Dé Luain, Márta 30, 2009

Than There Was This One Time

A couple Valentine Days ago. A chicken plant worker offered me three Dorals in return for a ride from Alps to Uni Place. A girl whom he was keyed on lived there. He didn't have her number yet.

They hit it off just fine. And he got her number.

My Dad Was Shocked to Hear That There's Usually no Meat in my Breakfast.

He had a heart attack at forty seven. I was twelve. He was unloading his semi in Lincoln at the time. It just of easily could of hit him somewhere out in the wilderness and that would have been that. There was a trucker on the interstate near North Platte once who had a heart attack, crashed through a fence on the side of the road, and deep-sixed himself and his rig into a nearby pond. Two days before they got him out. The press were told that he probably died instantly. Dad quit smoking after the heart attack. Still eats like he thinks he's a tiger.

Two days after Dad got out of the hospital we were helping my Aunt Sue and Uncle Tim load a U-Haul van for Arizona. Tim has asthma compounded by several allergies so his doctors advised him to move where nothing grows. You'll be glad to hear that he's much fatter than Doc Holiday.

My father of course was extremely weak and of little help to anyone. It was early May, unseasonably hot. My mother has some condition where she doesn't sweat enough so she had to sit down quite often. It was my cousins and I who did the bulk of the lifting.

My father complained all day about being unable to help my mother and not being a man. Toward the end of the day she saw mom straining to help my cousin Richard carry a bookcase to the van so he stood up to help her. He had to be restrained by several family members and it took several minutes of being yelled at by mom before he sat down.

The fact that he had a penis was more important to him than the fact that he had had a heart attack. So far as he was concerned, the fact that my father had a penis instead of a vagina was automatically, unquestioningly, the most important detail in all situations, sexual or otherwise. I remember feeling a deep sense of shock when I realized this; shock and, in spite of myself, a good deal of disgust.

This was the day I learned that the traditional masculine ideal is suicidally moronic and insane. The biggest lesson that my father taught me was completely accidental, in fact the exact opposite of what he intended to teach me.

This is perfectly common and good. My gratitude is sincere.

Dé Máirt, Márta 24, 2009

The Sandlot

While I'm reminiscing I'd like to make a shout out to a film I'd sure you'd agree helped to mold all of the males of my generation. Who among us can think about "The Sandlot" without feeling something warm in his eye? Oh, Hammy, you lovable fat disgusting fuck. Here's some of my favorite quotes from the movie, enjoy.

[Hams] I'm the Great Bambino.
[Boys] What?
- I'm the Great Bambino. - [ All ] What?
I'm the Great Bambino.
[All] Oh!
[Smalls]Who's that?
[All] What?
[Smalls] Sounds like some rapper. Are you all a bunch of nigger lovers or

[Mother] I don't want you sitting around in here all summer fiddling with
this stuff...
like you did last summer and the one before.
I know you're smart, and I'm proud of you.
I want you to get out into the fresh air and make some friends.
Run around, scrape your knees, get dirty.
Climb trees, hop fences.
Get into trouble, for crying out loud.
Not too much, but some. You have my permission.

[Smalls] Bitch I make trouble! What the fuck you know trick?!!

[Mr. Mertle] Yep. I used to crowd the plate...
so the strike zone almost disappeared.
[ Laughs ] Pitchers hate that.
That's the way I played-- 110% all the time.
Baseball was life.
And I was good at it, real good.
And then... one day,
a high fast one, and pow,
lights went out.

[Bennie] (Points 12-gauge shotgun against Mertle's head)
It's time to take out the audio motherfucker!
(Pulls trigger, cloud of blood and brains envelops the room)

[Scotty Narrating] Even though Bill loved the Murderer's Row ball,
he was still plenty mad about me having swiped...
his Babe Ruth autographed ball and ruining it.
So I didn't feel too bad when he made me play naughty nun for a week,
instead of the rest of my life.

