Phil Rockstroh's Journal
Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome(ASS): "Because the cops don’t need you and man they expect the same
Liberating America’s Worldview: Recovering from Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS): "Because the cops don’t need you and man they expect the same"
by Phil Rockstroh
Editor's note: "Occupy Wall Street protesters appealed to the broader U.S. population – and even the police – as fellow members of the 99 percent, but Phil Rockstroh observes that many Americans still fear breaking with the oppressive status quo and most police will follow orders in harsh crackdowns."
Witnessing the acts and utterances of Republican presidential candidates can be regarded as a helpful psychological exercise, a type of “exposure therapy” involving the development of methods used to bear the presence of unbearable people who insist on evincing the history of human ignorance, duplicity and insanity.
“I can’t go on; I go on.”–Samuel Beckett
All alive are tasked with the challenge of, not only proceeding through life despite these kinds of insults to common sense and common decency, but to make a stand, in one’s own unique way, against prevailing forms of madness and oppression.
As a case in point, within the mainstream narratives of the corporate media and that of both major political parties, one bears constant witness to palaver involving the nebulous tyrannies of “big government”; although, incongruously, one scarcely receives from those sources focused complaints and critiques (much less probing investigative reports or congressional hearings) directed at the excesses of the national security/police state and Military/Big Media/Prison Industrial Complex.
The “big government” narrative is a misdirection campaign – a smoke-screen serving to obscure corporate/military dominance of political life and its effects on the social criteria of everyday life in the nation. Accordingly, government is only as big as the 1 percent who own and operate it will allow it to be.
Therefore, due to the fact that elitist interests all but control the U.S. political class, in order to change government policies, a radical rethinking and revamping of the economic order of the nation must occur.
Although, at this late date in the life of empire, change will have to come from the streets, from uprisings – by occupations – by a restructuring of the entire system, from its cracked foundation, to rotting support beams, to corroding particle board, to lousy paint job.
Yet, this will be an organic process … unpredictable, fraught with peril, freighted with the expansiveness of the novel, tinged with apprehensions borne of grief. But upheaval is inevitable because the present system is deep into the process of entropic runaway. And because uncertainty will be our constant companion, one is advised to make it an ally.
The neoliberal capitalist order is on a path towards extinction. And it will, most likely, die ugly. But it has lived ugly as well. The system never worked as advertised … was more sales pitch than substance in its promise to increase innovation and deliver prosperity worldwide.
Conversely, the set-up leveled enslavement to powerful interests by means of a 21st Century version of company-town despotism e.g., workhouses, sweat shops, unhealthy mining towns and industrial wastelands where the laboring classes are shackled by debt-slavery to company store-type coercion.
This global company town criteria has inflicted sub-living wages, no benefit, no future jobs, yet the corporate state’s 24/7, commercial propaganda apparatus has the consumer multitudes of the U.S. convinced that they are “living the dream.” As a result, great numbers still believe their oligarchic oppressors actually believe their own lies about freedom, liberty and equal opportunity for all.
That’s right: Scheming princes simply love the peasants of their kingdom. … They do, as long as those wretches continue to bow down in the presence of the powerful, do all they are commanded to do, and unthinkingly serve the interests of their vain, arrogant rulers.
Absurdly, large numbers in the U.S. still claim the burdensome economic yoke they bear is a glittering accessory of freedom gifted to them by their privileged betters. Often, one hears the assertion: Although the U.S. is an empire, it is, in fact, a benign sort of empire … as far as empires go.
To the contrary, the nation’s post-Second World War, empire-building enterprise, as is the case throughout history with exercises in imperium, has leveled death-scapes abroad, corrupted the society’s elite and delivered anomie and alienation to the general population.
From the soulless, dehumanizing nothing-scapes of the U.S. interstate highway system and its resultant suburban project, to the douche-scapes of hyper-commercialized pop culture, empire’s legacy is as pervasive as it is dismal.
And all delivered and maintained by trading in the bartered blood of the innocent abroad by mechanisms of imperial plunder while serving to create a gallery of heartless, authoritarian-minded, consumerism-addicted grotesques at home. One suspects this is the reason discussions involving the true nature of empire are not considered a subject fit for nice company.
Often, by attempting to adapt to the burdensome daily obligations and the spirit-crushing, hierarchical structure of neoliberal capitalism, individuals will begin to internalize its pathologies.
In the age of corporate-state-dominated media, to ensure the circular, self-reinforcing nature of the noxious narratives of empire remain in place, faux populist, conservative media talk show hosts, talking heads and rightist pundits – elitist bully boys and gals – i.e., the bigot whisperers of the Right – continually seed the dismal air with false narratives, contrived to misdirect anger and foment displaced resentments.
In turn, little bullies, out in the U.S. spleen-land, rendered resentful and mean of spirit by the incessant humiliation leveled by a class-stratified, exploitive economic system take up these self-defeating talking points that serve the 1 percent.
Accordingly, when, for example, participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement question the present social and economic structure, these downscale denizens of oligarchic rule personalize the critique; their identification with the system is so complete that they feel as though they have been attacked on a personal basis.
As a consequence, all too often, their defenses are raised and they return volleys of ad hominem attacks that serve to defend a status quo that demeans them.
This psychological phenomenon could be termed Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) – a pathology suffered by personalities who have been traumatized by authority, but who endeavor to remedy the wounding and humiliation inflicted by a brutal, degrading order by identification with their oppressors.
To wit, the lack of outrage exhibited by the general public regarding the nations trudge toward a police/national security state. For example, the lack of deference displayed by city officials and local police forces regarding the First Amendment rights of OWS participants.
First off, lets clear the pepper-spray-fogged air on the matter: The vast majority of rank-and-file police officers do not now and, most likely, never will view themselves as part of the 99 percent.
Simply stated, police officers identify with their fellow cops. The vocation, by its institutionalized, militaristic, tribal nature, creates a wall of separation between its insider members and outsiders i.e., the civilian population at large.
It is an act of self-deception to insist that rank-and-file police officers, the so-called blue shirts, might even be tacit supporters of the 99 percent movement.
Good luck with that. But don’t be surprised if your entreaties are answered in the form of concentrated mists of pepper spray. In fact, as of late, that is exactly the reply we have received from the police, many times over.
Most police officers do not much identify with civilians. They harbor fealty to their careers and are indoctrinated to evince unquestioning loyalty to the department. Or as Bob Dylan presents the case in verse:
“Because the cops don’t need you and man they expect the same”–from Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
On a cultural basis, after years of hyper-authoritarian indoctrination by mass-media sources and political influences, few, among the general public and in the political realm seem willing to demand openness and accountability from law enforcement organizations.
All too often, police (and U.S. soldiers as well) are viewed by a large percent of the general public as selfless heroes, noble souls, protecting life and liberty. And no matter how much evidence accumulates to the contrary, this image holds.
How is it that so many can cling to the illusion that cops and soldiers – grownups, armed with deadly weaponry, and who have shown themselves willing to engage in acts of state-sanctioned violence and oppression – are innocent victims of circumstance? Have we, in this nation, lost the concept of free will?
How did the perspective of a people become so upside down that heavily armed, body armor-enswathed men and women wearing uniforms of state power are viewed as blameless innocents while those they perpetrate brutality against are somehow regarded as the aggressors in the situation … deserving of the violence inflicted upon them?
Let’s have a reckoning with reality regarding the nature of the forces coalescing against OWS and other global movements aligned against despotism: Authoritarian personality types detest the sight of freedom; its inherent uncertainties make them damn nervous. By reflex, they have a compulsion to lower a jackboot on its neck.
Or, in the words of one officer tasked with the duty of stifling the public’s right to free assembly at a recent OWS protest staged at the Winter Garden atrium of Brookfield Properties, within the World Financial Center located in lower Manhattan, “Don’t get in my face. I have a gun on me, okay? I don’t want any people coming that close to me.”
In acts of social and civic resistance, regardless of whether one evinces a Gandhi-like position of nonviolence or adopts a Malcolm X-influenced stance of “by any means necessary,” the enforcers of a corrupt authoritarian order regard any and all displays of dissent as an invitation to force dissenters face down on the pavement, zip-cuffed and bleeding, then be remanded into custody – or worse.
At this critical point, it is imperative we let die our illusions involving the present order. Yet we must do so without becoming so disillusioned that we lack the resolve to remake the world.
Often, we cling to fictions involving the benign nature of power because the act spares us angst. To the contrary, we must bear witness to the collisions of our illusions and the realities of the day, because it is from the debris created by these collisions that the world will be built anew.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at:
firstname.lastname@example.org Visit Phil’s website: http://philrockstroh.com / or at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Cleansing Wall Street of Blame: "By Imbeciles Who Really Mean It": Lost Verities and Dirty Hippies
By Phil Rockstroh
Editor's Note: The Right’s giant megaphone is reversing the narrative for today’s crisis: It is Barack Obama’s “food-stamp presidency” and the Occupy demands for fairness that are at fault for the hard economic times, not Wall Street’s unregulated greed increasing the need for food stamps and heightening the imperative for resistance – as Phil Rockstroh explains:
Regardless of the dissembling of corporate-state propagandists, free-market capitalism has always been a government-subsidized, bubble-inflating, swindlers’ game, in which, psychopathic personalities (not “job creators” but con-job perpetrators) thrive.
By the exploitation of the many, a ruthless few have amassed large amounts of capital by which they dominate mainstream narratives and compromise elected and governmental officials, thereby gaming the system for their benefit.
'Occupy Everything' sign (Photo by Angela Tyler-Rockstroh)
Historically, the system has proven so demeaning to the majority of the population that the elite, from time to time, have, as a last resort, due to fear of a popular uprising, introduced a bit of socialism into the system, allowing a modicum of swag to funnel downward, and, as a result, the ranks of the middle-class have been expanded.
For a time, the bourgeoisie are bamboozled by the sales pitch that one day they will be affluent enough to be freed from the taxing obligations of a dismal, debt-beholden existence, when, in fact, they sowed their fate (like those swindled by opening their bank accounts after receiving email from parties claiming to be momentarily cash-strapped Nigerian royalty) by their own greed, i.e. by their self-imprisonment within their own narrow, self-serving view of existence.
These stultifying circumstances will level an atmosphere of restiveness and nebulous rage. In general, the middle-class can be counted on to detest the poor … blaming those born devoid of societal advantage and political influence for the impoverished circumstances that were in place long before the happenstance of their birth.
Moreover, in a bit of noxious casuistry, as despicable as it is delusional, all too many members of the middle-class have been induced by grift artists, employed by the ruling elite, to blame their own declining social status and attendant beleaguered existence on the poor.
“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.”–John Donne
This has proven to be an effective, time-tested grift: Because as long as the animus of the middle class remains fixated on the poor, the criminal cartels known as the economic elite can continue to ply their trade. Of course, in reality, by their greed and complicity, what the middle-class has gained is this: trustee status in the capitalist workhouse.
Although, there is no need to fret: The run of neoliberal capitalism is about over. Don’t mourn: This late-stage, rapacious, mutant economic strain has leveled destruction on community and the planet itself as well as the hearts and souls of too many of those imprisoned within its paradigm.
At this point, the situation comes down to this: paradigm shift or perish. The hour is amenable to reevaluate, reorganize and re-occupy. Doing so will prove helpful in withstanding false narratives.
Apropos: As of late, in my hours spent at Liberty Park, I’ve been witness to increasing numbers of tourists wandering in and repeating derisive, right-wing distortions regarding the OWS movement and its participants.
For example, the distortions allege that the OWS participants are a collection of whiny college students who want taxpayers to be responsible for picking up the tab for their student loans because they are too lazy and spoiled to work off their debt.
These tales are variations of the old canards involving welfare queens, mouths gleaming with taxpayer financed gold teeth, arriving at grocery stores lounging behind the steering wheels of late-model Cadillacs, and proceeding to purchase steaks and fifths of gin with food stamps.
Ronald Reagan spoke of this mythical figure often, affording her near supernatural powers: She, through indolence, guile and a welfare-state-bestowed sense of limitless entitlement, was the near singular cause of the nation’s economic woes; her very existence, not only depleted the U.S. Treasury of dollars, but drained the U.S. free enterprise system of vitality and the very will to compete. She was a succubus who arrived in the socialist haunted night to feed on and zap the very virility of capitalism.
Because of the wealth inequities inherent to capitalism, in order to prevent social unrest, the system is reliant on creating false narratives that foster misplaced and displaced class resentment. These tales are very potent, because they serve as palliatives for the enervating states of shame inflicted on the population at large by their enslavement to the free market.
Accordingly, because the vast majority of the populace are deemed “losers,” due to how the system is rigged, techniques must be created and maintained to displace the rage, born of a sense of powerlessness, that grips the system’s exploited underlings.
OWS is beginning to change the narrative … align it with reality – and that is an alarming development for the 1 percent; hence, the retooled, amped-up propaganda campaign we’re seeing signs of at present.
This is the reality the 1 percent endeavor to obscure: Capitalism is a pyramid scheme; by its very structure, only a few will ever receive its bounty … that is wrung out of the exhausted hides of the vast majority. Fact is, capitalism, the neoliberal variety or otherwise, has never worked as promised; its innate structure ensures exploitation and inequity.
Therefore, time and time again, adding aspects of socialism (e.g., New Deal-era programs and reforms) have saved capitalism from itself. But, after a time, the plutocrats regroup and begin anew to launch a big money-financed, slow-motion coup d’état of government (e.g., the Reagan Revolution).
A vast disparity of wealth within a nation will all but ensure this societal trajectory. But that isn’t going to happen, this time. The planet cannot endure the assaults wrought by a system that requires exponential growth to be maintained.
The run of capitalism is nearly over. A more sustainable economic system, based on horizontal rule, is being developed, globally (e.g., the Icelandic model).
The vertical structure inherent to capitalism brings about the self-perpetuating reign of an insular elite who choose to go the route of empire and, by doing so, overreach and bring themselves down, but only after much unnecessary suffering, exploitation and death – the calling card and ground-level criteria of imperium.
Yet, often within a declining empire, even as the quality of life grows increasingly degraded for the majority of the populace, questioning sacrosanct beliefs, such as, the myth that capitalism promotes societal progress and personal advancement, by means of the possibility of upward class migration, proves to be a difficult endeavor for many.
The reason: Even given the degraded nature of life as lived under late capitalism, the act of taking stock of one’s situation – beginning to question how one arrived at one’s present station in life – will engender anxiety, anger and regret.
Apropos to the shame-based Calvinism of the capitalist state: If I was duped in a rigged game, what does that say about me? The narrative of capitalism insists that if I work hard, applying savvy and diligence, at fulfilling my aspirations then I would, at some point, arrive in the rarified realm of life’s winners.
But if success proves elusive, then my flawed character must be the problem – not the dishonest economic setup – and miasmic shame descends upon me. Yet I can count on right-wing media to provide the type of provisional solace proffered by demagogues, i.e., imparting the reason that folks like me can’t get ahead is because scheming socialists have hijacked my parcel of the American Dream and delivered it to the undeserving thereby transforming my shame into displaced outrage.
And that must be the case; otherwise, it would behoove me to make the painful admission that I have been conned … have co-signed the crimes committed against me. Worse, I would be compelled to question all my verities and beliefs – all the convictions I clutch, regarding, not only the notions that I possess about myself and the methods I’ve adopted in approaching life, but also, the social structure that influenced my character.
Imagine: If you had to re-imagine your life. Imagine, how the act would unnerve your loved ones, threaten friendships, even endanger your livelihood.
What an unnerving task that would prove to be … an ordeal certain to deliver heart-shaking anxiety, devastating regret and nettling dread directly into the besieged sanctuary of what is suppose to be the inviolable precincts of my comfort zone.
“At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.”–Albert Camus
Accordingly, I might turn to Fox News and other well-rewarded, professional dissemblers of the political Right, imploring them to dissolve my doubts and dread.
To escort and ensconce my troubled form back into my comfort zone by telling me the problem is not the iron boot of the corporate state upon my neck; rather, my oppression stems from the barefoot hippie lefties of OWS “who need a bath and a job”; it is their odious presence in our lives that has subdued my happy capitalist destiny by the pernicious act of laying down an effluvia (more demobilizing than pepper spray) of patchouli musk and has caused capitalism itself to weaken into an enervated swoon.
Yes, this has to be the case: The cause of my oppression. Those America-hating Occupy Wall Street hippies are actually the hidden hand that controls the global order and who possess a craven desire to smelt down the gleaming steel of the humming engines of U.S. capitalism into creepy, Burning Man statuary, who want to hold 24/7 Nuremberg-style rallies in the form of annoying drum circles.
In reality, it is those dirty hippies who are actually “The Man.” Withal, hippies crashed the global economy and pinned the blame on the selfless souls who ply their benign trade on Wall Street.
Now, you know why conservatives harbor such animus towards hippies. Don’t claim that Fox News et al – those selfless souls – who only desire to protect the glories of the present order, and who only have your best interest in mind, didn’t try to warn you.
