Dec. 21st, 2011
Modern man has lost the option of silence. Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk. That organism is the word.
Most people never stop talking — "talking to themselves", as they call it. But who are they really talking to, and why? Why can't they simply lapse into silence?
Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing... Personally I find nothing upsetting about silence at all. In fact it can't get too quiet for me. I would say that silence is only a device of terror for compulsive verbalizers.
When you erase your involuntary subservience to authority, the extreme manifestations of authority lose their power to affect you.
— William S. Burroughs
Burroughs brings up an interesting point, one that I've pondered since first reading this. For me, his theory creates more questions than answers, such as how did humans think before they had language? Were their minds silent before language, filled with images instead of words? How did ideas occur in human minds before verbal thought process and verbal communication existed? Symbols and drawings were a form of communication in mankind's early years, but did they precede or follow verbalization?
The curiously impossible exercise Burroughs proposes to the reader is fascinating: "Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk." I've attempted this many times. Each time I am reminded of René Descartes' famous phrase: cogito ergo sum, "I think therefore I am." I suppose it means a healthy mind has a difficult time separating from sentience, and that perhaps thinking, on a primal level, is simply a survival mechanism.
Of course, I don't really know what the hell I'm talking about. I was in the mood to ramble. I've been awake for two days, drinking too much coffee and worrying about the political future of this seemingly dying empire. When you're unemployed and broke there's not much to do between job interviews aside from thinking and worrying.
The control machine is simply the machinery — police, education, etc. — used by a group in power to keep itself in power and extend its power. For example, in a hunting society, which can only number about thirty, there's nothing that could be called a control machine in operation. They must function effectively as a hunting party in order to survive, so leadership is casual and you have no control machine. Now as soon as you get an agricultural society, particularly in rich land, you will tend to get inequality. That is, the advantage of slave labor then becomes apparent and you may have, as with the Mayans and Egyptians, workers and priests — in other words, satisfaction, repressions, and you have a control machine. As I said, the ancient Mayans had almost a model control machine through which about one or two percent of the population controlled the others, without police, without heavy weapons. The workers all had such weapons as were available, stone axes, spears, etc. So it was pure psychological control.
— William S. Burroughs
Control, a common theme that threads throughout Burroughs' work. He even felt that love was a form of viral madness, meant to control the individual. Personally I don't think he was entirely wrong on that front.
I found an old notebook of mine, the one I used to take to the beach with me everyday when I spent 3 months living on the Gulf of Mexico, during a horrific manic episode. I wrote something in it that I'd forgotten about. It's a short piece of writing that, unbeknownst to me at the time, was my attempt at understanding what had happened to me, and how I ended up impulsively moving 800 miles away from my life, which had, until later on, seemed perfectly normal to me:
What have I done? What is this place? How is it that I am here? People who say they live life without regrets must have never taken any chances that didn't have a statistically positive outcome. I did something that I had dreamt of doing for years. A full decade, at this point. And here I am, in the sunny, sandy abyss of uncertainty, surrounded by calm, happy people and screaming sea birds. If only the setting were enough to quell this confusion. I am doing the best I can. The ocean is doing the best it can, for it exists solely to take my mind away from my own tides.
The sea is rough today. The wind is harshly blowing inland and the waves are cresting higher. The birds seem content to wobble about on the shore, because flight would seem a difficult — if not dauntingly futile — task this evening. The sun is to my right, in the West, piercing the wind with warmth enough to keep me from shivering. The sea is due South, and further toward the horizon there are some vegetaged islands. I often look at these islands, of which there seem to be a handful, and wonder about the animals on them.
How did my life come to this? Why do I now live here? Nothing makes much sense in my life these days, for tumultuous happenings are just that, but if I am capable of finding the means to seek and obtain some semblance of inner peace and quiet, then perhaps it matters very little where I am, or what I am called, or who I am.
How is it that so many fantastic works of literature were written in this very region? It was a different time, I suppose. Things have changed radically. But I think all people are the same at the core, no matter where, or when. We all need, perhaps want the same things. Individuals are connected by more than just atomic structure. Ideas, desires, fears. Many people before me have sat in this exact spot on the beach, observing wave after wave of furious sea, wondering, waiting, thinking, feeling. In this world, there is not a single feeling left that has not been felt a million times before.
