Man is the measure of all worthless things

Reading the Age of Atheists. God died in the mid 19th century, western society is still trying to cope. Leaders of thought looked deeply into their souls and saw emptiness. They looked into society and saw the need for new organizing principles, new beliefs to shape the gelatinous masses. Variations on a theme, easy to summarize: human creative power is the highest reality we can ever know, we must forget about transcendent ends, humbly acknowledge our mortality, and work to improve the lives of those around us without any guarantee that our efforts will pay off or have any lasting significance. Truth is established by consensus. If we agree, it is true.

Except for God. We can’t agree on that. Too much violence and oppression. In a godless world humans will become docile, polite conversationalists, irreverent ironists experimenting with their sexuality. Or passionate humanitarians, devoted to improving the squalid lot of the misfortunate. Or self creating warrior artists forming semi spontaneous, loosely federated, egalitarian collectives. Improv dance cooperatives in the forests, Dionysian debauchery. The speculative, imaginative power of the mind redirected from the eternal to the flux of impressions. Record and then beautify the sensations of the passing present, find meaning in precarious relationships with other people, always teetering on the brink of senseless suffering and death. Annihilation.

Once your mother, father, brother, best friend, lover is dead they are gone forever. Preserved in distorted copy by an unreliable memory on its own downward trajectory towards oblivion. Phantasms of life fixed by photographs, fugitive souls held in cinematic captivity. Eventually no one is around to recognize the records. No one to judge the events and actions of the past. You did the best you could, but there was no real sense of best outside of your obscure intuitions and the prescriptions of your community.

Art doesn’t save us, but it can distract. Art can give us the momentary sense that our lives have meaning and that we aren’t anxious corpuscles on a dissolving universal body. Our power to grasp and represent our impotence is somehow life affirming. The priestly classes are now comical, obsolete figures. Society is impersonal, mechanical, automatic, systematic. Manipulative personalities take center stage in the spectacular dissolution of authority. Posturing revolutionaries call for the heads of the State, but we’ve been headless for a long time now.

Book after book about living the secular life. We need more educated moderns telling us that it’s okay to live without God and eternity. The assurance of smarmy professionals carries more weight than infinite goodness and immutable truth. Don’t you know that your joy, which deeply desires eternity, is superfluous? Your spiritual awareness is merely linguistic convention and confusion, and your beliefs about an omnipotent power are vestiges of your infancy. Read ten thousand books on the evolutionary reasons behind your religious longings, psychoanalyze your need for a perpetual father figure, and feel the freedom of being a deranged, denatured fungus ape on a crust ball suspended in nothing.

On the seventh day

Sunday morning, light, clear blue sky, coffee shop. Not at work. Freedom. This is all I want in life. A corner table at the third wave coffee shop where  I can write for an hour or two and then read a little. Watch people come and go. Let the hours melt away on our lord’s designated day of rest. Next week I’ll be working several doubles so I can visit home for a few days. Those doubles are brutal. It’s too much time on my feet, and it’s too much time spent confined to a slender strip of space, serving legions of lawyers, bankers, and suited, bespectacled, pencil skirted functionaries. New America is across the street, a left leaning think tank with the slick design and impressive roster of fellows, a small library of books about the  collusion between the US Government and private corporations to their credit. A bunch of Sinclair Lewis’s, untiring muckrakers, impassioned voices of conscience, people who have translated their talents into occupations that not only provide them with a comfortable living, but also serve a greater good. Speaking truth to power. Exposing corruption.

We know all about the corruption. It’s assumed, it’s a given. “Did you know that corporation X has been funneling cyanide into the water supply in poor African American communities for decades? Did you know that your education was a social engineering experiment designed to make you stupid and impulsive, bereft of morals, ignorant of history, fractured and dysfunctional, dependent on an ever expanding State and its remedial, custodial, and punitive institutions? What about the fact that the organizing principle of the entire world is the pursuit of profit to the detriment of biological life? How six people live Midas’s wet dream, shitting gold bricks in their unimaginably lavish mansions while millions huddle in mud huts, shivering, starving, grinding their knobby fingers to the bone working 14 hour days in unventilated factories making iPod components?” Oh yes, give me more, tell me more about how the human species is a virulent, parasitic, predatory organism that desecrates the earth and commits mass murder. Fill my ears with the sweet sounds of powerful men trading sex slaves and blackening the skies with coal dust. It’s still possible to live a semi comfortable life staring into the sun of human depravity, set against a background of the ultimate vanity of the universe, which exists for no reason whatsoever and will soon envelop all life in its smooth, velvet nothingness.