“I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” –Mark Twain
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com . Visit Phil’s website: http://philrockstroh.com / or at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Editors note: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and right-wing talk-show hosts are whipping up their supporters against Occupy Wall Street, while some Democrats support the OWS goals but fear the backlash. However, poet Phil Rockstroh says this movement transcends traditional politics.
OWS Shatters the Political Frame: “The Degree To Which You Resist Is The Degree To Which You Are Free"
By Phil Rockstroh
I’ve noticed a meme beginning to fester among liberal insiders who are positing that the Occupy Wall Street movement is starting to “distract” the citizenry from the wicked machinations of Republicans of the legislative class. Nonsense.
The OWS movement is not a distraction from — but serves as an alternative to — the disingenuous theatrics staged by the political hacks of this faux republic. Conversely, movement members have grasped that it is the hollow grandstanding – the modus operandi of the present U.S. political system itself – that serves as distraction from the realities of the day.
Those drawn to the OWS movement realize this: Vast sums of money are required to get the attention of and gain influence over the entrenched class of self-serving political insiders who hustle their wares in Washington, D.C.
Year after year, election cycle after election cycle, Washington’s political class has revealed whose interests it serves. Accordingly, let the 1percent and their political operatives continue on their present myopic, self-serving, society-decimating course: By doing so, they will just bring more outraged people into the streets and hasten their own undoing.
Yet, because arrogant power, girded by duplicity and ruthlessly maintained, does not yield without a fight, we should expect more of the following: Stories are circulating that Clark, Lytle, Geduldig & Cranford, a well-connected Washington lobbying firm, with ties to the financial industry, have floated a $850,000 plan to pillory Occupy Wall Street.
This should not come as a surprise. Living in a society dominated by the power of massive corporations, and the inequitable wealth these self-perpetuating organizations have at their disposal, we will be relentlessly subjected to the narratives they generate.
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” — Steve Biko
Since birth, most of us have been enveloped by the consumer state’s commercial hologram.
Almost every daily act we perform and attitude we evince is in some measure determined by the dictates, demands and the incessant, commercial come-ons (the de facto propaganda) of the corporate state e.g. from what time you rise in the morning, to the food you eat, to what you clothe yourself in, to how you spend your days, to what time you go to sleep at night, to what stories you are audience to – the cultural myths you have internalized – by means of mass media saturation, to the manner you celebrate festivals and holidays, to how your illnesses and of those around you will play-out, even the circumstances of how you will approach and succumb to your death.
Because these are the waters in which we swim, most will accept societal and cultural circumstances as a given … believing, for example, that when they posit a political utterance that the opinion expressed has been formed exclusively of their own mind, by the exercise of free will.
Accordingly, a large percent of the populace of the U.S. believes consumerism is a form of freedom … that the exercise thereof mainly involves being at liberty to trundle to a mall and be in possession of the right to choose between a big-ass cookie or a giant Cinnabon … that freedom of choice is expressed by over-priced running shoes – or security can be found in a massive SUV.
In this manner, the propaganda campaigns of the corporate/national security state have proven effective at promoting and perpetuating the inequitable status quo in place at the present time. Do not underestimate the well-rewarded, professional con men employed in the criminal enterprise known as “public relations.”
Remember, these masters of deceit sell wars, which are fought by the poor and in which the underclass kill and die for the profits of a ruthless few. War is a money train for the rich and connected but a death wagon for the rest of humankind.
Ready yourself to be buffeted by a barrage of virtual reality blunderbuss – volley after volley of mainstream media launched Big Lies – and the ground fire of social media small distortions. Don’t walk unarmed into the line of fire.
Remember this: Most likely, the corporate state has, to some degree, colonized your mind, as it is well on its way to destroying the ecosystem of the entire planet.
Conversely, let your soul occupy you. While there might be an ongoing effort to scour Liberty Park of liberty, they cannot do likewise to your heart without your consent.
Turn the tables on them: Evict the corporate occupiers from the public realm within – as all the while, you challenge propaganda whenever it crosses your path … on the streets, at your workplace, at family gatherings, and on social media – because a lie left unchallenged begins to be accepted as truth.
And worse, invades, colonizes and exploits (and often kills) a portion of the soul of the world. Importantly, do not underestimate the ruthless nature of calcified power. Regarding the subject: On Thursday, Nov. 17, near Foley Square, there was blood on Broadway.
At the scene, I witnessed thuggish, NYPD motorcycle cops driving directly into groups of peaceful demonstrators, with the intent of antagonizing those gathered, and when people stood their ground and refused to be bullied – then phalanxes of blue-shirt bastards, swinging nightsticks, waded into the crowd.
Even with my wife, tugging at the back of my jacket, attempting to tow, as we say down south, my narrow ass away from the direction of injury or jail, I could not contain my outrage; I growled at a smirking cop, gloating over the carnage, “just keep it up, you mindless thug, when you get folks angry enough, the boot just might be on the other neck … namely yours.”
In hindsight, in my own defense: Being on scene and witnessing peaceful people attacked and brutalized, one is apt to become seized by rage. But what is the excuse for the mayor of New York City and his Police Commissioner?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the ranks of NYPD have proven themselves willing to barricade and checkpoint the city into chaos … as opposed to enduring ongoing moments of freedom of assembly and free expression.
And this is why we must not retreat. Their tactics of repression are very expensive to the city budget, and money is the only thing they love. Hence, they have, in turn, provided us with a tactic we can use; we can hit them where they feel it. (Conversely, they can take blow after blow to their honor – because they are devoid of that character trait.)
The ground is shifting below our feet and this phenomenon involves more than the echoing footfalls of marchers and the trudging of militarized formations of riot cops on city streets worldwide. The first vibrations, closer to tremors, transpired because the ground below us has been fracked of dreams … the void engendered seismological activity.
Now, from Cairo, Egypt’s Tahrir Square to Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece, to Liberty Park, in New York, New York, to Oscar Grant Park in Oakland, California, we have become like tuning forks, in sympatico with the resonances of the tormented earth.
Subsequently, the walls of the neoliberal prison are cracking … We are no longer isolated, enclosed in our alienation, imprisoned by a concretized sense of powerlessness; daylight is beginning to pierce the darkness of our desolate cells.
“The state can’t give you freedom, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.” ~ Utah Phillips
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at:
. Visit Phil’s website: http://philrockstroh.com / or at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Dehumanizing Late-Stage Capitalism
Editor's Note: Occupy Wall Street (OWS) — and similar protests — don’t fit into the trite frames of America’s mainstream news, but rather represent a collective message of people laying their bodies down against the depredations of modern-day capitalism, as poet Phil Rockstroh explains.
In my opinion, when people opine that the OWS movement is about — or should be about — the airing of this particular grievance or that it must bandy this or that particular demand — they have missed the point.
Of course, collectively, OWS evinces a force of resistance against corporate greed and a critique of the failings of the present political system. … Yet, as is the case with any living thing, to reduce its essential nature to facile descriptions diminishes it.
As with human perception of life itself, experiencing freedom carries an ineffable quality, a wordless grandeur.
“Human language is like a cracked kettle drum on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when what we long to do is make music that will move the stars to pity.” Gustave Flaubert
Through it all, the immanent quality of and inchoate longing for freedom remains within us: Although present, it is not always in plain view. Its presence in our lives is, perhaps, best summed up by this Irish aphorism: ”Mrs. O’Kelly, do you believe in fairies?” “No, I don’t — but they’re there.”
Over and over again, too many well-intentioned sorts continue to insist that it is imperative that we inform the nice people of the middle-class (nice people who, given the nature of imperium, willingly feed off the blood of empire like the charges of a vampire) that there are well-mannered working people on site at OWS encampments — not only spittle-launching, leftist radicals.
Excuse me, but, for many years now, so-called “crazy” leftist radicals have been damn near the only ones who have had the clarity of mind to give a cogent critique of empire … have been willing to point out the exploitive, soul-demeaning mode of existence inherent to the militarist/national security/corporate/consumer/ duopolistic state–and, as a result, we have been marginalized, entirely excluded from mainstream debate and discussion.
Let us have a little rendezvous with reality; otherwise, the operatives of the status quo will frame the narrative, once again, and will claim victory by co-option.
This is the method by which the capitalist status quo has maintained its inverted totalitarian set-up since the popular uprisings of the 1960s, by means of generous economic rewards (the perks and privileges of the corporate state) for its de facto propagandists and exclusion from the official narrative for dissenters. Don’t buy into the false narrative.
Personally, I refuse to eschew the designation of anti-capitalist radical. You cannot shame me for knowing where the bodies of empire are buried and who laid them in their graves. To the landfill of history with capitalism — the wasteful, cracked-brained economic system that created said landfill.
The preening liars at Fox News and other well-rewarded propagandists of state capitalism will disseminate lies, big and small, regardless of our actions … that is what they do. Be cautioned: Never tap dance for the approval of a lying, manipulative, power-mad fascist. Once, you begin to do so you co-sign his narrative — thus he owns your hapless ass.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – ?and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” -Georgia O’Keefe
Accordingly, the lessons of the 1960s e.g., COINTELPRO operations … reveal that when street and riot police are ordered to pull back, as in Oakland, agent provocateurs will infiltrate mass political gatherings. Withal: You can bet those masked bastards shouting hate-speak and breaking windows are cops. …
He is there to draw the cameras of the corporate media towards the scenes of chaos and strife that he seeds in order to turn bourgeois sentiment against reform movements that might change their lives for the better … to create the false narrative that the police are the only bulwark the middle-class has against destruction-sowing crazies, who, if given free reign, will leave in rubble and ashes everything the middle-class holds dear.
To avoid being falsely labeled: First, endeavor, by inward searching and outward (even failed) endeavor, to know who you are. Then lay claim to your own identity. Otherwise, garnering the clarity required to apprehend what you’re up against becomes difficult.
The Greek word for one of the three figures representing The Fates is Moira — which translates into portion. And that is key to grasping what is happening from Cairo to Athens to New York City to Oakland. Ergo, people are rising up and fighting for the rightful and just portion of their lives and fates that have been increasingly commandeered and controlled by a corrupt elite whose rule has, heretofore, been sustained by a disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and power.
Across Greece, people have awaken to the knowledge that passivity is slavery — that capitalism is economic cannibalism. … State capitalism, also, devours the dignity of its victims. Yet, after a time, a number of people will rise up against exploitation and will demand their portion of fate.
At this point in time, the term “general strike” holds a deep and resonate appeal. The word “general” suggests that the isolation of daily life experienced under the atomizing circumstances of globalized corporate capitalism can be upended — that there can be a sense of unity — that a movement en masse is possible (yet not a mass movement to war, but a movement en masse towards equity and fairness) by beginning, at long last, to “strike” back — to counterpunch with focused blows those who have kept the harsh, inequitable order of the present era in place by means of intimidation and bribery.
Capitalism — you are a rotting, flesh-eating zombie — there are sacred spark stippling the air around you; these sparks are borne of flames of sacred vehemence. For too long, people have been bled dry by the heart-desiccating aspirations and dehumanizing modes of economic coercion that maintain the neoliberal paradigm.
Moreover, the flames of resistance are only fanned when your apologists claim that the system in place provides the best, in fact, the only way to exist in the world and attempt to smother the world’s growing fury with police-state tactics.
The stakes are great. Much has been stolen from us: essential qualities, more valuable than money. As the populace of the corporate/consumer state, we have been induced, by means of small bribes and hyper-authoritarian coercion, to sign a social contract that sells our essential nature on the cheap, i.e., to be defined (hence diminished) as a consumer, a commuter, an employee, a Republican, a Democrat, a member of a demographic group, a cipher, a sucker, a bystander in one’s own fate.
Don’t let any system define you, narrow, then appropriate, your innate and essential self towards exploitive agendas, as does the present societal set-up, for the incommensurate profits of a self-serving few — who, in turn, insist that your objections to the situation are unreasonable, outrageous, untoward — too crazy to be uttered in decent company.
In short, a system in which its operatives demand that you stay in your place and not question the motives and actions of your betters.
In contrast, a radical sensibility insists you must inhabit an inner landscape wherein no state, corporation — nor any type of extant system holds dominion over your essential self — that you inhabit a landscape that is best navigated by your own interior lode star.
Therefore, you have no obligation to justify your existence to any man or system. To even attempt to do so would deliver an injustice to your heart, for this is a state of being as impossible to quantify as a flight of imagination — yet it exists within as immanent as the architecture of desire.
“The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what would you say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it?” –Foucault
Who will you meet, where will you travel, what battles will be enjoined and what loves surrendered to as you write the Book of Your Being? What thoughts and feelings will be discovered therein?
Will the words you etch upon the finite moments of your time on this earth evoke deep yearning, like Wordsworth’s limning of his longing to see beyond the prison walls of quotidian experience?
<…>I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
excerpt, The World Is Too Much with Us–William Wordsworth
Or will you refuse to rise, when commanded to do so, as did Rosa Parks on her fateful bus commute through the Jim Crow-demeaned streets of 1950s Montgomery, Alabama; or will you be seized by holy lamentation, like Allen Ginsberg, as he howled anguished prosody into the pity-devoid face of the devouring Moloch of the commodified empire; or will your genius be revealed like the impertinent flutter of Groucho Marx’s eyebrows on the screen of Depression-era movie houses; or will you reclaim your own heart by the act of telling off some son-of-a-bitch of a boss, as you quit a dead-end, heart-deadening job and then resolve to join the defiant multitudes at an OWS encampment?
Mainly, are you prepared to surrender to the everyday miracle that transpires when one, fleetingly, finds the resolve to open one’s being to the uncertainties of freedom — when one chooses to break the hold of those fear-bestowing, resentment-besotted demons of banality known as Easy Cynicism, Displaced Resentment, and Habitual Passivity — those disingenuous, corporate/consumer state bards of the Bardo — whose (extant and internalized) narratives have sustained late capitalism.
“Cynicism is just another mode of conformity”. –Theodor W. Adorno
Don’t delay: Act as if your life — if not the survival of the planet — depends on it, because, at this point, it does.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Phil’s website: http://philrockstroh.com / or at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Punching a Hole in Bubbles of Denial and Addiction: Late Capitalism and Its Discontents of the American Autumn
October 13, 2011
Editor's note: In America, bubbles come in two forms: how Wall Street insiders suck in a sucker’s money before the speculative bubble pops and how those same scam artists stay inside a protective bubble to spare themselves from the fallout. In this autumn of national discontent, Phil Rockstroh sees hope for real change.
By Phil Rockstroh
The global designs of the neo-liberal agenda have met the living architecture of a larger order — a portion of which has taken the form of a still coalescing, yet potent, countervailing consciousness, a global-wide Liberty Plaza of the mind — an order that is not informed by corporate-era public relations legerdemain, hyper-adrenaline media sound bites, right-wing emotional displacements, or “sensible” centrist platitudes — but the type of order that begins to jell when the structures of an existing system lose touch with the realities of daily life.
A ground-level, global-wide movement is afoot and has announced to the economic, media and political elite that they are on to their schemes. Accordingly, the plundering class and their protectors will no longer be afforded the luxury of insulating themselves (almost absent confrontation) within bubbles of privilege, bubbles of denial, bubbles of insularity.
Late capitalism has proven to be wholly reliant upon, in fact, addicted to, the creation of bubbles: market and media bubbles, respectively, serving to create inflated wealth and the manufacturing of closed narratives that shield the privileged players within from being held accountable for the consequences of their schemes.
The system is analogous to a rigged game in a tawdry, traveling carnival. The carnival barker’s success hinges on whether or not his audience is seduced by his unctuous pitch, in this case being the dubious claim that, under late capitalism, illusionary economic success is attainable by pluck and perseverance. (“Step right up, folks, all can play”– but the house will win.)
Of course, the game has been rigged from the get-go, has been designed to fleece credulous rubes who have never glimpsed the larger world, and, when any prize at all is won, it is a piece of cheap, disposable consumer junk.
As autumn stands before us, it will be helpful to allow illusions to fall away like dying leaves. Summer is kind to fools, but winter insists on clarity. Let the old delusions blaze out in autumnal splendor, and then be mindful of winter’s stark perfection … its demarcations … rendering bare branches against a bleak sky.
Know this: The illusions of the corporate empire can no longer provide shelter; the elite and operatives of economic imperium can no longer raid and plunder the easy pickings of summer … hoard and squander its bounty. Therefore, to quote the poet, at present, “One must have a mind of winter” to navigate the white-out winds of new realities.
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind <…>
– Wallace Stevens, excerpt from The Snow Man
Yet, with the rise of that wing of the privileged class known as the corporate media, we receive the opposite; instead, we are enveloped within a hothouse bloom of hype, surface-level, adrenaline-activating content bearing misleadingly narrowed context.
On Jan. 17, 1991, at the start of the U.S.’s formal military hostilities against Iraq in the first Gulf War, the “folk rapper”/performance poet Chris Chandler and I were in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. Chris pounded and thrashed at his battered guitar and recited talking blues protest ditties that we composed on the spot.
We were among a crowd of well over a couple of thousand demonstrators, plus scores of homeless people shared the surroundings as well. Shortly after the bombing of Iraq began, many in the park joined in an impromptu march around the metro D.C. area where thousands more protesters joined our ranks.
