Tag Archive: culture

It might seem like the title of this post is irresponsible, as though I’m saying that being prone to addiction is in some way a desirable character trait. In a way, I’m not not saying that; when you think about it, nearly every “negative” character trait has the capacity to act as both a strength and a weakness.

For example, knowing that you’re obsessed with the opinions of others and accepting it about yourself can help you push yourself towards greater levels of achievement than you would have if you tried to “not care what other people think” and instead act purely for your own fulfillment. It is all about finding the positive in yourself and, for lack of a better word, capitalizing on it, rather than trying to force yourself to change into what you think society expects of you.

Knowing that you’re good at one thing and not so good at something else and accepting it is the best way to improve, both at what you’re good at and what you suck at. If I have addictive tendencies and I know it, I’m in a much better position to reap the positive components of it and deal with the negative components constructively. When its dangers creep into my life, I recognize them and alter my behavior, not necessarily with perfect results but at least with results.

If I were to try to deny it, however, and try to just blend in and be “normal,” my behavior would continue to repeat itself, over and over. My life would stagnate and I would not know why, moving from one instance of overdoing it to the next with no real progress. The reason would be very simple: I’m denying the existence of certain parts of myself because society tells me that they are bad. As a result, they are not being managed.

For me, being an addictive person means being attracted to extremes. When I like something, I can’t get enough of it. When I’m engaged in a project that I’m passionate about, I’ll often work on it manically to the exclusion of everything else, including my own health and relationships.  

On a certain level, this might seem like the “lucky” side of being addiction-prone. I get things done. I have a relatively high output of high-quality, impassioned work and projects.

On another level, though, it is not very cool. Often, my interest runs thin before the project is finished, usually because another project, another idea, has supplanted it in my active attention. This leads to numerous unfinished projects that I am, in fact, very passionate about, which introduces a high level of stress originating from myself into my life. I’m still learning to finish one thing before I move onto another, and how to maintain a long-term project even if I start to lose some interest in it.

Before I was a functioning, fully employed adult, it was easier to finish things. The bulk of my short fiction, both of my completed novels, and a completed album were the result of this time of my life. I had more free time and less of an understanding of the crushing reality of workaday life. This was also the time I started to recognize myself as having an addictive personality.

My first addiction was to tobacco. Nothing remarkable about that, except perhaps when you consider that I’d suffered from severe asthma all my life. My parents had always gone to great lengths to keep our cigarette-smoking relatives’ second-hand smoke away from me. I’d used asthma innumerable times in school to get out of gym class or various other responsibilities. And here I was at 18, smoking Winstons like Humphrey Bogart.

In a way, you could say that I was lucky to have asthma, because without its increasingly debilitating effects, I might never have stopped smoking. From what I understand, some people outgrow their asthma. Teddy Roosevelt is one such person, reputedly. I might have outgrown mine too if I had never smoked. Probably not, but I’ll never know now.

My second real addiction was to marijuana. I’ve documented that experience thoroughly on this blog. Realizing early that I might be developing an addiction to it helped me avoid trying other, more dangerously addictive drugs like cocaine. That was very lucky too, from a certain point of view.

My third intense addiction was to alcohol. That was very short-lived and might challenge the definition of “addiction,” somewhat, being the symptom of a very specific period of heartbreak. During this time, I did nothing but drink alcohol and eat candy, at least that’s what certain friends have said. They would ask me what I’m doing later that night, and my answer would be, “I’m going to drink.”

Now, I drink less than once a month. Thankfully, I’ve been able to keep that one in check without having to totally abstain. With help, I started healing from the main occurrences in my life that drove me to it. As I started getting into physical fitness, I also was able to recall the negative health effects of alcohol and how it tends to tire me out, which I don’t like. Sometimes, I still rely on it somewhat as a social lubricant. Someday, if I choose to work at it enough, maybe I won’t have to.

