AGAIN MY APOLOGY for extended silence. I am struggling, quite painfully, with questions of content, which of course are actually questions of conscience and consciousness. How, for example, does one who came of age when the United States was still a quasi-democratic, socioeconomically mobile society, cope with the new USian realities of irremediable powerlessness and inescapable socioeconomic hopelessness?
Obviously I have not found an answer. But unless one is willing to embrace madness and retreat into a clinical state of delusion, the facts are undeniable, even to former optimists like Chris Hedges. Powerlessness and hopelessness are now the summum bonum of our lot – the best we in the 99 Percent dare imagine – and given the invincible technological superiority of the surveillance-and-murder state that protects and sustains the One Percent who rule us all, so will it be forever – that is, until our species is extinct.
Quoth Hedges in a more recent
“No one, not least our corporate overlords, believes that our
material conditions will improve with the impending collapse of
globalization, the steady deterioration of the global economy, the
decline of natural resources and the looming catastrophes of climate
change.” The first major-media journalist to acknowledge the
terrifying totality of the doom capitalism has brought down on all of
us, Hedges now writes from a perspective similar to the one that
has been mine at least since 2007.
Unfortunately Hedges remains bound by the intellectual paralysis imposed by Abrahamic religion and his ministerial training therein. Though unlike most Leftists he understands the symbiotic and synergistic roles of religion in human society and consciousness, he fails to acknowledge how capitalism – infinite greed elevated to maximum virtue – is derived from the three principle doctrines of the Divine Führer Yahweh/Jesu/Allah. These articles of belief, at the core of each of the Abrahamic faiths, are (1)-the murderous hatred of woman and the ultimately suicidal contempt for nature; (2)-the ubermenschen/untermenschen hierarchy of the chosen and/or the saved versus the damned; and (3)-the prosperity gospel so derived – the point at which Ayn Rand, despite her defiant atheism, becomes the world's most influential prophet.
Nor – with the tragic blindness characteristic of most of my gender – will Hedges allow himself to recognize capitalism as the direct descendant of patriarchy, the seemingly alien paradigm that arose mysteriously about 4,000 years ago to overthrow at least 100,000 years of human societies that were centered on motherhood and structured around its requirements. Thus he will not – perhaps cannot – admit how the rejection of biology and biological imperatives that began with patriarchy eventually morphed into the death-worship at the core of Judiasm, Christianity and Islam and now, via capitalism, imposes the unthinkable horror of apocalypse as its self-fulfilling prophecy. Literally – because it is ever more obvious the capitalists are too terminally greedy to allow us any exit – we are doomed.
No doubt because such absolute hopelessness has never before been the central fact of human consciousness, there seems to be nothing in our legacy – no psychology or psychiatry, no religion or spirituality, in fact nothing apart from the slow but relentless suicide of intoxication by debilitating drugs – that can genuinely ease our adjustment to the new and ultimately deadly master-and-slave paradigm by which capitalism now rules all the peoples of this planet.
Hedges, for whom despite my criticism I have enormous admiration and respect, suggests in the the first of his two essays linked above we embrace the opiates of religion or at least spirituality and the intoxicants of art. But I am too skeptical for the former alternative, and too experienced in the real-world economics of art to accept the latter.
Though a part of me believes, fervently and on the basis of seemingly otherwise-inexplicable evidence, in the existence of (some) deity and an afterlife including reincarnation, another part of me can with equal conviction refute all such evidence as hallucinatory symptoms of terminal insanity – the final response of the human mind to the terrifying reality of death: the fact that for the one who is dying, death is literally the end of everything, including the cosmos itself.
And Mr. Hedges' other option, art, is increasingly beyond our economic reach: computers, musical instruments, cameras, paint and canvas, ceramic materials, most of all the essential education in content, form and method – all these prerequisites to making art have become so prohibitively expensive, they are even now legally accessible only to the aristocracy – that is, the One Percent, the Ruling Class. Hence there is now a huge gap, indeed a truly unbridgeable chasm probably greater than at any time in human history, between the arts of the aristocracy and the arts of the people.
Hence too, in the great ghetto that is now 99 percent of USia, there is an intimate connection between people's art and people's crime: note for example the relationship between hip-hop, graffiti and gang-banging. In other words, to be a successful as a people's artist in today's world is to be successful as a criminal, or at least to successfully consort with criminals – and I for one could never be comfortable in such outlaw realms.
