Do you ever get the urge to ditch civilisation entirely and go and find a remote corner of the earth to ponder the mysteries of mankind?
There’s an island in the Bay of Bengal off India in the little-known Andaman chain which may provide the ideal destination for such contemplative navel-gazing, albeit for a fairly shortlived trip.
North Sentinel Island has been called the most inhospitable place on the planet, home to one of the world’s last remaining Stone Age tribes. There’s an indigenous population of between 50 and 400 people who crave nothing other than to be left alone.
But, if disturbed by outsiders, the North Sentinelese do not mess around. They are a hardy bunch, having survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the uplifting of the island with little apparent after-effects, although nobody really knows for sure.
Three days after the tsunami, an Indian government helicopter observed several of the tribe, who shot arrows and threw stones at the hovering aircraft with the apparent intent of repelling it. The North Sentinelese make the late Greta Garbo seem like an attention-seeking contestant on Big Brother or The Apprentice, eternally gasping for the vital oxygen of publicity.
A couple of Indian fishermen had the misfortune to be shipwrecked on the island in January 2006. Their throats were cut as a warning to any other would-be intruders.
I thought of the shy and retiring, if somewhat brutal, North Sentinelese and their determination to retain their privacy in the most extraordinary circumstances when I read of the latest exploits of a strange woman called Katie Hopkins, who recently submitted herself to a peculiar new craze called the Ice Bucket Challenge.
For the uninitiated – including, of course, the aforesaid inhabitants of North Sentinel Island – the ice challenge is a trend seemingly sweeping the Western World in which D-list celebrities, sad wannabes and other spiritual nondescripts agree to have a bucket of iced water thrown over them to raise funds for charity.
Only the other day I came across a newspaper photograph of the ubiquitous Carol Vorderman with a rictus grin and soaking wet hair, apparently glorying in her latest showbiz exploit.
Ms Vorderman, Ms Hopkins, and everybody else who agrees to get drenched, is nominated for the stunt by a third party, and subsequently makes their own nomination, in Hopkins’ case Lord Sugar and TV presenter Phillip Schofield. Well, the girl clearly has some taste, of sorts.
Hopkins, of course, has form in the gross-out self-publicity stakes. She recently ‘ridiculed’ the choice of Birmingham as the location for the UK’s new national sperm bank.
With Wildean wit, the woman who – surprise, surprise – made her name on Lord Sugar’s ghastly humiliation-fest, The Apprentice, took – more surprise, surprise – to Twitter to proclaim: “Birmingham Sperm Bank set up there because there are no shortage of doughnuts. Sorry – donors – willing to donate. Bruv.
“Dear God – Birmingham. Do we really want more kids made from that kind of dodgy stock?” If you live in the Home Counties, beware the Brummy (sic) sperm bank. Your baby might come out with a thick Brummy (sic) accent.” My, how we laughed.
It’s only fair to point out at this stage that a survey a couple of years ago by Wonga.com (possibly not the most reputable bit of research ever undertaken) claimed that gross misuse of the beauties of the English language were most often heard among the Hopkins-style contestants on programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den.
This may provide a clue as to why Lord Sugar was ever ennobled in the first place, with his attempts to emasculate the English language paying off with a peerage for services to the terminally inarticulate. However, I digress.
The most depressing aspect of the Katie Hopkins affair, her ice bucket drenching, her views on Birmingham et al, is that she is simply the latest manifestation of an empty showbiz culture which glories in vacuous self-publicists with no other apparent talent than promoting themselves. At which they are invariably excellent.
The driving force behind this extraordinary phenomenon is technology, which provides outlets for shameless exhibitionism where none previously existed. The digital world, marvellous though it is in so many ways, allows us to share the everyday waking thoughts of all manner of intellects, from Lord Prescott to Gary Lineker, Lord Sugar to Robbie Savage.
Some might consider the views of such folk as a trifle superfluous if not downright tedious, others essential accompaniments to a satisfying daily existence. It’s a free world, of sorts, after all, although not nearly as free as it once was.
The late Andy Warhol, when he wasn’t hanging out with New York rockers the Velvet Underground, made a name for himself in the 60s and 70s by promoting soup cans as pop art. He made his most admirable contribution to our lives and times by proclaiming that in future, everybody would be famous for 15 minutes.
That Warholesque vision was an astonishingly prescient view of a shallow celebrity-led culture which is encapsulated today in the noisy mouth of Katie Hopkins and many others like her.
In that melancholy spirit, I’m off to North Sentinel Island to seek out some much-needed privacy from Ms Hopkins and her like. I may be some time.