God knows this is your one-stop-shop for dime-store Grand Unifying Theories, but in the interests of staying positive about the future, I’ve had to devise ways to keep living in a country that I find so unfathomably stupid.
Oh, I’m sorry, does that make me sound like a douche? To paraphrase Walt Whitman, very well, then – I’m a douche. (I am large. I contain multitudes of smug disdain.) At the very least I’m honest, and I also admit my utter disgust for many of my fellow Americans has done nothing for my happiness.
So lately I’ve come to understand an obvious concept that can be applied to almost every problem we’ve got. Put simply: nobody can be told anything; everyone must learn everything through experience. It’s one tick shy of cliché, but if you take this rule to heart, it means every philosophical, political or otherwise “theoretical” argument you’ve ever made has fallen on deaf ears. Nobody is listening – ’twas ever thus, and twill ever be thus.
You tell that girl to stay away from that guy, and she listens to you, she “hears” you, and yet she will fall in love with him all the same, then call you weeping on the phone when he smashes her heart. You will tell your friend to make sure he has a spare tire, but he will not. You will tell your sister not to have that last vodka popper, but she will.
Take the American body politic as an example. Think of the roughly 14.2 million people who voted for Bush in 2004 and then wanted him gone 18 months later. Think now of the abject horror of his Presidency ending in 2009, and how two years later, the GOP has an excellent shot at reclaiming the House of Representatives.
It’s enough to make even an armchair progressive gnash his teeth in misery, but it’s pretty simple: Americans are simply incapable of learning from history. They don’t have the ability to see that Republicans make messes so large that Democrats can’t clean them up, which in turn makes Republicans get elected again. It is something that smart voters – ones actually looking at the bigger picture – will have to experience themselves.
It’s no wonder that “burnouts” get burnt out, or that our elders are capable of such heart-rending cynicism; they’re mostly exhausted watching the next wave of morons make the same mistakes over and over, and they feel powerless to stop any of it. They will argue that their snarling negativity is not actually cynicism at all – they’ll call it “realism”, or “pragmatism” – but there’s one thing they really are, and that’s “no fun at parties”.
With that in mind, I’m making this promise now: I will do everything in my power NOT to be one of these people. I will try to understand self-destructiveness for what it is. I will try to remember my own desire to make my own fucking dumb-ass mistakes on my own terms, even if it means being ready with kitty litter (for barf) and a credit card (for everything else).
A friend of mine (no, not him, so don’t guess) has been ignoring his wife’s lamentations for years. She has repeatedly asked for certain reasonable expectations, and he has repeatedly come up short, and worse, not cared that much. He was repeatedly told that a woman’s heart can only take so much before they move on and have no feelings left, but still, he didn’t change. She then fell out of love with him, utterly and completely, and asked him to leave.
The news utterly floored him; he couldn’t believe it, claimed it came out of nowhere. He quickly reversed his ways, did what she wanted, but she was already gone, moved on, moved out. I will not say, nor even think, “told you so” – I can only be his friend, and continue to nod and pour drinks.
Some people need car wrecks to wear seat belts. Some people need to writhe in unbearable agony and run out of money before they will vote for universal health care. Some people need to marry someone awful before they treat themselves to the person they deserve.
And I know, as a parent, my words will carry the tiniest amount of bantamweight, a feather-ounce of syllables just wafting out of earshot as my kid looks at the expanse of a beautiful world waiting to be devoured. I can only hope my child suffers small scares that imbue the wisdom to choose passions wisely.
As Morrissey said (on an album of almost equal beauty to his work in The Smiths):
You’ll never believe me, so
Why don’t you find out for yourself?
Sick down to my heart, that’s just the way it goes
Some men here, they know the full extent of your distress
They kneel and pray and they say, “Long may it last!”
Why don’t you find out for yourself?
Then you’ll see the glass
Hidden in the grass…