This was originally written some time before 2003 - probably around 1999/2000, as that's when I was a student at Strathclyde University and got stopped by the Gouranga cultists every week on my way to and from Glasgow Central train station. A discussion on Twitter reminded me of it, so I thought I'd post it here. It was originally posted on the most horrifically pretentious vanity site I put up around that time, and which is definitely, absolutely, no longer available for the public eye.
Perhaps, like me, you've been stopped in George Square and been told to 'call out Gouranga and be happy'. Perhaps the only time you've seen the word Gouranga is in Grand Theft Auto, if this is the case some explanation is in order.
These people that stop you are Hare Krishnas, and "Gouranga" refers to Lord Chaitanya, who is apparently responsible for all Hare Khrisnas, everywhere: "Lord Chaitanya introduced a process that is simply joyful - simply chant Hare Krishna." I'll leave as an exercise for the reader what recompense Lord Chaitanya should earn for this delightful bit of service to humanity.
Now obviously most Glaswegians find this highly annoying. When you're soaked to the skin, your train's just been canceled and the Tesco Metro didn't have any boxes of Scott's Porridge Oats you really don't need some smartarse in a silly outfit telling you to be happy! But I think that there's something more important here than simple annoyance. Consider, for a moment, that some poor unsuspecting person actually says this magic word and is suddenly happy. Now I don't just mean winning a tenner on the lottery happy, or even getting the last parking space in the city happy. I mean deeply profound physical, mental and spiritual happiness, of the kind usually only experienced through the dedicated use of the very highest quality class A drugs. What then?
What happens next? This isn't a question that the deranged people chanting at you seem to like to consider. You have a moment of pure bliss and joy, and then you turn around and notice that you're still in the middle of Glasgow, you're still going to have to run if you want to make your bus home and you're still up to your arse in rain. That's going to be one hell of a come-down, but perhaps your new-found joy will let all these minor problems wash over you. Or something. So you get on with your newly joy-filled life, and all will be right with the world, right?
Wrong. You'll still have to go into your dead-end job every day, until they sack you because that stupidly huge grin on your face made everyone uncomfortable. You're still going to have to pay your rent every month, unless you think there's an especially wonderful joy about sleeping in a joyful cardboard box. Perhaps that won't happen - you could get a silly outfit of your own, and go and live in a commune somewhere, and tell other people to call out Gouranga and be happy!
Sounds great, eh? Of course, you're still going to be living in shit; wars are still going to happen; millions of children all over the world are going to starve to a slow and painful death; police in various backwards, brutal countries are going to beat people to death on a fairly regular basis; religious fanatics are going to kill people; other religious fanatics are going to kill other people; greedy businessmen are going to ensure that people who worked hard their entire lives have nothing to show for it; mobile phones are still going to ring in cinemas; evil, both great and small, will happily continue grinding the world down until all that's left is you, sitting in a corner, chanting 'GOURANGA, GOURANGA, GOURANGA' over and over. For all the good it does, you might as well be chanting 'I CAN'T HEAR YOU, I CAN'T HEAR YOU, I CAN'T HEAR YOU' with your fingers in your ears.
And as if that weren't a horrific enough thought, consider this: how annoyed do you get when someone pesters you to 'call out Gouranga and be happy'? Do you snap at the next person you talk to because of it? Perhaps not often, but just every so often, isn't it enough to just tip an acceptable day into a bad one? Imagine how many people one person saying 'call out Gouranga and be happy' can pester in a single hour, let alone a single day. If even a small percentage of those people get annoyed by it, and those people pass on their annoyance, pretty soon you've got a wave of irritation and general bad feeling spreading out over the entire city, as it hits train stations and bus stops it jumps out into the suburbs, where the actions of one person in a silly custome causes dozens of people to snap at their children and kick their dogs. Call out Gouranga and be happy? Unlikely. Call out Gouranga and be miserable? I think so. If these people wanted to make the world a happier place the best thing they could do is stay at home, chant their little chants to themselves, and stop pestering a world that doesn't care about Lord Chaitanya, but does care about getting to the bus station before they're stranded in the city for another hour.