The Bum and the Professor: A Hypothetical Conversation

Bum:  “Spare some change?”

Professor:  “No.”

Bum:  “Not even a quarter, or a nickel?  No change at all?”

Professor:  “Sorry. If I had some, you can rest assured that I’d give it to you, but I just don’t have any.”

Bum:  “Why can I ‘rest assured’ of that? I don’t know you.”

Professor:  “True, but I know you, more or less. I have spent decades lecturing and writing on the plight of the underprivileged. So I understand your hardship enough to know that if I honestly had any money to spare, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to you at once.”

Bum:  “All these decades you’ve spent lecturing and writing about someone like me, did no one ever pay you?”

Professor:  “Of course they did.”

Bum:  “And yet, you haven’t got a quarter or nickel to spare with the guy that earned you a paycheck?”

Professor:  “I resent that remark. I’ll have you know that I have given a large sum of money over the years to various charities to help people in need.”

Bum:  “Good for you. That still doesn’t put either a quarter or a nickel in my hand, right now.”

Professor:  “You’re judging me for not being able to give you money, right now? A bit self-righteous for a man who spends his days begging for a portion of other peoples money, don’t you think?”

Bum:  “No judgment here, honestly. I’m just following your train of thought, which I admit can seem pretty ‘self-righteous’. Probably about as self-righteous as being told that someone knows me, just because they’ve written something about poor folks here and there.”

Professor:  “I see. Well, allow me to clarify: While I don’t know you personally, I do understand, because of my extensive research and studies on the subject, the hardship that comes along with residing within the parameters of today’s socioeconomic hegemony.”

Bum:  “Parameters of what?”

Professor:  “Socioeconomic hegemony.  It’s a phrase I coined in one of my papers. Roughly it means that the conditions of a person’s environment are so dominating that they are naturally setup to be disadvantageous to the underprivileged in said environment. You understand?”

Bum:  “I understand what you said. I don’t understand what good it does to have it said.”

Professor:  “Identifying and defining a problem is the first step to having it resolved.”

Bum:  “When did you first write this?”

Professor:  “About 30 years ago.”

Bum:  “How long until it starts to ‘resolve’ the problem?”

Professor:  “It doesn’t work that way.”

Bum:  “Why not?”

Professor:  “Because social theories aren’t meant to fix people’s problems just by the power of the pen.  People have different perspectives, and one social theory can yield an innumerable sub-theories on how to implement reforms. Not to mention, there is always nuance to consider.”

Bum:  “So some other guy can come up with a different ‘social theory’ about the exact same problem your social theory talks about, and his would be just as good as yours.”

Professor:  “I think you’re getting confused, remember we’re talking about hypothetical thought experiments here.”

Bum:  “So they’re imaginary.”

Professor:  “No, they are normative descriptors of reality.”

Bum:  “How do you know they’re describing reality, if they haven’t been tried out yet?  That is what hypothetical means, right?”

Professor:  “It’s more abstract than that.”

Bum:  “I bet. But I still don’t see the point of coming up with all of these social theories, if they can’t actually resolve the problems they’re addressing. Seems to me like a man might as well be doing nothing and still get the same results.”

Professor:  “I told you, social theories recognize a problem and allow for the future assembly of working models to be implemented by society.”

Bum:  “Hypothetically.”

Professor:  “Yes, hypothetically.”

Bum:  “See that building over there? 30 years ago I was part of the crew assembling the foundation of dozens of buildings just like it, all over town. Most of them are still around. People can use them, live in them. They can like them or hate them. But they can’t ignore them. If they decide to get rid of them, they have to put some physical effort into removing them from the spot we put them on. You understand what I’m driving at?”

Professor:  “Not really, no.”

Bum:  “Before we put down the foundation, when we were barely carving out the dimensions on the ground, the buildings were what you would call hypothetical. Now, 30 years later, I guess someone a little better with words than me, would say that these buildings are ‘descriptors of reality’, at least in the little, tiny spot of reality where they stand. You couldn’t describe the area where these buildings are without mentioning the buildings themselves.”

Professor:  “Okay, I get what you’re driving at, but you’re wrong. This is completely different from my academic discipline; you’re simply not comparing like with like.”

Bum:  “Yeah, probably. All I know is that 30 years ago, we identifies a problem: no building in this spot. Now, 30 years later, problem is resolved: building is there, whether someone likes it or not. 30 years ago, you identified a problem; now, 30 years later, you’re identifying of the problem all those years ago hasn’t done squat to resolve whatever problem it is you felt needed to be identified in the first place–because if it had I wouldn’t be sitting here like this, would I? So, let me ask you, are you sure your social theories are actually describing reality, or are you just defining reality to your liking, and cramming your social theories into it so you can have something to lecture people on?”

