The Greatest Common Denominator; a Societal, Mathematical Aspects
By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy
It was a hot summer day. John, though carrying a heavy plastic bag full of library books and DVDs, had to walk all the way home because he couldn’t afford taking the bus. His pension was so small that after he has covered his monthly bills and paid for his medication, he ran out of money by the first week of the month. He was afflicted with a chronicle liver disease, and the water leakage from his scared liver into his abdominal cavity enormously distends his belly and made it difficult for him to breath or walk. His jaundiced eyes were sunken and circled with darker color. His skin looked clayish and clammy and on top of that, he felt drowsy most of the time because of his anti-depression medication. A look at John by those who did not know him would be deceptive. They would mistake him by a homeless or a druggie.
John’s depression made him careless about his appearance.
In the park behind the library, John saw some people sitting to a picnic table while others clustered nearby and engaged in talking. He became curious, but his curiosity was elevated by the sight of the city’s newspaper crew in the midst of the crowd. He sat close to the scene to figure out what was happening. He heard someone saying, “I think it’s a great idea,”, and another one who quickly added, “This town is supposed to be filled with God-fearing people and all the politicians are supposed to be God-fearing, and nobody is doing anything about the homeless”, and another one who said, pointing to a mid-aged man, “This gentleman here, God bless him, is a priest. He is doing the right thing. He is feeding the homeless. It is the right thing to do”
John saw two police cars parked next to the park’s fence and, on the other side of the street, he also saw a few people standing in the entrances of their business buildings, watching the people in the park. John then remembered reading in the newspaper a few days ago an article on this particular park and how it became a haven for homeless people, druggies and prostitutes. People wanted the police to interfere and stop a priest from feeding the homeless and the druggies, thus they would hum around no more ─ But then where will they go? The problem is far more complicated and they are still a part of our society whether they made themselves or were made what they are by certain circumstances. They are the one sheep that went astray ─ John thought. An old man sat beside John and asked him what the matter. John told him about the homeless and the druggies. “Oh, those guys, they are scaring families away” the man carelessly said. “They do!” John exclaimed. “Yes they do and businesses around here are complaining, too” the old man said. “What is the solution should be like, then?” John asked, being curious that the old man might suggest a feasible solution. “I guess they have to stop them from coming to the park” the old man said. “Won’t this solution infringe their rights; their freedom to come to the park” frustrated, John asked him. “In a way, yes, but,” said the old man. “But what, they never bothered anyone. They may approach you for a cigarette, but if you say no, they just leave” John explained. “But they are undesirable for what they do” The man said. “We can’t jeopardize their right because we desire a different behavior from them, unless their right hurts other people’s right in the process” John interjected. “Are you sympathizing with them?” The man then asked. “No, I am not” John answered and then added, “Those people have a problem and they really need help. Any one of them can be your lost child. They are not criminals compared to heinous crimes committed on higher levels everyday and do slip by with no incriminating word uttered. The real evil-doers are the undesirables that need to be harshly dealt with; they are, in fact, the greatest common denominator” ─ “Oh, I agree with you. I do not know what is wrong with our society” the man said. John explained, “Well, in my mind, the society is either in deep slumber or it is collectively scared to locate the greatest common denominator factor and deal with it and because of their guilty conscious they had to find an escape-goat ─ and they have found it; the homeless, the prostitutes and the druggies; the least common denominator factor” the main said, “Since you have put it this way, I do not know what to say” John looked at his watch and then said, “Excuse me, I got to leave. Nice talking to you, anyways”
On his way home, John felt fatigue and out of breath. So he sat on the low brick fence of one of the houses on the street leading to his residence. A man accompanied by a huge dog emerged from the house and looked at him and angrily yelled, “Why are you sitting on my fence, you creep?” John apologized, “Sir, I am tired and I want to rest for a while. I hope you do not mind!” but still angry, the man yelled again, “Yes I do. Get the hell out of here, druggie!” ─ “Sir, please, don’t call me druggie. I am not” John protested. “Yes you are. Have you looked at yourself in a mirror lately?” the man still yelled. “I do everyday, sir. And everyday, I see my life slipping away from me because of my ailment” John answered. “Stop taking the shit you are taking” the man yelled again. “Sir, you do not understand. I take nothing but my prescribed medications. I told you I am sick” John explained. “Sick my ass; I do not want the likes of you hanging around here. Get lost or I’ll call the cops!” The man yelled. Having no alternative but to leave, John stood up, picked his bag and started to walk away but he was not quick enough, so the man pushed him. John fell to the ground. “God, I think I heart my back” John said to himself, feeling like throwing up, but the man shouted at him, “Don’t you dare throw up beside my fence, you piece of shit. Get up right now and get lost”
Lying flat on the ground in a state of agony, the events, that John saw taking place in the park behind the library, re-enacted before his mental eyes. He felt dizzy and as though coming from a distant place, he heard his own voice, “Sir, why are you so angry? I did not hurt you in any way. Sitting on your brick fence won’t hurt you. I am not a druggie or homeless. I am just a person with serious illness. I could have been you” and with eyes brimming with tears John strove to roll his body away as the contagious aggressiveness of the man made the dog threateningly bare his teeth, grunt and jump. John was sure he was doomed and before he fell unconscious because of the immortal pain he felt, he heard the sound of his ankle bone being crushed by the dog’s sharp teeth.