Looking At You, Monkey
going to talk about sunglasses and how they are destroying
the ignition system for sex and friendship our monkey society
has depended on for millions of years.
But first I want to start with how I came to see the massive
danger sunglasses pose to our society. It started when took
a drug called 4-propylthio-2,5-dimethoxy-4-(n)-propylthiophenethylamine,
also known as T7. Itís a drug designed by Alexander Shulgin,
the father of ecstasy and author of thousands of psychoactive
compounds. Ecstasy was one of Shulginís early works; it
was for narcotics enthusiasts what Henry Fordís Model-T
was for the auto industry: a crude first entry that by dint
of its mass production became a household name. By contrast,
T7 is Shulginís 485-horse power Ferrari 550 Maranello, a
high-performance marvel of engineering available only to
a handful of elites. Lucky me.
I took a dose of T7 with a friend right before going to
a concert by a folksy, hokey band called The Gourds at a
large indoor oleí fashioned wooden concert hall with a upper
balcony. Just as the music started, the T7 started to hit,
and hereís what happened: The sound of music slowly turned
off, I stood completely still, and all I could hear was
the wood creaking from the rafters, and still more creaking
on the wood floor panels as the crowd danced to the music.
I started looking at the crowd, and I felt sick to my stomach.
Without the sound to overwhelm my senses, what I saw was
that the 400 or so people at the concert were all engaged
in looking at each other for a period of a second or so
before looking at the next person. Four hundred pairs of
eyes constantly swiveling around looking at another set
of eyes before moving to the next. Looking, looking, looking.
Mix that in with the sound of wood creaking, and a crowd
dancing to a six-part string band jamming out notes I couldnít
Five minutes of this, and I needed out. So I went out on
the sidewalk for a moment, which was a busy one at that
time of nightÖ and more looking.
Kind of amazing, really. Three girls would walk past, look
at me, gather the details, look at the tattooed bouncer,
standing next to me and move their eyes to the couple down
the street. I looked at the girls too, of course, communicated
my thing, looked at the bouncer, who shared his experience
of having just looked at the girls when he looked at me,
and then he and I bounced that off two guys who were coming
inside to watch the show. I was out there for a while, looking
at the faces, them looking back at me. It wasnít so bad
without the creaking sounds and absurd musical silence.
I didnít get sick of it at all, and I donít in real life
either. Neither does anybody else. The T7 just helped me
recognize what I do every day (donít get me wrong; I enjoyed
it. T7 makes you feel like Thor). Itís a key thing to look
at the monkey face as it gets near, opens the cafť door,
or walks toward you on the street. Most of the time the
monkey looks at you too, and the information passed in the
looking sequence is vital. Youíre not really seeking eye
contact, but itís usually made. Walking down the street
in huge cities like New York doesnít stop the looking mechanism,
despite the increase in volume of faces to stare at Ė the
process just goes much faster.
We use our eyes kind of like those supermarket scanners;
we stare until the monkey face registers the barcode and
beeps. I donít know about you, but I can do about 40 faces
every three seconds in high-traffic moments. Whatís clear
is this looking mechanism is highly developed, and we share
how to use it with each other as we look at each other.
Attractive girls teach you how to look at them, hideous
birth-marked or scarred faces teach you how not to look
at them, people who might become your friends let you know
that youíre OK. Sometimes a face and eyes will tell you
that itís fine to stare at them and their quivering bodies,
and other times they say donít dare.
Itís so viral; so easily spread. Weíve been working on the
monkey barcode stare for millions of years; weíre losing
our hair, losing our hunting skills, but the Looking we
brought with us from the jungle is alive and well. And unlike
oral tradition or weaving techniques that are invariably
lost in mass genocides, it takes just one look from the
victim to the face of an attacker to pass it on.
But unlike the minor stop-in-the-tracks effect of Burqas,
blinders at poker games or ski goggles, the burgeoning sunglasses
phenomenon is really, really fucking with the monkey-face
barcode apparatus. Iím worried folks. Itís odd to go to
a cafť and see 25 tables of shuttered monkey faces that
donít let on the Message each has to share with you and
canít receive a clear Message from you about the reaction
their faces produce. Itís the height of the cultural process
and ultimate symbol of this Thing that has us all feeling
so lonely, so alienated.
The sunglasses give license for the users to lapse this
social muscle, and the most prevalent users Ė young monkeys
Ė are the ones supposed to be pairing up and fucking and
Not only this, but itís fucking with how we gather much
of our information from the media. Tradition has it Ė quite
rightly Ė that thereís a monkey on the cover of every magazine.
We made our judgments about Supreme Court nominee John G.
Roberts by looking at his baby embryo face and freakish
bloodshot eyes. But increasingly, they are showing us pictures
of these people with sunglasses on. How the fuck were we
supposed to react when we saw Judith Miller coming out of
jail with black Prada wraparounds? Thatís the real cover-up.
Are we supposed to believe Maxim that Paris Hilton
is a Rich Coke Whore when her barcode is hidden from view?
Her whore body makes an unconvincing case that she in fact
is one. We need to see the face.
I understand why itís tempting to wear sunglasses; itís
to escape from this natural mechanism and enjoy the benefit
of staring at all the monkey faces you want with no need
to return the serve. But the Looking we do is just as vital
as the need for transparent government Ė itís all over if
we canít see whatís going on.