A Riff on Woody Allen Groucho Marx as Quoted By Woody Allen

Didn’t Woody Allen say something to the effect that he had severe misgivings about joining any club that would have him for a member?

Well, I’ve got a different take on that. Frankly, I look around and I have misgivings about joining any club that would take certain other people as members.

And yes, I know, that’s judgmental. Sorry, but everyone’s judgmental in certain departments. Everyone judges a convicted rapist, for example, or a guy who deals crack to teenagers and gets busted for it. Everyone acknowledges that there are criteria which, within a given culture, such as Western culture, anyone can be judged.

It just so happens that my standards are a fair bit higher, and somewhat differently defined, than a lot of people I know. Yes, I’m judgmental, as my friend Shawn recently pointed out. Damn straight. So are most people, except they’re judgemental about really stupid things. They give the benefit of the doubt to people who would turn on them in a minute. They waste their precious time on people who don’t even want to try to understand them as human beings.

Yes, I’m judgmental. I work hard at being a decent, sensible, sane human being. Anyone who tries as hard as I do — and anyone who does try, it’s pretty easy to see it when you meet them — has a right to judge people in terms of whether they’re worth one’s time or energies. The people who are disturbed by this would rather nobody had standards, that everything was cool and okay. Sorry, but everything is not cool and okay by me. I’m not a social conservative at all, but I do believe there are places that, once you go there, you’re off my list of people worth knowing.

As one friend put it the other night, most people just aren’t really all that cool, aren’t on the ball; a lot of people are just in it for themselves. And the strange thing is, the people I meet here in expatriate-land who aren’t like that, usually find that they have two choices available to them:

  1. They can compromise, and make friends with the fanatics, the philanderers, the alkies, the losers and freaks, or,
  2. They can spend frightening amounts of time alone.

Now, I’m not saying all the foreigners I know are fanatics, philanderers, alkies, losers, and freaks; but I am saying that most of the ones I know who aren’t, seem to have reconciled themselves to spending their recreational time with such people quite regularly in the name of not being home alone on weekends.

It’s not a choice I judge, actually. I can understand, and I’ve certainly also been the foreigner who hangs out at the bar on weekends despite the other people there, because like anyone I’m at least a little gregarious out of necessity.

But on the other hand, I have a very old tendency not to want to hang out with people who hang out with people I dislike intensely; even moreso when they have convinced themselves that being a philanderer or a religious fanatic or a lazyassed druggie or a bloody liar is, you know, just kind of a mode of self-expression and, you know, just kind of fine and okay. If you’re somehow inexplicably close to the school bully, and at the point of rationalizing it to yourself, then I’m very unlikely to go out of my way to spend time doing my homework with you. I suppose I can hand out with people who tolerate the school bully out of necessity, but as soon as they start rationalizing it, or leading a double-life of out-of-one’s-way friendliness with the school bully, and disdain when he’s not around, I find I develop some trust issues. It’s like the friend who’s always talking trash about other friends when they’re not around; how do you know what they say about you when you’re not around?

Luckily, I don’t find it lonely anymore. If you’re persistent, you can find enough people who “get it” and you don’t have to waste those few hours of your life’s remaining free time chatting with people you’re never truly going to care about, no matter how hard you try. And besides, if you’re busy drinking, you never get quiet lucid after-midnight walks; and you never notice the stars coming out in full force and rallying behind you in your determination to walk for a full hour.

UPDATE: As Joshua pointed out, it was Groucho Marx who first said that; I altered the title of this post to reflect that, but also left in the reference to Allen since he’s the one who I first heard quote the Marx schtick.

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