A Not So Modest Proposal

It's been over 40 years since the 1960's erupted with all its energy and demands for a better world. Yet the planet remains polluted, overpopulated and on the verge of self-destructing. Poverty has taken on a new visibility, while computers seem to have taken over most of the thinking that does (or doesn't) go on.

Still, small victories do dot the landscape of our contorted ethics from time to time, and the crusade against tobacco must be considered one of the great moments in the struggle of the moral majority to make this life worth living once again. At last, the forces of righteousness are prevailing and smokers are feeling the heat... not from their butts so much as from the new populist mandate to clean up their act.

Thankfully, we can all now breathe a great sigh of relief, for in the fury of our race against the social-environmental time bomb, we are at last putting smokers in their place, that is no place at all!  No more shall we have to suffer the sight of these noxious, wretched, respiring facsimiles of humanity, contaminating the ebb and flow of our daily social intercourse. Gone forever will be the scourge of smoke in the delicate environments of our labor, and in the spaces that grace the integrity of our gregarious chatter.

But why stop here, pray tell? The revolution that guided our fantasmological agendas for so many years has finally been relaunched... and I submit to you, gentle reader, that caffeine shall be next on the list of the intelligentsia's greatest hits.

Let's look at the facts. Caffeine is a mind-altering drug, and is in more than plentiful supply. Like tobacco, it occurs naturally in plants that have been cultivated by humans since the beginning of recorded history. Caffeine is one of a group of compounds called methylxanthines which act directly upon the central nervous system. It steps up the heartbeat, the metabolism, increases stomach acid secretion and dilates blood vessels while constricting others. Moreover, like many drugs, the effects of caffeine are most severe in people who do not ingest it regularly. That is to say, its tolerance of itself is rather high... a dangerous drug if there ever was one!

But let's not get carried away drawing erroneous conclusions. Your consumption of that one-half quart latte is not going to cause me problems... for unlike tobacco smoke, caffeine remains contained within the unfortunate body in which it is so earnestly consumed. Or does it?

Let's be realistic here. Coffee has a patently social function. The stimulation it engenders provokes conversation (or something of that nature) and conversation creates noise. Yes folks, I'm talking pollution here... noise pollution... the rapid, cacophonous blabber that is more often than not mistakenly interpreted as some sort of communication. This misguided understanding of what appears to be taking place at the thousands of cafes and eating establishments across the land is a dangerous phenomenon, and I put it to you that the illusion of communication is as hazardous to our way of life (whatever that is) as are the physiological consequences of the relentless consumption of this drug.

Furthermore, it is plain to see that early 21st century human beings are suffering from the robotic syndrome... a malady brought on by a host of psychological phenomenon and the species' overindulgence in technology. This modern malaise has created personalities and interactions generally devoid of any intrinsic interest in each other. In fact, the tendency amongst us is to actually avoid contact. As we have cited, caffeine in its various forms pretends to compensate for this phenomenon by fostering an inflated and spurious sense of social excitement.

The problem is exacerbated by the observation that this ritual is being used not only to stimulate conversation, but as an aphrodisiac as well! Our modern coffee culture has accelerated movements not only to the local restroom, but also into the most reckless kind of sensibility -- the vapid world of instant gratification! The indulgence in caffeinated beverages is probably more responsible for the epidemic sexuality wreaking havoc across this land than any other mind altering subtance... and look at the results! Disease, emotional distress, and what is worse... people... more and more of them. That's right, I'm talking over-population here, and once again, caffeine must be considered the prime suspect... a hazardous chemical provoking what is, in fact, people's most dreaded nightmare... more people!

But again, let me temper these hasty indictments of our gentle populace by invoking the scientific method. Has the evidence I 've presented corroborated the heretical suggestion that we criminalize such activity? In this spirit of inquiry, I propose we return to the opening remarks of this dissertation, and review, once again, the results of our generation's demands for a better world.

Are we better off than we were 40 years ago? Has the movement for planetary change borne fruit, that is, in the sense of making this world more inhabitable? ... Hardly! In fact, we seem closer to the precipice of utter destruction than ever. And I submit in no uncertain terms that caffeine and the spurious communication it encourages is at the root of this tragedy!

Let us, at once then, rise in concert to ban this scurrilous deception on our heretofore unsuspecting selves! Let us release ourselves from the scene of caffeine, from the grip of drip, and like the cancer it may well, in fact, induce, EXCISE IT FROM OUR MIDST!

As for decaf... its power of suggestion can only lead to more dangerous drinks and liaisons. Let's ban decaf as well!

Next: The Game of Chess

Marc Twang
P.O. Box 9409
Berkeley, CA 94709

For: The Jonathan Swift Society


See Marc Twang’s Essays Archive by clicking here.