Arguments II : the Apathy Bird

The world has a way of wearing down our resolve. Vigilance gives over to complacency. Eventually the natural forces of entropy dissolve our dedication. Our razor sharp capabilities, our laser-like focus, our passion for excellence all wane. For a million reasons we nap instead of fight. We miss a bill payment, or order pizza in when we’re trying to diet. The fuck-it bird comes home to roost. We rediscover a childish apathy. I lose interest in talking to anyone but my closest associates, those with whom I can absolutely let the guard down and never be misunderstood. Fuck it indeed. Then it gets bad. I start to feel belittled and then I act out. Childish fantasies of suicide follow fantasies of violence.
A letter arrives from the DMV three days before they will revoke my registration based on an incorrect accusation of being without insurance. I have exactly one day to fix this issue because the two following days are weekend. It looks like the letter was drafted a week ago, but for some reason the letter only just arrived. I fire off an email to my agent when I get home from work. He picks it up with vigor the following morning (the good fellow) and tells me that I’m innocent of the accusation and won’t have to pay the fifty dollar fine. He shows me that he’s faxed the form and I thank him. But what the hell happened? Why am I being punished for not only doing everything right but even being the type of person who actually worries about this kind of shit. When I read the letter I felt like a criminal. I freaked out thinking I’d possibly allowed the insurance to lapse somehow. I let these bureaucratic freaks unnerve me. But then I found out that they were wrong, and they even seem to know that they are often wrong because the first paragraph of the instructions of the letter tell you that despite being innocent of the charge you’ll have to hurry up to prove it. And so now I’m mad.
I’ve been threatened by a system that I willingly participate in because I’ve always felt it was the correct way. I have acquaintances who drive without licenses and without registrations and are flippant about insurance or paying taxes. They’ve spent nights in jail, and regularly talk to law enforcement officers as though they were their superior officers, worse actually, more like the way Donald Trump speaks to just about anyone who dares criticism him. Why do I worry about this crap so much? Why am I sweating my tax efforts and concerned about my medical bills? Why do I let anxiety about my poverty and lack of lucrative work ruin my time on Earth?
When you think about it the only reason you can be chased is because you did everything right. These institutions of regulation have your name and address and the right to censure you because you’ve given all that to them freely—because it’s the process and we abide. It makes us low hanging fruit, we are nearly free—cost them little in resources—to aggressively pursue and abuse.
The jury duty letters that come from the sheriff’s office are much the same. Their attitude is one of aggressive threat if you disregard your responsibility. The letter doesn’t build up the experience as an opportunity to participate in something that should be more thought of as a civic pride. Instead it blankets the landscape with threats. Threats cover everyone from the most dedicated of socially concerned citizens to the careless who toss the letter away and never think of it again. Threats, we realize, are the most efficient way for the bureaucracy to deal with us. But it pisses us off, it makes us wish to retaliate, that’s only natural. A level of politeness would alleviate much of that sense of belittling, just a please and a thank you. In truth they are pretty good when you go do your jury duty, they do make a big deal out of thanking you for it. But still I can’t shake that sense of disrespect and that rankling of ego when professional courtesy is denied. We’re put on the defense for no good reason, and it makes one dream of providing a reason.
Before long I’m on Donald Trump’s side (not really of course, he’s an idiot, and I was done with him as soon as he said to Wolf Blitzer that his evidence of Mexicans all being criminal was that our leaders were “stupid”. This was long before he accused all Africans of having Aids and our POWs as being losers, etc. I was long ago done with that kind of belligerent bullshit artist (shit, he doesn’t even really qualify as artist, maybe just slinger). But I want to get something clear, Nixon was right about something. And that thing was this—you can’t be offended by people you don’t respect. Respect is key, and if you don’t respect a fool who calls you a name, you really can’t be injured by an unknown quantity whose voice really has no proven value. It’d be like wanting to slug a parrot for blurting a slur. Of course, if we somehow put that parrot in a position of eminence then there could be cause for a slap upside the beak.
Norm MacDonald joked recently about suicide, a roundly unfunny topic, he felt it was kind of silly that people weren’t more understanding as life does indeed seem to be a long chain of disappointments generally capped off by a calamity. I too agree with Norm and I think the application of understanding should be wide. In other words, I also understand why people are fat, or gamblers, or alcoholics, or binge shoppers. Because it’s difficult to be depressed. I comprehend how these things become our refuges for that fleeting feeling of satisfaction in a world of crass disinterest in us. Try not to become an addict of self-destructive habits, friends. And that’s really the best we’ve got. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs seems simplistic, and even ridiculously self-evident. How is it we’ve so long managed to avoid teaching it across the board to everyone? Even Iggy Pop said recently that the best thing in life is being loved. These needs of esteem and love really do take their toll when we’re denied and having those ideas of human desire clearly expressed, perhaps with the familiarity of the Ten Commandments would help all of us when we’re feeling crushed by the worst of our experiences.
So drink, gamble a bit, try some new experiences, meet some new folks, leave your chair, your house, your fish bowl. Just because your booklist wasn’t lauded by some NPR program doesn’t meant it’s not impressive (I never finished War and Peace). But, you should also reach out to areas that aren’t already part of your tiny existence. Stop defending your parochialism and get a copy of Anna Karenina (I did finish that one!).

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