My third addiction was to working out at the gym, which supplanted alcohol at the tail-end of that deeply heartbroken period. Five to six days per week of intense exercise translated into overtraining, insomnia, and hundreds of dollars spent on supplements like creatine pills and human growth hormone boosters. I later realized these products had begun to serve the purpose that psychotropic drugs once served, a mentality of “hey, let’s see what this does to my body.” God knows what crap I was swallowing in those unregulated pills and powders.

And now onto the next addiction. I view pornography as a potentially addictive drug. If you cannot live without it, you are addicted to it. That doesn’t make it or you bad, but that’s the situation. I couldn’t seem to live without it. Exactly as was the case with marijuana, I was incapable of using it “only once in awhile,” “in moderation,” or “whenever.” So I stopped using it. I haven’t consumed any of it in over five months and I foresee continuing this way indefinitely. Maybe I’ll write a separate blog post about that sometime.

To be honest, I have a feeling many, many people don’t use porn “once in awhile.” I bet a lot of people use it everyday. I bet a lot of people can’t get aroused without it. And I bet, if you were to take it away from them (not that I’m condoning taking it away), it would result in other problematic behaviors, possibly ones entailing greater levels of harm to themselves and others. Or it would just lead to intense anxiety and depression.

The thing is, if you are unable to recognize your own addictive tendencies, things like porn, working out, alcohol, and marijuana can have very negative effects on your feelings of self-worth, your health, your relationships, your ambitions, your feelings of having control over your own life. Problematic, dangerous behaviors “keep coming up” and limiting your progress. Just admit you have no control over them, find other ways to deal with the stressors of your life, and abstain from them forever. Simple.

Obviously I’m kidding in that last sentence. As I said, I didn’t have to give up alcohol forever, and clearly I didn’t give up exercise since I work in the fitness industry. What I did have to do, though, was understand and accept what I am capable of controlling and what I’m incapable of controlling. That takes humility, a type that sets me free and lets me move forward in life, whereas pride in such circumstances would do nothing but restrict me to repeating the same stupid behaviors over and over again and living a pretty unbalanced life. Oddly enough, introducing an element of extremism—complete abstinence—can bring more balance to someone’s life than trying in vain to remain “moderate.”

So is this what makes me lucky as an addictive person? The “character” that develops in the face of adversity? Well, it is not really adversity because I choose to engage in these behaviors. Nor do I fetishize adversity as being necessary for character development. The shittiness of the world makes it necessary to be able to deal with shittiness, and the best way to know how to deal with shittiness is to be faced with it yourself. But if the world was a better place, if people’s lives were universally more comfortable and safer and they had a greater sense of self-worth and more opportunity to express that sense, there would be absolutely no value to complicating their lives for its own sake.

Is it that I am able to dedicate myself to projects and push through where others might give up? As I mentioned, I love all of the work and writing that I do, but it would be nice to be able to work on projects regularly, a little bit at a time, instead of seemingly needing to steep myself in them for days at a time. 

It would also be nice to feel like I’m choosing what to put my time and effort into. Addiction does not equate to passion, unfortunately. For me, it pertains to a certain baseline level of fear and the urge to circumvent that fear. Whatever I’m addicted to is acting as an escape, as a frenzied, dashed-off expression of hilarious terror, rather than as balanced, chosen piece of meticulous work. My best work is often done when I’m not feeling addicted or obsessed, when my life is balanced which happens so very rarely. This is because I’m calmer than those other times; I’m giving my mind a chance to really focus on what I’m doing. I’m not driven by fear of dying before I get everything onto the page. I’m driven by love of what I’m doing.

Sometimes addiction can feel that way too. Sometimes it is that way. Doing what you love is a double-edged sword because you know that what you are doing will end someday, so it is possible to do it both out of love and out of fear. Love is crazy like that.

But in general, no. I wish my life could be more rational, compartmentalized, and prioritized, and not seem to require such a massive effort of oversight and self-management, even though I know my extreme, unconventional way of thinking helps give me the potential to do great things.

