In front of me a middle-aged woman has been posing for a patently fake smile while stared at the front side of her smartphone in the past few minutes that I have been clandestinely watching her. I have just found a seat on the subway and I am in the process of liberating myself from the winter garment that is the Canadian equivalent of the suite that men wear on Mars and Martians wear where men live. Her summertime flat-sole canvas crimson shoes are angled inwardly. She has her earbuds on. They are the stock listening devices that smartphone manufacturers ship alongside the latest incarnations of their gadgets.
As I approached the subway station my mind wandered while high on Vesna by DakhaBrakha. I inquired my within, as I habitually do after I wake up and before I get in the shower and during every pitstop before the night falls. The topic of today’s contemplation was a phrase that I wrote towards six months ago. “Leftists are more pleasurable in bed”. At the time of writing that sentence I was still situated well within the rosy realm of assuming that something has recently gone wrong with people and that the situation could be repaired. I also derived an imperative out of my musings, that people ought to be salvaged, that some evil has bestowed its nasty infection upon the humanity and that the blaze could be extinguished.
That was then. I have since found myself leaning towards a different perspective. That of calling my previous conviction rudimentary and an outcome of my naivete. Now, I find myself questioning my motives for attempting to save the humanity, or at least the isle of it that is accessible to me. The key question, therefore, and the point of departure from my past state of mind is what if this is people. What if the living and breathing vehicle and seeker and enforcer of survival is nothing but a mean sucker of resources, albeit beyond the limits of necessity and well into the basic requirements of the survival of everyone else? What if the current afflictions of the human race are seldom a momentary hardship and in fact the phenomenon striped naked and in full bloom?
That question and any understanding that they may beget are not objective contemplations. On the one hand, I am interested in observing and understanding people. From this vantage point, a person, or the whole notion of personhood, for that matter, attracts one’s attention in a way that is not characteristically different from one’s interest in observing and developing an understanding of rocks, insects and clouds. There is a second dimension to one human’s attempt at understanding the rest of her kind, however, and that is the pursuit of safety from the alleged predator that is at the moment safely contained under the sharp gaze of the microscope and is well separated from the observer by layers of thick glass and a breathing mask, but may in fact break loose at any instance. Along this line of thought, one would develop anxiety when her observations of her own kind reveals dark traits in what is observed. At the end of the day, people are at the same time the subject of intellectual pondering as they are also a prominent component in one’s environment as well.
In essence, whatever it is that one discovers under the microscope of attempted objective analysis of people and their ways is also what one is faced with in the street. To make matters even more unsettling, there is an additional outcome corresponding to looking into people and that is the matter of introspection. Whatever people are is also what I am. A violent bunch? So am I. The same flesh and practically identical chemical composition. From the cold unaffectionate vantage point of a Martian, I am, for all intents and purposes, a replica of Donald J. Trump. The accused might attempt to save her soul by pointing out differences in mental processes and past behaviour, upon hearing which the wise Martian will assert, quite correctly, I tend to believe, that the claimant has not had the opportunity to unleash a catastrophe, potentially because she does not have the required arsenal. Give the person an overflowing bank account and connection to the apex of the pyramid and watch if she would refrain from being another manifestation of the devil.
What then? Are good people merely the incapable? Is their incapability what makes them attractive? And more importantly, what are the implications of this dark view of humanity given the fact that one is condemned to live with people while being one of them at the same time?
The train is closing its doors to Dundas Station and I need to pack up and get ready to disembark when it stops two hundred and sixty meters closer to the lake at Queen Station.
Picture courtesy of as I walk Toronto