November 24, 2017

Meditate on Things Pure, Lovely, If That Doesn’t Work

The Arab store owner from Libya just shook his head and grumbled, “There’s just too much drama. Too much drama!” He wasn’t talking about civil war in his old homeland. The source of his stress stood in front of him, here in good ole Facebook USA. She was grinning at his distress. Gossip was circulating at his workplace like bullets in Beirut. Another one of his girls talked of her postings on Facebook like her Facebook account was a byline at the New York Times. If he had an AK-47, he’d have calmly gone outside and started shooting into the air until out of bullets. He grumbled again about all the drama and looked over at me for some kind of diplomatic support. An alliance of guys against the women with a long supply line of bullets and gossip. It was time to cut and run.

My first effort at diplomacy occurred in baseball with our Bad News Bears team. The new Arab kid from Bethlehem wanted to play this American game that historian Bruce Catton to George Will for some strange reason believe came from the American soul. I was told to help him melt in and if possible find him a position. The kid had a good arm. Probably because he was older than allowed. But birth dates can be altered. League officials are not independent prosecutors, especially when dealing with a Bad News Bears caliber team. The Arab kid had a fantastic fastball. He became our best pitcher, which meant nothing because our team set the bar low as you can go. He had a pleasant personality. There were no signs of the Intifada in him until the umpire got under his skin and he threw a rock at the ump with more heat, and accuracy, than the baseball.

The Arab kid was banned and disappeared into the landscape. He could have returned to the Middle East to lead the rock throwing Intifada. Or he could be working a the Huffington Post, working up the rage with thousands of robo comments at the latest contrived scandal.

There are no more secrets left and it’s making everyone nuts.

Secrets are supposed to be the recruiter’s blood. When a recruiter called about a job interview a few years ago, I did the perfectly snoopy thing and looked him up on the Internet. I found him and had to wipe the snot off the computer screen after snorting in disbelief. He was a staid corporate recruiter during the day. But at night, at night, he was a rock and roller, impersonating Gene Simmons from the band KISS. Meditating on things pure, lovely, and good is impossible when you have the image stuck in your head of a chunky recruiter all painted up like Gene Simmons. I smiled and laughed so hard, I thought my jaw was going to lock.

But then he found me out. He had a snoopy website visitor from Michigan. He knew I knew his little secret and left an angry, anonymous phone call on the answering machine at 3:00 AM. A few days later both of us pretended this episode didn’t happen as he explained I wouldn’t be getting the job.

The gossip and bullying is getting worse. The bullying isn’t physical. It’s the media and social media bullying that’s making everyone mad. A story about Mitt Romney gets more than 12,000 comments on the Huffington Post. Many comments seem to use the same key words. The Huffington Post uses algorithms to filter comments, creating drones of computer induced rage. You almost expect a flash crash like what happened with the New York Stock Exchange. The real drama occurs with little notice or commentary from the drones. California’s debt is swelling like Greece and Spain. The Huffington Post’s computer generated rage is focused on Wisconsin, a state that unlike California, is at least trying to solve its economic problems. Rage against the machine has turned into rage fueled by the machine.

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