[ Timmy ] She don't know what she's doing.
[ Tommy ] She don't know what she's doing.
[ Benny ] Yeah, she does.
She knows exactly what she's doing.
[Squints] I've swum here every summer of my adult life.
And every summer, there she is,
lotioning, oiling, oiling, lotioning.
I tell you fellas what. I'm going to break into that bitches
house tonight, right through her bedroom window. I'm going to
beat her face in a bit, just to bring her to her sense ya dig?
Then I'm gonna give her a choice between my dick in her mouth
or my knife in her throat.

[Benny] Hell yeah Squints! Show that bitch what's up!!!

Tales From North Platte

There was this Clark Masters in the police department, detective I think. He was the local media voice for the PO, narrating the "Crime Stopper" shorts and showing up on the local news for the "Santacop" program, things like that. In 1996 he tried to cash in on his local fame by running for sheriff against the outgoing sheriff's preferred heir. Both the candidates were Republicans. North Platte is a railroad town and the rail union has some influence so it's pretty moderate as far as western Nebraska goes. But it's only natural that police officers would be more conservative than the general population. Of course the Manichean moral outlook of the GOP would appeal to them. It's a dangerous job, after all, so of course the average cop desires to see the business of enforcing the law and punishing its transgressors as something more than mere civic housekeeping, part of a grand cosmic war, a higher calling than painting the lanes on Main Street or feeding the park giraffe.

Masters lost the GOP primary by about 60 to 40%. He launched a write-in campaign for the general election and lost by even more.

About a year after this the town learned that Masters was carrying on a romance with a seventeen year old girl that had been going on since she was barely fifteen. He didn't get into any legal trouble, because the girls parents were okay with it, and why not? He was a prominent local figure. Financially secure. The media face of the North Platte Police department and thus the local symbol of masculine power itself. The perfect surrogate father for the girl, even better than marrying her off to the village butcher.

The news of the affair caused a bit of a stir, but not as much as it would have a year or two earlier. Masters had revealed himself to be quite the entitled asshole during the sheriff's campaign. People were surprised but not shocked at his proclivities.

Buck Egenberger, the girls' basketball coach at my high school, also liked his women fresh. This girls parents were offended, and he went to the state pen for a time. I was checking up on the hometown news several months ago and saw that he had just gotten out. Good for him.

I wonder if the girl he went to prison for was the only one, if perhaps we have shared the embrace of the same seventeen year old.

The U.S. is rather tolerant of females playing sports, even compared to those decadent elitists in Western Europe. You may be surprised to know that this is especially true in the rural Midwest. The heavy masculinism of the culture there spills over onto the lady folk. Tales of rugged farm women who own no dress save for their wedding gown are common. Coaching is another matter though. The authority to give commands for a specific physical endeavor is still mostly given to men, even in girls sports. Strong athletic alpha males who take what they want. Stories like old Buck Egenbergers' are rather common.

Of course, stories of improprieties between female coaches and their female players aren't unheard of either. And if Nifty.org is telling me the truth these cases are downright rampant.

I Dreamed of A tornado Last Night

I saw it forming over a lake I used to swim at when I was a kid. I was forced to take cover by breaking into a house filled with a sassy chain-smoking woman and her children.

Per usual.

In Eleven Days I'll be 28

In two years and eleven days I'll be thirty.

My sister and I are the only members of the extended not to have kids yet. Most of my cousins have children. All of these children are loud filthy brats, raised by parents wholly incompetent in running their own lives. Only my Uncle Tom's younger ones don't have kids yet, but they are just turning twenty, and they were raised in California and Maryland. They don't have that North Platte weirdness and dirtyness about them. At any rate they will probably get married younger than I will.

My mom will often-mention my still-single status in a half-joking manner. I feel like a good comeback would be to say "oh sure Ma, isn't it a shame I didn't knock up some girl when I was a college dropout so that now you could be grandmother to a brood of vile, disease-ridden, vaguely mammaloid creatures just like Aunt Sue." Half-joking of course.

My mind turns to Ann Coulter and Bill Maher, two undeniably amusing moral degenerates who've been rumored to be dating each other several times. They both insist that they've never been dating, and of course they haven't been. They're both middle-aged and confirmed bachelors after all, why would they bother to form an official pair?

