Frederick, sitting idly in one of the chairs in the coffee shop and sipping a cup of coffee, turn his gaze to the door where a young woman has walked in.
Katrin: (After a slight pause) Well?
Katrin: Aren’t you going to ask for my order?
Frederick: Do you know what you want?
Katrin: No, but you should’ve asked me regardless. It would’ve been the polite thing to do.
Frederick: Polite, surely, but from what you’ve told me just now, it would have also been a pointless thing to do.
Katrin: (Slightly taken aback) Excuse me, but are you always this rude to your customers?
Frederick: I’m offended that you would think I treat my customers differently from everyone else. Rest assured, the rudeness is equally and magnanimously shared with all my acquaintances, not just my customers.
Katrin: (A slight pause and scrutinizing of Fredrick) Just get me a Red Eye, please.
Frederick: What size?
Frederick: That’ll be four dollars.
Katrin: Four dollars!
Frederick: Fine, three euros and seven cents, and we’ll call it a deal (spits on his hand and sticks his hand out).
Katrin: I could go to Starbucks and get a cheaper grande Red Eye!
Frederick: I suppose you could.
Katrin: I’m just going to say that this is bullshit.
Frederick: You can pay in British pounds if you’d like.
Katrin begrudgingly puts her money on the counter as Fredrick quickly washes his hands. Frederick takes it, and begins working on her Red Eye. Katrin sits down, picks up a newspaper that Frederick had left out on one of the tables. She sits there reading until her temper subsides.
Katrin: “Jihadists Find a Cause, and Haven, in Syria” – Jesus, what the fuck is wrong with the world nowadays.
Katrin: What, do you not read the news or anything? Religious extremists causing terror and unrest, corrupt governments giving rise to bloody uprisings, economic inequality, and the impending doom of our environment… What’s wrong with our world today?
Frederick: I feel like the world hasn’t been exactly the most hospitable place for, oh I don’t know, four and half billion years.
Katrin: But things have been really bad recently.
Frederick: If Earth had a slogan, it would probably be something like “Mortality rate: 100% since ever. Thanks for playing!”
Katrin: You’re missing my point.
Frederick: Am I?
Katrin: Here’s the problem.
Katrin: There’s something wrong with our generation. I mean, when I say our generation, I mean like anyone that’s been alive the past sixty, seventy years, but whatever has happened in recent history has changed dramatically, with the way we think and the way we act. I mean, for example, we’re on a tear to destroy Mother Nature, we’re exploiting Chinese labor to push through the Capitalistic agenda—
Frederick: Hold on, let me get this straight.
Frederick: You pulled out an iPhone about three minutes ago.
Frederick: Nothing. Please continue.
Katrin: I mean, I could preach on and on, but it just goes back to the fact that our generation is so fucked up and our fucked up behavior is the root cause of how terrible our world is today.
Frederick: Hold on, let me get this straight.
Katrin: What is it this time?
Frederick: You’re telling me that this generation is particularly more fucked up than the previous ones?
Katrin: Okay, for example, this Generation Y is nothing like the Greatest Generation or any of our previous generations. They were active. They participated. They changed the world. And here we are, producing shit music, buying into consumerism, participating in one-click activism via social networking sites… Seriously, how much more pathetic could our society get?
Frederick: We could be more homophobic.
Katrin: Yeah, thank god we’ve done a better job of that.
Frederick: We could also be less tolerant.
Katrin: I guess.
Frederick: We could be a lot less educated and a lot less of us could be graduating with a college education.
Katrin: Are you trying to say something?
Frederick: I’ve always found that phrase as really unnecessary and a passive-aggressive, roundabout way of asking for clarification.
Katrin: No, seriously, please do explain.
Frederick: This generation sucks. They’re Internet activists. They’re living with their parents after they graduate. They are coddled. They grew up in an everyone’s-a-winner society. They’re so much worse than our previous generations… Except for the fact that, in the lifetimes of our previous generations, there was also, if not more, racism, sexism, homophobia, murders, rapes, genocides, evil dictatorships and corrupt governments, unrest in society, inequality of wealth, slavery, wars, conflict, misunderstanding, ignorance, and ultimately, death. And when we look at it like that, this current generation is maybe not as bad as we tend to label it. It’s always fun to look through history books and photo albums, admiring the spiffy suits from the 1920s and lusting after the “nobler” way of life. The problem is, when we focus so much on nostalgia, we neglect the harshness of reality and the actual inequalities and the ugliness that were present at the time. The life of a knight isn’t so pretty when the bubonic plague also enters the picture. It’s a selective view of history. You brought up the exploitation of Chinese labor, but something similar happened during industrialization across the world, just to name an example. You talked up humans destroying the environment, when we humans have been systematically cutting down forests and establishing cities and, in general, been hell-bent on taking down Mother Nature for quite a while now.
