It has been a busy few weeks. I secured a secret advance copy of Harper Lee’s new book, “Go Set a Watchman.” It is the long awaited sequel to her famed Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” I must say I was somewhat shocked by the story. It turns out that the morally upright Atticus Finch was a white-slaver, the feisty Jean Louise or “Scout” grew up to be a major player in the west coast heroin trade of the mid-seventies, and Tom Robinson, the black field worker wrongfully accused of assaulting a white woman was actually a notorious serial killer. Needless to say there are a lot of surprises in this new one. I hope I didn’t spoil anything. Boo Radley goes on to be a famous actor named Robert Duvalle. The whole thing has more twists than a cruller. Like I said, I hope I didn’t spoil anything.
Speaking of American icons, I am pleased to see that we are still churning them out. The younger generation is stepping up in defiance of corporate abuse and corporate greed. The old prejudices are being met with fresh energies of resistance. The youth of today are willing to risk physical injury in order to protest, say, the exploitation of the worker. And now we have camera phones to record it all. In this case it was fifteen-year-old Ariana Taylor, from Brooklyn, New York. I happened upon some twitter feed in which she was being hailed as an icon, an inspiration, and hero. Curious, I found some bouncy video footage of her getting the snot beaten out of her in the middle of a McDonald’s dining room by three girls about her age. I considered it a moving piece of staged defiance. Young Ms. Taylor sacrifices her body to illustrate the way corporate bullies like McDonald’s and Monsanto and Koch Industries abuse and mistreat the average worker in order to reap big profits off the backs of the working poor. Like monks setting themselves on fire, these girls hold no quarter. They pummel this girl to illustrate the brutal reality of the current working class structure.
It was after I watched the clip a second time that I realized it wasn’t a choreographed protest. Little Ms. Taylor was just getting the shit kicked out of her while everyone stood and stared. I went back and looked at the twitter comments. You would’ve thought someone had gone back in time with a video camera to Montgomery, Alabama and filmed Rosa Parks on that bus. Turning back to the McDonald’s scene I was now somewhat alarmed by the whole “bystander effect.” Not since Kitty Genovese, the woman repeatedly stabbed in New York in the mid-sixties, and for whom the term “bystander effect” was coined, did a group of people do so little in the midst of a stomping that most of us probably would’ve been hobbled by. Hunter Thompson didn’t get it that bad when the Hell’s Angels beat him silly, and there was money involved in that one.
Little Ms. Taylor is now basking in her newfound fame. A word of caution. Fame comes cheap these days. To rely on it is like trying to catch the smoke off an extinguished match. Even so she’ll have her own reality television show soon enough, almost like a sequel to the “Super Dave” series from years back, in which she’ll be in store for a weekly mangling by farm equipment, rabid dogs, members of ISIS, or girls her own age. Kitty Genovese, had she lived, most probably would’ve had her own television show, style magazine, and line of K-Mart clothing. She would’ve gotten paid big money to speak at gun shows about the importance of always being heavily armed.
Things are looking up. Ariana Taylor has completely healed from her wounds. The meth lab in the bathroom of the Walmart in Muncie Indiana has been dismantled and cordoned off. The Oklahoma State chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has a new sing-along song lamenting the fact that highly qualified African-Americans won’t condescend to join their brotherhood because it is too atavistic and starchy. Also the Dalai Lama has decided that next time he dies, he is going to stay dead.
Reincarnation, as I understand it, is a pain in the ass. It is like having to get up to go to work everyday, but from now until forever. There is no retirement. What with traffic and the increasing cost of living, it is understandable to want to consider other possibilities after a dozen or so returns. The news came out this week that the Dalai Lama is threatening not to reincarnate for the 15th time, which has really pissed off the Chinese government, but then again if the Dalai Lama woke up and decided he needed a new toothbrush the Chinese government would be outraged. They are so freaked out by the threat that they have convened their top scientists and mathematicians to find a way to keep the Dalai Lama eternal, which is frustrating for the top scientists and mathematicians because, up until this point, they had been directed by the Chinese government to find a way to get rid of him. I have reliable sources within the communist regime that tell me they have begun work on a rather intricate machine to bottle up the high priest’s spiritual vitae, in order to control any metempsychosis that may or may not happen upon the Dalai Lama’s passing. They will capture his vapors, condense it through a complicated distillation process, and then they will bottle feed the liquid lama into a newborn of their own choosing, preferably one who shows a natural distaste for the mountains of Tibet, the people of Tibet, the architecture of Tibet, the culture of Tibet, the cuisine of Tibet, or in short, Tibet. The head of the Department of Information and International Relations of the Tibetan Government In Exile in Dharamsala, or the D.O.I.A.I.R.O.T.T.G.I.E.I.D. has been quoted as saying, “They’ll make sure the next Lama likes the beach and is afraid of heights and yaks and Sherpas and such.” (Coincidentally the main door of that department is fifteen feet high to accommodate the name, and still the last four letters of Dharamsala are all smushed together in the lower right-hand corner.)
If the Dalai Lama’s ultimatum of permanent sleep goes unheeded he has hinted that he will return in death to cover all of China with a layer of pollution so vast and thick that generations will be stricken with a range of health problems–itchy skin, watery eyes, lung disease and cancer. Officials were said to have breathed a sigh of relief, after which they choked and coughed for the next twenty minutes as a distant opaque light known as the sun sifted through the dull, ashy air.
More Alembics to come.