Idle Musings of the Hypothetical Citizen
"Oh you Americans don't know how good you have it," said the Argentinian native who stood at least six feet tall and had a black, wispy moustache. He was distinguished and a graduate student, in his thirties, searching for a better life. That's what the hypothetical citizen assumed. It was the cliche. "You Americans live as though it will never change, that this is some eternal present and you are riding high on top, without a care. But let me tell you.....it will change.....then perhaps you will know how good you had it." He did not say it in a sinister fashion. The hypothetical citizen nodded his head in a kind of agreement. He had heard it from the Chinese man who had been taken to a re-education camp in China during the Cultural Revolution and beaten. He had heard it from the Polish man who belonged to Solidarity in the early 80's and was visited by dark people in dark limosenes. He had heard it from the woman from Paris who he took to Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. "Everyone, even the women, are too free," she dismissed it all with a wave of her hand as she smoked a cigarette. He had heard it from the Finnish woman, half-mad and drinking too much. "Americans, Americans, don't go ruining it....not for the future." And on and on whenever he met someone from outside the boundaries they knew instantly what to say and whom to say it to.
And what burned the hypothetical citizen more than anything was that he knew it was all true; that they were telling the bottom-line truth, something that a friend would tell another friend who was drinking too much or who was stealing money from the company.
He had found a nice concrete pillar to sit against with the thrum of the bridge above him and the soft, afternoon air sweeping through; a faint hint of sea-wrack. Sleep. He dreamed he was in a large hall lecturing young people. "You foolish ones, don't acquiesce so early, so easily. The manipulators are in force and their sense of well-being is fully self-serving. What difference is there between a group of people who give up, who give the government a de facto sort of power and one that is simply ruled by thugs?"
There was an embarrassed sort of silence and then he realized that he had said these things in another dream, long ago. "Ah, I have made a huge mistake." He felt this as he stood looking into the vacant eyes of the students. "I am some kind of madman and now it has been proven." So, he ran from the hallway and out into the bright sunlight where police were gathering. He ran through the streets to a run-down shop where a man had made him a machine to escape. "Yes, I must have your machine!" And he peddaled the contraption down the street and then, in one marvelous moment, rode up into the air, over the treetops and into a great and deep valley where there was a castle. And as he was coming down into the castle people were out on a patio welcoming him, with smiles and glasses in their hands.
After waking up and realizing that he was dreaming hard again and it was as sign to watch himself, he had to admit that America always needed an enemy. First, perhaps, was nature, then a competitive struggle against other people, and now the enemies of the world. What prepared the people for these struggles?
Perhaps the next struggle, after the terrorists had been destroyed, was to fight the forces that absolutely are set up to destroy the person and democracy. The increase in population, machines and the techniques to manipulate machines, even the benign ones like the computer, ideas that subvert the basic assumptions of a person when they say they are free, the tendency of power to centralize itself and marginalize its original principles, and the burden of gigantic practical, pragmatic problems that seemed to outstrip the ability to solve them.
© 2005 David Eide. All rights reserved.
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