Succumbing to Contentedness and Mediocrity: Joking about the Ghosts and Shunning the Angels - Or, to Traverse the Haunted Terrain of the Human Heart
~This is A Ghost Story~
Western culture seems to be reverting back to the age of magic language, where spells could be cast, and the truth was just an inspired phrase. A reversion back to a universe of signifiers, when objects were things articulated, not the other way around; this is more commonly known as the Mythological Universe, where the truth was a great story. The truth is not a great story. A great story is a work of art. And truth may be found therein. Truth is not language, though it can be revealed through it. Saying something in a certain way does not conjure the truth into existence, it either describes what is, or doesn’t. Keener minds in, say, the Elizabethan age caught on to a paradox with productions like Marlow’s Dr. Faustus. People began asking the question: What’s the difference between casting a spell and a cast of actors performing the act of casting spells? Which is a question that was indeed pertinent and insightful but has transmogrified into who academic fields of study, like Speech Act Theory from J.L Austin and later J.R. Searle. Think about those words: Speech / Act / Theory. Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown put it literally as “a theory of language is a theory of action.” This take on language is essentially that language itself is a form of action. That the speaker and listener have idiosyncratic experiences of the words being written or spoken. This goes against everything that allows language to function. Words have specific meaning, and the specificity is exacted through the context in which they are employed, logical deductions are derived from said context. You understand this semantic witchcraft, you understand the entirety of the modern obsession with “hate speech” and even where the cockamamy concept, and argument in favor, of “hate speech laws” comes from; you also realize how opportunistic and pestilential it really is. Somewhere along the way we discovered you could say something without doing anything, (e.g. summoning demons on stage doesn’t summon actual demons, even if you are reading, verbatim, the actual spells) we broke free from the mythological universe of summoning reality through utterance and language, realizing its descriptive and simply communicative utility; that has now reversed, or we have regressed back into the realm of saying is doing. It is now being taken as truth that what is said is one's truth, and one can never fully know the other's truth or their experience of it, and therefore one can't say that what is being said to the other isn't indeed hurting them. Thus, language can be physical harm. We wag the god to say our way into where we wish to be. Those who adhere to the belief of speech-as-action are like children playing little lexical games of sorcery; any who break the rules breaks the spell. They’re just mean-spirited bullies, ghosting the game. Refusing to feign enchantment.
“Take me on a trip upon you magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped
My hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my bootheels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere
I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade
Cast your dancin’ spell my way
I promise to go under it.” –Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man
This conjuring of realities is subtle but abrupt. Notice the changing definitional role of judges; it used to be that judges made rulings. We now call the tipping ruling on a panel of judges in, say, the Supreme Court, a swing vote. It’s no coincidence that in Paradise Lost, Milton gave Satan the words “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make Heaven of Hell, and Hell of Heaven.” This is what Satan says upon realizing he’s in Hell. His claim is that all you need to change your current circumstances is to change your state of mind about them. Which has a kernel of truth but ignores the fact that there is indeed an exterior world, a material realm of cause and effect that you must deal with. For example: If you are at a party and someone shows up that you don’t get along with, consciously change your state of mind in so that your night is not ruined by it, but if then one of your friends comes and taps you on the shoulder and says your car has been broken into, you can’t imagine it away. And that asshole at the party is still there. Say, you are being mugged and beaten, “finding your bliss” is not going to transport you out of the beating, nor is it going to make the physical repercussions vanish. A state of mind is a tool to deal with reality, not reality itself. The definition of insanity is not doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results (that’s literally the scientific method of inquiry and experimentation—you do the same test, with the same conditions and controls, in the same sequence many times over in the same way, and you either get different results or you don’t, and more often than not, you do), the definition of insanity is the inability to reconcile your reality with reality, with actuality.
George Bernard Shaw resurfaced Milton’s theme in his play, “Back to Methuselah”. The serpent speaks the words, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were, and I say, ‘Why not?’” It would be none other than John F. Kennedy who naïvely exhumed these words in his speech to the Irish Parliament in ’63. He did so without reference (or without knowledge) as to who uttered them. Shaw’s aim was to build on the evil of regarding one’s subjective experience of words, one’s inner world; through the looking glass the dream is truer for its purity perspective. This idea that our concept is more important than the percept. That reality is a Platonic world. The realm of Forms. Perfect in their state of psychological suspension. The, “you say that I’m a dreamer/but I’m not the only one” type mindset. Now you literally have the “dreamer” rhetoric in politics. This is a cultural inward turn. This is a regression. This is preemptive; a means of protection. It’s safer in here.
“Almost exactly 50 years ago, in July 1969, men reached the moon and three weeks later Woodstock began. With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that’s when progress ended and that’s when the hippies took over the country. And we’ve had this incredible shift to interiority in the decades since then. And I would include the drug counterculture, videogames, a lot of entertainment more generally, this world of yoga, meditation—super inward-facing…Somehow the temptation to turn everything into something therapeutic, something psychological, meditative, has been a very powerful one in the post-1960s America.” –Peter Thiel
**Thiel is correct in his general analysis, but I will counter, or better, clarify with a more precise diagnosis further down in this essay.
We are now seeing the consequences of this pusillanimity towards reality, and the resulting inward take on “the self” in our culture. In the latest devolution of the English language, pawned off as the liberation of the lexically oppressed, is the campaign for semantically unshackling gender non-binary persons from their lexical chains. Now we have folks believing that if a teacher refers to you by your name but not by your preferred gender pronoun then that teacher is “denying my existence,” a claim, which, if taken seriously, and to its logical conclusion, one would simply have to acknowledge that one addressing another by name and trying to carry on a conversation with said another would, indeed, not only confirm another’s existence, but would be confirming it in a manner that renders the claim of denying another’s existence, dare I say, absurd; for how do you tell someone who is communicating with you that they are denying that you exist? These Wingardium Leviosa flights of gender linguistics are about as ghostly as it gets to addressing a living human being. Those fighting for this truly believe that if gender non-conforming individuals are addressed by the pronoun they prefer, at the time they prefer it, then all their ills will vanish, that somehow their inner tempest will calm; their subjective jigsaw will instantaneously arrange. Their identity will be complete. They will experience an interior and exterior societal wholeness. It has gotten to the point where in some states (here’s lookin’ at you, New York) it is now illegal for a psychiatrist to dissuade an individual from a belief in their psychological androgyny, or a mental dislocation from biological sex. The entire notion of an underlying mental disorder is not even to be mentioned, lest the courts get involved. Thus, the neologisms and academic word-fuckwithery enters the cultural discourse and any time a new contradiction arises, someone writes a new paper with their latest insular linguistics and hermeneutical voodoo, which is then shipped around the academic archipelago for peer review. Once approved it is then imported to the coastal urban cities and enters the discourse via ideologically possessed publications in articles with a title that usually ends with “…New Study Shows/Proves/Confirms”. This isn’t scholarship. This isn’t news. This is the new art: pedantry for pedantry’s sake.
Speaking of “lexical chains”, one of the most egregious spectacles of conjuring new historical realities is “The 1619 Project” from the New York Times. The specter of slavery in this country haunts us as a people, as it should, to a degree. We are reminded of it in nearly all walks of American life. This country has made mistakes. Grave mistakes. This fact doesn’t make us unique—it is what makes us like every other country that has ever existed. What distinguishes us is what ended and began here. Chattel slavery ended on this land, in this culture, and a grand Liberty experiment began. When slavery was abolished here, it was morally abolished everywhere. It still exists in certain areas of the world, but it is abhorred by any respectable people. This “1619 Project” employs and reaffirms a prevailing Marxist reading of human history (and that of American history) that reduces the complexity of historical reality down to a chronology of malevolent agendas—it’s a cynical revisioning of the human spirit. Literally, The New York Times aimed to “reframe American history.”
Hell, even the Smithsonian had to make a statement:
“For too long, the focus on 1619 has led the general public and scholars alike to ignore more important issues and, worse, to silently accept unquestioned assumptions that continue to impact us in remarkably consequential ways. As a historical signifier, 1619 may be more insidious than instructive.” –Michael Guasco
It came as no surprise to learn that in order to undertake this the project the New York Times would have to rely on bad scholarship and emotional appeal, they would have to rely on theory. They would have to exhume long debunked economics like the “King Cotton” theory developed by opportunist political economist David Christy, promoted by James Henry Hammond, a pro-slavery politician looking not only to keep slavery legal but to expand it to the North. He argued that if the South ceased the cotton production, “we could bring the whole world to our feet.” It was essentially racist propaganda to rationalize his theory that chattel slavery was an economic necessity. Headed by the likes of Spike Lee and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the flawed works of academics like Ed Baptist’s glaringly inflated numbers from his book, The Half Has Never Been Told, were utilized as sharply as possible. And their charlatanry quickly spotted.
“In a key passage in the book, Baptist purports to add up the total value of economic activity that derived from cotton production, which at $77 million made up about 5 percent of the estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States in 1836. Baptist then committed a fundamental accounting error. He proceeded to double and even triple count intermediate transactions involved in cotton production — things like land purchases for plantations, tools used for cotton production, transportation, insurance, and credit instruments used in each. Eventually that $77 million became $600 million in Baptist’s accounting, or almost half of the entire antebellum economy of the United States.
There’s a crucial problem with Baptist’s approach. The calculation of GDP, the main formulation of national accounts and a representation of the dollar amount of economic activity in a country in a given year, only incorporates the value of final goods and services produced. The rationale for doing so comes from accounting, as the price of the final good already incorporates intermediate transactions that go into its production and distribution. Baptist’s numbers are not only wrong — they reflect a basic unfamiliarity with the meaning and definition of GDP.” –Phillip W. Magness
Stanley Engerman, one of the most notable living experts on the economics of slavery had this to say:
“Baptist’s economic analysis, intended to demonstrate the essential role of the slave-grown cotton economy for Northern economic growth, is weakened by some variants of double and triple counting and some confusion of assets and income flows. To go from a value of the Southern cotton crop in 1836 of “about 5 percent of that entire gross domestic product,” to “almost half of the economic activity of the United States in 1836” (pg. 312-22) requires his calculation to resemble the great effects claimed by an NFL club when trying to convince city taxpayers that they should provide the money to build a new stadium because of all the stadium’s presumed primary and secondary effects.”
