Do you remember those Wild West movies that always had that scene in the town saloon with cowboys drinking and playing cards? The plot was more or less this: a man at the piano played a catchy and happy tune while the men drank at the bar or played cards, cheerful young ladies chatted with them while the owner served generous portions of whiskey. But, then, suddenly everything was silent, the music stopped, and everyone stared at the canteen door. Why? A stranger had come to town.
As he walked to the bar to confront the bartender, eyes weighed on this stranger. Where does he come from? Why is he in town? Is he dangerous? Does he have money? Will he respect the rules of the place?
In reality, this could seem like an extreme case of hostility towards strangers. However, there is something perennial in this scene that makes us always bring it to the present: the whole scene is based on the possibility that the expectations of those who evaluate the stranger are confirmed or refuted. If they are confirmed, and the lonely man turns out to be a poor man who works as a labourer, there is no problem, the party can continue and the joy returns to the canteen. The stranger is not a threat. But if the stranger is a rogue outlaw, then the sheriff or the local thugs will come after him.
There will be an uproar and surely a duel in the middle of the town’s central street.
Let’s imagine that we are in that street in front of the stranger, gun in hand. The stranger questions us while he looks us in the eye, smoking. He questions our expectations about what normal life is. When we accept and make our own the limiting expectations others have about us; or when the media tries to make us believe that we need things that we don’t need.
Aren’t we fearful and cornered in our certainties while wondering if this stranger will come to endanger these truths and securities?
Isn’t this duel lost beforehand? Isn’t this duel ending right here?
Someone falls to the ground, and a whirlwind of dust shakes the sand.