Alternatively, you could tell me more about how I’m a being of light, and of the pure joy and affirmation at the center of my expansive soul. Talk to me about manifesting my desires and realizing my true self, which is linked to the ultimate, everlasting creative power. There is no need for guilt, resentment, or fear because we are indestructible and pure. The pain that we feel, the isolation, the loneliness, the hatred and remorse; all illusions that we ourselves generate. It’s merely the surface of a bad dream, behind which lies the truth of unending goodness, beauty, and bliss. With just a few deep breaths, by standing back and clearing away the veil, I can reconnect with the source of life that sustains me, and I will remember that I have lived infinite lives before this one, and that death, which I comically fear as ultimate extinction, is merely a transition from one form of life to another. The atoms in my ballsack once circulated among the stars, and once my ballsack dissolves, to the stars they will return.

I need to get a new job. Maybe a couple of new jobs. My hospital bill finally came. It’s about 4500 dollars, and that’s after my insurance paid its share. I don’t know how I’ll live in the most expensive city in the US and pay back my bill making barista wages. Fight for fifteen I suppose. Or double up and get another low skill, low wage service industry job. That’s all I’m qualified to do, and I don’t even do it well. I still haven’t actually made a cappuccino that could be featured on instagram. Meanwhile all of the office and writing jobs require experience I don’t have; they demand unnecessary qualifications because too many cow people are now accredited. “We need you to have spent four years in an institution of higher learning that cost you a hundred thousand dollars to be qualified to schedule meetings, answer phones, and get coffee. Also you need to already have years of experience with the sort of task that a blind, retarded 12 year could handle immediately with no training to be considered for an interview, which will take place somewhere in the middle of the ten thousand interviews we will be conducting for people just like you, eager self starters on depression and anxiety meds.

I should have learned a trade. Electrician, plumber, hvac repairman. Truck driver or garbage man. Construction. Those jobs are in demand because no one wants to do them. Because men aren’t forced to work themselves to death doing the dirty, grueling, tedious, artery clogging, dangerous jobs that support the crystalline superstructure of enlightened feminists who write articles on the injustice of living in a patriarchy, about how triggering it is to hear a rape joke. Our entire culture is dominated by the widely celebrated and revered practice of rape, every man rapes his way to CEO status and wealth, except for the 92 percent of men that make up workplace deaths every year, except for the 79 percent of men that make up all deaths by suicide every year. But if they hadn’t been getting crushed by falling steel support beams or inhaling double barreled shotgun blasts, surely they would have been raping and patriarching. So it works out alright.

The job search must go on, but I’m going to enjoy the rest of this lovely, lackadaisical Sunday.

Farts and Foucault

I’ve reached the stage of my life when a three beer night gives me magmatic diarrhea the next morning. I’m sitting down to write while spewing sulphuric clouds of microscope buffalo chicken pizza particles out of my ass, committed to my craft as my intestines turn to volcanic putrescence. If someone else was this disgusting around me right now, I’d shove them in the garbage disposal and turn it on; since it’s my own decaying guts suffusing the air, I am entertained. We are never as revolting to ourselves as we are to other people. Left alone we are free to chew with our mouths open, pick our noses, aggressively fart and burp, masturbate, and babble inchoately, all without shame, returned to the edenic garden of innocent indulgence. The judgment of God is transposed social disapproval. Our behavior is refined to suit other people, we develop a strong sense of what other people think and expect of us, and in turn our awareness of ourselves deepens.