There's a strong likelihood that they've been fucking though. Sex more angry, bitter and intense than anything that those too cowardly to let loose the bonds of convention and sanity could ever imagine. Any unfortunate outsider who walks in on Coulter and Maher would surely pray for blindness before losing faith in a benevolent god altogether. But for them it is probably as visceral an experience as anything they had in their twenties, and they are satisfied.

I mention this because, well I guess it's an option for me, albeit a last resort. I do think that it would be much better for me if I found a woman I loved and settled down. And at any rate my older sister is childless, so there's that.

Dé Luain, Márta 23, 2009

Heard "Hey Ya" at O'Rourke's Today

The way that song clicked with the mainstream and so became ubiquitous had caused me to forget what a delightful little number it is. I love Outkast, and I've always been somewhat adamant that "Stankonia" was slightly better than Speakerbox/Love Below. I am now willing to concede that "The Love Below" is at least as good as Stankonia.

In related news, Prince's "Little Red Corvette" has been in my head all day even though I haven't heard it for several weeks. I've been thinking that the image of a small fiery red "car" is a about as settle a sexual metaphor as a wet dildo, but then I remember that it's Prince.

Dé Sathairn, Márta 21, 2009

There was This time

I've never asked my mother who my biological father was, and I'm not going to. It's nothing against him. How, after all, can I hold a grudge against a man who for all intents and purposes doesn't exist. I am here for no reason. I come from nothing and I am going to nothing. The culture of my ancestors is a meaningless coincidence. Even when I believed in God I knew these things, and was unbothered by them. There are many who yearn for purpose in life and influence upon others. And then there are those who are otherwise. We are all completely rootless and meaningless however we feel about it.

I had a psychologist once who asked me why I didn't know the name of my biological father. I told him it was because I hadn't asked. When he asked me why this was I said it was because I was incurious about the matter. He didn't believe me.

I was speaking with my cousin sometime in my teenage years. He said it must of been tough to spend my early years without a dad. The truth is that I didn't notice. I did notice my stepfather after my mom married her. He who never shuts up. The one who will invariably drag you into his inane raving conversation whenever you're within twenty feet of him. The one whose face will curl up into this disgusting grimace of pain whenever there is a moment of silence in the room.

Whenever I consider the possibility that my mother married him because she thought I needed a father, I am deeply haunted. I can only hope she married him for herself. The alternative is unbearable.

Dé Céadaoin, Márta 18, 2009

St. Pat's Notes.

Those who with you "The Luck of the Irish" clearly know nothing about Irish history. You could hardly be worse off if they wished you the luck of the Jews or the luck of the Indians.

It's been said that the Irish are "the Blacks of Europe" and I suppose that they have a decent claim to the title. Though one could say the same thing about anyone with the bad luck of being next door to England, France, Spain, Germany, or Russia. I myself have a smidgen of Irish along with a dab of Polish. Poland was invaded by Hitler and Stalin at the same time once. What the fuck do you know about that Ireland?

Of course, for those who know their history, there is no question that the "Blacks of Europe" title rightfully belongs to the Blacks of Africa.

Oh but the Irish are rebellious in a non-threatening sort of way, and it's just adorable that they have their own holiday where they can pretend that they haven't been perfectly assimilated for a hundred years.

St. Patrick, by the way, is the patron of my high school Alma mater, which as far as I know is still the dirty, rat-fuck ugly, non-air conditioned place it was when I graduated. But that's neither here or there.

Filled out an official NCAA bracket for the first time in my life today. Kept it conservative. The only "upsets" I have is one 9 over an 8, one 5 over a 4, one 3 over a 2, and one 2 over a one. Louisville over Memphis and Pitt over UNC in the national semis, with Pitt taking the title due to its proximity to Detroit.

That's what I got.

Dé Luain, Márta 16, 2009

WSJ Allows Incontinent Street Preacher to Write About Soccer.

Believe it or not, there are still humanities professors who hold to the old ideals of essence before existence, gender roles that are divinely mandated and universal, and an unabashedly tribalistic understanding of national identity. Stephen H. Webb, professor of theology at Wabash College, is one of them. He has taken time from his busy schedule to write an old school anti-soccer screed for the Wall Street Journal, excerpts an commentary follow.