Yet we are also so very different. All of the cosmic and introspective musings, we all have our own unique notions and priorities. I called my sister just a few moments ago, to hear a friendly voice. No matter how misanthropic I become, I shall never amount to the status of content hermit. Wave, wave, crash, wave. Wind howling in my ears. Birds squawking their ugly sea shanty. Smell of salt and feel of sandy grit, and the pounding of the sun. This, I have just decided, is where I want to die.
To my left I see the inward curving shore, and West Beach Boulevard behind it. On the other side of the road stands a large church with a red roof and a turret. The white building is adorned in the center with a giant circular stained glass window, which faces the beach and glows colorfully at night. After a long row of trees and down the road aways, there is a looming casino and adjacent hotel. It is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, one of the few survivors on the Gulf of Mexico. It is a testament to the impervious nature of our boorish culture of addiction.
Above me the birds fly at last, the wind having died down a bit. They fly together and alone, determined and directionless, caught somewhere between hivemind and anarchy. In the water, something catches my eye — it's small, silver, and appears to be dead. The birds seem disinterested. What good is dead prey to a non-scavenger? A small child waddles into the water, splashing and laughing as his horrified father dashes after him. After the oil spill and toxin dump on the Gulf, the idea of making contact with the water is nauseating, but this child is blissfully unaware of the man-made disasters caused by greed and carelessness. The world this child will grow up to know will not be a pretty one.
Father retrieves child and triumphantly returns him to the mother. Reunited they sit together on the shore, discussing family things, looking at the vastness of the water, ignoring me thankfully. It's much easier to watch people when you're unnoticed.
Long Beach, MS
March 28th, 2011
The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles. ... The Republican and Democratic parties are alike capitalist parties — differing only in being committed to different sets of capitalist interests — they have the same principles under varying colors, are equally corrupt and are one in their subservience to capital and their hostility to labor.
— Eugene V. Debs (1904)
It's been over one-hundred years since these wise words were spoken, and the problem has only become worse. The open hostility toward labor and the poor has increased, such as the constant blame put on teachers and other unions, as though teachers and unions were responsible for the Great Recession and Housing Crisis.
The politicians and lobbyists know that if they keep the poor fighting against one another, they won't have the time or energy to see through the fog and realize this system has been a huge sham. When the rich are paying 0% - 15% taxes (because of investment and offshore tax haven loopholes), the overworked, underpaid bottom sector ends up bearing the economic brunt. There is a serious lack of job creation despite all of the money the rich have been allowed to keep.
Our system fails to represent the people, it refuses to abide by checks and balances, yet constituents still somehow manage to vote against their own interests and revel in their ignorance and bigotry, thanks to organizations like Fox News. Where were the anti-deficit Republicans during George W. Bush's era in the White House? Where was their outrage when their own party was decimating the budget and creating the worst U.S. economic crisis since the Great Depression? Why are they shying away from blaming themselves for TARP? Because it's all a matter of convenience and appearances. They aren't the only ones to blame, however. The Democrats are just as responsible, if not moreso.
Even the Supreme Court has lost it's marbles, passing legislation which allows corporations to not only have the same rights as people, but more rights, because whereas real people can't donate without limit to political campaigns, corporations now can. Corporations can literally buy politicians — what sort of fuckery is that?
The sense of political self-preservation in this country has been systematically creeping closer toward entropy. I support the Occupy Wall Street movement wholeheartedly, but I somehow doubt it will help in the end. We don't have lobbyists on our side, we are not driven by greed or the desire for absolute power. In the future we can at least say we tried to change things for the better, but we wouldn't have tried hard enough.
My solution to this mess is to abandon the strange belief that the only two parties worth voting for are Democrats and Republicans. They have monopolized the institution of elections, and we allow this dominion to prosper by ignoring the underlying issue. Consider this: if Democrats have the majority and they fuck up, we pass the reigns to the Republicans. Then when the Republicans have majority power and they fuck up, we pass the reigns back to the Democrats. What's wrong with this picture?
It's time to seriously start thinking about moving away from this circular nonsense. It's absolute madness to support either party at this point; aside from social issues, they are completely of one mind, particularly when it comes to the economy. They simply don't care about anything aside from winning elections and getting paid. They're not even hiding this disgraceful end game anymore, which is probably the most insulting aspect of it.
Intense campaign reform is the best way to start recovering from this mess. Americans need to wake up and brainstorm immediately, because it's become fairly obvious that we are in a situation which puts us at risk of crippling unsustainability and, ultimately, collapse.