A Question Mark Hanging Over All Of Us

Let me say at the outset, I’m not a fan.  Questions don’t belong on billboards, not ever.  As hapless commuters whiz past, they’re confronted with a demand for an answer but without any opportunity to supply it. Such is the nature of traffic. There’s barely enough time to absorb the question, much less cogitate and produce an answer of any value. It’s simply unfair on everyone. But this billboard was especially heinous.  

It was bright yellow with big black text ALL IN UPPER CASE WHICH IS VERY, VERY ANNOYING.  The billboard seemed to be questioning the need for lockdowns or vaccinations or both in combination when it’s still possible to contract and pass on Covid.  Or something like that.  There may have been a gratuitous aside about winged monkeys or a complaint that cereal boxes rarely come with free toys anymore, I can’t really remember – it all happened so quickly.  And whilst there’s a very simple answer to the billboard’s Covid question (‘Because science’ springs to mind), the banal nature of the enquiry was only one of its problems.

There was way too much text on the billboard.  It was as though someone had vomited random words that had then been put on display as a warning to others against the dangers of drinking seawater. Or similar.  There were words all over the place. The first chapter of ‘Lolita’ has fewer words than this obnoxious billboard.  It was the advertising equivalent of using a loudhailer to scream at the moon whilst pushing a shopping trolley. It read like something you’d expect someone to mutter under their breath as they wrap themselves in a space blanket shortly before smearing their body with peanut butter as a protection against the wrath of the sun god.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.  For all that text and all that UPPER CASE screaming, the question lacked one, fundamental thing. A question mark.  It’s one thing to deny Covid.  It’s another thing completely to deny the need for punctuation.  Somewhat ironically it begs the question; what kind of deranged non-punctuating pervert leaves a question mark off the end of a question?  (See what I did there?  I put a question mark at the end of my question.  Granted, the author of that pitiful billboard would consider that showing off, but there are standards to uphold.)

Brace yourself – here’s where it gets super dodgy.  This catastrophic upper case, punctuation-denying piece of anti-science word vomit bore the name of a political party.  The name of that political party featured the words ‘United’ and ‘Australia’ right next together without even a hint of irony.  How odd it is that such a divisive statement should come from someone who declares themselves interested in unity. Clearly, abandoning question marks is the least of their problems.  Any organization who misapprehends the meaning of the term ‘united’ is going to struggle with even the most basic medical advice, starting from ‘don’t stick a knife in an electrical socket’ right through to ‘don’t inject yourself with bleach to ward off coronavirus’.

We’ve come so far and given up so much to get here.  Billboards like this from people who struggle with basic sentence structure are more a form of heckling than anything else.  Indeed, the billboard could just as easily have featured a hand with a single raised finger and communicated much the same sentiment with the added bonus of not having offended the laws of grammar.

It must be said that there are quite a few interstate politicians who seem to be making these kinds of noises. Mostly, they come from parts of the country that have been relatively unscathed by the pandemic.  They’ve given up little, when compared to everyone here.  My only hope is that they don’t start turning up here in an ill-fated attempt to capitalize on people’s frustrations.  On the plus side, though, they won’t need to catch a plane to get here; having clearly decided to do all their travelling by bandwagon from this point on.

I was talking to a friend of mine who’d received multiple text messages from a particular politician spouting sentiments that they, no doubt, believe are billboard worthy.  She found it distressing and I think it’s understandable.  There’s something awful about being told by someone that everything you’ve endured or sacrificed over the past two years was for nothing.  To have someone attack that sense of consensus is upsetting.  I honestly believe they don’t know how much harm they’re doing. 

I have a question of my own. Should people who defy the laws of grammar be permitted to run for high office?  The answer, of course, is ‘no’ but that’s unlikely to deter them from doing so.  Enough’s enough.  I’m going to get myself a big old bucket of paint and put that question mark at the end of the billboard myself.  And, while I’m there, delete the word ‘United’ – which I’m beginning to think may be a simple spelling error – and replace it with ‘Untied’.  That would make more sense.  If those responsible for the billboard are reading this – assuming you can, in fact, read; consider replacing the billboard with a mirror and take a long, hard look at yourselves.  Just saying.