If you were to ask a prototypical vaccinophile the basis for his manic contempt of anti-vaxxers and other vaccine-resisters who don’t share the consuming frenzy to participate in the vaccination paradigm, they are likely to ascribe it to thoughtless, inconsiderate behavior that endangers the welfare of society. They might cite the murderous selfishness of those who rebuff the COVID vaccines; in their binary kingdom, if you choose not to vaccinate, you are guilty of expressing your psychopathic disdain and refutation of all that is virtuous and considerate. Because of your negligent actions, you should be ostracized and banished to the far reaches of habitable humanity with no human rights.
All this highfalutin hot air is sincere. I would not question that, but there is a deeper context in play that really pisses off the vaccinophiles. It’s the obstinateness of the vaccine-resisters. It’s the way they dig in, burrow into your skin tighter each time the government tyrants ramp up vaccine requirements and punishments. Vaccinophiles act from fear and loss of control. The petulance of anti-vaxxers triggers hopelessness on many orders of trembling magnitude. Vaccinophiles tell them “submit” and the anti-vaxxers reply, “I would prefer not to.”
It’s a self-devouring cycle and I don’t know how it will ultimately resolve. The vaccinophiles have a powerful ally: the government which is demonstrating it will assert every bit of power necessary to achieve its ends which are unanimity and compliance. And the vaccine resistance will continue burrowing deeper.
“I would prefer not to,” they refute valiantly.
Which made me think of something because that’s what I do.
The namesake of this blog, Bartleby, was a fictional 19th Century scrivener which is archaic jargon for “data entry.” Bartleby, the Scrivener, Herman Melville’s enigmatic character, is Elemental Man. Man in his essential state, devoid of social decor and accouterments of social civility or pretension, Bartleby is an indecipherable man for there is nothing to decipher; a perplexing challenge for the rest of us who wear the badges of advanced society and maneuver through the many layers of egotistical self.
Bartleby is uni-dimensional beyond comprehension. He is hired to be a lawyer’s scrivener, and that is all he is. All proposed tasks and duties parallel, or supplemental, to, his primary scrivener role are refused with a contrite and mysterious, “I would prefer not to.” In a world where a man must wear many masks, Bartleby wears one; the one he was created with. Whereas man begins adorning new masks with each elevation into the intricacies of social society, Bartleby remains steadfastly resistant. If asked to wear another mask or presume to try one on, his reply never wavers.
His new boss, a lawyer and the narrator, describes his introduction to Bartleby’s mysterious reluctance to extend his essence when called upon to participate in a task not technically listed on his job description.
In this very attitude did I sit when I called to him, rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do—namely, to examine a small paper with me. Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”
I sat awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume. But in quite as clear a one came the previous reply, “I would prefer not to.”
“Prefer not to,” echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride. “What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here—take it,” and I thrust it towards him.
“I would prefer not to,” said he.
I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eye dimly calm. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been any thing ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises.
The supreme irony being that Bartleby is the most human of all for his lack of ego. He is primal man, the barest rendition of this smart ape we presume can enjoy the frivolities of luxury and ostentation the most. His rejoinder, most sparse and confounding of all.
I would prefer not to.
He utters these words throughout the rest of the story as his humanity is slowly revealed by the inhumane who work with Bartleby. In the midst of our confusion and fury that we can’t align with our intolerant ego, there is no solution to the puzzle that is not a puzzle. Sometimes there is no answer because there is no question, only inability to fathom that which is revealed too clearly for our overly sophisticated eyes.
Why won’t everyone get the jab? Why won’t they all cooperate and be kind.
They would prefer not to.