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Eugène Delacroix - La liberté guidant le peuple
"We live almost exclusively by anonymous association."

Who's following who? Fergetabout leadership, whatever that was, we've traded in that weary old meme in favor of being seen with someone truly inFLUential. I follow, therefore I am. I must seek first to inFLUence, to infect others with my opinions, delivered so subtly and forcefully that few can resist my call. Is this really all that came of the great revolution, not so much a chain of relationships but a gaggle of clans, each following their man or woman, no longer even desiring to think for them self. I shamelessly footnote, citing some source more reliable than little old me, someone genuinely in the know, someone genuinely worthy of me following? How many followers must one have to be widely considered a thought leader? Lead me, please, not into temptation and deliver us all from evil.

Which side should I be on?
Certainly we must have sides with little ambiguity between them. Black or white, hot or cold, praising or scolding, each a potential superior surrogate identity. Everyone seems determined to inFLUence me, to infect me with their cause, to provide me with a deeper sense of actually belonging. For we're all imposters, it seems, promoting "new and improved" dreams by means of ever more clever and omissive memes. We sum stuff up so well, a quick phrase dispatching uncertainty. I appreciate all you say you do for me. How would I ever otherwise know? Thy podcast reassureth me in these most uncertain of all possible times. Thy tweets enflame me. Thy shares so generous and redemptive. You provide the permission I needed to decide to speak what actually constitutes the contents of my inner mind. I seem to find myself in you. That's what I would have said had I not so deeply dreaded the trolls rejoinder.

I found that I could not successfully inoculate myself against your inFLUence. I provide the petri dish where your infections might spread. I hold the compromised immune system just waiting to be inhabited. Pirates board my steamer to wreck havoc I invited on board. I secretly abhor the chaos you bring, but even more secretly delight in these intrusions. I, of course, would never even think to declare anything even half as coarse as what you proclaim without apparent shame. I envy your sublime unselfconsciousness. You lend me permission to pretend to be one of the wild ones, too, me with my flat soled brown shoes and you in your motorcycle boots. Maybe I was born to be that wild, too.

My head reels. I probably need rest and fluids, for I feel under a hardly benign inFLUence. I can feel the infection coursing through my system, quaking my stomach, fuzzing my head. I might be a part of a genuine mob now, seriously considering storming the castle, maybe even willing to surrender my life for a brightly colored sash, following a probable future saint toward our collective demise, which of course will yield redemption. What possible value could my minority opinion hold? I was never so bold as to presume that I knew THE WAY. I have most often been fully prepared to wait out any impending judgment day, to see how the current conditions played out on their own, satisfied with staying close to home. I feel the contagion now, a plague upon everyone's houses. We follow to feel in the lead. We bleed in the service of salvation. We live almost exclusively by anonymous association.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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