The view from on high, the judgment of our value to the group burrows deeply into the body, creating the soul as watchman, as inhibitory self consciousness. Man’s inner life is the product of technologies of power, a vast, interconnected signifying social machine inscribing its codes of conduct on the body, torturing and searing disorganized flesh into a compliant functional unity. It begins with tattooing bearing directly on the body and evolves into social security numbers and bank accounts. Spatio temporal divisions are made to control movement, enclosures form to drill habits into the body. Institutions tend towards the same ideal structure even as they spread apart, differentiate themselves, and stratify the human elements of which they are composed. Thus the schema of the prison is expressed in the schools, the barracks, and the factory. Human subjects are formed through isolation, surveillance, and classification, processed through disciplinary machines that resemble each other. Threats of bodily harm give way to threats of incarceration, power is eventually internalized and threats are no longer necessary, subjects police themselves. Finally cybernetic systems modulate behavior by manipulating brain waves, programming the circuitry of humanity to automate itself, and power is diffused into a flat, infinite grid of electrical signals.

Anyway, I went out last night and had a decent time. Talked to a chubby Mexican future peace corp member. Tattoos, piercings, independent, feminist, loves DC; yet another person I have to pretend to get along with. Another person with a job in the nation’s capitol that makes absolutely no sense to me. The moment these people begin explaining their job, I hear the soothing hum of appliances, my ears are suddenly stuffed with gauze. “It’s a nonprofit outreach program”, “I work in public relations for an agency of a bureau in a department that downshifts revenue and drafts grants for funding experimental projects in education.” And they are always fresh off a stint in Americorps, headed for the Peace Corps, well traveled, humanitarian, progressive, principled, and obnoxious. What am I supposed to do with these people? No one else in the entire world moved to DC just to do drugs and write deranged reflections on modern life.

Cover letter

I was taught by the society that I was automatically deserving of adulation and wealth. Not only that, if I did something wrong, or wasn’t exactly who I wanted to be, then the fault did not lie with me, but with my environment, the economy, the government, or mystical structures of oppression. Hard work has no intrinsic value. Neither does integrity or modesty. Good and bad decisions, good and bad character, are a matter of brain chemistry and external influence. You don’t need to develop a craft before you begin promoting yourself. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you take lots of pictures of it and talk about it all the time. Create innumerable profiles of your idealized self, talk about traveling, rock climbing, yoga, and netflix. You will not be recognized as human unless you mention that you too need the IV soporific of nightly netflix to dim the awareness of your damnation in digital hell.

I am constantly networking, and by that I mean looking for casual sex on the internet. I still say that I am “on the internet” as if it isn’t the air we all breathe now, the omnipresent background of our lives. No one can any longer imagine what life was like 20 years ago; at the same time primitive man has been fetishized and held up as a model of the good life to which we should aspire. Atomized individuality works really well for irremediable narcissists, everyone else longs for savage group membership. Branding is crucial, without it your actions might define you, and that is the last thing anyone wants. Internal acceptance of who you are is much more important than what other people can clearly see in the light of day. The idea that there is an objective reality resistant to our wishes is oppressive. Truth is determined by the magnitude of outrage and offense taken by the most currently coddled and pitied minority.

If you don’t like something, if a fact makes you uncomfortable, change the subject. All we have are disparate vocabularies, one no better than the other. Well, some are better than others, but that all depends on your identity. If someone believes something you don’t like, casually suggest it’s because they have insidious motives, and that their vested interests distort their perception of justice. You, on the other hand, when you call for more money and things for yourself, for an even easier life where you get more for contributing less, are an impartial observer of the immutable form of equity. Aggrieved mobs are always justified in their riotous, uncivil behavior, regardless of the fact that the typical outcome of violent protest and uprising is destruction of property, theft, and the elevation of a Strongman into a position of power. If you want your own space, however small it may be, you’re a selfish bourgeois sell out. A true new soviet human prefers to huff the ass vapors of his fellow soviets in sewage stained tents. Wanting another person to commit themselves to you sexually is objectifying, merging two lives into one for the purpose of raising the next generation is archaic and repressive, but rapidly forming tenuous relationships with people solely for the pleasure that their genitals bring you is progressive.

I am a modern man, which is to say no man at all. I am evolving into a creature that worships my own whims knowingly and enthusiastically. My ancestors rot while I wantonly spill my seed in the dust. Weak spine, weak knees, slithering, a smooth and untouchable facade behind which a nameless, faceless rage awaits its moment of glory.


