If the suddenly-famous 'Bunnings Karen' didn't exist, would it have been necessary to invent her?
Ever since Voltaire made his famous observation that "If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him", others have been applying the idea to mere mortals.
Instinctively I find myself doing it with Bunnings Karen, the instantly legendary anti-mask zealot the nation is loving to hate. A celebrity villain is born.
Elsewhere one of my favourite contrary columnists, Theodore Dalrymple, has written of a breathtakingly militant and contrary UK commentator-activist, "If Katie Hopkins did not exist, it would be necessary to invent her."
Dalrymple sees her as a "courageous mocker of current political pieties" that really must be properly mocked if society is to remain sane.
Voltaire's point was that we poor creatures born to die have a felt emotional need, to give meaning to our lives, for a God-shaped supernatural Something.
Bunnings Karen is not a God-sized phenomenon. And yet her much-reported behaviour at Bunnings in monstering a mild-mannered Bunnings employee is meeting a strongly felt (if largely subconscious) present need (for we are all angry and scared) for scapegoats and objects of loathing.
She has generated lots of therapeutic righteous rapture, including in the bosom of this columnist. Examining my feelings (for the unexamined life is not worth living) upon seeing her performance I find an emotion part delight (at having someone to cheerfully despise) and part anger for which methinks there is no word in English. Bet the Germans are bound to have one.
In her performance, Bunnings Karen (there is almost something Bronwyn Bishopesque about the arrogance she shows towards the Bunnings boy) seems didactically bonkers and somehow a spokeswoman for all that is grotesque about our Trumpian post-truth times. She has provided such a therapeutic, deserving target for the nation's swirling angsts that if she didn't exist it would be necessary to invent her.
Indeed, isn't there something just a little suspicious about the way in which she is so sweetly, so perfectly meeting the perfervid nation's emotional needs? It will not surprise if, one day, we find out she was actually a fine Shakespearean actress (out of regular work in times of closed theatres) hired by the government's chief psychologist to portray someone the despising of whom would do the nation a power of psychotherapeutic good.
The way in which Karen has become the generic media/social media name for any woman (the Bunnings woman is being called "a Karen") who makes a shrill public fuss seems unfair to all those even-tempered, self-controlled Karens who never say boo to a goose. How mortifying for this columnist if every obnoxious Australian man was thought "an Ian".
One is reminded of how once upon a time shallow male flibbertigibbets who noisily enthused over anything and everything were mocked as "Hooray Henrys". In my many years as a political reporter I saw obnoxious Hooray Henrys galore (bubbly, excitable, suggestible Young Liberals) at Liberal Party election rallies, but always refrained from writing of them by that description, out of fairness to society's dignified, discerning Henrys.
One of my lockdown projects, doing so much reading and hence so much straying among great prairies of words, has been the collecting of words new to me. A similarly wordmongering friend has joined me in this project.
All of us who scribble and babble cannot have too many words.
New words recently warmly welcomed into my vocabulary include, furnished by my friend, librocubicularist. If you read while in bed you are a librocubicularist.
Then in recent days in the aforementioned Dalrymple piece, one finds him saying admiringly of the notorious Katie Hopkins that "No doubt she is a terrible simplificatrice, but her simplifications [of ostensibly big, complex, social and political issues] often contain more truth than her detractors' supposedly sophisticated arguments."
The word, to describe someone who sees everything in simple, absolute black or white, seems to be Dalrymple's own original creation. What gainful employment awaits this useful word! How have we managed without it, till now, to report the career and simplistic beliefs of Pauline Hanson?
And it is just the word, just in time, to apply to Bunnings Karen, her simplistic analyses of what the law is and what her rights are showing her to be a terrific simplificatrice.