It was with earlier,
less-well-articulated variants of the above considerations I
responded to the footage of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a
Dream speech posted by the Seattle on-line daily Crosscut
nearly a month ago:
While I applaud Mr. Copeland's decision to post the video of Rev. King's speech, to call it “uplifting” in the context of today's socioeconomic and political reality is like calling a film about gourmet dining “uplifting” when it is shown at the height of a famine. As anyone fit to be an editor should understand instinctively, context is everything. The United States in which Rev. King could dream of “the riches of freedom and the security of justice” is no more, nor will it ever be again. “The whirlwinds of revolt” cited by Rev. King have come and gone, and their merciless suppression by the Ruling Class has left us with far less than we had in 1963. The so-called American Dream is as dead as the American experiment in constitutional governance, both slain by the most obscenely powerful oligarchy in human history. Nor will we in the Working Class ever have such liberty and wealth again. Now we are all slaves, enslaved by a capitalism so diabolically cunning, so infinitely greedy, so sadistically merciless, resistance truly is futile. Thus the significance of Rev. King's speech today: a eulogy, a lamentation for all we have lost, for what might have been but is now beyond our reach forever.
Later on the same thread I replied to a poster who rejected my “cynical perspective”:
My apology, Louploup, for responding so tardily. But the fact remains the unwilling subjects of empire have ever spoken as you do, with hopes nearly always false and all too often fatal.
Here in the United States today it is only our abysmal ignorance of history that keeps us from realizing real empires last effectively forever and are overthrown only when superior force is applied from without. The Roman Empire empire in its diverse forms lasted 1,700 years (c. 300 BCE to 1453 CE), and even now its legacies shape global political and economic realities. The U.S. Empire is just beginning, not approaching its end, and based on its policy of merciless application of its technological superiority and its utter lack of effective enemies anywhere on this planet, it can be rationally expected to last at least as long as the Roman forebear after which it is increasingly patterned.
The only factor that could possibly shorten its longevity is Gaian intervention, the extermination of our entire species in retaliation for its contempt for the natural environment and its hatred of nature's microcosm the human female.
Meanwhile the realities of imperial subjugation offer us not the “audacity of hope” as described by Obama the Orator before he shape-shifted into Barack the Betrayer and sold us to the oligarchs, but the utter imbecility of hope proven by how so many of us were deceived by the Big Lie of “change we can believe in” and by how promptly the Occupy Movement was crushed thereafter. The same lesson – need I say again the imbecility of hope – is taught abroad by the imperial legions, much as it was taught to Queen Boudica's anti-imperial revolutionaries by the Roman massacre of 80,000 of their number in Britain c. 61 CE.
In bitter truth -- unquestionably since the advent of patriarchy and the sack of Knossos, possibly throughout the entire 100,000 years of our species' existence -- the light of freedom is never more than a very occasional spark in an otherwise unbroken eon of darkness. Hence in old age I celebrate the accidental good karma of my childlessness: because I fathered no children who lived beyond birth, I have damned no descendants to inescapable slavery, which is now the only future possible for anyone not of the Ruling Class.
A few days later, when Robert Reich predicted a new progressive revolution, I responded via a Reader Supported News thread. My comments, which I realize now were an elaboration on the above, were rejected by 26 thumbs-down votes – an all-time record for me:
Sadly, Mr. Reich's claim -- “it will happen again” -- panders to the imbecility of hope, the moronic Polly Anna optimism of those who, by ignorance or delusion, deny the apocalyptic reality underlying the permanent death of the American Dream. A progressive resistance to capitalism will not arise again because the world's resources are decreasing too rapidly to allow such reality-based optimism. That's why the Dream is dead beyond resurrection; without the material wealth of the Dream, the progressive vision is meaningless.
Even if this were not so, the Ruling Class will never allow another progressive era. The Ruling Class is hoarding the world's wealth to protect its self against the looming triple apocalypse -- terminal climate change inflicted by fossil fuels, the exhaustion of those same fuels and, as a result, the extinction-class disaster of total technological collapse. And this time, unlike any other epoch in human history, the Ruling Class has the technological superiority to impose zero-tolerance enforcement of its will.
The combination of all these factors means our powerlessness and ever-worsening poverty is forever – that is, until our species is extinct. Thus the damning validity of Chris Hedges' claim our only sane alternative is to embrace the opiates of spirituality and religion, never mind they too are mostly delusional.
To clarify, I was an activist all my adult life, going to jail, sacrificing a promising journalism career on the altar of change.
That's why, two months away from my 73rd birthday, I am economically no more than a common bum – damned to the slave-pen powerlessness of dependence on welfare for the remainder of my life, condemned to die if not literally in the street then surely and inescapably in the proverbial gutter of shame and degradation that is the welfare-recipient's lot.
In today's United States activism is not just pointless; it is often also socioeconomic suicide.
It is rendered so by the obscene reality of Moron Nation. The U.S. population has been dumbed down to a nadir of prideful ignorance and moral imbecility that has no peer in human history – a collective idiocy so grave, Ayn Rand with her variants on the Mein Kampf theme now elevates it to perverse heroism – infinite greed as ultimate virtue.
As Occupy proved, the resultant combination of anti-intellectuality and selfishness forever prohibits solidarity. It reduces activism to egotistical shouting. Hence – beyond the likelihood of wrecking one's economic prospects – activism changes nothing.
