A hot, lazy Sunday and I was off to buy some parmesan cheese for the pasta with Bolognese. Paul’s Big M is now the only store in town that sells it grated in cups and weighed. But to get it, I am forced to run the gauntlet of human misery and woe. The aisles are thin, one needs to either wait or ask politely to pass another shopper. So I get a good, close look at Paul’s patrons. One in a hundred might appear to have witnessed satori at some point in adult life, but the other 99 walk and talk like Hell is time on earth and Jesus won’t take them after Paul’s Big M no matter what. I’ve been coming here reluctantly for 25 years yet I have never met Paul. Maybe he’s a man like me who has become mentally ill from his time in Oswego and because he can afford it, sequesters himself in a dark office rather than mingle with Hell’s flightless angels.
It is that bad. New Agers would push that it is my self, projecting unhappiness on to the miserable faces of Paul’s clientele, but these days New Agers write and wonder from metropolises, where any delusional hopeful can find affirmative philosophies simply using the law of averages. For instance, every downtrodden ignorant misfit in San Francisco can be countered with twelve New Agers lying to themselves with a paycheck. The trends keep changing and reappearing because life is always good, and everyone is happy or it’s their own damn fault because they didn’t pick the right major in college. San Francisco is now in the habit of making toast chic. Give me geographical and economic power over the most positive Zen faker in San Francisco for just six months, and I will make her boil with bitterness after a brief Oswego residency. She will beg for airfare back to the mega-lie faster than you can say Oswego County Opportunities. All the books published. All those informative, intelligent interviews on NPR! The metropolis lying to itself so grandly, so feverishly, while begging the live long day to get noticed. “Get a hold of some fine Italian parmesan cheese,” instructs The Splendid Table radio show host. She says “parmesan” like no self-respecting Italian ever would. She says it like any middle management American urbanite wants to hear it, else take a dive off the Golden Gate Bridge. I listen to her show on the way back home with my plastic cup of fine Wisconsin parmesan. Some nefarious twang in her voice, like she would secretly euthanize my whole miserable community if it were prerequisite to reaching a wider audience.
She and NPR are elitist only if one believes that higher beings reside outside themselves. I do not. Everyman in post-industrial America is what one of us is here at Paul’s Big M in Oswego. Each smiling, scowling, or indifferent face is representative of us all. I am an elitist. Yet I would suffer my fellow shopping mortals no different fate from my own. I do not want their private joys to suffer. I just want them to end. When I say “excuse me” or “pardon me sir”, I expect eye contact and a reply. Otherwise their lives must disappear. I would expect the same philosophy from their point of views. I do not want the chance to live among men if I cannot elevate my respect for others even if it is phony. We all hit the pillow at night thinking over our private joys and sorrows. None of us needs a circus mirror to exacerbate our problems. So the tattooed meth addict pulling off his shirt outside of a Paul’s Big M needs to disappear when he yells out “I don’t know what the fuck her problem is” while a five-year-old girl holding hands with her grandfather approaches the electric door thinking fairies. His joy need not suffer. He just needs to disappear.
Misanthropy is not a very effective social philosophy. I wonder if it’s even fair at all. I cannot just hate human beings. It doesn’t make sense. Raccoons don’t hate other raccoons. They compete, which is healthy, entrepreneurial. It makes for building a better raccoon character. But humans don’t work like that. We all hate and fear each other. Why? Maybe because we expect some level playing field, such as the raccoon’s, but are denied it. Say a world where there is a likelihood of death by starvation, so a Payless and JC Penny are out of the question. After religious morals are discounted there is no more marker for being human. We have no idea anymore what it means to be of mankind like a raccoon is so obviously a raccoon. It is either good or bad, or somewhere in between of the sameness all raccoons share and understand. The father ate his baby raccoon or he didn’t, but among other raccoons, no judgment was made. Human fathers aren’t supposed to kill their babies or other people’s babies. Supposedly that is a part of being human. Still, many, many do—serial killers, passion murderers, aggressive pedophiles, sociopaths, soldiers and governments. It’s not so easy with humans. So there exists an irony with the human concept. It seems that we exist by the philosophy that one can live and let live until somebody loses too much blood out of a bullet hole. See? Doesn’t make sense. Only the mentally ill would argue against the Golden Rule, but rarely is it ever followed, from the innocence of a white lie to the violent trespass of armed robbery. And yet we all claim to be human.
Maybe this irony would exist for raccoons too if they “evolved”, (a euphemism describing the eventual advent of the A-bomb), into Internet shoppers and consumers of automobiles bearing delusional names like “Highlander” and “Avenger”. Maybe.
Without a judgmental king or trusted God, modern, wealthy societies have no fear marker to guide them. No indelible code of conduct. Today our children are abandoned to the concept of making it up as they go. Acceptance of societal degeneration is the parental new black. And of course if the rabbi, minister, tribal chief, or imam are not controlling the media, then we get more live and let live lost souls reporting on what is right and wrong. Doomed to failure. Exponential failure with few ideas for change.
Well, I have one.
I believe our society could be saved with uniforms. A code strictly enforced from birth until death, every man and woman must abide by wearing the same exact uniform, fit to size of course. Every other aspect of life in America can remain the same. Paul’s Big M can stock the same chalky, processed foods. Ford can make cars in Mexican factories, and drones can spy on our babies’ pee parts in their bath water. Eagle and Chinese calligraphy tattoos may flourish but no one will see them unless they’re drawn on face, hands, and feet since the uniform is pant length and long-sleeved. Every man and woman the same visually, so the heart, good or bad, can be judged without distraction. The thug with the mouth oblivious to the little girl and her grandfather can still act crudely, but maybe now the offended will speak up, or perhaps grandpa might find the social stamina to whack the thug on the shin with a steel pipe. The latter will be wise to retreat seeing all the concerned uniformed people stopping to assess the scene. Dressed like every one else, he no longer inspires that initial fear-jerk that aggressively dressed assholes were once able to muster. He looks just like neighbor Fred mowing his lawn. And neighbor Fred is always careful when children are around.
Gangs in Chicago stop ganging. The Homicide Boys won’t be able to tell an Imperial Gangster from a Nike Boy. Bor-ing. Can’t tell if the innocent bystander is a degenerate or a mailman. And people always just laugh at any silly gangster strut on the street.
The military will become more democratic. If private Tom looks like General Bob it will be extremely difficult for Bob to convince Tom to run up front where the bullets are hissing.
The Republic is saved. Everybody is on the level. When a senatorial candidate arrives to the rally in a chauffeured SUV, the constituents laugh, laugh, laugh, knowing he will never possess a character brighter than his uniform. Everyone will want to vote for the chauffeur. Humility will become Gandhi-popular as never before.
Eventually, the economy will constrict to the point of personal salvation. People will want to become self-determinate once again. New declarations of independence will arise. “Jesus, I look just like this ignorant jackass beside me in the grocery aisle. Get me some land and a hoe, and children to instruct on the miracles of love and knowledge. I don’t want to be a “regular guy,” or “just one of the folks.”
These days there are just too many arbitrary visual markers predicting individual character.
If we must abide by the philosophy to live and let live (knowing that very few ever do), then let us raise that contradiction to a level playing field. Uniforms I say. They will make for better shopping in all wasted and spent towns and cities like Oswego, U.S.A.