been plied and pummeled with the absurd proclamation that "the system
worked" -- that our congressional representatives listened and took note
of the collective, antiwar fulmination of the people, registered in our faux
republic's latest sham plebiscite . . .
Yes, I suspect, the
political classes of Washington did hear the people's thunder -- and then went
running for cover within the comfort zones of their sheltering smugness,
constructed of the brick and mortar of arrogant power and inequitable
privilege. Just ask Joe Lieberman: He's the self-satisfied fellow seated
comfortably upon the large, plush lounge chair, stuffed with campaign dollars,
nearest the door with access to K Street.
But we must not let
ourselves -- the true beneficiaries of empire -- off so easily: Our national
tragedies (from all the corpses amassed, buried and forgotten in our imperial
wars -- to our intransigence and denial regarding Global Warming) are a
collaborative effort with our leaders: A joint and living lie of the mind --
made manifest by collective desire and remorseless pursuit.
Upon the occasion
of our cultural confabulation of colonial hagiography dubbed
"Thanksgiving," a tradition when we stuff our overweight bellies by
devouring big, growth hormone-injected, flightless birds in order to celebrate,
what in truth was, a Thanks-taking of this land by our ancestors from its original
inhabitants -- (but a hearty salutation of "Happy Genocide Day"
doesn't exactly stimulate the appetite, does it?) -- I will address the
following missive to you -- my fellow unindicted (perhaps even unconscious)
co-conspirators in the crimes of our country.
Let's begin with
the things nearest to us: The structures and objects we see before us,
everyday. And it's not a beautiful sight to behold.
Due to the
banality, blandness, and flat-out ugliness of the strip mall/big box store/fast
food outlet, prefab nowhereland of our contemporary landscape, life in the US
under corporatism is as seductive as the glare of florescent tube lighting in a
The architecture of
the US looks as if Adolf Eichmann grew bored endlessly calculating the human
weigh capacity of death camp bound boxcars -- rose from Hell -- and went into
the prefab structure design business.
Now, don�t get
ugly, you admonish.
Tell me, what is
truly ugly: the composition and dissemination of a heartfelt, political
jeremiad (or even an angry rant) or the squandering of the passing hours of our
finite lives within ugly suburban subdivisions, oversized, ugly-ass motor
vehicles, soulless strip malls and sterile office parks?
Man, have we let
ourselves go: and its not only the sprawl around our middle; it�s the phony way
we comport ourselves in manner and deed. Our shallowness � our hollowness � our
lack of conscience, self-awareness and conviction . . . all of which, the
architecture and accoutrement of our commodified nowhereland merely reflects.
Worse yet, we no
longer even see it. We are inseparable from our environment in the same manner
e-coli bacteria are inseparable from feces . . . The nowhere-scape before us
exists in equal measure to the nowhere-scape within . . .
It seems as though
our landscape has become so vapid and banal, it can't even rise to the level of
being tacky . . . Whatever the case -- even an attempt at tawdriness would show
some kind of low-grade involvement. Instead, there is an overall feeling of
flimsiness, a sense of a world devoid of substance. And the pervasive
unsubstantiality creates an underlying aura of anxiety -- the feeling that all
of it can and will be leveled and scattered in some approaching cataclysm . . .
In this way, we hear the death rattle attendant to a closed system in entropic
runaway . . . The system is still replicating itself, exponentially -- yet, in
equal measure, it bears and spreads the seeds of its demise.
This is why I have
come to squat in your comfort zone, until you take notice.
Because the manner
in which we're living is as salubrious as a tsunami.
And is about as
sustainable, body and soul, as Elvis Presley's final binge.
emptiness is compensated for by the gigantism we see everywhere around us: from
an epidemic of obese children to bloated McMansions. But whether its wooly
mammoths or SUVs, or Elvis, stuffed into a sequined jumpsuit, or the fate of
unwieldy armies of over-extended empires, bogged down by local insurgencies,
gigantism is a precursor to extinction. Worse, at present, this phenomenon is
transpiring on a global basis.
has rendered us analogous to the last days of Elvis . . . Puffy, bloated -- we
wheeze our way through our set . . . Guarded gated communities are our own
private Graceland where we die in excess and isolation. The electric lights
sequined across the entire planet now glow from space like one of Elvis's Las
Vegas costumes. But does no one see the dying man beneath the jeweled jumpsuit?
The land and The King are one.
has left the building.
Because, like any
disorder of the psyche, being the organic system a culture is, pathology will
increase, exponentially. Inevitably, a collapse will come . . . Then it can and
will get even uglier: Homegrown Brownshirts emerge, brandishing bibles and
automatic weapons (convinced when Jesus returns the first thing he'll do is
apply for membership in the NRA and then saddle-up and ride a Cruise Missile,
Slim Pickens-style, aimed at the false god idolizing hordes of the Muslim
world). Then will come detention camps, built by Halliburton and guarded by
Blackwater rent-a-thugs . . . In time, the sky will be darkened from the
floating ash of the furnace-devoured flesh of those pushed into the flames lit
by collective psychosis.
say. No, it's an understatement. Remember we're speaking about the country that
committed the most sustained, large-scale holocaust in human history, right
here on our own soil -- the genocidal destruction of the Native American
Nations. Happy Thanks-taking, America. Holocaust museums should be as prevalent
as shopping malls upon the blood-sodden soil of this land. In addition, while
we're chronicling the carnage, let us not forget that we're the only nation to
ever use nuclear weapons as an act of war (the most massive terrorist attack of
all time), wherein we killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians for no
other reason than to put Stalin on notice that we were to be the lone colossus
bestriding the war decimated post-war world.