A portrait of less than a man

People thought Amos was a narcissist, preoccupied with himself, his image, his fruitless perfection. They were half right. It wasn’t his interest in himself, exactly, that was so damaging and stultifying. It wasn’t that he had an intractable core self, it was rather that he had no solid self at all. In place of a self he had desire, an outwardly directed obsession with other people and what they could bring him. People often said that he lived too much in his own head, which again, was only half right. The more accurate take on his life would be that he lived in other people’s heads, constantly imagining and supposing who they were, and who they expected him to be. Amos didn’t know who he should be. He had never known. From an early age he felt an obscure absence, that something internal and essential was lacking.

Told over and again that he could be whatever he wanted, he put off identification. He was expected to do well in school, and harshly punished for failure, but when it came to his character, his history, and the greater arc of his life that would extend into the generations succeeding him, he was given nothing. No vision, no guidance, not even a suggestion. It was up to him. That was freedom as his parents conceived it. They felt constrained in their own lives, their parents had been repressive, punitive, and narrow in their values, and so when it came time to raise children of their own, they would correct those mistakes, and open up the range of possibilities. If Amos wanted to learn drums, they bought him a drum kit. If he wanted to rock climb, they bought him rock climbing gear. If he needed money for his latest mercurial interest, they were present. If he was spiritually lost, emotionally turbulent, sexually confused, they were no were to be found.

Less like family and more like custodians of an experimental humanity, the parents of Amos were unaware they were raising a quiet, passive monster, a deviation, a vaporous non being. He would not go on to commit atrocities. He had no overpowering violent urges, and no criminal sexual tastes. His monstrosity would never make headlines, but it would nevertheless sap lives, the very least his own. His friends, who saw him drift from life to life, always losing touch and forgetting what they had shared, his romantic partners, who each made the fatal mistake of seeing in him something that wasn’t there, and finally his parents, who too late realized their mistake, that they had warped their own genetic line with an arrogant, emotionally gutted approach to parenting. By abdicating their  moral responsibility, by overcompensating with money and entertainment for what they lacked in convictions and beliefs, they had cocooned their child in a permanently larval state of masturbatory expectancy. Sooner or later he would break free and really become, it was hoped by all.

Old age brought belief in reincarnation. In his one life lived so far, he had already half heartedly reinvented himself several times over, and so his final dream was not to finally become who he was really meant to be, but to become something altogether other, anything that wasn’t living behind the unbreakable glass barrier of his consciousness. Maybe he could flourish in a form that was not nailed down by awareness of an arbitrary, meaningless freedom.

A free man thinks of nothing less than death

That hint of spring in late winter reminds me of passing time, and passing time reminds me of death. Not just my own death, but the death of everyone and everything. Each and every person currently alive today, covering the distended spectrum of decency, talent, and status, is destined for decay. Made for unmaking. It’s happening this very moment; with every word that I write every single one of you is a little closer to death than you were before. Whether you are striving after greatness and glory or sinking deeper into sloth and despair, death will rip your soul out of your chest and tear it to shreds. It is an arbitrary ending, a bad punchline, the ultimate deadpan routine, if you will.  A darkness so dense and concentrated it stops your breath in your throat. Senseless eternity, a night sky with all the stars snuffed out.

Walking down the street in downtown D.C., dragging the trash can from the shop to dumpster, mired in the tedium of labor for subsistence, I held down my sadness and suppressed my tears. A grown man is not supposed to cry, especially in public. Regardless of what open minded people may think or say, I sincerely doubt I’d be applauded for pushing gender boundaries were I to collapse and wail on the street, mourning for our pitiful condition, reduced to a convulsing, sobbing heap, a puddle of salt water and snot. Genuinely spontaneous displays of deep feeling are disruptive. We dread the breakdown of convention so intensely that we have contrived innumerable pressure release valves, times and places where tears and lamentations are not only acceptable, they are encouraged. Theater, musical performances, religious rituals, warfare, and so much more, allow us the chance to dissolve our isolated individuality into a harmonious whole, and quiet the creeping, background hum of separation anxiety.

