Idle Musings of the Hypothetical Citizen
"What am I," he leisurely pondered, "if I am nothing to the others?" He felt himself stripped down to nothing in the middle of contentious arguments about the nature of things, much of which seemed wrong-headed. "Every citizen," he thought, "is the preparation for powerful office. Therefore, his range of knowledge and experience has to be great and deep and include the ways and means of living that the people exhibit. For instance, he noticed that many people worked in the tall, corporate buildings downtown and so the hypothetical citizen made it a point to, as well, work in one of the tall, albeit modest, buildings to join himself with the others. "After all, when I ride with them in silence, up the elevator, I can feel their lonely thoughts. If I were to gain power I would know better how to rule them for the duration of my stay in office."
He noticed that a guru from another nation had come to his own country and gained followers. There was a scandal. It was apparent to him, immediately, that the big guru was seeking revenge on those who had once colonized his country. "What a bizarre, wondrous nation this is! So much vulnerability! It's legs open to any type of penetration."
It was wrong to have the wrong kind of hatreds. To have, that is, general hatreds for all kinds of reasons. That created a mind drain. It bled ones strength. The hatreds belonged to the lower order of things. But, as he took a glance around he was left with the impression that it was nothing but hate, fear, stupidity, and greed. He read the papers, watched TV news and it all started to sound the same; the conscience gone crazed. The people crazed and ironic sports of nature.
The more manipulative TV became, the more important newspapers and good magazines became. The frightening thing, to the hypothetical citizen, was just how much TV had "taught" the passive viewer that he was nothing but a satchel of opinions and prejudices dancing feebly around frightening images and complex events. "They are passively manipulated all through their lives until nothing is left but a vague desire to go away somewhere and die."
"This sadness," he said to his friend in the park, "this unopposed sadness. I get into a place where my insight turns against myself. Utterly no support from any quarter."
"Friend," he said, "you need to get fascinated, again, by a woman."
"No, I stare too long into the facts of death; death has wheels, sound, and velocity today. It's an overwhelming aspect. I have stared into the single aspect. It's like an evil eye"
Break up the boredom! Fill up the spiritual vacuum! A true American could, no doubt, emerge from the attempt. It was amazing to him , even alarming at times, how there was such a close correspondence between the unconscious mind and the world-as-it-is. It looked as if they were truly moving out of an old disposition; the devices were many but, perhaps, the devices were, themselves, only symptoms. They went through a deep, profound disillusionment of old memories, after which the memories were turned into legend and fable.
To the good American, the experience of doom was the final stage of disillusionment as men and women attempted a necessary climb out of an old skin and into a new one.
In wistful moments, the hypothetical citizen always imagined himself speaking to a collection of students, especially those now falling back into some dead zone of acquiescence. And he saw himself sitting there explaining to them that they are being foolish. "There's a de jure and de facto form of tyranny. There's the type where the natural rights of men and women are kept out of the circle of power by law because, 'there's nothing they have to know,' whereas the other form is self-alienation from their natural capabilities that, in effect, give over to the state a nearly tyrannical face."
His own culture had always needed an enemy. First was nature, then the competitive struggle between people, and now the struggle on the global scene. Nothing had prepared his dear culture for any of these struggles.
But then, wasn't modern existence lived as a protection from corruption and shame? Corruption, that exhaustion of mind; that obese, sad-eyed sybarite he had respected in youth speaking on subjects he knew nothing about. Perhaps to have a sense of corruption and shame one had to have a sense of community, even tribalism. And where were the tribes of technological societies but in dreams and dim intimations? And in those aspects of mind not yet annihilated by the machine: Family, Sport, and the purest of all dreams.
And it had been the hypothetical citizens experience that machines engendered shame because they destroyed and re-created like the gods of old. It was an initiation of sorts into the modern world. If a person "did something" that made him ashamed he was able to repress that shame and substitute experience in its place. He was able to, like the robber barons of Enron, drive away from the source of shame and plunge into activity that filled him with the feeling that he was with it; that he was on top of things.
It was, perhaps,the prime experience on which he made his organizations. It explained why people had worlds in them that they hardly experienced; that even the simplest person had a complicated system of judging and evaluating based on the avoidance of shame and the protection against corruption. And why the direct sense of shame was experienced by those who cast themselves outside of the society. It either destroyed them or they fashioned it into a weapon or created an object of beauty.
Shame was always seen as a great obstacle to power.
© 2003 David Eide. All rights reserved.
Back to Oasis