As the years have
passed, we Americans now stand before a contemptuous world, bloated in our
subdivisions, waddling through Big Box retail stores, languishing in ignorance
and anomie -- living caricatures of the grotesques of doomed empires.
Therefore, we must take a long, revealing look at ourselves: Our breath stinks
of carbon monoxide -- it's like we've been French kissing the tailpipe of a
Humvee. Sometimes, I wish, America, you'd just wrap your lips around that
tailpipe and commit suicide by internal combustion engine fellatio. (I mean
it's coming to that anyway . . . But must we take the rest of the world with us
when we go?)
Or: the process of
awakening and renewal can begin. It's our choice, collectively; it's our
responsibility, personally, to be aware of and then widely proclaim the stakes
involved. First and foremost, it's up to political activists, artists, online
pamphleteers, et al to agitate against the neo-feudalist order of corporatism.
The present order is anathema to the soul-making of creative endeavor.
Art movements, from
Paris in the 1920s, to the Beats and hippies, to the flannel-clad, guitar-poet
wretches of the Northwest in the late 1980s and early 90s, had one common
factor, in all those flowerings of life-vivifying creativity: cheap rent.
Rilke once said
something along the lines of: Everybody has a letter written inside their heart
and if you don't live the life your heart yearns to live, you won't be allowed
to read this letter before you die . . . Hence, we might infer: There exist,
across the land, dead-letter offices, vast and cavernous, where our mail
awaits, unopened and unread.
Ergo, one of the
prevailing miseries of our era is that most of us are too busy earning a living
to live. As rents go down, levels of risk and inspiration rise. Moreover, we
need the reflective power of art to end this impasse. It is imperative that we
awaken to the realities of this death-dreaming empire.
Apropos, forgive me
(or don't) for the angry tone of this missive for I am overwhelmed by the
immensity of our nation's collective capacity for denial, casuistry and
flat-out lying in regard to the death and destruction that has been inflicted
in our names.
We must begin to
grasp the unsettling knowledge that the things we, as a nation, inflict upon
the world we will eventually inflict upon ourselves. It is imperative that we
start to ask ourselves this question: When so many external and internal forces
work to thwart, degrade, and destroy our essential selves -- hence the world --
what can help to restore us?
calling you out -- the hidden side of our national character -- right here,
right now. Show us who you are, reveal to us your blank face, in all its banal
symmetry and finally, and at long last, give us an accounting of yourself.
I'm not naive. I
realize you feel you�re under no obligation to do so. You feel no more need to
explain your actions than does Death itself.
Although you have
many faces, deep down, we know who you are: You're a clean-shaven lobbyist, a
sharp-elbow careerist, a public relations expert, a land-decimating real estate
developer, a rent-inflating landlord, a cunning advertising executive, a
weapons designing technocrat, a Pentagon planner. You're the bastard driving
the SUV who is perpetually tailing my ass in traffic. You're my blank-faced,
next-door neighbor, lacquering his hybrid lawn in insoluble pesticides. In
short, you're all the quotidian and respectable -- therefore -- highly
deceptive faces of Death. You're our own face, personal and private, individual
and collective: yours/ours is the murderer's countenance of empire.
Even though we all
know the truth about you and our own complicity in your crimes, we push the
knowledge from our minds, as we trudge though our days. And this is the reason:
You promise us safety, even as you deliver us, incrementally and ineluctably,
How do I reach you?
How do I beseeched you to cease the madness?
You name the place
where I can confront you: On a thronging sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, during
evening rush, as we�re brushed and buffeted by the squalid grace of crowds.
Perhaps, you might take the barstool next to mine and speak too loudly in my
ear, jabbing my chest with your bony index finger to punctuate the pointless
palaver of your self-justifying lies. How about let's take a cross-country
drive, you and I, and see the fever dream of our sick nation unfurl before us
through the dusty windshield of a grasshopper green, 1975 AMC Gremlin . . . so
that we might have time to talk this all through.
Because, I want you
to realized this: There are hidden reservoirs of hope within us, reservoirs as
boundless as the reach of your ruthlessness. These waters are as deep and
potent as you are at present shallow and shameless. Yet, they're inaccessible
to you, as long as you insist your drink of choice will continue to be oil and
blood, mixed with the runoff of melting Arctic glaciers.
What you do not
know is this: From these inner reservoirs emerge rivers of renewal that run
between all of those who turn away from the dry, dead landscape of your lies.
These streams of
inspiration and renewal silently flow between those who have glimpsed this:
That each generation must struggle against the soulless seekers of absolute
power; that each era is a wasteland; that every person learns life is unfair,
yet must seek to drink from the waters of hope, so that our tongues will not
wither to cynical dust.
Empires rise and
fall, but hope remains, flowing through time and place, bearing all things to
the sea and back again, perpetually returning, bringing new life to the dry,
dead land, slaking our thirst, cleansing our wounds, delivering to us the
strength to make and remake the world anew, and, at day's end, lulling us to
restful sleep to the timeless cadences of its ceaseless currents.
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described auto-didactic,
gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York
City. He may be contacted at email@example.com.