Why are any of us brought into this world to suffer and die? Is there a lesson we are supposed to learn? How can it be an accident, a coincidence? Why not the life of a beetle or mosquito, a single celled organism replicating to infinity, a self splitting perpetuity? I wonder if I am really just this person, a disembodied gaze, an invisible eye seeking to leave a trace of its seeing on what it has seen. All of history, the inheritance of the past in the present, is this transmission of traces, intentional marks of having been, sent forward to remind a possibly existing future individual that others have lived and died before him. And as Jacque Derrida said, that french asshole, writing invokes mortality. I write these words because I will die, the certainty of my future absence gives birth to these words in the present. Though this text signals what I was at one point in time, there is no guarantee that the message will ever be received by a reader, or that a future reader will understand what I have written. Reception, understanding, and repetition of the written word that fixes the passing phenomenon of living speech is tenuous. The event of mass illiteracy would be the genocide of memory preserved in writing.

I’m taking out the trash, heavy with coffee grounds and cups, and outwardly I am a man composed, upright, aloof or maybe distracted. Inwardly I am clutching the casket of humanity, scared of disappearing, overwhelmed by nullity and sadness. I want to climb into the dumpster and be buried by the discarded objects, I want to be stuffed into a black bag and thoughtlessly tossed into a pit where I will be overtaken by rust and mold. For the rest of time I will become without being anyone, a slide show of bacterial looting and fungal revolt. All that will remain, for an indeterminate time, are words I may have wished I could amend or even take back, ignored or poorly digested by souls numbed by the glut of messages already consumed.

Speaking ill of the dead

People are celebrating widely reviled Justice Scalia’s death. Good for them. If it fills the aching emptiness of their lives to work themselves up into outraged flights of faggy eloquence, so much the better. I’ll try it out for myself, if only to avoid grocery shopping for another hour on this godlessly cold Valentine’s Day. Scalia was a hateful, evil, loathsome slug, a malignant, mendacious, outrageous mold of slime, a perverse, regressive clown who twisted language and logic into obscene balloon animals of oppression. He dedicated his entire life, and his formidable, corrupt intellect, to crushing and repressing minorities, ensuring the imprisonment and execution of innocent people, and defending archaic, draconic penalties for playing with a man’s butthole in the privacy of his own home. Dear god if there is one right I believe that this great nation of ours should protect and promote, it’s unfettered butthole exploration. Scalia is another corpse in the coffin of a waning power structure.

But he’s not only a holdover, a vile remnant or vestige of a crumbling empire, he’s also an ever present threat, almost an inherent and unavoidable product of social and moral progress. Monsters of his ilk do not predate a specific time, and we cannot wait out their extinction. Everywhere the disenfranchised gather together, every time the oppressed creature stifles his sigh, and instead lets out a roar of righteous opposition and refusal, there the seeds of ignominious reaction are sown. That reactionary temperament, which steels itself against the betterment of all, scornful of the blossoming brotherhood of a universal, free humanity, schools itself on the lessons provided by Scalia’s actions and words. Scalia proves that ignorance is capable of disguising itself as education, that souls with ignoble aspirations are often also in possession of considerable verbal dexterity. Barbaric beliefs are not always the base material out of which a progressive new man with the right thoughts is fashioned; sometimes they are the ripe fruit of deliberate, razor blade refinement. And so our resistance to hatred and bigotry must not grow soft and fat on the chunky cheese dip at Scalia’s catered funeral. We must always remember that in each of us, a potential reactionary hate monger lurks, in need of ruthless purging.

Death claims us all, but let us live in such a way that people may preserve, rather than trash, our legacy. After all, the memory of our lives in the hearts and minds of ever increasingly enlightened humanity is the only immortality available to poor mortal creatures such as we are, who face black, radiating oblivion without reason or ultimate explanation. Let us not suffer the truly infernal fate of serving as hearty chum in the feeding frenzy of scrolling sharks, those swift and clear sighted vanguards hungry for the blood of a life lived in contempt of freedom and justice. The right side of history moves in a single direction, but it has time enough, determined though it may be, to dance and fornicate on the graves of its toppled adversaries. Let us hope that the good graces of our benevolent fellows carry us over and beyond such disgraceful ends.

