Recent news reports
have revealed that the Bush administration has bestowed upon itself the right
to grant itself absolute
power if "any incident, regardless of location, that results in
extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely
affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or
government functions" might come to pass.
hypothetical catastrophes above stated sound very much like the veritable
calamities inflicted upon the nation by the Bush presidency itself. Worse, at
present, many of our Democratic representatives are showing their outrage
regarding the disastrous policies of the administration -- by agitating to bomb
circumstances, Eric Fromme warned, "the destruction of the world is the
last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it."
Ergo, we witness these collective pathologies play out in the perpetual
aggression of American foreign policy, the exploitation inherent in our
corporate workplaces, marketplaces, and healthcare practices and the
exponentially expanding destruction of the environment.
How, then, can we
begin to alter these seemingly ineluctable circumstances?
First off, don't
give the elites credit for being more intelligent than they are. Ruthlessness,
striving and cunning should not be mistaken for intelligence. The only real
accomplishment of the present day ruling class has been to transform their
self-justifying lies into a form of performance art.
In reality, they
have left private institutions bloated and public ones bankrupt. And left us,
as a people, directionless and bereft of hope.
But that is not the
totality of the situation: We must muse upon our own complicity in creating
this cultural catastrophe. We've all been employed as landscapers on this
At present, in our
alienation and attendant passivity, our plight is analogous to that of
so-called "crib babies," those socially and emotionally arrested,
orphaned children who were left to languish in indifferent institutions.
Culturally, we seem devoid of the ability to respond to each other, to create a
just society -- or even envisage one.
Such is the extent
of our alienation and it is reflected in the media clowns and confidence
artists who comprise our (misnomer alert) leadership. We can produce slick,
television-friendly self-promoters -- i.e. Thompson and Obama -- but we can't
rebuild New Orleans or devise an exit strategy from Iraq.
Creating mass media
is not tantamount to creating society. When we live in an era wherein image
trumps reality, it follows that an infantilized populace will be transfixed by
the shiny objects of media culture -- that the tiny dramas of shallow
celebrities will work like crib mobiles to distract us from the deep anguish of
being a species standing before the crumbling edifice of paradigm collapse.
If media culture
seems so unreal, it is because it is a reflection of our chronic alienation --
our systemic disengagement from communal involvement; so profound is our
alienation -- not only from our environment, but also from our inner lives that
we pose a danger to ourselves and others, which is, of course, the clinical
criteria describing those unfortunate souls whose sanity has deteriorated to
the point in which they require institutionalization.
populace being in possession of an inner life would prove a dangerous
development to the 1 percent who hold 90 percent of the nation's wealth --
those who prosper from our alienation and its attendant apathy. It is a given
these corrupt elitists will try to maintain our estrangement from our inner
realities, because if we were to be roused to awareness insurrection would
colonized by consumerism, we have lost the ability to imagine meaningful
change, because our inner lives are no longer our own. Benumbed by our
complicity in corporate blanding, by means of ceaseless branding, our inner
beings, rather than resembling a teeming, vital polis of meaningful engagement,
now seem closer in resemblance to the cold florescent light-flooded shelves of
off-the-interstate convenience stores. Impulse and shallow need -- in other
words, utter desperation -- has usurped the deepening eros of communal
Hence, the thronging
avenues of imagination, personal and collective, have been replaced by a
soul-numbing proliferation of Starbucks and Banana Republic outlets that serve
palliative remedies masking the pain of our powerlessness to alter the tragic
trajectory of the times. All transpiring as the sky burns and Arctic glaciers
melt into rising seas -- and we're driven to distract ourselves from descending
dread by means of another latte buzz, shopping excursion, the unreality of
Reality TV, and the pathetic pandering of a political class of shallow hacks
who are themselves powerless before their Thanatotic addiction to power.
Such are the colic
nightmares of us cultural crib babies. What comes of this degree of alienation?
Violence (from shooting sprees to perpetual war). Addiction (from mindless
consumerism to prisons overcrowded with drug users). Magical thinking (from
neocon fantasies of global dominance to Christian End Time hallucinations).
Paranoia (the abiding delusion that little brown people cross our borders in
order to take our jobs, force us to speak their language, and blow up our malls
. . . after, of course, they've swept the floors and scrubbed the toilets).
Depression (from widespread use of anti-depressants to the massive
demoralization that reveals itself in pandemic levels of social apathy).
What if the media
were to begin to chronicle this collective nervous breakdown? What if we became
unable to avert our gaze from the tragedies of our time? What if we were
induced to not only stare into the abyss, but were grabbed by the lapels by it?
Then, I suspect, our
apathy would grow unpalatable. We'd choke on our fetid self-justifications;
swallowing our rationalizations would prove about as appetizing as eating a
foot-long hotdog inside a slaughterhouse.
