WALK THE PLANCK: Did You Wake Up Like This Or Was It A Gradual Process

As stated before, although I focus more on music here at BtTtF, I do associate with many different types of artists in Toronto, including writer Matt Lennox. Mr. Lennox has been kind enough to write a continuing series of observations for us, and we love him for it. So here is the 3rd edition of Walk The Planck with Matt Lennox. Oh, check back here tomorrow, for a collection of show reviews including Wilderness of Manitoba, The Weather Station, Brooke Manning, and a surprise appearance by Sebastien Grainger!

Recently I had some beers with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time – since well before I’d gone overseas – and the reunion was a reminder as to why I’d stopped hanging around with this person in the first place, my long departure from the city I love notwithstanding. In honour of anonymity, let us henceforth call my friend Ethel. Ethel is a smart hipster. She once DJed a party I hosted, and she spun records until the fuses blew, and the whole thing perseveres in my memory as one of the most legendary nights I’d ever witnessed. Ethel reads, watches the right films, and has an outstanding knowledge of science fiction. Add to all of that the fact that she is sexy, in that cool and self-contained manner that sexy hipster women possess. So, Lennox, what’s the goddamn problem with hanging around with her?
The goddamn problem, friendo, can be reduced at first study to a difference of opinion. I say at first study because the problem is much more systemic than that. Differences of opinion abound. Differences of opinion with the people closest to me are not uncommon and are probably quite foundational. I think my beliefs and the actions I’ve carried out in the name of my beliefs does not represent the common denominator amongst my friends. Yet we carry on. When it comes to Ethel, however, differences of opinion are insurmountable.
We were having beers, Ethel and I. We were catching up on the events of our lives over the past eighteen months or two years since we had last seen each other. We both were drinking Mill Street Organic Lager (if you haven’t had it, turn off your fucking computer this instant, get out of your house or your loft or your probable basement apartment, and award no quarter in your pursuit of the beer I’ve just described) and all things were affable. Did you see this movie? Are you still in touch with that person? You went where, you did what, you read this, you thought that: the ordinary and banal and almost necessary components of a conversation between two people who are catching up.
Soon enough Ethel asked me a little bit about Afghanistan and I told her. She nodded. She seemed interested in what I had to say. The conversation evolved from there and shortly took a turn for the worse. After we’d talked about Afghanistan, Ethel asked me, with almost lethal casualness: But you don’t really believe all that bullshit about 9/11, do you?
I found myself starting to have flashbacks. Years before. Ethel and I. The lethal amicability with which she might ask, You don’t really think Aliens is a better film than Alien, do you? I started to form an augur of what was to come, and I was much dismayed.
So I told her I did not really know what bullshit about 9/11 she was referring to. I was already seeking to deescalate the situation.
Ethel supplied me with a quick piece of backstory to contextualize the bullshit in question. She’d seen the Loose Change documentary ...
My dismay was becoming a tangible thing: a sour, acidic taste in my beer and an unreachable itch between my shoulderblades. Still I demurred and sought to deescalate, but I did tell her that I did not believe the content of Loose Change.
Ohmigod, what?
I don’t believe it. I think 9/11 is like a lot of things, you know, where the most apparent explanation is probably the likeliest.
I could see her pupils dilating and I could see her head starting to climb, as if she had an extendable neck. Ohmigod, she said again. She was slightly breathless. She told me she thought I was a smart fellow, how could I ... How could I ... ?
How could I not believe the conspiracy theory?
Fuck! Yes!
Well, I told her, based on the apparent facts that I knew – and I don’t pretend to know them all – but based on the apparent facts that I knew, the most logical conclusion that I could draw was that it was exactly how it appeared. The US got caught with its pants down, so to speak. Based on the corollary effects, I did not believe it could happen again.
Ethel, meanwhile, was becoming frantic. Her voice was peaking. As she put it, there was simply no way, no possible way, that any person with any measure of learning or of reason could believe that that was so – namely, the facts as they were presented. In this movie, Loose Change ... !
I’m not interested in relating the further dialogue that took place, because it was ludicrous. I kept my voice even throughout and simply disagreed with her, and tried my best to explain what sequence I followed from one apparent fact to the next. Ethel on the other hand seemed to have achieved a kind of furious and outraged nirvana at the fact that not so much that I didn’t agree with her point of view but that I seemed to simply and fundamentally lack the intellectual capacity to agree with it. Her climaxing rage appeared almost to be on my behalf – that I had been mentally robbed somehow, for what other explanation could there be for my inability to agree with the conspiracy theory posited in Loose Change and wholeheartedly subscribed to by Ethel herself?
Right. In this case, it’s not really the content of the point of view that matters. I think that Loose Change is nonsense. I think that it attempts to answer a deeper need that people seem to have when contemplating an event of such proportions ... proportions and ramifications that have had a direct effect on the world as it is today. People seem to harbour a need to ascribe a certain logic to the event that is perhaps closer to home, more sinister, and therefore, somehow, more accessible than what I believe the reality is. I’ll say it again: I think Loose Change is garbage. I think conspiracy theories are as guilty of contributing to our overall societal fear of the dark as is the mainstream media. The mainstream media tells you to be afraid of terrorists. Conspiracy theories tell you to be afraid of the guy with the suit and the sunglasses and the earpiece. One kind of fearmongering you see on the news and the other kind you see on shady websites that link to penis enlargement ads. So which one is right? I will also say again that the content of my point of view, or Ethel’s, matters not. It’s more about the dialogue. There is nothing wrong with having a strong point of view, but if you argue it with the stridency she did, you end up sounding more than slightly like a fanatic.
The trick is to be able to debate a strong point of view but not to beseech it. That might even require you to admit that there may be a counterpoint or two that you have not considered. Right wing, left of centre, pro-life, pro-choice, anti-evolution, anti-gravity, treehugger, whatever. The next time you hear yourself espousing what it is you stand for, maybe just give yourself a little listen. Do you sound like an Ethel? Because if you do, drink your own goddamn beer. I’m going home.
Until next time, I’ll be selling crazy some other place, or else I’ll be walking the Planck with the subversives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved the way you told this story and the message attached. Your mother said you were a beautiful writer. I agree.
Orillia Curler