1) Any sport that limits you to using your feet, with the occasional bang of the head, has something very wrong with it. Indeed, soccer is a liberal's dream of tragedy: It creates an egalitarian playing field by rigorously enforcing a uniform disability.

Another way of saying that soccer creates a "uniform disability" is to say that it requires a highly rarefied skill, that of manipulating a rather heavy ball into a rigidly guarded net while running full bore. A sport simply isn't a sport unless there is some kind of "uniform disability" in the rules. An eighty-year-old man could carry a football into the end zone if there was no threat of being clobbered by a three-hundred-pound linebacker at twenty miles an hour.

Anthropologists commonly define man according to his use of hands. We have the thumb, an opposable digit that God gave us to distinguish us from animals that walk on all fours. The thumb lets us do things like throw baseballs and fold our hands in prayer. We can even talk with our hands. Have you ever seen a deaf person trying to talk with his feet? When you are really angry and acting like an animal, you kick out with your feet. Only fools punch a wall with their hands. The Iraqi who threw his shoes at President Bush was following his primordial instincts. Showing someone your feet, or sticking your shoes in someone's face, is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Do kids ever say, "Trick or Treat, smell my hands"? Did Jesus wash his disciples' hands at the Last Supper? No, hands are divine (they are one of the body parts most frequently attributed to God), while feet are in need of redemption.

Ohhhkay. First of all, the fact that our forelimbs are not committed to walking, and are equipped with opposable thumbs that give us the ability to grasp things, is one of the things that distinguishes human beings, and is damned convenient at that, but it is not the thing that most defines humanity. That would be the ability to reason much, much better than Dr. Stephen H. Webb. As for the assertion that we are universally inclined to use our feet when enraged, it is clear that Dr. Webb has never seen a real fight in his life, and that his knowledge of human violence is based chiefly on Bruce Lee movies. Finally, the part about hands being "divine" and feet "in need of redemption was just damned weird. I myself have gangly legs, and I've been know to pick up a dropped pencil or what have you with my toes from time to time. Was that, blasphemy?

This entire section is the sort of 'eight ball and a twelve pack' lunacy one typically finds in letters to the North Platte Telegraph. To see it presented in the Wall Street-Journal, for serious intellectual consideration; is just, wow.

Sporting should be about breaking kids down before you start building them up. Take baseball, for example. When I was a kid, baseball was the most popular sport precisely because it was so demanding. Even its language was intimidating, with bases, bats, strikes and outs. Striding up to the plate gave each of us a chance to act like we were starring in a Western movie, and tapping the bat to the plate gave us our first experience with inventing self-indulgent personal rituals

Baseball is so fucking hardcore, the players have to stand up during the ninety percent of the game when they're doing nothing!

The boy chosen to be the pitcher was inevitably the first kid on the team to reach puberty, and he threw a hard ball right at you.

Oh I'm sure he did Dr. Webber, you naughty slut.

Everyone knows that soccer is a foreign invasion, but few people know exactly what is wrong with that. More than having to do with its origin, soccer is a European sport because it is all about death and despair. Americans would never invent a sport where the better you get the less you score.

Ah yes, soccer is a foreign invasion. Professor Webber could have spared himself a great deal of time and embarrassment if he had simply written three lines stating what is clearly his true reason for hating soccer.

1. "America=Godmangood"
2. "NotAmerica=Devilwomanbad"
3. "Soccer=NotAmerica"

As for the old line about soccer being low-scoring, well this is true. Keep in mind though that most American exposure to the game is through either the World Cup or the Champions league, and that scoring for high-stake championship games in all sports is lower than average. It is simply not true that most soccer games end in scoreless ties or that "the better you get the less you score." Here, for example, are the scores from last weekend's English Premier League games.

Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool
Arsenal 4-0 Blackburn Rovers
Bolton Wanderers 1-3 Fulham
Everton 3-1 Stoke City
Hull City 1-1 Newcastle United
Middlesbrough 1-1 Portsmouth
Sunderland 1-2 Wigan Athletic
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester City
Aston Villa 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham United 0-0 West Bromwich Albion

Out of ten games played, seven produced clear-cut winners and losers, and there was only one scoreless draw. We now move from the categorically wrong assertion to, something very special.