Back to being inhumane

Tried to have a nice night out in DC. Wound up in Chinatown at a Legal Seafood’s. It was a tacky choice, but sometimes you have to suck it up and enjoy a meal at the sea food equivalent of TGI Friday’s. The food was expensive for me, cheap for someone who makes money and is a discerning consumer of shellfish. And it was delicious. Buttery and rich, an assortment of aquatic life baked, fried, soaked in sauces. Crab stuffed baked potato opulently ordered to round out the gut busting evening. I was so full it hurt to breathe, my eyelids became anchors, heavy stone sinking to the ocean floor. Whenever I eat a lavish meal, I become a child again, and imagine that I am some version of an extremely powerful and wealthy person, a banker, an ambassador, a tycoon, a conquering general. Eating Ethiopian makes me think I’ve just raided a caravan in the desolate North African desert. Taking off my dusty, ragged shawl, I descend upon the spoils of another victorious campaign. I gorge myself on spiced, oiled meats as the dying merchants and their guards stain the sand with blood.

Anyway, it was a decent evening. My girlfriend and I took the metro back to the Anacostia metro station, where the car was parked. Traveling in DC, which is only about 15 square miles, is a logistical grind. You have to take buses to subways, park cars at subway stations and then take the subway to a place where you can get on another bus, transfer subway lines to get on more buses, every day of your life like you brush your teeth and tie your shoes. It’s a never ending additional insult to the injury of living in an hellacious, satanically designed, nakedly segregated, pencil pushing, glad handing, status obsessed, shitpot of a city. You use public transportation because you don’t have money or a car, or even if you have a car, trying to find a parking spot in the heart of DC is a quest for the holy grail, a fruitless endeavor, a sanity straining escapade of failure and frustration. Using public transportation puts you in league with the weary, the overworked and underpaid, the dregs, the quasi homeless and burnt out. God awful rap music explodes out of headphones, droning and drowning out the ambience of the humming bus, the psychotic monologue of the bathrobe clad hispanic woman clutching stuffed animals, countdown to total freak out piss spraying meltdown and you just desperately hope your stop comes up before it happens.

On the way back to our house, driving down good hope road, a car pulled out right in front of us, perpendicular, and stalled there until we honked and my girlfriend lost her temper and started shouting at the jackass. Of course this is how it works. My girlfriend yells at a clueless jackass in a part of town where people shoot each other recreationally, where it’s 97 percent black, mostly impoverished, with racial tension constantly on the rise. Yes, white girl, yell at a black man in a car so your white boyfriend, the only one in a two mile radius, can get shot or beaten by a PCP powered gang of miscreants, sullen and vengeful, aching to take a shot at what, to them, seems to be the establishment, white power, even though I have no money, my ancestors never owned slaves, I didn’t participate in the red lining, lynching, Jim Crow, subprime lending, hollywood blacklisting, academy awards voting, your water fountain is over there by the outhouse, back of the bus system. I didn’t tell my daughter she couldn’t marry a black man, or get angry and petition the high school where my son lost his starting quarterback position to a colored boy, living in the early 1960’s in Virginia with my houndstooth hat and goddamn it my boy doesn’t ride the pine while that animal jukes and jives around the field.

But I’m still white so I’m a symbol of systemic, institutional racism. I have privilege in need of checking and I commit microaggressions. I don’t sycophantically agree with every inane thing a black a person says about politics and race. I don’t support Black Lives Matter and I think Ta-Nehisi Coates is a complete charlatan goon. I’m not a race and gender cuckold lapping up the aids infused ejaculate leaking out of the left’s encrusted asshole. So I deserve to be beaten with lead pipes and monkey wrenches, kicked with untied wolverine boots, left to die on the shit stained streets of southeast dc, my lifeless body the trophy of a troglodytic uprising.

The man who almost got us all killed had a few choice words for us, thoughtfully delivered at the red light we both pulled up to about a hundred yards down the road. And that was it. My ultimate fate was postponed for at least another day.