Monday, October 19, 2009

The Hero of a Thousand Feces

Everyone loves a good villain. Everyone seems to need a good one, and they seem to create one every minute or every second.

Fairly easy to create, villains - the enemy - only exists in the mind of humans.

One of my greatest villains ever was a dental nurse who would come to my primary school and drill holes in my teeth.

There was nothing wrong with my teeth. Sure, they had some stains from only brushing once a day, and I did have some cavity, but they worked just fine.

Then the nurse came and started shouting obscenities at every kid who walked into the makeshift clinic they set up beside the library.

I ran away, once, from the clutches of the bitch, when she commented on my choice for lunch - fried noodles - some bits of which stuck to my teeth.

It would be eight years before I was to see another dentist, because I had to have my wisdom teeth removed.

Now I see a dentist every six months at least, to get cigarette stains out.

All those eight years, I have turned the figure of the dental nurse as an enemy. The other.

I can't even remember her face, but in my head, I had turned her into a demon. A succubus with a drill. The Tooth Satan, come to give me holes in my perfectly fine, stained teeth.

I used to fantasize that I would come back to my hometown as a very successful financial speculator and drive - sorry, pilot a plane - no, private jet - through her house.

"I'll show YOU!"

I was the hero in my story, while she was, I realised, the heroine of hers.

She must have thought, "I am giving free dental care to these monkeys in the rural areas. And they DARE to not love and worship me?"

I mean, you don't shout at kids unless you really hate your job and believe you are victimised by circumstances, and are in pain and suffering.

I assure you that the dialogue in my mind back then was no less ridiculous than hers.

We create our own enemies. As much as Batman created The Joker. Enemies are there to define our sense of self and validate the stories we tell ourselves. Without even considering the possibility that they are just as scared as you are and are compelled to do things simply to re-inforce their own fairy tales and roles.

Delusional tales of grandeur. And according to Joseph Campbell, in his book The Hero of a Thousand Faces, there is only one story, told over and over again.

The Truth, I believe, was perhaps much more mundane and boring.

Being a dental nurse is a tough job. She was treating around 600 kids a week. She was pregnant - I remember thinking if I kicked her stomach hard enough, would she have a miscarriage? Lots of different things could be happening in her life.

And I was just scared of drills.

Two self-absorbed, egotistical people, with a demented look at life, coming together to form animosity. A story.

Guess what? The story would repeat itself. Every time I think of anyone as an enemy - usually cab drivers, because I have been taking cabs for 11 years now - it is the same old story.

The Tooth Satan in its many different guises. But still the Tooth Satan.

People are naturally compelled to create characters and caricatures to reinforce their roles and standings in their little worlds. We have a compulsion to define ourselves and the easiest, fastest, most McDonald's way of doing that would be to create something that we could differentiate ourselves to.

Like a dental nurse stuck in a shitty job, with a shitty attitude. It MUST be because she hates YOU, isn't it? She might, but that's her problem. Dealing with her own demons. Her own Tooth Satans. It's really not her fault.

Just as it is not yours.