ROOM 102: ALAN BAXTER

Alan Baxter is a Ditmar Award-nominated British-Australian author living on the south coast of NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, SF and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He is the author of the contemporary dark fantasy thriller novels, RealmShift and MageSign, and over 40 short stories which have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror. Alan is also a freelance writer, penning reviews, feature articles and opinion. He’s a contributing editor and co-founder at Thirteen O’Clock, Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews, and co-hosts Thrillercast, a thriller and genre fiction podcast. He’s also a hell of a drinker and a damn funny drinking companion, as I discovered at the last Swancon I attended. You can read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything, he says. I recommend #beetrootanal

When Lee asked me to contribute to this series of guest posts, my first thought was, “How can I pick just one or two things? Everything fucking annoys me!” But I decided to consider it a challenge. 

 I was impressed by Brian Logan’s post about chucking passivity into the chasm of nothingness. Impressed and annoyed, because it meant I couldn’t use that one. But I’ve ended up settling on two things that are related to each other and also tangentially related to Brian’s post. 

 The two things I’d remove from the Universe and consign to a fate worse than death are Lack Of Personal Responsibility and Pandering To The Lowest Common Denominator. 

 You know when you read about someone who was walking along one night and fell into a construction workers’ hole and broke their leg? And the hole was surrounded by tape and a big fucking sign saying, “DANGER! HOLE!”? And that idiot is suing the council for compensation for his injuries? Yeah, that. Let’s call him Bob The Fucking Problem. You know what, Bob The Fucking Problem? 

Take some personal responsibility for your life and your actions. You fell in a hole because you weren’t looking where you were going. That’s your fault. Suck it up princess, the world can be full of ambushes you don’t expect and they can happen to anyone. When they happen to you, don’t immediately look for someone to blame. Blame culture is despicable and it affects everyone. 

 How does it affect everyone? Remember the second thing I mentioned, about pandering to the lowest common denominator? That’s often a direct result of the blame culture. Because Bob The Fucking Problem is likely to sue the council because he was stupid enough to fall into a hole, we all have to cross the street because the entire pavement is now closed on one side. Because if people can’t be trusted to avoid a hole and, should they fuck up and fall in, they can’t be trusted to accept responsibility, we ALL have to cross the road and go nowhere near the hole. In other words, we all get treated like children because of Bob The Fucking Problem and his ilk, which means the fucking idiots set the bar for the rest of us. They refuse to take responsibility for their own lives, assuming everything that happens to them has to be someone’s fault. And then council and business and everyone else panders to their dumbass level of idiocy and we all suffer. 

 There are plenty of other examples, too, not just the falling in a hole thing. There are all kinds of places where people need to take responsibility and not look for escape clauses. 

 You say something stupid? Don’t blame others for not “getting the joke”. Suck it up and say, “Sorry, that was insensitive.” 

 You clip someone’s car in a car park? Be honest and own that shit. Leave a note with an apology and your number. You fucked up, so accept it. 

 Train your dog and be a responsible pet owner. Don’t expect other people to make allowances for your lazy-ass. Because then the councils step in and enforce all kinds of draconian pet ownership laws that make life shitty for all of us good dog owners and our dogs. 

 You got drunk and fell on your face in the pub toilet because the floor was wet and your ability to recognise “upright” had gone to fairyland? Don’t blame the landlord, blame your intolerance for alcohol or your inability to know when you’ve had enough and should take your drunk arse home. (And take a motherfucking taxi, don’t drive drunk you irresponsible arsemonkey.) 

 I could go on and on. Ask my wife – I often do go on and on and on… 

 Basically, in every aspect of your life, stop and think about how what you’re doing might affect others. Is it going to inconvenience or potentially hurt someone else? Then don’t do it. It’s not all about you, however much you might like it to be. If you do accidentally do something that has an adverse affect on someone else, apologise, make amends, take responsibility for it. That’s the other side of personal responsibility. It’s just as important as not looking for someone to blame for every little thing that might cause you a moment of discomfort, or even a lifetime of hassle. Then we have a society that takes care of itself, without the need for a nanny-state government. 

 We all want to go through life without complications. When things bugger up our peaceful existence, we’re offended and we want to strike out and make someone suffer, or find a way to make it better and someone out there must be responsible and, being responsible, they have to fix it for us. 

 You know what? Life is not a safe and comfortable ride on a fluffy cloud, where nothing bad ever happens. Life is red in tooth and claw, life is unfair, horrible things happen all the time. Sure, we can do our best to minimise risk and we can introduce some laws and methods to keep society a friendly and balanced place for everyone. Sure, sometimes a person or an entity is negligent and caused the problem. There are already methods in place to deal with that. There comes a time when we have to say, “No more laws! No more licences and permissions and committees!” 

 If something bad happens to you, instead of immediately screeching about how SOMEONE must be to BLAME because a bad thing happened, perhaps take a moment to think about what culpability you might have had in it. Did you not pay attention? Did you act like a dickhead? And if you didn’t, and it was just terrible bad luck, then perhaps you need to suck that up, because more often than not, there isn’t someone else to blame. It’s just shitty old life happening to you. And by desperately searching for someone to blame, by refusing to accept it and say, “My bad! Sorry. Wasn’t looking where I was going!” or “Well, fuck me, that was a terrible piece of luck!” you end up triggering further lowering of the bar for EVERYONE! Same as when you cause a problem. Don’t sneak off and hope you’ll get away with it. Don’t be a twat and know no one will call you on it (because I fucking will). Then you just trigger more nannying from the powers that be, because you’re proving the populace can’t be trusted to be decent. 

 Then there are more rules and more licences and more fucking committees trying to decide how best to protect us next. Which is the last shitting thing we need. And, on top of that, the people who really need help and compensation will suffer because every claim is treated with suspicion. Every incident is analysed, every insurance premium goes up and every bar is lowered. 

 Life: It isn’t fair, so keep your eyes open and don’t expect everyone else to hold your fucking hand.

There we go, folks. The list continues to build. And is it not a fine world we’re building for ourselves?

Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry
Alan Baxter
Lack of personal responsibility
Pandering to the lowest common denominator

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