No, what makes me lucky is that I’ve been given things that I’m passionate about that make my life worth living, and that I’ve received the help and support and love and education from various sources that I needed. If I didn’t have my passions, like writing and music, I might not have found a reason to stop smoking weed. If I wasn’t loved, I probably wouldn’t have stopped drinking. If I wasn’t made aware of the tendency of American society to encourage excesses and self-destructive behaviors, I might not have taken the steps necessary to avoid falling prey to the same fate as innumerable young people who, being unstimulated by society, “buy in” to various misguided ideas about youth and “rebelliousness” that lead them to self-destruct and deprive themselves of any greater dreams and goals in life, such as working to change the society that failed them.

I’m not lucky because of my addictive personality, nor entirely in spite of it. Rather, I’m lucky because, with help, I figured out a way to have it start complementing who I am. Personal growth is not about fighting yourself. It’s about accepting yourself for who you are so that you don’t have to be frightened of yourself and use your addictions or vices as an escape. It’s about making yourself complementary to who you are and to your reality so that you can grow beyond yourself, and make your reality grow beyond itself. It’s about believing that you’re okay the way you are, while simultaneously trying to do better. And once you can do that, you’ll do the greatest things of your life.

By “to aestheticize,” I mean “to turn into an object of expression,” or “to depict in an artistic way.”

By “text,” I mean any creative output, such as writing, film, photography, painting, design, architecture, or sculpture.

Who am I to say what is oppressive? I am a self-proclaimed theorist of ideology and culture, and I try to understand where oppression comes from in terms of commonplace ideas and the entities that perpetuate those ideas. I refer to these ideas as ideologies. What ideologies are used to justify war, prisons, police states, regressive taxes, laws against poverty and union organizing, and who espouses them? This is what fascinates me: the necessity of these ideologies to maintain the status quo, and who profits from that status quo, first and foremost.

When is it necessary to aestheticize oppression, specifically the oppression of women? Is it when an author wants to depict something that exists “in real life” and not gloss over the existence of such phenomena? Is the purpose of doing so to shock the viewer, to enlighten her, to educate her? Or is it to do the opposite of shock: to cushion, to carry, to create an affinity, a kinship? In short, to provide something that exists in reality, not for the reader to condemn as an oppression, but rather as a reminder of “the way it is,” for her to relate to, whether with the same jarring and helpless resignation she might feel if she were actually being targeted, or with the celebratory embrace of knowing one’s place and accepting it?

Of course, it can depend on the identity of the reader. If a person with a higher level of privilege, to whom the depicted oppressions do not apply or apply to a far lesser degree insofar as being the target of them, views the text in which the oppression is depicted, he may feel reinforced. He may feel that his place in society, which is not in the position of “oppressed,” is not only desirable but just.  At worst he will believe the oppressions which exist are necessary for the perpetuation of society as we know it, which is a desirable end because our society is a great and wonderful thing. He wishes to stand in for the author, as the author’s proxy, and enforce what he believes is the author’s will, putting him in a position of authority. And authority makes him feel strong, which makes him feel like a real man.

At best, much of the time, this privileged viewer will seem to acknowledge to himself society’s failings and the existence of the oppression, and he will thank himself for not being a contributor to it. Better to ascribe all the blame to society itself—the institutions, the media, the relations between men and women that have been passed down since time immemorial—than to feel responsible for an institutional ill, over which the mere individual has no control. At this point, he has bought into it, not even become inured to it but has come to “believe” in oppression, and when he views it in an aesthetic context, he will relate to it just as much as the individual described in the above paragraph, who essentially cannot envision a society without the oppressions, just as this “well-intentioned” fellow can’t imagine himself doing anything to change or remove them, for to do so would make him less comfortable. He remains comfortably silent and willing.

