The Rough Men

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

George Orwell

Old George. The good do die young. The man left us with a veritable trove of wisdom, penned to thousands of pages and translated to hundreds of tongues across the planet. Yet of all those words which form the man’s legacy, few echo with greater profundity than this one sentence. It is a statement, like so many to have crossed his lips, that bears the burden of an uncomfortable truth.

This uncomfortable truth, like a red stain on white fabric, can not simply be removed: every ham-handed effort only turns the fabric pink. Even the most skilled excision still leaves at least a shadow of the truth. Some stains, like truths, no matter how hard you try to erase them just will not come out. The verity which refuses to be removed from this equation is that western man has become, by and large, emasculated.

The lifers live on first shift, as opposed to first watch which is an entirely different scale of time. Nine to five with an hour’s commute built to either side. Then home to a diet of high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and cable television subscriptions that only offer more toxins to be absorbed and stored in fatty tissues. Within the mounds of puffy, purulent flesh that result is formed that cocoon of conformity where they reside. Within hours of sunset they are reliably ensconced upon their sleep number beds and immersed into a fitful slumber. They never see those rough men or know of the deeds they perform. In their waking hours some may even go so far as to decry (if not deny) the very existence of those rough men. At the very least they question the need.

These serfs are content to accept the protections accorded to them within the castle walls of the state, unable or unwilling to assume any active role in their own defense. They eschew violence and any instruments designed for such purpose. These are the unsanitary tasks, like refuse collection and wastewater treatment, better left to the skilled hands of municipal or county employees. These things are regarded as part of the contract, included in the price of admission. This thinking leaves them unequipped for the gate crashers that will inevitably appear at any party that grows too large.

So they doze, secure in their knowledge that these matters are taken care of. Their only whiff of what happens outside of their doors at night is to be found in the fetid stench wafting from the TV screen’s morning offering. Most of it goes unreported because no one wants to know. These truths are too unpleasant to be digested with pop tarts or bran muffin either one, and certainly not to be served with cream, as it would surely curdle. No, these are tales better served with a heavy meal to help cushion the blow. And hard liquor, preferably whiskey. The kind of feast that is seldom prepared at home any more, thus the banquet of lighter fare goes unchanged.

There are many rough men who stand ready to do violence, but on no one’s behalf but their own. The age of heroes has passed; all the gilded armor is tarnished now. As Frank Herbert foretold men have become slaves to other men with machines, those too destined to ultimately become enslaved to the very machines they have wrought. The graveyard shift walks where the laws of the lifer’s bubble do not apply. Theory be damned! This is where the rubber meets the road. They are flawed and deeply. They comprise the vital defective components of the flawed reality that lives outside of suburban gates. Cab drivers and bartenders, junkies and dope dealers, whores and politicians, cops and nurses, all manner of miscreants and social refuse. Alcoholics and adrenaline junkies, smokers and atheists, cage fight enthusiasts and bookies, thieves, grifters…, they’re all there. Like the remora that rides upon a shark’s back in the sea, they live off of the bubble, but are not invited to the banquet being served inside, instead subsisting upon the bits of chum before they drift to the ocean floor.

When the bubble bursts the castle walls collapse with it, the protections of laws and a benign police force no longer on offer. The ramparts are breached nightly, in one quarter or another. The graveyard shift already know what to do when the whole fail goes live, every night a dress rehearsal. Unlike the lifers they can picture how it all comes down when this becomes a live ammo exercise. These were the people missing at Parkland and other tragedies like it. Screwheads and other merchants of mayhem prey upon the killing fields where these players are conspicuously absent. Screwheads are able to move in the midst of the graveyard, mostly unnoticed. They live where the graveyard comes to work, but like the lifers in the bubble they have no balls. The only true distinction between them is that one travels, unencumbered by gonads, by virtue of having surrendered theirs voluntarily: the other due to having been born without.

The rough men ready to do violence are ever present. They do not place their trust, their homes or their families into the hands of other men. They are possessed of the clarity to see that laws and the existence of help at the other end of a telephone signal are not enough to insure their security. They accept with no illusions that much of the world is indeed within 96 hours of eating each other, a world in which the only protection resides in a lethal force in the hands of the sane. Should others benefit as a result it is wholly unintended, but they should ask themselves: am I alone?