Fall 2018 Editor Picks

I Wrote This Story to Prove My Best Friend Wrong

by Mathew Serback

“Everyone is awful.”

That’s a powerful statement.

Think about all the possible things my best friend could’ve said instead: A specific person was awful; there was an established (or, possibly, unestablished) reason for the person’s awfulness (depending on your perspective), or no one was actually awful (which is still dependent upon your perspective), and we just misrepresent other people’s emotional states as an assumption of guilt instead of an assumption of innocence.

Tired of thinking?

Me too.

“Everyone is awful,” he said.

Form follows function.

Form: To be or not to be.

Function: Awful.

My best friend, the one who thinks you’re awful (yes, you), studied business and numbers in college. He breaks everything down into numbers. I’m sure he’s use the numbered language in everyday conversations: People lie – numbers don’t; it’s a numbers game; or a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

Well, maybe not that last one.

I went to an entirely different college where I tried to avoid taking a math class, and, instead, I took a logic course with a girl who had a crush on him in high school.

There are a lots of weird things about that sentence.

I called her a girl instead of a woman. There’s this latent training at the stem of my brain that, instinctively, tells me to call women girls and to call boys men. They’re both desperately negative in their own ways: A boy is called a man because when they were marched off to war, our parents (and their parents) didn’t want to think “our” government was killing kids. A woman is a girl because in the past (read: today), we see women as something inferior, as something in need of a protection – you know, like a child.

I avoided math.

I’m not trying to trivialize numbers, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t do math. I could do all the maths (I think). Math was too time-consuming. As I filed down the proofs line-by-line, I found my youth being sucked directly out of my soul in exchange for some empirical information that had no practical application.

I didn’t like it.

I avoided it.

I was applying logic without knowing it.

There are lots of pointless things you can learn about logic, which is why it’s usually distilled down into its most digestible form: If A, then B, and if B, then C, then there is a logical conclusion we can draw about the relationships of A, B, and C.

For example:

1: You can’t possibly know everyone.

2: Everyone is awful.

3: There’s some combination of you are awful, and you can’t possibly know everyone, and when you forced me to do this to prove you wrong I kind of got angry and agreed with you, silently, that everyone is awful.

That wasn’t an actual example of logic. That was a misdirect to prove a point.

Honestly, let’s start at the beginning.

At the time or writing this story, there are 7,575,203,154 people alive. I don’t even know how to say that number. It takes longer to write that number out than it does to order a pizza. That’s an astronomical amount of things moving around and between and inside of each other.

That’s a lot of prepositional phrases.

If all 7,575,203,155 (sorry for rounding up) are awful, I’m not sure we’d ever get anything accomplished. There’d just be a line of people trying to stop other people from accomplishing their dreams.

It hits me.

It’s a gut check from a God’s hands made of fiber.

We might be shit.

My best friend reblogged one of those science videos on Facebook. The video was about three or four or five monkeys (sorry for rounding up, again) in a cage. At the top of the cage, the scientists attached a banana. Every time a monkey went for the banana, the scientists would shock all the monkeys. Naturally (or unnaturally, depending on your stance on metaphysics), the monkeys stopped going for the banana.

That’s when the scientists decided to really fuck with their world.

The scientists subtracted one learned monkey and added an uneducated monkey to the group. Naturally (do we really need to go over this again?), the new monkey went for the banana. Shockingly (here we go), the other monkeys attacked the new monkey to keep them from reaching the banana. This new monkey never learned that if you get the banana, you get shocked. All the new monkey learned is that there’s strength in numbers (fuck you, Logan).

The scientists repeated this process of addition and subtraction.

Eventually, all of the original monkeys were replaced with new monkeys who had never been shocked because they’d never reached the banana. Yet, still, when a new monkey was introduced, and they went after the banana, the new monkeys (without the power of knowledge) would attack the new monkey.

What’s so awful about that, right?

In logic, they would have distilled it down into something simpler: Crabs in a bucket.

But that’s not nearly as much fun to talk about.

“Everyone is awful,” my best friend said.

It’s estimated that somewhere between 150,000,000 and 1,000,000,000 people have died because of war over the course of human history. The reason there’s such a disparity in the numbers is that no one is quite sure how to estimate the horridness of human beings.

In 2016, the World Hunger Organization estimated that 795,000,000 people in mostly developing (read: poor) nations were suffering from chronic undernourishment.

In 2015, the FBI recorded 1,197,704 violent crimes in America. That was a 16.5% decrease from the violent crime rate in 2006. We improved by 16% and still committed over a million violent crimes. Those violent crimes include rape, murder, aggravated assault, and robbery.

It’s the least violent time to be alive.

But that’s not nearly as much fun to talk about.

When thinking about my logic class and a way to counter my best friend’s point that everyone is awful, I’m reminded that there was something odd about the teacher who taught the class. I couldn’t tell you what was wrong with him, but it seemed like he’d had a stroke or lived with a learning disability or – there was just something that deviated from the norm.

The girl who had a crush on my friend in high school had blonde streaks in her hair (in 2006, that would’ve been trendy). She also went tanning and wore crop tops.

None of that makes her awful.

She – along with the other more brash and boastful of the class – would whisper and laugh about the teacher before he arrived at class. Some of them would mimic his hand movements and the slight hunch in his back. Others would slur their speech to match his impediment.

Some of that makes her awful.

I know that some of them failed the class. I know that some of them learned nothing. I passed the class – and I know I learned something.

“Everyone is awful,” I agreed.

Sometimes I’m tired of thinking.

Some things just aren’t fun to talk about.