Back in the days of delusion, I would have pointed out the juxtaposition of a young addict and a poor man carrying his wallet in the form of a bag full of empties, sitting next to each other on the 19 trolley like they were doing tonight, as a blinding call to dignity.
Look! That young man is eating the smarties and nuts he dropped on the floor, staring at the rubble in his hand for whole minutes until he falls asleep, only to wake up at the next stop and pretend he knows where he’s going, but he, he is going nowhere.
Look! the poor worker, living off empties, seem to have it figured out, no matter how obviously non white he seems, with all the struggle that it entails in a colonial society, he’s going to see this through, and as a white colonialist I’m proud of his aspiration to join the privileged society, I would welcome him gladly in the club of hollow values I smile about and proudly share with my peers, provided he’d be another one of us good people, patting each other on the back.
I bet he’s got kids at home to whom he teaches the value of hard work, and a beautifully natural south American wife with a laugh as rippling as a forest creek, who he only snaps at every now and then, when she pines a little too much for a life of comfort.
But like the song says ain’t it like most people, we like to talk on things we don’t know about.
The assumption behind the judgment is that there’s a system worth fitting into in order to find the realization of human aspiration, and that such system can be expanded to welcome everyone who tries to ‘conform’ to it, according to their capacities.
It is said that the system is quite flexible. Provided you create something that can be sold, you can be an artist, even a vinyl record salesman. Every step, every lasting achievement, is ultimately successful if it transfer wealth from others onto you. Everything else is regarded with the affable sympathy of superiority.
Even a construction worker, with his theory that justifies what he does commercially, and therefore his very struggle, will look down on people who do not “earn a living”.
So that’s the system – and let’s leave its workings for another dreadful day.
Then there’s everything else, and it’s a lot. It’s most, no matter what they tell you. All of our life is the experience of emotions, with brief, satirically devolved summaries of our income and expenditures.
Today, I would tend to say the man collecting empties is a fool, and the young addict, an abused soul.
But that would be wrong, too. Ultimately, whoever is going to be welcomed by loving arms once he gets home, is doing it right. My guess is neither.