People as Scenery
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The People as Scenery Theory applies the classic philosophical question* to the general populace: If no-one is around to witness their actions, do the rest of the people in the world still exist?
|If a tree falls down in the forest and no-one is within earshot, does it make a sound?" The answer to this, as any idiot could tell you, is "Yes, unless the forest is in a vacuum so that there is no way (apart from vibrations through the ground which could for the sake of argument be damped (perhaps by a series of rubber baffles)) for the sound waves created by the falling tree to travel." The original question should therefore be revised to "if a tree falls down in a forest with an atmosphere through which the compressions and rarefactions of sound waves might travel and where no special arrangements have been arranged to prevent the theoretical travel of any form of vibration (audible or otherwise) through the ground or any other medium/mix of media by which a sound originating in the forest might conceivably travel as far as the nearest entity capable of sensing the vibrations and cogitating abstractedly thereupon, does it make a sound?" This question could be expanded to cover all potential loopholes but can much more easily be reduced to "if no-one hears a sound, is it still a sound?" to which the answer is obviously "yes, that's why there's a word for it. Now shut up and fuck off"|
The original originator of this theory is unknown; this lack of knowledge raises an interesting paradox in "if someone comes up with a theory but no-one remembers them as the originator, might they just as well have never existed?". The theory itself became popular following after circulation by someone in the mid 1990s.
Following the massive growth in affordable air travel at the end of the last century a greater number of people than ever before have been able to experience the ideal conditions for consideration of this theory in concert with the two other semi-contradictory theories forming the Existential Triangle. When observing a populated area from the vantage point of an aircraft one cannot help but ponder on whether the ant-like people one can just discern far below are real or merely scenery supplied by the world to prevent an overpowering feeling of solitude and futility. The people-as-scenery theory is increasingly used in concert with the standard Anthropic Fallacy to convince the airborne observer that although they are the only real person in the world it's all okay because they're the only real person in the world.
It follows that if other people are only present in order to create the impression of a well-stocked and populous planet that some arrangements have to be in place to account for them when the scenery viewer does not require their presence. There are a variety of schools of thought on this issue. The original and most popular idea is "all the world's a stage" whereby the other people of the world wait until you're just out of earshot or eyeshot before stopping what they were pretending to be doing until they were next required. This was probably refined by the phenomenon of "staying in the rôle" which would allow the component human props of the world to live their entire lives in their "character", thus saving on expensive coffee, sandwiches and cigarettes which they would otherwise consume in their breaks between your looking at them. Some believers are inclined in the other direction, away from a sustained appearance of realism on the part of the scenery players. Some consider that the players are merely artificial constructs whose operation ceases when they are not required, allowing their storage in a number of special buildings around the world. This is probably why it is cheaper to buy train and aircraft tickets a long time in advance; it would allow the operators of the scenery-people constructs time to prepare the area the "real" person intends to visit and ensure that the alleged people are appropriately different according to the amount of distance traveled.
edit Supporters and Aficionados
- Celebrities: Most common celebrities are by default convinced of the rightness of the people-as-scenery theory. Raised almost from birth to believe that their entourage, the world and the rest of the universe revolves around them it is impossible for any celebrity of level C or above to consider even for a moment that all the other beings of the world exist for any reason other than to consume the celebrity's product. Although this implies the celebrity maintaining an awareness of the existence of other people when they are not physically present (when the other people watch the celebrity's film or listen to their record at home rather than at a prémière or gig) this is not in fact the case; the celebrity can only comprehend the general existence of other (strictly limited) consciousnesses but cannot ascribe these to any particular physical entity.
- Politicians: It goes without saying that politicians only believe in the existence of other people for the purposes of paying taxes and not doing whatever the former wish them not to do. If a specific non-politician initially performs an act which the politician decides they wish the non-politician had not done then the politician may recognize the existence of the civilian as the embodiment of a generalized collection of "other". This de-scenerification may last as long as it takes to create laws against the transgression upon the issue of which the civilians again cease to really exist in the politician's mind.
- Criminally Insane: the criminally insane often are of the impression that they are scenery and that everyone else is real. They are of course right in this respect.
- Nutbags: The street-dwelling acolytes of St. Bedlam can barely tell the difference between the pavement and the road, never mind distinguishing other people from one another.
- Babies: Childlings and youthberts believe in their teeny-tiny rusk-stained little brains that the entire universe consists of themselves, their mother and the toilet. Trying to convince them otherwise is waste of both their time and yours.
edit Naysayers and Detractors
- Americans: Not only do Americans (Proper Americans, often excludes Washington D.C., New York City, and the state of California) believe fervently that other people exist, they also believe fervently that everyone should be nice to, if not tolerant of, everyone else . Not only do they credit other people with the benefit of existence; they extrapolate their existence along the knowledge of their own, assuming that the other people of the world are capable of abstract thought.
- Codgers: Old people know all too well that other people exist and that they're trying to steal all their money. And vandalize their garden. And have sex with each other on the wireless at all hours of the night IN BROAD DAYLIGHT of all things. Things, yes. The only time an elderpuffin will cease in their adherence to the people-as-scenery theory is when the other alleged people are in front of the old person in a shop's checkout queue.