As we wended our way back to Pennsylvania Avenue, we were met, a block from the White House, by a phalanx of police, i.e., full riot gear-clad storm troopers and mounted sons-of-bitches on horseback who charged the crowd.
The following is a close approximation of the account of the events as reported in the next day’s Washington Post:
“A few dozen ragged protesters hobbled up Pennsylvania Ave. throwing rocks and taunting the police…”
Bearing that in mind, here is the opening graph of the account of the events on the Brooklyn Bridge, where on Sunday, Oct 2, 2011, demonstrators were herded, “kettled” and arrested by police:
“NEW YORK (AP) — More than 700 protesters demonstrating against corporate greed, global warming and social inequality, among other grievances, were arrested Saturday after they swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down a lane of traffic for several hours in a tense confrontation with police.”
Buyer beware: If the corporate press reports a breaking story with any degree of accuracy, the act is to be viewed as a fluke and certainly not as an act of honest intention by the reporters, producers and editors involved.
On a personal basis, I have yet to be part of an unfolding news story in which the version of events created by these courtesans to power do not seem simply cut out of whole cloth, as they truckled to create an inoffensive narrative for the ruling elite.
“Now, from America, empty indifferent things are pouring across, sham things, dummy life. … A house, in the American sense, an American apple or a grapevine over there, has nothing in common with the house, the fruit, the grape into which went the hopes and reflections of our forefathers. … Live things, things that are alive — that are conscious of us — are running out and can no longer be replaced. We are perhaps the last to have known such things.”–Rainer Maria Rilke
Living in New York City, as I do, brings into stark relief the fact that the city operates as a de facto banana republic/police state. In the same manner that the mission of the police force is to protect the power and privilege of the moneyed classes, mainstream journalists work within the boundaries of its acceptable narratives for the purpose of job security and a bit of privilege.
The general population, buffeted by economic insecurity, at least, up to this point, has remained docile, and, to mitigate the anxiety and depression caused by feelings of powerlessness, many have become addicted to the small perks and bribes and endless distractions of the corporate/consumer state.
Furthermore, these bubble-enclosed states of being constitute addiction in a literal sense: Ergo, the compulsive mechanisms of addictive behavior are an attempt to ease an individual’s abiding sense of powerlessness and the attendant feelings of anxiety and despair experienced in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances and to quell troubling, obsessive thoughts and feelings of acute emotional discomfort by an habitual reliance on mood-altering substances such as alcohol, food, gambling, work, hoarding, lust for power, wealth and privilege.
Addictive actions arise from the drive of libido, but its energy is usurped and exploited by the relentless will of a rigid, turned-in-on-itself ego. … “Self will run riot,” as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous poetically puts it.
Addiction is a pathology of the mechanistic mind; an addict’s disregard for his own body and his exploitative attitude towards the world at large is a microcosmic version of the economic designs of the global economic elite. Apropos, the world is mine to abuse, not to engage … to exploit from within a protective bubble of privilege and entitlement, not to be enjoined with in common communion.
The demands of the addicted mind are analogous to that of a bratty child, a high-chair tyrant, “his majesty the baby,” who is convinced that his wants are the end all be all of all things. Therefore, a childish addict must grow up and ask himself this question: How do I transform my obsessive wants into the rage of my dharma, my un-reflective compulsions into the steady work of my soul?
In our time, when nearly all the apparatus of the corporate/consumer state exist and are maintained by the demeaning, soul-defying dynamics of addiction, as an act of defiance, one should attempt to get drunk on clarity — which is a different matter than a priggish, “dry drunk’s” hyper-moralistic refusal of excess, for the primary option does not constitute a puritanical refusal of the world — but, instead, is an embrace of the sacred quality of life, a respect for the finite quality of our fleeting passage through this life.
The voice of addiction (both internal and extant in the consumer state) will say anything and will go to craven lengths to continue on. Withal, its narrative will insist its path is the only passage possible … that its doomed trajectory must be maintained.
And when its flimsy, desperate arrangements do collapse, it will insist that it must be propped back up so it can topple once again (or as this destructive act of enabling was called, a few years back, “The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008″ .
Let the stock market hit bottom and allow “consumer confidence” to plummet … allow the psyches’ of consumers, addicted to distraction, to spiral into the abyss. Because, in so doing, one may be compelled to find and grasp onto one’s essential self, as the persona of one’s false self, addicted to the present order, disappears into the void.
To truly embrace the possibility of change, it is essential to allow putrefied habits to compost into the rich loam that will nourish reborn understandings. Apropos:
I felt a Funeral in my Brain
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading — treading-till it
seemed That Sense was breaking through”
–Emily Dickinson, opening stanza from, “I Felt A Funeral In My Brain”
Yes, this is a grievous event … a time of tears, confusion and lamentation. Yet:
Let the young tears come
Let the calm hand of grief come
It is not as evil as you think.
–Rolf Jacobsen, excerpt from “Sunflower”
Within the present societal structure of the corporate state, “learned helplessness” is encouraged (as opposed to embracing reflective sorrow and deploying focused rage). Because it sustains itself by exploiting an individual’s instinctual drives and human longings, the present order of late capitalism is depended upon allowing an individual to possess just enough libido to vampirize — but not to retain enough élan vital to be roused to rebellion against the corporate state’s relentless practices of economic coercion.
“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy” –Ivan Illich
I have noticed that often what is (unconsciously) beneath paranoia is envy. Envy … that others are taking up one’s space in the world and are plotting to maintain the arrangement. Solution: Punch a hole in bubbles of denial and addiction and take a look for yourself. Insist on your portion of life — your portion of fate.
Many situations in this life are rigged. e.g., the gamed system of the corporate state. But life itself is too vast, too intricate to be rigged; it is truly too big to fail. Now: To the streets, glistening with renewing rain … to the flaming barricades … its flames caress the future. Come out of self-exile; you are the change you can believe in.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com Visit Phil’s website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Editor's Note: For several decades, America’s political/media elites have song the siren song of a post-industrial economy based on “free trade” and “financial innovations” – while silencing dissent that questioned this new-age group think. Now, the results are in, as Phil Rockstroh encountered in the cities of Pittsburgh, Birmingham and New Orleans.
A Labor Day Tale Of Three Cities: Pittsburgh, Birmingham and New Orleans
by Phil Rockstroh
As Hurricane Irene made her way up the Eastern Seaboard, my wife and I packed a few changes of clothes and trundled westward out of her path to spend the storm's duration in Pittsburgh, PA.
The excursion did us some good, in particular, leaving insular Manhattan, and facing the faded, crumbling Industrial Age grandeur of Pittsburgh. Walking, once again, among the plaintive rasps of the ghosts of the devastated laboring class (the social setting of our youth) provided us with a humanizing contrast to our present day circumstances stranded amid the manic chattering of the preening demons of banal self-regard possessing Manhattan careerists.
Nowadays, the island of Manhattan is tediously bright and shiny -- a sterile, oligarchic controlled dystopia. Accordingly, any sign of redemptive decay and hint of shabby ass human glory has been banished by official caveat and collective collusion.
In contrast, while in Pittsburgh, because I was born in a steel and coal town, Birmingham, Alabama, I shuffled among familiar shades. Deep in my being, I know the social setup -- once manifested in forged steel, living flesh and human longing -- now lost to the ravages of time (more accurately, the consequences of neo-liberal economic doctrine).
In Birmingham, under the statue of the Roman god of the forge, Vulcan, his mortared gaze lording over the city from atop Red Mountain, I witnessed men, hardened by years of grinding labor and demagogic political manipulation, sacrifice their bodies to (Pittsburgh plutocrat-owned) mines, foundries and smelting plants for subsistence pay.
In childhood, when I watched local men labor in the city's metal foundries, their sweat-lacquered faces, reflecting the fiery glow of smelted steel, seemed to glisten with rage, as angry blue sparks showered the heat-seared air around them.
These were hard-drinking, short-tempered men who were calloused of hand and possessed of humiliation-hardened hearts…rendered so, by a life of the strenuous labor, mandated by an exploitive economic system that bequeathed to them little but a hard scrabble existence--and the promise of a future bearing more of the same.
Little wonder, they swore into the soot-choked air, brawled among themselves, and clutched (self-defeating but politically useful to the ruling elite) racial animus, as their vitality was harnessed to build the structure and infrastructure of the industrial state and increase the wealth, privilege and political power of steel and coal plutocrats up in Pittsburgh (the absentee owners of the area's coal and iron mines, smelts, and processing plants) -- but, in so doing, we locals further diminished the steerage of the course of our lives.
I learned early the girding lie that sustains the oligarchic state i.e., the illusory promise: Work hard and you will set yourself free. In fact, as was the rigged economic setup of the Birmingham of my youth, the harder one works within the inverted totalitarian structure of the corporate state, the more one increases the wealth, hence the political power of the ruling elite…by enabling the parasitic class to consolidate yet more power. Therefore, by working harder and longer for their benefit, one further diminishes one's control over the trajectory of one's fate.
(Caveat: This is not to be confused with hard work and diligent effort -- a million acts of responsibility create freedom. The distinction being…be aware of who benefits from your efforts and mindfully choose where to apply your labors.)
At present, in cities such as Birmingham and Pittsburgh, the structures, built in the mechanized fury of the Industrial Age, stand idle…decaying around legions of the unemployed and the woefully underpaid and under-compensated. In the oxidized scream of rust, one can almost hear the wails of rage of those souls who surrendered their life force to erect and work the now abandoned factories, mills and foundries of the nation.
Outsourcing, downsizing, work speed-ups, i.e., the most recent mechanisms of capitalism's death cult of dehumanizing efficiency goes all but unchallenged in the official narrative of the corporate state. By means of intimidation and the proffering of small bribes, the work force is induced to transmute their body's vitality and soul's pothos into the profits of an advantaged, ruthless few. In this way, one's pothos (Greek: yearning plus libido) is rendered into the convenient pathos (alienation, paranoia, displaced rage, consumer addiction) of the corporate age.
Why do so many in the U.S. accept this pernicious, self-defeating setup? Perhaps, because they have been convinced by constant saturation by the commercial propaganda of the consumer state that capitalism will bestow to those who abide by its (rigged) rules and (gamed) economic arrangements everything one could possibly need and desire.
Accordingly, all an individual needs to know and experience is at his impulsive, electronic mass media-happy fingertips. He can click from virtual reality enactments of explicit porn to obscene interpretations of Christian prophecy (e.g., the present field of Republican presidential hopefuls) thus, in an instant, transmigrating from fake sin to phony salvation ... What more, in the whole of boundless creation, could one possibly want?
Yet, where does a veritable (as opposed to virtual) sense of place exist in social and economic arrangements such as these?
The present era of weightless perception serves to obscure the crushing consequences of the short-sighted cupidity of both the economic elite and underclasses alike. Reflecting this, wealth now exists as constellations of electrons; money is no longer the vaulted riches of miserly plutocrats nor payday cash of the laboring class burning in the pockets of worn work clothes.
Currency exists in precincts of pixels--a fever dream of appliances--the effluvia of the schemes of the elitist illusionists of high finance whose machinations have wrought an age of electronic razzle-dazzle and devastating real world consequences…whereby the solid architecture and durable accoutrement of the Machine Age, manifested as the sturdy structures of Industrial Era cities, such as Pittsburgh and Birmingham, has been transmuted into the manic, evanescent imagery of the mass media hologram.
In the years since Katrina, I've been known to rage at the indifferent sky, why the Hell (or, at least, its earthly exurb -- Houston) did nature's impersonal fury have to descend on New Orleans, about the last outposts within this corporate simulacrum of a country where an individual pulse and collective heart beat could be found -- where the primordial songs of bone, heart and flesh -- of the arias rising from steam-caressed sidewalks and the riffing currents of rivers -- have not been forced into the Clear Channel/Disney/Time-Warner überculture blandification machine?
In order for the U.S. -- a nation whose populace possesses the collective capacity for cognitive depth and emotional resonance of a Louisiana gnat flurry in high summer -- to rise from its destructive swoon of insularity-engendered anomie, the embrace of a view of the world imbued by anima mundi, embodied in the living architecture of a city like New Orleans, is essential.
In New Orleans, interred corpses will not remain buried in the earth…the water sodden ground causes the dead to rise to the surface. Axiomatically, we must not deep-six our grief and rage. In the name of Katrina's dead and walking wounded, we must not allow the casuistry-shattering verities of the human heart to be buried and forgotten nor allow mass media schlock to drown out the lamentations of the city's restless dead from memory.
To honor her dead, displaced and deeply scarred, we must remember the mortifying sights and heart-shaking sounds of both the natural disaster that was Katrina and the official shit storm of human negligence, flat-out deceit and malevolence that rendered the Crescent City a corpse-choked drowning pool. Instead, we must gaze down into the dark water of memory, remembering the water-deluged streets of the city…awash with bloated bodies, raw sewage, industrial sludge and the floating debris and submerge detritus of peoples' lives.
Yet, to properly mourn what was lost to the storm (in the tradition of the city itself) one must allow one's grieving heart to be seduced by the soul of the world. Personally, as is the case with many who knew the city, pre-Katrina -- beautiful, disloyal, capricious creature she was (and remains) — I retain a lover's ardor for her.
For: Being enveloped by the redolence of orange blossom and jasmine, held on her humid, late afternoon air, as I sat, swigging a Turbo Dog, on the banks of the Mississippi, as evening tilted over the Lower Ninth. For: The exquisite indifference of starlight above the Bywater, and the manner those distant, celestial bodies would stand in stark contrast to the redemptive immediacy of the sweat-soaked bodies near me, as we would lie on our backs, upon the sidewalk, watching steam (borne of the mass of humanity within) rise from the roof of Vaughan's Lounge…listening, as inside, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers wailed into the early morning hours.
I suspect my years in New Orleans saved/cursed me from being agenda-prone. I’m not of the reductionist school. I’m drawn to swamps…not so much the muck — but the mindfulness needed to negotiate the terrain. Of course, swamps will bog one down; yet, I’m drawn to the cacophony and filtered light, to its minute gradations of green upon green … One is forced to slow down in order to take in the revealed beauty and hidden dangers therein.
Moreover, the swamp exists for its own sake and feels no obligation to explain its mystery. It can be known, but its mystery is just that … ever growing, always dying.
One must not, and this is a habitual misstep of the contemporary left, approach politics, personality and place as a strictly intellectual exercise -- as a thought experiment that will yield to logic. If the swamp of the human psyche were that simple to negotiate, then life would be a dry, blood-bereft trudge indeed.
And yet, how the world wounds us; at times, delivering an aching sorrow that one will always carry. But rejoice in your wounded condition…for the open wound harbors a mouth to kiss…a womb from which to be perennially reborn. As Octavio Paz testifies, “Love is a wound, an injury…Yes, love is a flower of blood.”
As far as the struggle to be included in the present political narrative, we, on the left, remain marginalized to the point of near invisibility. But don't lose heart: The problem is the solution. Apropos, empire carries the seeds of its own demise. Therefore, in the shadow of the house of cards economy, now tottering over the ruins and detritus of the nation's shuttered factories, foreclosed upon farms, and abandoned mills, one should go about the business of working on what will replace the hollow and decayed system when it collapses from within.
Accordingly, Rainer Maria Rilke averred (paraphrasing) everyone has a letter written within and if you refuse the life your heart wants to live, you don’t get to read this letter before you die. An individual must risk the world, with all its attendant woundings, or he risks having a dead letter office piling up lost correspondence from his neglected heart.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at:
. Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Life in an Age of Looting: "Some Will Rob You with a Sixgun and Some with a Fountain Pen"
August 12, 2011
Editor's note: The ugly scenes of rioting and arson in Great Britain are a preview of the societal breakdown that can be expected from today’s staggeringly inequitable economic/political system, where stock-market sharpies get away with plundering pension funds but the poor get nailed for looting consumer goods, observes Phil Rockstroh.
By Phil Rockstroh
As the poor of Britain rise in a fury of inchoate rage – and as stock exchanges worldwide experience manic upswings and panicked swoons – the financial elite (and their political operatives) are arrayed in a defensive posture, even as they continue their global-wide, full-spectrum offensive vis-à-vis The Shock Doctrine.
Concurrently, corporate mass media types fret over the reversal of fortune and trumpet the triumphs of the self-serving agendas of Wall Street and corporate swindlers … even as they term a feller, in ill-gotten possession of a flat-screen television, fleeing through the streets of North London, a mindless thug.
According to the through-the-looking-glass cosmology of mass media elitists, when a poor person commits a crime of opportunity, his actions are a threat to all we hold dear and sacred, but, when the hyper-wealthy of the entrenched looter class abscond with billions, those criminals are referred to as our financial leaders.
Regardless of the propaganda of “free market” fantasists, the great unspeakable in regard to capitalism is its wealth, by and large, is generated for a ruthless, privileged few by the creation of bubbles.
When those bubbles burst, the resultant economic catastrophe inflicts a vastly disproportionate amount of harm upon those — the laboring and middle classes — who generate grossly inequitable amounts of capital for the elitist of the fraudster class … by having the life force drained from them by the vampiric set-up of the gamed system.
