Society and sanity--to say nothing of the exchange of ideas, a dead enterprise in our culture--devolves now by the day, and often by the hour, not infrequently by the minute. There are many factors. That no one reads, that no one can read--as in comprehend what they read--and that the people doing the writing rarely are any good at what they do--is part of the problem. We are not an illiterate society--we are a post-literate society. When on one can read, people also cannot comprehend language. They know what no words truly mean--basic words--and they also cannot formulate language in any efficacious way. They fulminate and threaten. Leftist speak, for instance, is commonly a threat. The language we do know is the language of capitulation, that we try to pass off as apologia, but it's not apologia. It's weakness and cowardice. One saw it from Drew Brees--with whom I disagreed, if that's even the right word, given that he was projecting his personal--underline that word--viewpoint stemming from his family history, not making an attempt to speak in terms of society--and last night from The New York Times. I should keep the latter to a separate post, though.
What you are seeing right now is people incapable of thinking critically, who have lived in veritable cocoons for their lives, rise to positions of power as a kind of final progression of a process that was built on coming from money, cronyism, nepotism, narcissism. Those people have no principles. They are performance trophies in human form. They face no mirrors honestly. They can't. They do not care about the truth--in fact, they hate it--but rather feelings. Not your feelings, not anyone's feelings but their own. And they all think alike. None of them actually think; they spout and parrot; that's their credo; anti-thought, pandering mimicry. The people there before them were not masters of the truth either, but in theory they were invested in it to some degree. They, too, came from money, from nepotism, from cronyism, and their form of narcissism was elitism, pretentiousness, classism. The new brigade also has classism. It's one of the reasons I am hated like I am by both brigades. Self-made, athletic-looking Boston white genius guy who is the expert on everything and publishes constantly on everything in every stripe and did not come from money, did not go to Yale, and who out works and out-produces 1500 of these people added together is the devil to them. But what is happening is the new brigade is telling the people who were there--who hired them--how it is going to be now. No more truth, no more even playing at truth, it is feelings time, and not with any genuine concern whatsoever for the feelings of others, but rather the feelings of these people. They have been lied to, their entire social infrastructure is built on lies and pandering (social media), they have been cocooned, and that will continue. In some ways, these people were the bosses of their nannies. The nanny just wanted to get paid and go home. The old brigade are the new nannies who also just want to get paid and go home. They are in fear of the new brigade, who can slip a word to mommy and daddy--which takes the form, often, of their mob--and end careers.
Who is going to fight that? A brave genius with character who is stronger than everyone could fight it. These people are not that. They are weak, simple, and they have no principals. They don't do "hard." They do easy. They love nothing more than a sinecure. They often receive huge salaries, work little, and have always been carried, always have had things given to them. In that regard, the two brigades are similar, though some of the specifics are different.
The result is that truth dies. Sanity dies. The mentally ill are the so-called intellectual elites of a world where people become increasingly mentally ill because they cannot think critically, they loathe themselves--because we always know, in our subconscious, at least, how far we have fallen from what we should be--and they stare at screens that do nothing but promulgate mental illness, hate, a lack of critical thinking, in language that gets cruder and cruder, vaguer and vaguer, rotting the brain.
A couple statements that will seem radical which are not radical at all--they are basic, they are fair, but which no one would say right now, or ask. Could the Minnesota cop have killed a white person the same way? Could his victim have been a white person on that day? Could he have been an ogre who restrained people in that manner before and no one had happened to die and this time the law of averages kicked in? Do we even know that it was racially motivated? Has someone inspected his career and found examples of racial profiling? Or, is it possible that he murdered someone, they happened to be black, and for all of the reasons I cite above--and for our need, now, to feel like we are great people without doing anything at all save taking to social media and putting up a new Facebook filter--it became hero time for everyone who more often than not is a horrible person themselves? And this is how they compensate. This is how they find community now. This is how they grab what they think is power.
