On Sunday afternoon, I was standing in the rain in Ann Arbor, by myself, with a half-eaten cupcake in my hand, when a friend approached me, and greeted me with a question that I’d never been asked before. “How’d you like being compared to the Unabomber?” Having no idea what in the hell he was talking about, I just responded with a cold, blank stare, licking sickly-sweet frosting from my blog-calloused fingertips. After an awkward pause, he went on. “Someone online did this kind of doppelgänger thing, where he matched up local celebrities with people they resembled. You were the Unabomber. The outgoing Ann Arbor Superintendent was Miss Piggy…” The list went on.
Well, good to his word, this friend later sent a link. Here’s the part where I’m mentioned.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that it’s not really a good time in American history to have your name linked to terrorist activities, I guess I’m flattered… Can I say that? Has enough time passed since Kaczynski attempted to murder U-M professor James V. McConnell, not too far from where I’m writing this? I mean, if the author had wanted to, there are other, even more abhorrent people I’ve been told that I resemble. Jeffrey Dahmer and the Canadian lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies come to mind. (At least Kaczynski didn’t eat people and/or make shitty pop music.) And I don’t know that my ego could have taken a comparison to Miss Piggy, even though, looking at it objectively, I look more like her than I do the brilliant child prodigy turned emaciated, bomb-making recluse. So, yeah, it sucks to be linked to a delusional killer, but at least it wasn’t a pig puppet.
I don’t know that this is necessarily the best place for a thoughtful conversation about Kaczynski and his beliefs, but, as the comparison was made, I am kind of curious as to how we’ll both fare when all is said and done… I mean, I suspect, to some extent, he and I are motivated by similar concerns — at least, from what I recall, I was somewhat sympathetic when skimming through his manifesto about the human costs that come as a result of our ever-increasing reliance on technology — and I’m wondering how history will see us, and the widely divergent tactics we’ve employed to set things right. I should add that I’m not trying to establish myself as the anti-Kaczynski. What I do, here in Ypsi, on a really small, hyper-local scale, isn’t really anything special. There are tens of thousands of people across the United States that do community-building better than I do. I’m just curious as to how those of us who’ve chosen to push back without resorting to violence will compare against the likes of Kaczynski, when all is said and done. Will history look kindly on the building of downtown nature trails, the establishment of arts events, and the hosting of online community forums, or will activities such as those be seen as “too little, too late”… far too timid responses to the dangers that confront humanity?
Personally, I think coordinating community seed bomb making events, and helping to build common spaces in our communities probably move us further along the path toward increased interconnectedness than blowing the fingers off of scientists, but I suppose it’s possible that history will see it differently. It’s possible, I suppose, that Kaczynski’s manifesto will somehow take root and motivate future generations to fight for substantive change, far outweighing the cumulative contributions of folks like us, who are content not to make big, bloody waves. (Speaking of Kaczynski’s manifesto, I know he’s likely crazy, but can anyone argue against his central point – that human existence was far more fulfilling prior to the Industrial Revolution?)
And I guess this kind of gets back to the “Martin Luther King or Malcolm X” discussions we’ve had in the past… “Would MLK have been as effective if not for the threat embodied by Malcolm X, and those who made it clear that there were other avenues to explore, should non-violent activism not yield substantive results?” It’s something we’ve talked about several times. We’ve discussed it in the context of the 60’s student movement, the environmental movement of today and organized labor, and I suppose we’ll keep discussing it into the future, without ever coming to any definitive conclusion. Personally, I know it’s not a path that I want to take, but I don’t know that I can say conclusively that violence, or the threat of violence, is never warranted, especially as the temperature of the earth continues to rise, the protections of the working class continue to erode, and the global spying infrastructure continues to grow.
I’m curious to know your thoughts. Are we wasting our energy building trails when we could be focusing on taking out those we perceive to be the baddies?
As for me, I’d like to put my efforts into building things, rather than destroying them… So, don’t be scared if you see me on the street, wearing a hoodie. I’m probably just headed down the street to pick up trash and pull weeds.