Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Silent Industrialist


There's a gentleman in my neighborhood, a guy who likes to keep to himself. He's well known for not being very sociable, not speaking to very many people, and not even waving all that much. It looks like it causes him physical pain to acknowledge you.

The one thing, I guess, that keeps him from nailing his door shut and staying inside is the fact that he has three dogs. The dogs have to go outside, and he apparently has a lot of respect for their needs because he'll walk them up the street and back, one at a time. That's nice, but the downside is that it gives him lots of opportunities not to wave at people and not to speak very much. So he has ... a reputation.

For me, that's OK. I see him looking down, so I look down. I see him going to the opposite side of the street, so I turn toward the house. I see his dog crap on the green space near my signage, so I turn and allow him to clean it up privately. It's only after he's well out of sight that I go to the scene with an antibacterial wipe and restore the grass to its pristine appearance.* I don't want to embarrass him if he hasn't yet acquired this social skill. Who could tell him?

I've heard people say he was a military man, perhaps a high-ranking officer. I believe he's probably had to kill many people in his time, and maybe that's why he doesn't want to look anyone in the eye and say something nice. And that might be why he prefers the company of his dogs, because in battle they would've alerted him to the scent of enemy soldiers. It's a very good reason why he'd want to walk only one dog at a time, so as not to get mixed signals.

Now, even though he keeps to himself that doesn't mean he's not up to date on the affairs of the neighborhood and world. Even this guy has adopted the industrial lifestyle, having formed a company in his backyard, with his manufacturing specialty reflecting his possible military past. He makes Army surplus items. I always thought that Army surplus stores sold actual surplus items, that is, items that the Army had left over. But no, the fact is, Army surplus stores buy from companies who churn out this stuff especially for them, canteens, mess kits, ammunition boxes, rations, strychnine capsules, rafts, camouflage jackets, and gun sights. Because there's only one Army and many surplus stores, something has to give.

I think about this guy a lot. And in my imagination, the silent industrialist could find himself facing the wrath of the crowd for his lack of sociability. In my imagination, I can picture it like in Frankenstein where the mob goes ballistic that there's a monster in its midst. They're running down the street with sticks and torches, with blood lust. Then he's cornered in his factory, and the mob threatens to torch the place.

Finally, he breaks down, sobbing. An innocent child from the neighborhood moves closer and takes him by the hand. With a few encouraging prompts from the child, the old man raises his hand. The mob thinks it's a threatening gesture and surges backwards a step. But he pleads with them, with tears streaming down his face, to hear him out and let him speak.

The silent industrialist -- once silent, but now speaking -- speaks with a clear voice, as though delivering a well written soliloquy by a Bard, that he knows his reputation and that it breaks his heart. He says, "It's not that I dislike people. I don't!" Then he explains how he has seen so much suffering, from his time in our country's wars, and much more suffering in his own land, our land! He explains what suffering he means, what is dished out to us everyday by the major industrial powers. "They have selfishly squandered our resources," he rightly claims, "and exploited each one of us. We've all suffered so much. How can I not be silent in the face of all that?"

He goes on, explaining that the major industrialists have cornered markets and the means of production in ways that have done severe damage to the whole country. But he saved the best for last, becoming positive, praising the Residential Industrial Movement and the efforts of each of us. How strange it'd be, the people he praises (in this imaginary scene) were the very ones who 10 minutes before wanted to lynch him for not being sociable! And for allowing his dogs more kindness than he did his fellow man!

By the end of this scene, the crowd is crying their eyes red, putting down their sticks, and dousing their torches in an adjacent runoff ditch. They present him a bouquet of flowers, then, one by one, going in random directions, each one lost in thought, finally he is left along, a man looking down, sobbing, a single spotlight lighting the spot, the flowers bright in his hand. Then he does it, he looks directly at the flowers. You can tell he's sniffing the fragrance. Then he looks up and smiles.

The sun pops over the horizon directly behind him. He's framed in blinding light. There's a deafening silence, when, as at the dawn of creation, the strains of "Also Sprach Zarathrustra" begin, climaxing with the music at a deafening volume. The silent industrialist has his arms out. He's naked like Leonardo da Vinci's artwork of the naked man. And his dogs come in, one at a time, looking up to him, with great love in their spirits. Each one holds it long enough so as not to ruin the moment.

My point is: The silent industrialist is one of the Residential Industrial Movement's own. He's doing his part, just as he served his country in other ways. Just because he's silent, don't think there can't be a very good reason for it. Like he said, he's seen a lot of suffering. And I'm willing to take him at his word.

I see this guy everyday. And I'm pretty sure he reads my blog. So ... to you, my friend ... this post is dedicated. You're probably a very modest fellow, and you'd be the first to say you'd rather I hadn't written about you. No doubt you want to just do your part in your own way, take your dogs for their three individual walks, and live in your own peculiar, silent way.

And I respect that. But what I've written, I've written. But I won't wave at you again unless you initiate it. Then I'll be right by your side, asking you your name and what kind of suffering you've seen, that I might know exactly what you've seen that's given you this very strange, odd, silent nature.

*Sometimes I'll wait till all three have been by so I'm not spending so much on wipes.

No comments: