Monday, March 26, 2001

Week of 03/26/2001

All Hail The Notorious Ones!
- by David Matthews 2

Check out this article...

Dateline: Los Angeles, California. A small band of terrorists stormed a small microprocessor company in the middle of the night, holding off police officers with a wide variety of automatic weapons before blowing up most of the building. Surprisingly, the loss of life was small, with most of the officers sustaining minor wounds. Among the casualties were Doctor Miles Dyson, an innovative scientist working at Cyberdyne Industries, whom the police believed was kidnapped in his home earlier in the evening by the trio of suspected terrorists.

Hmm… sounds like a very dangerous group of terrorists. Thank god the loss of life was small, huh?

But doesn’t it sound a little familiar? A trio of terrorists, holding off police with automatic weapons, blowing up a company called "Cyberdyne"?

That’s right, that was taken straight from the movie "Terminator 2". But you never saw it that way, did you? No, you saw it from the perspective of Sarah Conner, the suspected terrorist in the movie. And how many of you saw her as a terrorist?

Here’s another news article.. this one from the old colonial days:

Dateline: Boston, Massachusetts. Authorities are searching for a band of suspected terrorists who stormed the Boston Port, seizing one of the docked vessels, and emptying its cargo into the sea. The terrorists had disguised themselves as Native Americans, however authorities suspect they are the same group of insurrectionists who opposed the government’s export programs. Authorities estimate the damage to the destroyed cargo in the thousands of dollars.

Nasty bunch of people, don’t you think? Maybe if the cost of tea went up in those days, you’d be blaming them, right?

But we remember that incident differently, don’t we? Yes we do, because our history books recall that day as the day our founding fathers stood up to the government to protest an unfair tax on certain exported goods, such as tea… which we later called the Boston Tea Party.

For the past few years, it has been considered politically correct to blame the ills of society on what some call our "violent culture." Politicians, ministers, social activists, reporters, parents, all blame the movies, television, books, music, and most importantly guns, on the rash of shootings in schools and in the workplace. We all scratch our heads and wonder.. nay, we scream to the heavens.. "WHY?"

But while we’re blaming the peripherals for the evils that men do, there is one other factor that we seem to ignore… and that is our fascination with notorious people.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. we love the rogue players, the wild cards, the mavericks, the people who break the rules and dare to challenge the system and the status quo. We’re fascinated by these people. We even idolize these people. This is not some recent trend, but one that has stayed with us since the dawn of history.

We read about Moses in the Old Testament, who was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. We consider that to be a good and glorious deed. But from the perspectives of the Egyptian rulers, Moses was an treasonous insurrectionist, who led people to rebel against the will of the very government he was raised to one day assume.

We revere Jesus of Nazareth, yet he was considered by many in the time of being a rebel who worked outside of the established norms. When he was tried and executed, it was for being an insurrectionist. But history didn’t paint him as a villain.. quite the opposite.

We love Robin Hood. Why? Because he stole from the wealthy and supposedly gave the money to the poor. Nice sentiments.. unless you happen to be one the people Robin and his band of thieves took money from. Then you wouldn’t think so highly of them, would you?

We consider George Washington and the rest of the founding fathers to be revolutionaries who freed the American colonies from a tyrannical government, but in the eyes of that government, George and the others were traitors to the crown. As a matter of fact, not everyone in the American colonies WANTED to be free from Britain’s rule. They watched with disgust how their own countrymen were waging war against the crown, even siding up with sworn enemies like the Spaniards, and the French. One of those Tories, believe it or not, was George Washington’s own mother!

How about Al Capone? The mob boss who kept the liquor flowing through Chicago when there was a federal law against it. He was the darling of the media, and the thorn in the side of every prohibitionist who wanted to enforce the law. Yes, crime escalated thanks to mob figures like Capone, but most people tolerated it because they provided the alcohol in defiance of a very bad law.

We look at the tales of Bonnie and Clyde with an unusual fascination. Yes, they were bank robbers, and they certainly didn’t give the money back to the poor. But bear in mind that this was the 1930’s, amidst the Great Depression. The only people making money then were the banks.

Even today, we have more than our share of cherished rogues. Conservatives had President Ronald Reagan, who flaunted the will of the Democratic-controlled Congress. Liberals had President Bill Clinton, who flaunted the rule of law and many Constitutional Amendments.. amongst other things.. to get his way. Clinton was the trademark rogue, which probably explained why so many supporters revered him in spite of all he’s done, up to and including the pilfering of the White House during his departure.

The music world is surrounded by notorious rogues as well. From Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, who challenged traditional music standards of the day, to guys like Marilyn Manson and Emenem, who challenged the prefabricated music performers and the system itself. Not too long ago, Sean "Puffy" Combs was acquitted of a weapons charge in New York. His acquittal was celebrated by many fans and supporters.

There have been plenty of other rogues in our society, from baseball’s John Rocker, to the computer world’s Steve Jobs. Men and women who buck the system, who challenge the status quo, and who defy conventional thinking.

Quick, name one of the most popular shows on cable TV today. Simple, it’s "The Sopranos," a series about a mob family. People who defy the traditional system with one of their own. How about two of the most popular comic book characters? Well, there’s the Batman and the Punisher. Both are vigilantes who work outside of the law.

Why do we love these notorious people? Why do we celebrate people who fight the system, and defy the status quo? Simple.. because deep within us is that sense of frustration over the status quo. We’ve all been stuck in the long lines at the express cashier, and at the bank, and the DMV. We all hate the long process, and the complex forms, and the bureaucracy on top of the bureaucracy. We hate the system. We hate it all, and we wish we could just bypass it and stick it to the system.

But we can’t do that ourselves. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid of change, of being proven wrong, of getting caught. Most of the time, though, we know that no matter what, we can’t buck the system, no matter how much we want to. We’ve been taught that sort of stuff is wrong. We’ve been told to obey those in authority, and have respect for the system. That’s why.. deep down inside us.. we cheer for those who fight the system.

So what does this have to do with the recent rash of violence in the workplace and in the schools? Well, ask yourselves this one question: what do they all have in common? The answer is simple.. they were all screwed by the system. The worker who was fired from his job, the school kid who was teased and harassed by his peers. These people feel powerless and trapped. Then they hear about someone else who bucked the system and took a stand, and how they got all of the attention, no matter how wrong the act was. Suddenly, they feel they have a way out. Something to.. pardon the expression.. shoot for.

If we want to point fingers at something for all of the chaos that’s been going on recently, we need to stop looking at the peripherals and look at the real root causes. It’s not the gun, or the TV set, or the movies, or the video games.. and it goes beyond our "culture of violence". The true causes are the systems that oppress us, and our fascination with the rogues who look to fight that system. We need to look at the system itself, and do more than just give in to it and complain about it. We need to find ways to cut it down BEFORE people resort to violence.

The author Tom Robbins once said that "When life demands more of people than they demand of life - as is ordinarily the case - what results is a resentment of life almost as deep-seated as the fear of death." True words. We need our notorious rogues to shake up the system, but we must all be a little more rogue-like in our action to keep from having that system become so overwhelming that some would see no other recourse but violence.

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