Sunday, 24 April 2016
An Incident at the Louvre
There was an incident at the Louvre, last year. I'd taken my mother to Paris for her 70th birthday. It was her first visit. We stayed in a small apartment in the Marais, a former atelier, a beautiful little place, with a thin tin roof, on which the rain drummed crazily throughout the first night as if summoning the hot sun that rose the next day. We walked with slow steps along the Rue de Turbigo to the Louvre and my mother talked about how she never thought she’d see Paris, how my father never wanted to go there, how beautiful the city was... At the museum, when we got to the Mona Lisa room, I noticed an idiot who was taking photos of himself next to each painting with a so-called "selfie stick", a term I refuse to use. There are certain terms one should always refuse to use, like the idiotic "her majesty", which should also never be capitalised, referring to the nominal head of the Windsor clan. And likewise, though for very different reasons of course, "selfie" should never be used in so far as it is too cosy with the phenomenon it "describes", it makes it seem familiar and obvious when in fact it quintessentially moronic, the symptom of a largely undiagnosed disease, and this very term "selfie stick" ought properly to induce feelings of anger and depression. Therefore, for the purpose of the anecdote I will call it an ego pole, for these people who take 'selfies' are people who always have to be in the picture. The idea that the Mona Lisa or Big Ben or manifold other stereotypical 'attractions' might exist untagged by their gurning face is unthinkable, and incidentally the vanishing point of the image is not their own eye but the imagined eye of another audience, the audience of their so-called 'social media' page, which displays not the variety of their travels but the unerring and moronic repetition of their head with various backdrops - the Florence backdrop, the Paris backdrop, the Taj Mahal backdrop and to on. This reduction of the world to a backdrop for the grinning head is the essence of egoism, so that the term ‘ego pole’ has no bias whatever but is purely and economically descriptive, whereas the term "selfie stick" drags with it a whole culture, and winks indulgently at this culture, helping to legitimise what really should be attacked and ridiculed. And so, as I was guiding my mother through the swarm of people, the swarm of idiots clutching their ego poles, to see the Mona Lisa, it so happened that he, the idiot, visibly giddy, barged his way past my mother, elbowed her forcibly out of the way, so forcibly she scowled and released a muted "Ow!", which he didn't hear of course, scrambling for his photo opportunity, a scrambling technique he'd no doubt picked up at the Boxing Day sales. And as this kind of rudeness cannot go unchecked, the reciprocating elbow he received from me in the small of his back was considerably harder, and, accompanied by a swift backkick, it meant that he went down and stayed down, ego pole clattering to the floor, head swivelling around angrily, confused and undone. This was only one enemy casualty but nonetheless satisfying. Then, inconspicuously, and arm in arm with my frail oblivious mother, I strolled into the next room discussing art in the usual whispers.