Wouldn’t it be boring if everyone behaved much as you behave? If everyone expressed themselves similarly? Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say. Take the case of Torz Reynolds. You are almost certainly not called Torz and I would guess, too, that you count few people within your circle of friends who abide under that name. I don’t know where it comes from, Torz. A shortening of Victoria, I would guess, although it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that she was actually christened Torz, much as people these days are christened Jayden.
Anyway, that’s not the point. Torz, who is 26 and lives in London, decided that she should make a public expression of allegiance and affiliation to her boyfriend, and naturally enough she chose the medium of tattooing to effect this end. In a rather touching manner, then, she had the legend ‘Chopper’s Bitch’ inscribed on her arm in big letters, just below the elbow. And she wore it with pride. However, a little later, she became irked somewhat when she discovered that the eponymous Chopper was simultaneously and surreptitiously squiring another — perhaps similarly fragrant — young maiden around town. So she availed herself of a scalpel, or a razor, and sliced off the words ‘Chopper’s Bitch’ along with a fairly large proportion of her lower arm, wrapped the excised chunk of flesh in clingfilm and sent it to Chopper through the post. No, I don’t know how Chopper reacted. Chopper, sadly, has been unavailable for comment. But a heavily bandaged Torz observed: ‘At the end of the day it’s only skin and it will grow back.’ That’s what I mean — let a thousand flowers bloom.
And much as it is with Chopper and Torz, so it is with neknominations. This is, I suspect, something else from beyond your immediate field of experience. It is a social media craze, originating on Facebook and invented by a middle-class rugger bugger called Ross Samson who is now very desperately trying to disown the whole thing.
What happens is this. Imagine, for a moment, that you are the Archbishop of Canterbury. You film yourself downing a pint of lager in one gulp in an unusual location — at the bookies, maybe — and post the film online and then nominate two other people to emulate your feat. You choose the Reverend Vincent Nichols, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster; and, extending the multi-faith dialogue, the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. They now have to better your alcoholic stunt, perhaps by downing lager in one gulp, and then a bottle of vodka in one gulp, in an even weirder place — Finsbury Park Mosque, for example.
So far at least five people — none of them, so far as I am aware, senior religious figures — have died as a consequence of this game. The latest was Bradley Eames, aged 20, from Nottingham, who had been nominated to drink two pints of gin mixed with some teabags. He did the deed and then shortly afterwards complained of feeling ‘unwell’, which is exactly what he was. Because shortly after that he died.
The father of a previous victim of nek-nominations complained that the craze contained within it an element of peer pressure bullying, and was especially dangerous for this reason. I can see that. You can imagine, in my original scenario, the nastiness that might occur if, for example, the Chief Rabbi refused the neknomination from Archbishop Justin Welby, saying that it was stupid and adolescent. ‘That’s the Jews for you,’ unpleasant imbeciles might argue on social media sites, ‘all talk and no action. Can’t hold their drink. Over to you, Mohammed.’
Incidentally, Ross Samson, inventor of nek-nominations, is now apparently resident in the worst place in the world, Dubai. Good luck with your drinking games there, old chum. Ross, who plays rugby for London Scottish, has urged people to stop neknominations because of the inherent danger.
A week ago, a woman performed a nek-nomination in the middle of a Tesco store in Bishop Auckland. She drank a bottle of Pepsi Lite while sitting astride a large horse, to the consternation of ordinary people buying their horsemeat burgers. The Durham constabulary have since got involved.
Neknominations is not the first, nor will it be the last, dangerous craze associated with social networking sites. Not so long ago there was a craze called ‘Planking’. This involved morons lying flat on their backs in dangerous or unlikely locations, and it proved especially popular in Australia, where a young man died having ‘planked’ right on the edge of his seventh-floor balcony in Brisbane, although not for very long. I wondered at the time if this was God’s way of thinning out the Australian population a little, although this was maybe an uncharitable thought. But then there has also been owling, Batmanning, Vadering, gronking and teapotting. Of all these, neknominations is the most obviously dangerous: the internet plus alcohol plus narcissism — that’s a pretty lethal cocktail.
The charities and pressure groups have started their howling about this latest stupid craze, but they might as well howl at the moon. There is nothing some people will not do for a micro-second of fifth-division fame, and, along with pornography and short videos about kittens, that is the main purpose of the internet. To let people proclaim: I am! Shortly before dying.