Saturday, February 05, 2005

Kindly Suffering the Nice

A friend of a friend "won" a happy hour at this bar. My friend asked me if I wanted to go. He said the magic words "free food" and "25 cent beer" and I said okay. This bar was designed to look like a hunting lodge I was informed. A vision of myself in an hunting lodge is me sitting in an overstuffed leather chair in front of a roaring fire, a cigar in one hand and a brandy sniffer in the other. Having never been hunting, perhaps my vision does not correspond with reality. It didn't in this case.

For one thing, as I was to remember on the way over there, this stupid city passed a smoking ban. Most denizens of this city aren't aware that their fine city is in the top twenty or so of the most polluted cities in the US. Nor are they aware that within the metropolitan limits is a facility that develops biochemical weapons that are illegal by Geneva Convention standards. This facility has been taken to task several times for not following proper protective standards for such dangerous things. The behemoth structure just happens to sit on one of the major rivers. If everyone wakes up one morning with mutated DNA, covered with blisters and boils that would make Job shudder, and the spokesperson is on TV saying "Oops" I, for one, would not be surprised.

Dammit, none of that matters. There will be no smoking in bars. Never mind that the people pushing for this ban, probably drive their SUV's everywhere, putting more shit into the atmosphere in one day, than a lifetime of breathing second hand smoke.

The media decides what issues we should care about. They picked a target, one that will make "nice" people feel good about themselves when they push their overzealous agendas down everyone's throat. It was a "nice" little test of the media's ability to whip up a frenzy.

One nice girl asked what I did for a living. I told her. She said, "Really? I thought you were a musician. You look like a rock star." I think she was being complimentary, but she might also have meant that I looked like the only person in the bar who could have a proclivity for trashing hotel rooms. It wasn't a pick up line. She has a boyfriend. When nice people have nothing but nice things to say about everyone it kind of dilutes their compliments.

The place was full of nice people. I am beginning to think that nice is sort of a religion in this city. In comparison, I feel like a world-weary cynic. All of these nice people, a good many of them doctoral candidates from the nearby college, were completely unaware of the not very nice things going on in the world. It seems that most of them were focusing a whole lot on getting their nice doctorate, so they could find a nice job, buy a nice house, with a nice car in the garage. Maybe have a couple of nice kids.

Right now, I am struggling with keeping the promise I made in the tagline of this blog, "Now with fifty percent less cynicism." I am tempted to make such responses such as "good" and "lets get on with it" to articles like Major Impact Soon: British MP says, "We're living in a bowling alley."

But, I won't. I was once afflicted with a compulsion for niceness. It got me into all kinds of trouble. I was once blithely unaware of all the horrors of this world.

Learning the truth about the self and the world can cause all kinds of suffering. I think the suffering is worth it. Suffering is a harsh, unrelenting teacher, but she unlocks doors to libraries of wisdom for which only she has the key. It has to be the right kind of suffering. There is only a marginal amount of wisdom gained from the suffering of stubbing one's toe.

The suffering enabled by taking a stroll through memory lane, and really seeing for the first time all the times one was a real ignorant ass, all the times one did not take responsibility, all the people one hurt by being an ignorant, manipulative bastard when all along one thought one was being a nice guy, that is the kind of suffering one could gain a bit of wisdom from. That's the real thing; the ol' locked in a fetal-position for the day kind of suffering. I also understand why we all avoid it like the plague.

While nice soccer moms everywhere were deeply concerned about the health of bar goers, and expending their energies on a delicate scale that tips toward fascism, I was being kept up nights about some of the following items:
Depleted Uranium

How the Pentagon Radiates Soldiers & Civilians with DU Weapons

in May, 1997, the International Action Center published a book of essays and lectures on depleted uranium: the contamination of the planet by the United States military. In addition to exposing the deadly duplicity of the Department of Defense, the book documents the genocide of Native Americans and Iraqis by military radiation, the connection between depleted uranium and Gulf War Syndrome, the underestimated dangers from low-level radiation, the legal ramifications of DU Production and Use, and the growing movement against DU.
Kids are being born with birth defects because of this stuff. Soldiers are coming home sick, sick, sick, and their DNA is mutated, and they have mutated kids. This stuff is in our environment for 4.5 billion years. Now, if you could be so kind as to click this link, and then come back, then we can have that chat about the hazards of cigarette smoking in bars.
Killing of Palestinian girl shatters family

By Laila El-Haddad in Gaza

Ten-year-old Nuran Iyad Dib went to school as ecstatic as any schoolgirl should be. But this crisp winter day was special: she would receive her bi-annual report card.

As it turned out, she passed with flying colours, which meant a gift from her parents, who had been saving up their dwindling funds for this occasion. The teacher's comment on top of her report read: We predict a very bright future for Nuran.

But Nuran would have no such future, and her gift lies abandoned in a corner of her family's grieving home. On the afternoon of 31 January 2005, Israeli sniper fire ripped through her face as she stood in her school's courtyard, lining up for afternoon assembly. [...]

When Nuran died, a part of me died also, her mother said [...]
A story like the above happens every day.

I guess my point is that we are living in a world that is cruel and vicious. Ignoring it won't make it go away. It strikes the innocent down with impunity, and so many of us Americans don't seem to notice, and often it is done in our name or with our money.

Maybe we should stop being so nice, and strive to always be kind.

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