Aaron Gillum's views of society, tempered with a quick wit and an acerbic writing style,
make his columns both fun, and unique. With each issue, Aaron offers a fresh perspective into
the catalysts that drive society; weaving these observations into refreshing, provocative
"We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror."
Growing up, I was a "The" and you were too. As we've grown and the world has progressed
around us, we've all been relegated to an "A". Perhaps you were the smart kid or the trouble maker. Maybe you were the oldest, the youngest, or the junior varsity backup
Regardless of which fell upon you, you had a title of sorts and as
inaccurate as your given title might have been, it gave you a place in the world...
and culpability. Each label, however erroneously put on your head, tied you to your
family and to your immediate community. Sure, most of us spent our youth trying to
rebel from the identities put upon us, but at least we had something to fight and
people around us that noticed enough to give us the title in the first place.
If nothing else, the struggle to prove the title wrong was ours alone and defined
our place in the world.
Today, however, things have changed. Now we are called a teacher, a wife, a husband,
a student, a customer or any of the hundreds of other generic labels we toss around
daily. In many situations we are addressed only as a number. The true scale of the
world opens up before us and with the wrong train of thought, we can believe ourselves
to be insignificant and even common. We are, in effect, camouflaged within the herd
by our zebra stripings of social security numbers and account I.D's. Beneath our
unique names, we are anonymous pieces of the collective. Reduced to
statistics and market segments; relegated to numbers for the sake of efficiency.
With all due respect to Senator Clinton, I don't believe it takes a village
to raise a child, but rather a small neighborhood. The hunter-gatherer human psyche
was not formed to cope with the large over-crowded areas we share today and the
accompanying anonymity. We were not built to co-exist with hundreds of complete
strangers on our way to work or school while crammed into tin cans on rails or
fighting through waves of traffic on the expressway.
Walk down the sidewalk of
any major urban area and symptoms are obvious. Downcast gazes and avoidance
postures show not only that we are uncomfortable in these situations, but that
we will go so far as to pretend those other people don't even exist. And what
happens when we see that person who walks through the crowds on the sidewalk
with shoulders square, head held high, and no air of invisibility about him?
Why, we single them out as trouble and take an extra step to avoid them, of
course. Rightfully so, I suppose, as they seem so at ease in the chaos.
Don't label it as rude behavior. Instead, call it the coping mechanism of
an uncomfortable primate trying to form a more naturally sized peer group
within our stressful concrete lives. Personally, I find it interesting that
much of the socially deviant behavior in our world, such as serial murder,
did not fully manifest itself until the industrial age and the ensuing growth
of major metropolitan centers.
If this were simply one more piece of stress added to the pile in our adult lives,
it would not alarm me at all. However, I think of the dramatic increase of random
violence in today's youth and I can't help but find a correlation between this rise
and the fact that we are watching the first 100%, fully wired, internet generation
come of age. Not only are they growing up in these overcrowded surroundings, but
they have the wealth of the internet library woven into their lives. The true
size of the world is being placed in front of them long before the age at which
such thoughts crossed our minds. At an age when I was unaware of anything outside
my backyard, they are browsing web sites from all over the world and with some
digging, finding the ugly main course to accompany the evening news' appetizer.
Childhood innocence fades much faster these days with assembly line daycare
institutionalizing some before they even enter grade school. They are cursed
with awareness before they have developed the proper social skills to cope with
it, leaving them feeling insignificant and powerless. In desperation, some of
them have made the sad choice to become the kid with a gun, rather than a nerd,
a failure, a fat kid, or a lost cause.
We all strive to be a "The", though perhaps we can't put our finger on exactly
what that entails. The lack of an identifiable role is the nagging hole you
know is there but can't seem to define. There's something comforting about
knowing your place in the world. I wish I knew my own.
I stopped at a farmer's market outside of town the other day to pick up a pumpkin for
Halloween, and I caught a glimpse of the goal. The market wasn't much more than a card
table and a cigar box full of small bills for making change, but it was manned by
an elderly farmer who exuded that feeling of calm confidence and peace I wish
I could find for myself. I realized then that this man had done it.
He had made his place in the world, but he had the wisdom not to create his own
"The" in the image that would attempt to please the whole world. He had
instead, shrunk the world around him to a manageable size so that his
"The" was recognized effortlessly.
The grandfather. The war veteran. The pumpkin farmer. The old man who always carries the dusty red
Coming full circle from childhood, his world didn't go much further than
his own backyard. A small kingdom perhaps, but he was the king without
Copyright © October 2003 Aaron Gillum and Low Carb Luxury