The Joel Cairo Paradox

State rep. al riley writes about Joel Cairo
State Rep. Al Riley. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)
Commentary
By Al Riley

We’ve seen it in history, in literature, cinema, and in life: The poor tragic soul who will sacrifice all in exchange for the delusion that they will be taken along with a figure they revere and despise simultaneously. Look at the iconic movie The Maltese Falcon. In the end, when they’ve all been had, Joel Cairo tells Gutman he bungled the scam. Calls him an imbecile and bloated idiot (have you ever wondered where Kricfalusi’s character Ren comes from?) Gutman harrumphs and talks about continuing the journey elsewhere.

First damn thing out of Cairo’s mouth is, “Will you take me with you?” Gets slapped, knocked out, almost killed, sees his associate betrayed by the man he wants to go with. And the person who despises him says yes, you can come along.

There’s more wrong with Joel Cairo than there is Gutman. Gutman understands needs and human nature. He doesn’t care about the sacrifice of Wilmer; a man he shares characteristics with. Or the fact he’s been through this conundrum before. To him, the ending will be different, though logic and reality say that it won’t.

That mentality is how people can do things against their own interests. All of us have the ability to suspend disbelief, where appropriate. That’s how we can root for Iron Man.

But some folks don’t disbelieve when they should.

People just don’t come out of the blue sky and solve intractable problems. It doesn’t happen. Oh, we may want a Deus ex Machina to come down and do that, but it doesn’t work that way. Invariably, people or entities who come with that perspective are frauds.

But some want to believe them because it’s easy. Working together, seeing the world as both/and rather than either/or is hard in their minds. I saw a person touched by a “heartwarming” Amazon commercial who was altogether knowledgeable of their egregious labor issues and disdain for workers.

Many of these CEOs of companies who want to control every aspect of your life are Gutmans. Folks who think these companies are benevolent are Cairos. This platform doesn’t care about the welfare of your child or not for profit. They just want to aggregate your data and track them.

Remember the Apple commercials where everyone is in these colored jogging suits all running to nowhere in particular? That’s who they think we are.

“No way, Al.”

“Yes, way.”

They see your asses in every major city after the launch of a new $1,000 phone that doesn’t do any more than the one you have does lined around two city blocks.

To save ourselves, we have to give ourselves a nice, long look. Then go back to those things and people that have told us about our value, about working collaboratively, about self-sacrifice for the common good. Not only are dreams made of that stuff, but so is a civil, egalitarian society.

Al Riley is a former State Representative / Assistant Majority Leader at the Illinois House of Representatives. He currently serves as State Central Committeeman for the 2nd District of the Illinois Democratic Party.