[Previously on Wonderers: Upset by what we stand for, they come after us, eager to put us in our place. With pitchforks and torches, pills and sedatives and I-told-you-so’s, they come to treat and cure us of our afflictions.]
Sometimes they try a different tack, beguiling, surreptitious. They come with knowing smiles, wagging their fingers and bearing disdain and apple pie because who doesn’t like apple pie? Have a bite, settle down, everything will be alright by tomorrow, one bite at a time.
Sometimes they come with fire in their eyes and flushed cheeks, blotched red, steaming cheeks advertising righteous excitement through which they aim to make everyone conform. They declare their demands as they approach, bearing brands and tar and bags full of feathers, eager to make an example out of any given transgressor.
Or they don’t come at all. The harshest approach of them all, passive only in appearance, stuffed to the tonsils with aggression and punitive measures, a pie of rejection and disavowal. A communally executed excommunication. No words of advice, only the outer dark for those they condemn. ‘Out with you, filth!’ they scream. ‘Firestarters! You no longer belong among the rest of us, so Raus! — you and the rest of the trash. No! — no compromises! You mouthed out at the system, your choice, so out you go. No middle ground. No pick and choose in this culture, not if we get a say in how things are run and done. This is a strict menu, its dishes set and established long ago. No throwaways, no criticisms, no exceptions. Eat what you’re offered from beginning to end and like it, or to hell with you. Get it, chum? I mean, neighbor? Friend?’
And so it goes, regressive and disemboweling.
Don’t they ever tire, these righteous principals, these unbearably interlocking batteries of gears and cogs inside this giant machine of everyone’s making, being all component-like in the name of ‘culture’ and ‘personal identity’ and ‘our community of individuals coming together’ and all those terms they like to abuse — don’t they ever tire of shoving people around, forcing their friends and neighbors to turn out exactly as they expect them to? Making machines out of once great currents, messing with the streams of personality and individual agency, reducing their smooth flow to cold clicks, mechanical nods of approval between troupes and packs? Ever-tightening cliques and clans, cogwheeling their way ahead, killing chemistry on the altar of an alchemy all too arcane, restrictive, juvenile and grounded, fraught with proprieties devised ages ago, great expectations and demands sitting heavy on our skin like too much body paint, killing our looks, our perspiration systems. The ability to breathe compromised. Asphyxia and bondage, rehearsed appearances. Everything as it should be, as expected. Glossy like mannequins, like crinkly skin slapped thick with the lotion of propriety, sheening in the limelight, blinding-bright, almost unnatural, perverse, befuddling in its etiquette, losing sight of what’s important as it skeeters down the path more traveled.
Don’t they ever tire, these lathered masters of ceremony, shoving their way down the roads more traveled? Don’t they waste away on the paths everyone takes, which everyone before them has taken? Four hundred generations of the same old approach — eat, drink, fuck, make babies, grow old and fuck off, all of it while behaving properly, accordingly, in a civil manner, pretending that theirs is the beginning and end of history — touched up here and there for the sake of appearances, self-deception, passing off as novelty and freshness, calling it all progress of a special nature, if not the evolution of humankind itself.
Ha! The Great Hoodwink!
Watch this space for Part 4