Woody Guthrie summed up the situation in these two (unfortunately) ageless stanzas:
“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a sixgun,
And some with a fountain pen.
“And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.”
–excerpt from “Pretty Boy Floyd.”
Although, at present, U.S. bank vaults contain little tangible loot for a Pretty Boy Floyd-type outlaw to boost. How would it be possible for an old-school bank robber such as Floyd to make-off with a haul of funneling electrons?
Here’s the lowdown: The Wall Street fraudsters of the swindler class want to refill their coffers and line their pockets (that is, offshore accounts) with Social Security and Medicare funds. That’s the nature of the unfolding scam, folks. Oligarchic rule has always been a system defined by legalized looting that leaves a wasteland of want, deprivation and unfocused rage in its wake.
Consequently, in the U.K. (and beyond): When poor people’s hopes dry up, cities become a tinderbox of dead dreams, and we should not be stricken with shock and consternation when these degraded places are set aflame, nor should we be surprised when the bribed, debt-beholden and commercial media propaganda-bamboozled middle-class (who helped create the wasteland with their arid complicity) cry out (predictably) for police-state tactics to quell the fiery insurrection.
There have been incidents in which a fire has smoldered for years in an abandoned, sealed-off mineshaft, and then the fire, traveling through the tunnels of the mine, and up the roots of dead, dried trees have caused a dying forest to bloom into flames.
The rage that sparks a riot can proceed in a similar manner — and the insular, sealed-off nature of a nation’s elite and the willful ignorance of its middle-class will only make the explosion of pent-up rage more powerful when it reaches the surface.
We exist in a culture that, day after day, inundates its have-nots with consumerist propaganda, and then, when the social order breaks down, its wealthy and bourgeoisie alike express outrage when the poor steal consumer goods — as opposed to going out and looting an education and a good job.
Under Disaster Capitalism, the people in the underclass have had economic violence inflicted upon them since birth, yet the corporate-state mass media doesn’t seem to notice the situation, until young men burn down the night. Then media elitists wax indignant, carrying on as if these desperate acts are devoid of cultural context.
A mindset has been instilled in these young men and boys that they are nothing sans the accoutrements of consumerism. Yet when they loot an i-Phone, as opposed to creating economy-shredding derivative scams, we’re prompted by the corporate media to become indignant.
When the slow-motion, elitist-manipulated mob action known as our faux democratic/consumerist culture deprives people of their basic human rights and personal dignity — then, in turn, we should not be shocked when a mob of the underclass fails to bestow those virtues upon others.
The commercial mass media’s narrative of narrowed context (emotional, anecdotal and unreflective in nature) serves as a form of corporate state propaganda, promulgated to ensure the general population continues to rage against the symptoms rather than the disease of neoliberalism.
The false framing of opposing opinions — of those who state the deprivations of neoliberalism factor into the causes of uprisings, insurrections and riots as being apologists for violence and destruction – is as preposterous as claiming one is an apologist for dry rot when he points out structural damage to a house due to a leaking roof.
Because of the elements of inverted totalitarianism, inherent within the structure of corporate state capitalism, and internalized within the general population by constant, commercial media re-enforcement, one should not be surprised when a sizable portion of the general populace is inclined to support police-state tactics to quell social unrest among the disadvantaged of the population.
Keep in mind: When watching the BBC or the corporate media, one is receiving a limited narrative (tacitly) approved by the global power elite, created by informal arrangements among a careerist cartel comprised of business, governmental and media personality types who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, even if, in doing so, they serve as operatives of a burgeoning police state.
Accordingly, you can’t debate fascist thinking with reason nor empathetic imagination, e.g., the self-righteous (and self-serving) pronouncements of mass media representatives nor the attendant outrage of the denizens of the corporate state in their audience — their umbrage engineered by the emotionally laden images with which they have been relentlessly pummeled and plied — because their responses will be borne of (conveniently) lazy generalizations, given impetus by fear-based animus.
Through it all, veiled by disorienting media distractions and political legerdemain, we find ourselves buffeted and bound by the predicament of paradigm lost … that constitutes the onset of the unraveling of the present order.
“The kings of the world are growing old,
and they shall have no inheritors.
Their sons died while they were boys,
and their neurasthenic daughters abandoned
the sick crown to the mob.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke, excerpt from “The Kings of the World”
Yet, while there is proliferate evidence that, even as people worldwide are rising up against inequity and exploitation, the economic elite have little inclination to do so much as glimpse the plight of those from whose life blood their immense riches have been wrung, nor hear the admonition of the downtrodden … that they are weary of life on their knees and are awakening to the reality that the con of freedom of choice under corporate state oligarchy is, in fact, a life shackled to the consumerism-addicted/debt-indentured-servitude that comprises the structure of the neoliberal, global company store.
“The rotten masks that divide one man
From another, one man from himself
For one enormous moment and we glimpse
The unity that we lost, the desolation
…Of being man, and all its glories
Sharing bread and sun and death
The forgotten astonishment of being alive”
–Octavio Paz, excerpt from “Sunstone”
Accordingly, the most profound act of selfless devotion (commonly called love) in relationship to a society gripped by a sociopathic mode of being is creative resistance. Submission is madness. Sanity entails subversion. The heart insists on it; otherwise, life is only a slog to the graveyard; mouth, full of ashes; heart, a receptacle for dust.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Phil’s website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Beyond the Debt Limit Fiasco: "We Would Rather Die in Our Dread"
Editor's note: The dispiriting battle over the debt ceiling has set many to wondering how America’s profoundly dysfunctional political/media system can and must be overhauled to serve the interests of the broad population, not just the privileged elites and their deluded defenders. Poet Phil Rockstroh addresses that dilemma.
By Phil Rockstroh
At present, most of us negotiate our days so distracted, disillusioned, dazed, buffeted, bought or marginalized by the corporate state/ mass media hologram -- the multi-headed, awareness-addling Hydra that guards contemporary precincts of perception (apropos, the "debate" involving the so-called debt ceiling "crisis") -- it is difficult to apprehend what we are up against i.e., the forces of consolidated and calcified power that degrade almost every aspect of life in the nation.
In contrast, throughout this past year, popular uprisings of varying scope and degree of success have been unfolding worldwide. And the genie is not going back in the neoliberal bottle. The global power elite might not like it, but (unlike the general population of the U.S., whose view of life has been conditioned by the inundating, thus internalized, narcissism proffered by media age hyper-commercialism, and who have come to exist as self-involved consumer state dystopias of one) -- large numbers of the people of the world are declaring to their overlords: We've had enough of the world you've created...time to make it our own.
With this in mind, let us take a moment to pity our own poor, little, economic despots…from the start, so misunderstood…they only built the U.S. on the bones of African slaves and watered the soil with the blood of murdered Indians, and, from that time on, proceeded to pile corpses to the sky, only so they could climb atop and look out for us lesser folks.
And from the soil rose a culture of kitsch, unhealthy food, and creepy, over-priced banal distractions. Consequently, the U.S. seems an over-priced, downscale theme Park -- Six Flags over Denial and Decay -- a grotesque, kitsch-bewitched land of negative enchantment…unprepared for the gathering, denial-sundering storm that, from all indications, will leave the nation devastated.
What are the forces and factors that have wrought this circumstance?
One progenitor of the defiant idiocy of the general population of the U.S. can be traced to the tendency of the consumer state to induce impulsivity rather than reflection i.e., rendering individuals self-involved, infantilized monsters of the id…dazzled by and perpetually reaching for the next bright and shiny.
Antithetically, if a critical mass of the populace of the nation ever gained a semblance of self-awareness that included traits of foresight, critical thinking, empathy, self-restraint and a sense of conviction regarding, for example, the dire state of the planet on an ecological basis, as well as an apprehension as to their position as wage slaves/debt serfs to their corporate overlords -- the corporate/consumer paradigm would be in danger of collapse.
While it is true, government is often behind assaults on common sense and common decency, the slickest, most self-serving ploy monopolistic capitalist pulled off against the tenets and foundation of a just, equitable society has been in their cunning framing of the situation e.g., the sales pitch of one of their most effective salesman, that "government is the problem, not the solution."
Ronald Reagan was half right; only, he, conveniently, left out the following: In particular, when the politicians who operate the system are beholden, as he was (and, at present, Barack Obama is) by game-rigging operatives of the moneyed elite.
Ergo, the so-called "debt crisis" involved a similar dance of deceit and distraction. As was the case, early into the Obama presidency, with the healthcare "debate," the deal was struck before the faux rancorous music began. The fix was in. The moneyed class works the system and those without power and influence get worked over.
Regarding the persistent, liberal fallacy: Obama needs to stand up for his convictions. Correction: Throughout his presidency, he has been standing upon his convictions i.e. standing on the throats of the powerless as we're being mugged by his elitist benefactors.
Moreover, how does he or anyone "change the tone" of political polarization so evident in the nation, when the right is a walking landfill of noxious arrogance and inexplicable self-regard? If contemporary conservatives showed any indication of harboring even a molecule of humanity or self-awareness then a dialog might be possible.
But we're dealing with grownups who believe God is some kind of cosmic CEO -- folks who are certain…if one listens closely, one can hear him counting his money.
Therefore, we're warned: not voting for Democratic Party (lesser-of-two-evils) candidates is a treacherous decision, and we're advised we must goad President Obama to govern as the man he sold himself as during the 2008 presidential election campaign. Given the realities of political life within the age of corporate dominance, in which reality is defined and distorted by the media hologram, hasn't the thought occurred to progressive types that the sales pitch is, in fact, inseparable from the product, and, consequently, to the most media-savvy mountebank will go the spoils?
O.K. then, you've been betrayed. Good. Such a turn of affairs serves as a good vehicle for clearing away toxic innocence.
"We would rather be ruined than changed;
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb across the moment
And let our illusions die."--W.H. Auden
(Excerpt from: The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue)
Next step: Let the Democratic Party die and allow a true progressive party to rise from the ashes.
Although, first, the hidden in plain sight, inverted totalitarian powers at large need to be drawn into the open e.g., as Dr. King did in regard to Jim Crowe in the U.S. Deep South in the 1950s and 60s.
There is so much more at stake than simply a "debate" regarding the alleged debt ceiling.
To cite one collective peril: The oceans of the earth are the matrix of life on our planet. As did all life on land, we human beings emerged from ancient seas. And we will not survive for long by dramatically altering its nature by the short sighted greed and hubris of the present time. We will be pulled to our death by its destruction, like Ahab lashed to Moby Dick.
Given the degraded quality of life in the nation, why do the people of the U.S. stand for this culture of exploitation and diminished prospects?
We resist the dread incurred by an attempt to climb our way past the proliferate distractions of the moment thus avoiding this extant state of affairs: Beneath the shimmering sea of the media hologram, a monstrous virulence glides. Belying our consumerist habit of mind (evinced in traits of feigned insouciance and blithe disregard) yawns a system sustained by the blood and treasure-depleting apparatus of militarism and economic exploitation -- a system that is reaping vast destruction upon the ecological balance of the earth, the foundation of community, and upon individual psychological wellbeing.
Accordingly, a gnawing emptiness is the constant companion of the denizens of the corporate/militarist/consumer state. This emptiness is the progenitor of its destructive nature. In a vain attempt to sate the hollow ache and banish the gathering dread, the rapacious appetite of empire rises and is perpetually reinforced.
There is the banality of evil and then there is the evil of banality. Witness: The present banality of our ecocide-inflicting mode of being -- one that reduces the world to only those things that can be commodified and thus reduces earth, sky and psyche to controllable (dreamless and dead) bits. We stare at our appliances as exquisite things are extinguished, forever...mistaking configurations of pixels for the breath and brilliance of the world.
On a personal basis, the present system levels this dismal legacy upon the nation: Minds made of internalized shopping malls; bodies built by junk food; libidos informed by celebrity porn; agendas driven by a crass, good versus evil, winners and losers, cartoon cosmology. Congratulations, America, we've done the architects of the republic proud.
Some people are fragile, and the system breaks them for life. In contrast, others are resilient, but will grow callous and conformist. Yes, life is a fistfight and a marriage and a dull evening of laundry and a trundle through trivia and a flight of the sublime. The point: Be alive within life…don't submit to any ass-backwards, assembly line-modeled mode of being, gridded by comforting casuistry, maintained by hierarchies of bullies, and settled for due to fear or convenience.
"When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie." --Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Insulated in our landscape of silence, we demand the ground beneath us be salted with deceit, begetting the bone-dry wilderness of ignorance and duplicity we know as late, neoliberal empire. Otherwise, fiery incantations of outrage would bloom from within us -- a combustive wildfire immolating to ash our tinderbox rationalizations…perhaps, leaving an ash-fall to nourish sleeping seeds of renewal.
"What is to endure light must endure burning." -- Victor Frankl
Yet, this writer is bereft of a plan to redeem humankind. Who can afford such hubris? In contrast, I negotiate the world with my heart and head, and I sing of its joys and sorrows. Apropos, within the kingdom of this breathing moment, I hear arias rising...auguring the decay of this nation. In short, I am a poet and an essayist not a civic planner.
Accordingly, here are a few heart-wrought observations from the personal ash heap of my poetically archaic sensibility and sent out to the fear-bandying cynics of the elitist political and economic classes -- to those who reduce all of life to the economic sophistry of Disaster Capitalism (who have been disingenuously warning, "run for your lives; the debt-ceiling is falling") -- who just can't envisage a world that is not as degraded as their own mindset -- to those in positions of insular, arrogant power who inflict great harm upon those bereft of privilege and then proclaim, "this is just the way things have to be."
False, that is merely the way things exist in the confines of your miserable cosmology. To the contrary, the world is a vast, ever-changing tapestry...that you merely perceive as a dung rag for your exclusive use.
"The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results." - Carl Jung
We have a daunting struggle ahead of us. Therefore, I proffer the following short message to those purer-than-thou souls who counsel that art (including the arts of political resistance) should only be uplifting, moderate, and beautiful:
Art (reflecting our world) is often sublimely ugly, monstrously so. The image of a monster opens the soul to awe. Note: The word "awe" is the prefix for both awesome and awful). Often, creating ugliness carries as much purpose as creating beauty.
Everything has been figured out, except how to live.
Sartre's words notwithstanding, I am often asked by readers "practical" questions such as: "You view the empire to be in a state of profound decay, beyond repair and reclamation -- then how should we proceed from here?"
I answer, appropriating a phrase from James Hillman: simply proceed into "the thought of the heart and the soul of the world." The problem contains the solution. The poison serves as its anecdote. The vastness and complexity of life that (seemingly) endeavors to destroy me (in contrast) renders me more like myself, and therefore I become more fit for the struggle ahead.
Accordingly, Rainer Maria Rilke, from the opening stanza of the Duino Elegies:
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic
Orders? And even if one were to suddenly
take me to its heart, I would vanish into its
greater existence. For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it serenely disdains
to destroy us.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com Visit Phil’s website http://philrockstroh.com /And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100 …
"The Arts of Life They Changed Into the Arts of Death"
Bachmann, Palin, Robertson and the Limits of Logic
By PHIL ROCKSTROH
As of late, Pat Robertson has been waxing apocalyptic regarding mankind's imminent reckoning with wrathful divinity, while liberals have been sharing scary bedtime stories by the ghostly light of computer screens…telling sleep-banishing tales of Michele ("Crazy Eyes") Bachmann, now stalking primary states, assailing common sense and chewing the scenery of sanity during appearances on the twenty-four/seven Creature Feature Theatre, otherwise known as, Cable News programming.
Granted, the sense of unease displayed by right wing, fundamentalist Christians regarding the state of the nation is understandable; although, their attribution as to the origin and cause of the destructive drift of U.S. culture is so far off the mark they would fail to get wet if they fell into a baptismal pool the size of Lake Michigan.
Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson et al, these late empire zealots of shopping mall, militarism, and heterosexual hegemony, harbor a comic, yet mortifying vision of the conditions they believe would bring rebirth and renewal to the nation. Believing, it seems, all that is good and decent can be salvaged, if only the U.S. would be transformed into an earthly analog of their fantasy of an immaculately scrubbed and deodorized, caucasoid heaven (which, of course, to all others, seems a nightmare world where W.A.S.P. faces are permanently affixed on the whole of multi-visaged humanity -- a death mask made of white bread) -- a creepy, blood-bereft, restricted country club Hyperborea, sustained by holy militarism, where well-turned out, obedient children of the lord await the Second Coming -- a cartoon universe deus ex machina -- vis-á-vis the arrival of their version of Jesus Christ -- who seems to resemble a cross between a muscle-blessed, Hollywood super hero and an eternally vigilant, sin-scouring Tidy Bowl Man.
Invoking an impassioned narrative of blood, thunder and descending, supernatural balm, fundamentalism is an attempt, albeit desperate and misguided, to mitigate the uncertainty and angst incurred by the poetry-decimating literalism of the industrial/consumer age.
