Freedom, Democracy and Mass Hysteria

His job was to stand at the front door and do crowd control. They told him to keep the Riff Raff out, so to speak, and to make sure the crowd was the right mix. He put a little rope across the entrance so that there was one level of separation between him and the people who wanted in. The rope added authority and made it seem less personal when he declined entrance to someone. He developed a method of eyeing people up and down, ceremoniously detaching the rope to let them in before hooking it back and examining the next person.

Starting about 11:30 pm is when the crowds would start to really build up. The bigger the crowd the pickier he’d become. As the crowd grew behind the rope people would offer him money to get in. On a good night, and if he played his cards right, he could make more in 30 minutes than the bar paid him for the whole weekend. The trick was to act like he was doing the people a favor by taking their money.

He was a dealer in status. He took it away by the way he treated them on one side of his little rope and then sold it back to them when he unhooked it and let them in.

The show at the door had some unspoken rules. For example if someone tipped him well once, then the next time he saw them, he’d make a big deal about ushering them right past the crowd. Also, once someone was “inside”, they could come out and pull one of their friends to the front of the line. The people who bought their way in would come out and look the crowd over to see if there was any body they wanted to pull out of obscurity. Sometimes it was yes, sometimes no.

Occasionally women he’d let in would wander back up to the door after they’d had a drink or two and ask to help out. He’d let them unhook the little rope or check ID’s. Usually older women who looked rich, he could tell they got a kick out of it. Late at night they’d touch his arm and whisper in his ear conspiratorially. Things like, “I wish I had your job. I’d be so much meaner than you are.”

Virtue alienates – Joseph Brodsky

He drifts along on the surface, stopping when things get hard, thinks long but not well, confuses recitation for reason, worry for effort.

He feels ridiculous. He doesn’t really do anything. He doesn’t really know anything. He is what he can buy. The call goes out inside pictures of the family vacation and patriotic memes, fantasy football and posts about how to win at business.

He sees a man surfing on top of the wave, not sinking, but having fun. Who ever thought that life was fair in the first place? It’s about winning or should be. The code is broken. Someone hears at last.

He knows that if people don’t want to buy what you have to sell they won’t talk to you in the first place. The secret is to stay in front of them until they talk themselves into buying. Keep them inside the circle. Don’t let them wander off. It doesn’t really matter what you say but that you say it in the right tone of voice and to the right people and enough times.

He can’t be as crazy as he seems or as stupid. How did he make all of that money?  It’s got to be an act. Of course, they thought the same thing about Hitler, when there was still time. When he was hiding in plain sight behind a clown’s mask.

The founding fathers hated each other. Jefferson called John Adams a Hermaphrodite. They ended on good terms though. Maybe it’s not so bad. He ties them in knots. Finally someone who can speak his mind. Is politics so different from business? All of them lie. Set everything on fire and see what happens.

Aldo vs McGregor or Thoughts on a Quick Win

David killed Goliath in an instant and won a battle between Israel and the Philistines before it even started. Julius Caesar routed Pompey in about an hour at the loss of only a few of his men at Pharsalus. Alexander shaped the course western history for the next 3000 years at Gaugamela, annihilating a giant Persian Army while only losing 60 men. The US Navy turned the tide of the War in the Pacific at Midway in 50 minutes and, in a smaller but still famous instance, it only took about 30 seconds for the Earps to wipe out the Clantons at the OK Corral. Inflection points can be sharp and sudden, on history’s stage and in a man’s life.

Last Saturday night an Irish Mixed Martial Artist named Conor McGregor faced off against the reigning UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Aldo was unbeaten in ten years and most people thought him much the superior fighter to the brash McGregor. 13 seconds and one well place punch later Aldo was a former champion and McGregor the new King of the UFC.

McGregor is as skinny as a rail and a master of unorthodox movement. He shows how punching power or more accurately, the ability to knock out your opponent, is really more about physical grace than strength. A good fighter is a closer athletic species to a dancer than to a power lifter or football player.

Aldo will be back but I don’t think he’ll beat McGregor. Once a man with better reflexes has you timed, there’s very little you can do to beat him unless he comes to the fight unprepared. The Ex Champ’s once adoring public has turned on him and a man who was considered unbeatable and the standard-bearer for the sport is now derided on the Internet as a loser and a bum; an object of scorn to the vulgar and a lesson to the wise.

McGregor’s win might go down as one of the historic ones from the UFC’s young life. A sudden overwhelming victory, especially from the fight game, can embed themselves in the Zeitgeist of the times and teach us: that Fortune is a strumpet, as did Antonio Tarver’s left-handed bomb that ended Roy Jones career in 2004 (even though Roy’s still fighting), that life is not fair, as when a debauched man-child named Mike Tyson blitzed the valiant Michael Spinks in 88 or that a man’s worth isn’t indicated by the color of his skin, as did Joe Louis’s historic two-minute destruction of Max Schmeling in 38.

Famous wins that are quick and dominant, like McGregor’s last Saturday, also serve a more primitive societal function. If sport is ritualized war then these displays are the ritualized murder of an enemy. Catharsis through fantasized violence, relief by proxy from the long civilized slog that is most people’s life. They show how sport is to the present culture what imitative magic was to our savage past.