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Category: Humans

Taking a Stand
Maybe I’m just a crabby tourist. That would certainly make sense, since I’m crabby when I’m home alone watching the tube.

The grievance I want to discuss, however, is about more than just my level of gruntlement. As proof, I point to the particularity of my travel crabbiness. It is never directed toward the locals, but almost always at my fellow tourists. Furthermore, it centers on just one dispepticizing offense.

Standing in the doorway. I repeat — which is what I began to do out loud after two weeks abroad — “standing in the do-o-o-orwa-a-ay.” I don’t think my growls actually registered on these folks because they were standing — utterly transfixed and oblivious to their fellow humans — in the goddam doorway.

It is only natural, when encountering some new situation, to pause and survey the scene while getting one’s bearings. Yes, perfectly natural, but so is farting. The challenge is to act naturally while also thinking of others. I even get their temporary disconnection with those around them. But that’s still no excuse. As with cutting the cheese in an elevator (natural though that may be), you should be mindful of others and for Pete’s sake (and mine) not just stand there in the doorway. Please, thank you, safe travels my friend.

Not only were those people standing in my way, they were standing in the way of everyone lined up behind me who wanted to use the doorway for its paramount purpose: moving from one space into another. It might be a good place to stop and gawk, but that usage undermines the whole door concept.

The example that still preys on my mind came at the railway station in Segovia. I don’t know if she was also farting at the same time, but that would have been consistent with her mindset: blank. The train had stopped, and many of its passengers, including me and my nemesis, wished to get off. She and her luggage were among the first to descend to the platform, and I was right behind. As her feet hit the ground, however, she seemed struck dumb. She put down her suitcases and began a slow scan of the train station.

I guess it wasn’t a classic example of standing in the doorway, but the principle was the same. She blocked the only way off the train for me and the increasingly impatient travelers behind me. It took some tricky footwork to squeeze by her, and my completely insincere “excuse me” seemed to awaken her from her reverie. She stepped slightly aside, but even then I saw no recognition from her that she had erred. Instead, she seemed offended that I dared to get ahead of her in line.

Which only made my relative gruntletude that much worse. Indeed, it chafes at me even now, and the fact that it does further exacerbates my feelings of aggrievement. She has long forgotten the boorish American who cut her off in Segovia; I seem destined to keep the memory alive indefinitely.

Maybe those are the wages of crabbiness. I guess I should accept that. No matter how just my complaint, I am forced to carry the burden of it with me — which makes me the perpetual loser and notches another victory for all my tormenters.

And that really pisses me off.
When the Worm Turns
I would offer this blog as a clarion call to arms, but I know that I would be ignored. Besides, I don’t even own a clarion.

My call would be ignored because the object of my concern is being heralded as a godsend solution to one of humanity’s greatest problems: too much plastic. Plastic is more than a nuisance; its proliferation is seen as a threat to all that is natural and good in the world. As anyone who has visited the Gyre recently can tell you, that swirling, Texas-sized mass of plastic waste in the middle of the Pacific is now approaching Alaskan dimensions. It’s scary.

Reliable sources are breathlessly reporting that we might be saved from this tide of man-made garbage by a wondrous little creature that just loves the taste of good polyethylene: galleria mellonella, known to its friends as the parasitic waxworm.

Not the most endearing of names, perhaps, but who cares if it will gobble up the Gyre, shrink the local landfill, and bring plastic bags back to our grocery stores? And if you think of the parasitic waxworm as a cute little caterpillar which matures into the lovely-sounding galleria mellonella moth, it doesn’t sound quite so menacing.

Still, you might want to consider this question: what happens when all the plastic is gone? We will have gone down the path of fostering a massive breeding program of these parasites in the name of the environment. Fine. But these worms (or cuddly caterpillars, if you wish) are in plain truth repulsive, death-white caricatures of bug-ugliness, and they will be everywhere. Imagine, if you will, a world writhing and waist-deep in larvae, consuming everything in their path. The ranks of the mellonella moths (which are not nearly so pretty as their name) will have swollen enormously as well, perhaps into the many trillions. Their flutterings could well fill the skies and black out the sun as they seek out new sources of plastic and anything else they can lay their mandibles on. When they’re not laying eggs, that is.

Now, I don’t want to scare anyone. Everything will probably turn out for the best. Check the labels on all your clothing, though. If these things ever get started on that Patagonia fleece shell you’re wearing, they may not know when to stop. As I have said, however, it is unlikely that you will ever actually be devoured by a surging mass of polyethylene-crazed parasitic waxworms. The odds are very low of that happening, at any rate. 50-50 tops.

To be on the safe side, though, I’d advise you to keep that clarion handy. Not that it will be much help if all humanity has been wiped out by the parasitic waxworms.
Unauthorized
I’ve been engaging in a political thought experiment recently. My findings are still incomplete, but I thought I’d reach out for some peer review before I get too far into this thing.

The experiment deals with the “authoritarian mind.” You may have read about this idea over the last year; it’s gotten a lot of attention as a part of the many tortured attempts to explain the rise of Drump within a free, enlightened society. The term authoritarian here does not refer control freakish behavior of authoritarians themselves, but rather to the willingness of their followers to submit to such behavior.

The authoritarian mind is evidenced by a desire to be told what to think and do and a willingness to cede all personal responsibility to a strong leader. “I’ll take care of everything,” says the leader. The follower, seizing his chance to be let off the hook, replies “You’ve got my vote. Do whatever you have to!” — and the authoritarian relationship is officially established.

These relationships occur outside of politics, of course. Religion uses them to great effect. Most scams, both large and small, depend on the mark’s eagerness to give up personal control of their life or money and hand it over to someone who will promise to make everything better.

So here is my experiment: what would our world be like if all of these authoritarian minded people disappeared? Never mind why or how. If it makes you feel more comfortable, perhaps they’ve all been transported to heaven in the Rapture. Whatever. They’re gone — maybe 40% of humanity — and only those people who are willing (most of the time) to confront facts are left behind. Since you haven’t stopped reading this out of disgust, that group includes you, me, and everyone who tries to lead an evidence-based life.

Would the world be a better place without authoritarians? Would there be peace? Would reason finally triumph? Would the Age of Aquarius dawn at last?

Or would some fundamental element of humanity be lost? Would civilization stall and finally crumble to dust without the participation of true believers? Can our species survive without a blind faith that is impervious to facts? Who is to say that, with these people gone, some of us wouldn’t rush to fill the void of credulity and obedience? Movements need such people. So do armies. Maybe, as a species, we all do.

I prefer to think not. I prefer to think that an evidence-based life will lead me toward meaning and understanding and happiness. If I can maintain vigilance that is. I know that we all have an authoritarian inside us, urging us to give in to promises of simplicity and certainty. Who wouldn’t daydream of finding an easy way out of the daily drudgery of figuring out what to do in life? That drudgery can be a total pain.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, to be truly human, we must be gullible. Happy sheep waiting to be fleeced by the Controlling Class. Ba-a-a?

I don't think so. For me, the correct answer is “Bah!” That blissful certitude sounds even worse than the total pain option. Even though there will be lapses into gullibility, at least there’s the hope that I’ll snap out of it. I’m voting for endless doubt over contented ignorance.

I guess I’ll just have to miss out on the Rapture.
Señor Moment
Oh I still got it, pal
And I handle it
With flair

Brandish it and wield it
With the same old devil-
May-care

Yes I still got it, pal
And it’s still all covered
With hair

But I put it down a sec ago
And I can’t remember
Where
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee