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Monday, June 05, 2006

Still Processing

Arguing over whether or not it's okay to pantomime shooting two people in the back of the head is pure folly. I really do understand that the assassination of innocent civilians, even those striving to look and act like Paris Hilton, is never really okay. Adding to the collective violence and intolerance in the world is a bad thing. However... I feel some need, despite already having been thoroughly thrashed in this argument, to talk about this some more.

I feel silly about my previous stance… As if I still raged about being a jilted high school loser, spurned by the cheerleader babes and swirlied by letterman jacket jocks. I feel like I painted myself into the trenchcoat mafia, bristling for my opportunity to go Columbine on everyone. This is not the truth of the situation at all.

Yeah, high school did suck, but not for me personally. My murderous fantasies were not motivated by personal suffering. I had friends that gave me rides when I had no car. I did well in my classes. I joined societies, and clubs and teams. I had excellent teachers. I had girlfriends. No one ever tried to push me into a locker. No one ever kicked my ass. So why did it suck? Because I witnessed (i.e. I made myself aware of, and I refused to look away from) other people suffering all around me. I always empathized with the freaks and geeks. The fat, the poor, the retarded, the insufferably dorky, the gay, the shower-phobic, the pimpled, the nerdy… all the collective misfits… those were my people.

And I got sick and tired of telling the other kids to quit messing with Joe. They sure got a kick out of forcing the retarded kid that rode our bus to say things like, “I’m gay” to everyone, or getting him to tell other kids, “Fuck you asshole.” And I got tired of Marty following me around when he was afraid of another beat down. He sprinted between every class for fear of being caught by someone, but there was no safe zone when he had to wait for the bus… except when he figured out that I could protect him. And passively, I did… the way a tree might protect you from falling rain. And I got so sad hearing how many of my friends had been sexually abused. Like Jen who lost her virginity when she was date raped. Or Allen who was forced to kneel down and kiss the bare asses of his older brother’s baseball team buddies on one of their camping trips. And I was even more saddened when I thought about the fact that during most of these events, people looked on and said nothing. We hurt out of insecurity and refuse to stand up to the hurtful due to even more insecurity.

And it wasn’t just high school. I remember being horrified when I saw elementary school kids salting slugs, or using magnifying glasses to burn the legs off of insects one at a time, or when I heard about people setting fire to cats. I wasn’t even sure if it was okay to give peanut butter to a dog. Even that level of cruel prank seemed wrong to me.

In short, the world has always appeared to me to be full of either unkind or indifferent souls. Individually we tend toward cruelty and defensiveness. We hurt each other with astonishing creativity and zeal, or we blind ourselves with steely resolve. And collectively… we allow genocide to happen in our names, we tacitly approve of imperialism by enjoying the lifestyle that it affords us, we ride on the backs of half a world enslaved and we don’t care. We worry about celebrities and their love lives. We actually care about what line of products Louis Vuitton will design next. We don’t do manual labor, but we work out compulsively so that we can be thin. We wear the right make up, the right scents, the right clothes, the right brand-named accessories so that we can fit in perfectly… so that we can belong to the ruling cultural aristocracy. Our insecurities are so consuming that we cannot escape our destructive need to belong to a set of successful, beautiful, blithely happy people. And we establish our place among them with acts of cruelty… by degrading our neighbors and classmates, by physically and emotionally raping them, by beating them, by excluding them, by humiliating them. Or we refuse to jeopardize our status by stooping down to help someone being abused.

Even if they don’t truly exist, I’ve grown to resent that class of people. They and their desperate wannabes might appear harmless, but they are a most dangerous enemy. They validate the idea that we should all refuse to witness the real human condition around us, and instead look to our celebrity gods and goddesses for inspiration. Why look at suffering, at torture, at genocide, at inequity when we can look at fashion magazines and check out hip new dance clubs. They confirm for us that it’s okay to turn away from our universal human obligation to steward this earth and its inhabitants. They tease us with the simpler option.

But regardless of how much anger and frustration I feel toward these people… these silly shallow people relentlessly seeking happiness at the bottom of a sales receipt… they do not deserve death. They don’t even deserve mockery. Pity is what I should feel. But it’s a lot easier to pity the victims of the world than the perpetrators.



At 6/05/2006 09:18:00 PM, Blogger walaka said...

John - I feel like I walked into the middle of a conversation - is there any context for this musing, especially for the opening image?

At 6/05/2006 10:59:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...

I also felt that walking in the room in the middle of an argument/conversation feeling as well.

Powerful words and images in any case.

Divide and conquer- luckily for power-mongers, advertisers, and bullies, we do the work for them.

What are we doing to change this?

At 6/06/2006 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

Well, you guys DID wander into a conversation midstream, but only because that's the way I invited you. I thought I put in enough clues to fill in context, but basically:
I recently pretended to shoot two people in the back of the head while walking downtown because they looked and walked a certain way... like wannabe Barbie dolls that had no respect for their inner selves or anyone else. This didn't go over well with the person I was walking with, so we had a discussion about it. This is the follow up, presented publicly for debate.
It is supposed to be about how I've been processing my frustration at those who choose I lifestyle I don't respect. It's an admission of runaway judgmentalism... etc. etc.

At 6/06/2006 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

By the way, thank you to those people who sent me their thoughts and reactions privately. I was touched by your words.

At 6/06/2006 06:26:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Wow, that is quite a leap from walking behind two people to knowing what their thoughts, attitudes, politics etc etc are. I think you caught it right - runaway judgmentalism. Something I am guilty of too.

At 6/10/2006 08:33:00 AM, Anonymous John )Plaza Sesamo( said...

I normally condone such pranksterism because taking things too seriously in this world amounts to writing your very own eulogy.

However, I know firsthand what guns are good for. As I see it any action which involves shooting either authentic or faux is off-limits because it propagates guns' single usage as normal.

My sole argument here is that there is nothing creative one can do with shooting imagery.

At 6/13/2006 02:44:00 PM, Blogger Ned said...

I have recently been musing on my own intolerance. It's a hard line to ride between having your eyes wide open and taking in what's happening in the world, hopefully reacting to it in a way that brings more good and bad into the mix, and jumpting to conclusions and judgementalism (?). I'm working on it. Sounds like you are too. Good words.


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