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Category: Humans

Prime Suspects
I’ve been hammering away on a new theory for a while, but I’m having trouble working the bugs out. It’s about people…in particular, suspicious people.

People who tend to be suspicious, so my theory goes, should be viewed with suspicion themselves. For example, people who suspect that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim/Communist/Kenyan/Nazi bent on destroying the United States ought to at least be suspected of being racist meatheads. Suspicion itself seems to be all that such people have by way of proof, and yet they persist. That fact alone should be reason enough to suspect them…of something.

We have the same situation with those people who suspect that the United States government is in the process of invading itself in a few southern and western states and intends to impose martial law in those places. Their suspicions abound, but there is no evidence of any kind that the Jade Helm military operation now underway in those areas is anything other than what it claims to be — a training exercise being conducted on the only land available for such an exercise…inside our own borders. And yet, they cling to this belief and plan their lives around it — including plots to kill American soldiers.

Some people (the same people, in many cases) also suspect that almost every scientist on Earth is part of an international conspiracy to promote the idea that our globe is warming and that it’s the fault of humans. Again, there is no proof of this claim, and even the suspicions themselves don’t stand up to common sense for more than a few seconds. These people, however, continue to subscribe to this belief without question. Why?

And that’s the question, isn’t it? Why do people harbor these suspicions? One of the bugs in my theory is its inability to say exactly what these people should be suspected of. It’s really got me stumped. In the case of the Obama haters, racism would be a prime candidate, but I can’t help thinking there’s more to it than that. I am convinced that something larger is at work here, but I’ve had a hard time putting my finger on it. It’s almost as if these people need something to fear and hate, just so they can avoid the hard work of making sense of the world. Under this view, we could even argue that they have taken leave of their senses, albeit of their own free will. If this were the case, all of their rationales would instantly become suspect as the ravings of lunatics.

Okay, that seems a bit facile. And it does not, furthermore, address the other big bug in my theory. Since the theory asks us to be suspicious of suspicious people, doesn’t that make us the very people we should be suspicious of?

Yes, a conundrum. The work continues.
Be Happy Now
We received some promising news from French neuroscientists recently that might help people who suffer from depression. By shooting a simple beam of light into the brain cells of mice, researchers were able to activate the happy memories stored there — and thereby alleviate depression in their subject animals.

We all know that revisiting pleasant experiences can help make us feel better. The tricky part, if you are depressed, is getting your mind to do that. If you are lost in that dark mental state and looking to find your happy place, you will likely discover that you can’t get there from here.

That’s why this story is good news. If scientists can isolate, and then activate pleasant memories in rats, they can probably do it in humans. Can a “happy button” be far behind? Feeling bad? Just press your happy button and the darkness begins to recede. Suddenly, all the possibilities of a normal life are within reach.

Everyone seems confident that Silicon Valley is up to this job, and who can blame us? It seems that nothing is beyond their wizardry these days. And we can all agree, I think, that such a device would be a truly wonderful thing for the many people who live under the crushing weight of clinical depression.

I hope that you will forgive me, however, if I see a down side to this hopeful news. If people who live with depression have access to a happy button (and I don’t begrudge them that), then wouldn’t everyone want one, too? You know, just to get you through the day? If you are troubled by our current brave new world, in which everyone is staring slack-faced into his phone — a world where we are all lost in our devices and rarely interact face to face, then imagine this: soon, we might all be sitting around pressing our happy buttons every waking moment, not speaking, not working, not living at all in any real sense.

Since we would be so absorbed by what was happening in our happy places, we would not have time to acquire new happy memories. Instead, we would be plugged into an endless tape loop, reliving the same happy moments over and over.

Working would be out of the question. Too much of a bummer. Eventually, civilization would grind to a halt. Everyone would simply be too busy in his happy place to keep the whole thing going. At some point, the electrical grid would break down, though, and our happy buttons would cease to operate. We’d probably rebuild the system then, or at least some of it…just enough to keep our happy buttons fully push-able. Civilization would be gradually reconfigured to become a society centered on the upkeep of happy buttons.

I suppose this might be a good thing for the environment. We’re moving forward too fast as it is, and our rate of acceleration seems to be reflected in the deteriorating health of the planet. A dead stop in human activity would stop that slide. The world would be saved, but the human race would probably just wither and die.

It’s not a pretty picture, is it? In fact, it’s kind of depressing. If I only had a happy button…
No Sweat
When we hear that someone is “sweating like a pig” our mind conjures up all kinds of unpleasant images. We imagine perspiration rolling off in profusion, and we envision that flood accompanied by the unseemliest grunting and heaving and repellent odors. Not only do these images slander the person sweating, they also advance unfair stereotypes about pigs themselves.

Pigs, you see, do not sweat. They employ other methods to cool themselves (typically rolling in mud). The term “sweat like a pig” has its roots in the early days of the industrial revolution and the process of producing pig iron. The sweating referred to is the condensation that forms on a bar — or “piglet” — of molten iron as it cools after smelting.

Though I know that pigs will continue to struggle with discrimination, I can only hope that this blog has played some small part in dispelling a hurtful myth about these sensitive, intelligent creatures.

(For the record, the term “eat like a pig” means exactly what we think it means…not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Clothes Encounter
There are plenty of silly things to read about on the internet. Any article handicapping suitors on “The Bachelorette” would qualify, as would an in-depth analysis of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

I did see a story today, however, that merits more thought. The headline was almost enough to turn me away, but something drew me in. “Could Your Skinny Jeans Kill You?” it asked soberly, and I immediately suspected that the writer was mocking my gullibility. Still, I wanted an answer — and it turned out to be “Yes!”

I won’t get into details, but let me just say nerve damage and let it go at that. Apparently, such garments are only safe if you stand erect and perfectly still. Even then, you would have to put them on and take them off, and that could potentiate “tibial neuropathies by causing a compartment syndrome." I don’t have to tell you how bad that can be. I assume that culottes or skorts would have been okay.

I do feel for the woman who was at the heart of the story. She was, after all, hospitalized for four days after her run-in with her clothing, and the pants had to be cut off of her in order to administer medical care. She was clearly a victim, but my sympathy can only go so far. That’s because her injuries were self-inflicted, putting her in the sad, special category of fashion victim.

Such people are everywhere, though their misguided clothing choices rarely result in physical injury. Someday, I suppose, we might read of some unfortunate lad falling under a train because his butt-hanging-out trousers finally tripped him up, but most examples of fashion victimhood are only pathetic, not fatal.

The worst injuries are to the comfort or reputation of the victim. Imagine the young man killed by the train, for example, as he walks across the parking lot on his way to the station. One hand is occupied holding up his rad, boxer-exposing pants, while the other is employed shielding his eyes from the sun because he has his baseball cap on backward. He is no doubt oblivious to the drawbacks of his tout ensemble, but the rest of us can clearly see that he is an idiot.

But let’s not get cocky. We’ve all been fashion victims at one time or another. No? What about the button-down collar? What do those buttons accomplish besides making it harder to put a tie on? And then there are the ties themselves — which do little else but provide a showcase for our own bad taste. High heels are on the list, of course, along with most shoes, most hats, and all pre-torn garments.

Yes, we are all victims here, even if we don’t develop tibial neuropathies. If you look at the history of human apparel, you see that it has always been thus — a silly species wearing clothing that is silly. Still, we can imagine a better, more sensible world, and who knows? Someday we might live in a society without fashion victims, a universe where we can all be practical and look good...wearing togas and Birkenstocks.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon