European Diary

Of Rats and Men

There are people, in all likelihood a majority, who are by nature obedient.  Their lot is to play Sid Sawyer to whatever Aunt Polly comes along, whether the authority in question is a democratically elected leader or an up-to-his-elbows-in-blood dictator.  As though stuck in some epochal centrifuge, they go with the flow, tirelessly, unwaveringly, always to the right, until death separates the dead from the living.  They are the cannon fodder of the human race, and it is their kind—excuse a clumsy play on words—that gives the term rat race its undeservedly pejorative meaning.

Others, usually a conspicuous minority, are by nature rebellious.  They jaywalk through life, romancing the Nigger Jim when the Negroes in America are still slaves and ridiculing Martin Luther King, Jr., once they have gained ascendency—more despite Dr. King, perhaps, than thanks to his social ministrations.  They are the mavericks among the rats in the laboratory, always pushing the right levers at just the wrong time.  Theirs is a centripetal race—against the clock and, indeed, anticlockwise.

While I have on occasion flirted with this last, subversive set, only a superficial observer reviewing the whole spectacle of my life would call its protagonist a born rebel.  Surely the Nixon lapel pin I wore at 16, when my conformist coevals busied themselves with...

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