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To Like or Not to Like

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From what I know of the ancients, they liked very little. “Liking” as far as I can tell, was unknown in the ancient world. Liking came later. Liking is an activity of our glittery era, especially in the USA. Facebookers are likers. The Internet is full of sites begging to be liked. “Likes” can be turned into cold cash, apparently. Liking expresses a strange sort of power. For liking can be imperious, the last word in a argument over a choice. Liking expresses the sovereignty of slight preference. I like it, I want it, fuck you.

One of the great things about liking is just how much you can like on a small allowance. Really, there is no limit to how much you can like on bubkis. At least on Facebook, which is the last word on liking. It’s easy. A child can like incredible amounts without even spending a copek. I once knew a four-year-old who liked China.

Of course, as is well known, someone can stop liking something or someone just as easily as he/she first liked them. This is known as “unliking”. As a general rule one does not need to dislike someone to unlike them, but it helps. Some people unlike other people because there is no real point to liking them any more– they have moved away or just fallen off the face of the earth. However, liking requires little energy, and it is somewhat of a mystery why anyone unlikes someone, unless, of course, they dislike them. I mean why bother? It takes more energy to unlike someone than to keep liking them.

Liking has a range of levels. Liking can be just liking, or you can like someone a lot, or a whole lot. You could like someone very very much. In the old days people used to like one another a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. But that was unscientific. The story goes that liking can grow and blossom into love. I think the jury is still out on that one. But there is no doubt that someone can really like someone else a whole lot. I’ve seen it on TV.

Liking, I believe, made a great leap forward when the average American found that he didn’t want to get out of bed. These days you can like something or someone on line without lifting a finger (voice activated). Modern social media brought liking to the masses, but liking was known as far back as the Middle Ages. Or course I have been referring to the verb “like”. The adjective “like” is a bird of a different feather entirely, and the interjection “like” is nothing more than a brain fart. “Like”, the adjective, means “alike” and is not really concerned with preferences. Apparently, from what Google dredged up from the cesspool of ideas, the verb and adjective are etymologically distinct, two words that sound the same. Nevertheless both can be traced back to Olde English, the verb to a word that means “to please”, an emotion far, far more intense than the slight inclination we call “liking”.

Be that as it may, liking didn’t really get going downhill in high gear until it extinguished virtually all other reasons for choosing one thing over another. Liking easily trumps moral concerns and even financial considerations, especially when wielded by its A-list practitioners such as the Mistresses of Geezers, that well known shadowy organization of likers which may not even exist but is rumored to be running cloak and dagger operatives strictly behind the scenes to gum up the works and pull strings at the fringes of the Bilderberg Group itself. All led by the mysterious Artful Shopper hinted to be the new Paris Hilton.

Now in some venues liking is still the slight inclination that dare not speak its name. It wouldn’t do, for example, for the President of the United States, to say, as Walter White does in the conclusion of the TV series Breaking Bad, that he killed numerous innocents, not for his family in the case of White or, in the case of the President, for the good of the people, but because he liked it. Although we like (ha, ha) Walter White for saying this, relieving us of having to believe the infuriating absurdity that someone loved Skyler White, we wouldn’t like it in a President. Why not? Why can’t the president just bomb the shit out of anyone just because he likes to? He just felt like it. Want to make something of it, bozo? He had the itch. Why not? No need to hem and haw. It’s right there in black and white in the Substitution. It is simple hypocrisy to deny it. But today, for the President, “liking” is where homosexuality was during the first Clinton whoop-de-do. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Is that fair?

One of the intangible benefits of liking is spiritual enlightenment. “Liking”, once one has been tempered in the rough and tumble of liking and unliking, is nothing but the flip side of Buddhism. Whereas Buddhism encourages banking the coals of wayward desire, the liking life fans them into raging infernos. Infernos of slight inclination. Likers literally explode with wayward slight desires, admittedly some as slight as liking chartreuse over aquamarine. Even an average liker can produce enough slight inclinations to supply a small town, turning life in it into whatever. Oh yes, likers can handle themselves when it comes to spiritual warfare. Doze off for a second and you will be surrounded by things you like or dislike. If the Mistresses of Geezers ever got down from their high horses, and showed the world how to cultivate and then yield to myriad slight inclinations, what a glorious world it would be. We would have to have signs to remind people to “like responsibly”. But who am I kidding? Utopia is in sight.

When it comes to American values, “liking” is apple pie to the power of apple pie. “Liking” is what apple pie can only dream of being. “Liking” is like speed for the marketplace. Man, if you can get people to like what you’ve got, bingo. Makes no difference what kind of crap it is. Just get em to like it dude. After that you can kick back for life with a pina colada. Now what can be more American than that? And if you need icing on the cake, “liking” is so democratic. Everybody’s likes are, like everybody else’s, nobody’s business. And everybody’s likes are as good as anyone else’s. People can tell you what to like, but you don’t have to listen. You are free to like whatever you really like, the very definition of being an American. You can like total absolute shit if you want and nobody will give a hoot.