I have come to realize that the thing most people want, more than anything, well, it isn't money. It isn't respect. It isn't that house by the sea they dream of. It isn't the love of a spouse. It isn't an acceptance of truth. It isn't even happiness. It's power. The editor at the Alaska Quarterly Review? So meaningless, but even what he wants is power. The power he thinks he has over someone like me when he throws every email into his trash that comes in with the work that is infinitely better than anything he has ever published, by the writer who is exponentially more accomplished than anyone he has published in a journal that hardly anyone in the world has ever heard of. There are no stakes. There's no money there, no recognition. But the stakes for him, as pathetic as this is, is power, stemming from jealousy, stemming from someone not being on the bent knee, someone writing for the world and not the upkeep of a lifeless, artless, "teachable" system of writing that no one in the world could have any interest in. Tiny, petty power, irrelevant power, but he gets off on it. Because he's a broken, talentless man who has nothing else. (Donald Spatz is the name, by the way.)
I'm just giving you one example, because even at this meaningless, irrelevant level, in this far away corner of society, Donald Spatz needs his power. But we now bully people by posting constantly--and calling the cops, ironically enough--about how someone running on the other side of the street did not have a piece of cloth over their mouth and nose. No one actually cares about the cloth to have read and learned what the cloth means, what it does or does not do, when a person runs on the other side of the street. They care about the power. The threat. The attempt to control. It could be declared that we all need a toilet seat around our necks when we go outside, and the threats, the shaming, the confrontations, would still ensue, because it's not really about truth, science, pragmaticism. It's not about vetting. It's power. Conversely, if you can get on a side that was not vetted with critical thinking and was never about the truth, and it is dead easy to do so, then this becomes both a desired, highly coveted result/endgame, your armory of sorts for your morality. Like, putting up the Facebook filter and Instagram image. Firing off the "tsk tsk" post on Facebook about how someone else does not care about people of color. Staying home.
What we want right now is the lowest common denominator effort, the least outlay of effort, barely doing anything, for max narcissistic glory and lording it over someone else that we are better--I am more moral than you! We are diseased that way. What that effort then does, is provide a blank check to reach for power. Petty power. Sinister, petty power. Humans are such sacks of self hate and ignorance and fear right now. A sack filled with those things. And some water. Another statement: George Floyd is not a martyr. I saw someone say that and then get destroyed by a couple hundred thousand people on Twitter. I will say it here, because not only is it a fact, it's a truth. George Floyd was a tragic victim of a murder. A martyr, by the very definition--which, of course, no one actually knows now--is someone enmeshed in a cause, who has an awareness of that cause, naturally, and who knows there is a degree of risk in said enmeshing. They are enduring something, they are fighting for something. They are aware, by some point, that their destruction is actively sought, even their literal death--and yet, they press on. They decide to continue. They decide to endure, to fight. Now, they don't have to say, "Well, I'm going to get killed, but I'm doing this anyway." They do think, "Damn, these people seem to want me dead and would perhaps actually bring that about, but I still believe in what I'm doing, and I think I can beat them anyway, this cause is important, I'm going to keep fighting." That person, should they be killed, may become a martyr. Joan of Arc was a martyr. George Floyd was a tragic victim of a murder. It was awful, it was evil, it was devastatingly savage, it was inhumane, his life mattered as much as any other life that has ever come into this world. But what happened--and the reality that we are not certain of why it has happened--has been co-opted for what certain people are always looking for because it's what they need to pretend that they possess as much humanity as they want to tell themselves--and you--that they possess. And it is also their pathway to the kind of power that's all they can get, and which they desperately need.
English does not get much more basic than this. It's not nuance, it's not allusion, it is the literal definition of a word. What people who know nothing about language like to do--it's how they reach for control, and how they try to paper over their ignorance, which is near total in life, but they still want that power, so this is one method they try--is say "language is fluid," make it some old-timey thing, like one belongs to an irrelevant past because you know what a basic word means. All of these millions and millions and millions of people staring at their phones, and no one ever types in a word to see what its actual definition is? (Look up the word "thug"--it dates to the early nineteenth century in India, and then made its way to England, where you will encounter it throughout the writings of that century, and going forward. It's not from the gang-torn streets of America, as you may think.) I know people are not boning up on Bach on there, they're not thinking, "Huh, I should learn something about silent cinema, what's available to screen tonight," they're not thinking, "Shit, you only live once, presumably, I haven't read any sonnets by Keats, I haven't heard every album by the Velvet Underground, I've never even heard Billie Holiday, I should remedy that." No. They are enabling their hate and their delusions and reaching for petty, sinister forms of power. And rotting their minds, hearts, souls. And then lecturing others--in broken English ("should of," "low and behold," the ever-constant use of the word "literally," which the mindless believe is a super-duper magical word that automatically strengthens every argument)--on their morality, because it's a new week, a new news cycle, and that means a new Facebook filter. Huzzah for victory. Rape is centered on power--forced power over someone else. That's a core tenet of the evil that is rape. This is also a form of rape. Not a physical rape, but it is about power in the same way.