Frederick: Your Red Eye’s ready.
Frederick brings out Katrin’s drink. He goes back behind the counter and stands there, leaning his back on the wall. Conversation stops, as Katrin turns her attention to the newspaper and her phone. Several minutes pass by.
Katrin: Is this place always this empty?
Frederick: (Too spaced out to respond to Katrin’s question)
Katrin: Excuse me, I’m talking to you.
Frederick: (Snapping out) Oh. Pardon.
Katrin: What’s your name anyway?
Katrin: I’m Katrin. I asked you, Fredrick, if this coffee shop was always this empty.
Frederick: It’s nice, really. The quiet. It gives me time to read.
Katrin: Such as?
Frederick: I like Russian literature.
Katrin: I hate Russian literature.
Katrin: I don’t know how anyone can stand it.
Katrin: You wanna know what I don’t like about Russian literature?
Frederick: The urge has never particularly crossed my mind.
Katrin: It’s so long and tedious. There’s just so much uselessness and waste in it, and after a while, I’m just like “When is this going to end?”
Katrin: I read Anna Karenina recently, and I seriously think Tolstoy could’ve chopped off a good three hundred pages.
Katrin: Like I said, I don’t understand people who like Russian literature. I hate to say it, but it sucks.
Frederick: What else have you read?
Frederick: What other Russian literature have you read?
Katrin: Well I’m going through The Brothers Karamazov right now. But I’ve found it to be just as bad as Anna Karenina. There are just so many stories going on right now and a bunch of little tangents that I don’t feel like it adds up.
Frederick: “Adds up”?
Katrin: It doesn’t seem like it’s all coming together. Maybe it’s because I’m still halfway-ish in, but you know what I mean? There’s just too much going on.
Frederick: No, you’re right, it doesn’t add up. Things should always add up. What else have you read?
Katrin: Russian literature?
Katrin: Well, those are it, really.
Frederick begins laughing softly.
Katrin: What’s funny?
Katrin: Are you laughing at me?
Frederick: Slightly. But softly, as to not seem too rude.
Katrin: That’s still rude, to laugh about me in front of me.
Frederick: I’m sorry. I just found it funny that you would go and say that Russian literature is awful after one and a half novels.
Frederick: It’s okay, really. The author’s just an ass for making you sound so ignorant.
Katrin: The author?
Frederick: The guy that’s writing the dialogue.
Katrin: What dialogue?
Frederick: Ah, don’t worry. I just think he’s projecting you as the typical hipster.
Katrin: Hold on a second, are you calling me a typical hipster?
Frederick: At least I didn’t call you a mainstream hipster. I know you guys don’t like that oxymoron.
Katrin: How am I a “typical hipster”? Just because I’m environmentally conscious and I realize what capitalism is doing to the world and I don’t find the big Russian novels so grand like everyone else does, doesn’t make me a hipster. I would say it makes me a lot more responsible and independent minded than those idiots on Fox News.
Katrin: Don’t tell me you watch Fox News.
Frederick: (Leans over the counter, cautiously looks around the coffee shop, and whispers to Katrin) I watch Fox News.
Katrin slams her fists on the table, slightly startling Frederick.
Katrin: How! How can you stand to listen to those idiots spew hate and stupidity and ignorance!
Frederick: I’ve gotten more visceral reactions from people by telling them I watch Fox News than when I’ve told them I ask for cups for water at Chipotle and use them instead for soda.
Katrin: I don’t care about you taking free water cups and using them for soda. Everybody does that. But watching Fox News – that’s a matter of beliefs!
Katrin: You don’t feel sick watching that shit? They’re brainwashing you!
Frederick: When I want to feel sick, I watch that one show where the mothers pimp out their young daughters at pageant shows.
Katrin: Didn’t you see that interview recently, where that dumbass woman told that one Muslim author he can’t write about Jesus because he isn’t Christian?
Frederick: That stuff is better than MTV, in terms of entertainment.
Katrin: What I’m saying is that you’re buying into their political agenda and you’re seriously causing a detriment to yourself.
Frederick: All I said was that I watch Fox News.
Katrin: Well if you watch it you must believe in what they tell you, don’t you?
Frederick: I never said that.
Katrin: Then why do you watch it?
Frederick: Why are you so focused on this battle of ideology?
Katrin: What do you mean?
Frederick: In your mind, there’s the good and the bad, not in the actual, legal sense, where someone has or hasn’t broken a law, but in terms of ideology, whether that be political, social, or whatever else. If someone, for example, watches Fox News, as you’ve just demonstrated, your view towards him or her becomes completely negative. All the while, I could be someone who volunteers every weekend at the soup kitchen for the homeless, pays my taxes without complaining, and is known by all as someone who treats everyone with respect and kindness.
