Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I have held a lot of jobs that required me to persuade people of stuff. I’ve been an insurance agent, a phone banker for environmental campaigns, a door to door canvasser for everything from politics to siding companies. I’m not a very aggressive person. I’m not one of those guys who remind you of a bombastic shark on meth, who just starts talking as soon as you make eye contact and doesn’t stop when you look away (or walk away), whom you have to beat over the head with no. I give up incredibly easy. I’m like “what, you blinked? I’ll leave you alone. This isn’t important at all.” I’m excruciatingly polite. In fact, I have very little clue as to why I have made any money doing these things at all. Point is, my entire “career” has been spent dealing with the public about things they don’t like in a very direct way.

Now I have a job where I tell people bad news. Sometimes I get to tell them good news, but most of the time I’m not telling them what they want to hear, which is “your policy is magic and you don’t have to pay for anything ever”. I have to tell people when I know they’re lying. I have to tell people they have to pay 500 dollars for the repairs. I have to tell people that they’re at fault for this accident and therefore their insurance will be going up for the next three years. And I have to make them like me while I’m doing this, and make them trust me. I have to convince them there is nothing they can do about this.

So when I think of all these Obama Kids out there canvassing door to door, and sucking their cell phone batteries dry while they huddle in the corner of some fashionista’s living room in Ohio City…I feel bad for them. It sucks. Carrie’s in Cleveland doing it this month, and man, Carrie? That sucks. It sucks because all of those people you are interacting with are terrified of you. They are scared stiff of anybody with the courage to talk to them, because obviously you are going to try and make them do something and worst of all THEY KNOW YOU CAN. This is how ugly boys get pretty girls to go out with them. Its how MADD continues to sell magazines, and why people still take those filthy JW pamphlets at bus stations. Being the person that's constantly cowing them is stressful and humiliating and addicting and sucks.

See, that’s the secret to the world. YOU CAN MAKE THEM DO STUFF, as long as you are willing to capitalize on their fear. You don’t even have to try very hard, you just tell them they have to. And it won’t work with everyone, cause there are lots of people telling them to do the opposite of what you’re proposing. But your share of the pie is out there. You just gotta grab as many percentage points as you can. You don’t even have to try very hard, as my job history will attest to. You just have to try at all, and the numbers will come your way. You are a boogie monster to them. Just yell boo and see what happens.

I don’t understand this malleability of Americans (and possibly everyone else, I don’t know). It feels like it should be more complicated than pure mental laziness, like it should be linked to systematic lead poisoning or stuff in the milk(seriously, I barely remember the Jungle except for the milk thing). But whatever the reason, it strikes me that the entire population of the Unites States spends their lives cowering behind their front doors, and it’s not just the terrorists’ fault, and it’s even creepier than unmanned aerials searching for immigrants on the border, or Palin having a lipstick tattoo. It goes way deeper than politics or religion. Why, and what are we all so scared of? Is it really the lack of control in our world? Have we become neurotic pets of the military industrial complex, cowering and needy at the same time, refusing to eat the same kind of food two days in a row, and pissing whenever the litter box isn't clean?

The worst part of it is that fear begets mindless hate and meaningless violence, and nasty grammatically incorrect emails. Did you ever see Me or the Dog? Its a dog training show, and I remember one episode where this couple had this big standard bull, who was really aggressive. Well, the trainer said "hey, he's just super insecure and stressed out, so we'll put him on some thyroid medication, and let him relax in a situation" and the dog was FINE. They didn't have to cut off its legs or muzzle it or anything cruel like that. They just needed to get the dog to fucking relax. That's us! We're the dog! We need to fucking relax.

We need to become the country that still believes we have nothing to fear but fear itself. I need to live in a country where convincing someone successfully of something feels less like me taking advantage of their genetic stupidheadness and more like an actual victory.

Also, for the record, I am numbingly miserable tonight. But that doesn't mean much. It would help if today weren't the first day of winter though. There's nothing to make you feel worse about yourself than bad feelings, cold dark rain, and cigarettes that taste bad.

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