“My mom says not to over-feed him” Robert says of the dog in the industrial park facing his bleak Windsor Ontario home. In this industrial town, everything is a varying shade of gray. Robert tells us of how he was a stowaway on a ship from China. He’s always lived with his now 90 year-old ailing mother, making a living driving a cab - and a good living he made of it - enough to buy his own car and rent it out to other newbie cabbies. When you first meet Robert, you are at once struck by his unconventional manner of speech as he stumbles and stammers. You’d think he was “mentally hindered” in some way. Maybe autistic. Somethin’ like that.
And all his life, people have judged and dismissed him. But as I listened to Robert Gene, on the film on him, I heard something else. I heard a man who was endlessly curious about the world around him. I watched in awe as I witnessed his gift for mathematics. I watched as he feverishly worked out the math for the best mega-store deal on orange juice.
I heard it said that he once offered to volunteer his gift for math and his personal time to help out with disadvantaged people’s taxes. He was refused the position. Robert never knew the official reason why, but it’s simple deduction.
Now well Into his fifties, Robert has never had a girlfriend. “Too many headaches” he says. So he’s always lived with mom. Together they created a home that would rival any episode of “Hoarders”, but that another story. One need only to watch the film.
All this leads me to think that though we like to think otherwise, we live in a conformist society.Which brings me to the ethos of 21st century thought: free speech, freedom of expression democracy for all, and humanitarian values, all in the name of manifest destiny. Truth is, anyone who doesn’t fit the suburban ideals of modern North American life, is chastised, ignored, forgotten or Jacked on drugs. Jacked so that they could fuse into the confines of this sectarian society. Robert isn’t jacked on drugs, but consequently, lives a life of isolation.
Americans lead all western countries as medicated drones, boasting 3.5 billion prescriptions yearly, leaving us all into the throws of collective numbness. This numbness, so to speak, leaves very little room for innovation, intellectual evolution. Or dare I say, genius.
People with social disorders, the mentally ill or the naturally eccentric are often the ones who question the protocols of modern existence. Perhaps we should have a closer listen. I say, bring on the crazies. And for God’s sake, let them do our taxes. We may just save a couple of bucks.