This system of belief, internalized in the psyches of the populace of the U.S., falls into the Calvinist/Puritan tradition and therefore carries a nostalgic longing for the imagined innocence of lost paradise, regards imperfection as sin and the imagination as suspect, and believes that a vengeful, omniscient God banished humanity from paradise because of our serpent-gifted lust for life and longing for knowledge.
These lost souls of wanting credulity and noxious certitude believe their shame is their ticket back to paradise…If only they could just hate themselves (and the world enough) -- then they will be made perfect in the perfect love of The Lord. They are, of course, insane.
Accordingly, what events and circumstances are responsible for this free-floating psychotic episode extant as the belief system of contemporary, fundamentalist Christianity?
"And all the Arts of Life they changed into the Arts of Death in Albion."
—Jerusalem, Chapter 3., William Blake
Early in the Industrial Age, William Blake apprehended humankind had begun to negotiate existence "mong these dark Satanic mills." Blake was not mortified by the mill itself: He was repelled by the imprint the machine left on the mind. This was the factor that he deemed Satanic i.e., positing the image as metaphor for the manner that Satan, the mythical embodiment of the human psyche's unconscious drives, desires and compulsions (and attendant rationalizations) can imprison the human psyche and chain it in his service.
Recognizing and rejecting the principles of the mechanized age for its dehumanizing implications, Blake warned against a view of the world that reduces human life to the sum of machine parts -- for the metaphoric hell-bound train of thought that it is…usurping individual identity by commandeering the hours of fleeting existence by placing one's body at the service of greed-driven, nature-decimating agendas.
"Kept ignorant of its use, that they might spend the days of wisdom
In sorrowful drudgery, to obtain a scanty pittance of bread:
In ignorance to view a small portion and think that All,
And call it Demonstration: blind to all the simple rules of life."
—Jerusalem, Chapter 3. William Blake
As circumstances stand at present, Blake exhibited caution in his augury: An island of garbage, larger than the state of Texas, floats in the Pacific Ocean. Increasing numbers of U.S. children, obese from corporate processed food, are so unhealthy they're falling prey to the illnesses of middle age. The topsoil of the American mid-west has all but disappeared due to the shortsighted greed of industrial mega-farming.
This is why (to cite only a few examples) the present paradigm's days are numbered. And this is not Old Testament-variety raving…spittle flinging, white beard flapping in the harsh desert wind, dark prophetic fantasy. The examples above simply augur the mundane trajectory inherent to systems locked in entropic runaway.
Fortunately, there is a type of hope that resides at the depths of hopelessness…the perennial truth that arrives when one relinquishes all hope that one's ossified understandings and moribund means of existing in the world cannot be maintained nor salvaged.
I came into a place void of all light,
which bellows like the sea in tempest,
when it is combated by warring winds.
--The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Canto V, lines 28-30
Dante's epic poem, The Divine Comedy, resonates on a number of levels. It is important to note how the poet limned the suburbs of Hell…as being, a place reserved for those souls who refused to choose either good or evil -- and, seemingly, a prime location for Wal-Mart big box stores.
This miserable state is borne by the wretched souls of those who lived without disgrace and without praise.
--The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Canto III, lines 34-36
(Apropos, I offer this completely gratuitous fantasy: Of Sam Walton, ruthless emblem of the age of corporate despotism, with his reptilian rictus forever affixed in a forced smile of tyrannical good cheer, condemned for all eternity to be a greeter at the gates of Hell.)
In contrast, Dante counseled, we are provided with a more propitious option: to walk through Hell, as opposed to remaining locked in the stasis of an insular, unexamined existence.
Dante evoked the descent into the underworld to intimate the understanding that darkness is an aspect of human nature and that self-awareness arrives only after an exploration of the hidden, self-censored regions of one's psyche. Only after passing through the inner most circle of the frozen hellscape does it become possible for Dante to look upward and gaze upon Beatrice's splendor among the spheres of Heaven.
His Journey began, lost in a dark woods, with his path block by a hungry she-wolf and fierce lion. Then, led there by the pagan poet, Virgil, the adamantine gates of Hell (posting that famous sign regarding hope forever abandoned) slammed shut behind him. But the poet's descent deep into the unsavory aspects of his nature made possible those glimpses of beatific light.
You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything--
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! --
powers and people--
and it is possible a great presence is moving near me
I have faith in night
--Rainer Maria Rilke
Otherwise, as is the case with the Puritan/Calvinist imagination, an individual risks becoming purity-obsessed and light-intoxicated i.e., lacking in the will and ability to see the dark side of their nature; hence, one is prone to project one's own motives on the actions of others.
Possessed by this state of mind, an individual is capable of inflicting a great amount of damage on his own psyche. Witness: the raging, lower order demons, inhabiting their own personal hellscapes, as channeled by the likes of Bachmann, Palin, and the Reverend Robertson.
Yet, rationalistic devices such as reductionist reasoning and humanistic psychology have proven useless in breaching the high walls of delusion bulwarking fundamentalist, free-floating crazy.
Why? Reductionism is a bi-product of the western Puritan/Calvinist tradition, and as such is prone to the pathologies inherent in the cosmology…wherein there exists: an habitual winnowing down of perception to controllable, exploitable bits; the dismissing of all things (the veracity of imagination, the emanations of nature and the souls of animals) that do not serve narrowed agendas (which are defining characteristics of its scion -- the corporate state -- and those within its institutions who have internalized its raison d'être).
Both Fundamentalist and reductionist mindsets are cemented in certitude. In fact, each is the shadow side of the other; hence, hyper-rationalists and religious literalists are locked in contemptuous embrace. Both evince, with their obsession with the other, a longing for rapprochement with their missing half, yet their encounters become a courtship dance of animus and antagonism, whereby their mutual yearning for union is expressed as a compulsion to transform the other.
Therefore, the rationalist is driven to proffer balms of superstition-purging logic, as, in turn, the religious true believer frets over the doomed-to-eternal-damnation, mortal soul of the salvation-bereft rationalist. Yet both causation-clutching logicians and credulous lambs of the lord share this trait: both have banished from their respective belief system the appropriation of empathetic imagination and a poetic approach to mystery.
Accordingly, the ideal use of poetic insight, intellectual rigor, and quicksilver wit is to deploy these tools (at times, weapons) of the mind -- in the manner the hubris-hating gods intended -- to confront bullies, rednecks, liars, prigs and hypocrites (including our own self-serving casuistry), to disarm (or, at least, annoy) the brutal, conniving and witless, and, in general, paraphrasing Whitman, "to cheer up slaves and to horrify despots."
Yet, today, if a poet were to merge his body with the body of America, instead of discovering a Body Electric, he would find himself endowed with the hulking, putrefying corpse of a shambling zombie. Accordingly, he must tear a rotting arm from the monster and beat his own laughing corpse with it. Creating...a movable autopsy...a Book Of The Dead for a dying empire
Worse, in the world beyond U.S. self-reference, the earth's oceans are dying -- as, on a personal level, Fukushima's isotopes penetrate our bones like parasitic beetles boring into the trunks of dying trees
And this is not simply a view of the world. In fact, this is the state of the world.
Don't defend the indefensible -- the soul-defying banality of the present system. The neo-liberal superstate is unsustainable and will bring on its own demise.
Instead, like a mourner in a New Orleans funeral march, dance with the dread involved. The music of sorrow is more real than the magical thinking required to believe an insane system is salvageable. Don't stand, back pressed to the wall, frozen in rationalization and equivocation…Exalt in the unfurling mystery of it all.
Crackpot realists demand solutions and Christian Fundamentalist pray for finality. I demur. I stand in awe of the ragged glory immanent in sublime futility.
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett
I suspect this attitude arrives from the southerner/Native American collision of genes in me. One's broken places allow the spirit in. No need to fix the problem, for the problem is the solution. No call for satanic caulk to seal the cracks in one's soul that reveal one's character.
And why is this important, particularly, at a time when our opponents are unflagging in their certitude? Because even when our reason to fight has merit, and nuance is banished, the larger truth that life itself contains paradox and is comprised of ambiguity remains. Thus, fascist fantasies of infallibility are toppled and the misguided trudge toward the mirage of paradise is waylaid...perhaps leveling a measure of humanizing grace.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." —Goethe
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Sexual Puritanism and Empire: Sex, Shame, and Military Might (The roots of Puritan Panic and "The Character Issue")
by Phil Rockstroh
Editor's Note: As the ice caps melt and wars continue to kill, the U.S. news media remains obsessed with sex scandals, such as Rep. Anthony Weiner tweeting lewd photos of himself. But this persistent moral outrage is its own strange voyeurism, not just a distraction from true crises but a crisis of American hypocrisy, as poet Phil Rockstroh observes.
Late last month, poet, musician, and self-termed "bluesologist," Gil Scott-Heron exited the hologram and returned to the source…to begin chanting, eternity will not be televised.
In an earlier era, Stephen Spender feted the following tribute to those who fell resisting Francisco Franco's fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. His lines of verse serve as an apt epitaph to all those souls who devoted their art and labor to the ceaseless struggle against the perennially risen, death-besotted forces of coercive power: "The names of those who in their lives fought for life,/ Who wore at their hearts the fire's center./ Born of the sun, they traveled a short while towards the sun,/ And left the vivid air signed with their honor."
At present, in contrast, the dismal air is signed with the scandalous tweets of a congressman's undergarments and the concomitant, predictable howling from the hectoring ghosts of U.S. Puritanism, conjured from their graves by the contrived spectacle and its promise of anonymous arousal intermingled with the blood sport of public shaming.
By finger wagging and sneering, carnal desires can be lived out vicariously in the Puritan/Calvinist imagination. In this way, petty moralists can ogle what they claim to condemn.
To Puritans, all the problems of life can be traced to the genitals...true, but only their own problems.
How many times do the prigs, ninnies, and scolds of the U.S. have to repeat this sort of inanity before they grow up and realize that human beings have strong libidos? Libido propels both creativity and contretemps, and it is wise to aver that "the issue of character" should best be evoked and debated, as a general rule, when the situation involves hypocrisy.
Moreover, those claiming that their own sexual desires have never rendered them vulnerable to silly misjudgments evince a more noxious form of hypocrisy. Yet, if, in fact, their lives have been absent such propitious misfortune, then one should withhold the scorn reserved for hypocrites, and, instead, grant these poor souls pity, for they have been afflicted with the awful circumstance of having passed through their lives without ever being seduced by life.
A more profound "character issue" here would seem to involve that of the representatives of mass media news gathering organizations, in particular -- their greed for ratings. And what is one to make of the character of the individuals who comprise the general public and their seemingly endless avidity for these stories -- their insatiable craving to revel in the tawdry -- but remain engaged in the delusional worship of their own toxic innocence?
Although, it is futile to struggle against the symptoms not the source. As banal as the dreams of witless bullies, the architecture and artifice of U.S. militarist/corporate imperium not only surrounds us but has colonized our thoughts and desires. Ergo, the elite of the corporate media and the U.S. public remain untroubled by Bradley Manning's forced nudity, yet a couple a snaps of a congressmen's crotch sends their imagination reeling.
Since U.S. Empire is maintained by militarism -- a de facto strong-arm racket shaking down the people of the world to sustain the endless cupidity of its elite and proffer just enough bribes to keep its populace overweight, arrogant, and oblivious -- what "character issues" come into play involving an individual's complicity in the maintenance of blood-fueled imperium? Perhaps as a reminder, fleets of U.S. aircraft carriers should be christened with names such as, the USS Entitlement, the USS Displaced Resentment and the USS Willful Ignorance -- all armed and ready to patrol the oceans of the world, poised to attack and subdue those who would deny us our birthright to consume the world like a bag of Cheetos.
Because facing folly is difficult, both powerful and pawn have embraced the most airless of aspirations…that greed run riot is a viable means to move in the world, even the sole means of establishing a social order.
As was the case with any imperium throughout history, the present order is maintained by state-sanctified homicide. To exist in empire, one is induced to deaden ones heart. The act of having internalized (albeit inadvertently) the propaganda of the militaristic/corporate state and thereby cling to its provisional comforts…is to clutch a handful of dust. And what is the mode of being to which so many cling:
Shuffling the floors of some suburban turdbox…within a gated "community" where one rarely sees, much less speaks to one's neighbors; spending hours at a time, anxious and irritated (if not outright enraged) in soul-grinding commuter traffic, listening to the observations and pronouncements of inspired souls such as Morning Zoo Crews and deep thinkers like Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk-radio, hate merchants; then languishing all day in a cubicle...just to turn around and do it all again.
Is it any wonder so many in the U.S. consider "our way of life" non-negotiable? What kind of a miserable, bitter malcontent would wish to challenge and change such a life-enhancing, soul-vivifying mode of being? There is just no pleasing some people.
A loss of empathetic imagination is endemic to the consumerist mindset of the mechanized era. This form of pathology began, years ago, when our ancestors offered up their life's blood to the early corporatists of the Industrial Age.
"I attack all those persons/ who know nothing of the other half,/ the half who cannot be saved,/ who raise their cement mountains/ in which the hearts of the small/ animals no ones thinks of are beating." -- Federico García Lorca,
excerpt: New York (Office and Attack)
Henry Ford and the rest of the Industrial Age's klavern of gray ghouls measured our flesh, muscle and bone with a productivity-measuring stopwatch. Cunning practitioners of the dark art of convincing human beings they were mere cogs in a soulless machine, it was only a short trudge from that blood-bartering viewpoint of existence through history's slaughterhouse to Adolf Eichmann's cold, corpse-rendering, mathematical constructs.
Insulated, as he was, within his fortified tower of mortared casuistry, Eichmann proved adept at emotionally shielding himself from the horrific implications of the system of mechanized extermination he helped devised. From individual alienation to planet-wide ecocide, Hannah Arendt's insights, regarding Eichmann's psyche in her seminal work, Eichmann in Jerusalem, applies to our present condition: "The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else."
Accordingly, to lose the green fuse of transformation, implicit in interpersonal relationships, is to be driven by dehumanizing engines of annihilation.
In regard to the consumerist-colonized psyches of the populace of the U.S., an inner architecture is in place -- an internalized shopping mall (complete with sub-cretinous security crews trained to shut down political speechifying and pamphleteering -- but who seem unwilling or unable to subdue the impulse to buy, on credit, unnecessary items).
Conversely, for a culture to thrive, a vital agora and public square is required. Given the agora has been replaced by mall and social media's weightless pixels of narrowed apprehension (an almost all-encompassing, amateur improvisational theatre for those with short attentions spans) can there be any chance of an awaking, even an uprising, against such life-negating forces?
Using any metric, the present system, based upon a zombie-like proliferation of exponential growth is unsustainable. By the destruction leveled on nature and public space, in combination with, the usurpation of time and identity (individual and collective) -- the very structure of the present system creates alienation and anomie.
Moreover, the root of Puritan panic (including the constant upwelling of sexually related scandal) is caused by its compulsion to winnow down the human psyche and its attendant drives, actions, and enterprises to only what is deemed pure and practical; hence, panic ensues when the musk and fury of the larger world (even one's own thoughts and desires) rudely breaches the life-denuded contours of its cordon sanitaire.
The anecdote: Don't tiptoe through your life like a ninny nor become a finger-wagging scold, so mortified by your appetites and desires you would scour the messiness of the world into a sterile prison of self-deprivation. Like Emerson, we must insist: we have a life to live -- not a perpetual apology.
Poetry and music can awaken imagination and induce empathy, therefore are potent provisions that sustain one while carrying the darkness. However, first one must engage the struggle, to face the everyday monster whose name is, "That is just the way it is and must remain" -- even to risk having one's concept of self devoured by the task. To paraphrase Lorca: to know oneself by drawing near to the beating heart of the monster of the world.
"But the Duende--where is the Duende? Through the empty arch enters a mental air blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, seeking new landscapes and unfamiliar accents; an air bearing the odor of child's spittle, crushed grass, and the veil of Medusa announcing the unending baptism of all newly-created things." --Federico García Lorca, excerpt: The Duende: Theory and Divertissement (1930)
One cannot kill nor banish personal demons but one can give them supervised work to do (that way one can keep an eye on them).
(Knowing one's demons also provides insight when dealing with adversaries and can prevent one from being drawn into the self-serving ploys of mass media vampires of mind and spirit who retail sexually related scandals that bring glee to the bloodless.)
Personally, it could trouble me less if the sky shook, thick as seething locust, with a pixel-borne pestilence of suggestive photos of political sorts. Funny, the same crowd of fundamentalist, petty moralists who believe that global warming is the result of natural forces insist the heat of human libido is what will bring on man's doom i.e., greenhouse gasses aren't melting the polar regions; instead, Climate Change is caused by the hot breath of Satan himself tweeting pictures of his lust-scorched undergarments.
In times such as these, one is advised to embrace both mystery and logic -- both élan vital and logos. Be both apprehensive and comforted by the unknowable, ineffable quality of existence; thereby, one comes to be moved by a poetic approach to mystery, and the realization arrives…that one is vividly alive even amid dismal, alienating circumstance, and, as a result, that the ennui engendered by the illusion of atomization is, to a degree, mitigated.
