Wednesday, March 10, 2004

C'mon Feel the Rage

One thing I find perplexing is how a mild mannered, sweet and lovable gal such as myself can be so so so cranky. How I can feel hatred for total strangers for absolutely no reason. They can be walking by, innocuously, and I will think: I can't stand you. I can't stand your expensive coat, your walk and everything you stand for. I despise you for existing.

I hate this city, I hate everyone in this city. I despise this nation I live in. It does not conform to my will. Etc.

And of course this free floating hostility means nothing. Or very little. Except that perhaps I am a being who occasionally craves total power over her environment (due to her ability to imagine things as other than they are--or to desire them as other than they are) and never can have this power because of other willful beings mucking up the scenery.

I don't really hate the world at large. It's a brain zap. In some ways, although I am anti-social in certain respects (mostly, because I want to be alone to read and think) I am far too interested in people to really despise them. Much of my imaginative energy is taken up with imagining what it is to be someone else. I find it hard even to entertain the thought of someone--no matter how icky--without engaging in at least some brief speculation as to how they got that way and what their thoughts might be about.

Usually, I think about what primarily motivates people and what truths or lies they may tell themselves to get through the day.

I tend to spend the most time on it when there is something that doesn't make sense to me--because I believe that in some way or other, things people do make some sense to them. This belief probably isn't true but I need it. So, suicide bombers. In one of my weird musings the other day I was trying to understand how there can be so many willing to volunteer not only to murder but to die. It is too simple to say they are 'brainwashed' although perhaps they are in certain respects. Certainly they are indoctrinated. Yet even that seems insufficient an explanation. I remember there was this Indian movie about a suicide bomber that tried to explore the phenomena. The murder/suicide was constructed as a great honor. She had prestige because of her brother's heroism and had to live up to that. It was an obligation she felt she owed to her fellow militants. Also, she had suffered in a war. What was most striking of course was the sense of no options. Not that she did not do it willingly but that there was very little for her besides continuing to fight. This last, I imagine at least, I understand.

I don't condone it or excuse it...but I always want to understand. Someone said nothing human is alien to me. I'm afraid that is not entirely true. Much is alien to me--but if it is human then I can't help myself. I don't want it to be alien. I want to know what it is.

I can never say whether I am even close in my construction of a world where things I would never do make sense. I imagine being John Ashcroft and how the things he does make sense to him. But never could I be sure that this little story I tell myself corresponds at all to the real John Ashcroft.

Generally, my strategy in understanding the initially foreign is to related it to something I am familiar with. So with Ashcroft I imagine childhood...How when I was a child things were black and white and I had a view about moral purity I probably would happily have imposed on others. With suicide bombers I think about a variety of things--jobs I've had. Being at the end of my rope. I imagine being the guy who sets up the bombings. The logistics guy. A job well done. An elaborate rationalization I tell myself (something like that of the Mafioso) so that I can sleep at night. realize that for some people terrorism is their 9-5? Their livelihood. To comprehend the incomprehensible I move elements from the ordinary to the extreme.

If I don't hate others truly why does this bile sometimes rise in my throat? Part of our problem as humans I think is that we have to share the world with others and sometimes that really bites. These others are annoying. I have a postcard that says 'other people ruin everything.' And it is oh-so-true. But on principle I am all for a peaceable sharing of the world. As much as I want to dominate others with my rage and my peculiar standards for appropriate human behavior I refrain from ever doing so. I stand back and (sometimes) even just let go. So the bus driver who smoked outside the door of the bus in my first trimester and made me so ill every day--I used to think: "Dang. He's addicted. He needs that suck of nicotine as much as I need anything right now. And the break from the monotony which we all so desperately need." It is strange how telling myself a little story most of the time seems to remove the need for outrage.

Most of the time we don't need outrage. When they leave the onions on your salad. When they don't return your phone calls. When they write a very bad memoir. Better to save your outrage for something really big.


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