Monday, November 23, 2009


Every so often, a scrap of western garbage washes ashore and I pounce upon it like a castaway. Yesterday morning, I found a National Enquirer in the stairwell. Patrick Swayze was on the cover, smoking a cigarette, boxed-in by dayglo yellow scare headlines gleefully predicting his imminent death. Inside were exclusive paparazzi photos of Swayze's final days, with arrows indicating his distended belly and the tufts of wig sticking out from under his hat. TWO FEET IN THE GRAVE! DAYS LEFT TO LIVE, DOCTORS REPORT! SWAYZE STILL SMOKING EVEN AS HE'S DYING OF PANCREATIC CANCER! Who reads this shit, I asked myself. That much is obvious: millions upon millions of Americans read this shit. But more frightening, to my mind, is the sheer amount of manpower that goes into producing the shit. Hundreds of photographers, editors, and graphic designers; a legion of libelists busting their asses to beat deadline; a beehive of cubicles swarming with hardworking, law-abiding citizens. If some wet-eared intern along the way raised the objection that roasting a dying man was in poor taste, he must have been laughed out of the staff meeting.

This is the evil we must fight against. It is a grey evil. An unleaded, decaffeinated, fat-free evil. It is a subtle and powerful evil. It is the evil of groupthink, the evil that makes you look around the room before you raise your hand, the evil that draws a crowd to a car wreck. Nowadays, it no longer pays to bash your foe over the head with a rock. You'll get thrown in the cooler for that. Modern man has more refined tastes: he prefers mass-produced, assembly line evil. None of the chickenshits at the National Enquirer would have the gall to spit in the face of a dying friend, but the lot of them will gladly work together to piss on the grave of someone they have never met. It is this grey, insectoid evil that we must fight against.

After college, I worked as a copywriter for the Oriental Trading Company. My job involved writing product descriptions for Chinese finger traps, whoopie cushions, Jesus frisbees, gummi crucifixes, World's Greatest Dad koozies, novelty hand buzzers, Groucho Marx glasses, googily eyes, fake vomit, und so weiter. It wasn't the work itself that drove me to quit, but the pervading sense of evil. Nobody in that cold, dimly lit basement actually wanted to be there. Nobody believed in what they were doing. They all worked diligently for 40+ hours a week. And to what end? Ultimately, so the CEO could blow the company purse in Council Bluffs.

About two months in, my cubicle-mate grabbed me by the wrist, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Get out of here. Quit. While you still can." And so eventually, I did. Now I'm in China, living on $180 a month. Whatever the future holds in store for me, I am certain I won't turn a profit. I have grown out of the metaphysical rebellion that fueled my first, second, and third puberties. In its stead, I have adopted a simple non serviam policy. I will take no part in anything I consider evil. Of course, I will do locally evil deeds along the way, as we all do. But I want no part in the big, grey evil. I'd rather work for nothing in some foggy corner of the world, and I am content to do that for the rest of my life. And if by the end of it all I have made a name for myself, I invite the Enquirer to come and piss upon my grave. IDEALISTIC HOBO SPENDS LAST DAYS LISTENING TO "PRETZEL LOGIC" BY STEELY DAN ON REPEAT! DOCTORS SAY THE VAGABOND HASN'T BATHED IN A FORTNIGHT! EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS SHOW LOVABLE TRANSIENT TRYING (AND FAILING) TO MAKE BURRITOS FROM SCRATCH! And so on.

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