Although one's suffering is uniquely one's own, one remains part and parcel of the implicate order of a living planet. This is how Wallace Stevens delivers, in verse, the case for acquiring and maintaining a view of the world by means of empathetic imagination (that can serve as a panacea to the preening narcissism inherit in toxic innocence). I'll give him the final word:
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.
Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one ...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.
Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.
--Excerpt: Final Soliloquy Of The Interior Paramour
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com . Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100
Leaving The Church of Free Market Miracles: Where does one find succor and seeds of renewal in times such as these?
Editor's note: A significant part of the U.S. population is stuck in angry denial, unwilling to acknowledge scientific realities (like global warming), embracing fictions (like Barack Obama’s Kenyan birth), and refusing to acknowledge America’s diminished situation (like the crumbling infrastructure of roads and education). Rather than act sensibly, they cling to their diminished status and mock anyone who challenges the disastrous status quo, as Phil Rockstroh explains.
"Everything that everyone is afraid of has already happened: The fragility of capitalism, which we don't want to admit; the loss of the empire of the United States; and American exceptionalism. In fact, American exceptionalism is that we are exceptionally backward in about fifteen different categories, from education to infrastructure. But we're in a stage of denial: we want to re-establish things as they used to be, to put the country back where it was." -- James Hillman
Most of the men I grew up with in Alabama and Georgia deny the veracity of climate change. They are unwilling to make the connection between their ownership (actually the bank's) of SUVs and oversized pickup trucks and the super storms and massive floods that, now with alarming regularity, ravish the region.
Because their besieged sense of self is intermeshed with their motor vehicles, they hold fast to these symbols of the fading world they know. In their imaginings, these gruesome, noxious (and obnoxious) machines represent power and mobility -- exactly the aspects of their lives that have been diminished by the demands and degradations of oligarchic capitalism.
By their self-imprisonment in these sorts of compensatory fantasies, they choose to risk their children's future, rather than, as one victim of his own curdling testosterone expressed to me recently on FaceBook, "
A deep-rooted, malignant anger regarding their diminished sense of manhood seethes at the core of pronouncements such as that, and the following, shared on my FaceBook scroll, this past Earth Day: "Happy Earhart day!!! How did you celebrate? I clubbed an adorable baby harp seal, dumped a barrel of waste oil down the storm drain, and started a giant tire fire!!! Good times…."
The sentiment expressed above is an imprecatory prayer, borne of uneasy submission i.e., the callow voice of deep denial, a manifestation of a culturally re-enforced, self-protective cynicism -- a reflexive negation of novel ideas that masks a besieged psyche; it is the nihilistic rage appropriated by the powerless serving as a bulwark against the anxiety created by shifting circumstances and buffeted verities.
In the U.S., life keeps changing for the working class -- and not for the better. Hence, an inner voice of doubt and despair falsely informs these men that the agents and effects of change will be of no help to them personally…that no one (especially smug, know-it-all liberals) can be of service to you, and, worse, what little you have amassed will be lost.
It is a common (unspoken) fear of the men I grew up around down south that if they were to let go of what little they clutch, nothing would arrive to replace what would be lost. There will be no place reserved for them and their families in the new situations and novel arrangements that (by their addled take on the situation) elitist environmentalist snobs contrive to force upon them.
Moreover, in the corporate state, the loss of community, in combination with the commercially-rendered sameness of the environment and the all-encompassing, manic insistency of mass media -- both of which are so devoid of depth, context and meaning -- it has become increasingly difficult for an individual to gain then retain the sense of self necessary to know where one exists in relationship to time, place, and changing social and political circumstance.
How is it possible to move in the direction of propitious change when the demands and distractions of the corporate/consumer state have negated one's ability to remain still and focus long enough to even grasp the nature of the problem?
The relentless exploitation of both earthscape and timescape has had a catastrophic effect upon the inner realms of thoughts, dreams, and imaginings of the citizen/consumers of the neo-liberal economic superstate.
Loss of place and an attendant crisis of identity are inextricably bound to the angst and anomie so evident in the present neo-liberal epoch: Being bereft of connection to land, sky, sea, and polis creates a profound sense of unease.
In contrast, a powerful sense of presence rises from within when standing before oceans, rivers, mountains, and even amid streams of human currents traversing the streets and boulevards of great cities. Conversely, where are we, in relationship to the truths of our being, when we are waiting for an order of processed, fast food in a line of automobiles idling at a drive-thru window or we are engaged in hollow communion with the sundry, glowing screens of information age appliances?
One's sense of self and one's beliefs, as well as, the mythos and traditions of a people are inextricably bound with place, landscape, and social situation. When I was a child, growing up in Alabama and Georgia, on occasions such as backcountry fishing expeditions, I would, at times, come in contact with rural African American farmers who still lived by the agrarian rhythms of the nineteenth century.
Occasionally, taking refuge from the afternoon heat of high summer, we would lounge on wooden porches and snap green beans, and I would listen as they quoted scripture.
The Jesus of their belief system was born of humble beginnings (a mere seed) and grew beneath the hot sun, but, at the height of maturity, was cut down, sacrificed so they may live, then, like their life-sustaining crops, was resurrected as next year's seed crop. Suffused with a metaphoric analog of the criteria they lived day to day, these tales held resonance for these rural, farming people; the metaphors resounded with the verities of place and circumstance. The figure of Christ was as real to them as the snap beans beneath their fingertips.
Now, in an era in which the destination of most all of our objects and accoutrement is the landfill, Deep South mega-churches espouse a cosmology that resonates from a junk food paradigm: a Gospel of The Drive Thru Jesus…when The Rapture comes our corporeal bodies will be cast aside like fast food wrappers.
All in all, for both Christians and for secular-minded, market economy true believers, a belief in economic providence has proven our undoing -- an insistence on its miraculous influence left us mistaking ad-hoc, bubble-borne affluence for a soul-vivifying portion of divine grace. The corporate/consumer state's trickster gods of fast buck commerce offer drive-thru-window epiphanies. Members of the congregation of the Church of Free Market miracles believe their prayers will always be answered: Instantly, the consumer state's homilies of perpetual gratification arrive -- their voices crackling like a burning bush from drive-thru order-boxes.
Yet the redeemer gods of product placement cannot provide our dying culture with a longer shelf life. Belief in the deities of empyreal marketplace might provisionally banish doubt and diffidence -- yet this mythos cannot shelter us from the anonymous fury of the exponential mathematics of global systems shifted into entropic runaway.
Although every generation inherits a howling wasteland and dwells in structures constructed of the bleached bone legacy of past generations -- you'd have to go back to Late Cretaceous to find a generation that stands at the threshold of a mass die-off as we human beings do at present.
The Greek tragedians would have grasped the manic and destructive nature of late capitalism…how an obsessively heroic quest for victory carries the seeds of one's undoing; ergo, by an over-reliance on his strengths and virtues the classical hero brought on his own demise -- because the habit of heroic action rendered him closed off to novel awareness.
Victory is a closed system; in contrast, defeat opens one to the possibility of new adaptations.
You win a while, and then it’s done –
Your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat.
In the case of Greek tragedy, the hero (even the collective mindset of a people) cannot, in the long run, thrive evincing victory-engendered hubris. He will wend towards tragedy; he, with each successive triumph, will become so self-encapsulated with self-regard that only trauma will reopen his heart to the intimacies availed by earth and eternity.
Jason will ignore all council and bring his trophy of war, Medea, back to Corinth, setting events in motion that will cause him to lose everything he loves. He will die alone, in demented revelry, crushed beneath the rotting stern of the Argo, the ship that bore him to glory.
You lose your grip, and then you slip
Into the Masterpiece.
Apropos, facing tragedy, to paraphrase Camus, is the opposite of naivety. Yet we go on, even though we think we cannot, when we bear the knowledge of the ultimate futility of our aspirations. Although struggling against overwhelming power and collective delusion seems futile, such endeavors thwart one's drive for perfection: When we seek paradise, we find paradox. Over the long term, the manner we receive, respond, and are changed by these exchanges with the world is called (our) character.
In the sorrow of defeat, one gains the possibility of identification with the oppressed people of the earth. Loss brings an intermingling with the inherent beauty of the neglected things of the world.
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.
In my better (too rare) moments, I take Walt Whitman's approach: I believe an individual should endeavor to connect, mingle, even merge one’s broken heart with the various and varied things of the world…polis, people, and landscape.
There are many things, although vile and ugly, I remain on speaking terms with, extant and within me. Although, our cities are decayed, people troubled and landscapes degraded, I don't avoid those places and situations -- because this is the criteria with which I was given to work, by time and circumstance.
Even, at present, towards empire's end, when we find ourselves bearing much grief, we are stranded amid ferocious beauty.
Where does one find succor and seeds of renewal in times such as these?
It might prove helpful to glance back at what has been dubbed the “do-it-yourself-art" practiced by the pioneers of Punk Rock.
Bored blind by tedious, onanistic guitar solos of the arena rock era, they approached their instruments with a minimalistic aesthetic. In other words, many burned with such fervor to seize back rock and roll from the stultifying, velvet rope elitism of the period that they had neither the time nor inclination to master more than three cords on their instruments -- which they played very fast -- and did for scant financial compensation, and even less acclaim, in shot-out clubs in decayed downtown locations such as Manhattan's Bowery district, thus reintroducing the dirty, lowdown exuberance and subversive intimacy of early rock and roll, plus establishing the enduring principle that being an imbecilic, rock and roll egoist should be a democratic process — not exclusively limited to guitar technocrats or even those individuals possessed of the tyranny of talent.
Accordingly, we can cultivate gardens (individual and communal) appropriating the ash of yesterday's excesses and the mulch of victories long past; we can plant heirloom seeds, both terrestrial and mnemonic. Thus beginning to allow our lives to become imbrued with the purpose and meaning that arrives when one's labors are directed at making the world anew. While one cannot know the future, one can begin to move away from a reliance upon a dysfunctional present.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Politics of Revenge and Submission: "When the individual feels, the community reels"
By Phil Rockstroh
Editor’s Note: Many Americans felt giddy over the killing of Osama bin Laden in part because his name was associated with the latest round of personal depredations foisted on them, from the humiliating strip-downs at airports to the loss of civil liberties to the costs of enhanced militarism around the world.
But the key question now is whether anything will really change with his demise, whether bin Laden was just the latest excuse for further encroachments, whether the dying Republic can be revived after many decades of ceding its vigor to a snarling Empire, as Phil Rockstroh explains in this guest essay:
Osama bin Laden is dead. And so is the U.S. republic. We had to destroy our freedoms in order to save them.
What is left to save from the next rampaging dragon when the knights, sworn to kill the monster, destroy everything in their path in the pursuit of him? One killer is dead. Now what are we going to do with all the killers in our midst who killed him. Since 9/11/2001, due to the lust for revenge of the people of the U.S., hundreds of thousands of innocent Islamic people are dead. These human beings were killed in our name.
Be very careful when you proclaim: "I'm glad 'we' got bin Laden. He deserved it." Be very grateful most of us don't get what we deserve. To appropriate a classical understanding of the situation: Aeschylus, in his Oresteia trilogy, dramatized that civilization begins when (in fact, civilization is not even possible until) retribution yields to justice i.e., The Furies, goddesses adorned with serpent-seething headdresses and an abiding passion for retribution, must be transformed into the Eumenides (the kindly ones).
They must cease their seeking of revenge (which engenders endless revenge cycles, inflicting a trauma-wrought callowness on the people of a culture) and become the enemies of those who bear false witness and stand against the democratic process. In contrast, in the U.S., a state policy of genocide against its native inhabitants determined the geographical dimensions of the nation itself, and, in many ways, determined the inner dimensions of its collective mindscape, which created and maintains the death-cult calculus of U.S. militarist imperium.
(The U.S. military still envisages its enemies as "Red Indian savages." Witness: Osama bin Laden having been given the code name, "Geronimo.") Hence the isolated, alienated U.S. populace (its males in particular) clutch, to the point of fetishizing, their guns, because they feel powerless before the depravations of an exploitive system rigged to benefit a small class of privileged insiders.
Much damage is done by this compensatory fantasy: Vulnerable children and teens are bullied by their troubled peers to the point of clinical depression and suicide; in domestic situations, crimes of passion take deadly turns; and episodes of mass shootings erupt across the landscape of exploitation, alienation and anomie. The collective mode of mind of the corporate consumer/militarist empire leaves both the hoi polloi and the privileged unable to even approach the problem of their alienation … thick walls of self-protection must be breached. In the U.S., individuals have become so withdrawn into themselves, it seems as if Home Depot outlets sell ready-to-assemble, prefab bubbles of self-enclosure, with optional mounted gun turrets.
How is it possible for troubled individuals to live in a culture in which the response of their government (mirrored in its movies, television programs, and video games) to almost every problem abroad involves military force and imperialist coercion -- and not have these death-leveling policies leave their mark on the psyches of the populace? All too frequently, in the increasingly desperate and denial-ridden nation, deranged chickens come home and reap havoc in the roost (also known as The Law of Perpetual Poultry Return).
As above with its government, so below with its populace: With troubling frequency, in shooting rampages, unhinged individuals stage freelance, military-style commando raids, defending (in the tormented perception of their besieged minds) their internal homeland. The rigid hierarchical structure of U.S. corporate oligarchy (but veiled by the internalization of its upward class mobility hagiography) imposes a type of domination and control compulsion (and attendant low-level hysteria) in the psyches of the nation's males.
Hence, the need for disproportionate amounts of control to displace their own sense of being dominated by brutal power (e.g., they feel so deeply diminished by their own submissive position in the economic order that the men and boys of the nation are driven to taunt other males by bandying demeaning invectives, such as, "You're my bitch.") What they are expressing is the displaced anger, engendered by their helplessness before the dictates of the corporate state.
An insidious order that determines the course of their day: At what hour, they will rise (at the insistence of an alarm clock) to meet the day; what they will eat (generally, processed or fast food); the roads and routes they will travel (stranded in the grinding limbo of commuter traffic); who they will be in contact with during the day (the dharma-decimating exigencies of the workspaces of the neo-liberal economic order).
In short, how their day unfolds (exploited for the benefit of the oligarchs of the corporate state) and how their day ends (on edge, enervated, muck-brained, in hyper-attenuated communion with some form of the mass media hologram). The inimical effect of this mode of being has come to be known as "the American way of life." Therein, individuals, reduced to mere assets of the economic elite, grow bereft of the means and motivation for personal transformation.
Moreover, the culture -- always an organic, collaborative effort between individuals and the collective mind of an age -- withers into an economic, as well as, psychic wasteland, because the means of social engagement have been denuded due to the full-spectrum domination of both cultural real estate and individual mindscape by the corporate state.
Corporate domination of everyday life has left the soul with a scant amount of wiggle room. But it has not always been so, even in the Deep South, in the belligerent ignorance and staggering naivety, of my youth.
Homer counseled that we should straddle time with our backs to the future, our faces to the past. Thus this digression:
In the year, 1970, in the summer I turned 14, in Piedmont Park, in Atlanta, Georgia, the Allman Brothers, among other bands, would perform free, impromptu concerts for a tie-dye-clad, reefer-reeking, bell-bottoms-caressing-the-Georgia-red-dirt gatherings of "freaks" -- which was the preferred tribalist term, as opposed to the media-created, socially pejorative – hippies … which, when bandied among counterculture insiders, was generally applied ironically.
Although the park was located only a few miles from my family's home, undertaking the trip presented a degree of peril. To make one’s way to the park included traversing a tough, in-town, white-working-class neighborhood (now a gentrified into soul-sucking blandness, yuppie enclave) where, from the perspective of its denizens, their world, and all they held in reverence and reference, was under siege.And, although inchoate, their animus was instantly distilled, simply upon a glimpse of the untamed tresses of a singular, thin of wrist, dirty hippie, commie faggot -- whose mere presence was considered an affront to their pomade-crowned, muscle-car-thundering parcel of redneck paradise.
Accordingly, the locals were pledged to do their part to fight the scourge … by increasing their intake of PBRs and Jack Daniels, and, upon sight of said dirty hippie interlopers, bestowing ass-stompings -- and for no-extra-charge -- involuntary haircuts upon errant longhairs caught in their midst.
Yet as the era progressed, the savage dance between hippie freak and redneck belligerent changed in tone and tempo, an extemporaneous type of metaphysical jujitsu occurred, in which the predator was subdued and seduced by the prey … as if by cultural contact buzz, redneck fury yielded to counterculture insouciance.
"When the individual feels, the community reels" ... Aldous Huxley
Briefly, this was the anatomy of the seduction: In their pursuit of fleeing freaks into the park, the young males of the cracker tribe happened upon a few of the things of this vast and vivid world even more compelling than the possibility of ass-kicking … in the form of attractive young women. Yet to the young men, the hippie sphinxes, sirens, waifs and gypsy queens were baffling, unapproachable; these women were less than taken by their greasy, pompadoured forelocks and aggressive bearing.
In short, and to appropriate the parlance of the era, the hippie chicks didn't get off on these young men’s "bad vibes … it, like, really harshed their high."
But these great, great grandsons of the Lost Cause proved much more malleable in countenance than the ossified in memory, now enshrined in marble statuary, of their confederate forefathers.