Liker folk are only human and sometimes get into squabbles. There is of course the classic case of two guys who like the same thing. Sharing doesn’t always work, as much as we would like it to. I admit, no one has an absolute once-and-for-all, universal answer to this conundrum of two guys liking the same thing– other than one guy getting the shit kicked out of him. That was the answer since the beginning of time and will be the answer at the end time. The world will end with everybody kicking the shit out of everybody else.

But what about people who disdain your likes and dislikes. Those assholes. People who think their likes are better than your likes. They think what they like makes them better than anyone who likes what you like. Sometimes they dislike your likes so much that they bomb you back to the stone age. I myself think this is taking things too far, but you can see how this might be a problem in the liker community. They just don’t understand. There is no good and bad liking in the millennial liker community. Liking is liking, but try to get them to understand that. It is out of the seeds of such theological anguish that the great liker hymns, “My shit smells as sweet as yours”, and “Fuck you if you can’t take a joke”, sprang up from the good rich soil of the folk.

Likers are their likes. That is why no one likes to like what everybody else likes. It’s our likes and dislikes that make each one of us a unique individual. Rosey likes wearing blue and Charlotte likes being a whore. You see. Now you can chalk them up as different. Because their likes and dislikes don’t mesh we tell them apart. That is why if you say you like someone but you have forgotten what they like they might not like you. You are not liking the real them. A liker will stop liking, and may even dislike, another liker he liked a lot, even a whole lot, if that liker forgets one of his likes or dislikes. For example, what if you thought he liked “climate catastrophe” over “nuclear armageddon” as a flavor of human extinction? But you had gotten it bass ackwards. Shit fit. Glum face. Or broccoli over cauliflower? Same deal. Whatever. Spend a little time with a liker and he will reveal a whole chaos of likes and dislikes which, though apparently random, are him, the essence of what makes him him, his soul if you will. Bollocks up what is what and you might as well gird your loins to be unliked. It’s a no, no. That is if you want to be liked.

Liking is not a religion, despite all the hullabaloo. Nor is it a tool of the devil and the Mistresses of Geezers a coven of witches scouring the Internet for just what they like. It might have seemed that way when Paris Hilton was honing her shopping chops. I think that no one can like and dislike the way Paris Hilton could in her prime. Sometimes she seemed to channel Chanel, the Goddess herself. The seamless fusion of liking and having. Poetry. People have liked before Paris Hilton, and no doubt people will like after Paris Hilton, but no one I think will ever again like like Paris Hilton liked. Her likes and dislikes, destined for the hall of fame on the first ballot, were practically indistinguishable. Her likes were era-defining, then, next day, she unliked them and, bingo, old hat, not liked at all. It was she who made liking what it is today.

The precocious liker clings to an ever-so-slight preference with pit-bull tenacity. The ever-so-slightness of the inclination, it’s weight but a bit of fluff on the scale of preferences that tips it and fuels the grip of steel, the clamping of bone-crushing jaws upon the ever-so-slightly preferred object, is the essence, the elixer, of liking. Real talent appears almost at birth in the size and quality of the tantrum, the fury at the loss of something insignificant. The precocious brat will launch a shit-fit an order of magnitude more fucked-up than that of the yowling hoards for an extra gum drop after having already stuffed his pie hole to the gills. Forget standard deviation. This baby is off the charts.

We in the USA choose our presidents by liking them. People didn’t like Nixon because he looked like he needed a shave. People liked Kennedy because he was Kennedy. They liked Ronald Reagan because he asked where the beef was. They didn’t like Dukakis because he was a wimp. People didn’t like George H. W. Bush because he had never seen a supermarket scanner. People liked Bill Clinton because they didn’t know dick about him. And people disliked John McCain because he is one crazy mother fucker. Go figure.

When does someone likable become too fucking likable? It’s a fine line. For when you are talking about big-time liking and disliking, the kind that pollsters sample as it showers down over presidents and presidential hopefuls, the kind that is so pungent and powerful that one whiff makes you think you know the preferences of the deep state, well, when you are talking about that kind of liking and disliking, son, things get weird. They can dislike you for being too likable, and vice versa, like you for being so over-the-top unlikable. Let me tell you it is a roller coaster when your paycheck depends upon being likable but not too likable or not just unlikable but over-the-top fucking unlikeable and therefore likable at the drop of a hat as the case may be. Ever wonder why presidents turn white? The work load? With a staff of millions? It’s the strain of the likable/unlikeable roller coaster, bud. I kid you not. Ask Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. A lot of people who sort of liked them, now hate their guts. What could have happened? They were once both kinda likable. Were they just too fucking likable, or was it something else? What could have derailed these two freight trains of likability? Bring back that liking feeling, as the old song goes.

And then there is Hillary Clinton. Absolutely nobody likes her, but the smart money is on her to win. Do you have any idea how this shakes, rattles and rolls the liker community? I mean nobody likes her. Nobody. Why? Maybe it’s because she is the creature from the black fucking lagoon? Or maybe its because she and her coven of batshit cunts, Nuland and Powers, are going to start WWIII. Who knows? Who the fuck knows? But nobody, nobody, likes this fucking crone. Yet she is projected to win. She is going to be President of the United States and not a fucking soul likes her. Zip. Nada. Are you fucking kidding me? This is like apocalypse, man.

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Michael Doliner studied with Hannah Arendt at the University of Chicago and has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College.

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