On many occasions in my life I have had a friend with a Depressing Ongoing Problem. You know the kind of thing. A boyfriend who is essentially a shit, an ex they can’t keep away from, a job they hate but won’t change and so on. Hours of time, litres of cheap wine and gallons of oxygen have been spent on such woes. Why not take up yoga and feel better about yourself so you won’t tolerate this bastard? What about table tennis? Is your tendency to keep having sex with this person undermining your message that the relationship is over? Do you need this job or would it be possible to do one which earned you less money and not need to buy all the stuff you feel you need to buy because you are so damn miserable? But then after you have gained half a stone and are suffering from chronic nightmares from sitting up eating stilton and drowning in shiraz with these people the truth suddenly hits you, none of it is any use. You are giving the wise counsel you think they need to be happy, but that is of no interest to them. They are intent in perpetuating their own misery for as long as possible. That is why they stay with a scumbag, sleep with their ex, persevere with an awful job etc, because they don’t want you and your table tennis and your healthy relationships and your low-cost contentment.
And this (brace yourself, big leap here) is what I think is happening with Independence. Or rather what isn’t happening. So often there are campaigns and movements which complain that ‘this is rubbish’ and ‘we are miserable’, but when the potential solutions are spelled out an awful lot of people say no, actually, we don’t want to be happy. Some of us would like to perpetuate this misery because we are doing rather well out of it thank you. We make a fortune helping sad people to gamble and drink themselves into oblivion, and then selling them medication to sooth their broken hearts, or soft furnishings and junk food and glitzy gadgets and just about anything that will help them fill the great big void inside themselves. There are others who will say no, we must remain miserable because we are in the very privileged position of having been making ourselves miserable in the same ways for centuries, and if we stop for one second to question the structures and systems through which we have been doing so the whole sky will quite simply fall in. And many more who say no, thank you, but we have always been victims, things have always been crap, and we look up to our oppressors like brainwashed infants looking up to their abusive parents unquestioningly. This is our safe place; we are not ready for anything different. Or somewhere along the line we just got so ground down we gave up believing things could be better.
But thankfully what is clearly emerging is a disparate body of people who are ready to say yes, actually, we would like things to be different. We have the courage to break away from the security of victimhood, the familiarity of history, the comfort of denial. We welcome independence with all its scariness, uncertainty and adventure. We are brave enough for healthy relationships, good self-esteem and table tennis. We are ready to be happy.