One of my favorite scenes from the Simpsons is when an angry mob encroaches on Mayor Quimby's office.
"Are these morons getting dumber or just louder?" the Mayor inquires to his aide.
He checks his clipboard and replies, "Dumber, sir."
Sometimes, I wonder.
I decided to go camping this weekend. I figured it would be relaxing to get away and commune with nature. Lord knows, I need to relax, right? It's a sad state when the quietest place I know is my own bathroom. All day long, while camping, I was surrounded by loud, obnoxious people. They were on the bus ride to the canoes. They were on the canoes. They were in the tents to my right. They were in the tents to my left. They drove up in loud diesel trucks, and they played loud music from their speakers, while loudly communicating with one another. They probably live loudly by their neighbors, and loudly take over a campsite full of paying customers. They are all over.
When I came home I went to Target. Outside were ten employees, sitting under the only tree in front of the building. They were piled up like old tires. They, of course, were loudly yelling at another employee half-way across the parking lot.
"You best get inside. They know you've been out here for 30 minutes!"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever."
I had to scuttle past them just to get in the door, ducking their shouts back and fourth. I felt like I was in their way. I found the whole scene to be very carnie-like. Is this the best place Target has for its employees to take a smoke break? I think I am in favor of letting them all destroy their lungs in a small back room, like the good old days.
I'm a social Darwinist. Stupid people will stupidly yell at each other when they go camping and a few will probably end up dying in camping accidents. But, it wont happen fast enough for the rest of us. They will pass their entire lives away, oblivious to the reflection that a few quiet hours can provide. To them, camping, and life, is about being heard. It is about aggressively clawing for attention even if it means irritating the rest of us who just want to sit and watch the stars.
Are people getting dumber or just louder? Dumb people have a way of ruining the fun for everyone. If 29 years has taught me anything it's that we will find a way to ruin anything fun in this country. TV, camping, sporting events, the government, churches, shopping--they have all been taken over by loud, foolish people. We have special stop-light arrows telling us when it's safe to turn left across traffic. I noticed my first one in 1994. "This is odd" I thought. "Who can't figure out when it's safe to turn left?"
Apparently, many people. They're probably too busy yelling at each other to notice on-coming traffic. And slowly, and yes, quietly, signals have been set up telling us when it's OK to turn, when it's OK to own a gun, or drink, or drive, or let your kids out to play. More people want to set up signals telling us how to be decent, how to relate to God, and how to run other countries. Maybe, the great thing that democracy and freedom have shown is that many people just can't handle freedom. We're not really free because the loud, stupid people force the government to save us from ourselves in so many areas.
While some of us are responsible enough to not yell across parking lots, let our kids run wild all over Target, block isles and shamble about hopelessly, sensible enough to turn left at the right time, and put our our camp fires, and keep our music down--I have found that we are in the minority. And I wish it wasn't like this. I wish I didn't have to feel like I was an oddity because I don't like to yell. I wish people would just let their actions speak for themselves, rather than loudly reacting to every stimulus that reaches their hollow heads. I would really like to be able to go camping, or to a store without feeling the need to shake the loud, thoughtless people who drive so many nails through my brain.
I would like to think that nature would take its course with these people. 5,000 years ago people who couldn't work with others starved to death. Now, they just ruin our lives. I need to let it go, because that's how it is: with the coming of industry, with the TV, with the electric guitar, came noise. These things fuel our economy and our pop culture and they whittle away at our minds. I'll bet 500 years ago a man could think. I'll bet he could find a place in nature and be there, and melt into the background. And I'll bet he could find the answers he was looking for in peace and quiet.