Conversation in the cafeteria

It’s usually a mistake to talk to people, and I made that mistake today. I was having a nice lunch alone in the cafeteria, as is my preference and habit — reading a book, sipping a cafeteria Coke, and enjoying my sandwich brought from home with the right kind of mustard, when a man I sort of know saw me, made eye contact, and waved me over to his table.

Damn eye contact.

I thought about shaking my head ‘no’ across the room, but — what the hell. Only five minutes of lunchtime was left, and a year ago he & I had briefly talked about Star Trek, and that conversation went OK. Worst case scenario, this guy bores me silly for five minutes. Best case scenario, I bore him. So I loaded up my tray, went over, said hey, and sat at his table.

A magazine was open in front of him, and he was all fired up about an article he’d just finished reading … about the Middle East. Oh, jeez. Play music from a horror movie, and mix in some screams, and images filmed in a lunatics’ asylum.

Two rules in life: Never get involved in a land war in Asia, and never, ever talk about the Middle East with people you don’t know. Every time, whoever you’re talking to will reveal himself to be an idiot, hatemonger, or a killer at heart before the conversation ends.

This particular fellow in the cafeteria? He hates the Muslims and wants them all "under control," which probably means dead. But he might just as likely have said the same things about the Jews. You never know which stripe of stupid you'll hear when the Middle East comes up in conversation.

I hate everyone equally, and I didn't want to hear this guy's spiel, so I walked away while he was still talking. I certainly hope it hurt his feelings.

Oy, the Middle East. For as long as I’ve been aware of headlines, there’s been a "crisis in the Middle East," but it never ends so it’s not really a 'crisis' — it’s normal. 

A constant crisis is what the people in charge want, I think. Every handshake is a fake photo op, and every cease-fire turns out to be a lie. There are agreements and treaties and “breakthroughs for peace,” but only until the next round of killings. Maybe you think there’s peace coming, and you might be fooled, but I'm not. There will always be a crisis in the Middle East.

Here's what I (think I) understand, and it isn’t much: ❶ Muslims and Arabs come in assorted factions that hate each other. ❷ Most Muslims and Arabs in the Middle East hate Jews, and the feeling is mutual, so of course ❸ that’s where the Western World established a new Jewish nation in 1949, after the Holocaust. It’s been a garden party ever since.

One side blows things up, kills a bunch of people, and the other side retaliates, and the cycle goes on forever. Israel is more efficient at killing, since they’re a nation with a modern military, but the Arabs and Muslims make pretty good DIY bombs and send suicide-bombers and fire off second-hand missiles.

There are no good guys. Nobody's innocent, except the children, and the ordinary people trying to live their lives.

That’s a simplistic summary, straight outta my arse. I’m sure you understand the Middle East better than me, but please don’t explain it, because I’d prefer to think that you, dear reader, are not an asshole. Everyone who thinks he/she understands the Middle East is an asshole, like that schmuck today in the cafeteria.

And pardon my paranoia, but it's such a constant clusterfuck of death, I’ll wager that American big business and the CIA are involved behind the scenes, stirring up trouble, making sure everyone is always angry.

As-salaam Alaykum and Aleichem Shalom, but the only sure thing in the Middle East is that there's a crisis today, tomorrow, and twenty years from now, and twenty years from then. I don't want to hear about it during lunch at work.

From Pathetic Life #3
Tuesday, August 30, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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  1. I won't be surprised if this gets you some hate mail. Your right though, avoid anyone who wants to talk about the middle east.

    1. There aren't enough readers here to generate much hate mail, but a little would be nice.

  2. The middle east makes my eyes glaze over even without the hate.


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