WHAT AM I? (A RIDDLE)

By Ian Francis

It is recognised universally in every language, it is a pre-requisite, it is a feeling and it is an emotion.

It is very often threatened and wilfully ignored. It can be killed, It can be revived. It arrives on a favourable wind,and it can be ousted by a storm. It is engineered it is revered. It can be a trap and it can be feared. It is an omnipresent or it is waiting, there for you when exiled.

It is recognised by every law that is written and obeyed with reverence by everything of the natural world. It is Ying and often Yang It can be in disguise, a surprise , out and proud or incognito. It is a right, often mistaken, unrecognised, misunderstood or realised but never underestimated or should, ever be taken for granted.

We covet it and we fiercely protect our laws that give us our rights to it but, we cannot own it. It can be offered by strangers and accepted by fools.

It can be a prayer, or a ruse in a plot, a word welcomed universally by everyone and stolen by a few. It is of such importance , it applies to the physical attributes as it does to the literal and metaphoric.

It’s use in regulation is totally over the top, sometimes overbearing, a bottomless pit a never ending list or annoyingly simple, nevertheless, it is so often taken for granted.It is above all transient and fickle but that is not its fault, it can often be a riddle but it cannot blame itself .

It can catch us If we fall but we cannot catch it out

The debated meaning of this word some have said “divine: could go on forever, I hope it does, it isn’t mine to play with. It is not a toy, but the children are crying out for it.

We must ensure it is with THEM at all times, every time, without fail. this is important. It is also important to know, that when they grow up into kind human beings, thanks to you, you might never be thanked for it, in which case I would suggest you get over it, that’s life!

To my mind it is a fine attribute and one that I personally now realise is sublime and awe inspiring, and food for a LOT of thoughts about a lot of things.I shall pay more attention to it in the future, it is important to me.

..And the Answer is

SAFE

Safe.. the word, is more powerful than I had ever thought. However like any word I suppose, the more you say it and the more you hear it the less it means,

Or does it?

Laurence Olivier made great use of this concept as the Nazi War Criminal Zell in John Schlesinger’s magnificent 1976 Film “Marathon Man” where he repeats the same question “Is it safe” to a kidnapped and exhausted Dustin Hoffman brought in for interrogation.

Gradually, with this clever ‘device’ of repetition , the same line spoken softly over and over again , the scene begins to take on a much more insidious even sinister and malignant feel. As an audience we are becoming aware of an anxiety taking hold of us, just as Hoffmann’s character is trying desperately to give an answer, any answer, to stop the torture, both for him and for us

William Goldman who’s novel it is, and who subsequently wrote the film’s screenplay, is responsible, and the man to thank, for probably the simplest and yet one of the most nerve jangling, and psychologically damaging scenes to inflict upon an unwitting audience in cinema history. But as a gifted writer he knew how effective the minimisation of the dialogue could be, given to the right actors, and how eventually terrifying, those three small words would become.

So I looked up the word ‘safe’ and frankly I was astounded, and, as a result in hindsight ,I now think that Goldman had been more than clever with the way he had used “safe” and it’s positioning in the very ‘unsafe’ scenario he had constructed in his book.

He had used the word quite deliberately but even more profoundly. He knew the word had hidden depths of important linguistic and social implications that far oureached the mundane and general everday usage by ordinary folk in a singular capacity. It was only when it was used in a mass hypnotic or similar mass subject NLP invoked situation that the word and its true colours and concepts began to shine.

(NLP by the way stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming and is a pseudo scientific approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California in the 70’s . Its Creators claim there is a connection between neurological processes in the brain and language particularly in the repetition of certain phrase or phrases that connect with behavioral patterns learned through experience, for example advertising uses NLP a lot to make us buy things without knowing it.

Derren Brown the magnificent Mentalist has used a form of NLP in many of his live shows and on Channel 4. Who can forget the shooting of Stephen Fry and “Pushing the Boss off the Roof” (which some of the featured subjects actually did) whilst under the influence of this very powerful process or was it just the sheer seductive charm of Mr Brown.

SO have a think for a moment before you read on and ask yourself this one question. What does the meaning of the word “safe” and all of its derivatives mean to you.

Safe (Adj.[seuf]

To me, It is a word of many meanings and once I got started i couldn’t stop and thats when the idea of the riddle came to me.

I’m convinced that EVERY LIVING ENTITY holds a much desired longing for Safety.

We Humans are no exception and science tells us that it is at the core of our existence. We carry an inbuilt DNA driven code embedded within us which, once it starts to growl we cannot ignore.

