The Happiness Patrol

PZ posted a brief snippet on a “Day of Agreement” sham that’s apparently going on today, which I suspect is supposed to put up a facade of harmony and browbeat us dissenters into cooperating with the majority. It reminded me of a brief thing that went on in a town I used to live in. I don’t remember if they actually called themselves “The Happiness Patrol,” but I was pretty disgusted with the idea, and yes, as a kid, I had seen that episode. Thankfully, I never encountered the patrol personally, but apparently their tactics included subjecting killjoys like us to drive-by smilings. Probably very annoying to experience, but otherwise pretty harmless.

Then I ended up having a nightmare of a daydream: What if they ran around giving us killjoys hugs against our wishes?

I’ve paid a fair bit of attention to the recent discussions about sexual harassment policies. A lot of that was spent facepalming at all the trolls who were ignorant of or, more generally likely, feigning ignorance of the procedure for hugging, acting as if it was a process full of bureaucratic red tape.

There are touchy-feely people out there who just love to hug, hold hands, and so forth. Good for you. Enjoy it. Of course, there are some people who need to maintain a comfortable distance. I’m one of those people. I don’t want people to enter my personal space unexpectedly. I don’t initiate hugs, but I’ll usually accept offers and invitations to hug, including non-verbal ones. If you’re not confident about your fluency in body language, simply ask the question, “Would you like a hug?” If I’m sad about something, simply asking can lift my spirits because it shows that you care and you want to be supportive. The hug itself isn’t as important to me as the expressed intention behind it.

Back to that nightmare/daydream. I imagined being angry or unhappy about something when a van covered with daisy stencils pulls up. A mob of high school students with hollow smiles, glassy eyes, and identical sunshine yellow uniforms comes pouring out. I’ve read snippets of their manifesto in the newspaper about their war on unhappiness and how us killjoys are undermining the harmony of our town by being such Grouchy Gusses, and they plan to make us happy, whether we like it or not.

It’s fucking scary.

They’re heading in my direction. I sidestep to let them by, but they change direction. I’m their target. I hold out my hand and shout for them to back off. They keep coming. I shout louder. One of them dodges around my outstretched arm and wraps around me. I push her off reflexively, causing her to fall onto the sidewalk. The high school quarterback is among the group and he gets angry at my resistance and starts pummeling me. The next day, the local newspaper announces that the Happiness Patrol is being charged with assault and battery.

They refuse to acknowledge that a large group of people rapidly approaching an individual can be seen as threatening because they were smiling. I argue that the smiling made it even more threatening because it looks like something out of a horror movie. They say they only wanted to hug me. I say that they violated my personal space without my consent and against my quite vocal and unambiguous objections. They say they only wanted me to feel better because they care. I say they maliciously violated my autonomy by treating me like a warm piece of meat, a tool for meeting their hug quota and feeling good about supporting the town’s facade of bliss. They ask me why I’m such a killjoy towards people who want to show they care. I tell them that they don’t care in the slightest because they just wanted to intimidate me into accepting a unwanted hug instead of politely offering one. It’s a power trip because they think their alleged good intentions and friendly mask will protect them from the consequences.

I had this nightmare/daydream on the commute home where I had the luxury of being by myself. I don’t think I’ve ever used so much profanity in my life. I fucking hate people who think it’s their duty to control my emotional state.

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One response to “The Happiness Patrol

  1. To see me with a genuine smile, they only have to observe me in the morning as i’m checking out my favourite skeptical blogs.

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