There I was sitting in traffic yesterday, trying to find a station to listen to, when I noticed the person in front of me had a bumper sticker that said VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE. Like most people, I’ve seen this sticker around for years, and never really thought twice about it. But for some reason, this time, it fucking infuriated me. It’s like, why do I have to visualize anything? I seriously wanted to get out of the car and say something to the driver. But I sat there and stewed instead. Was I visualizing cowardice? Or did I do the right thing?
Even if you had gotten out of the car and confronted the driver, the resulting philosophical discussion would probably not have been very satisfying. In fact, it likely would have ended in a fight. And then your fist would have smelled like patchouli for a week. Good thing you stayed in the car.
But I understand why that seemingly innocuous sticker filled you with rage. There is a high price to be paid for convenient ideology all along the political spectrum. And those who believe in The Power of The Motto are rarely the ones forced to pony up. Particularly the tweedy Utopian who takes pride in as lazy and self-congratulatory a notion as World Peace. Which, of course, requires the banal idea that the world population is capable of enlightened deliberation on any single issue. Let alone all issues. And that the Zen-appropriated “visualization” of such hubris could magically usher in a global transformation. One that even the giddiest Pollyanna would be forced to admit (preferably while being waterboarded) that no two nations sharing a border have ever mustered throughout human history.
All this aside from the possibly too obvious point that such a foundation-trembling sticker as Visualize World Peace was very likely printed in a Malaysian sweatshop, in order to keep its price point below the critical “second mochachino” level. You see, there will be no peace, let alone pleasurable mental conjuring, for the many glue addled laborers of Kuala Lumpur. Which, as it turns out, would be another injustice worth fighting against, if only it could be condensed into a slogan easily affixed to your Lexus.
But, for the sake of argument, let us for a moment genuinely attempt to visualize world peace. Close your eyes. Breathe deep. Be the tableau. Does it feature clean-burning hover cars and smiling workers with excellent dental plans, asexually respecting one another across a swath of landscaped tranquility? Well, it had better. Because that sort of blanched, odorless existence is exactly what would be required of us, were we able, at long last, to pacify our degenerate natures. World peace? Sounds good. As long as it comes with a mandatory disavowal of sex, greed, lust, jealously, superiority, gluttony, competition, and physical collision. Who needs the key components of every pleasure that ultimately makes us what we are? Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s set our sights a little lower. Try visualizing going a week without being a dick to anyone. And maybe visualize spending one day a month reading up on world history. Just start with Suetonius and work forward from there. But it’s hard to see a didactical approach going viral anytime soon. If only because it would require, instead of a clever sticker, a lifelong and comprehensive examination of the very worst of our selves.
My feeling, in the long run, is that putting a bumper sticker of almost any sort on your car is tantamount to complacency and internal rot. The message is never the message. The message is a pretext for establishing a personality without necessitating actually having one. Each carefully worded catchphrase is in truth a cry for surface understanding and acceptance. Just as slapping SUBVERT THE DOMINANT PARADIGM on your Kia really means I read half a chapter of Machiavelli in the one of the two community college classes I didn’t fail out of.
Bumper platitudes embrace the notion that change is only a slogan away. Just as LIVE SIMPLY SO THAT OTHERS MAY SIMPLY LIVE really means Run this car off the road and cause its fiery death so that others can simply commute without having to read my weepy encounter-therapy drivel.
Vehicular bromides reduce complex issues to hors d’oeuvres. Just as PRACTICE RANDOM KINDNESS AND COMMIT SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY really means Or just keep cashing in those Google shares and I’ll pick up a case of ethics at Williams Sonoma.
Transportational prosaism comes from the desire to construct a faux-persona based on random cultural variance. Just as THE PIXIES really means I tell people I saw them before they were big. In truth, they’ve given me a headache since 1994.
Before the sticker enthusiasts storm Castle Dust with condemnation in their hearts, disagreeing that a genuinely intellectualized opinion is preferable to a shibboleth in shiny block letters, let me say this: if you have the stones to move to Alabama and put FUCK YEAH, I’M A FAG! on your Jetta, you will have proven me wrong and earned my eternal respect. Same goes for ENACT THE FAT TAX in Iowa, ILLEGAL AND LOVIN’ IT in Arizona, DIE ALREADY, GRANDMA in Florida, I DON’T SUPPORT THE TROOPS OR THE FUCKING WAR in Texas, and/or CUT TEACHER SALARIES-MY SON IS SO STUPID HE KEEPS MIS-SPELLING “COCK” BROTHERS! in Wisconsin.
But unless you’re tooling around Route 16 with one of those Ask The Dust™ catchphrases slapped on your ass this very second, I am unlikely to be swayed.
Are you ever going to put out a book of your columns like Dan Savage and Dear Abby do? I’d buy it! I might even get a few extra as presents for friends.
Dear Chrissy L
I have no plans to put out a compendium of Dust at the moment. I am, however, presently in negotiations with representatives of Helmsman Listi and TNB books concerning the release of my second volume of memoirs. It’s called Folding ‘Em Without Knowing When To, and generally examines events in my life from 1979-1985. This includes the years with my first wife Butterfly, my Central American adventures, a two month-long fast, freelancing for a national smut mag, a dalliance with the aqua-satanic, jail on two continents, a stint as an LA session musician, delving into the Berlin Poetry Underground, heroin, and my hand in the development of theoretical modeling for early closed-system artificial intelligence units.
Glad to know there’s a market, if only a small one.
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