Katrin: But you’re not.
Frederick: No, I’m afraid I’m bit of an asshole.
Katrin: So what’s the harm?
Frederick: The harm is that, when we stray too far into one ideological direction, we become much closer to the other spectrum and much farther from understanding and tolerance.
Katrin: There’s nothing to understand. Besides, I’m nothing like those nutjob Bible-thumping conservatives.
Frederick: Are you? Do you question your beliefs?
Katrin: What do you mean?
Frederick: You criticize the evils of capitalism, such as exploitation of foreign labor, yet you’ve bought into it, seeing as you have an iPhone.
Katrin: Come on, that’s a necessity. You can’t use that point against me.
Frederick: Your general apathy towards society is heightened by, if not largely based on, a cute and picturesque nostalgia for the past. You’re like an NBA fan talking about how much better the 80s were, and how much better the players were, while blatantly ignoring that the athletes now are bigger, faster, stronger and the technology pertaining to training are that much more advanced. You long for the past so much without looking at the picture holistically that you’ve failed to see how every generation has its faults. I wouldn’t mind the ignorance so much if you were some old man lecturing me on how much better his past was, because that guy would kick the bucket sooner or later. But this is almost comical.
Katrin: First and foremost, you tone is condescending, and you should really rethink how you talk to me—
Frederick: Objection, red herring!
Katrin: (Visibly annoyed) Second of all, it’s my prerogative to view the past however I want. To me, it seems better. You talk as if this nostalgia can be swept aside by saying “Bah, nostalgia!” but that itself isn’t an argument either. Besides, what does this have to do with me being anything like the extreme conservatives?
Frederick: I was getting to that. Let’s begin with your view on Russian literature, a good, simplified example of what makes the far right sound just like the far left. You took a subject, Russian literature, which you yourself have admitted you weren’t too read up on, and denounced it as terrible.
Katrin: No, hold on—
Frederick raises his hands in front of him.
Frederick: No, please, let me finish. There wasn’t too much of a critical process involved on your part, considering that you hadn’t even finished the second novel and had already passed judgment on it. In the same way, when you heard that I watch Fox News, you instantly passed judgment that I was some sort of boogeyman, the epitome of political evil, for watching a TV show. To this point, I still haven’t told you what my political beliefs are, but you haven’t found that to be important—what was important was the idea that I watch Fox News. Why the rush to judgment? The rush seems to be spurred –no, sorry, that’s poorly worded – the rush is spurred by the sureness of your convictions. There’s no reflection on whether the ideology you stand on is even sound in the first place, because when you’ve met the semblance of an opposing ideology, you’ve pounced on it head first.
Let me use a loose and baggy analogy. Say you wrote an open answer for an exam (let’s make it for some unbelievably annoying class, where the interpretive nature of most of the answers seem like complete bull – how about philosophy?). Your professor marked your answer as incorrect, but you believe that your answer was pretty darn right. What do you do?
Katrin: I look over my answer and check to see if it’s actually right.
Frederick: I think most people would do the same. Rarely would we see that it’s marked as incorrect, and without even looking over the answer or what the professor had written, rush into his office telling him that he’s an incompetent whackjob who doesn’t even know the right answer to his own exam. I’m sure there are people like that, but that’s certainly not the normal reaction.
Frederick: Yet in politics, especially in regards to those on one extreme or another, this is kind of reaction is the norm. Two, greatly differing opinions meet, and both of them immediately declare war on the others views, as if each believe they are the champions of ultimate ideological truth. When confronted by someone else that his or her view is incorrect, there’s no checking over the belief to make sure it’s right. It’s straight to telling the other that he or she is an incompetent whackjob who doesn’t even know what’s right from left.
You’ve labeled capitalism as evil, but why have you labeled it as evil? You’ve decreed Russian literature as terrible, but how have you come to that conclusion? You tell yourself you’re nothing like the Bible-thumpers, but how is that so? It’s easy to hold a strong opinion. It’s much more difficult to hold a much-tested opinion.
Katrin: (Thinking) Do you question your beliefs?
Frederick: If I don’t, someone else is there to do it for me without charging me a cent, which is really nice of them when you think about it.
Katrin: And when you realize that the beliefs you’ve held have actually been wrong?
Frederick: To be wrong is to be human, so I’ve been okay with it.
Katrin: And if someone overheard this dialogue and thought what you just said was a load of B.S.?
Frederick: They’re more than welcome to leave a diatribe in the comment section.
Katrin: (Pausing) I’m never coming back here again.
Katrin exits the coffee shop. Frederick walks back over to where he was sitting before and sits down.
Frederick: So it goes.