Safety is in the back of our minds every minute of every day, and our bodies are on standby , even when we sleep, to alert us if our subconscious smells anything untoward or if our intuition combined with that sixth sense we all have in some form or another, sets off an alarm so loud within us we are at instant attention and alert

Our brains have already taken the precaution of flooding the central nervous system with a special pre metabolised mix of the strongest adrenalin this side of the ‘Saw’ Franchise, and supplemented it with with other herbs and secretions that were we to be given it at the same dosage in any normal situation it would almost certainly be grounds for a visit to the A&E for observation.

The Human Being has a constant need or yearning for it’s own safety, the safety of its immediate family and protection from harm by safe havens and safety precautions.

General association of course does this word no justice at all , phrases such as Free from danger or the risk of harm. A safe place. Fail safe. Harmless .Riskl-ess. Safe and Sound. Secure. 2. (Of an undertaking) secure from risk. Unadventurous.

Or … Jiffy (“You can’t put a better bit of rubber in your wife”) Condom safe. )

That charming quip actually won a competition to find the best tag for Jiffy Condoms but was disqualified at the Editors desk as it resembled far too much the tag line at the time , for a certain low fat butter spread .

A pre- requisite on the Show Budget from now on. and any forward thinking, clever, original ideas from Creatives ,Writer’s, Directors and Performers will be quashed before the neurons in their brains have even thought about firing.

It’s not going to be “On Brand” anymore, it’ll just be illegal, if it isn’t.

As Walt Disney was once overheard yelling in a broad distinctive New York drawl… ( in response to a couple of writer’s suggestions that Mickey could perhaps be a little more satirical ) “Don’t Fuck wi Da Mouse”!

Ergo : The more we rely on data. the safer our unpublished ideas and comedy gold moments. will become. Look at what’s happened over the last two years, How safe have we all been made to feel by this government’s “Covid Security Implementation Strategy” and their “Top of the Tier Safety Accomplishments.?”

Not bad I suppose , they did somehow manage to get us, all , mostly ALONE as was the requirement and in our homes by 8:30 pm on that spooky first night of lockdown.(or was that a crafty bit of NLP that was going on?) Either way it was the beginning for many, it would now appear, of a significant world wide decline in mental health

HOWEVER, One thought, one question kept on coming to me then, on those long, oxygen rich, open window evenings, and still it pops up now, without a reasonable explanation, I doubt very much if it will ever have an explanation actually so I’ll just keep asking it , you never know, here goes:

“Why didn’t we stop the world forty years ago when gay men in their hundreds of thousands were dropping like flies due to a similar, as then un-known virus, causing breathing difficulties and culminating in pneumonia and death within weeks of exposure. Why didn’t we go for the Lockdowns and the self isolations and the social distancing protocols then? What was the fundamental difference between then and now ?”Was It really Unknown?

I know, I’m going to apologise for posing five questions out of a promised one , but I’m damned If I’m going to apologise for a question that should have been answered long before we got to to the Fucking Covid Years.

I’ve really tried to search for an answer to this and can’t find one that makes any sense without sounding sarcastic or going for the obvious. Back then it was supposedly unknown and brand new like Covid 19“Totally Unknown” and this terrible disease (I had almost concluded to myself in trying to find some kind of closure to the many theories and explanations and hypothesis around at the time) had really taken us by surprise and we REALLY DID NOT know what this thing was that had hit the gay communities with such virilance and life threatening force.

You see and now the sarcastic bit, perhaps back then, hard core raw data just wasn’t as reliable as say, The Sun or The Daily Mail’s seemingly divine information that was fed to us on a daily basis . What could possibly have been their motives, I STILL wonder. And how strange that global institutions, governments , and health organisations were quite happy not to intervene at all, in what we now know to be the worst kind of blatantly vitriolic. malicious, racist, homophobic, scare-mongering propaganda ever seen against minorities in the Twentieth Century and still now into the Twenty First.

So shameful and so brutal was this assault , “A right good kicking while we were down” noted one observer, and being spread so thickly and ingraining belief out of fear in, and indoctrination of and to the masses by these publications, It defies belief they are still in print today. STOP PRESS (!)

Every Human right that could be broken was broken during the reign of THAT particular Novel Virus , although I cannot remember it being given that particular distinction even when it was given its (still confusing to this day) medical identification of AIDS (Aquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome)which was infact a symptom, and inevitable cause of death of the HIV Virus, and not its cause, as is sometimes maintained.

It’s such a shame, we might have had an earlier breakthrough in treatment had we known that this lot were in the way. It makes me SO angry sometimes I want to cry, and know why, we have stopped in our quest to bring these so called editors to justice and not thrown the key away to their cells, but maybe this is a different blog, at another time? Note to self.)I’ll think on, as I hope do you gentle reader.

Ian Francis

May 2022

formerley published as A ridul wot i rote

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Ian Francis

Ian Francis

Ian is a filmmaker and editor His latest short film “METAPHOR” is soon to be premiered on YouTube on his channel PRIMUS FILMS CHANNEL 1 UK Subscribe now.