At the Sunday Night Cafe...

Sunday, December 20, 2020 1 comments

... you can write about whatever you want. 

"Have you ever heard of 'pronoid'?" — I ask.

Meade says: "I've heard of 'noid.'"

I say: "What is that, some R. Crumb thing?"

Meade says, yes, and I look it up. 

I'm surprised. How could we both independently think "Noid" was an R. Crumb character and it not be true? "No, 'The Noid' was a character in old Domino's Pizza ads" — I say.

The slogan was "Avoid the Noid." In 1989, a man named Kenneth Lamar Noid, who believed the character had to do with him, took hostages in a Domino's restaurant in Chamblee, Georgia. The hostages survived, and Noid was committed to a mental institution. 

"Why did we both think of R. Crumb?" — I wondered. I google "noid" and "R. Crumb" and exclaim "Snoid!" 

Wikipedia quotes a description of the Snoid as "a short-statured asshole, and many people believe that Snoid, with his fetishes, sex cravings and disdain for materialism, is little more than an alter ego for Crumb."

Yes, but what's "pronoid"? It's the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day. It's a recent word, created as an antonym for "paranoid." It means: "Characterized by the belief (especially when viewed as irrational) in the goodwill of others or the pervasiveness of serendipity."

The oldest usage found was from 1982: "I am interested in the manifestations of pronoia and in the conditions that encourage or produce pronoid behavior." 

From the 1997 movie "Fierce Creatures":  "You've heard of paranoid, right? It means you think that everybody's out to get you. Well pronoid is precisely the opposite."

"I grew up in the former Soviet Union and in a late, flaccid, totalitarian state, the idea that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' was particularly obvious."

"For seventy years, the rhetoric of the Soviet state was always about happiness for all, a better future for all, equality for all—bullshit rhetoric that was like a paper bag thrown over a bomb. But apart from learning about how the genocidal state operates, you also learn instantly to recognize this idea, in whatever guise it comes at you, that someone else knows what you need to be 'happy,' and that this knowledge is certain and enforceable. You see it miles off. It emits a special stink even before you know it’s there.... When I was growing up in Ukraine, a line from Antoine de Saint-­ExupĂ©ry’s The Little Prince seemed to capture the ethics my family was teaching me without teaching it to me didactically: 'You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.' And if you can’t handle forever, then please don’t start. Just don’t.... The idea that doing something is always better than doing nothing is very dangerous, I think.... So much work and deliberation need to happen before you actually do anything that is ethically grounded and not fundamentally self-­serving."

Says Maria Tumarkin in "Unethical Reading and the Limits of Empathy" (Yale Review).

Here's Tumarkin's book — a collection of essays — "Axiomatic."