11 January 2013
They're everywhere. Reposted on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Embroidered on cushions and wall hangings in every gift stand in every newsagent you see. Emblazoned on magnets stuck to the fridges of people you really didn't think were into that kind of thing. I'm talking about those twee motivational sayings. You've seen them. Misattributed "quotes", conveniently tagged with "anonymous", or simply without attribution at all, there they are in all their saccharine glory, intended to give us all a little lift in our busy, complicated modern lives:

"It is never too late to be that which you might have been"

"Never be afraid to be your true self"

"Life is a gift, be grateful for every moment"

"Never ever ever give up"

Back when I lived in Summer Hill, Sydney's capital of the twee little shop filled with lovely little overpriced things, one of the cutesy little emporiums had a blackboard outside where the owner (I assumed) would daily chalk up a fresh one of these stupid sayings. I was so often tempted to bring a piece of chalk and add my own coda. "Never give up on your dreams" - "So if you dream of ten year old boys, go for it!". I've been described many times as too cynical but am I the only one who finds these little sayings by turns insulting, nauseating, and pointless?  Imagine telling someone mourning a loss that they should be grateful for every moment. Or worse - they might actually motivate someone. A penniless young artist in early 20th century Europe considering just ending it all, when he passes a shop with a window display with a wall hanging saying "Never, never, never give up". So he draws strength, finally writes that book he's always been meaning to, and goes on to invade Czechoslovakia and slaughter millions of innocent people.

I've a somewhat irrational hatred for these things, along with pod coffee and people who say ATM machine (actually not all that irrational - I mean seriously, who spends $350 on a machine that lets them drink stale coffee that's been sitting on a pod on a shelf for a year?). The popularity of these sayings, with their down-home earthiness, is conversley symptomatic of our disposable, throw away, one-liner, rush to make everything simple modern culture (just like pod coffee machines! Okay, I'll stop now).  Look at what passes for political commentary these days. No need to actually study policy or do any research - just listen to the soundbites, choose a nickname and go from there. This upcoming election won't be decided on ALP or LNP policy - it will be Toxic Tony versus Juliar. Likewise, why bother taking the time to put in the hard work, time, and introspection needed for real personal growth - even worry is sometimes necessary, despite what the slogans say - when you can slap a motivational quote fashioned to look like a tram destination board up on the wall?


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