tall tales, or did she actually encounter some mysterious creature? Where did she come up with the detailed description? Scott Corrales has written that 'It is almost certain that the creature's origin will never be clearly established.' But" – continues Radford – "I will show that this pessimistic assessment was premature."
He goes on to show that the popular image of this legendary billy-bleeder was not a product of thousands of years of native rainforest wisdom but was actually based on SIL, THE ALIEN MONSTER, FROM THE SCI-FI FILM 'SPECIES'! It turns out Tolentino had been to see this very film – which opens, perhaps not un-coincidentally, with a scene set in Puerto Rico's Arecibo Radio Observatory – just a few weeks prior to her "encounter". "It would be a very good idea if you saw it," she told Radford when he mentioned the film to her. "I watched the movie and wondered 'My God! How can they make a movie like that, when these things are happening in Puerto Rico?'"
So. A woman goes to see a film, talks to a reporter and hey presto, izzy wizzy, let's get in a tizzy! Welcome to the Age Of Endarkenment.
It's weird to think now how important the Enlightment was. Life in the free world has become such a matter of ceaseless private striving towards an idea of perfection – as if! – that the very word itself sounds like some sort of bogus detox diet. But just reading about it on Wikipedia made me cry: "The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment) is the era in Western philosophy, intellectual, scientific and cultural life, centred upon the 18th century, in which reason was advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority. It is also known as the Age of Reason. Developing simultaneously in France, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the American colonies, the movement culminated in the Atlantic Revolutions, especially the success of the American Revolution, which resulted in independence from the British Empire. The authors of the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Polish-Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791, were motivated by Enlightenment principles... The Enlightenment was less a set of ideas than it was a set of values. At its core was a critical questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals, and a strong belief in rationality and science..."
But for some reason, we appear to be choosing Endarkenment, from teenage girls who are free to fuck when and who they want for the first time in history, cleaving to the Twilight chronicles, in which sex – SEX! – is seen as something so destructive that you have to become an UNDEAD to have it, to young Western-born Muslim men rejecting the common sense of their immigrant parents in order to blow themselves and others to bits in pursuit of some crazed cult of purity. It's people who won't recognise that human beings only add up to 2 per cent of global warning. It's ignorance posing as nobility.
We are all goatsuckers now, it would seem. Fortean Times, take us home to the Age of Reason!
Sexist TV sport presenters: it's a funny old subject
Much as it pains me to see both sides of any argument, my reaction to the Sian Masseygate fracas was: "It's a Gate of two halves." So on one hand of course I do believe that Andy Gray and Richard Keys are half-witted Neanderthals who should have their voting rights removed immediately, in the manner of lunatics and murderers.
BUT, on the other hand, what sort of milksop CARES about the opinions of said half-witted Neanderthals? Not only is Massey a ref, SHE LIVES WITH A REF! THAT MEANS SHE ENJOYS BEING HATED! I do too, so I feel that I have a vested interest here.
No offence, but I actually get a mild sexual charge when I read nasty comments about myself on this very paper's talkboard. I'm not suggesting for a moment that Sian Massey experiences the same frisson as I do when publically dissed. I'm just saying that there's a whole new generation of females whom it's actually quite hard to offend; imagine Rihanna having to leave the room because someone said "ruddy". And rather than wish our lovely young sisters back to the days of smelling salts and swooning, we should celebrate this evolutionary leap.
Mind you, another part of that leap is making men cry. So sack the stupid sods anyway, just for kicks!
Forget TripAdvisor: what we need is HolidaySexAdvisor
I'm writing this in a Tenerife hotel which I like so much that this is my eighth stay in three years. I know – CREEPY! But this being so, the current TripAdvisor fuss really rings a bell.
Basically, if you're not on holiday with a person you enjoy being with above all others, then even the Garden of Eden itself will seem a bit rubbish. I didn't ONCE leave the UK till I was 35, and it wasn't for fear of flying or due to xenophobia but because I didn't much fancy my first two husbands and I knew, for sure, that there would be NO EXCUSE not to have sex with them while away – a state of affairs completely reversed when I met my third husband 16 years ago.
I haven't stopped globe-trotting since. THAT'S why people persistently complain about their vacations, if you ask me. It's not about what's up for grabs – but who is.
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