There have been a number of reports about the “flaparratti” or “twitchers” – these are the extremist end of the bird watching fraternity. Members of this community whose sole aim seems to be to spot, record, document and brag about the number of bird species that they have observed. It is not clear what the point of this is – nothing comes of this activity, no wider good, or mutual benefit to others, socially, or otherwise.
Many people, although it does seem to be predominantly men, spend a good proportion of their time ( claiming to be busy) on what are generically referred to as hobbies. Hobby is a quite old-fashioned term, and does feel firmly stuck in the quaint Enid Blyton world of bright sunny days, and ginger-beer. A hobby is something a child does to fill in time between going to school, and encourages them to do something regardless of how pointless it is. The hard-core hobbies of yesteryear were typically stamp collecting, train-spotting, coin-collecting, card-collecting, bird-watching to name but a few. Hobbies which involve collecting something, or ticking off lists, is something of a double-whammy of pointlessness, and brings into question why people are deriving satisfaction from this, and why they feel that they want to commit their life to activities which have no obvious value to anyone other than to keep one’s personal “hamster-wheel” spinning round, and to waste personal time in between doing useful things.
I don’t doubt that the rationale for such behaviour is as a release from the stresses and strains of modern life, that it allows someone to relax and do something which is not too taxing, and more interesting to them. But what is this saying about people in the 21st Century where very intelligent people can put value to one side, jump into the “hamster wheel” and peddle aimlessly for hours at a time, in a completely selfish and self-indulgent act, where success is having collected a few more items, increased the size of a list, ticked a few more boxes, documented something that no one is interested in, removed a weed that will grow again etc. In these times we either have a surfeit of intellectual capacity which is being completely drained onto trivia, or the daily drudge of life is turning people into mindless zombies where a higher level of satisfaction is gained by an aimless pursuit.
In this circumstance is it a surprise that there is an increasing level of depression, suicide, mental health problems, stress, and sexual impotency deriving from long-term helplessness, and feeling of inadequacy. In a dystopian, Orwellian future, then this numbing of the spirit, and flaccidity of the proletariat, enables the people to be controlled – they will not have a sufficient cohesive spirit to come together to oppose the government and the establishment. A conspiracy theorist would suggest that this is what they want.
This is all rather far-fetched, you might say, and I, also might say. After all, if on a Saturday afternoon you were washing your car, mowing the lawn, counting your stamps, planting seeds, re-sequencing your coins etc, then you will be left alone, this is mainstream – go into the centre of the town and protest against spending cuts, police oppression etc then you are considered a malcontent who should be controlled, arrested, kettled…..or silenced….remember the lead-up to the Royal wedding?