If the oppressed person views the text that depicts oppression, she may also relate, but in a different way. Rather than identifying with being in a position of power, she identifies with the opposite. She may feel understood by the author, insofar as she understands herself as a target of whatever inequity–violence, rape, or unfairness–constitutes the oppression. However, she may not categorize it as an oppression, because in identifying with a depiction of it in a text, she may feel empowered to embrace her role, her place, as a symbol and seemingly a positive one of her identity, for the alternative is to bemoan the preordained, the “given,” “the way it is,” and to do so would be negative and cloying. As Ralph Cintron describes in “Angel Town” in the context of inner city Latino youth, in an environment where respect doesn’t exist, one must create respect. Perhaps her acceptance, her seizure and attempts at ownership of her own oppression are necessary, not a necessary evil or a necessary good. A necessary act, simply for survival. And were these depictions to suddenly disappear, a certain comfort level of her own might vanish with them.

Is relateability, perhaps, the main reason for aestheticizing oppression, and in so doing, popularizing it? Whether to bolster its benefactors, or subjugate its sufferers? Where would popular culture be if it wasn’t for popular biases? Where would society be if it was based on contradiction and conflict and a constant search for more and better knowledge, rather than on a tight-knit, clear, and set understanding of who is supposed to do what and to whom and when? If men didn’t “know” that women are sexual objects that exist to please us, how would we know to pursue them? If women didn’t know that men are the powerful “doers” of society, how would they know to stand around and wait for us to “rescue” them from the dull, stigma-ridden state of being manless and impoverished?

The manufacturers of mass media want us to believe that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves without the influence of the culture industry. People would stop working, men would stop fucking, women would stop producing babies, children would stop paying attention in school, and no one would vote, opting to “do politics” in other manners if at all. The funny thing is, they’re right, to some extent. If people were awakened to the oppressions reproduced endlessly in popular culture, whether by the complicit oppressor (whether he be the silent and willing, or the author’s proxy) or the “empowered” oppressed (without whose oppression she would have no identity), we might notice the injustices inherent to other societal systems—the workplace, the bedroom, the classroom, the government—and act on them. Some of us would work to end them, while others would work to maintain them, to hold onto their positions of privilege, to their dreams of absolute authority, with all the power of the political establishment at their backs.

This, however, is the picture of true progress: a struggle between the profiteers and the exploited. All depictions of oppression should be aimed at challenging the viewer to resist that oppression, and challenge the understandings of where such top-down oppression originates. I say “top-down” because, in the context of the oppression of women but it applies to all structures of oppression, if our society is controlled by men, and so many texts of female oppression and marginalization exist and are circulated, it could be posited that the male authorities which control our society sanction and allow these texts to be circulated, and in fact encourage it, and in fact profit from it, because the centrally-targeted white heterosexual male market is best exploited by being told they have power over and are superior to women, to minorities, to LGBTers, ergo what a wonderful and great society in which we live. And so the oppressions are perpetuated in the same way that the male pursuit of pussy perpetuates the existence of our species: ravenously, and with love only for the status quo which makes us entitled to it.

My Life is a First Draft

“Someday I will do something noble, to give value to my life. My strength in ideas will crystallize to equal great action. I will be free from fear or lack of confidence. I will overcome the adversity of not having anticipated and dreaded it. I will stand for what I am and what I know, which I will know with conviction.”

I wrote these words a few weeks ago, on the train to work. They struck me as significant; what are they saying? That I will only accomplish what is in my heart when I am older, and that my fear will be with me until then. Only then will my actions not be hampered by fear and incredulity. The struggling chaos of my everyday life will be replaced with clarity, calm, and efficiency. Until then, grandiose plans of artistic expression and world-changing action will remain just that: plans, a soul without a body.

Why? There are few things I value more than my freedom of thought. I acceptingly witness the oppressive structures of society, its economically exploitative nature, the various contradictions and conflicts that make it the neurosis-inducing thing that it is. I read and absorb as many of its resistors as possible, and become familiar with the tactics of its preservers. I see each phenomenon around me as being for freedom or against it, and most are against.

