Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rant - Cracking Under The Barrage

Sometimes I wish I had a firehose, like riot cops, so that I could just spray it around me in a circle as I struggle through the city.

Every day I take a crowded metro to work and have to push my way through bodies just to disembark. At my destination there are always a couple of guys at the top of the escalator, slowing down the crowd as they hand out free “newspapers,” which are light on news and heavy on ads. They block the escalator, shoving their rags in my face and I burst through them like Henry Rollins in an angst-laden music video. Often they’re accompanied by a man named Professor Ali who hands out flyers offering his services as a professional psychic. He actually goes so far as to shove his flyers, unsuccessfully, into my clenched fists. I get across the street and there’s an old gypsy woman in a shawl who steps in my path with her hand raised and pleading for a donation in a sing-song voice.

Her intrusive technique is similar to another beggar who prowls the metro on my return trip. He never fails to shock me by shoving a scabrous stump between my face and the pages of my book. Walking the sidewalk to my apartment, I’m often confronted by people with clipboards who want to tell me about some “amazing offer” they have for a travel agency or in the Mormon Church.

I get home and the phone starts ringing. It’s somebody wanting me to change telephone or internet providers. While I’m sitting down to lunch, the doorbell rings. It’s somebody else with a clipboard and a bright, irritating smile. After lunch, it’s back to the street and metro for more of the same.

Speckled throughout my day, I’m inundated with a barrage of disorienting advertisements in the form of posters which practically scream out for attention, video screens in the metro selling some product and the incessant abuse of television spots. Like the beggars who invade your psyche with a visual appeal to your conscience, or the chipper door-to-door and telephone salesmen who invade your home, these ads are scientifically designed to get in your head visually or through the use of jingles. Even on Sundays, there’s a man who sets up a large electronic keyboard which pours forth a cacaphony even though he plays with just one finger.

And it’s driving me fucking crazy. Somehow, what we consider to be rude behaviour is considered acceptable when it plies the interests of Capitalism. (Even the beggars where I live are part of an organization that provides training, transport and coordination.) For some reason it’s okay to be pushy and offensive, as long as you don’t do it within your own monkeysphere.

And why is that? I mean, what if I stood in front of the elevator doors in my apartment building and blocked my neighbours, asking them for financial assistance or forcing them to take some paper that sells my services? Maybe I could ring their doorbells at dinner time and try to sell them something. I could plaster posters up in the lobby, stand there with a guitar and sing obnoxious jingles. How long do you think I would last in my building before somebody gave me a royal ass-kicking? Yet we accept this horrible behaviour from complete strangers.

You know, I like money, I like having things. And I recognize that the economy depends on the buying, selling and promotion of things. But every day, I feel more and more that Capitalism is just so stinking obnoxious.

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