Professor:  “My theory is sound, but to understand it properly would take many years of study.  Hence, this conversation is inconsequential. Here’s your quarter, and have a nice day.”

Bum:  “Much appreciated, good sir. You have yourself a good one, too.”

Why I Don’t Fear the Zombie Apocalypse

Ever since The Walking Dead has made zombies a marketable cash cow  for a new generation of consumers, there have been many commentators (some more serious than others) talking about all the possible “what-if” scenarios, if (in purview of some hypothetical reality) zombies were actually to rise from their graves to feed on our delicious human flesh.  It’s a thought I, too, had many years ago when I first saw Night of the Living Dead as a kid, and since then my worry on possible zombie apocalypses has remained unchanged; in that, if it were to happen, I see no personal reason to worry about it at all.  Allow me to explain this in blog digestible form, by composing a short list of three reasons why a zombie outbreak gives me no viable concern.

1.  Zombies are slow and extremely stupid.  Even as an easily fooled youngster who was prone to believing that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a real thing living somewhere in the sewers of New York City (let’s be honest, it would be the less surprising find, compared to what is probably really crawling around down there), I still could not believe the premise of any zombie movie where these slow-moving, completely brain-dead things take over the world; dragging one foot at a time, as we sprint ahead at full speed.  I think I could probably lightly skip my way passed a traditional zombie movie monster (at a relatively casual pace), and still be so far ahead of it that I could take a brief nap on a tree branch, wake-up refreshed, and continue on thereafter without losing an inch of my head start.

I don’t understand how these things could manage to outmaneuver anybody, they’re joints barely bend for crying out loud.  If you don’t have the speed or flexibility to get passed a zombie, you probably got other (far more pressing) health issues you should be more worried about than a zombie attack.  Another thing, since these things are really, really, really stupid, and we have a whole functioning arsenal of fleets stocked with weapons strong enough to wipe out all of civilization several times over, why on earth couldn’t we figure out a way to lure them into a giant hole somewhere [the Grand Canyon would work just fine], seal it off, and take them out from there in one big swoop?  Or, at the very least, why can’t we put up a large array of treadmills all around the outskirts of the country, so that those dumb things can just walk in place as we take them out from above.

Which brings me to my second reason for not fearing a zombie outbreak.

2.  I live in the South.  Some people are under the impression that Jesus is Lord in the American South, but those people are a little misinformed.  For many Southerners, Samuel Colt is the true messiah by which we are all made equal around here, and the 2nd Amendment is the Divine scripture through which His will be done on earth (can I get a hallelujah, brothers and sisters?).  In the South, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if we really did have more bullets then there are actual people in all of North America, not to mention, a helluva lot of trigger-happy folks itching for some (un)life target practice.  If zombies start scavenging around the United States, I don’t see them getting very far past the Mason-Dixon line.  Which means that, even though I don’t personally own a gun, and wouldn’t be good at firing one if I did [poor eyesight and all], I’ll still be the safest SOB in the country on account of all the brave yokels ready to face the swarm of slow-moving dead guys.  And, if we’re being honest, many of them will probably take out a good number of zombies before they even realize that they were in fact shooting at zombies–‘cuz, son, trespassin’ is a mortal sin ’round these here woods.  That goes for the living and the dead.

And, finally,

3.  What’s the worst that can happen, really?  Let’s say I’m bitten by a zombie, and I become a zombie, then what?  Nothing, because I’ll lack the cognitive capabilities to even so much as give a shit about my new undead state.  It’s not like I’m going to be bummed out about it, contemplating the depressing existence I’m now forced to endure for the remainder of time.  I’m a freaking zombie!  I won’t (I can’t) care.  I won’t care about anything except getting a bite of some of that savory, mouthwatering, “save-the-taters-and-just-pass-the-gravy,” delicious human flesh.  I’ll tell you what else I’m not going to care about: bills, mortgage payments, debts, my income, that stupid “check engine” light that keeps coming on in my car [no matter how much I check that stupid engine and find nothing there].  Because I’m a zombie, I’ll have no cares; so what’s there to worry about even in the worst case scenario of a zombie apocalypse?  Come to think of it, it kind of sounds rather relaxing.

With werewolves, on the other hand, there is no point in even contemplating the outcome.  Because I’ll be one of the first people those quick and agile motherfuckers eat and digest.