Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Encounter

He's tall and lanky. Crack skinny. Almost toothless. Homeless couture and homeless smell sitting in a plush chair in the bank lobby. The bank manager is bringing him coffee. The other bank workers are staying well away, avoiding theis man who might well be crazy and dangerous. They expect the manager to 'deal with it'. In this context it means that they expect the manager to make the person leave.

He is not a customer, barely a citizen. He is playing on reluctance of most polite, civilized people to say ugly truths, make demands, be rude.

The manager plays right into it: being polite, bringing the man coffee, hoping that the intruder's 'sixth sense' will kick in and he will understand that he is not welcome. The manager doesn't understand that the old con is perfectly aware he is not welcome, he just doesn't care. He will milk it for coffee and a chance to rest out of the wind. The fact that he is making richer people with more social sense than he has feel scared is just a bonus. It makes the game fun.

When the manager finally gets up the nerve and asks him to leave, (maybe orders, later, but he will try polite first) and threatens to call the cops (much later) the old con will pretend to be hurt and indignant. He will twist the knife all he can to bring a lasting guilt and self-doubt to this pseudo-authority figure. That will be partly for fun but it is also calculated: the evil men of the world know that if you make people feel guilty for taking a stand, there will be fewer to take a stand every year. It is one small, constant step in creating a culture of willing victims.

Don't get me wrong, I know this con, recognize him, and the in ocean of evil he is a very small fish. Not brave enough to be physically dangerous most of the time, not smart enough to do much damage, not foresighted enough to see much beyond the next rock.

So he sits there with his coffee, talking non-stop to the manager who pretends to listen. His filthy shoes are propped on the glistening coffee table with the pink inmate socks (stolen when he was released from his last custody) clearly visible around his ankles.

10 comments:

Chris @ Martial Development said...

I am confused. Is he evil because he is poor, because he is ugly, because he wants to rest in a bank, or because he spent time in jail?

Sonia said...

He's a con artist; his game is to play the game of the society against society for his gain. That doesn't make him evil, except from the viewpoint of society. If there is evil there it's not in his use of the game to hurt the people he's playing but in training them to be victims. It's when he tells himself that they have enough -- coffee, warmth, money, whatever -- that they deserve to be victims.

Rory said...

Well said, Sonia, half there. Chris, sorry about your confusion. My sensei reaction is to say that everything is in the post- look and see; and examine the buzz words in your question because they reveal a lot. Sonia jumped in with "The creating victims" and this is absolutely true, but probably more habitual than conscious. Evil is a scalar, maybe I'll write about it someday. The act of evil (and a small evil in the scheme of things)was drawing it out and increasing discomfort for his own amusement. Killing to survive is one thing; killing for fun is something else. Conning for what you need is one thing, conning cor what you want another, conning to see how much you can get away with or how much hurt you can cause without getting called on it is another.

Sonia said...

Ah, I see your point. (I think I disagree that sadism is necessarily evil, but that may be because I watch cats kill mice and I see most thoughtless human sadism as a similar act -- an arguable point, certainly.) I do prefer to reserve the word "evil" for conscious acts of rejection not only of the worth of others ("humanity"?), but of ourselves. Thus when he decides that someone else should be made into a victim (and I think I agree with you, that would have been habitual, not conscious), that might be evil, because he is at the same moment denying his own worth, because if he ever does get enough coffee, money, or whatever, he too won't deserve it. I think you should write that article on how YOU define evil. I'm certainly interested.

Chris @ Martial Development said...

I already read your post and I certainly read my own comment. My sensei reaction is that every player in this game has dirty hands, including the manager and the other workers, and possibly the reporters on the scene.

Kai Jones said...

Evil isn't a scalar, it's a vector. It has amount and direction.

Mac said...

Evil exists, scalar or vector, because of fear.

Kai Jones said...

Mac, I disagree. I think fear is only one possible motive for evil. Some people choose evil out of laziness--after all, why not choose the method that involves the least work?

Molly said...

Riki (8 years old at the time) explained good and evil to me. She says that all people are both, and whether you are mostly good or mostly evil depends on the choices you make. The more Good choices you make, the easier it gets. She told me that if someone makes a lot of Evil choices, it becomes harder and harder to make Good ones, making Evil easy. She also says it works the other way, If you consistently make Good choices, Evil becomes hard, and hard to understand.

I'd like to add the the truly "Good" or "Evil" person keeps their choices concious. Good or bad behaviour out of habit doesn't really make the person, does it?

KamiZM said...

I'm confused about how the manager has dirty hands. He's operating a private business that has no legal or societal requirement to serve free coffee or to have their time taken up by non-customers. It sounds like he was being pretty darned accommodating, maybe too accommodating, toward someone who was taking unfair advantage of him.

I don't think it's fair to assume that this person has a right to go into a business and behave this way without expecting consequences, one of which should include the expectation that the business owner has the right to refuse serving free coffee to someone who has no business there. That didn't happen. Maybe it should. Maybe people should not only take responsibility for themselves but society should take some responsibility too and enforce consequences for bad social behavior. Otherwise we'll create a huge numbers of people that are no better than spoiled children who expect everyone to take care of them and let them get their way. Oh wait, that's already happened ... never mind. I guess that's the baseline we're working from.

If I were being really mean I would say I was offended by Chris' response because he assumes that the guy getting free coffee is poor, just because he's a habitual criminal. But I'm not offended. It's natural for people to assume that the person's appearance, jail history and the clothes they wear also defines whether or not they have their own money to spend.