Greed and the Margin of Self Absorption

Giving thanks is other than getting them. Do we give thanks or expect to get them? Do I? Have we? Which one when? To give rather than to get–this is the fundamental difference between forgiving and forgetting, the former a step in the spiritual path of redemption and transcendence. The latter is simply another step in the widening margin of greed we have accepted. I do have to forgive more–the way of Christ or Lord Buddha is troublesome for me. For example, I know what Jesus would say about the Second Amendment, but I do understand why Jefferson placed it behind the First. Turning the other cheek is difficult when there are so many young men raised to be assholes or punks. I would relish a return to a time when I could punch a man in the nose for being discourteous to my wife without any jeopardy of my being arrested.

Last night I witnessed an extension of this greed we have been subsumed by socially, a broader margin of greed for space, for position, not only for money, but also self-absorption than we should allow ourselves. No give and take from an Asian kid–in his 20s–who if he moved his table one inch away from him and shifted his sitting posture, he could have accommodated my wife, instead of continuing to sit in his posture at his table, encroaching the one we were attempting to sit at to have dinner. Why should we be able to sit at a table we could have sat at if this kid would have extended courtesy and imagined a world where he would see courtesy as a mutually co-extensive form of behavior, instead of what seemed to be his first-come-first-serve attitude, one that was rationalized by I am sitting in a way my whim dictates, and because you were not here before me, to sit at the table you only imagine you should be able to sit at, I am not going to budge one inch. This, of course, he did not understand as wrong. Both his mild manner and reptilian instinct joined in a confusing coupling are enough to set him crooked in social manners.

He did not budge an inch–he even pretended not to understand when we said excuse me. Maybe he did not want to accommodate us because we were white, as one man said later in another bar when I told him the story–if the shoe were on the other foot, this man nearer my age said, he would likely think that the reason a white person would not accommodate him was because he was Asian. I am not going to feign ignorance of how racist America is and has been and interestingly has become in ways we are not permitted to acknowledge in our received ideas on race and racism–particularly how we view the world of tribal politics in New York City.

There is no space in a media informed mentality about racism where a Chinese young man can be racist against white people. You can extend this observation to any other group and see clearly that the only people in this media represented America who can be racist are white people. Everyone else is virtually allowed to act with impunity without fear of any repercussions concerning hiring practices or the extension of courtesy. The desire to provide services either in State bureaucracies or in retail are unusually fragmented and compartmentalized. Our perceptions of murder rates, particularly when inter-racial, are especially skewered. The received ideas are clear–white people are racist and those who are not are exceptions that prove the rule. Even my response herein is likely to be attributed to a latent or closeted racism, something akin to how in the Soviet Union dissidents were brought to the insane asylum (mostly because ideologically incorrect thinking was in effect a mental illness), and when the dissident protested, the increase in volume coupled with his indignation were all used as proof of his lack of mental stability. The interesting thing herein is that if the kid were not Asian and he were white, I would have been quicker to point out how wrong he was and might even have felt more eagerly, the desire to punch him in the nose. I am actually sensitive to how hyper-sensitive we are and how quickly we turn human to human interaction into something it most likely was not. However, the interaction herein might be understood better as Homo-sapiens to Homo-sapiens.

Perhaps the reason he did not make a very small accommodation and entered low volume taunts was because he was an asshole, caught up in the greed of self-absorption and the greed for space. This is how I imagine it. I’ve seen young men feign not understanding what I grew up knowing was common and mutual courtesy, something that was always an immediately recognized give-and-take. I’ve noticed this from white kids, asian kids, African-American kids, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish. But from this kid who just happened to be Asian–no. Nothing from this kid who is probably not older than my son who is in college. His being Asian, I’m almost certain Chinese, has nothing ultimately to do with his resistance to extend courtesy. No matter how much he might be filled with resentment for how much Chinese Americans endured stereotyping from our media in the past, I think maybe his parents are assholes and could not help but raise an asshole. I am herein using a particular sense of asshole I understand that most under forty do not get, even when articulated for them.

In my day–when I was his age-I could have punched him in the nose for not extending courtesy to my wife, and the fact that nothing would have happened to me for doing so, went a long way in policing our behavior, I am convinced. Today, if I punch him in the nose for being a punk, I get arrested for assault, and he knows that. But he is still gambling because in another circumstance, one without my wife present, I do punch him in the nose and leave the bar forever. The opposite tendency, however, is also what has made us increasingly docile in face of extended greed from both Power and Money. You cannot separate how we interact individually with how we might respond collectively.  It’s all of a piece. It was not the individual refusal to engage an exchange of courtesy but how indicative it is of a mentality that I see pervading his age group. The waiter and the bartender were either both oblivious or not willing to mediate–another cog in the mechanism of general discourtesy. Perhaps, though, I need to consider how digital and social media has gone a long way in policing our behavior, only in a way that meets the demands of control by the state. I still can’t get over how many punks and assholes in their 20s and 30s are parading around as models of male behavior. There is a huge distinction between being non-violent and using the cloak of non-violence to cover a greater impotence, intellectual, spiritual, moral.

I do miss the time when two men could punch each other in the nose. I would have done so with this young man-punk-asshole but for the fact that my wife and I would have had to leave, never come back and myself risk arrest. The absence of a space where two men can engage this way is another way we have changed the rules by which we play at social interaction, a change that has left the assholes making the rules–an influence from those who think this boy has done nothing wrong, the influence from an increase number of the punks that are now in power and authority. The refusal to acknowledge mutual courtesy grows out of the same mentality that has given us the power we see increasing its power and money growing more monied, and Wall Street with its corrupted attitudes toward people leading the way to the White House in the form of Barack Obama. This is why this young Chinese man was able to be the asshole he was; I would not be surprised if he worked on Wall Street. The bartender–she was an idiot until she realized that we tipped better than most of the dregs of the East Village she is used to, or this Asian kid did. Right and wrong determined by the dollar–another corruption of our basic values of social interaction.


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