The British Have a Secret

A few years ago, I found myself in a girlfriend’s passenger seat while her father leaned into my open window and explained the meaning of life through the lens of a Puerto Rican philosophy. The Puerto Ricans, it seems, have a philosophy that translates to, “Don’t worry; f*ck it!”

You see, I was taking some Xanax-style “medication” at that time and I had had an inexplicable panic-attack in the middle of our date (while playing Wii tennis, as a matter of fact). Don’t act like you’re too-cool, a lot of people take Xanax-style medications, though I don’t recommend it.

And let’s not even worry about why I had the panic attack. The point is that people from The States are really good at some things and not so good at others. In the US, we’re raised to be really good at taking chances, and ‘going-for-it,’ but we’re not so good at managing stress. As a consequence, I’ve been doing a little undercover interviewing of different cultures, trying to figure out how they’ve figured it all out.

Right now, people tend to think of others as belonging to one of two camps: this one’s a business-type-guy, this one’s an artist. But, if the internet is proving anything, it’s proving that people have to have both these qualities. A lot of the panic and anxiety that people suffer from is a result of trying to negotiate a deal between an individual’s inner Artist and their inner Businessperson. The Artist makes no comprises. The Businessperson will compromise until there’s nothing left. The Artist lets everything in to give everything its fair consideration.

The Businessperson is only considered with one thing and is comparatively dense. And that’s what people recommend with anyone trying to set themselves out on the world’s stage: “You gotta be a businessperson; you’ve gotta have a thick skin.” But a thick skin represents a quick and certain death to The Artist. If one closes oneself off with a “thick skin,” one closes oneself off to all the possibilities of the world.

So, the “thick skin” metaphor is faulty. It doesn’t allow the Artist/Businessperson enough flexibility. Words, on the other hand, offer infinite flexibility. So, like I was saying, I’ve been interviewing cultures for the secret phrase that will allow an Artist/Businessperson to do what they need to do.

And it occurred to me that I’ve encountered a number of British people throughout my personal life and throughout my careers. They have this one particular phrase that seems to stick with me: “I can’t be bothered with that.” When I was in Indianapolis, working for Rolls-Royce, I overheard that statement a lot. And the British worked less than us over in the States.

It was their company.

They must have some sort of secret. I’ll let ya’ll in on the secret too!

You see, there are really two types of violence in the world: physical and rhetorical. Rhetoric, of course, is persuasive communication that consists of logic, emotion and ethics. The problem is that, with both physical and rhetorical violence, people perform these acts without any concern for their consequences. The carelessness of violence is really what most defines violence. There are a lot of people out there who are hurting so bad that they don’t really care one bit of the effects of their communications.

The genius of the “I can’t be bothered” phrase is really the word “can’t.” Can’t is a very limiting word and, in this phrase, one is choosing to direct the limitations of this word away from oneself and onto one’s detractors.

It’s also helpful to imagine writing down the list in one’s mind’s eye on a notepad. Yes, there’s a long list of things that I can’t be bothered with but I don’t bother to try to remember them. I write them down on my notepad and I let that notepad sink down, out of sight, out of my conscious thoughts. And, if that doesn’t work, “F*ck It.”

About davidwallacefleming

David Wallace Fleming is a U.S. writer, living in Austin, Texas. He is the author of the coming-of-age, social media novel GROWING UP WIRED, and the satirical science fiction audiobook, NOT FROM CONCENTRATE.
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2 Responses to The British Have a Secret

  1. Guilie says:

    Interesting ideas, David. Violence as a result of carelessness–I like it. Has that fine-metal ring of truth. What most caught my attention, though, was the cultural comparisons. There’s a mine of knowledge there. How do some cultures do it? How do they achieve a better life balance? And how, exactly, do we (as individuals, as members of a certain culture) define “better”? In Mexico, where I grew up, the go-getter attitude of Americans is as admired as it’s incomprehensible. In Europe the trend is to copy Latin American laissez-faire. In Asia productivity equals honor, and honor rules life. Is there a way to acquire new values at a cultural, not just individual, level? Would we want to? What would be the price?

    • Hopefully, cultural values will change naturally as a response to the different challenges that threaten the world’s stability. I just really try to focus on making a compelling case for the individual because convincing a single person of something is the first step in larger, collective changes.

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