BOREDOM CAN KILL
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
I agree with Kierkegaard: boring kings should abdicate, and boring prime ministers and boring journalists should be executed forthwith. Boredom, quoth Kierkegaard, and not indolence, is the root of all evil.
Please mind you that I am speaking figuratively, not literally. Such a precaution was once unnecessary, but in this day and age when the difference between the actual and the imagined often goes unnoticed, our metaphors might in fact result in the assassination of a few journalists if not a prime minister and president – the war-mongering leaders are often most popular.
Indeed, bored intellectuals often use figures of speech to incite people to riot and revolution. For instance, if your taxes exceed twenty-five percent of your income, you are in ‘shackles’ and are no doubt being “whipped” by tyrants, no matter what you are getting in return for your percentage, so a tax revolution is in order.
By the way, the prisons you see simply exist to deceive you into thinking that you are free so you will not mind your boredom on the job; or off the job, as you hurriedly consume leisure as advertised.
Yes, ma’am, you really are in prison, you know, but you cannot see the walls, therefore revolt.
But humans do not need radical revolutionaries to persuade them to mayhem and murder: they already have leaders who will capitalize on massive boredom. Indeed, many people are bored with formal life and they would fain freak out, cast off the social mold and kill one another in the name of something or the other if not for nothing. That is nothing new, and war is not really unique to our race: apolitical students of animal behavior have noticed wars between such creatures as hyenas, for no apparent or known reason such as territory or mates. If hyenas could talk, they might say they were just bored to death with life.
Of course we humans make an art out of war and write books about it. It used to be a sort of invigorating tonic to bleed tribes and nations that they might rise to manly virtue. Today we hear widespread complaints about the feminization of civilization again; perhaps another world war is imminent.
Now that technology has made total annihilation feasible, we think we want world peace; but if we had it we might get so bored we would not know what to do with it, then all hell might break loose again so that the fittest among us, the young and strong, might be decimated so that the old weaklings in high places may remain there and hand down wealth to their families so they will not have to struggle for survival of the fittest. We cannot blame them for sending other people’s kids to death to alleviate their boredom.
Boredom does have a certain negative motive power which can in extreme cases lead to war, just for the hell of it if not for some relative moral cause. Universal love will not do for long when violence is wanted: hate-others-based group-love will suffice for bloody conflicts with enemies. That is not to say that war is natural, necessary, inevitable, although maybe it is.
Please do not start a war on my say so. I do not want my words to harm anyone. I was recently alarmed to hear that my “(expletive deleted) opinions have already killed people inside.” I recalled that many suicides were attributed to Goethe’s Werther. My investigation revealed that my words were not as lethal as I had imagined, and the complaint had been a figurative phrase, referring to the hurt feelings of the identities of a single person, and not to the death of members of the external association.
Good. I detest bloody warfare. I prefer virtual warfare. I do not mean football games or video-game battles. You see, my thing is the angelic struggle against the beast-in-me – beast and angel are formalities of which I am equally fond, yet I rise above them, as the spirit of their relationship.
Thinking is my thing lately. I say it is my thing but I know it is not mine, not my sole possession: my thinking is borrowed from the encyclopedia of civilization. I am just another reader and writer, an open processing system.
The more I think, the more I know I am really nobody. Oh, how ironically alienating it is to become fully individualized to the point where one realizes he is in principle an Everyman. Being a literate Everyman can be exceedingly boring nowadays. At least I am bored almost to tears and death, to the very verge of screaming bloody murder, by the functional and objective, third-person, hyphenated-style of writing today, a style that is suitable for a scientific or newspaper report, a technical manual or an honest advertisement yet has become so widespread that it has almost made objective nobodies out of everybody.
I must confess that I am awfully bored with being a nobody. Many of my fellow ostriches prefer to bury their heads in the sand of facts and do not want to know how those facts are related. That must be left to the authorities to say, and they had better say it in the third person: a man complained, “He is no authority! He kept saying ‘I’ and ‘my’, meaning his personal opinion, so what can he know?”
I kid you not. Many of us are not even aware that facts are in fact related events, actions. Thus is the independent thinking of the threatened self deactivated, that it be of little or no threat to the power elite who flip the switches to run the current their way.
Cultural anthropologists admit the psychic unity of humankind again, but not as a world spirit or personal soul: all we have in common now is our on-off switches. Even post-modern intellectuals who love to talk about talk as if talk is identical to god instead of god’s words – even they resort to a linguistic objectivism that diminishes the subjective speaker to blank membership in a multi-cultural diversity that is merely the superficial diversity of shoppers in a gigantic shopping mall.
Everything boils down to: Buy this or that. Never Stop Buying.
Ah, here is yet another “let the reader decide” essay on some pressing issue, written by a highly credentialed author. It is a polished piece. It says nothing new, really. It is biased towards the authorities who own company and country. The ideology is so common it is barely noticeable. The piece is yet another inoffensive rehash of the news that is as boring as the pancake of the brazen hussies and the cardboard suits of the callous men who serve as professional pundits on cable television – to call them ‘philistines’ would insult a superior culture. But do not get me started; as you can see, I am beyond bored, and I do not want someone to get the wrong idea and start hanging journalists and pundits.
Before I finish I must say something about plain language. Although magnificent ideas can be wonderfully expressed in plain language, I cannot stand the universal cultivation of the sort of plain language that passes off inanity as a ‘good read’ or ‘good write’ nowadays simply because someone with the attention span of a gnat does not have the gumption or the wherewithal to think for himself, preferring his switches to be flip-flopped according to the usual program.
How I abhor the boring hackneyed phrases. Nobody seems to notice how boring the phrases are except this nobody who would be the Nobody who put out the Cyclops eye and stole his sheep. Of course culture is founded on a few platitudes, but for heaven’s sake, cannot they pronounce them in a different ways? The higher culture has its exciting intrigues, it mysteries, its enticing ornaments and jewels to break the sheer monotony of plain vanilla. I’m tired of mealy-mouthed oatmeal. On each side of the depressing valleys are peak experiences all readers may aspire too. I love the plains too, flyover countries like Kansas where I grew up on corn, smoked hemp and drank 3.2 beer.
Watchers of television, readers of newspapers and magazines, employees of companies, citizens of countries should aspire to the peaks from time to time, and they probably would aspire to them if boring editors were executed along with the boring writers they assume the bored public wants to read. By the way, please do not take the suggestion seriously. I do not want anyone to get hurt.
Excuse me, I must take another nap.