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.