And then there is the question of sex. I know my daughter will kick me when she reads this, but soccer is a game for girls. Girls are too smart to waste an entire day playing baseball, and they do not have the bloodlust for football. Soccer penalizes shoving and burns countless calories, and the margins of victory are almost always too narrow to afford any gloating. As a display of nearly death-defying stamina, soccer mimics the paradigmatic feminine experience of childbirth more than the masculine business of destroying your opponent with insurmountable power.

Words fail. Save them for someone who hasn't exhausted his supply of repressed gay insinuations long ago. Let's just all take a moment to imagine Dwight Schrute saying the exact words quoted above and bathe in the glory.

I must say that I find Webb's undiluted sexism strange; considering that he has a daughter and, presumably, a very satisfied, thoroughly destroyed wife. Perhaps he yearns for unencumbered Spartan virility not in spite of his experiences with his daughter but because of them, something about having a female in an eternally subordinate position to him, or perhaps I speculate too much.

Soccer is a fine game, one that requires unbelievably precise skill and athletic fitness. to try to dismiss the sport as foreign and unmasculine requires the sort of delusional fever-dream logic that we see in Dr. Webber's column. It really is tragic that even apparently smart people can be so overcome by xenophobia and an infantile need to consider themselves The Subject that they lead themselves headlong off the intellectual cliff. But I suppose that's how it's always been and always shall be with the asshole segment of the population. Nothing to do about it except point and laugh and for the love of God don't let one of them gain leverage on you.

Damn it must suck to be this man's student.

God damn it must suck to be his wife.

Dé Domhnaigh, Márta 15, 2009

Fuck Yeah Amtrak

I've had a thing for trains since I was a toddler, and I loath driving for long distances or through big cities, so the emergence of a new president who seems to take rail-travel seriously makes me happy. With the century-old phallic cult of the automobile finally taking some severe body blows in the form of the new depression and the recent spike in oil prices, the time for making American train travel something other than a hideous joke is clearly at hand.

High-speed rail is, unfortunately, something for the distant future here, even though it's been the reality in supposedly lesser, insufferably hippyish nations for longer than I've been alive. All the same it would require not just an infrastructure upgrade but the invention of entirely new infrastructure, on the level of the interstate highway system. Whole new lines of rails would have to be invented, and something like a Denver to Salt Lake Meglev line would require some serious blast-work to make the path smooth enough. Alas.

But there are some practical measures that could be taken right away. One would government compensation to private rail companies to allow right-of-way to passenger trains, so that the Cali Zephyr doesn't have to wait at the side of the tracks for half an hour somewhere in Phosphorous Fumes Iowa while a Santa Fe Coal train passes by. Another would be to convince the UP and other big rails besides Burlington-Santa Fe to allow Amtrak to run on their lines, so that cities like Des Moines aren't bypassed by the Zephyr and places like Billings aren't completely missed by the Empire-Builder. Let the trains role unencumbered through the actual population centers of where they role through, and there is no reason why the American train as-is can't be a faster and cheaper means of medium-range travel than the car. Even old-school locomotives, ones that aren't streamlined and electrified can easily break 100 mph. on empty straightaways.

Now lets talk new routes. The interstate highway system did a very good job of linking major cites via the most important market towns in between, and I see no shame in the new Mecha-Amtrak following its lead. One look at I-29 reveals that a Kansas City-to-Winnipeg line via Fargo, Omaha and St. Joe's is a damned fine idea. Reroute the LA-to-Chicago Southwest Chief along old Route 66 instead of having it go through the empty quarter of Colorado. The lack of LA-to-Phoenix and LA-to-Vegas service is unacceptable, and speaking of unacceptable, have you seen just how pathetic the entire Amtrak system west of the Mississippi is? I could go on.

There are some who are still enamored with the old General Motors propaganda from the early 20th century, which established in the American mind that spending a hundred million on a highway was the American capitalist thing to do while spending the same on public transportation was the foreign socialist thing to do. The automobile became intimately entwined with every right-thinking Americans sense of personal dignity and every American man's sense of masculinity.

