Archive for September, 2016


I’m having trouble processing the political situation in this world today, and, coupled with the difficulties, uncertainties, and fears of my own life, I’m losing hope.

New video footage of law enforcement killing a Black person surfaces so regularly, it’s as though the police’s strategy is to just keep ramping up the murder until the public becomes numb to it. Are the acquittals intended to send the message that the people will never win? How much absence of justice will the people accept until they “accept” the fact that there is no justice?

There are only two possible responses to this absence: giving up, or resistance. The system wants us to give up. The families and friends of the victims of police violence want us to resist.

Of course I would like things to get better, to calm down, to carry through to some kind of justice. But I know they aren’t going to, not without a fight, a mass struggle. Black people, simply by existing, by living peaceful lives, by struggling and surviving and doing what needs to be done, threaten the narrative of white supremacy in America. And so, more are being killed. This is to say nothing of those African-American voices that speak up clearly and unequivocally against this narrative, those African-American bodies who actively put themselves between the oppressor and the oppressed.

As more resistance rises, more people will die. It is the way of resistance, and it is hard to hear our consciences whispering it into our inner ear. “Things will get worse before they get better” is only one way of looking at it. It is not so much that conditions in society must get much worse before “society starts to care” about racist violence. The bulk of American society doesn’t care and generally isn’t going to. Those who say they care aren’t going to do anything about it, while the rest of American society is openly racist. We mustn’t wait for this society to start to care.

A clearer picture would be, “a thousand good guys must die in order to take down one bad guy. And then the fight has only just begun.”

This inescapable, dialectical fact scares me. As much as I want the revolution to happen, this type of continued destruction and death scares me into wishing it wasn’t necessary, wishing there was a safe way out for all of us. I just don’t know if there is. I don’t want anyone to die.

But I don’t see anything changing anytime soon. Body cameras will “malfunction.” Training will be flawed. Community policing will prove to be the idealistic liberal fantasy we already know it is.

People will advocate for these reforms, and while they are being tested on the flesh of Black bodies and proven ignominious failures at addressing the core problem, more lives will be lost on the road to real change, the road to revolution.

My sadness comes from knowing I will probably not be there to see it. But my hope is that humans of the future will be readier than we are, more knowledgeable, and more aware that the destruction of the current social order and financial system is a worthwhile goal if it means the creation of a world in which a person gets shot for being a racist, and not for being a race.

 

I don’t believe nature owes me anything, but I believe society does. Nature does not act with purpose; it just is. We perceive purpose in its actions, but it doesn’t. If the world ended tomorrow, nature wouldn’t care. It would just go on in a different form.

Nature is merely the means by which I am conceived and born. But society, in its various manifestations (parents, family, community, country, culture) is the cause, and society acts very much with purpose. No one asks to be born into this sniveling, pathetic excuse for a world filled with war, murder, racism, oppression, lifelong exploitation, childhood trauma, loss, sadness, disillusionment, confusion, and ultimately inevitable terrifying death. Rather, society asks that we be born, whether “society” means our parents who want to populate their lives with meaning, or whether it refers to culture, which tells our parents where meaning originates, or to our political system, which wants to prolong its “life” with a steady source of consumers and workers who all buy into that meaning. Society creates each individual person for these purposes which are alien to him or her; meanwhile, it creates or is complicit in all of its injustices and horrors.

In this way, while society brings us into existence, it presents us with very little besides the myriad reasons why we should regard that existence as a curse. The absolute and essential need for full-time employment makes alienated puppets of us all, contorting ourselves into our desk chairs or lifting and swinging hammers into concrete, turning our bodies into twisted, broken prisons consisting of one or another pain or preventable disease, and our minds into clenched fists of chronic stress that beat us into submission with refrains of “never enough time/money/status/possessions.”

“That’s life,” they tell us, as they were told.

Society wants to punish you for being born. It is completely ill-equipped to do anything else. Perhaps childhoods can be idyllic for some, but when “real life” takes hold, each person realizes what life has to offer, and uses what means are at his or her disposal to ignore this fact. Among the most common means for achieving this are drugs, alcohol, television, religion, unhealthy food, and expensive consumer goods at best; racism, xenophobia, patriotism, sexism, and imperialism at worst.

In essence, society brings us into this world and then gives us the means to kill ourselves, our hopes and dreams and aspirations for a better world. Rather than hand us a gun and have us blow our lives away, it prefers that we consume as much as possible before doing so, not because it eases any actual pain but because it enriches the people who benefit from society as it is. Mass infirmity, just like mass ignorance, makes those elements of society richer.

If we want to see any changes, however, we must not simply expect society to start giving us what it owes us. We must alter it as a whole. We must change its mechanism and purpose, from one that takes as much as it can from each citizen, to one that gives each citizen as much to live for—as much freedom, as much expression, as much value and worth, as much warmth and love and happiness, as much ethical fulfillment and consistency, as much support and solidarity, as much understanding—as possible.

