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Primal Man
Considered On Their Own Merit: James’ Answers to Lili’s Things She Really Wants to Know

“Are the rules for a primal man different than for any other kind of man? Even a primal man can suffer for his mistakes.”

What I mean by primal man is a man who is not overcome by his assigned role and keeps a part of himself free. For instance, when I was a store manager, I was nothing but social artifice. I wasn’t even human. Anything that I did could bring the business down and put a hundred people out of work in the form of a lawsuit. So no matter what, I played by the rules of society. There was no part of me that was James when I was on the premises of that business for four years. I was nothing but an animated piece of meat.

When I got off of work and I threw my tie in the locker and put my rag on my head and got out to the bus stop, I was allowed to be partially human. I call this fractional autonomy as a way to maintain yourself as a natural person in unnatural circumstances. In my tie, if somebody threatens me, "I have to be polite and say, Have a nice day, sir. How can I help you, sir?” In my sleeveless shirt at the bus stop, if somebody threatens me, I remain silent and seek advantage. In my tie, if somebody attacks me, I have to protect them more than I protect myself. Any injury to them is a liability on the company that I represent. At the bus stop, if I’m attacked, I cannot do what is right, I cannot do what is human. I cannot kill the guy, which is what he deserves, because I live in a civilized setting which is inherently unjust and unnatural.

Within that context, I do what I can get away with, and I make a promise to myself that if certain lines are crossed, certain things done to me, that I’ll set myself free, do what is right, do what is just, and then be exterminated by the civilized system. This is how I maintain my sense of being human and my sanity, and at the same time maintain a combative psychology, by basically promising to myself that if it gets too humiliating, I’ll end it. This goes with all relationships, work relationships, that if it gets to be too much, that I will shed all my responsibilities and walk away. So the primal man that I keep alive inside of me with these little promises is what enables me to function under threat.

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