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Monday, February 6, 2012

3 Past-Due Punching Bags

If you haven’t figured it out after nearly two years of ranting, I’m a pretty angry guy.  Don’t worry, I’ve heard it all before: “You’ll give yourself an ulcer”; “Don’t take things so personally”; “Just chill, man”; and more.  Fact of the matter is, rather than let it consume me, I’ve turned my anger into something constructive - the best example of which is what you’re reading here.  Additionally, it’s always been a great motivational tool, both physically and mentally.  Without it, I’m not sure I would have gotten as far as I have.  And so, with these constructive outlets, I’ve mostly managed to keep the beast at bay.  But, there are some things that bring it busting out of me like a gamma-ray induced green rage; some people who are in so desperate need of an ass-whupping that my military training can barely allow me to sit idly by, and I am worked into a lather so severe that it often takes me the whole day to come off of it.  But at the very least, I’ve got this bully pulpit from which to put these people on blast; a public peak from which to shout out my righteous indignation; a forum for my paralyzing frustration - and a place where I can always find people to have a good laugh while society drives me ever closer to writing a manifesto, arming myself heavily and moving into a cabin in Maine.  So, in the interests of identifying my high value targets, here are 3 crimes I’d like to see added to the death penalty list:

1. Lunatic Fringes.  Somewhere along the line, we lost track of the political extremists in this country, and left to run wild, they’ve gotten completely out of control.  It has often been the hallmark of Third World nations to allow their fringe elements to control the majority of the population - and here, in the seat of the modern First World, our recent politics look more like a banana republic than the great republic once imagined for us.  Nowhere is this more obvious than the popularity and growth of the Tea Party and the Occupy movements.  One extreme right and one extreme left, and both completely insane and out of touch.  Armed with the First Amendment and an aggressive disregard for truth and/or reality, these half-wits stand around with hand-painted signs to chant at the rest of us as if (a) that will change anything, or (b) it will make us want to join them.  These masters of mania really only traffic in one thing: annoying everyone.  But heaven help you if you threaten to physically move of them out of your way - because then you’re just a part of the “man” trying to keep them down.  The fact that we’ve allowed our hate-groups into the open is disgusting enough, the fact that we acknowledge them with 24-hour news coverage is tragic.  Listening to the extraordinarily small percentage of people who actually have time to stand around and chant in the middle of the day seems like a recipe for being out of touch.  I can accept the fact that just as we are nation of good neighbors, patriots and dreamers - we are also a nation of bigots, idiots and lazy hippies.  But please don’t confuse my acceptance with acknowledgement, legitimizing or wanting to listen to endless stream of ignorant profundity that streams from your mouth.  Trust me, it's all I can do to keep from rake-slapping those signs out of your hands.      

2. Behind-the-Wheel Bad Asses.  Driving has become so inimical to American life (well, everywhere outside of NYC) that as a skill, it is nearly ubiquitous.  However, this only applies to the most basic levels of the practic, as the overwhelming majority of drivers seem to drive their cars like pre-programmed obstacles in a defensive driving simulation.  Of course, as a nation of the overly-self-esteemed, it should come as no surprise that a full two-thirds of us believe we are “excellent” or “very good” drivers.  This belief leads to a startling phenomenon: the belief by drivers that no harm can come to them, and that while surrounded by a ton or so of steel and plastic designed to travel comfortably at seventy plus miles per hour, they can act with the same authority of an actual person with that same size and power.  Of course, the blatant disregard for angering anyone else is perhaps the kind of behavior you would expect from a person that weighs a couple thousand pounds and can blow throw brick walls.  Unfortunately, too often these people are approximately as physically intimidating as your average jar of mayonnaise.  But armed with the ability to speed away safely, they’ll honk their horns, scream out their windows and make obscene gestures as though they’re driving around with Randy Couture in the passenger seat.  In reality, they want no part of any actual confrontation, and a solid  argument to reenact late19th century dueling laws - to handle these disputes.  I have a strong suspicion that would calm everyone down quite a bit (or at least give us something to do at intersections besides texting).   

3. No Man Is An Island.  In case you haven’t noticed, the world has gotten crowded; like New Years Eve crowded.  And not just at concerts, sporting events or holiday celebrations.  No, everyday occurrences like every Sunday at Costco, Friday night at the movie theater, on-ramps to the highway, etc.  More and more of us are being forced to share less and less space, and despite the civic efforts to keep up with it, they’re hardly making a dent.  In these ever-increasingly cramped conditions, you might think that the best way to cope would be to be ever-mindful of those around you, so as not to make it any worse than it already is.  Unfortunately, we’ve gone completely the other direction, and amongst these ever-larger masses of people most everyone is tuned out, and tuned in only to themselves.  The basic social principles of taking turns, sharing excess, etc. have been abandoned like so much day-old baked goods, and even the simplest situations ring more like a re-enactment of Lord of the Flies than suburbia.  I see people walking down hallways in a group abreast - so that one can get past or overtake them.  I watch people drive without the faintest regard for pedestrians, back-up lights, or the fact that other people are on the road.  And the worst part about it is the measure of pride that seems to accompany it - as though there is some measure of dignity in ignoring everyone else around you.  Trust me, no matter how rich, famous or important you are (or, in the more likely circumstance, you think you are) it’s not ok to act indifferent to everyone around you.  This behavior is almost understandable for the adolescent, but it’s completely untenable for adults.  Neither your age, your ethnicity or your personal hardships entitle you to this kind of behavior.  Wake up and look around already, if you don’t want to be part of the group - go ahead and move to the wilderness already, I'll be happy to help you out with directions.

* * *

The problem of living in a world where we are expected, in ever greater share, to deal with our differences intellectually, is that we’re trying to do it with more ignorant people than we’ve ever had before.  We cannot expect to teach people who are unwilling to learn - and sometimes the only memorable stimulus for the petulantly stupid is actual stimulus.  In a world that celebrates simplicity as a virtue, I fear there always be a place for “beating” lessons into people.  When a population is utterly shameless, what other choice do we have?  The time for "hoping" it will fix itself is rapidly passing.  Besides, if you don’t know someone who is in desperate need of a good butt-whuppin, I would submit that you don’t know anyone at all.  So join me, and rise up against the ignorant - if nothing else, they surely won't be able to outsmart us.    


Jen and Tonic said...

You KNOW #2 drives me insane. GOD. I've known perfectly normal people who turn into complete assclowns when they get behind the wheels. This is ESPECIALLY true for people who drive Suburbans.

"...if you don’t want to be part of the group - go ahead and move to the wilderness already..." I laughed out loud at this. I'VE considered moving to the wilderness just to escape all of the people who have forgotten the basic rules of human decency. I'm more shocked when people use their manners than when they don't. It's become a bonus, not an expected behavior.

2 out of 3. You're almost there!

andrew said...

I've known you a long time brother, certainly wouldn't call you angry, you are one of the fun-lovingest guys I know, you just happen to see and grasp the crazy mismatch between reality and the world around us, and when you pull back the curtain and see all the craziness, it's hard to understand how others don't as well.
Take it easy bro,

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