Friday, February 11, 2011

Picture-perfect Celebration -- Writer's Poke #288

Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Hundred-Dollar Kisses," available in the While Mortals Sleep collection, makes an interesting observation. In the story, Henry George Lovell has been arrested for assaulting Verne Petrie with a telephone. I don't want to give away the full details of the story, but Lovell's motive is this: "Everybody pays attention to pictures of things. Nobody pays attention to the things themselves."

So, think about that. Lovell was so upset with Petrie that he wanted to do him bodily harm. The reason: Petrie didn't pay attention to "the things themselves."

This story reminds me of what's currently going on in Egypt. After a couple of weeks of protest, the Egyptian leader has finally decided to resign. We watch the celebration of the Egyptian people on our televisions, but all we see is "the picture of things" and not "the things themselves." Isn't that interesting? For most of us, we have no idea how poor of a ruler President Mubarak was. Why, after thirty years, should we automatically be happy for the Egyptian people? After all, Mubarak turned over power to the military. Is that really better for the average Egyptian, and how would we know? And now that Mubarak is out, will we continue to care, or will we simply assume that all is now right with the state of Egypt?

If I had a phone, I'd be tempted to use it on someone celebrating who doesn't fully understand what it is he's celebrating.

When is celebrating justified?

"Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love, and to celebrate the good days." -- Egyptian proverb.

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