And yet I participate in it. I have not found a way to break free, in act or in spirit enough to lead to the act. My dreams of artistic grandeur were based on images in the media and in popular culture: genius, coolness, popularity, acceptance, immortality, “freedom” as the reward for success. I thought I could enter it and maintain my character, perhaps even being a force for positive change within it. But the freedom comes in the form of money and prestige, both of which are dependent upon not changing anything, and neither of which demand high character.

In the same way that I saw myself as unique back then, I see my character as very high now. I would fight for anyone, give to anyone, see anyone else’s point of view, defend the undefended and attack the comfortable….I would kill a king to save a subject, and kill myself if it would empower that subject. I refrain from many things: meat, marijuana, recently pornography. These are vices that deplete my spirit, that hurt my vision and my sense of self.

So I imagine great self-sacrifice, yet engage in very little of it besides sacrificing that which I am against: eating dead animals, brain pollution, and the commodification of sex in our manipulative, Master/Slave-obsessed society. I sacrifice nothing that makes me comfortable, and actively, positively *do* almost nothing that meets my own expectations of my character. I am detached, disrupted, distraught…

Because of this (emphasis added)

Right now, rather than as a novelist, drummer, activist, artist, I work as a personal trainer at a corporate-owned gym in the most affluent county in New Jersey. I train good-looking people in ways to become better-looking. And it allows me to justify being preoccupied with my own appearance. It occurs to me to wonder, in a common way, “what sense does that make?” I’m not the only one apparently who wonders, even among those at my workplace…

Woflson comment

…In addition to the people who know me as a person of principle and great disdain for society, not just colleagues but comrades…

Woflson comment contd

But will I? Will I ever work for the greater good? In politics or art? I see now that there is value within both, although artists and creative people generally have to accept a dehumanizing machine controlling their every word and action. Activists often choose to compromise too, by working with Democrats or ideological adversaries. Unless one can embrace extremism or avant-gardism (which I sometimes think/thought I could), compromise is the nature of everything, I guess. Failure. Downgrading. Losing. Ideals that die like extinct animals. Such is the nature of the dialectic. Why should I be any different?

And what do the opinions of others really matter? They matter when they reflect an opinion of oneself. Where do the dreams go, the purity once thought to exist? There is a question I must ask:

Appearances, Nature

“Is it that certain things just did not work out, or is that they were never worked?”

Ideals are the enemy of action, perhaps. Fear of failure derives from the desire for “success,” when success is such a specific and exclusive thing as to not truly relate to reality. That is the type of “success” the dehumanizing machine wants us to seek. The need to create “revolution, and nothing less” can lead a person to do nothing, thinking herself a failure, when she didn’t really try because she knew she could not succeed fully in her lifetime, and be recognized for it. Perhaps it is bourgeois to seek perfection, based on an indecisiveness that replaces urgency because one is in a position of privilege, not of urgent oppression or even danger.

Yes, personal trainers are exploited, just like anyone else. A session with me will cost you 100 dollars, of which I will receive 30. So what am I doing about it? Organizing, Agitating, Occupying? Not quite. I’m doing a good job, a damn good job, working hard for the client and for the company, because of my “high character.” Am I waiting for the time to become perfect before I act? Am I trying to secure the self-confidence first? What is the answer? I watched a Bergman movie last night, “The Magician,” so it is quite apropos that an answer derives from him:


I know I am probably being too hard on myself; my bipolar nature is having a field day with finding more reasons to be pessimistic, to give up, to do exactly what the machine wants me to do, to admit that I won’t make a positive impact in my lifetime, for the only sufficient positive impact is the kind that results in fame and fortune and immortality. So many fighters who died for freedom will never be honored with a memorial, or even on Facebook by those whose lives they touched. I still believe, even if I can’t do all I want right now in full, that I may still do great things before I die, or at least a piece of them, or at least try them. Great, meaning lasting.

I must simply maintain my self-awareness until then, and hold on, and not view the minimal as trivial, or the imperfect as bad. How will I achieve the maximal if I don’t achieve the minimal first? How will I get perfection done if imperfection is never addressed? How will I love what I do, and the people for whom I do it, if I never love myself?