This, it becomes more apparent each day, was profoundly stupid. A quick locked-door drive through Detroit reveals what awaits those who continue to assume that the American auto industry has any idea of what its doing. To subsidize these industries; both through direct funds and by artificially spiking demand for their products by encouraging suburbanization (in the name of "individualism") has been a suicide pill, one that I'm just not going to get shoved down my throat anymore; and it seems that I'm not alone here. Bravo.

Dé Céadaoin, Márta 11, 2009

Home Alone

The name of the villains of the film, "The Wet Bandits", is clearly meant to evoke pedophilia in the mind of the viewer, encouraging him to cheer at the medieval abuse the bandits suffer in the climax of the film.

Just look at Daniel Stern's face in the photo, it's clearly the sneer of someone about to do something naughty. While it's possible that amateur thieves, college boys stealing a rival school's mascot, for example, may sneer at the cleverness of their actions, it simply isn't the look of a professional thief robbing a house for the fiftieth time. No, this is the look of someone who has just found out the girl next to him in bed isn't really eighteen, and is glad to hear it.

As if to remove all doubt in the manner, the DVD cover of "Home Alone 2" shows the Wet Bandits gleefully plunging a "skyscraper" into young Kevin's rectum.

Yet another case of supposedly light entertainment being used to enforce puritanical notions of sin and righteous punishment. The highly professionalized crime of house burglary is associated with unspeakably vile acts, so that the average citizen will equate common criminals with the lowest of the low, and acquiesce to any act of brutality against the common criminal that is done in the name of clensing him of his affliction, returning him to the dominant paradigm.

I have some friends who are new parents, and I have already warned them to never allow their children to see "Home Alone" at Christmastime unless they want to raise the next Torquemada.

Sweet Dreams

It was sometime around this time of year when Marilyn Manson's cover version came out back in 96. I heard the original Eurythmics version last night while driving.

I used to be a Marilyn Manson fan. Everyone my age USED to be a Marilyn Manson fan. The best barometer of character and good judgment within my generation is how long one stayed on the Manson boat before jumping ship. Among those who STILL like Marilyn Manson, I can assure you that every single man and woman among them is saddled with a crippling meth habit, no fewer than three illegitimate children, and at least one borderline felony on their criminal records. Search far and wide for a Manson fan who breaks this rule, you will never find him. There are some who have achieved modest financial stability as construction foremen, but only if everyone else on the crew is a juggalo. That's as good as it gets for the poor bastards.

I have metured I have come to realize that not only is the original "Sweet Dreams" superior to the Manson cover, but that the Eurythmics were a vastly superior band. Annie Lennox affected a more commercial version of Grace Jones' androgynous ice woman thing; and you know what, it was pretty cool.

Of course I couldn't allow myself to like the Eurythmics in 1996. I'm afraid that pubescent males are highly prone to homophobia. The years of ambiguity over whether or not we are MEN leads to all the sorts of foolishness that has been documented to the point of truthful cliche. Give me some credit for being one of those who grew out of it. There are a lot of "men" who buy truck nuts and join the NRA instead.

But I can be hard on myself at times, and though I was a culturally ignorant North Platte boy of fourteen I just can't forgive myself for liking Marilyn Manson. Was I really so young and stupid, such a short time ago? To be so impressed by a skaghead holding down two notes on a keyboard while the singer growled some of his middle school poetry in that fucking ridiculous 'Pit of Dispair' voice of his.

Well, I never did believe the rumors that the man could blow himself, so there's that.

Dé Máirt, Márta 10, 2009

Just Phoning it in Today

While digesting Reader’s Digest
In the back of a dirty book store
A plastic flag with gum on the back
Fell out on the floor.
Well,I picked it up and ran outside
And slapped it on my windowshield.
And If I could see ol’ Betsy Ross
I’d tell her how good I feel.

But, you flag decal won’t get you
Into Heaven anymore.
They’re already overcrowded
From your dirty little war
Now Jesus don’t like Killin’
No matter what the reasons for.
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore.

