Thomas Wictor

On being a solo flier

On being a solo flier

Today I thought I’d write a post on being a solo flier, Tim’s term for what he and I are. I wasn’t sure if I’d write it or what I’d say. Then I saw this video from Saturday Night Live.

Like so many of SNL’s routines, it goes on too long, but the message is timely. Stephen King wrote an indisputably brilliant nonfiction book titled Danse Macabre, about horror entertainment in the popular culture and how our societal fears are reflected in the novels, comics, TV shows, and films produced.

King highlights John Wyndam’s novel The Chrysalids (1955), a dystopian (the term means “the opposite of utopia”) tale set thousands of years in the future, after a nuclear holocaust. There’s no technology, and individuality is seen as “contrary to the inspired word of God,” to quote Lionel Dahmer in a different context.

The Chrysalids is the story of a child named David Strorm, who lives on a farm in Waknuk, Labrador. All the houses have embroidered samplers on the walls to remind the occupants how to live. This one really disturbed me.


And that’s Tim’s definition of a solo flier. We’re mutants. It’s a trait we inherited from our mother.


Mom told us that her own mother said to her many times that she was glad CeeCee wasn’t born a few years later, because then she would’ve been a hippie.

Well, I’ve studied the hippie movement extensively. It failed because the adherents were just as conformist as the “establishment” they were trying to overthrow. On communes, for example, the women did all the housework. Also, the hippies were only about tearing down. They had nothing with which to replace what they didn’t like.

Mom may have been a hippie for a year, max. Then she would’ve told everyone on the commune to cram it, and she would’ve left. Mom wasn’t a nihilist. She wanted to be a totally free individual, but she also understood the concept of civic duty.

Tim and I are solo fliers—mutants—but you won’t find people with a stronger sense of civic duty. We don’t play loud music at night, we don’t race our cars up and down the street, and we don’t have dogs that bark for hours on end. I’m sure that the people in this video see themselves as magnificent examples of rugged individualism.

In reality, they’re as individual as ants. Literally tens of millions look like them, act like them, dress like them, talk like them, and think like them. My city is crawling with them. Like insects, they can’t be reached.

Dad’s most memorable quote: “Can you reason with a wasp?”

No, you can’t. Insects respond only to threats. Tim and I have had to confront homo formica gurdus several times over noise, barking dogs, and damage to our property. It’s a tactic of last resort, and it usually goes something like this.

Members of the hive are afraid of mutants. You know why? Mutants are unpredictable. When you’re part of a tribe, everything is prescribed. Nobody around you will surprise you, ever. The mutant, however, is capable of anything. Unpredictability is terrifying to the hive. None of the hive’s rules and ploys can be applied to the mutant, because the hive can’t conceive of anything that falls outside its strictly delineated parameters.

As a military historian, I can tell you why the US armed forces are so formidable: Individual initiative is encouraged. The president tells the military what he wants achieved, but it’s individuals who make it happen. They have a general mission, within which they’re allowed to do what it takes to accomplish what the president has ordered. Totalitarian states, on the other hand—hives—simply can’t allow the individual insects to think for themselves.

The first half of this video is utterly incredible. A Syrian Arab Army (SAA) commander on a nearby building is micromanaging an armored assault, telling each vehicle exactly how far to move, when to raise and lower its gun, and when to fire. The whole time, civilian vehicles—each of which could be loaded with explosives—drive in and out of the battlefield.

This is without exaggeration the sorriest military operation I’ve ever seen. Despite the officer holding them all by the hand and giving them orders for every single action they take, they still nearly blow each other to hell over and over. At 4:46, for example, a tank unloads a shell that passes within six feet of a BMP armored fighting vehicle. The officer keeps having to tell them to hold their fire so they won’t kill their buddies.

Like the armed forces of all dictatorships, the SAA is totally centralized. When you take out the commanders, the rest of the hive has no idea what to do. In the US armed forces, a private first class could theoretically command an entire division if every officer were killed.

We used to be a nation of mutants. It’s hard to control mutants, so those who live to exert power over others have slowly, gradually, incrementally taught us that being a mutant is wrong. Being a solo flier is disreputable. We must pledge our allegiance to the hive.

Believe me, I fully understand how hard it is to be a solo flier. I don’t blame anybody for choosing the safety of the hive. However, the hive-masters don’t have our best interests at heart. They just want to control you. Why? I mean, they have money, fame, power, castles, fleets of cars, all the whores they can buy, fatty foods, and basements full of booze. Isn’t that enough?

No. Humphrey Bogart’s greatest film is Key Largo. He’s perfect in it, precisely the sort of man you’d want as your best friend. Edward G. Robinson is a disgusting mobster trying to make a comeback after he was deported.

Lionel Barrymore asks Robinson what he wants.

Robinson struggles. “Well, I want…”

“He wants more,” says Bogart. “Don’t you, Rocco?”

Robinson’s face lights up. “That’s it! More! That’s right. I want more!

“Will you ever get enough?” asks Barrymore.

“Well, I never have,” Robinson answers.

I have enough. Solo fliers always do. The members of the hive never have enough, but their hunger isn’t what they think it is. The reason they always want more is that they unconsciously long to be solo fliers themselves. Every single person who tries to impose his or her will on you is doomed to remain hungry, forever.

Only becoming a genuine individual—as hard and painful as that is—will make the pangs stop. I’m not hungry in the least.

Thanks, Mom.


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