May 22, 2013
Throwing Up for Peace
Posted on Apr 2, 2012
By Mr. Fish
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”—George Orwell
The sad fact is that all traditional modes of dissent, whether they’re protest marches or boycotts or sit-ins, must ultimately fail because they are generally powerless to prevent their own inception. What does that mean? It means that once you’re able to label an injustice as being unjust, it’s already happened. Protest movements generally come about only after the baby has already bounced once on the ground, which, of course, is always too late to prevent the baby from falling in the first place. More often than not, a protester is looking at a wheezing sea gull with 11 toes when he is shouting, through cupped hands, “For the love of God Almighty, end pollution NOW!”
In fact, organized activism such as the peace movement, even when executed on a grand scale, has never in the history of the world achieved the demands of its organizers nor the expectations of its participating sympathizers. Real humanitarianism requires years and years of practice to become useful to a society. It requires a certain eloquence to endear itself to the part of people’s brains that recognize the relevance of something only if it bears joyful repetition. It’s a lot like music that way. That’s why, even to the most forgiving ear, much of mass protest comes off sounding, politically speaking, like a bunch of people with no musical ability coming together to play the “Jupiter Symphony” on kazoos. The result is typically heartbreakingly charming to the friends and family of the protesters, but pathetic and unlistenable to most everybody else.
Of course, the only hope we may have as a species lies within our ability to hear exquisite music inside the silence in between the notes we play, to see the beauty on the blank or graffitied walls separating our masterpieces and to recognize, with grace, our pathetic ineptitude when it comes to being able to appreciate the virtues of heaven only by requiring the episodic presence of hell on Earth.
I was recently sitting all alone in a vegan sandwichery and espresso joint in South Philadelphia watching a gangly barista with a translucent pubic beard dyed pink, neck tattoos and a tongue piercing that made him sound like Jodie Foster’s Nell when he spoke— Trouble go away at nigh’, an’ Nell caw Mi’i - an’ Nell an’ Mi’i - ye’, Nell an’ Mi’i - like t’ee in the way!—reach up under his Fuck Rehab T-shirt, unscrew the tiny barbell from his left nipple, pull it out, smell it and toss it onto the counter like it was a rancid olive. “Wah?” he said, when he noticed my expression of clear disgust. “Haen’t yew ebah gottn ah infecded teet befoe?”
“Lots of times,” I said, lying, “but I never diagnosed myself while working in food service, having just used my naked hand to press down on the toasted sourdough and avocado sandwich of a customer who was sitting in front of me.”
“Wha-evah,” he said, retreating into the backroom where, I imagined, he planned on dragging the onion ring-sized piercing he had on his taint through the mayonnaise bin.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, “Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them,” which, to me, meant two things. First, elements of reality are real only when they are direct and experiential and, second, no one can claim the right to define what reality should look and feel like to another person. Having recently discovered the quote inked onto the front cover of a tattered journal from college, the sentiment freshly imprinted upon my mind, I decided to finish my lunch and to not think the worst of the Maynard G. Krebs-meets-Lady Gaga hybrid who, when I stood to leave, I saw back near the dishwasher milking the pus out of his breast with fingernails painted black, his shirt rolled up beneath his chin, his grubby sneakers hoisted onto tiptoes. He didn’t notice me, nor did the cat cleaning its ass on the prep table next to him, its hind leg pointed to the sky, its tiny brown head, pitching and bobbing like an aberrant muffin on a choppy sea, buried deep in its own crotch.
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