Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Analysis

 How can I explain to you the profound disassociation that's required to live the life of me? 

First of all, that's all I appear to be motivated to do, over and over again, in new versions that continually change so that when I'm done with one explanation it becomes difficult to make the time to look back on the stories and versions I've told before. My cabinets are filled with old notebooks of unpublished material that includes everything from political tracts to love notes to my first apocalyptic novel, started when I was 12. 

For the first twenty years or so, whenever I wrote it was either a love poem or political rant or speculations about the end of the world. I'm of the generation that had to endure monthly bomb drills and air raid sirens in the wake of a World War and the shadow of total annihilation. From the first nothing much about what was commonly accepted as normal made much sense. The only logical resolution to the world we'd created was either annihilation by mass self-immolation or else the overshadowing doom of environmental collapse. 

Since no one was really paying serious attention to the madness I found myself doing what we are all forced to do if we aren't to wind up on the streets or in mental institutions; I made up a life that put aside the internalized contradictions and allowed me to function acceptably. By not calling to myself the kind of unwanted attention that makes people annoyed and uncomfortable, I more or less successfully blended in. 

Of course this gave birth to an avid interest in science fiction and fantasies of alternative worlds where somehow the contradictions could be resolved, or at least challenged. Then there was the dimension of television, which took me out of the present to frontier lands or wonderlands or anywhere that wasn't here and now. The problem with all of this was that I could never quite put myself fully to sleep or totally accept the trance state that's required in order to comfortably live the fantasy that society persists in telling us is real. Therefore, I've lived almost continually in a state that's aptly called 'alienation.'  

Once, as a writing exercise, I channelled a creature I'd invented, from outer space, out of a planet covered in water, with two suns that made everything bright and boiling. He was tall like me, and his body was a bright red amphibious color with beautiful flowing wings of pure white that reflected the sunlight as he perched on the island of rocks piercing the surface of a vast ocean. His thing was that he went from planet to planet, mostly in disguise, showing up whenever things were getting volatile and crazy, providing a sort of guidance and a "don't panic" presence that would help sentient creatures to find their way through it all. 

I've tried writing fiction, but it appears that my only real interest is in writing about myself, so that any fiction winds up as thinly disguised autobiography or personal myth making. Lately I've taken to escaping in Jim Butcher's novels about Harry Dresden, the wizard out of Chicago who can't get an even break either in this world or the supernatural one. Sometimes I feel at home immersed in endless episodes of Doctor WHO, the lonely traveller in all times and spaces who, since 1963 has offered the longest running social commentary on television.

Suddenly, in the middle of all of this alienation a group of people began sitting in a park in New York City and speaking to one another about the actual state of the world. A couple of weeks later there were people following suit all over the country. Then it seemed that all over the world people were in public spaces loudly talking about reality. My friends were suddenly advising me to take part in what they were calling a 'movement'. Instead of wholeheartedly joining the throngs I found myself standing back, not wanting to let down my disguise. I was mistrustful both of the people's commitment and their intention. Too many times I'd let myself be captured by false hopes that led to nothing. What did these occupiers actually want? When they speak of change what do they mean? For me, the changes that are necessary are so large and so fundamental that I can no longer envision a way to get from here to there. 

Nevertheless the gatherings continue from week to week. I wonder how it will fare as the winter months came on. I still hold back, not willing to put myself on the line only to watch the line wither away as so many times before. I felt that sooner or later either the energy will fade or, if it grows, the blood will have to flow. I am one who has resigned himself to the politics of the past and of the elites, convinced that the most one can expect from the people is an occasional flash of collective lucidity that can be tapped or manipulated to gain momentum before it quickly fades away. I was pleasantly surprised, even amazed, when Obama was elected, but wasn't at all surprised when those who elected him turned their backs. It turns out that even the president can't change a system we all support by our thoughts and actions every day of our lives.  

As the circles continued to grow, and people continued to show up, and finally the powers of control reacted with violence, as was inevitable. The response was an appearance of even greater numbers. I had been awaiting the emergence of some concrete agenda or objectives or even a form of hierarchy and leadership as the only way to turn the Occupy movement into more than a party or a teach-in. After the events in Oakland I began to see the whole thing in a different way. 

Perhaps these are actually the seedlings for a whole new basis for society. Through the pressure of this continuing action the national conversation is actually beginning to address things that are more real than money and the false economies of greed. It's only a beginning, but I see the possibility of an ongoing dialogue in circles of every variety, that are then ready to join up with other circles or to expand like a gathering storm to collectively and imaginatively address and confront the situations we've created. The key, of course is with the young. A recent PEW Research poll shows that the gap in values, demographics and voting patterns between young and old is wider than it has ever been and I sometimes believe that the greatest service my own generation can do for the world is to die off as quickly as possible. 

Many times I've given up on the American people. Every time I do it becomes more difficult to gain it back. In the eighties Jimmy Carter, who exhibited some prescient leadership in terms of the environment and energy was laughed out of office and replaced by a Hollywood fantasy that called itself "Morning in America." By that time Americans were so hypnotized by the machinery of consumption that they were all too willing to abdicate responsibility for anything beyond the accumulation of wealth. Then, when the dream we worshipped for at least the next forty years blew up in our faces on 9/11, we were still unable to own up to the consequences of our actions in the world. Our choices will force us to reap their consequences for many years and generations to come. Even now people by the millions are taking as serious the vapid sloganeering of a pack of Republican hyenas who conduct reality show debates every week on television. The next big test will be whether we eject any gains made in our ability to envision the future in order to embrace for more years the Ponzi scheme we've convinced ourselves is the basis for our lives. I'm not convinced that Americans are capable of turning around, not until they hit the concrete wall going full speed ahead. By then it will be much too late.     

Capitalism has failed us on a larger scale than communism ever did. We find ourselves up against the wall of environmental devastation and extinction and yet we're unable to take concrete actions in the real world having given ourselves over to the fantasy of capital. Today I came across a commentary on Al Jazeera by Robert Jensen, a journalism professor in Texas who offers a concise summary of our situation and a glimpse of the challenge in the changes we must face. I recognized the analysis as essentially one I internalized as a teenager and have lived with all of my life. Although I've carried these understandings with me, I've too rarely found opportunities to fully act as if they are real. Instead I've mostly lived a double life, pretending to believe in the powers that be while knowing that the whole facade is false and riddled with deceit. It would be a most wonderful pleasure to let down the shell I've created and live as if I were truly alive. 

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Note: the Robert Jensen commentary is read online by what appears to be a computerized voice, which is a bit weird, but is worthwhile enough that I strongly recommend it. The presence of these voices and the voices of actual intellectuals and cultural analysts is a prime reason that Al Jazeera is not broadcast in the United States. 

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