These kinds of expedient methods at getting a particular economic viewpoint across comes from a modern “scholarly” genre of works called New History of Capitalism (NHC). It’s a strikingly duplicitous school of historiography that emerged after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. (Note: I have my own critiques of Capitalism, but this school of thought is garbage). All of the new “confirmations” of the magnitude of economic benefit America gained from slavery comes from these models and methods of interpreting historical economic data and their contingencies to modern day oppression of minorities. Another Cmnd + Shift expediency in economic literature today is the terrifyingly irresponsible theory of currency known as, Modern Monetary Theory (are you seeing a pattern here?), which is neither modern nor is it a theory. It’s a hodgepodge of old ideas that are patched together in order to come to the conclusion that a country with its own currency doesn’t have to worry about debt because it can simply print its own currency. It stipulates as long as the public and private sectors don’t spend too much at the same time, then inflation will remain at bay. As long as there are enough workers and equipment to meet the growing demands then inflation will never be an issue. It has become popular since the Green New Deal’s tens of trillions of dollars price tag came around. This speaks volumes.
What is infuriating about such an undertaking as “The 1619 Project” is that we Americans, all Americans, feel the pang of our history. It has shaped our culture in a way it hasn’t anywhere else. It is remembered here the way it isn’t anywhere else. And this blatant assault on our history, as well as our sympathetic inclinations, with the unabashed misrepresentation of the origins of our nation was not only executed by the most widely distributed publication in the world but it was exalted by it and many prominent figures in this country. What is a relief, however, is the ebullition of real information that counters these new stories, this “reframing.” People were tired of the lies, but they seemed to be content in just knowing the press lies. But now, with these neon efforts to toy with our emotions simply to set a political agenda on such unambiguous falsities, particularly on something as marrow deep as Americans’ remorse over the reality of slavery in our nation’s history—people aren’t standing idly anymore. We Americans, religiously, beat ourselves up, over and over again for that part of our history — a sort of cultural self-flagellation, which speaks to America’s deeply rooted Christian substrate, where ordered liberty sprouted from the soil of history like a golden sapling — but the people have begun to notice there is both an element of theology and theater to the way slavery is preserved in the states. There’s this air of reality and theme park to it. There’s a genuine care and performative contrivance in the atmosphere of it all. And the contrivances have been wielded as political means. We have these stories that come from the soul but are now beginning to ring as coming from the stage. Something real and not real about it. As though we have to live it daily. Some weird LARPING that is being puppeteering some political prerogative. There’s an element of blasphemy in the public sphere if one wishes to look beyond slaver when it’s brought up. There are concerted efforts aimed at not allowing slavery to just become a part of our history. The feeling that it must constantly be rehashed to keep us aware of what humanity falls into no longer feels genuine; it’s become a prosthetic, a political crutch. There is a sociopathy to this level of politics, as well as an element of leverage that for a long time couldn’t be directly challenged. It’s become recognized as another expedient means to achieve certain social ends. It’s become a theatrical political tool.
René Girard wrote rather extensively on primitive societies, how conflict was often resolved by sacrificing a single individual, a “scapegoat” whose death would calm, heal, unite the community. Peter Thiel in a discussion with Peter Robinson once noted on the subject that…
“Scapegoating only works if you don’t know what you’re doing. [It] only works if you don’t think of it as a fake psycho-social thing. Once you think of it in those terms, it stops working.”
Think, Salem Witch Trials and how quickly they became absurd and how we view them now. What’s truly absurd is not that they were embraced, but that they worked. The most popular book in the 1500-1600s was a book called, Malleus Maleficarum. It was a book about how witches lived among us and the only way to deal with them was burning them at the stake. Thiel continues…
“Carl Schmitt offers…an alternative to…all the thinkers of the Enlightenment. He concedes…that there never will be any agreement on the most important things, on the questions of religion and virtue and the nature of humanity. But Schmitt responds, that it is…a part of the human condition to be divided by such questions and to be forced to take sides. Politics is the field of battle in which that division takes place, in which humans are forced to choose between friends and enemies.
The Girardian critique of Schmitt would be that when Schmitt says that politics is about friends and enemies, he’s being very explicit—Schmitt thinks that he’s being so explicit that he’s strengthening it, but in fact may be undermining it.”
Americans for a while now have understood this constant conjuring of the ghosts of slavery as a fabricated means towards domestic tranquility, but now we are coming to terms with the fact that it’s also being used to gain access to certain levers of power over people’s right to human agency. In fact, we may be coming to view the whole political process this way. The reality of performative politics has become too explicit. Think of how theatrical politics actually is. Super-intense but also super-fake. Americans are now awake to the reality of political theater. Trump was the alarm clock. Which means, that whatever theater is used to rehash the history of slavery is now recognized as a mechanism, a conversation shut-down switch (CSDS). And this device is no longer going to work. It’s much like after having seen a certain actor in one too many films you begin to see the mechanics operating behind their words and actions; you no longer see the character they are portraying you just see them acting. You know what switch they are employing in a given situation.
People are not only increasingly savvy to how power dynamics are a CSDS. Those who utilize the device are also exhausting their ability to do so and have no back up because they haven’t actually learned how to deal with much of anything thoroughly. It’s become obvious that the theatrics are that—theatrics. The language of control having been exposed in one incredibly powerful facet of American life (politics) has revealed how those semantic and syntactical distractions are employed elsewhere. This may be apocryphal but: Orson Welles, as a boy, was befriended by Harry Houdini. Houdini once told Welles that a magician must practice a magic trick a thousand times before he performs it on stage. One evening, Welles was backstage with Houdini in the dressing room and a producer came to the door with a new lamp trick. Harry said, “good, I’ll put it in the show tonight.” According to Welles, he realized at that moment that the magic trick isn’t the craft. The magic trick is the show. That’s what that magician wants you to see: a magic trick. Magicians don’t do magic tricks, they do slights. The slights are the craft. Once you’ve mastered the slight, you can make anything seem like magic. What I am saying is, the world, America specifically, through Trump’s win and incessant breaking of the fourth wall, is catching on to the political slights, and they can no longer be misdirected. No matter how mediocre you are, once you see the magician’s fake thumb, you know it’s there. You can marvel at the technique, but you know it’s a technique. The same goes with the constant injection of slavery into everyday American life, particularly when serious conversations are attempted and those in the ideologues engage their CSDS. And since the rhetorical slights in argumentation are employed so promiscuously regarding something as grave as slavery, a historical reality that cuts every American deeply, the simple attempt at engaging a CSDS is called out and when it is, those who relied on the CSDS tend to not have a riposte, so they get angrier. Watch Charlie Kirk flail about when simply asked about Israel and all the money they receive. Watch AOC or Ilhan Omar go off when simply questioned about their potential campaign finance issues. Watch Warren’s eyes when she’s asked about taxes on the middle class. In the theater of rhetorical slights, the principle now applies universally. You’ll never hear words like “collusion”, or “credible”, or “Impeachment”, or "quid pro quo", or "diversity", and expressions such as, “free healthcare”, or "mandatory buyback" the same way again. There are no spirits here, they are sheets on fly systems. And we see the wires.
Trump has taken an interest in revealing just how the stage crew of the Administrative State can wield its own will. Take this Ukraine phone call with Zelensky, of which the transcript we have all seen. If you’ll look back in the news you will see that on the 24th of July, in the year of our Lord, 2019, one Robert Mueller testified before congress, appearing confused, and uninformed (he couldn’t even recall what Fusion GPS was) his testimony singlehandedly leveled the entire case. Now, what occurred on July 25th, 2019? Take a wild guess—the Zelensky phone call. After two and a half years, Trump’s detractors in Washington went from Russia to Ukraine in a day. Brewing a new pot of impeachment stew; a witch’s brew of transcripts, Latin terms, and the chewed-off fingernails of Adam Schiff. It’s a new story, a new stage production, a new show; another political poltergeist of corruption broadcast through televisions around the world. Oh, “They’re here”, alright. They’re everywhere and they never thought Trump would release the transcript of the phone call. And here we are. A new impeachment conversation. To those who know the system, and have even a surface understanding of politics, you’ll notice one thing that never makes it into the press is the reality of governmental process and practicality. The paperwork that has to be done in order for anything to get put in motion is mountainous. The players are numerous and have interests of their own. For instance: there are nearly 20 Democratic congressional members that won in Trump districts. If those representatives “vote” to impeach President Trump, they will lose their seats, something no politician is willing to give up, especially this close to the next Presidential election cycle. Listen for the language switching, and the redefining to come. This will go from an “Impeachment Inquiry” to something along the lines of “we’re just asking questions.” If, indeed, it is taken to a vote in the House, it will be devastating to the impeachers.
Especially after the release of the IG report in the next week or so. And, of course, we still have AG Barr and Investigator Durham who have just opened a criminal investigation regarding the 2016 Russia Investigation. What is coming down the pipe in the next few weeks regarding this Barr/Durham investigation will reveal precisely the tyranny the framers warned us about when government gets to big; the likes of Brennan, Comey, Clapper, and those beneath them in the CIA and FBI are in for quite some reckoning. Barr and Durham have been speaking with some key players from this ordeal who are turning on each other; they now have to speak under oath about their relations with one Christopher Steele and all the tales they’ve spun on television about the origins of the Russia Investigation. Barr, along with Durham, is also speaking directly with Christopher Steele, who is also now under oath, as well. And when their lies don’t match his lies…the language of regulatory fiction will leave them impoverished of words to conjure any story of innocence. Even their backup narrative with Mifsud has run-up against the wall of reality. It actually appears as though the FBI was unaware Mifsud was working along with the CIA when they had Papadopoulos wire-up in their meeting. Which, if that’s the case—that means the FBI became aware that this was a setup and went along with the agenda once they realized what was happening. Which may be worse than having been aware all along. Be on the lookout for the three B’s: Brennan, Burisma, and (Cofer) Black. And keep a keen eye out for ole Pierre Delecto connections with Black. Keep a keen eye out for ole Pierre Delecto connections with Black. And keep a keen ear out for the names like Stefan Halper, Nellie Ohr, Serhiy Leshchenko, and never forget Glenn Simpson. To put it succinctly, Ukraine was heavily involved in the 2016 effort to keep Trump from being elected/removing him from office after his electoral victory.
You want to know why Trump remains cheery? Because he knows all of this—he’s just letting Barr and Durham put all the evidentiary pieces together. Trump has revealed what most of us already thought: the legacy media-news apparatus is part of the entertainment industry misdirecting you with all the slights—what you see on screen is part of the show. Again, Politics is show business.
A longstanding, and indeed valid, criticism of Trump is an indictment of dishonesty. Honesty is another one of these words that has become a ghost of itself through its promiscuous usage in contemporary America. It is understood as a term denoting truthfulness. But its etymological reality does not denote a pedigree of “speaking truthfully”; it is quite different, and, as in most cases regarding terminological historicity it’s connotations of truth excavation are peripheral, unintentional even. It is a term derived out of the word “honor” and has more in common with the word “reputation” or “optics” than “truth”. In the early 14th Century it denoted “splendor, honor; elegance” and in the late 14th century it was more connotative of an "honorable position; propriety of behavior, good manners; virginity, chastity," purified through the alignment with mores. It ascribed to an individual a manner of being that could be trusted to adhere to norms. There is an irony in its 21st Century usage, particularly by those who use it, considering that it was essentially a term denoting conformity. Doing what is expected of you. Not ruffling feathers. Now people use it as a means to provoke. “I’m just being honest,” (or the more-terse formation these days: “I’m just sayin’/just sayin’.”). It’s derivation for the Latin honestatem meaning “honor received from others; reputation, character” in the eyes of expected customs. “Honest” being an expression of “respectable, decent, of neat appearances.” So, around the 1400s the notion of “chastity” was imbedded in its use; hence, phrases such as “make and honest woman out of her.” Ultimately, it meant this person can be trusted to act accordingly—to do what is expected of you by those who established the codes custom. It was a superficial term compared to “honor” and a far cry from “truth”. And in that sense, Donald Trump is indeed, not an honest man.
Economy is solid. Job unemployment is lower than ever for minorities and women. Our enemies fear us, and our allies understand they are all part of the show, on board and Trump's detractors amongst our allies at the very least respect the fact that our enemies fear us. That’s what voters will be voting with come Nov. 8, 2020. Not what Trump tweeted two weeks ago. If Trump’s detractors wish to beat him, they need to realize that he may be a jokester, but he’s no joke. As his media spectacle constantly keeps everyone talking about what he wants them to, he implements his structural changes with very little mention. He is shaping the judiciary for the next four to five decades, he has chosen five seats in the Fed’s Board of Governors, he’s reforming immigration, passed the largest corporate tax cut ever — which, effects the upper-middle, middle-middle, lower-middle, and lower-class, no matter how the press spins it. Corporations are people. How? Because a “Corporation” is simply an idea held together by the efforts of people. When Corporate taxes go up, who do you think pays that tax increase? It’s not CEOs and Stockholders. It’s the employees who see more taken out of their paycheck every month and consumers who see prices go up; “Big Business” and “Corporations” are two distinct things. I will expound on this in another essay but I covered it somewhat above when discussing Climate Change — and he’s single-handedly turned the world focus onto China; say what you will about you notion of tariffs, they may put the US economy under some pressure, but they will put China’s economy into a depression, and Xi knows this, and his people are feeling it, which has driven capitol and local investment out of that country. China is a totalitarian regime, and totalitarian countries spend more resources on preventing insurgency than on attacks from the outside; the degeneration of whatever quality of life was already established also increases the likelihood of rebellion from within. Hong Kong is an example of what happens when you see a clash of ideals between State and Local values and interests. These tariffs are just another one of those sparks that set the sky on fire. A red star indeed. Trump has taken China’s abuse of America personally. He is making an example out of them. He may deal with Xi Jinping in a business-like manner, but the dude is from Queens, New York and made his way into billionaire-household-name-status through shrewd street-smarts. He is 6”2’, 250 pounds of solid “it’s either your people or my people” outlook; he understands the street-mentality of gangsters. He plays nice on camera and in person with Xi; however, he has no qualms with fucking China’s President for Life with his own flagpole on policy. Trump knows for guys like Xi, it ain’t just business—it’s war.
“President Trump understands the Chinese like no President understood them. He’s very good at dealing with gangsters…I think the [Chinese polit-bureau] are the biggest gangsters, and that’s why the know how to deal with gangsters. They don’t follow rules. A lot of people wonder why China cannot follow rules. Any competition has a game rule. Commercial competition has a rule that the Chinese never follow just because they never look at commercial competition as competition. They look at it as warfare. It’s never competition for them. It’s always warfare for them. Whatever they do is warfare because, as a dictator, the outside world is always the potential enemy. That’s the way they look at the world.” –Jimmy Lai
The same goes with Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, and any leaders in the Middle East. They don’t view use as competitors, they view us, and anybody that is not them as potential or established enemies. Trump knows when he meets these people in person, he is shaking hands with individuals that see him as the enemy, not a fellow leader in a global community. Trump is dealing with the leaders of these countries, not the populace. When Trump calls a place a “shithole” country he’s bashing the leaders of these countries, not the people, and everyone in the press knows this but it’s politically advantageous to say otherwise. Trump’s instincts on, say, pulling out of the Middle East make complete sense when understood this way; dealing with people who view us as the evil. However, unlike China, which has a philosophical abhorrence for its enemies, the Middle East has a Theological repulsion for those they consider their enemies…and they hate their enemies. (This is what makes Christianity so special, and far more sophisticated, dare I say, True: its core principle is “forgiveness” through “love”, particularly loving your enemy. Not in love with their enemy, which robs one of wisdom, but loving the enemy which is rational; engendering reason.)
The philosophical abhorrence the Chinese leaders have towards the west is distorted by their consumption of western products and theft of western innovation, but do not be mistaken the leaders of China detest, on principle, western civilization. A philosophical asymmetry can be dealt with. The Theological delusion the leaders in the Middle East have regarding the western civilization is the result of its leader’s religious zealotry, and it has no boundaries, no reason — literally, the God of the Quran is not a reasonable God. Just read it or read/talk to any Islamic theologian and you will understand this within minutes. No matter your stance on the Christian religion, the God of the Bible is a reasonable God, that’s what logos translates to, both “reason” and “word”, and that is a profound difference. Think of that on a societal level, how reason shapes the west. Now think similarly on a God that isn’t limited by reason and how devotion to such a God would shape a culture in the desert; their leaders and terrorist groups go to sleep and wake up every day thinking of how to destroy western civilization; they are repulsed by us on a spiritual level. They will always want war with us. Our soldiers are out there doing what they can to contain terrorist organizations, isolate them and spread them out into little cells that have no real organizational/influential/financial power, that’s about all we can do. Beginning to reallocate resources towards dealing with China is paramount. The Middle East is led by hateful religious zealots who wish to remain as such and terrorize others that do not follow such devotion to their God. Their leaders have no sense of universality, even in this universally networked modern world. The same goes with this situation with Kurds. Practically everyone in Washington and the Israeli state are against departure. That alone should tell you that departure is the right move. The coffers of congress surfeited by the military industrial complex in the Middle East and Israeli sway in that region is the only reason American soldiers are still there.
I will elucidate further my skepticism of the unquestioned American (read: Washington/Entertainment Industry/Legacy Media Apparatus) support of Israel in another essay, but to make clear my stance, the Israeli State, Zionism, and its aspirations both in America as well as the Middle East are not simply recognition of religious/cultural identity as a people. Yes, Ilhan Omar is a terrible politician, and just a really mean person, a deeply ungrateful figure, her antisemitism is marrow deep, that was the culture she was raised in, she genuinely doesn’t realize when she’s saying truly terrible things…but, she’s not entirely wrong in her criticisms of Israel. But, man. It’s a stretch when her colleagues give her pass. When Nancy Pelosi goes on camera and says, Ilhan just “has a different experience in the use of words.” I can almost feel the entire room in unison head tilt. If you have a double-standard, you have no standards. That’s literally what a standard is: you don’t accept a deviation of the standard set, otherwise it’s just like the Pirates Code in Pirates of the Caribbean: just a guideline.
Trump’s instincts in the Middle East are good. Wouldn’t you know it, the moment Trump begins shuffling things around, and everyone in Washington, Israel, and the press loses their minds—boom, al-Baghdadi is chased into a tunnel by American Military Forces and he is left to blow himself to hell with his pups and his children. That’s how terrorist leaders should die. Trump’s intuitions were right, but he’s got an Administrative State that is hellbent on subverting him. Trump also has a trust in the Jewish community which comes from his life spent in New York, because, well, if you want to do business in New York, you ally yourself with the Jewish population and it’s a solid leg up. Trump figured if that worked in New York it would work in the Washington. Well, not so much. I believe this is why he campaigned on and successfully pulled out of the Iran Deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, because of his Jewish advisors. And this has set him back a bit. Yet, his instincts still seem to somehow put him right up in the running with every counter; again, because he operates solely on instinct, if he makes a bad move, his instincts tend to get him out of setbacks rather quick; he’s an expert maneuverer. But he still has to deal with an Administrative State and, thus, out in the Middle East we remain. Now, just at another border. Same objective, different line in the sand. We can aid what allies we have out there, but they need to deal with their own borders, their own land, and their own values amongst themselves. Their aspirations of influence and destruction of perceived enemies are a mound of sand compared to the mountain of influence and destruction the Chinese will level on the world with its aspirations of usurping the US as the global economic and militaristic force. China is cold, calculating, organized, disciplined, and patient—hell, they are a culture that has world renown for making an art of its patience; through it, an artform of discipline. And the west, with its rapid technological advances is experiencing a cultural disorganization, lack of discipline, and loss of patience. The Chinese Communist Party have a view of themselves “Zhongguo (Jhongguo or Chung-kuo) which translates to “Central State” or “Central Country” (commonly referred to as “Middle Kingdom” which is a misdirection). This is the real specter. Trump sees Xi wringing his hands mirthfully as he witnesses the death of patience in the west. Trump sees Xi’s smile as that of a man who wishes to watch his enemy lose. Trump sees that Xi doesn’t want to simply do business.
“When business is just business, that’s when you get bullied by China.” –Jimmy Lai
One must understand the brutal poetry of the enemy. Trump isn’t one for poetry. But he understands what his enemies deem beautiful and true; he knows who their soldier Shakespeares are and why they are valued.
When asked by Peter Robinson at the Hoover Institute “will you get out of Hong Kong and what do you [and the people of Hong Kong] wish from the American people?” Entrepreneur and Pro-Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai responded:
“I will not get out of Hong Kong. Because I am one of the troublemakers. I can’t just make trouble and let go…Milton Freidman once said, ‘there’s no free lunches.’ If I take the stand, I stand. The way that they treat me, however they harass me…that’s just lunches…I have to pay for it. I have long determined to not be frightened by fear… Make us your narrative in daily life in your political conversations. Just give pressure to China. We need your help.”
Those who support the Communist agenda; those who remain silent when China clearly violates human rights laws, like the situation with Hong Kong, are playing into the Chinese agenda. This mainly comes from the Confucius Institutes. The Chinese populace has a term for naïve, college-educated persons driven by western identity politics and in favor of state-run countries in the name of egalitarianism, particularly not knowing they’re doing it as a reaffirmation of a self-prescribed sense or moral clarity and elevation. The term is: Baizou, which literally translates to “white-left”; incompetent, spoiled, no-nothing yet having many degrees. Because they only operate only by what they consider to be knowledge—their feelings and their sense of status. A tactic for evading reality. Ironically, the people who argue against walls are the very ones who linguistically erect their own psychological albatrosses. They’re woke, alright.
“You can’t awaken somebody who’s pretending to be asleep.” –John Perry Barlow to Edward Snowden (Old Native American saying)
One only pretends to sleep when he is either afraid of what will creep up in his dreams, or what will creep up around him as she slumbers. Now, more and more people are sleep deprived. Exhausted, and operating on the adrenal rushes of emotion. I believe, culturally, we have put our hearts in a safe place, for the time being, and as a result we have become careless towards one another. We are becoming heartless, and therefore superficial. That’s why when a genuine work of art comes along the heartless powers that be, and those who wish to be accepted by it, are repulsed by said work of art. They try and shut it down before it has the opportunity to potentially jar people into a societal/cultural ‘Oh!’ moment. Take the latest cinematic adaptation of the most iconic, and frankly, beloved villains ever put on page or on film: Todd Phillips’, Joker. This is a film about a character. A slight aggregate of different origin stories from comic books and graphic novels cobbled together to a rather effective aesthetic end. Claims ranging from ‘it’ll inspire the madness it depicts’ to ‘it’s too bleak’ to ‘one-tone, white-supremacist propaganda’, the response from critics, academics, and overall, people who didn’t read the comic books or, more generally, don’t go to films for entertainment value or to experience a work of art, but instead go to ingest and have reaffirmed an explicit ideological dish, hated it. Yet, the consumer response has been a walloping approval, reverence even; and the film broke $900 million worldwide. That’s the largest R-rated grossing film ever made; it had a $60 million budget, and it’s still in theaters. What Todd Phillips is doing is simple regarding a film. It breaks down, essentially to two variables:
1) He signed up to make a Joker origin story. So…
a. It’s going to be bleak because the Joker is a nihilistic, murderous anarchist.
b. It’s going to have the feeling much like watching a gazelle being chased down by a lion on National Geographic. No intervention. Just have to watch nature take its course, because—he has to become the Joker. And…
c. It has to live up to all that has ever been covered regarding this particular character—it has to be original, maintain a sense of idiosyncrasy. And this leads to…
2) He has to create a universe where Batman is necessary. He has to create a universe where it is necessary (and believable) that a billionaire dedicate himself to mastering a thing like martial arts and then dress like a bat in order to spend his evenings extracting vigilante justice, or simply put, beating the shit out of criminals while wearing a mask and a cape.
3) He has to create a world in which Joker, who finds meaning in the fact that nothing has any meaning (nihilism), would ultimately find meaningful a worthy adversary in the rise of an individual like Batman.
“The meaning of life, to me, is the struggle to impart meaning to meaning.” -Eric Weinstein
Joker does all these things. Phoenix, Phillips, Guðnadóttir, Sher - splendid synthesis of artists, this film is. Phillips has commented on the notorious unreliability of Joker as a narrator, as well as the fact that he didn’t make a capital-P political film/statement. So, Phillips took up the task of making a film that would place a character like Joker contrast to as-real-a-universe as our own, which has its ties to contemporary issues. Say what you will about the performances of past Jokers, those Jokers couldn’t exist in the real world.
—There is a theory I have which complicates things, all most too much. But it adds another dimension of terror to how this film can be understood: Fleck/Joker-as-unreliable-narrator in the context of this film grants two possibilities:
1) This is the world joker wants us to see, a world he is trying to convince us of in order to justify his actions or…
2) This is the world Joker is convinced of, and we are seeing it precisely the way he sees it (the more terrifying alternative).
These two alternatives indicate it’s not a film about Joker in reality. It’s a film about the reality in Joker. Not Joker in the world, but the world in Joker. I find dubious some of the rather convenient encounters that sequentially befall this character. Does he really get beat up by some teenagers who stole his sign? Does he really get a gun from a friend, which then falls out while entertaining children, subsequentially getting him fired? Do these Suits on the Subway really target him and beat him up? Or, is he just crazy and genuinely believe all of these things happened? If you’ve ever known anyone with schizophrenia/paranoid schizophrenia or any psychosis-inducing neurological disorders, you know these individuals can take a pat on the shoulder as an assault; any comment can be interpreted as malicious; whole towns can be viewed as plotting against them; they lose things and not know how; they come to have things on their person and either don’t know how they got it or concoct a whole series of events that lead to it being in their possession. Needless to say, this opens up all sorts of possibilities that, taken to their logical ends, simply unravel the entire narrative.
Ultimately, if I were to take it to its logical extreme. It’s a story about a psychotic man in an insane asylum who, having read the comics, is familiar with the character and has created a whole world in his head where he is the Joker, and that’s his little story for himself. And maybe that’s the joke.
Or, how about this—everything that happens while Fleck is in face paint, and when he’s speaking with his psychiatrist in Arkham in the final scene of the film, really happens and everything else was bullshit. We are strung along for an hour and forty minutes of watching this poor man have everything thrown at him and then we cheer in the final twenty minutes as he triumphs in a violent reclamation of existence. Maybe this was just Joker giving us another yarn. This being one of the many origin stories he has in order to garner sympathy or as a long joke wherein the only punchline is that we cheer on the mad man who just finds it funny killing people. The meta-joke then being that we were suckered into believing such a sad story because we don’t recognize what a good story is; our artlessness engenders our gullibility. Like in Christopher Nolan’s version, where Joker would tell different origin stories, here we have a whole film centered around one of those arbitrary concoctions that simply humors Joker’s demented sense of humor; not a criminal mastermind, just evil.
So, for the sake of simplicity we’ll assume everything in the film that is unreal is revealed as such, and everything that is real, well, is—
Cesar Romero’s, Jack Nicholson’s, Jared Leto’s, (the few television incarnations) and even Heath Ledger’s Joker couldn’t actually exist in reality. However, Phoenix’s Joker not only could exist in our world, he most likely already does – and that is the terrifying reality that most critics and soldiers of social justice don’t like because it's too messy and has no clear political agenda. It is a film that is out of control, in both senses of the expression: out of control in the public space where a work of art is received by consumers, but also out of control in that a real work of art simply doesn’t adhere to norms, ideologies, or sentimentality – it confronts them. Phillips, at a panel discussion in Venice, (correctly) claimed that “movies are oftentimes mirrors of society, but never molders.” He later went on record saying he saw Joker as a “heist” film, that he wanted to “sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film.” This is what real artists do: they take what they have at their disposal and bring it together to some aesthetic end usually in a subversive manner. It’s the work of art itself that is the means to the end, for the artist. Art, real art, isn’t something that is made to move you, that’s the modern interpretation of art, rendering a shoal out of the ocean of artistry. Real art arrests you. It seizes you. Real art causes the viewer to transcend emotion. It is only afterwards that one condescends to feeling and describing art. Phillips and Phoenix were constantly changing the script because the character, Arthur Fleck, was constantly evolving with each passing day of filming. The dancing that occurs, was never written in the script. It just happened one day while Phillips and Phoenix were filming in a bathroom trying to figure out what to do with the scene. Phillips thought to put on some of the musical compositions he had been receiving from the film’s musical composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Phoenix physically responded to the music in what is going to go down in history as one of the greatest scenes in all of cinema: he began to dance. Guðnadóttir, upon seeing some dailies, has gone on record saying the movements she saw Joaquin making were movements she had intuited and envisioned while creating the music—the two had never spoken to each other. It just happened. That is the process of real art. Splendid synthesis, indeed.
Phillips may have been responding to a political climate, but the film is not political. Politics are depicted in the film, however. And we must register the distinction. Everything that occurs in the film that is political happens outside of Fleck’s/Joker’s control or desires and is peripheral to the films focus (Flecks transmogrification into the Joker). He doesn’t kill the three Suits on the subway because they were rich and were representative of some greater societal ill. Nor does he kill them because he’s acting in some little heroic gesture. The whole situation arises from an ailing disorder that escalates and tends to just turn people away. What happens is: he’s just been fired from his clown-for-hire gig, because a gun he was given by his friend earlier in the film falls out of his coat while performing in front of children in a hospital; so, still in his clown outfit, riding home in the same subway car with him are three drunken guys laughing and a woman who is trying her best not to draw attention to herself. One of the Suits starts throwing French fries at her. Fleck, out of nervousness, maybe some empathy, falls into a fit of compulsive laughter because of an ailing psychological condition — what psychologists refer to as Pseudobulbar Affect, a disorder that causes fits of impulsive, oftentimes unprovoked, laughter or crying — he suffers from due to neurological damage incurred from child abuse, and the Suits take notice of him and then proceed to beat him up. As they are kicking him, ironically, he pulls out the same gun that led to him being fired but was given to him for protection as he travels through the city and kills all three Suits…
(An interesting parallel of firings: in this film, Fleck is fired for having the gun and then liberated by firing the same gun in the next scene. Joaquin Phoenix, nearly a decade ago, portrayed musician Johnny Cash. He stumbled upon the role after a string of poorly received films. He was down in the dumps, and not getting many calls for work before getting that gig. The single that reignited Johnny Cash’s career: “Ring of Fire”. And that was the film that rekindled Joaquin Phoenix’s film career. The firings in Joker are what set off the chain of events that put Joker in the spotlight – and set Gotham ablaze. The Joker at the center of it. Dancing. With bloody gaiety across his lips.)
…the press and the public take it as a political act of vigilante justice and a call to action. That’s one commentary from Phillips: what happens in the media and in the public tends to be a warped representation of various sets of facts; a “reframing” you might say. Another instance of the Joker’s apolitical nature is that he gets an opportunity to go on television, The Murray Franklin Show, which he watches every evening with his mother. He gets this opportunity because the producers got a hold of a video of Fleck’s flopped attempt at stand-up comedy and broadcast it to the world, another commentary from Phillips, a sort of proto-viral clip, instead of computers, its broadcast through the 80’s late night entertainment apparatus, Murray Franklin’s tv show. Fleck, after agreeing to appear as a guest on the show, initially plans to simply pull a Christine Chubbuck (i.e. shoot himself on live television), again, illustrating a lack of political motive. In the greenroom, Fleck meets Murray, and Murray asks if the makeup he’s wearing is a political statement, referencing the protests in the streets of Gotham by activists in clown masks who think the Suits killed in the subway were killed in the name of some activism. Fleck says no. I don’t believe in any of that. “I don’t believe in anything.” Setting up the nihilism of Joker’s worldview at this point. (Note: it is in this scene that Fleck requests Murray introduce him as Joker, the first time he uses the name). Once in the guest chair, and after a slightly confrontational back and forth with Murray, Joker, in a paroxysmal fit, pulls out his gun and instead shoots Murray. It’s not a political statement he’s making with the act; in fact, the Joker tells an indicting joke seemingly improvised on the spot: “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that treats him like trash?! You get what you fucking deserve!” It’s personal. It’s what happened to him. He brags about killing the three Suits and is condemned by Murray. This is what builds the pressure that leads to expelling the bullet that will decompress Murray’s dome. Now there’s a whole lot here: Fleck watched Murray every night with his mom, fantasizing about being on the show and Murray inviting him onstage. But the fantasy also consists of Murray — after Fleck being admitting he lives with his mother and takes good care of her — saying “I wish I had a son like you.” So, again, this is a crime of passion, a personal kill-the-fantasy-father-figure type deal rather than a political motivation. If there are themes Phillips is channeling, one is the necessity of building/preserving families.
Fleck, abused as a child, and thus stuck in perpetual adolescence. He has the cognitive development of an 9-year-old. This becomes apparent when Murray castigates him for killing the Suits. Murray asks why he’s so mad and Fleck says, “because you played my video and brought me on your show, to make fun of me.” This is the reasoning of a child. The vengeance of a child. This is a commentary on infantilization. And there is no reasoning amongst infants. Simply passing fits of pure emotional subjugation.
But the ultimate revelation of Joker’s antipolitical state of mind is in (an instance of homage/big middle-finger, harkening to The Dark Knight, and also a direct contrast to a scene in the beginning of the film when Fleck is riding the bus of anonymity, his forehead propped against the window looking down, not out) a scene where Joker is in the back seat of a police car looking out and beginning to notice of the anarchy that is besetting Gotham. In The Dark Knight, Ledger’s Joker sticks his head out of the window (which mirrors his earlier testament that he’s like a dog chasing cars), relishing in the chaos he wishes to send Gotham into. Phoenix’s Joker, however, looks out the window, his eyes welling up, a child-like smile of awe and laughter, like almost like a Wow! Cool! creeps over his cheeks. He is seized by his creation. He has manifested something into reality that is tangible, and now he now has proof he exists. And this may be a critical theme Phillips was intuiting: the affirmation of existence. Joker doesn’t care that it’s violence and disruption. Indifferent to politics and ideologies and socio-economic propaganda. He sees the city as something reacting to him. The city is no longer avoiding him, treating him ill, or walking over/through him—the city is mimicking him. Mimicry is a kinetic admiration; both a reaffirmation of one’s existence (for Fleck/Joker) and a building block of creation (for Gotham’s disenfranchised inhabitants). The foundation of all creation is mimicry. This is how children learn to comport themselves: how to walk, talk, eat, converse, ride a bike, learn a sport, read, draw… Joker is seeing his little spawn. He is the father/mother/god. While all of this is happening, Thomas Wayne, his wife, and son, Bruce, are leaving a movie theater, where Zorrow, the Gay Blade is playing, which follows with the comics, aiding Bruce in his inception of his masked and caped alter-ego, Batman. They are accosted in an alleyway. Mr. And Mrs. Wayne are shot. Bruce is left behind. Shattered. His destiny set in motion. Bruce will grow up in Phillip’s city of chaos that will shape him into the iconic character we have all come to know. Joker doesn’t care that people have made other meanings out of what he was just doing naturally, because, he’s, you know, insane (there is an unmistakably childlike quality to the mentally ill, and the liberated), he just sees that he did something and people not only took notice but did something too. He did something and people everywhere reacted to it and he’s got a dopamine hit. Gotham has become Twitter. Joker finds he loves the chaos. And this becomes clear just after the police car is then hit by a protester in another vehicle. Joker is pulled out of the vehicle and placed on the hood. When he comes to, he stands up on the hood of the patrol car, realizing he is surrounded by a growing, thunderously approving crowd, responding gleefully and powerfully to his presence. Fleck begins to dance (another homage/big middle-finger to films like Jerry Maguire, where Cuba Gooding Jr’s character spends the whole film saying he isn’t going to dance to entertain the crowd, and then near the end of the film, in a fit of gratitude, indeed, breakdances in the endzone). Then turns and notices he’s bleeding from his mouth…and then spreads the blood over his lips and cheeks into a glistening burgundy grin. He bats his eyes like a starlet on the red carpet, maniacally coy. (The insane feats one will go, and the maddening effects of trying, to achieve fame, perhaps?) He relishes the attention. He’s no longer a ghost, he’s a celebrity.
The scene fades to black—and then you hear him laugh.
He’s now in Arkham Asylum. His counselor asks what’s so funny. To which he replies: “I just thought of a joke.” She asks what was the joke to which he responds, “you wouldn’t get it.” And he begins singing “That’s Life” to himself. The film cuts to him walking down one of the hallways of Arkham—leaving behind a trail of bloody footprints. He then dances at the end of the hallway, and walks offscreen only to run back across it…being chased by security. He is now fully The Joker. This isn’t politics. It’s polarization; it’s about what personalities can possess a human being when one has nothing left to lose. Phillips and Phoenix have created a Joker that lives up to what fans have imagined for decades. It’s a work of art. A fully realized character in a fecund fictional universe. I have always pictured Joker mirthfully running around Arkham, being chased by the security after hurting or killing one of the staff. The joke he was laughing at was the thought of killing the psychiatrist. It’s literally, The Killing Joke. You see, killing for The Joker is not just fun—it’s funny.
Now that’s an origin story.
What Todd Phillips may be intuiting here is that Joker is what rises out of the ashes of mass mediocrity when informed values are replaced with ill-formed ideologies. What comes of it is a reverence of misanthropy. Just a bunch of disgruntled people walking around with no cultural sense of purpose or belonging, getting angrier and angrier, until one day, someone loses it, and then everyone loses it. An inspiration for this film was the 1976 film, Network, where essentially the theme of the film is, cynically, that any genuine call for revolution has some powerful profiteers packaging and selling it to the public. Joker doesn’t call for any of this. He just happens to get a chance to make a spectacle by going on live tv with the intention of killing himself. The ultimate spectacle and marker of existence: I exist because I can end my existence and do it publicly. Yet, on whim, he decides to kill the show’s host instead. To the people of Gotham, Joker is now a symbol of unification through destruction and rebellion of the rich and famous. A call to chaos; a righteous chaos that gets everyone riled up, and instead of yelling out of their windows, the people riot in the streets. Not because they’re deliberately instructed to, not even because they think that’s what Joker is doing, but ultimately, it’s what they want to do. Joker tapped into what everyone was feeling. That somebody needed to do something. "Do something!" is the tyranny of impulse. And Fleck/Joker finally found something that made him feel real, and Gotham responded to that real moment of something done—they reproduced it. A new Gotham is born. For Gotham is nothing but a place of corruption, with no chronology of why. Gotham is a city with no legacy. Joker is a character with no history. Even in this film there is no real origin for Fleck/Joker, for one of the catalysts that sets him off is finding out he’s adopted. This guy just sort of fell into the lap of seriously unfortunate circumstances. Arthur was always a ghost of himself mostly due to childhood trauma but also a lack of home and family. Clowns stand out because of their conspicuous appearance, not because of any personhood. Arthur as Clown is a ghost incapable of real connections. After all, what are clowns but colorful ghosts? A painted longing. Arthur as Joker is an entity that wishes to terrorize society because, as Joker, he no longer finds it worthy of connecting with. Misanthropy has become his punchline. The un(ad)dressed wound of sadness transmogrifies into evil, all the time. All over the world. Todd Phillips gives no judgment. He provides a lens of understanding without explicitly saying one thing or another. Artists, as Socrates discovered, don’t really know what they’re doing. They just impulsively put out creatively. “The poet never affirmeth,” Phillip Sydney tells us. Or, as Albert Camus understood it:
“The aim of art…is not to legislate or to reign supreme, but rather to understand first of all. Sometimes it does reign supreme, as a result of understanding. But no work of genius has ever been based on hatred and contempt. This is why the artist, at the end of his slow advance, absolves instead of condemning. Instead of being a judge, he is justifier. He is the perpetual advocation of the living creature, because it is alive.”
Camus was an Algerian philosopher who understood all too well that revolution was incompatible with reality. He made enemies with the French intellectuals whose plagued theories of sexual and racial power dynamics, decontextualization, and dismemberment of moral truths infected the American academy in the early 70’s. It was the Yale English department that first contracted the disease of French intellectualism. Camus was an exceptional force for good and reason and peace. He died in a car crash in 1960. This is the diagnosis I promised I would make earlier as I elucidated on René Girard and Carl Schmitt: upon Albert Camus’ death, the triumph of the subjective notions of power dynamics took over; everyone got lost looking inward. Sartre, Derrida, de Beauvoir, Lacan, and Foucault rose out of the ashes of mediocrity, simultaneously casting a shadow under their dragon wings of influence and breathing a blinding fire in the face of western civilization. Setting fire to the enshrined wisdom of human history. They joked about the ghosts of the present state and shunned the angels of yesterday’s sages. Their influence has been haunting the house of the western heart ever since and must be exorcised.
A real work of art doesn’t tell you how to feel. How you feel about it tells you a lot about yourself.
“Seeking what is True is not seeking what is desirable.” –Albert Camus
Mainly because the more learned and developed you are, the more you see in it. A real work of art is practically endless in depth. It seizes everything in its aesthetic, thus preserving it. But it is not the ends. Art is the means to something greater. In “As Far as Thought Can Reach”, which is Part Five of George Bernard Shaw’s, “Back to Methuselah”, Ecrasia and The She-Ancient are discussing sincerity and the utility of art:
ECRASIA: You have no right to say that I am not sincere. I have found a happiness in art that real life has never given me. I am intensely in earnest about art. There is a magic and mystery in art that you know notion of.
THE SHE_ANCIENT: Yes, child: art is the magic mirror you make to reflect your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul…But we who are older use neither glass mirrors nor works of art. We have a direct sense of life. When you gain that you will put aside your mirrors and statues, your toys and your dolls.
I’m always reminded of Oscar Wilde when “sincerity” is used in relation to art (a splendid contrast in figures Shaw and Wilde, for Wilde felt art was indeed “for art’s sake” and Shaw was in direct opposition to such a view). Wilde’s notion of sincerity in poetry was that “all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.” Harold Bloom, in his typical casually caustic manner, revised this notion into a more, pocket-friendly, albeit equally damning, expression: “all bad poetry is sincere.” However, what Shaw is demonstrating is that Ecrasia, is not fully developed. Too reliant on the ambiguously communicative modality of art to express what Ecrasia wishes to.
Art is the beginning. It is necessary in the maturation process. But one day it will be you, old and weathered, and you will either be a real person who respects art and looks to it for a reminder, or guidance and inspiration but no longer needs it as a means of expressing yourself because you have become a fully developed, autonomously communicative being who operates in the real world where precision is essential. You will have embodied the arts. You will not be some fleshy ghost. You will be your own work of art. You will be your own artist. Which will draw people in, and you will be able to explain yourself and the world, engagingly and usefully. What work you’ve done will speak for itself; what you wish to say of yourself, you’ll be able. If you don’t work through this maturation process. If you don’t earn it, you will just be old. With nothing much to you. Having created little. Having understood little. Having nothing of your own to say about what you have created or understood about what has been created before and/or around you. You won’t be an elder, you’ll just be older. Art preserves the universals of human life. This is why the greatest work of art is the Bible. There is no end to it. It seized everything. Preserving all the wisdom from the howling, blood-soaked haunts of human history. There are great writers in the western canon that rise out of the ashes as a phoenix who capture these formless spiritual essences in the aesthetic. They ascend and they soar.
(An interesting note on the fully formed: Daniel Day-Lewis began his film career after quitting a stage production of Hamlet, a play about a man obsessed with the ghost of his father. Day-Lewis, in the role of Hamlet, one night during a live show, was overwhelmed with the feeling that he was actually communicating with the ghost of his real-life father, the late poet Cecil Day Lewis. He left the production and never returned to the stage. A few years back he starred in a Paul Thomas Anderson film, Phantom Thread, a film about a man obsessed with the ghost of his mother. After they wrapped filming, Daniel Day-Lewis announced that he was retiring from acting. A portrait of the artist is complete.)
Charles Dickens was one of these phoenixes who worked with a deceptive simplicity; who seemed rather direct in his writing. Yet, if you’ve ever read the man’s work you find these brutal realities imbedded in the methods of crafting the art itself. In his book Bleak House, a character by the name of Jo the Crossing Sweeper is utilized. Bleak House is a long, winding narrative littered with characters. It is written with such conspicuous emotive intent that it feels distractingly bathos and hackneyed. It’s too caricatured. You find yourself asking, ‘how is this one of the greatest writers in the western canon?’ Until you take into account that the writing style is deliberate. If you do this, you are forced to ask: why? And the answer lay within Jo the Crossing Sweeper. A figure in the book who seems to only be there as a means to connect the vast amount of characters. He’s a literary device. He’s the reason you cross them all. In this sense he is a steppingstone that leads to all the persons, and ultimately to the narrative’s end. Jo the Crossing Sweeper is the most unfortunate character in all of literature. He’s a sad figure, written in a manner that makes even his death seem overdone, he feels badly written. Like Dickens was trying too hard to get you like and feel sorry for him. And, again, if you understand this as deliberate, and you understand one of Dickens literary obsessions with real world issues surrounding children in England at the time, you come to a terrible revelation: this is a Dickensian indictment of the reader. Jo-as-literary-device, written so insufferably neon, is what the reader dismisses first and foremost. As a steppingstone to all the other characters. The reader, simply by reading the book, walks all over him. You do this without even noticing, though you are looking right at him, even as he dies. Joker, when confronting everyone on Franklin Murray’s show, admits to killing the three Suits on the subway. And the host and crowd groan in disdain. Joker then asks why everyone cares so much that three rich guys are dead. That if he were to be lying on the sidewalk dying—they’d walk right over him.
For those who argue the western canon is just a bunch of hyped-up dead white guys, you haven’t truly read and understood the incredible achievements and craftsmanship, the mastering of style, the synthesis of themes, the subtlety and intricacy, the gorgeous renderings of complexity, under the pressure of perfecting their abilities while remaining true and loyal and rigorous, diamonds of wisdom are now available to those who wish to bejewel their hearts and minds in glistening understanding. The mastering of Logos. Real art opens the mind to the reality that it can be diademed with the entirety of the night sky; the entire cosmos, your crown. Real art has to be confronted, and the rewards of the confrontation must be earned. In this growing age of ingratitude and shortcutting to power, fewer and fewer are worthy of what real art provides: a means to becoming the phoenix.
Look at the language of pop-culture. There’s no Logos there. It’s no longer “maturity” it’s “adulting”. And there’s a lot of reasons for this. Mainly that when one does reach the age of maturity, a part of that process is coming to realize that “adults” aren’t superheroes, don’t have all the answers, and now it’s up to you to join the process of bettering society. But what we are dealing with now are generations of incompetent adults who come up through an education system that is utter garbage. State-run public school is (and increasingly the Colleges and Universities, public and private) operated as a social experiment these days, rather than an educational ecology. Public education is an institution and that institution is going to do what is best for the institution, not what is best for who goes through the institution. Once you understand this you see why things like Private and Charter schools are so successful. Private schools are funded by the families who choose to have their children educated there, the curriculum is set within that administration with a specific focus. Charter Schools are similar, though they are taxpayer funded, they are also privately operated with a particular focus education. The teachers are better in these institutions as well. This puts these schools at a clear advantage over state-mandated core curricula. Those who argue against Charter schools are making the wrong argument, they should be vying for choice. Zoning laws are horseshit. If we had school choice, all the shit public schools would go under and new, more efficient ones would rise. If you are against Charter schools, you’re just against competition. And if you’re anti-competition, you’re anti-American; which I hear is less and less viewed as a bad thing. Just look at what public schools focus on. Just look at how a government-run system of education believes children in this country should be learning. It’s dismal. And public education in the inner-cities, and poor rural areas are simply day-care at this point; less emphasis on the “care.” More like day-stays. A place where kids have to go until they are 16. If this country wants competent, assertive, individualistic citizens it needs to put an emphasis on Greek and Latin, so they know how to think and write. It will aid them in the mastery of the English language. Latin will teach vocabulary and grammar. And grammar is thought. This will aid them in successful thinking. It will enrich their ability to articulate what they’ll come to understand regarding the origins and history of Western Culture’s development and how it can be improved upon. The core curricula should tie-in world history and comparative religious studies. Then basic biology, basic math (PEMDAS), but also practical math, like how to balance a checkbook, calculate and read taxes, understand a mortgage and loans in general. Our children should know what the fuck the word “usury” is. (And how such a sterile system of education comes to exist through standard-lowering public education which facilitates the state-sponsored usury of student loans.) Why are we teaching kids Chemistry and Algebra as a requirement in high school? These higher, specialized math and sciences should be part of some preparatory vocational program, not the core curriculum. We require a foreign language but only offer French and Spanish and German, maybe Mandarin. Liberty is nothing without order and competent individuals maintaining that order on a spiritual level and the true spirit of mankind and order is in Greek and Latin. They should be educated on the character of the west and all the near impossibilities of its fruition. The proverbial “what did you learn in school today” needs to be “what do you think about what you were taught in school today?” Multiple-choice, fill in the blank, True/False, these are not whetstones for thinking, they are the moss of learning. Ordered Liberty is not just a combination of words. It’s meaning and dignity. Becoming familiar with the two key ancient languages and circumstantial history that serves as the essence of the English-speaking world is essential to our education. Our future depends on it. The education system we have now has propagated superficialities like Identity Politics. A philosophy of contempt and entitlement. This is what happens when generations learn their history from Hollywood, as they’re mining for knowledge through memes. When I think of these Identity Politics activists the seagulls from Finding Nemo come to mind; the champions of this philosophy are just a colony of Pixar seagulls squawking “mine.” This is due in major part to the dismantling of the family. Not having that familial space of their own, where they can cultivate a sense of self and the responsibility that comes with it. There has been incredible research on mammals, particularly elephants and monkeys, in the past decade or two. These mammals are family oriented. They learn who they are and what to do through family. And when isolated, particularly from family, they become dysfunctional and destructive. We all understand, individually, that we are spirits. Family reminds us that we are spirits embodied. And we embodied spirits need embrace, or we atrophy in every manner, and our uselessness and putridity contaminate all that surrounds us. Less and less emphasis is put on developing families. Instead people are seeking extreme individualism over participatory community. A global network where systems take place of childcare and adults work and travel, speaking only in passing. That’s not a family, that’s a forum.
“The family has been socialized and Socialism results in coarseness and meanness and pettiness and a lack of motivation for positive behavior. So, we have separated sexuality from commitment, and we have destroyed the lifelong pair-bonding that used to be at the foundation of our society.” –Stefan Molyneux
The bane of the west is atomized entitlement. It’s genius, integrity. No one can stop you from attempting to integrate your dreams with reality. And only reality can tell you whether or not your dreams can be manifested the way you dreamt them. The success of the west is rooted in the cultivation of individuals to bring forth in this world the compromise between idea and innovation. Reality is compromise. The west is becoming more and more under the impression that self-labeling some subjective, fleeting emotional state means you’ve built something. It doesn’t. Shit, “identity” isn’t even a distinguishing marker. The term comes from the Latin idem, meaning “the same.” And the Medieval Latin identitatem, literally “sameness.” The Middle French identité, denoting “sameness, oneness, state of being the same.” If the barbarian hoard of Identity Politics wishes to make a case for those who are seen as marginalized and different, yet simultaneously wishes to capitalize on marginality by wielding it as some bastardized in virtute voce singula! it can fuck right off, because people are catching on.
“Some people move up by buying powerful friends, others by monetizing their position on the identity politics intersections; neither of these methods are based on genuine merit, but on pretense. It’s all about manufacturing the right brand, not about constructing a reliable product.” –Joy Pullman
You haven’t earned anything if you’ve only learned a way to get what you want by saying you are some deus ab oppresso! You’ve simply made a character. You haven’t earned character.
“Just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character.” –Fast Eddie Nelson (Paul Newman), The Color of Money
“Character” is from Latin character, derived from the Greek kharaktēr which means an “engraved mark,” but specifically a “symbol or imprint on the soul.” The term was somewhat used as identifying an “instrument for marking,” but from kharassein “to engrave,” from kharax “pointed stake.” The meaning of Greek kharaktēr garnered a metaphoric quality in the Hellenistic period, meaning "a defining quality, individual feature." Its English denotation being the "sum of qualities that define a person or thing and distinguish it from another" derived from the 1640s and around 1712 was understood as "moral qualities assigned to a person by repute."
This is why so many people are beginning to see humanity as a negative replicable by other means, because we have forgotten the foundational grounds we walk on; everything is so good that we believe we are floating above nature. That our natural impulses are merely societal constructs. That nature won’t pull us right back down into the primal muck from which we came and continue on. Because we think like this, we think we can build something as complex as consciousness; that we just need the right hardware and software. From uploading one’s essence and experience into a computer to putting on a lab coat, cobbling together some body parts, channeling some electricity and poof! “It’s alive!” I’m reminded of an op-ed title I saw in the Wall Street Journal: “Electricity does not light up the soul.” You want to create consciousness – have a baby. And then raise that conscious being into a good person. Not with just what you know. Give them books. And let them outside as often as possible. Hopefully they come back with some scratches. So, they know as well as understand what’s real. Where they approach a television screen, or computer, or phone with a healthy dose of skepticism. So, they never lose the awe that comes from witnessing a hummingbird drinking from a flower. You want to raise someone with standards, so they’ll have some when choosing a partner and profession. The current way society treats children has created a standard-less culture. It’s created Pop-culture. And Pop-culture is the place where standards go to die. It’s a place where quack theories like “men just suppress their emotions, and that’s why they kill” are propagated. The prevailing notion that all men just suppress their emotions and just press on is result of failing to grok the nuance of Stoic philosophy. The stoics didn’t suppress, or ignore, their emotions. They judged them and integrated them productively into reality. To wit, there’s nothing productive about sitting around crying; however, there’s nothing wrong with tears to coming to your eyes, as long as you don’t allow their welling to blind you to your better judgement. These days, fewer and fewer people know how to do this, I believe this is why acting and actors have become so coveted; it’s not just the well-off lifestyle, but the fact that they get compensated (financially and reputationally) for having an emotional outlet. Yet, they are no paragon of emotional stability. Just because you have an outlet for emotions doesn’t mean you’re processing them, you are merely broadcasting them. This misunderstanding of ancient truths, or not even knowing they are truths but thinking they’re simply socially constructed power preservers is what has led to such an emotive culture. It’s why the theatrics are escalating everywhere (hence “I Voted” stickers). To know and understand history is to be able to see history plays out in cycles.
“I am concerned more broadly that we don’t really learn from history. That we’re not teaching history, of what happens when powerful armies meet, or what powerful forces there are in the world that you have to deal with. We’re more and more teaching history in the niche components, which I’m not against, at all, but we’d better remember there are larger currents that work in the world. And if we do not master those currents, if we cannot understand those currents, if we cannot figure a way to deal with complex situations at times looking at how others in history have dealt successfully or unsuccessfully with those situations, then we will make the same mistakes again.” –General James Mattis
It gives you a perspective that is both broad and rich. Vast and nuanced. Wide-ranging and precise. And the unique character that is developed through such understanding engenders the idiosyncrasies of your perspective to contribute in ways that probably no other ever could. The exceptional ones rise, and somehow they always do so at just the right time.
St. Paul, after being expelled from the synagogue wen to Greece. Stood at Areopagus and gave a speech. He failed. He didn’t give the right speech. St. John understood why. It was because St. Paul had spoken to the Greeks and shown them his Gospel in Hebrew. St. John knew that talking to the Greeks and giving them the Hebrew genealogy of Jesus Christ would be ineffective. They didn’t know all those people with these weird names. So, St. John, knowing he had to make an opening to the Greek world, wrote his Gospel in Greek. And he found that the Greek word “Logos”, which had vast meaning in Greek philosophy, vast references, particularly reason, order, word, truth, providence, et al was precisely who Christ was. He told the Greeks ‘Christ is this Logos you have been seeking through your Greek Philosophy.’ It was at that moment the entire Western civilization was born. A whole new discussion opened, and truths articulated. That’s the moment we are living in. That is the moment of world history we are experiencing. And that moment has become decadent. Just like the Bible depicts having time and time again. Empires rise and fall. What we are seeing now may very well be the whole world sick and tired of the chaos that has come out of the west and the garbage philosophies and endless wars and meaninglessness its educational institutions and Big Government/Big Businesses have created. This chaos, and the worldwide disgust with it, is leading people back to this logos. Those first sentences of St. John’s gospel are again coming to surface. This logos has moved again. Fully developed beings move with it.
The end of history would see geopolitics replaced by geo-economics. The “free world” would become the “global economy.” In his rueful concluding paragraph, Fukuyama wrote, “The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called for daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands.” Postmodern culture would be duplicative and decadent. Nostalgia for things greater than the material abundance of liberal democracy would pull on every human heart. “Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom [or disgust] at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.” -Matthew Continetti on Fukuyama’s, The End of History
I write these essays because I have to earn their completion. I have to earn worthiness of comprehending the truth. I could have done a lot of things and be very successful right now. But it wouldn’t mean anything, and I don’t know how long I could handle success without meaning. I would most likely destroy everything I managed to achieve. I’m prone to such destruction. Ultimately one has to make a decision. One has to decide. Even if they haven’t figured it out yet. Choices. Choices made. One must make them assertively, having consulted and considered their conscience and experience. Working to continually better understand, hear more clearly our conscience, and synthesize more effectively our experience. We must raise our children to be competent enough to do so too. Otherwise we are doomed to the haunted hallways of regret, compounding poor decisions, rendering us incapable of tacking the winds of circumstance—and that is a recipe for evil. The Arthur Flecks come from such failures of society. Because meaning is stripped from them; the winds of circumstance sweep them away to the ghostly realm of dereliction.
But this, what I’m doing now, means something—and it will mean something to many one day. This type of work is unceremonious for a long time. There’s no recognition and hardly any compensation in the beginning stages. But it’s worth it. I will know I created it from scratch. And its value will extend beyond my own heart and mind. And it will haunt you; you who read this. It will free you. But be warned: Freedom, true freedom, is a burden. For with it, one is left with the responsibility of understanding their own cosmos and integrating it with this shared realm of cause and effect, productively and ingeniously, and with gratitude. If you do, the freedom of truly knowing how to think will be your reward. And then, in order to remain worthy of such reward, you will have to challenge yourself to think differently and then others. You’ll know once you’ve learned how to really think, because it will be humiliating. When you are finally capable to truly think, you’ll fall in with sync with the dancing cosmos: a tree in the breeze, a planet in orbit, and all the winking stars will jewel you in a silent song. Because I do this I am immersed in terrific beauty. Overwhelmed, at times, by its sublimity. I am indebted to it. The rhododendrons and the quasars were there long before I. And they’ll be there long after I’m gone. Yet, to them I owe a debt. They are not aware of me. And I am not aware of all of them. Yet, somehow, from them all I borrowed – and therefore, a return is necessary; some recompense. Not because it’s the least I can do, but because it’s the most I can do.
