The Dangerous Restaurant. (Comment)
Shawn, Wallace, The Nation
I was having dinner at a rather expensive restaurant the other night when a man I'd never met before threatened to kill me. He was a distinguished-looking fellow, dressed in a dark suit. I was walking by some appetizing desserts when he approached me, accused me in a harsh voice of bothering him repeatedly, cursed me and warned that he would kill me if I bothered him again. Then, briskly, he returned to his table. As I went back to my own table in a different part of the restaurant, I mentioned the episode to the maitre d', who promised to keep an eye on the guy.
The unpleasant encounter put me in a strange state of mind. I couldn't help noticing, as I looked around the room, that people were coming in, they were being given tables without any questions being asked by anybody, and within about five seconds of sitting down, they were being issued with weapons that could easily be applied with lethal effect against nearby diners. Wielded with speed, even a fork can kill, not to mention a knife.
After a few moments, though, I calmed down. I felt relatively safe. I finished my meal and even enjoyed it.
The fact was that I was safe from most of the diners because most of the diners had no desire to kill me. That provided a sort of perfect security, in regard to them. As for the one man who clearly did seem hostile, he was frightening and unpredictable and his perceptions were inaccurate, but it was still unlikely that he'd try to kill me, because, excitable as he was, he probably knew in some way that threatening me, as he'd done, would cost him absolutely nothing, but that killing me would immediately ruin his life.
As I sit here now, reading the week's newspapers--Iraq, Bush--do I feel safe, or do I feel frightened? Mainly frightened, because we're living in a system of nation-states that is dangerous in and of itself. Like a restaurant, with its uncontrolled, unlicensed population of diners, our world of nation-states is a world of free atoms. The diners in that restaurant, though, had been basically friendly to one another, and the restaurant itself was securely planted inside a system of laws and customs designed to provide a quiet existence for the dining population.
For all their snarling at one another, nations have so much in common. All of them want to amass weapons. And one way or another, they all come up with some person to be on top of them, the "leader." And the leader always believes himself to be a very reliable custodian of weapons. Meanwhile, every nation is tortured by its fear of the weapons and the leaders of the other nations. The system is awful! We're all so frightened that we even tell our children frightening stories in school about terrifying leaders, all the "madmen" throughout history who've tried to "take over the world. …