Idle Musings of the Hypothetical Citizen
"The machines have made them hard." A spirit had told him as much and he laughed it off. "After all, the machine comes out of the people. If they didn't want them, they wouldn't demand them." It was true enough; how could anyone argue with that logic? If it appeared at all in a society, a free and democratic one, then it meant it was OK, someone demanded it, someone wanted it. On this question he teetered for awhile and then gave in to the wonderful sense that all things were good and possible. They want it and need it, therefore it is good.
They could be cold and hard without a question. But, he always got the impression that they wanted to fight it as much as was humanly possible. He could tell by talking to them that they would never improve until they got over their fear and loathing of machines, establishments, myths, and paranoia's. "Ah, good luck," he said under his breath, to no one in particular. "There are only a few myths worth knowing and learning and to get to them you must plow through a monstrous amount of crap."
He believed in a free and tolerant citizen. He kept, in his wanderings through cities and suburbs, looking for this creature. "The only true American is a free and tolerant person who must exist somewhere; perhaps in some city I've never heard of." The American citizen was pressured by most things that history had not experienced. It was dangerous not to know this because in that ignorant state the citizen was very susceptible to con games by every type of con man available. The most valuable lesson for the citizen was to be sucked into some huge con thinking that, at the other end of it, would be a reward of money or power. Kept in this infantile state and the citizen would be swept into the open horizon that suddenly reveals itself as the edge of an abyss. Leaping outside of this condition and he would be subject to a lifetime of horror as he saw his fellows picked off one by one. How could there be "brotherhood" when the system itself viewed humanity as a kind of darkness that had to be checked at every step?
Perhaps, in a strange way, the machines were the free and tolerant citizen that the people could never permit themselves to become. It had crossed his mind. What was freer than watching a jet glide effortlessly thousands of feet above him? What was more tolerant than the new communications medium that welcomed all, friends and enemies, to participate in a moveable feast?
As he got closer to the east coast he noted in his journal that two distinct types of people were being produced now, here in the early part of the 21st century. One had fierce loyalty to an identity that formed, eventually, into a cult. If people jumped from this cult they did so into a larger culture that absorbed them, knocked their identity for a loop, and gave them a new set of precepts based on the organizing principles of the culture. And when he had mentioned this casually to someone they got angry at him. "This must be," he thought to himself, "because that person is engaged in power, all the cults and the people who made the society were engaged in power and the need for power, the thirst for it. And I must belong to that little tribe of people who escape power." He thought long and hard on this as he rode a train through dense forest right before the unreal city rose up, its history intact but its future uncertain.
A student was with him, a young man who had noticed the hypothetical citizen writing in his journal. "What are you writing?" The voice was so equivocating, so curious and naive, the hypothetical citizen knew he was not simply a student but one that was going to graduate soon. "Oh, just notes for nonone. I do it when there is nothing better to do." The student sat opposite him and they began to talk and it was apparent the young man wanted some advice. The hypothetical citizen was not sure what to do and felt a bit awkward. After all, it meant he was looking at his own youth and how fast it had slid from him. "Whatever the professors tell you about the "real world" it is worse than you can imagine. The soft ones and those who contemplate history and have the luxury to cruise up and down the lines of history should not go into the real world. There, it is all present, now-ism, conflict, craziness, congames, criminal activity, corruption, and, if you are lucky, a kind of soft, womb like existence to keep out the reminders that the world is a sad place." The young man had a funny expression on his face and kept nodding quickly up and down.
The hypothetical citizen felt a funny sensation. It was as though, yes, he was ready to counsel the young man. But, no, he couldn't; a stranger in a strange part of the country, one that he hadn't traveled in much. Riding into the city, see it loom up closer with its famed skyline and all its voices silent from a distance the citizen thought to himself, "The privilege, my boy, lies in the fact that a man of democracy can live out his own myth. Confusion after confusion greets you but this is only caused by a hope that the myth will suddenly break upon you and reveal your fate, one way or the other.
There are dangers, my boy. First you want to overcome it and in overcoming it taking its power and then subjecting the beauty of that myth to that power. Whole societies do this, stripping you, poor boy, until it is revealed exactly where you stand. Beware of this but beware of any man or group of people who have not criticized their own myth."
He then fell asleep feeling all around him the presence of the city; waiting, waiting in its shrieks and shadows to, once again, devour him.
© 2005 David Eide. All rights reserved.
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