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Friday, August 02, 2002

I, Conformist

Here is an incomplete list of fashion accessories I’m not hip enough to sport.

1) Tattoos
2) Piercings
3) Dew Rags
4) Ball Caps worn straight or turned at any angle
(I just read that guys who wear ball caps with the bill to the rear do so in order to more quickly perform blow jobs. Makes sense to me.)

5) Fucked up Hair style
6) Colored Hair

In reality you could take a chimpanzee and mutilate it with the above-mentioned accessories and it wouldn’t put a single thought in the monkey’s head. I suspect that the greater number of these items sported by an individual, the more he professes to stand out from the crowd, the less likely he is to have an original thought.

We are constantly told that we are a nation of rugged individualists. We tell each other to think different, step outside the box, and be true to ourselves. In a nation practically devoid of poetry almost everyone knows the Robert Frost line about taking the road less traveled.

I would suggest that when we finally do meet people who are truly individuals we are scared shitless. I know I am. When I come across the rare writer who challenges the way that I think I am often very disturbed. How dare this person introduce an idea that opposes my carefully constructed status quo. How dare this person present his idea in a manner so utterly convincing that my own arguments seem impotent. I hate it when I have to revise how I think simply because what I once thought was completely wrong. What an asshole!

Flattery will get you everywhere. If you can’t say something nice to someone then don’t say anything. This creed is most notably present in the self-help section of the bookstore.

For the purposes of “research” I stopped into the big chain bookstore next to my bank. I was too embarrassed to ask directions to the Chicken Soup for the Soul section but it is pretty big and easy to find.

Once I was in the wisdom-free zone of the self-help section I was bombarded with the answers to all of life’s mysteries. I started looking through the books at random. 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People by David Niven, Ph.D. (Is there any more pompous title than Ph.D.?) I immediately discounted as pure shit because he doesn’t even bother to define ‘success’ although he has 100 down-home homilies on how to get there. That’s like someone giving you directions to a place where you don’t want to go.

Most of the books that I looked through were full of life-affirming stories that will warm your heart and rejuvenate your soul. I just wrote that sentence and I don’t have the slightest fucking idea what it means. This entire section seems like complete crap to me, the publishing equivalent of a hat on your head backwards or a tattoo--everybody reads them so they must be cool.

You could read every single book on the self-help shelf and you’d be a lot like that monkey that just spent the day getting tattoos and body piercings. You may find that you speak the language of sociologists but I doubt that you will gain a shred of wisdom from such puerile doggerel as Stand Up for Your Life by Cheryl Richardson or by shelling out $24 for a book written by a columnist in Oprah magazine.

I prefer to stay inside the box. I’ll stay in the traditional sections of the bookstore: literature, history, philosophy, et cetera. I figure that the self-help books are like fad diets: if they had any merit there wouldn’t be so many of them. They all claim to have answers to issues in life that have never really asked a question.

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