Consequently, a kind of cracker Lysistrata started to unfold. The pomade lacquer faded from stiff pompadours, yielding to lank, draping locks of hippie plumage. The habit of rebel bellicosity was sublimated into an avidity to "boogie." The zealots of ass-kicking became the acolytes of acid and devotees of the gospels of kicking back and getting down.
As time passed, on weekends, as the Allman Brothers preached Sunday sermons vis-a-vis guitar and drum solos, these newly minted freaks could be found in positions of repose and reflection upon the grassy hills of the park, eating Orange Sunshine and drawling, "aw mahn, Dwayne's guitar is shootin' sparks into mah brain…"
Or as Marcel Proust put it, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Yet, in our time, the fervor of the 1960s seems, in the words of a Latin proverb: "Parturiunt montes nascetur ridiculus mus" -- The mountains have labor pains and a ridiculous little mouse is brought forth."
As the psychedelic nimbus of the early 1970s transmogrified into a Nixonian shit-storm, and the long, silent war waged by Disaster Capitalists on the U.S. working class dissipated their hopes and buffeted their sense of wellbeing, a familiar class system wrought aura of misery and meanness began to reassert itself. The Dixieland Woodstock Nation increasingly began to resemble a southern-fried Weimar Republic, as the Corporate State Altamont grew increasingly pervasive, punitive, and imposed more and more demeaning demands upon the lives of working-class Americans.
Yet the present paradigm and its dependence upon a corporate consumer/militarist mindset persists because: "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right."--Thomas Paine.
Osama bin Laden was taken out by a rival gang of terrorists: And, across the land, the parade of death-reveling fools prattles onward.
Hence, the desperate, diminished souls of the empire are driven to contort themselves, collectively, into all manner of positions of casuistry, in a vain attempt to rationalize being complicit in the crimes of the state.
Thus, in the compulsion to see ourselves as good and decent folk, we mistake the involuted course of our own dim and brutal thoughts for the darkness and evil of others.
Therefore: This is why self-knowledge is crucial: "When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate." -- Carl Jung.
Over the last few days, witnessing the blood-dimmed spectacle of witless celebrants frothing in glee at the news of the revenge killing of Osama bin Laden, I feel as though I’m having the dubious privilege of peering into an alternative universe where annoyances such as common decency whither into extinction, as all the while, vile, lurid delusions bloom like hot house flowers.
The noxious redolence of these fleur du mal can have an enervating effect on one's will to resist and fight back. But resist one must. And remember to savor the glorious failure of even a hopeless cause.
The most naive and banal response would be to propagate the tired canard of the vacuous, crackpot realist mindset that: "That's just the way it is … that's just how things work … that's the way it is, always was, and always will be." Dead-ass wrong: That is the way a particular system is being operated at a particular time. Moreover, no system operates in stasis therefore are open to systemic change and random fluxes, by a host of variables, known and unknown.
Although outcomes, for better or worse, and all combinations therein, are uncertain, thus the world before us remains an extraordinary thing to behold.
"Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.” -- Carl Jung
Even though the earthly remains of Osama bin Laden are now entombed in the sea, the U.S. empire will continue to founder, its people have been made no safer nor have we been placed in an enhanced position to prosper.
What would prove helpful would be to cease engaging in this constant, tedious dance with our homicidal shadow self, because every written-in-blood name, listed on every dance card at the Empire's Ball, bears one's own name.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com . Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
Among Ciphers, Barn Burners and Confidence Artists: a comb-over treatment for declining empire
by Phil Rockstroh
Like postmodernist architecture, in which the aesthetic criteria of a structure's exterior often possesses little correlation to its interior function, media age journalistic and political style exhibits a similar disparity between facade and content: The political content aired by mass media institutions and the cant of the governmental class are the political equivalent of the useless ornamental pediments, context-devoid cupolas, and empty atriums of postmodernist architecture.
It is not a coincidence that Donald Trump has been responsible for having erected some of the gaudiest, emptiest, architecturally dishonest structures, blotting the landscape, east of the Atlantic Ocean, west of the sands of Dubai.
Citizen Trump is a human analog of these characteristics: a man possessed of an extroverted, confident public persona that serves as cover for an interior emptiness. In fact, he is possessed of an unswerving self-regard (as extreme as it is inexplicable) that seems a form of derangement.
From Sarah Palin to Barack Obama to Donald Trump, these personality types, minted and forged within the aggressive superficiality of the current era, are going to be as good as it gets. These are the varieties of ciphers, confidence artists and quislings who will front the present day corporate order of Botox Politics, the quintessence of an era that has conjoined the shallow and the grotesque in a marriage made in the witless limbo of the media hologram.
Born into wealth and privilege, Trump -- this cross-hatched haired, reality television popinjay -- is marketed as a man of the multitudes. Perhaps, he is: On one dismal level, he is the very emblem of the callow, infantilized, highchair tyrants spawned by the Viagra Capitalism of late U.S. empire.
Strange and amusing, in a grimly ironic way, unlike Trump, it is the political left, bereft of power in the structure of corporate oligarchy, who stands accused of being out of touch elitists. In a political culture as far down the rabbit hole as the one that exists, in the U.S., the surest way to be branded an elitist is to refuse to serve the elite.
All who are reading this article are, therefore, excused if the Bilderberg Group calls while you're in mid perusal of it…Rather, on second thought…let them wait; they'll just want you all the more for it.
President Obama, on the other hand, could never be accused of failing to serve his true constituents – the moneyed elite. Accordingly, insofar as coming to the aid of oppressed, suffering working people, he could be termed the anti-Tom "I'll be there” Joad. He has not been present in body nor spirit for the less-than-privileged classes of the declining nation. Rather than serving contemporary versions of the downtrodden denizens depicted in The Grapes of Wrath -- Obama has chosen to be of service to the high-flying connoisseurs of the fermented grapes of Château Mouton-Rothschild.
On almost every dispiriting occasion, Obama and the Democrats hit the mat without so much as trading punches with the Republican practitioners of the art of sucker punches and low blows.
Could the fight be rigged? I mean they work for the same corporate oligarchic bosses. One should be wary of betting on a match where a mobster owns both fighters.
Obama rah-rahs, nice liberal apple-polishers and crackpot pragmatist of the Church of Incrementalist Salvation -- I will grant you this -- the Republicans are a cult of doom. They are the two-legged, all thumbs, character-devoid embodiments of The Second Law Of Thermodynamics that arise when empires are in a death swoon. Yet Obama and the Democrats of Congress are quislings of corporate power, and thereby function as true to form characters playing out their roles within the entropy-ridden dynamics of failed states.
Have the Democrats even lifted a finger, whether in power or out, to fight corporate oligarchy? The only finger the players of the Democratic power establishment have lifted is to give the progressive left -- The Finger. I say screw you back, you soul-dead ciphers -- and the faux reform/hidden corporate class agenda Trojan Horse you rode in on.
Moreover, how have the policies of the Obama administration departed, in any real world way, from those of the Bush administration? Hence, we arrive at the painful, depressing crux of the matter and the cause of the denial befogging the minds and enervating the will of the liberal class: The dismal fact that under the present structure of corporate oligarchy, a functioning representational democracy cannot exist.
As for everyday citizens, neither going to the polls to vote, nor manning phone banks and licking envelopes at local party headquarters, nor canvassing to register new voters will change the nature of the national security state nor reform corporate hegemony nor end US imperium abroad…It just isn't going to happen.
Acknowledging to oneself the reality that under the present arrangements between the U.S. government and the corporate order -- the aforementioned acts of citizen participation are exercises in futility, and that an individual is essentially powerless -- can give rise to profound states of cognitive dissonance. In short, all the exasperation and concomitant scorn leveled by Democratic insiders and their apologists upon members of the marginalized and alienated left.
When a mainstream liberal sort deigns to tell me, I need to acquire a more "positive attitude" -- which, in tone and intent, amounts to a kind of passive-aggressive douche-rocketry -- I reply: I (or anyone else for that matter) can evince all the winning qualities and uplifting attitudes in the human lexicon of emotive experience -- positive, upbeat, giddy, elated, ecstatic -- we can be as happy as a bliss-besotted idiot, with a love of all things shiny, who happens upon a cache of gleaming stainless steel cutlery -- We can become so aglow with positive energy that rays of sunshine will coruscate from out of our every orifice -- yet still, our attitudes and actions would have little to no effect on the status quo.
As far as reforming the hopelessly corporate money-compromised Democratic Party from within…that constitutes, merely, polishing the brass railings on the Titanic, because Democrats have shown, over the years and with increasing regularity, whose interests they serve.
Perhaps, instead, progressives should deploy a tactical retreat and allow the damage incurred by Disaster Capitalism (that now even includes the obscene manipulation of global food prices) to create so much pain by way of Republican rule that the toxic agendas of the oligarchs cannot be papered over by sham elections that bring (at best) "incremental" change, while the juggernaut of the corporate/national security state hurtles forward unchecked and unabated.
In the long run, it might prove propitious (in a "cruel to be kind" turn of affairs) if the nature of corporate state control shifted from the soft totalitarianism of the present to a more overt form of hardliner rule. This way, the self-serving authoritarian powers begot by big money interests will be drawn into the open…will have to reveal and define themselves and their agendas; they would no longer be able to hide (Koch Brothers style) within the loose-knit, yet proto-fascist in nature, structure of the corporate state.
Indications augur that regardless of the pain inflicted and protests proffered, the dismal criteria of this strategy will be made manifest: The berserker cult from the Chicago School of Economics will not quit until the reforms, from the Progressive and New Deal eras, responsible for creating the US middle class and affording dignity to the laboring classes, are burned to ash and blown from collective memory.
Incongruously, it is this criminal cartel who has the ear of the white underclass, while, concurrently having them by the throat…as, all the while, they ply them with the poisoned pills of Disaster Capitalism, managing to bamboozle them into calling the toxic concoction ingested the sweet fruit of liberty.
Yet, because of their privilege-engendered insularity, the Democratic Party elite are bereft of a credible counter-narrative. Moreover, President Obama, in deed and action, has governed like an alumnus in good standing of the Chicago School of Economics.
This is the modus operandi of present day U.S. duopoly: Democratic Party, corporate tools, faux reformers follow rightwing death cults. Hence, little of importance changes for the big money interests who own both major parties.
President Obama has proven he can give a stem-twister of a speech. But what he has displayed, time and time again, is the damning extent of his insincerity. Obama's job is to create pretty clouds of obscuring smoke -- while the right plays the role of crazed barn-burners -- as the oligarchs make off with more and more of the people's loot.
This is what is so pathetic about the present day Democratic Party whose political platform seems to be: We deliver nothing, but broken promises, and we continually betray our base -- but those other guys, those rightwing Republican bogeymen -- they keep their wicked promises. They are mean, ruthless and crazy. And did we mention, you should be afraid -- be very afraid...BOO!
This is the method by which mainstream Democrats work reluctant progressives into a dither. The ploy operates by the same devices Republican Party strategists game the base-born bigots of their political base, by raising the fearsome specters of child-recruiting gay pedophiles, in alliance with Islamic Caliphate plotters, all of whom, at the behest of dirty hippie socialists, have designs to redistribute their lawn furniture, outdoor grilling equipment, and pool toys to dark and dusky sorts.
What is amazing, since there is no formal plot in place, is how close and perfect to type almost all involved act out their roles. Ergo, we ordinary citizens can play our roles as extras as well; we can go to the polls and vote for either of these two wings of The Money Party who serve the kleptocratic class and military industrial/national security state, and thereby co-sign it all and give the fraud a patina of legitimacy.
This is the dim and diminished social and political milieu that gave rise to Donald Trump. Trump, son of inherited wealth, who had his own "reality" show (watched by folks who apparently have no notion of the concept) is the embodiment of our era; he mirrors the lamentable zeitgeist of the U.S.
The troubles of the U.S. are many and spreading. As a nation, our prospects at home and prestige abroad are thinning. Apropos, Donald Trump is the man of this empty hour -- just the manqué of the moment to give the problems that are besetting the nation a comb-over treatment.
Trump wears the gruesome visage of empire's end, and his style of blustering ignorance serves as perfect marching music for the country's ongoing, blind strut towards the abyss, now unnervingly close, yawning before us.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100 ...
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com . Visit Phil's website http:/ / philrockstroh.com/ And at FaceBook: http:/ / www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1000007119...
Angela Tyler-Rockstroh is a Broadcast Designer/Animator who has worked with major Networks such as Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, HBO Family, PBS, as well as, with Michael Moore on his documentaries, "Fahrenheit” and “Sicko."
Text of the video and video-embed at Consortium News: http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/041511a...
Interstates and States of Grief
By Phil Rockstroh
Editor’s Note: At the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, the United States ironically finds itself caught in another Southern-based rebellion that relies mostly on white foot soldiers (the Tea Partiers) to carry on a fight for the interests of rich white men (the Koch brothers and similar right-wing billionaires).
Yet why so many middle- and working-class people have been drawn into this renewed civil war – on the side of a corporate system that is methodically crushing them, their dreams and the world’s viability – is a mystery that defies the rational explanations of social scientists and may require the insights of a poet, as Phil Rockstroh attempts in this guest essay and in the video by Angela Tyler-Rockstroh:
I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, at present, among the scent of pine trees and the reek of Southern denial.
The moribund economy has thwarted the city’s manic drive to silence its resentful ghosts by means of constant motion … Below the lilting Southern accents here, one detects rage … Not simply the ubiquitous hate-speak on right-wing talk radio. But an animus bred by truth-deferred … that Southern pride is a lie of the mind — a blown banner … foisted skyward to distract the minds of my fellow Southerners from the ground level truths of a system rigged to enrich the privileged few and keep the many working for their benefit. (How do you think they filled the ranks of the Confederate Army to kill and die for the rights of rich men to own slaves.)
I arrived in Georgia by route of the U.S. interstate system. Traveling U.S. interstate highways one suffers a confluence of so much contemporary madness and tragedy extant in the land … so much suppressed fear and aggression. Yet, through it all, the heart still yearns to see what lies over the next horizon.
Although, lamentably, what is revealed, all too often, proves to be as sterile, inhospitable, ugly, and inhuman as what was beheld at the last. "Who has twisted us around like this, so that no matter what we do, we are in the posture of someone going away?" -- Rainer Maria Rilke Any situation, as is the case with interstate highway travel, in which to momentarily stop or even to slow down, one risks death should be regarded as an affront (if not anathema) to common sense and the longings of the heart.
When the landscape we pass through has been reduced to a meaningless blur, our lives grow indistinct as well. The apologists of the present system tell us ad nauseam, and have convinced most, that a similar disastrous fate will befall the nation if the engines of global capitalism were to slow down even a bit. Interstate travel is emblematic of the manner a system based on ceaseless production and manic consumption degrades the senses and inflicts a dehumanizing assault upon the psyche. When stopped at an anonymous interstate service island or some off-the-exit-ramp retail strip — those inhospitable nether regions evincing a paradoxical mix of sterility and toxicity — the permeating odor of exhaust fumes and processed food makes us woozy.
These places, only distinct for their ugliness, reek of how soul-numbing and joyless travel has become . . . now a task nearly devoid of any sense of the mystery, the option of exploration, or the possibility of serendipity travel once offered. Travel has been reduced to a tedious ordeal, whereby our inchoate longings to escape the quotidian prison of our economically circumscribed existence are mangled and suppressed, only to rise as the hollow appetite of reflexive consumerism and the ineffable sense of unease, so evident in the troubled American psyche. Enclosed in our vehicles, we hurdle from one sterile, impersonal location to the next sterile, impersonal location, and then on to the next. As forbiddingly huge trucks, loaded with the cargo of extinction, bear down on us, we grip the steering wheel -- we know to stop is to risk death therefore we continue onward, believing we must drive and consume and drive and consume in order to survive.
Yet the knowledge nettles, just below the surface of our harried minds, that to continue down this road will, in turn, cause the world to die. Even the landscape itself of the U.S. is stretched to the breaking point: Cluttered upon it are gigantic islands of garish light that torment the night …scouring away the stars.
As, all the while, SUVs and oversized pickup trucks -- the overgrown clown cars of the demented circus of decaying empire trundle past -- the extravagant size of the vehicles vainly compensating for how diminished and powerless those within feel in relationship to the course of their fates. The corporate empire is imprinted in us. If one listens one can hear arias of decay -- a death-swoon operatic in scale.
Manifested before us, it is as visible as the noxious vapors of pollutants veiling the horizon line at sunset; it shimmers like heat spires above traffic-stalled interstates; it reeks like the endless archipelagos of overflowing landfills spanning the length of the land.