At some point, try
driving out into the American countryside (as I've spent the last six months
doing). See for yourself the drought-desiccated Everglades and Okefanokee
swamps ablaze, where clouds of smoke are enswathing the states of the Deep
South like a death shroud. Walk through the splintered, toxic rubble of New Orleans.
Although do not go to gawk, but to grieve -- and rage --and then meditate on
how we came, as a people, to abandon an entire American city. Then continue, as
I did, down Interstate 10, onward through the concrete-encased, "heat
dome" of the strip mall archipelago that is Houston; its ugly, ad hoc
architecture glazed in the Greenhouse Gas-trapped infernos known as weather in
Sunbelt cities. Then proceed out into the West Texas prairies and approach the
areas where enormous, industrial livestock holding pens and slaughterhouses are
located. Places, where exploded-from-high-speed-impact carcasses of swarms of
black flies stipple your windshield, where the reek of death cannot be masked,
even if you possess a car deodorizer the size of Arkansas.
In these places,
you'll find the reek of empire; as well as, the reason the people of the world
have turned their faces away from us in revulsion. This stench permeates the
air of our nation and clings to the fabric of our lives. Moreover, although
George Bush is a veritable idiot savant in the art of creating the stench of
death, our Little Prince of Putrefaction is not taking the reek back to Texas
with him when we're finally rid of him. No, it is our own essence now.
Iconography-wise, let's lose the imagery of noble and lofty bald eagles;
rotting road kill should be proclaimed our national animal.
Yes, we're powerless
before the enormity of the age -- but we cross the line into complicity when
we're oblivious to our own individual stake in it. At this point, we can no
longer afford the luxury of retreating to our comfort zones. Tears must scald
our eyes; horrific visions should haunt our nights. The hour has come when we
must wrestle with the demon of our own indifference who gains his sustenance
and strength from the bribes, large and small, we accept from this
Worse yet, our
pathologies are embodied in our infant/tyrant leadership who throw global-wide
tantrums of mass destruction because as a people we have forgotten how to give
ourselves over to the eros of engaging the world by social and political
How do we begin to
restore ourselves and reclaim our nation? First, by remembering we're alive and
that life is finite. The awareness of the urgency of the situation at hand will
quicken one's pulse and the demon will lessen its grip as one's blood rises in
mortification and outrage.
How will we know we
are turning the tide? When our listless sleepwalking gives way to participation
mystique -- to vivid, waking dreams of living flesh.
How will we know if
we're losing? Simple. We will remain as we are, at present: bloodless, wane
spirits imprisoned within our own clammy skin.
This is the
archetypal criteria at the root of the mythic imagery of raising the dead: The
simple realization that one is alive within life; that the ennui engendered by
the illusion of atomization has ended; and that one's individual dreams and
longings -- and even one's flesh -- are not exclusively our own, but are part
and parcel of the implicate order of a living planet.
is neither an omnipresent, ever-watchful Sky Daddy divinity above nor a Risen
Son savior proffering redemption, yet there is engagement (action and
inspiration) within the vastness of the world -- a redemption borne of risk
that serves to re-animate a necrotic heart. In short, we so love the world we
give ourselves to it.
To do so, it is
imperative we begin unshackling ourselves from the noxious orthodoxies of
church, state, political party, and corporation, as well as from our own
narcissistic strivings within those hierarchies of vampires and wean ourselves
from the petty perks we garner from group approval and institutional bribes.
first step is an awareness of the problem and a willingness to reveal it in all
its shabby-ass human glory, even if the implications of doing so are ugly, even
if to do so will be to risk scorn in one's personal life and reversals in one's
Years ago, I heard
the tale of a fellow, a struggling artist, who had bought an old, dilapidated
house. Upon moving in, he discovered the place was infested with cockroaches.
Worse, the house sat close to railroad tracks and when trains trundled by,
shaking the house, its floors, walls, and ceilings literally seethed with
Since no amount of
bug spray could lessen the massive infestation, the artist began zapping the
bugs with glow-in-the-dark spray paint. Later, when friends dropped by in the
evening and a train rumbled down the adjacent tracks, he would switch off the
lights and all present were dazzled by the moving, organic mobile of scuttling,
multi-colored lights he created.
At present, this is
where we find ourselves as a people: powerless before the ugliness of the age.
Therefore, we have little choice other than to light the ugliness up and turn
the objects of our revulsion (personal and collective) into something
resembling the truth of art.
What will we gain?
Only this: the
enduring beauty of ugly truth -- one of the few balms available within the
agonies of a dark and ugly age.
Rockstroh, is a self-described, autodidactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet,
lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.