Nevertheless I persist in small acts of defiance. Why? So I feel less useless as I sink into the pre-extinction darkness.
Here in Moron Nation, it is idiotic to expect anything better – a bitter truth no deluge of negative numbers can refute.
But such realization does not give us any respite from the looming horrors we are ever-more-obviously powerless to avert. Though it pains me to say it, perhaps the junkies are right; perhaps there is no longer any human prospect for joy or pleasure beyond the suicidal ecstasies induced by drugs.
With or without drugs, we long-ago bohemians saw the darkness hidden beneath the American Dream decades before the economic defeat of the Soviet Union eliminated forever capitalism's need to disguise its bottomless savagery. Allen Ginsberg's Howl denounced it: “I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan foretold its consequences: “It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.” Tim Buckley's “Phantasmagoria in Two,” speaking as for all true-hearted men to all the world's oppressed women, lamented its devastation: “If you tell me of all the pain you've had, I'll never smile again.” And Diane di Prima's Loba speaks so powerfully it could have served – if indeed there were any remaining long-range hopes of human survival – as the foundational epic of a new consciousness, its definitive lay of magic, the wellspring of its revolutionary spirituality: “All things are possible within the mother...”
Given such undeniably compelling poetic inputs, had we bohemians been allowed to pursue our own visions, we might well have evolved an ideology genuinely capable of averting the coming darkness – or at least of coping with it. Much of bohemia was thinking in that direction; many of us saw the old Counterculture as an ultimate and ultimately encouraging expression of our species' survival instinct. Gary Snyder in Earth House Hold hailed the children of Countercultural parents as “different in personality structure and outlook from anybody...since the destruction of Knossos.” My own forever-lost “Glimpses of a Pale Dancer” – obliterated by mysterious fire just as it seemed bound for publication – identified via semiotics the hitherto-unnamed common vision that might have united the diverse threads of what Walter Bowart had already correctly labeled “revolution in consciousness.” It was my hope “Dancer” would encourage collective exploration of the often-sensed but never-before-identified legacy shared by traditional folk music, its folk-rock derivatives and the Feminist, Environmentalist, Back-to-the-Land and Alternative Press movements. Such exploration, I believed, was the essential precursor to solidarity – perhaps even the formation of a nationwlde Countercultural united front akin to the spontaneous cooperative efforts I had witnessed in Lower Manhattan and in the larger cities of the Puget Sound area.
But the domestic bohemia that was birthmother and midwife to these revolutionary impulses was soon to be crushed. Its unforgivable sin was providing the U.S. Working Class with opportunities in music, art, literature and the quest for humanitarian social change that had previously been available only to the Ruling Class. Bohemia had thus become the grassroots population's aesthetic, ideological and spiritual incubator. The suppression of its radical potential (and the restructuring of the economy to eliminate all possibility anything like it would ever rise again) was therefore an important part of the war on the 99 Percent declared by Nixon in his 1973 post-inaugural declarations to William Randolph Hearst Jr. Speaking on behalf the One Percent, Nixon said the U.S. Working Class had become like spoiled children; from now on, he said, we would be disciplined with whatever degree of hardship was deemed necessary to guarantee our submissiveness. In this context, di Prima's 25-year, 1973-to-1998 perseverance in writing Loba approaches both the miraculous and the heroic – all the more so since bohemia's destruction was effectively complete by the mid-1980s. And without bohemia, which was not just an attitude and a subculture but the protected space in which rebels and visionaries could gather and interact, any potential our species might rescue itself from the impending apocalypse was dead in the womb.
Not that it matters now, three decades after the fact. Successful reformations, like successful revolutions, are born only of optimism, of rising expectations. But capitalism's rape of the environment guarantees there will never again be rising expectations anywhere on this planet. Every day we in the 99 Percent are thrust closer to the brutal, hand-to-mouth existence characteristic of antebellum slaves and medieval serfs. Our only certainty is tomorrow will be worse than today; our only question is how much worse will it be. Loba thus becomes, in the old First Nations sense, a kind of death song, not just for di Prima herself but for all humanity and our Mother Earth as well:
is no knife can sever me from her
where I go down to bleed, to birth, to die.”
Moreover, history proves declining expectations provoke no protests beyond flash-in-pan flare-ups of agony and rage, tantrums of rebellion as doomed as any of the Middle Ages' innumerable peasant uprisings. The peasants failed – just as their Working Class counterparts fail today – because they lack the four prerequisites essential to revolutionary success: ideological solidarity, or at least a commonality of analysis; organization, including leadership; mastery of all extant technologies; support by powerful forces beyond the oppressors' deadly reach. Most of all they are doomed because each of these prerequisites requires some degree of optimism as a condition of its birth. But the savagery of capitalism has combined with the certainty of self-imposed terminal climate change to banish optimism forever from the Earth.
How could we have let our only home be trashed beyond repair? How could we have been such fools?
LB/11 February 2013