Yet, as mortifying as it is, the vales and vistas of the U.S. spread before us … are as horrible and beautiful as a great cry of grief. Manifested en masse, as our collective way of existing in the world -- the flickering of our tiny desires have set the vast world aflame … There is needless suffering and death that history will affix to our own names … We are destroying our planet and her exquisite, irreplaceable creatures, as well as, our own sanity. Feeling the full implications of this, how does one make it through the day and sleep throughout the night? Following their defeat at the Battle of Shiloh, the shattered Confederate ranks fled for their lives. General A.S. Johnston, desperate to restore order and rally his men to return to battle, commanded a fleeing soldier to stop, demanding, "Private, why are you running?" The soldier replied, "General, I'm running 'cause I can't fly." The act of being in perpetual flight (even the somnambulant variety) from consequences requires a great amount of energy; one must have the endurance of a marathoner sleepwalker to keep ahead of the sound of the fast approaching footfalls of reality at one's rear. Depression is what catches us. I have been accused of being a poet … I know I am a wanderer through the landscape of the heart. I navigate by narrative, by words and feelings: It occurs to me: the term depression is a misnomer for feelings of despair brought on by powerlessness i.e., disconsolation over the death of an internal verity -- or having our will thwarted by inexorable, outer forces.
Grief is a living prayer of our vulnerable hearts. The salesmen of the eternal, big happy ... are just that -- salesmen ... One is required to respond to the intoxication of the sales pitch and is not to question the condition of their heart ... The commercial come-ons insist that the heart's grief and a lost soul's emptiness and panic can be fixed by some new bright and shiny: a new appliance, therapy, "hope and change."
By the incessant promotion of the gospels of the hyper-capitalist sects of Happiness Uber Alles, the implicit message imparted is … suffering is a character flaw that can be mitigated, elevated -- even redeemed by consumerism, antidepressants, acquiring a positive attitude -- all the uttered homilies and donned vestments of the consumer state.
"The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering." -- Carl Jung.
What kind of miserable malcontent would resist changing this social milieu and personal mode of being: Sitting stuck in commuter traffic; eating high-fat, low-quality food from a drive-thru window; languishing in a cubical … stranded in a low benefits, little chance of advancement job -- until, of course, the job is outsourced; waddling around the mall ... clad in off-the-rack, sweatshop sown clothing; dozing off in front of the TEEVEE with Cheetos crumbs stippled in the folds of one's jowls.
Aint that the life -- or what? By any means possible, we preserve the death-styles of empire. This mode of being is far removed from the norms of nature and the revelries and attendant sublimations necessary to engage in civic life ... Here, ruthlessness and rationalization banish reason; ambition trumps merit; expediency pushes aside wisdom; and empty sensation masquerades as experience. Like interstate travel, the collective mind of the consumer state propels us forward to the next empty agenda, the next perfunctory task, the next meaningless purchase … But depression slows us down, inducing us to feel the grief inherent in our alienation … to cease the incessant, habitual hurdling forward and striving upward … to stop and investigate the mysteries of our hearts … to feel the sadness of the suffering earth …
"I can't go on. I'll go on." -- Samuel Beckett
But we must slow down: We are destroying our planet and her exquisite, irreplaceable creatures, as well as our own sanity. Two weeks before the Deepwater Horizon, Macondo Well "spill" (what a dishonest word for that noxious, bleeding gash) into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I dreamed of a badly injured fish who had had half his face torn off by some brutal method employed by the practitioners of industrial scale fishing operations to exploit the world's oceans … The fish had worked himself upon a rock on a craggy shoreline; holding an eternity of suffering in his one remaining eye, the fish turned to face me … Ever since, this dream image has lived within me ... I carry the fish's suffering and I bear his dark rage regarding what our species has done to his/our home -- this complex, mysterious, beguiling, dangerous, sublime, monstrous, and magnificent world we were cast into ...
My sense of sorrow, at times, seems unbearable; my rage … bottomless ... Who will speak for the voiceless -- who will make amends for their suffering? In childhood, I loved this body of water … loved it as one can love any living thing (which it is). I swam in it, collected jewel-like shells on its beaches of bleached sand, and went deep sea fishing with my father in its azure waters … Wherein, I was in awe of its (seemingly endless) bounty and abundance. Its winds and waves intimated to me the nature of eternity and the Gulf's living things drew me into the beauty and terrors of the living moment.
Approximately, ninety percent of the large fish (Tuna, Mackerel) in the world's oceans are gone due to overfishing. Oceanographers predict in 50 years time the oceans and seas the earth over will be dead. (And these are conservative estimates.) Much like the denizens of late Cretaceous looking dumbly at the sky and barely giving a second thought to that bright, shining thingy that appeared above, this is a calamity so large in scale and so all-encompassing in its implications that we human beings just can't wrap our minds around it … In fact, by our elevation of willful ignorance and mindless consumerism to a cultural imperative, we human beings, acting collectively, are the equivalent the planet-decimating Cretaceous comet. I try to resist losing myself to misanthropic rage when I read statistics such as this one. Yet I am enraged at the waste -- the sheer stupidity, mendacity, and hubris of it all.
I want to grab the human race by the lapels and shout, "Stop it. God damn it. Just stop it. How could you destroy something so beautiful and then just continue to go through your sub-cretinous day? What the hell is wrong with you? Didn't anyone ever teach you the meaning of decency?"
This is not a political debate. This is a choice between sanity and mass suffering; perhaps, even the survival of our species and a mass die-off. But listening to the pronouncements of Washington's political class and the mainstream media's ceaselessly shallow, miss-the-point narratives is like eavesdropping on the palaver from a petri dish. Excuse my sense of fatalism: At this point, the system is too far-gone to be redeemed; it is in the process of systemic breakdown. Although, this is not as awful as it sounds, for one must let the old go and let a natural process of decay take over.
When the rot is this advanced, at best, what you have is culture as a compost heap. Yet that doesn't mean in times of decay, there cannot be meaning and beauty, because life itself becomes vivid and alive in contrast to the extant ugliness. Without decay, there is no change. The world would be as pointless as paradise. If you wish to find the future forest, look to the humus upon its floor. The future is decay; and decay is the future.
The old ego must sing, even within the compost heap of its own putrefied concepts. And, as it does, it must sing of its suffering and the sorrows of the earth … singing like the severed head of Orpheus floating to Lesbos. Arias of compost sing of new understandings but you cannot skip the singing school of grief. Frank O’Hara suggests: “In times of crisis we must all decide again and again whom we love.”
Things are going to work out -- but not in ways we can predict.
There is a mournful beauty, even a providential utility, attendant to living through at time of putrefaction: Compost (the anti-Astroturf) nourishes fledgling life and novel forms. A new paradigm will morph from the remnants of the old, putrefied system.
If Confederate ghosts could shout through the prison of their enshrinement — they would call out to us, “Don’t believe it. Having seen the meaningless waste of war, we know now that we would have chosen to live out our lives, breathing in the humid, Georgia air, having our troubles softened by the sight of dappled light filtered through pine needles, and being lulled to sleep at night by the song of crickets and cicada. “Don’t you believe the lie, as we did, that dying in a rich man’s war is a virtue; don’t buy into the fraud that working all your life for a greedy few is a sound way to proceed through the fleeting and finite years of your time upon this earth."
Why Are Americans So Easily Conned?
by Phil Rockstroh
Hiding From Shame, Addicted to Optimism: The Tyranny of our Collective Comfort Zones
The technologies that inflicted upon the world the ongoing tragedies in both the Gulf of Mexico and Japan serve a dangerous addiction, an addiction to blind optimism, a habituation of mind that allows us to dwell within provisional comfort zones but renders vast spaces of the world into death realms.
After each catastrophe, there ensues a scramble to contain the damage leveled, as, concurrently, the apologists of the present system explain the anomalous nature of the event.
Yet, this much should be obvious: Attempting to clean up the mess, after it occurs, as oppose to altering the way of life that incurs the damage, is analogous to an addict believing a few days in detox will serve as a solution to his addiction.
In the same way drug dealers are reliant on an addict's unwillingness to reflect on the carnage created in his life, as well as the havoc reaped in the lives of those near him, engendered by his addiction, the small group of hyper-wealthy elites who benefit from the current system rely on collective cognitive dissonance (or, as it has been termed, the fear of fear itself) to dissuade the public at large from peering deeply into the pernicious situation.
One of an addict's biggest obstacles is his optimism i.e., he is convinced he can figure out somehow, someway to use his drug of choice in a less destructive way … and, by reflex, rebels against the deepening sorrow that he must change.
When large, powerful corporations create messes beyond their ability to control the damage wrought by their institutional cupidity, those in charge spare no expense aggressively confronting the problem … that is, of course, by means of public relations blitzes aimed at the general public, while tsunami-sized waves of campaign contributions flood the coffers of elected officials.
Apropos, a school of thought has developed in which framing the perception of a catastrophe supersedes all other considerations. An after-the-fact casuistry, possessed of crackpot optimism similar to the following, is affected: Dated technologies were at fault in that particular mishap, but, not to worry, in the near future, new innovations will safeguard against similar calamities.
Sure thing: The future will be bathed in the benign light of new technological wonders; our dread will be washed away by sparkling clean coal. Magical technological innovations will soon render nuclear power so safe that the only danger to the general public will be posed by the risk of being smothered by its profoundly huggable properties.
Such are the free market capitalist's versions of End Time belief systems, a variation of the type of magical thinking that induces an individual to scan the empty sky, waiting for Jesus to float earthward and redeem the ceaseless folly perpetrated by mankind.
If we are willing to accept being lulled back into our comfort zones by such fantasies (that are as craven as they are preposterous), we might as well wait around for hazmat crews of leprechauns atop flying unicorns to arrive on the scene and clean up the messes that corporate capitalist greed-heads inflict on our increasingly besieged planet.
In a manner similar to how the indefatigable salesmen of the consumer state sell optimism, but, in reality, deliver anomie, the propagandist of the neo--liberal paradigm promise peace and prosperity -- yet their shock troops, comprised of the political and media elite, instead level class warfare at home and perpetual war abroad that renders landscapes blighted and mindscapes shell-shocked.
Among their most pernicious contrivances has been to convince the passengers seated aboard the runaway train of the corporate state that the blur of landscape out the train's windows is caused by their own poor vision and the impending crash will be due to their negative thoughts.
The implicit message imparted is: "If only you would have thought more optimistically and worked harder, you'd have been one of life's winners and you would have been cruising above the impending carnage in your private jet. How sad for you, loser. And, by the way," they lie, "did you know socialists are manning the controls of the doomed train?"
While these practitioners of the art of weasel word wizardry insist they sell hope, in reality, they sell shame.
Growing up in the Deep South, being raised, as we say there -- not brought up, but raised -- like corn, hogs (or Lazarus or zombies from the grave) and socialized there, shame is a subject with which I'm well acquainted; it has taken me a lifetime (and it remains an ongoing process) to sort through and shake out the shame-based sensibility acquired there.
"If you think that I am dumb, There is another universe of stupidity that I can show you!" -- comment posted on my FaceBook page when a stubborn, inconsiderate fact would not yield to his rightist umbrage.
What is the origin of such an outlandish, inadvertently self-satirizing statement?
Shame (its flip side being Southern pride) arises, descends, converges and intermingles from manifold influences and multiple traumas: The bizarre-as-a-talking-serpent concept of sin passed down through Calvinistic belief systems; the legacy of degradations inflicted from being on the losing (and morally wrong) side of the Civil War; as well as, the degraded social milieu that circumscribes the lives and fates of large numbers of the permanent white underclass residing in the region.
Shame stains Southern sensibilities like red clay on Sunday whites.
A large number of the blustering, willfully ignorant, Southern men that I grew up around, whether they are khaki clad, country-club smoothies or leather jacket-donning punk rock belligerents, were twisted inside out, kicked and stomped insensate by shaming authority figures before they shed their baby teeth. If one listens closely, one can detect the voice of shame-bearing demons hissing in their every utterance.
Yet the knowledge of the origin and source of their suffering remains buried deep within these men. To acknowledge shame (even to oneself) is considered a tacit admission of having something to be ashamed of i.e., "If you ain't got nothing to be ashamed of, you miserable peckerwood, then you wouldn't have no need to feel it."
So, more or less, the line of thinking – or rather the train wreck of pathology passing for thought – goes.
Accordingly, a strong impulse arises to explain it all away -- to claim the entire episode is a misunderstanding, or to dismiss their feelings as being trivial, or merely an indulgence of weak-willed, thin-wrist losers, or impugn the motives of those who find grievance in the situation.
This mode of mind has made multi-millionaires of the dark magicians of rightwing talk shows, experts at performing emotional sleight of hand tricks that displace the shame of their listeners on a host of targets.
The cordiality of my fellow Southerners is as facile as it is fragile. In Southern culture, a great deal of psychic energy goes into distancing oneself from shame.
Brooding beneath Southern culture's superficial charm and gentility is the unspoken threat: "Be nice, now." That often translates to, "ya'll do as I say -- and there won't be any trouble."
More often than not, it is all made personal. Affronts are long remembered and resentments cultivated, and being confronted with information outside of one's realm of experience and field of reference is regarded as condescension.
Being made to feel "less than," by insults, real or imagined, can bring on a noxious cascade of shame and its concomitant host of desperate evasions and violent displacements to mitigate the feelings of unease engendered.
This is how it was explained to me on FaceBook recently by a feller named Frank who was addressing the issue of his loathing of liberal/socialist tyranny:
"My facts are correct. The far left is nothing more than the new set of communists looking to take over. Just a call me a southern god fearing commie killer who cannot wait to put more notches on his weapon if the day ever arises again. I did enjoy killing them so. Your sheep I will never be. That's a fact.
Just what kind of demented cultural circus produces these crack-brained battalions of killer clowns for Liberty? A culture with a brutal and rigidly enforced (but furiously denied) class structure that inflicts constant humiliation, yet, because of its nebulous structure, remains hidden from view.
Therein exist the allure and tenacity of neo-confederate hagiographic nonsense. Pride is held near, and clutched closely to oneself, because the corporate state has left the white underclass bereft of little else.
It is painful to admit to being powerless and devoid of a means to change the trajectory of one's fate. One feels demoralized and diminished as a result.
Moreover, nationwide, under the present system, riddled with vast economic inequity, the negative repercussions for disobedience and failure are more than most people can endure, economically as well as psychologically.
In a culture where success is deemed the end all/be all of all things, failure is devastating. In a corporate structure rigged to benefit a privileged few, and upward class mobility is merely a mind-fogging, cultural myth -- then failure is altogether likely.
Combine this, with the pernicious, puritanical/Calvinistic notion that failure is due to flawed character, and you have a troubled population … staggered by self-doubt, roiling in the unfocused rage of the humiliated, and primed and stoked for demagogic displacements.
While nice liberals retreat to their comfort zones, the forsaken laboring class constructs insulating walls of resentment.
In the U.S., more and more, the criteria that forges personality and informs our condition is wrought by the calculus of enclosure: guarded-gate communities; isolation in motor vehicles; the insular pixel fiefdoms of the Internet; long work hours, often spent in cubicles, comprised of meaningless labor, and cut-off from both the norms of nature and resonate human contact.
These conditions create an existence as redolent of the aromas of existence as plastic covered cheese-food. In cultural terms, it is as if the people of the U.S. have become mummified in plastic packaging wrap … have been rendered -- Body Bag People.
Of course, one yearns for the void to be filled. But with hearts and minds mortared closed, sealed off from the shock and humiliation experienced from the daily economic exploitation of a hidden, intractable class system – what penetrates these self-constructed prisons is loud, stupid, even fascistic in tone and theme e.g., violent video games; the empty spectacle of steroid-fueled professional sports hype; the exercise in Rock and Roll imperium that U.S. militarism has become; fundamentalist sermons that long for the blood and thunder of Armageddon.
In short, all the Sturm und Drang necessary to pierce protective walls, yet, at the same time, insure one remains ensconced in one's comfort zone.
Yet the sense of powerlessness is not mitigated for long, a nebulous sense of unease nettles. The world appears to bristle with threats … a low-grade hysteria is maintained and ceaseless war is both convenient and inevitable.
Yet all the ramparts and fortifications of the national security state still do not create a sense of safety; instead, its siege mentality increases the interior void of the U.S. populace, and, as a result, the vitality of life is barred entrance.
Blood sacrifices must be made to the god of the inner abyss ... corpses are tossed into the void.
Over the top? Given the fact of the hundreds of thousands of corpses the U.S. empire has lain under the native soil of nations from the Persian Gulf to Central Asia (and now North Africa) in only the past decade up to the present -- which, in combination with a government that practices and a general public that is indifferent to the use of torture -- the image limned above doesn't seem hyperbolic in the least.
At what point, does it become incumbent upon an individual to seize back his identity, to reject being defined by the exploitive, dehumanizing demands imposed (and small bribes proffered) by corporate/governmental elites?
The ongoing tragedy in Japan reveals how dangerous it can be to refuse or defer the challenge.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com / And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100...
The ten most recent threads posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums.
FL GOP tries to close state pension system to new workers, yet take THEIR pension at 2X accrual rate
FL GOP denies $51 billion federal Medicaid to poor, yet order cheap health care for themselves
Happy Mother's Day
I love DU2!
Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R) ran company now accused of Medicaid fraud (Rick Scott redux)
Mediterranean diet cuts risk of heart dis-ease
By No Elephants
The ten most recommended threads posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums in the last 24 hours.
Use the tools below to keep track of updates to this Journal.