There will always come a time when future generations look back on previous generations and wonder “how could they? What were they thinking?” This is the curse of the present. The goal of current generations is to pave a way forward so that future generations will have the opportunity to say such things. Because they have moved on. They have evolved. For all our failings, all our faults, all our shortsightedness—they will be better. They are better even though we fell so short despite all our learning, and wisdom, and collective bargaining—they are better because we demonstrated how to continue getting better. It is for the children that we toil. It is always for the children. America is the hope for all those too young to defend themselves, and those unborn to come.
“Grow out of the mere mammalian. Grow into your spirit and your potential and your virtue. Aim for love, which sustains and protects. And not lust, which corrupts and merely degrades.” –Stefan Molyneux
“that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour…for God hath not called us unto cleanness, but unto holiness.” –1 Thessalonians 4:4
The world isn’t made out of love. It is built by aspiring towards it. All too commonly these days, people think “all you need is love”. They don’t know what love is. They don’t even know where their concept of love came from.
“The problem with The World, as Melville thinks we all secretly know, is that it seems formed in love—sugary, mild, dreamy, cool, calm—but harbors within itself, for each of us, sources of fright. . . .In the figure of Ahab, Melville externalizes the part of himself that is saddened and infuriated by the enticing/betraying structure of The World, in the hopes that at least some of his readers will feel spoken for, will feel their own sadness and fury flowing out. . . . Everyone experiences, at some time or other, the full traumatic force of The World’s enticement and betrayal. The central aim of the Ahab/Moby Dick story is to make us more aware of the parts of ourselves that have registered that shock, and, as a result, more aware of what we secretly have in common with each other.” –Geoffrey Sanborn
Near the end of The Heart and the Bottle, the little girl, who is now a grown woman, comes across another little girl with a question about the world—and she finds herself unable to lend any help to the child. She, at that moment, decides to find a way to get her heart out of its glass albatross. After persisting in every way imaginable, lacking creativity and adventurous thinking, she eventually stumbles upon someone “smaller and still curious about the world, [who] might know a way. And it just so happened. She did.”
“The heart was put back where it came from. And the chair wasn’t so empty anymore.”
The little girl, now grown, is depicted sitting her father’s red chair. A huge bubble of curiosities above her. And, tucked in the corner of this colorful mental cosmos, was a little boat on the sea…her father rowing merrily inside. A life, once again, effervescent. With purpose. Meaningful.
The task of salvation is the preservation of virtue and the fighting off of evil and continuously building a life toward where less and less you have to do this on your own, through relentless curiosity, diligent work, and striving towards love. I see myself in exceptional and mediocre people all the time. The difference between the two seems to be that exceptional people understand that power is mammalian and transcendence is human. And it happens on the individual level. Those power-seeking, universals dismembering, god wagging dopamine promoting totalitarian personalities create instability; they don’t want individuals to rise sustainably without the State. They want you to act expediently, defaulting to shortcuts where nothing is learned, leaving those who utilize it on weak philosophical grounds; sand, not rock. But even more, power and transcendence seem to be the two clashing forces of the entire universe. And somehow, it’s all manifesting acutely here. It’s as though we are the punctum of all time, space, and matter where everything coalesces as perfectly as possible—and the universe sheds a tear in awe of itself. Earth, the tear duct of God. The heart of God, a burning star. The mind of God, the cosmos itself. You look away from that. You shun the angels of understanding. You spook yourself into a corner of the universe so lonely, so cold, so empty, that you begin to loathe the only thing you can: the idea of it all. Particularly, your idea of it all. As you look at the empty red chair of your being. As you dwell on what’s been taken from you. As you enable the triumph of the subjective.
“—I ever tell you about that time years ago...I was on this ledge uptown trying to pull this damn psycho inside?
— The guy jumped, and you almost fell? No, you never told me that story.
—No, you never listened. I put everything I had into saving this dumb-ass, low-life suicidal...that when he went down, it was like I wanted to go with him.
—That happened once in Ireland. This girl jumped off the cliffs of Moher and the wind blew her back up.
—The wind blew her back up?
—Yeah, the wind.
—No, that was Jesus, son.
—It was also the wind.
—The wind, my black ass. That was Jesus. Don't tell me about the Good Book. I'll preach heaven and beat the hell out of you. Don't tell me that now. I was going, son. But if someone up on high... Thank you, Jesus... hadn't have pulled me in... the point is, everybody go through a stretch where folks gonna die on you—just don't meditate on it.” –Bringing Out the Dead
Maybe I am mourning the death of the west. Or intuiting the death of it. Maybe, as I look at the west, I see an empty red chair. Powerful forces vying for it. And I’m processing this. My heart is safe, however. Not because I have tucked it away in some safe place. But because I have worked tirelessly to strengthen it. Prepare it. This is a consuming process and takes a lot out of me. But this is how one grows, and “therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I speak my mind. I call things for what they are, because that’s the beginning of wisdom: to call things by their proper name. I know partisan-affiliates will lambast this in their own jargon. Go ahead with your party lines. Conservatism’s a joke. And Liberalism’s the punchline. These are lexical corpses being pushed around by Weekend at Bernie’s imbeciles. I see that we have to transcend above these trite tribal denotations. I see where these titles hold people back, and I say it. Because of this… I know what it’s like to be left behind. I know what it’s like to be considered a joke. I know what it’s like to be hated. I know what it’s like to be forgotten. And I know what it’s like to toil away at something despite all of that. That’s why I’m here, knowing full and well that it could come to nothing, could indeed not match how it’s been done before, or affect the way I intend it to. Knowing that I’m not caught up, still laughed at, still hated, and haven’t gained any notoriety to be remembered. It’s a wounding process working towards the good.
“You don’t become a patriot based on where you work. Patriotism is not about a loyalty to government. Patriotism is not about a loyalty to anything. Patriotism is a constant effort to do good for the people of your country…Loyalty is only good when it’s in the service of something good.” –Edward Snowden
I persist, wounded, because the process matters despite being aware of what all has come before me, and what all towers a’front.
[People] always assumed [reading and mastering memorization of great poets and authors] was a benign process. That it only resulted in gain, not just gain and loss. The loss comes from the fact that you are haunted; the loss comes from the fear, the deep fear, that there’s no room for you. That the time and space you ought to occupy has been usurped or appropriated—that you have no ground upon which to stand, no word of your own to speak.” -Harold Bloom
Persist. Persist in order to rise. The only way to rise is to dig deep. Exhume yourself. And that is something people are just not naturally inclined to do. I so seldom encounter, in person and in writing, truly haunted people these days; haunted by introspection and perspective. But I see ghosts everywhere. I call them “floaters”. They are as such because they have yet to be wounded by understanding, they’ve only been wounded by life—and thus don’t know what to do to heal. My heart feels for them. I wish I could loathe them. I wish I could loathe people in general, especially my enemies, but I understand only too well there is something deeper than loathing people. Now, I can integrate loathing healthily: I loathe some ideas. I loathe some personalities. But, frankly, I really want to loathe people. That’s my default. That’s the gravity of mediocrity. That’s the contentedness of contempt in people—it’s not fulfilling, but it fills you. It feels good for a little while. Takes the pressure of responsibility off of you for a bit. I’ve tried loathing people. It gets me nowhere. I want to loathe people. But I can’t, because it’s not real, it’s not true. Truth is that which is inviolably tenable and hate just don’t sustain. If I find myself actually hating someone, it’s because I haven’t yet figured out what’s really the matter. Because I haven’t earned the understanding. And therefore, more work is to be done. That’s how it is all around the world. If it’s in me it’s in you. It’s easy to succumb to. We are seeing that more and more these days. You extract what wisdom you can from your experience. No matter how dark the experience may be. There’s a scene in Martin Scorsese’s, Taxi Driver where the lead role, a mentally disturbed character, Travis Bickel, played with unsettling ease by Robert DeNiro, is making a phone call to a woman he took on a date the night prior. He took her to a pornographic movie, and she storms out disgusted. While he’s making the call the camera turns, leaving Travis out of frame, but you can still hear his voice. It’s as if, even with all the unsettling events the camera captures in this film, even the camera can’t bear to watch this devastating, gut-wrenchingly sad, deeply unsettling display as Bickel tries to apologize and make up for his miss-judgement and is rejected; the camera just turns away to peer down an empty hall. There are moments in the cinema of my memory where I wish…I wish the camera could just turn away.
“First the body. No. First the place. No. First both. Now either. Now the other. Sick of the either try the other. Sick of it back sick of the either. So on. Somehow on. Till sick of both. Throw up and go. Where neither. Till sick of there. Throw up and back. The body again. Where none. The place again. Where none. Try again. Fail again. Better again. Or better worse. Fail worse again. Still worse again. Till sick for good. Throw up for good. Go for good. Where neither for good. Good and all.” –Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho!
It’s lonely out here. But not for long. I’m not lonesome.
It’s cold out here. But this walk is warming.
It’s dark out here. And all houses of the heart are haunted. All haunted, the history of man. All terrain a haunted way. One would be wise to traverse the terrain of the human heart for it leads to the beginning of history. It leads to understanding. A wound. A scar. The mark of the rational being. Earn it.
Otherwise, you will
subject to the wind of impulse.
Not curious of anything.
Longing for everything.
“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands…That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing. But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” –1Thessalonians 4:11-13
The path is steep. The way,
revealing all these ghosts
that wish for me to sit,
Just for the time being.