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Mrs Everywhere

We are not Property

Gabrielle Taylor

messing around in Photoshop and listening to and said I'd sit by my computer because I'm doing some freelance government work, nothing exciting, and Springsteen comes on and I don't like him much but then I hear

It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
'Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

and it chewed right into me because the last time I heard those words it was offhand encouragement from a writer that I really respect and who told me that I was good and I should keep at it and things like that mean so much when you're sitting there doing work that's boring and you're scared that you're never going to amount to anything and never going to have the discipline to get anywhere and even if you got there what would you do? But somebody who can write told you that you can write too for no reason aside from that you can.

For no reason aside from that you can. Not family or friends who care about you and hope you can find something to do that you actually like and from whom it's a little uncomfortable to hear praise because you don't really believe it, not unless it comes from someone with no motive but to see that there's some more stuff worth reading.

And when you woke up that morning feeling like you were marking time, like you were killing yourself with trivia, to have something randomly come out at you and remind you that you've got talent, that maybe you're in a slump but it's not forever, you did good before and you can do it again, when that happens it's almost like there is a divine Providence that wants your life to amount to something in the end.

(Which there may or may not be; a divine Providence; if there is indeed God or gods they probably, as Leonard Cohen put it, don't care "how you worship as long as you're down on your knees".)

Jesus Christ, where are we going? We've mechanized everything to the point where there's very little physical labour left, and what there is isn't going to be around much longer if we keep at it the way we are, and we wonder why lassitude and obesity and stupidity are rampant -- people's minds get as fat and incapable as their bodies because there's no challenge, everything has to be homogenized and nothing disturbing and nothing that everybody can't do and did you bring enough gum for everyone?

Then you get a Providential moment like that where everything seems so clear: your purpose is to download all the versions of Born to Run and crank it as loud as you can and remember that there are still some live people out there and damnit if we could all get together we could do something, we could get through the incredible red tape that our achingly huge countries are trying to choke us in and we could do something that would make a change.

Achingly huge! Cities of millions, MILLIONS of people! We aren't built to live like this! We can't cope with having so much TIME on our hands, we're a species used to reacting and fighting and keeping one breath ahead of death. Take that from us and we goddamn well don't know what to do with ourselves anymore and that time fills up with nonsense.

This government work I'm doing: my Statement of Work is half a page or less; my contract with Her Majesty as embodied in the Secretary of State as embodied in my contact is twelve pages! We're so profligate and spoiled that it's almost impossible to know where to begin. The means has become the end!

Yet we must start somewhere. Then the moment threatens to pass: the rational mind takes over and starts sifting through options like so many pick-up sticks. The raw feeling is refining like sugar into something worth no more than sweetener for one cup of coffee.

That the feeling can be there at all means we're not done yet, we still have a chance to prove that we are not property, that if progress means anything it means that more of us have the chance to do more than we ever could, if we can get past our divisive egotisms and really focus on making that everyone who can use a chance has got one.

The implication is, yes, that we're at a point where not everybody can use a chance. In fact, most people can't. Most people that I've known are not capable of taking a chance and doing something with it that shows themselves. They're walking dead and because there are so many of them, they figure everybody should be walking dead. The vast majority of our social movements are intended to make everybody uniform walking dead. These movements are based on wired-in survival instincts from an all-too-recent time when there was generally nowhere near enough food to go around.

Most of us lucky enough to be born in the Western world no longer have that problem. We live in a time of unprecedented luxury and we live like petty despots: we gorge, we lie around in bed, and we do whatever brutal acts are necessary to keep us in that unparalleled comfort. Most are never lucky enough to have Providence grab us by the throat and shake us until our actions are hazed with tears. Those of us that do are blessed. Those of us lucky enough to have something seemingly mundane or minor punch us in the gut and realize that we're fucking blessed -- we're alive, we have souls, those souls are as divisible and inexhaustible as we are -- the more we spend the richer we get. The more we cut away the sharper our tools become. The more we're cursed the more blessed we truly are -- because we're worth cursing, our message disturbed and upset, we communicated! For a bare second we became gods because we transmitted our own image, and it was received.

I don't know when we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go
and we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby we were born to run

Lyrics used wholly without permission.

Gabrielle Taylor is a either a writer or a disaffected web consultant in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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