According to the Oxford dictionary of Advanced learning this the definition of the word Dweeb :
‘A person, especially a boy or a man, who does not have good social skills and is not fashionable’
When it comes to magicians this word always seems, to me at least, to be mightily appropriate. I have never met, watched, spent time with or endured a magician farting about with a load of hokey old props and crappy one liners and not thought…well…’Dweeb!’
I just cannot fathom their appeal, and here is why:
Firstly, its not magic. You know that, right? You do actually realise that what they are doing is not magical, sorcery or any sort of otherworldly hocus pocus. The card is either up their sleeve or sewn into a secret pocket. The rabbit was under the hat in the table all along. The car doesn’t disappear! There’s a trap door or a mirror that, when angled appropriately, disguises your view of the vehicle. The lovely assistant is a twin or has an escape route disguised by a curtain. And so on, and so on, and so on…. Now that we have all agreed to that…why the bloody hell do we call it magic? There is even a clue in the longer term…magic trick! Your being tricked and applauding the Dweeb for it!!
Secondly, and this is the bit I really don’t get, why do people in places like Las Vegas or on a cruise, pack a theatre out to watch someone piss about with a cliché ridden act, simultaneously buying into their notion that the magician is somehow spookily gifted? The theatre is, in an act of mass self-denial, full of people who are happy to pay money to watch someone lie to them, and they know that they are being lied to…because it’s not magic!!!! And they pay!!! And they clap!!!
And thirdly… and this is the killer for me, think about how long it took them to learn how to make a ping pong ball emerge from your wife’s ear. The accepted wisdom is that it takes ten thousand hours to become unconsciously excellent at something. Ten thousand hours. That’s 416.667 days. 59.5231 weeks. 13.69862 months. 1.141553 years. All that time, and this Dweeb you’re paying money to watch decided to spend all of that precious, time learning how to make a £20 note you wrote your name on and then tore up, appear back in your wallet minutes later. That was how they chose to spend their life force. And you applaud?
In terms of history, magicians have a long and varied ancestry. They are the natural modern descendants of the so-called entertainers and sideshow artists of yore. Court Jesters who pranced and sang to amuse a King or Queen. Mummers and Players who put on plays to titillate the masses at the foot of the guillotine. Snake Oil Salesmen who bantered and badinaged their way from Sate Fair to Village Market beguiling the people with stories of cure-alls and miracles.
But look closer.
Court Jesters only made fun of the people that the King or Queen despised or mistrusted, ready to say anything however untrue to get the Monarch’s approval. Mummers and players enchanted audiences by pretending to be someone or something they are not, lying for a living. Snake oil couldn’t clean your eyeglasses much less cure your tuberculosis, but the salesmen still promised as much. And then there are the magicians. Lying to you with the help of your complicity and willingness to watch the hand they want you to watch while the other sets the ruse.
Even the term for that ‘watch one hand while the other does the work’ is misleading. Everyone thinks it is ‘slight of hand’ but the word is actually ‘sleight of hand’. Even the language is pretending to be something it isn’t!!
Now at this point you might be thinking to yourself… ‘bit harsh there Marley’ but let me extend my point one last time and perhaps you’ll see where my disdain and ranty dislike comes from.
There is another breed in our society that treats us in the same way that magicians do. And a great deal of us react to this other lot in exactly the same way. By indulging them, by excusing them, by blindly taking their bait. And I would argue that this other breed has as much in common with the Jesters, Mummers and Snake oil merchants as magicians do. Who are they?
Politicians…especially our current crop.
We let them lie to us. We let them wriggle off the hook. We let them obfuscate fact and paste over it with fiction the likes of which even a child might question. In our current, post-truth age, many of us are not only drinking the kool-aid, but we are positively thirsting for it. Polticians answer questions with either more questions or platitudes, or with sentences that go in so many circles you could be excused for mistaking them for an Olympic logo.
When journalists harry them or press for an honest, or simply cogent, answer they are accused of being rottweilers and fake news and biased or pathetic. And we buy into it. We sit there, swallowing their logic and make it part of the background noise of our conversations with friends, or use it as a filter when we read a newspaper report. And worse still we use their logic to begin to transform our own opinions, our own judgements.
Listening to a Boris Johnson speech on how to save a nation from a pandemic is tantamount to believing that the car did actually disappear. Buying Donald Trump’s ‘Hocus Potus’ logic that staying at home to save lives to claim it is actually an attack on the ‘American Way’ is akin to thinking that the ping pong ball just teleported into your wife’s head.
And we sit there and applaud. We indulge it. We give it power and life and credence.
So, the next time someone says to me ‘pick a card, any card’ or is claiming to have the ‘best interests of the nation at heart’ rest assured my reply will always be this:
‘Izzy whizzy, why don’t you get busy pissing off out of my sight.’