Don't Worry, Be Angry

Bang your fists on the ground. Stomp your feet on the pavement. Argue the injustices of the world and get paid to publish these arguments. While you're at it, attempt to insult everyone who reads these publishings. In other words, do exactly what Robert Zoellner did in his essay I'm O.K., but You're Not. I'm O.K., but You're Not describes an incident in a restaurant where Zoellner is asked by two cultured, non-smoking individuals to extinguish his cigarette due to his close proximity to them. He refuses the suggestion and the rest of the essay is basically a rant about his thoughts on this situation.

Zoellner's thesis to this essay seems to be simple. The rich can do whatever the heck they want while the rest of us are reprimanded. "…Pounds of nitrates and other poisons " (Zoellner 29) are, apparently, used by the majority of wealthy individuals and he is getting beef for one small cigarette! How absurd! Obviously all moderately wealthy people are snots that care nothing about the feelings of our little nicotine-addicted friend, but is this the beginning and end to the essay?

It's ironic when Zoellner says, "…his manner was so self-righteous and peremptory…that the promptings of original sin, always a problem with me, took over" (28). He opts those same self-righteous, peremptory traits when he talks about the poisons that Zoellner assumes that the couple uses just because of their social status. This essay was meant to imitate a John Barth style. The people most likely to have knowledge of this great American author are of that same social class that Zoellner insults throughout the entirety of his writing. This would lead one to think that he wrote this essay specifically for those people who would get most offended by it.

There is a comic named Dennis Leary who seems to use the same tactics in his comedy routine. He will indirectly insult people in his audience a good number of times before his act is over. Why would someone do this? Perhaps it is simply a message not to take ourselves too seriously. Maybe these insulting angry men are actually telling us not to worry ourselves over such petty things as appearance, or social status, or rich snobs telling "chronic smokestacks" to put out their cigarette. Furthermore, at the end of Zoellner's essay we find no solution to his problem but rather the thesis stated over "…what I do is perfectly OK, but what you do is perfectly awful" (29). There is no solution to his problem so he has accomplished nothing by writing his essay.

There was a peer of mine who got very angry at Robert Zoellner's essay. They argued the pointlessness of it. They argued the fact that it didn't seem to go out and prove anything. The essay was just an angry rant by some author they had never heard of. They were exactly right. This essay wasn't written to prove or disprove anything. It didn't offer a solution to a said problem. What I'm O.K., but You're Not did do was show people (me, at least) that getting caught up pettiness only leads to more aggravation. Taking ourselves, and the people around us, too seriously never leads to an end that anyone is happy with and is, therefore, useless. That, and this is perhaps the most important point that Zoellner has shown us, worrying over a small angry, ranting essay is simply not worth the trouble. So bang your fists and stomp your feet on the pavement all you want, but all you have done is created a large crack that you are very likely to fall into and never come out.

Work Cited

Zoellner, Robert. "I'm O.K., but You're Not." The Coloradoan (1987): 28-29. Rpt. In The Prentice-Hall Guide for College Writers. Ed. Stephen Reid. Boston: Pearson custom, 2000.