The hypothetical citizen sought out an old acquaintance in the snarly catacombs of his favorite city. He had been a graduate of one of the fine universities in the area but then gone through a long period of what he characterized as, "his breakdown." His huge and splendid thoughts seemed to transform into an oppression after a time. He had told the hypothetical citizen that it was best to study society through its problems, then its resolution of problems and then the daily activity of its people. "One leads to the discovery of the illness of society and one leads to the discovery of its health."
Health and illness, separated by a great array of machinery, ill-will, illegal activity and so forth sprang into a little harangue by the poor fellow. "Picture a reservoir of water collected from the spring of melting snows. And into that water, whose destiny runs through cities, has been deposited a drop of poison which expands in the solution of water and is spread equally among the citizens. Isn't the last thing you want the poisoning and infection of the people by power?"
To protect himself the man had lived without money, in a small shack, tucked into an anonymous section of the city. A place where he "could observe but not be seen." He lived with old pots and pans and used a yellowing bathtub to wash his clothes. A rickety bike held fast to the wall above his crude bed. "Here," he said, waving his arms around the hovel, "I only drink a little drop in long intervals." He had been broken into the past month by neighborhood kids. He knew who they were but didn't rat them out. "They rob because they want power, even over the old miserable guy who lives near them. But the source of power doesn't belong to them. They learn it by watching TV or reading the headlines on the internet. The cops and jails won't do anything for them. Only when they realize that their motives have been imposed on them will they fly straight. The shock of how manipulated even tough guys are sometimes will do it."
The hypothetical citizen suggested that he could go to their house and tell them these things. "You might be their savior."
"Ha! You're futzing with me now." He laughed and waved his hand up in the air as though half-fighting off an attack.
What a sad creature, he thought! Absolutely incapable of fun or normal activities. "Even the strangest creature has its good conscience," the hypothetical citizen thought to himself.
All it took was one sharp conversation to tell the hypothetical citizen where a person was in the society, how he got there, and where he would end up. "A guy like that listened too much to the professors. Are not the professors the hungriest for power? Oh well, it's enough to know this society is a big, complex, corrupt thing, excellent in so many ways, and it is the individual who conforms to it. If it is complicated and corrupt, the citizen will be complicated and corrupt. If it is full of honesty, the citizen will be honest. All the citizen can do is understand the process he is about to engage in as he approaches entering the society and develop some excellent stances; some strategies!
On the one hand is the pure, energetic beauty of youthful instinct and at the other a wary eye out for the hammer that will no doubt fall on him the moment he least expects it.
"And isn't it true," he thought, "that at some point society demands transference of that youthful instinct into various acceptable forms of activity. Almost all communication after a certain period of development revolves around this transference. But, then, there must be something left which has no relation to the society."
He was ready to admit this: Suspicion of the society is unhealthy but some of it is very healthy. The first thing to be suspicious of was collective power and he could easily find the seed of it in himself. It was subdued by understanding. Certainly he felt it necessary to be suspicious at other peoples expense until he understood his own; otherwise the collective voice of that experience would speak too loud and would direct the spirit into areas it should never go.
There was a delicate balance between the inherent power of the person and the power of the world flying around him. If the power around him was too massive and crushing the need for a liberal, democratic type was moot. But if the citizen thought he was larger than power then he would most likely spend time in one of two dreaded institutions.
Every noise, every huge effect, every mind-blowing perception, every use of power implicated this balance.
Sometimes he looked at a cat licking its milk. The cat came from a lion and became a favorite pet. Is this the fate for the liberal, democratic citizen?
"Ah, a kind of stupid pet for stronger powers than itself!"
© 2006 David Eide. All rights reserved.
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