That must be our goal. When we have accomplished it for everyone, we will have started to pay back the children of the world, and they will thank us, and then we can sleep peacefully, knowing they are safe.

The Pleasure Dome

There was a time when I believed that everything had meaning, and that that meaning was somehow objective, and that life consisted of being moved, literally and figuratively, from one meaning to another. Being divested of that belief was hard. It consisted of realizing that the meaning was only there because I saw and felt it. It would be just as easy to perceive no meaning to anything, and many people in the world—the ones whose lives consist of more suffering than comfort, more upheaval than stability, more hate than love—perceived it as just that: devoid of meaning, or of any meaning besides pain.

They were not wrong. I was wrong.

This was part of my experience that I describe as being in “the pleasure dome,” a time in which we juvenilely believe that there is anything intrinsic to life, to reality; that is, that life or reality have any intrinsic qualities: that they are good or pleasant or meaningful or valuable, that there is a “sense” or “intelligence” to either one (besides human intelligence), that they work out in a certain way because “nature does not act without reason,” as Aristotle teaches us, whether favorably because “nature has a plan,” or unfavorably because “that’s life.”

Some of us also hew to the misguided and self-serving (but also ultimately self- and world-depriving) belief that thoughts and feelings have value in any capacity beyond themselves (outside of the actions that result from them). The harsh, brutish, and uncaring world which actually exists in a material sense is somehow false because it is inferior to “real” reality, the reality of the internal or emotionalized, the idealized world of creativity, and artistry and “vision” are means by which to perceive and cultivate “real” reality and to leave “fake” reality behind.

It is not that internal life does not, in some significant sense, constitute a type of reality, importance, or urgency. It is more the patent falsehood that internality affects externality in any way on its own, without action as its mediator, or that it somehow outweighs it or constitutes reality in any sense because it is more pleasant, more agreeable, more manageable, more understandable.

Just the opposite: what is less pleasant, less agreeable, less manageable, less understandable, is in fact, what is real, and all of the opposites that we perceive in our minds are, at best, what should be real. Were we to act on them, were we to put them into reality in a material form, perhaps they would take root and persist in material reality as a material change, rather than letting them sprout, flower, and die in our minds, in miserly jealousy and fear that they would be denigrated and crushed under less sensitive feet.

And perhaps they would, but they might inspire someone else to speak their mind, to act on it, to do it, to live and exist in the material world, outside the quilted confines of the pleasure dome.

There is an epidemic of mental illness splashed across my generation like a heart-shaped bloodstain. Why is that? Is it that doctors are too prescription-happy and get kickbacks from drug companies? Is it that all humans are, in some way or another, intrinsically damaged simply by existence? Is it that young people are insecure and simply grasp at any convenient sign of their own identity, and any pill to go with it, anything to make them feel more entitled to the benefits of being “normal”?

We like to forget that society produces the mentally ill people upon whom it imposes the many designations of mental illness it also produced. It created these designations to seemingly address the problem of mental illness. But before mental illness was categorized, it certainly existed, and now that it is categorized with as much gradient variation as geology, meteorology or any other science, it still exists. It even thrives, such that every deviation from the norm—overt anxiety, overt sensitivity, overt awareness, overt fear, overt particularity—can now be categorized, diagnosed, catalogued, and panoptically scrutinized by a chorus of licensed professionals.

Notice my use of the word “overt.” If these traits are not overt, if they are kept inside, they are not visible to other people and hence the need to categorize them diminishes until such times when the subject commits murder or pedophilia, to the extreme surprise of his or her familiars to whom he or she was “such a nice quiet person. I never would have thought…Sometimes you just never know.”

How could you “know,” how could you “have a thought” about something you ignore? Of course we are told to ignore the hateful and embrace the lovely, and of course we are taught to espouse it as well.  Even while we over-diagnose, over-medicate, over-scrutinize, we ignore and remain silent on the hateful aforementioned truth: that society creates its many segments, including the murderers, rapists, and corrupt politicians, because it thrives as it is through them. We are not taught to understand why a person commits murder or other crimes, except that they are aberrations, anomalies, and outliers, statistically insignificant, not signifying any greater message besides humanity’s ineluctable “dark side.”

Society puts dark ideas into our heads, ideas like “what is different is bad, what is the same is good,” or, “to dominate is to be right,” or “life sucks, get over it.” In the manicheistic pursuit of happiness, positivity, and self-interest, most of us tuck these lessons away to fall back on in the event of indecision. When we are not sure what to do with our lives, we can always rely on imitating the herd, the will to dominate (or, more likely, to be dominated, assuming its inherent virtue), and excusing the inequities and failures of life to steer us in the right and safe direction. This is what is considered “good mental health.”

