Thursday, January 17, 2013

Faces and Forms

If my only information about humanity came from television programs, and I was then exposed to a sufficiently large number of ordinary people, it would be something of a shock. Television selects its professional presenters for looks and charisma, and the individuals are then further groomed and smoothened out—or it selects political figures who are always properly dressed and, very often, staged. And in the ads? Angels, heroes. Real people—and especially when they believe themselves unobserved—are quite another matter. Yesterday we were at the Secretary of State’s Office. In Michigan that means renewing your license plate registration or driver’s license: a cavernous hall filled with humans. Take a Number. Ours was 32; they were just then calling Number 2. Plenty of time for people-watching. On ceiling-hung flat-screen television panels images kept changing. They brought us wise driving propaganda interspersed with celebrity teases (“Hollywood Swoop”). Down below them the huddled masses displayed an incredibly variable mixture of ages, faces, and forms. Such masses sometimes briefly flash by on television too when they show Iraqis or Pakistanis or Palestinians surrounding some suicide bombing site or taking part in funerals. Not you, not you. You are beautiful and popular, a Business Professional, you’re a Maestro of Market Synthesis, and you rent your car from National.

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