I suppose I’ll start where this begins, a quarter mile down a dusty suburban road I don’t exactly live on anymore, in a go-kart my brother fixed. He’d been working on it for over a year, or at least we’d had this broken thing for over a year, and I’m frankly very impressed at its functionality, given that no one in this household knows very much about engines. He’d ridden it up and down the street a few times, and I came home a bit later and started riding it. I don’t really enjoy driving things, honestly, it seems a bit like cheating, being propelled by something else (this is the runner in me, I suppose) but the kart was a bit thrilling. It was old, and did all the things an old engine tends to do, including being fairly loud, however our road is both bordering (1) a main road (2) an interstate sloped at a fairly dramatic grade (as interstates go)(read: jake brakes are common) and (3) a set of woods that are often subject to things like quads and guns and fireworks I figured that it wouldn’t matter too much, so long as it wasn’t too common.
I’d gotten down the street a bit, made a U, turned around, and ran it up again. That was honestly going to be it, I felt like a go-kart on the road was a bit of a nuisance, and not worth freaking drivers out for minimal enjoyment. A guy was sort of walking down the street, but I hadn’t really ever seen him before, and was headed back anyways, so I decided to turn around and, as is sometimes said, punt. However, he flagged me down, and, being the upstanding citizen I am, stopped the engine and walked to meet him. However, I had nary the the time even fully kill the motor before his tirade began (a bit of an apology here, I refuse to print expletives on this blog for political reasons, so bear with my editing) , starting with “YOU SURE AS (redacted) HAVE A LICENSE FOR THAT THING OR YOU CAN GET THE (redacted) OFF OF MY ROAD.” What followed was a ten minute tirade about how he couldn’t even think with the noise that thing made, how I was stupid and should (redacted redacted redacted) and needed a license. Fortunately for me, two things were true. (1) He did not understand vehicle registration law and (2) had based his entire argument on the presumption that I was too young to have a license. When I was able to produce a license, he backed down from calling the police but continued on his tirade, despite my numerous apologies and promises for non-repetition. To be clear, the conversation looked like (1) yelling (2) apology (3) yelling about how he deserved an apology. No joke, you’d have thought I killed his dog or something.
Either way, eventually he got tired or bored or something and spun on his heel and gave the hand-raised wave before stomping back inside. I pushed the kart up the road to the garage and made it clear that no one could ride it again (at least on the street).
I guess, what bugs me is he’s not the only one. There’s the lady in Target, who went off at the employee over a pair of socks or something, that bus driver who yells her head off at the kids to shut up, that guy who angrily informed my neighbor that their clothes weren’t bright enough to be riding a bike, someone’s mom losing it at the playground over a dropped sandwich or a loud toddler, the impatient guy at the gas station. People get angry, irrationally angry, angry at everyone (I mean, go-kart man informed he that he thought he was yelling at a twelve year old girl without a license, so I’m not sure what that means so far as his I-am-a-human standards go).
Sometimes I complain about weird people in Cambridge, in Boston, who yell things at you, try to talk to you, but I honestly feel less threatened about these than the random suburban warriors who feel like not-letting-them-in-because-you-got-to-the-intersection-BEFORE-them is grounds for justified assault. This, to me, is fairly perplexing, as I generally view those who live in outer suburbia as living a more placid, unstressed existence compared with those in Boston (who generally are either killing themselves slowly over some academia related thing or are homeless, high, or both and sitting on a bench in Central. I mean, on balance, people here have more free time, can do things like play sports recreationally, go for walks, you know, enjoy nature, watch TV, sleep for eight hours a day, who’d have thought…and still, they’re the ones who are angry, raging, threatening.
Maybe people just have a set amount of frustration, anger, emotion inside of them that builds and screams to be released, and the agony of homelessness or unrelenting schoolwork or what will you opens something that lets it free (this is just wild speculation, mind you).
I’m not sure why people do the things they do. Life here is near-perfect, in some sense, or near-serene. There are several end cases in which those looking for placidity can find it, but still, conflict arises, somehow, from within; the very organisms that this town exists to shelter generate their own pseudo-chaos, plastic reality that cries towards something like actual injustice but remains so far off…
How can you do that? Find something like peace, safety, and then get so irrationally angry at anything, everything, a kid, a bus, a car…find that anger, an internal flame burning eternally, fan it, use it, gosh, how can you be so angry all the time over nothing. Is this just something ingrained in humanity? Something that sits deeply, part of the societal unit? Humanity in a closed system, freed from the inconveniences and injustices of nature, will inherently generate conflict?
Sometimes I wonder if that’s what all this heaven and hell business is about. It can’t be paradise, right, if paradise’s inhabitants vandalize it’s perfection. Therefore, to sustain some sort of utopia it becomes necessary to remove the offending elements…although I get the impression that if something insane or angry or scary exists in the world at large it also exists within each individual to some lesser degree (another unsubstantiated claim).
If it’s true then, that humanity has this ability to generate conflict from nothing, is it also true that humanity is net bad? That the total effect we have on the universe is negative? I suppose that that depends on some standards for good or bad existing, who’s so say that destroying the environment is bad, as some neighboring observer will simply see a planet developing highly organized and dynamic chemical structure in some chance overthrowing of the laws of entropy, and then it all collapsing back into raw heat, fading.
But still, there seem to be many different configurations for organized society that have less pain, suffering generated from within themselves. Is our non-optimality grounds for being considered, for lack of a better phrasing, not-worth-the-oxygen?
Still, there are individual units of this single, massive organism (can you consider an ant hill an organism in itself? Can humans be evaluated as a whole population, and, moreover, should they? Surely an alien observer would take our highly social and interdependent structure as a unit, or would they?) that seem net good. What makes them net good? Do they suppress something knowingly? Does their net character make them fit for some utopia that others disqualify from(or are not yet qualified for)? Is this “good”ness the result of experience, some aversion to badness? What spurs a person to choose to be good, after all? Does the desire for some virtue just come with some people and not for others?
It’s unclear. Geez, humans.