Monday, October 11, 2004

The Two Kinds of People in the World

I once worked as a mail handler at the Terminal Annex postal facility in Los Angeles. I was twenty or twenty-one. An old black man, thinking to instruct me in the ways of the world, once said to me, "Beell, dey is basically two kahnds a people in dis world, the fuckahs and the fuckees, and you gon’ have to decide which side you gon’ be on."

This morning I found the thought expressed with a bit more elegance by Giacomo Leopardi (1798- 1837) in his Pensieri:

The human race, from the individual on up, is split into two camps: the bullies and the bullied. Neither law nor force of any kind, nor advancement in civilization and philosophy, can prevent men now or in the future from belonging to one of these two camps. So, he who can choose, must choose. Although not everyone is able, nor is the choice always available. (Pensieri [Thoughts], tr. Di Piero, Louisiana State University Press, 1981, p. 69)