But for the mentally ill, there are two other reactions to these adages. The first is total commitment i.e. taking it too far. These are murderers, rapists, pedophiles, the senselessly violent, hurting the innocent or defenseless, attacking minorities, preying on those they perceive as weak or different, and resolving any moral qualms with some variation of “life sucks, they’ll get over it. Life has winners and life has losers.”

The second reaction is emotional resistance. This puts the young woman or man in a state of anxiety while taking a test comprised of arbitrary criteria, depression when life appears worthless, anger upon learning about the state of the world, and (antisocial) alienation while struggling in that harsh “real world.” Pundits would have us perceive ourselves as “soft” and “weak.” “Sometimes life is sad, get over it.” “Sometimes life is anxious, get over it.” “Angry? You should be grateful!” “If you act like a weirdo, you get what you deserve.” Notice the similarity to the refrains of the killers.

For the emotionally resistant, the body is willing, though only under duress, and the mind is not. The mind is unwilling to accept the terms of engagement that have been thrust upon it, coercively, not as a request but as a requirement, if she should hope to succeed, to live safely and well, and to remain safe from the social stigmas of “failure,” having “never quite made it,” “never quite fitting in,” being “uncooperative,” “immature,” “ungrateful,” “underachieving,” having had “all the chances in the world to get ahead and missing or messing up all of them.”

Perhaps there is some compassion, some understanding that one aspect or another of society failed, not the emotionally resistant individual. This sense of shame and of self-disgust, of non-acceptance of the self, is laid at her feet for her to voluntarily take unto herself—as though she was being told to climb into her own grave—in the form of social stigma and mediocrity, to exculpate the society as the ultimate robber of this person’s “success” (a hopelessly twisted and obscure concept) to whom it never gave a chance, and place the blame right where it belongs: on the shoulders of the prisoner who hates her prison, her prison-guards, her prison-owners, no matter how beautiful a cell is promised or delivered, no matter how wonderful a meal is reserved for those who really “work hard” at deserving it, at fitting in.

She remains diagnosed as “her own worst enemy,” unsafe alone, unsafe with others, generally too sick to be around. Keep her alone, and silenced, and unloved, because her anger, her revulsion, her rejection of what is baldly wrong and unjust, of what completely fails to live up to the potential she sees in her daydreams—where hope is unneeded and fears are acted upon, where nature thrives and justice prevails, where the eye looks where it will and not where it is directed, where people are free—might rub off onto you.

And then you would be to blame.

Do not betray your dreams or your goals, for to do so is to betray yourself, to deny the value of your own life. It is true that “you only live once,” but that is not the whole story. Not only do you only live your life once, but you also only live each moment once, and then it is gone. Each moment not spent in the pursuit of something more should be a moment used to recharge from all of the other moments spent in this manner. Make every moment count, and let every feeling be tied to a dream.

No matter how crazy your dreams may seem, never let their craziness stand in their own way. Don’t let anything or anyone stand in their way, especially you. No matter how possible or impossible…if it is possible, do it. If it is impossible, fight to make it possible, not just for you but for everyone.

It may take time, it may take failure, it may take heartache, it may take risk, but your parents took a risk by bringing you into this world. For whatever reason, they took the risk of creating a human life, someone who can hurt, and suffer, but who can accomplish things that might give the suffering a purpose.

Never believe that it is too late, but remember that your time is limited. You might have to refine your dreams as you go along, or pause on them as you take care of other things. You might make mistakes that can seem to take the dream away from you. This is why you must be careful, to guard your freedom, your avenues, your alliances, your friendships, the ones that cheer you on and believe in you, and not give in to the voices of doubt and infirmity that so many other people listen to and that are screamed at them from every turret.

You can stand above those voices, as a yes-voice, a voice that can say to others, “I believed in myself, in my dream, and I made it happen. I didn’t listen to the sad, the beaten, the destroyed, the cynical, even though I felt this way sometimes. I listened to my faith in my dream, to my confidence in my own desires, to my heart and my head working in perfect harmony towards what I knew had a chance of making me happy. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t short, perhaps it didn’t even turn out exactly the way I thought it would. And I’ll never be truly happy, never be truly content, or finished. But I didn’t use that as an excuse. I didn’t fall back on the safe and secure, on what was provided for me. I struggled for what I believe in, and saw it through, from one part of my life to the next: from a dream to a reality.”

Reality is beautiful, but it is in the minority. It is rare, endangered, and sought-after, not to be distributed far and wide, or beheld in all its beauty, but to be hoarded away by misers or crushed by misanthropes. If you want reality, you’re going to have to fight for it. But whatever it is, keep this in the back of your mind: your dream, much like your life, much like the world we live in, is always worth saving, improving, and fighting for. Feel pity for anyone who says otherwise, and rage at the voices that convinced them.