Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chain Of Fools

I have been told on more than one occasion that I have an opinion about everything. To test this theory, I am going to accept one request per week and blog about that topic.

The following request comes from Fairfield, Connecticut and the reader writes:

"[mr. wilson, ] you need to write an eloquent blog called the Tao of Chain E-Mails...

i always get the 'pass on this prayer to 7 people' email from people would don't even write "hi" to me ...ever....it's a strange phenomenon.."

I am sorry, but I have nothing eloquent to say about chain emails. I suppose I could explore the reasons behind the forwarding, but that presumes rationality is at work in the universe of chain emails. Or I could try to empathize with the forwarder by getting inside his experience. But I find this surprisingly hard for me to do, like trying to clap offbeat or thinking of police officers as helpful.

Or maybe I could offer some kind, earthy observation like: "chain emails reveal a child-like optimism about magic, miracles, and magnanimity that lives in us all." That would be a nice thing to say, but I don't feel like being nice today.

I am far too tired today to hug the world and embrace humankind's quirky flaws. So rather than muse, I can only offer my pseudo-objective social commentary, thinly veiling my lonely sadness and contempt for the everyman.

Just for the purpose of this exercise, lets call the sender of the chain email Moe.

What is the first thing that goes through my mind when I get a chain email from Moe?: "Why me? C'mon Moe! Don't you have seven or ten or twenty friends who are equally gullible, superstitious, or stubbornly waiting on that free Microsoft money? They won't weep quietly for the failings of the public school system the way I will? And besides I only count for 3/5ths of a person anyway, so can't you send it to some land-owning white male and get your full karmic credit?"

Maybe I should be happy and take it as a compliment that Moe chose me, but then again I am neurotic enough to find an insult underneath a Christmas tree. I bet if Moe was lucky enough to have the email address of some highly respected and admired individual, (lets say Bill Frist) Moe would not even consider filling the senator's inbox with meaningless drivel? No Moe would closely scrutinize his correspondence with Frist, because Moe respects Bill's time and attention. Moe wants to inspire admiration and respect in the distinguished gentleman from Tennessee, but Moe could give a fuck about me. You see, Moe sends chain e-mails to me in a fit of passive aggressiveness that whispers, "your life is just as dull and uninteresting as mine so here is a little something to do between solitaire and sudokus."

I am not really mad at Moe for forwarding the chain email. I think most people forward the email because of a knee-jerk emotional reaction. Of coure, its always some negative emotion: trepidation ("don't want the good lord to smite me"), guilt ("I will not have the blood of some poor innocent child on my hands") or greed ("I don't want to block the 'blessings'"). Come to think of it, those are all fear in some form or another. But really, what does it hurt if our actions calm our fears and gives us a sense of power and control in an uncertain world? That never leads to any major trouble, right?

mr. wilson

Oh yeah, you can send all chain emails normally reserved for me to Senator Bill Frist by going here.


Intellectual Insurgent said...

Chain mails are incredibly inconsiderate if the receiver is not one who would find the subject of the e-mail interesting, informative or entertaining in some way.

Sometimes I wonder how retarded someone must be to think boycotting Mobil for a day is going to bring down the giant. Or how telling you my favorite color and my middle name will provide some profound insight into the real me.

Then I realize that this is what our society has become. Instead of keeping in touch in personal ways, saying hello on the telephone or sharing tea at someone's home, we send passive aggressive nonsense to each other to say "hey, I remember who you are but I am too lazy or busy to stay in touch with you so I am sending you this crap as a reminder that we know each other."

It's a sympton of a greater affliction this country suffers -- complete disconnect from each other. Hence why everytime you show up on my blog, I pick up the telephone - we are not going to relegate our friendship to the blogosphere.

Mr. Wilson said...

Yeah IntIns, I also think it has to do with a generally held belief by most people that their own ideas and opinions do not matter all that much and that no one is interested in hearing "their story". So instead we send out stuff that we are somewhat better able to handle if folks seem unreceptive, distinterested, or downright hostile.

At the same time I do consider stopping by the blogs of my friends, and leaving comments if I am inclined to do so a contemporary form of keeping in touch. It might not be the same thing as dropping by with a lemon pie, but I think it still conveys that I am still out here and care about what you have to say...

Intellectual Insurgent said...

Blogging and e-mailing are good supplements, but not substitutes, to friendships.

You're probably right about people think no one wants to hear what they have to say. Why is that such a common affliction?

Odysseus said...

I broke a chain letter years ago, and I'll tell you, I got my 10 years of bad luck. I can't remember the threats now, but they'd give you pause. It was a copy of a typed letter and looked really ominous.

I think the chain emails are more designed to track who knows whom, and who are the reliable forwarders as TIA gets populated with data. Equally insidious are the military and racist ones that make light of killing, or trash talk political opponents or groups.

btw, I found my way here from II's blog about Vonnegut. Delillo's "White Noise" was a hoot.