Well,I went to the Bank this morning
And the cashier said to me
If you join the Christmas Club
We'll give you ten of them flags for free.
I didn’t mess a round a bit
I took him up on what he said
And stuck them stickers all over my car
And one on my wife’s forehead.

But, you flag decal won’t get you
Into Heaven anymore.
They’re already overcrowded
From your dirty little war
Now Jesus don’t like Killin’
No matter what the reasons for.
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore.

Well,I got my windshield so filled with flags I couldn’t see
So I ran my car upside a curb and right into a tree
By the time they got a doctor down
I was already dead,
And I’ll never understand
Why the man,
Standing in the Pearly Gates said…

But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore,
We’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don’t like killin’
No matter what the reasons for.
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore.

John Prine

Dé Luain, Márta 09, 2009

Expect Trouble In China Soon

"The petition system provides people with the semblance of an appeals process that top leaders hope will keep them off the streets. But for officials at all levels, it seems, the appearance of order — measured by reducing the number of petitions — is an acceptable approximation of actual order." http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/09/world/asia/09jails.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=todayspaper

Surely the happiest lesson of our age is the discovery that Orwell's eternal boot in the face is a near impossibility. The scenario described in 1984 requires a ruling elite wholly unencumbered by any illusion that power has any object but itself. The truth of the matter is that tyrants and authoritarians are hopelessly addicted to illusion; completely obsessed with the idea that society is analogous to the family, that the individual's loyalty to society is based on the same things that make one loyal towards one's parents, gratitude for the protection and sense of identity they provide.

A quick study of modern dictators makes it clear that they consider themselves the literal fathers of their nations with perfect sincerity. Joseph Stalin never bothered appointing a successor. He was convinced that the Soviet Union couldn't possibly function without him and that his own death would be the communist apocalypse. Robert Mugabe, with his Homeric threats to those who would remove him from power, seems to believe he can become some sort of godhead if he can only manage to die as president of Zimbabwe instead of retiring to some beachfront resort.

The NYT article I quoted is about the Chinese government's practice of detaining and sometimes torturing those who file official grievances against local officials. (The right of 'petitioning' the central government goes back to imperial days.) Judging from the amount of trouble they go through, it seems clear that Chinese officials sincerely believe that silencing a complaint effectively prevents that complaint from having ever existed.

The prevalence of religion and chop-down-the-cherry-tree hero sagas in all human societies makes it clear that we need our self-justification myths. Orwell's nightmare of evil geniuses who enjoy dominating for its own bestial sake is impossible because it is the authoritarians among us who need these myths the most. They are the ones who will tear down civilization brick by brick if it would make civilization's reason for being as physical and tangible as the wall in front of my face. To make truth something more real than the electric currents that pass from the logical to the emotive centers of our brains, this is the motivation of the tyrant and those who acquiesce to him.

If an authoritarian regime holds power for an extended amount of time it will eventually forget that there had ever been any competing notions of truth. The collective subconscious of the ruling elite will start to believe that they have the power to will its truth into being while at the same time willing unpleasant or contradictory truths out of existence.

To put it more simply, multiple generations of official propaganda will eventually produce a generation of elites who believe their own bullshit. Orwell's fear was that this belief in official bullshit would gain an intractable hold on the masses, and it seems this does indeed happen in some places for short amounts of time. But of course any regime that zealously believes itself to be inerrant will invariably become corrupt and inept, so that the average citizen will eventually suffer too much outrage to her own self-justification to be able to share the official delusion, regardless of how much pride or sense of security she may have originally gained from embracing Leviathan.

We in the USA have just booted out a regime that embraced its own bullshit with record alercity. We Americans have made the happy discovery that a government that is receptive to its people (though some of us would argue that it is not as receptive as the people think) is actually good for order. Very few countries, rich or poor, have gone as long as we have without a total societal collapse. Even our civil war was remarkably well-organized as far as those things go.

When elites are forced to compete for power in some structured and peaceful way, it forces society to rewrite its self-justification myths as it goes along. This on-the-run sophistry is completely necessary and good. It is what has allowed a society that was avowedly and violently racist to become one in which Martin Luther King is used to sell big macs and, oh yeah, that last election was sort of a big deal.

