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Step Lively, Please
The Cattleization of Urban America

by Tor Hyams
art/Marty Kelley

I fell into a kind of paranoid Jewish retro-shock when I heard the MTA (Metro Transportation Authority) man saying those words, "Step Lively, Please..." as he tried in vain to usher thousands of New York subway passengers onto the S train from Times Square heading toward Grand Central Station. I was getting off of the S train, but into what? 1940's Germany? Jesus! I'm Jewish. I'm going to be slaughtered! Okay, Tor, settle down. This is not Germany. This is New York. Sure, it's brutally in your face and utterly obnoxious, but Nazis are somewhat scarce, even in the city. It's that damn Jewish paranoia again. Funny how often I get that for such a non-religious man. Nazis or not, I got to thinking. I thought a lot about cows.

We are all cattle. We follow each other around like the blind leading the blind straight into a ditch (where we will all be machine-gunned down by George Bush, Jr., of course). Think about it. You wake up. You take a crap. You go to work. You sit in a cubicle...bored, relishing those tawdry 5 minute breaks by the water cooler only to find that it's three o'clock and not quitting time yet. You go home. You eat. You crap again. You watch TV. You get high. You sleep. Sound familiar? Moo.

Even if you're lucky enough to avoid the veal-fattening cubicle, you're still being prodded into conformity by the mass media at every turn.

Are we witnessing the malaise of urban America? Somehow living in a major city makes people extremely apathetic. At first, you care. You're hungry. You're a go-getter. But then you get what you've been looking for and, within mere weeks, you're part of the crowd. Most people stop right there. Success breeds apathy. Apathy gives way to becoming a follower. Are we grazing yet? Of course, we are. Moo.

Consider Los Angeles and New York just in terms of transportation. The New York subway is a stinking piece of rat shit. It's horrible. Armageddon, if you will. It smells like sewage and most of the time, you're butted up (literally) against some hairy armed Latin gentleman only because you simply couldn't wait for the next car that may have had a little more room to stand. You pile on with the rest of the cows so you could get home that five minutes sooner...and for what? To crap. To eat. To watch TV. To sleep? Silly. Besides, you sleep standing up anyhow. All cows sleep upright. It's a fact. Moo.

As for Los Angeles, lately, no subways. But Nazis? Of course, LA has Nazis. After all, Hollywood is home to Disney. No cows there, just mice (struggling production assistants). In LA, it's cars. Itıs a fact that there are more cars in Los Angeles than there are people. So we drive around in our little pods all following one another, going only as fast as the idiot in front of us.

Need I point out the obvious? Cattle, dammit! That's how cows do it; one behind the other, each guided by the smell of ass in front of him.

How did we all become so well trained and why do we put up with it? (Ahhh, the rhetoric of it all...don't answer that).

We do it because we can. It's easy. Following the crowd takes no effort. It also produces no results, but results happen on their own simply by virtue of existing. You live and things happen. Ahh, the sweet smell of apathy again.

We put up with all of it. We continue to ride the subways and drive in our cars. We persist in our cubicles by making them a little more homey. (Tacking up pictures of our dogs and lovers.) We let it happen because we're essentially a passive species. Passivity is apathy's worst accomplice.

It's the government's fault. They started it. They made the rules we follow that connect the shoulder bone to the arm grandma's house we go. They created Survivor and 80 million Americans watched every single week. They did it. BUT, They are not to blame. We are. We watch it. We eat it. We lick it. We fuck it. Whatever they tell us to do, we do it. Consider the cow. We put the cow in a field, throw some hay in there and make sure the grass is growing strong. The cow grazes, eats, craps, sleeps and gets fat. Once the cow is fat enough, it is brought to the slaughterhouse to be turned into either a Big Mac or a filet mignon.Sound familiar? We are the same. Me, you and the cow all wear the same yoke on our shoulders.

Think about all of this the next time you are on your way to work and you've got some guy who smells like urine pressed up against you and you're passively not doing anything about it, all because you have to get to "there" so you can sit in front of a computer screen for eight hours doing something that is devoid of challenge or reason. Think about the cow. How much longer until they bring you to be slaughtered? Years? Days? Minutes? Now.

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