Field Notes

Time Spent Observing the Wasted Barrens of the Mind

A taxonomic classification of Generical Man is difficult if not impossible, because he cannot be described as a set of specifications. We don’t know his height or weight, his race or his nationality. He is not distinguished by gender, by belonging to this religion or that, this political party or that, this neighborhood or that, by the amount of money he has, by the types of sports he likes or whether he even likes sports, by his hobbies or his taste in literature or his interest or lack thereof in sex. Almost by definition he blends in to any environment and is hidden from our view by the deep foliage of our own deceptions from and accommodations to the world we make and inhabit. What distinguishes him from the common man, the Everyman, is how he interacts with all those things, and how he views the relationship between him and his society.

One cannot describe him by what he is, but by what he does. One cannot describe him by how he thinks but by what he says.

First and foremost, Generical Man would say that the above is pretentious crap.

Generical Man holds honesty as a primary virtue. In the most extreme of circumstances he may lie, but he is diminished by it.

He is honest about himself. In the eyes of the stupid or lazy it is self-deprecation.

Because of his honesty, he will make blunt statements and take inconvenient stances, although he would not call them stances.

He knows that politics is necessary and good in the same way that money is necessary and good. Both can be the roots of all kinds of evil.

He avoids self-aggrandizement. He would not say he is telling “an inconvenient truth”, or that he “tells it like it is”. Both statements betray moral presumption. The best we can hope for is to tell it as we see it, and hope that’s right.

He avoids clichés as if they are a highly infectious disease.

Generical Man usually does not impress in a job interview.

He lets his yeas be yeas and his nays be nays.

He doesn’t use the word “great” very often, but when he does he means it. He will not give a standing ovation to a grade school performance of Shakespeare, unless there is a little Richard Burton in the cast.

He hates manipulation with heart, mind, and soul. He avoids its odor.

He likes people when they are not in crowds. He doesn’t like manipulative people, who are the ones usually leading a crowd. He doesn’t like to be around desperate people, who are the ones usually making up a crowd.

Generical Man despises affectation in all its forms. He is bored by celebrities and uninterested in the celebrity culture, because its foundation is virulent affectation.

He cannot stand the State of the Union Address because he cringes at banalities delivered as pearls of wisdom. He thinks Congress should clap only when the President utters an original thought. Attempts at naked manipulation are a sin, and see above about affectation.

He knows the difference between ceremony and spectacle.

He does not like marketing and fads have no hold on him, especially fads in marketing. He does not need to drive a certain car to show that he is an independent rebel just like a million other people.

Generical Man is a distruster of nostrums but has a certain respect for shibboleths. He believes in the accumulated wisdom of humanity, if only we could figure out what it is.

He is not a seeker of Truth but a seeker of the truth of things. He is delighted to be shown a novel way to look at the world, and thanks you for destroying his misguided conceptions.

He does not waste time looking for a solution when there is none, he does not try to heal all wounds, and he does not feel your pain. He respects you too much for that.

Generical Man does not trust most schemes but he abhors those which attempt to fix man. Man is, he does not need to be perfected. Man needs to be left free to work out his own salvation.

He is always wary of the true believer and the easy path, and will not traffic with anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that every human action involves a trade-off.

Generical Man may seem to be a loner and misanthropic but that is because he avoids cliches like the plague, and an organization is a cliche.

He is not a joiner, and resists any efforts to make him part of a group on the group’s terms

Generical Man knows that if someone pays his salary it gives them a certain right to tell him what to do, but what about preachers and politicians?

Generical Man can’t stand the manipulation of the officious or the tools of language used to support it. He knows that cynicism is a valuable bulwark against a manipulative society and assumes he will on balance be correct when he distrusts those who preach against cynicism.

He believes that it is altogether right and good to demand a certain amount of consistency from everyone, but most especially from our leaders. If you think consistency is not demanded from us, says Generical Man, try giving two different stories to a prosecutor.

He is indifferent to greatness but cherishes competence.

He doesn’t have heroes. He has respect.

If his children tell him they are bored, he tells them that being bored is a good thing. It makes you think.

He treats popular sentiment as does a snake handler a cobra.

He will tend to hurt your feelings if he thinks you are talking nonsense. Best not to ask his opinion unless you really want criticism.

In any discussion, Generical Man will give you plenty of chances to prove that you are not a fool. But he notices that many people do not take advantage of that.

He tends to argue from positions of logic but doesn’t seem to entirely trust reasoning, maybe because he knows that logic is based on premises and premises can be wrong.

He may be the only one sitting while everyone else is standing, or vice-versa.

He is stubborn to a fault. He will resist being told what to do even if he agrees that it should be done.

He is likely to be the one who is saying, “The world isn’t coming to an end”, and so far he has always been right.