This is a semi-serious mental health post, I suppose.
A while ago, I wrote about the Ministry of Propoganda, and how it is basically the best defence mechanism I have against total despair sometimes. It’s basically a very formulaic, very silly, version of CBT, but it does the job on the big, complicated problems.
Basically, you treat yourself as the Soviet States of You (and you must be Soviet, as in “united” and “federated” and “working together”) and, in a huge, stately building in your capital, in an architecture conducive to the furtherance of your united cause, there is an office. That office, with its high windows, clean lines, and richly-but-not-opulently appointed furnishings, houses the Ministry of Propoganda, a hand-picked team of the best playwrights, artists, medics, economists and engineers that you have to offer. And every last one of them knows that they’re going in the squid pit if they don’t get public opinion back on-side in a timely fashion after a disaster.
The note comes in, delivered by a rather stern looking military runner; “Percy has done fuck-all today, other than lie on his back reading pulpy historical fiction novels, in pyjamas that haven’t been changed in weeks. He had half a wank in the morning, then burst into tears because it hurt too much to complete. He’s eaten exactly one bourbon biscuit, three cans of relentless, and doesn’t think he’ll get to sleep until noon tomorrow. Also, he’s refusing to talk to anyone, and claims they’re all exhausting and ‘pointless sheddy-haired bastards’. He feels like shit.”
First, the playwright speaks up;
“But what did he need to do today? In the ideal situation, what was the agenda for the day?”
The military man flips through the stack of papers, and reads the list; “Laundry. Sew some pockets into a pair of trousers. Go to the shops for food. Talk to Best Friend about going somewhere on the train.” he coughs, then says “Frankly, ma’am, he has fucked up on every front.”
The playwright arches an eyebrow, and carefully lights a cheroot. The medic speaks up;
“Well, from my point of view, that’s all by the by. He’s done well, in that he’s prioritised his health over everything else. Look at the evidence – Hasn’t injured himself by trying to get out of bed, hasn’t even over-taxed himself by doing the fun things that he wants to do, if they’re painful. Stopping mid-wank because something unrelated hurt? That’s some amazing willpower. And he’s done what he can with the resources available to keep hydrated and fed, whilst acknowledging that, in not doing much today, he didn’t need the calories of a full meal.”
Then the economist joins in;
“It’s good that he didn’t go to the shops either, because in this kind of state he’d end up buying all sorts of inappropriate stuff. You know how he gets when he’s hungry and in pain, just loads up on pomegranates and expensive pop, and empties the budget for the week. Staying indoors stopped him from financially wrecking us. Likewise, if he’d done the laundry, never mind injuring himself, he’d probably have shrank everything. And sewn the pockets on upside-down and got frustrated, and never finished the trousers because of being so annoyed with himself. Definitely a good thing that he didn’t try to do that today either.”
The playwright puts down her cheroot for a second and says;
“He’s recognised that he’s not very good company in this state too, which means that in not going out, he’s preserving his friendship with his best friend – They only have so much time together, and they both prefer it to be when he’s well. So it’s a painful, but economical, decision not to speak to him today. And this means that he rationally knows that he’s just being hateful for no reason, which is a good bit of insight. And if he had tried to make plans to go somewhere on a train today, they’d have been so conservative and timid that they’d be useless, and need to be done again when he’s feeling more confident. So he knew not to waste everyone’s time there.”
The engineer chimes in;
“Economical is a good word for the whole day, really. He’s recognised that it’s not going to be a ‘good’ day, so has completely stripped down the resources used to a minimum – Not wasted a clean set of clothes, when he’s going to be in bed anyway, not cooked something fancy when he won’t appreciate it. Has identified the safest way possible of making the whole day have the least impact possible. Artist – You can turn this into a poster, right?”
And the artist looks up from her drawing of the Great Leader, looking wounded but surrounded by the heroes of myth, into which the official statement will be superimposed and says;
“Yep, I’ve got that.”
The playwright drops her cheroot into the ashtray, picks up her own clipboard onto which she has been writing the whole time, and takes it over to the military runner.
“Here,” she says, taking his notes from him and ripping them in half. “Take this to the pritners’ office and have it distributed to all public message boards.”
He reads the statement;
“Yesterday, our wise leader chose to weather extreme hardship by operating at the absolute minimum tolerated level. By remaining inactive and forgoing social contact, he has prevented the Body from being damaged in ways which could take weeks to recover from. Although yesterday was a trying, painful time, leavened as well as possible with entertainment suitable for such a crisis, by our actions we have preserved our physical, social and economic integrity, to allow for greater prosperity in future.”
As he’s walking down the corridor, he thinks about it. Utter bollocks, obviously. He reads it again in the lift, and tries to remember what his original notes said. Something about being a fuck-up? He reads it again. No, it couldn’t have been – That was a series of very good decisions.
By the time it’s at the printers, he’d forgotten the original note existed at all.