Monday, January 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Aren't

Dear George,

The most wonderful experience an authoritarian regime can have is when people start enslaving themselves, and people enslave themselves when they begin to fear the unknown and the unseen.

This fear of the unseen begins to feed on itself, and soon a feedback loop arises in which the fear of one unseen threat gives rise to the fear of another unseen threat, as something that was mundane and innocuous suddenly seems to threatens existence. The fear of the mundane, in turn, conditions the drones to fear whatever threats their leaders chose to trot out for the purpose of social control.

I am pleased to see that increasingly the most vibrant mundane threat, the scariest “other” is none other than microscopic germs. They scare the shit out of us. Because of this fear, we have food handlers wearing latex gloves less they contaminate food with their nose pickings. Supermarkets are now offering their customers antibacterial wipes to sanitize the handles of their shopping carts so they won’t contract AIDS in the produce department.

But, the piece de resistance is a sleep sack to protect you from bacterial infection when you sleep in a motel bed. (You just don’t know what kind of skank slept there before you.)

Little by little, the germ has become a metaphor for all the wild and unpredictable things that torment our imaginations, especially the ones that either don’t exist or whose importance are greatly exaggerated by our fervid imaginations.

In the end, our greatest fear is life itself. As one writer explains:

Life itself, after all, is the most fundamental existential threat; life embraces its compliment, death. Life is full of wild things, threatening things. The word ‘wild’ means self-willed. Life itself is a threat that must be eliminated. That’s the final logic of the final solution.

The ‘dark’ ‘wilderness’ is simply full of threats, you know. We were taught that too. And if you are a white ‘American’ it is manifestly your destiny to conquer the wild threat, to tame it, to break it—to eliminate it.

The lowly is helping to slowly turn America into a gated community as we build our walls and enter the names of “foreigners” into our data banks. Our approach to wilderness is to either disinfect her or pave her over. The same is true of wild cultures that are too unpredictable for our refined tastes. It makes little difference whether we pave over wild cultures with asphalt or the rubble of their dwellings or the bones of their dead.

The bottom line is that we are civilized, and being civilized we will have order and predictability. We will place the yoke of linear rationality on a life that is a continuous nonlinear paradox. And then we will try to figure out why we screw things up so badly.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

2 comments:

David M said...

I 'am catching up on Belacqua so I'm a day late on this one but. I had to respond because this is a pet peeve of mine. I wonder how far this sanitization thing is going to go. Here are a couple of examples I've experienced. I live in the county and invited some folks out for a barbeque. A large affair, about 100 invitees. A large number of the married with children did not bring their children because they feared that they might get dirty or worse yet get sick being around horses and goats. I was flabergasted. I thought that this would be a good thing for the children to experience horses and goats and get dirty. One more incident that struck me was in a conversation with some folks about bathing. Seems most of these folks use two bars of soap, one for their backside and one for the rest of their body. I had never heard of Butt-Crack soap before. I felt like a dirty heathen after this conversation. Anyway as usual you hit the nail on the head.

thepoetryman said...

offering their customers antibacterial wipes to sanitize the handles of their shopping carts so they won’t contract AIDS in the produce department.

Hoooooooooo Agggggghhhhhhh!

Funny as ever, my friend...