It's hard to imagine how Africans, women, Latinos, Natives, etc. would have ever brought themselves to express their rage peacefully unless they had some way of knowing that it could do some good. they were able to see a society that jerry-rigged itself as was necessary and was even willing to give up some old sacred piety from time to time.

Authoritarians, along with their authorasexual followers, have always believed in the slippery slope idea that allowing a little bit of dissent here and there will eventually produce chaos. The truth is exactly opposite. A population that cannot express its sense of being wronged will not accept their governments stated reasons for being entitled to rule over them, even more dangerous is the fact that a government of people who believe their own bullshit, unresponsive to the people, will lose all touch of what is happening beneath their feet, so that they will try to reign over society as it existed thirty years ago, or perhaps never at all.

We have seen how this can happen even in a democracy, a party in power that truly believed it could win fifty one percent of the votes forever, wholly ignorant of how dependent they were on the Electoral College and the amplified voice it gives to rural, traditionalist areas. If a regime subject to election can become so blind to what threatens it after eight years, how long can the communist Chinese remain in the dark about the popular discontent under their own feet?

Probably until the peasants break down the palace gates while drunkenly fornicating on top of tanks. That's just history.

Dé Sathairn, Márta 07, 2009

I've Never Wanted Anything

I've had plans that I've consciously made, after recognizing the need to go somewhere, and these plans can become important to me, but never a spontaneous desire, certainly nothing approaching a dream.

I've heard it said that we find ourselves in others and I suppose there's some truth to that. I've also heard it said that most people consider themselves better than average and this is quite self-apparently true. I was recently thinking that I consider myself better than average just like most people, but then I realized that I am completely indifferent to myself. I have no opinion of myself and never had one. I have never compared myself to others. It's obvious enough that I am the same creature as the people around me, but this has never meant anything.

I have never been anything but baffled when my mother or, worse, some long ago friend inquires about my welfare. I cannot conceive how I could have ever possibly affected the thoughts and feelings of others. What terrible thing have I done to deserve the punishment of influencing somebody else? What have I done to deserve being noticed?
Dear God but I hate being noticed. Nothing is more intolerable than the sight of another pair of eyes on me, smiling.

I have no idea of what would make me happy. I have never given any sincere thought to what would make me happy. There is no desire or expectation of happiness. All I have is a burden, a realization that I am sharp-minded and I have some moral obligation to enrich other lives. This, of course, would require being noticed and being known, which I could never live with. But that will take care of itself eventually.

Dé hAoine, Márta 06, 2009

My Mom Recently Learned How to Text.

She'll reach me that way three or four times a week now.

I didn't teach her how, nor would I have, knowing what it would lead to. It was my cousin DJ, one of the cousins that lives on the other side of the country who I've seen six or seven times in my life, the sort of cousin whose affairs my mother will tell me about every now and again and I have to pretend to care so as not to shock her out of her sensibilities.

Dj texted me a few months ago. I didn't know who it was and so told her to fuck off. This is still a great joke within the extended family, or at least it provides them with one more excuse to carry on with their endless crude loud-mouth yammering over the holidays.

It was my dad who suggested that DJ send me a text, since, after all, I "like to text." Is that how he actually sees it? He's at least vaguely aware of the endless and ever-growing means of interpersonal communication available today. Does he not realize how matter-of-fact and natural it is for those of us who grew up with it? Text messaging is a tool that I've had for five years, which practically speaking is forever. It is a tool that has a specific place and specific function just like any other. I take no personal pleasure in texting that I don't get from Facebook chat or actually talking over the phone, and why would I? There is no piece of technology that has fascinated me since I was twelve years old Dad. Once it became clear that technology is indeed capable of everything, well, what is there after that? Pretty categorical isn't it?

It's a pity that my sister is a confirmed bachelor. I've missed the chance to see if I am doomed to assume that my children are hard-wired to be fast friends with distant cousins.

Dé Luain, Márta 02, 2009

Most Absurd Thing Ever Written


Only talk radio with its emphasis on Socratic debate over raw emotionalism and with Mr. Limbaugh in the driver's seat has escaped the left's clutches of pure media dominance.