Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Morning Soapbox: Knowing

My latest co-worker (Herman) is an older gentleman. He's been clerking a while and he has this jovial demeanor, so he's pretty easy to get along with. Every so often, he'll try my patience by cracking a lame joke right in the middle of telling me about something important that I need to know for my shift. I know that he'll eventually get to the end of it, but some part of me would be happier snapping his neck than faking giving a shit for the next ten seconds. Other times, he'll insist that what we do is some kind of precise science instead of a bunch of assholes carrying on an oral and typed (mistyped) tradition of record keeping. There isn't a book on clerking, I must often remind him, merely whatever our office instructed us to do last, for so long as they remember it. None the less, he'll insist that others are doing it wrong. One of those 'others' is often my least favorite coworker, so I don't make an issue of it...too much.

Sometimes, sometimes, he'll just drop a "Josh Fact" on me.

Oh, hand sanitizer is poisonous; a bunch of kindergarteners used it and they got sick.

Oh, and it's flammable.

If I were to pass this sage advice on to someone else, I'd sum up roughly: "Hand sanitizer is mostly alcohol, and not the drinking kind, idiot."

It's not that the information isn't correct; it's that the way it's delivered is inclined to present it as a status symbol; he knows something--nay, he knows a fact that most people don't. Heed and beware.

I guess it's common for most people to want to have some secret knowledge that others don't; a leg up on the sleeping drones around them. I get that; that's me. I mean, I'd rather smugly look on as people fail on account of their own ignorance with the slight possiblity that I might be educated at their attempts--should they succeed--and thusly erode my personal mountain of ignorance. Stranger things have happened.

Language exists to facilitate sharing things amongst ourselves, and no doubt having useful information to contribute to the tribe has been a long standing method of gaining acclaim in human culture. I like learning things from people, but people claiming that they know safe from unsafe in a world where that 'unsafe' status is ubiquitous and arbitrary aren't impressing me; they are letting me know I should mentally flag them as assholes.

Imagine someone triumphantly tells you that they don't travel on planes; they have stress fractures all over the wings that the airlines don't tell you about. After you kick them in the balls, maybe you could tell them that thousands of people fly every day. That air travel is safe. That if planes were crashing all the damned time and it is all really that unsafe than maybe they should start spouting conspiracy theories about the media because they're doing a hell of a job covering it up. Except when they aren't.

People who want to extoll the virtues of their own lives and choices versus those of other people based on a random sampling of data with no greater veracity than common knowledge are pretty irritating (, for no reason).

But even those guys aren't as bad as what happens when this is taken to its logical conclusion; conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists think a lot of different things. The most common type of conspiracy includes the thought that an upper class of powerful elites are acting to control the common person via war, fear, economics, and/or the media. It often posits that there is a competent force at the head of the government/world actively working to subvert the government/world and all of its inhabitants. Most people are just daydreaming through life unaware of the terrible destruction of their comfortable existence.

Except for the conspiracy theorists.

I mean, they watch the same movies we do, have the same jobs, use the same internet, etc. etc., but they are so totally prepared for the government/IMF/One World Government/<obligatory reference to Xenu> to swoop in and take their guns/money/free will/thetans, even if it doesn't show.

I at least understand the true crazies. I don't know if tinfoil hats are still in vogue, but I know isolated cabins in the woods still are. That long as you don't end up in a standoff with the government (and, honestly, even a little bit then) is at least respectable because it shows committment.

If the world is sick, don't forward a chain mail or tell people about this crazy video full of conjecture; change your life and do something of consequence. If the problem's that serious--that fundamental--then the response should be absolute. You can't live your life just like the sleeping masses around you with the sole addition of boring/pissing off the ones unfortunate enough to be in your general vicinity.

My real point, however, is the common link between these people. You see, I'm somewhat smarter than the average person, and I've been thinking about this issue since I first started typing (almost twenty whole minutes now), and I'm beginning to think that maybe, if you peel back the layers, you realize that instead of trying to feel special by being informed harbingers of a vague doom, these people are actually engaging in mass, self-fufilling prophecy. After all, what good is doom if it never comes? Not a lot, I'd imagine. It makes sense that all of these self-important people are trying to bring about a single, pluralistic apocalypse. One which is so great and so vast that only the most paranoid minds on Earth could think of it. Indeed, the fact that no one has thought of a conspiracy theorists' conspiracy indicates they're closer than any of us could have expected.

It's too early to do anything yet but be watchful. But be watchful with the greatest urgency.

Remember, I told you about it first.

Oh, and apparently the best way to clean a coffee pot is with saltwater, not dish soap. No, you don't want to know why.

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