Same people who made themselves up as though they were gods for sitting on their couches. The irony of quarantine in 2020 America. You can't do less in this world than sit on your ass on your couch, and people make themselves out to be heroes because they did it. And they also cracked some more, because we are now utterly incapable of being on our own with our own thoughts. For many years I walked 3000 miles a year. Just me. No podcasts, no music, just my thoughts. And for eight years I have been entirely alone. Those conversations you hear me have on the radio? In almost every week, those are the only times I speak to anyone. A man without a friend in the world, because the more I grew as an artist, a person, a writer, the more hated I became by an industry, the fewer friends I had, because those people were anchored in place--my former friends--and were incapable of growth. I had new understandings of what it meant to be strong, to be there for others, to help people, to give of yourself, what you can do in a day, what loyalty means, what effort means, what endurance means, what is truly difficult, and I saw very simple, twisted, abusive, selfish people who were never going to grow, and who resented me in new ways because of the contrast between us, which became more marked as I progressed as a person, an artist, a doer. Those were my friends. I tried to keep some in my life, but that was mostly so I would not be totally alone. One person I called my best friend, and I kept at it with them, in a one-sided friendship, because that was the best I had. Until I said, no, I can never do this again. They would never be able to see, because they were incapable of honest self-appraisal, and could never grow as a person--which would involve breaking down so much, and starting over, in some ways, as a person, which takes a lot of humility and strength, effort, time--and they got old and weak fast. And that latter part became a problem with my career. The projection. The inability to keep feelings separate from thoughts, from strategy. My complete helplessness when I know someone who has no idea of the millions of things they do not know that they don't know, which I know, and which I cannot begin to get them to know that they don't know so that we might start somewhere. When you make problems with my career, when you make problems with my art and the creation of it, when you interfere with my sacrosanct progress and process as an artist, we are done forever. Friend, family member, we are done. That takes the choice from me when my work is involved. I answer to my art. It has the final say of everything in my life. It is the final thing, and the most important thing, I answer to. I had to move on. I fight each day not to kill myself. That is not hyperbole. It's that hard at this point. And some people I knew moved me closer to that, and these were the people closest to what I had as people being on my side. I face an injustice which I am certain no one can even imagine, let alone would they be able to deal with it and keep trying. I am better at what I do than anyone has been at anything else, and I have proven it, again and again, proven that there is nothing remotely like me, and an entire industry stands against me. I get better, it gets worse. I achieve more, it gets worse. I had to make a decision, for my journey, for what I believe I need to get to the world, which the world needs, to go it entirely alone for now. Can you even imagine how lonely that is? But I am devoted to my cause. Not a single internet hero is.
During this COVID-19 time, I've seen people hunt other humans at an even greater rate than before. By hunt I mean, partake of "gotcha" culture, cancel culture, whatever you wish to call it. Who are we ending today? Who can we destroy today? How many thoughts each day do you think the average human has that, were they posted on Twitter, would "end" their life? 5000? It's not seven. People go after other people because they can't look at themselves. And no one else is strong enough, smart enough, articulate enough, to fight back later that day, or the next morning, when what they do is issue an apology they do not mean, which is not going to be good enough, because no one ever really wanted an apology. And no one really wanted someone else to grow, and if they received a note from the God of Reality and that note said that so and so was entirely different now, they realized the error of their ways, and subsequently would go on to lead a life in which they cured the sick, fed the poor, brought true equality to the masses, and rid the world of cancer, that receiver of the note would crush it into a ball and throw it into the trash, because that is not what they want--they want to hurt somebody, they want to break somebody. They have to live in their own body and with themselves, and thus they cannot break themselves, but they are going to break anyone else they don't know if they can. That's what they want. When you do not fight back against this, because you are not smart enough, brave enough, articulate enough, you feed the beast. You help create this new way of society. And because you don't even know what basic words mean, how could you even begin to fight? Who among us can do more than talk in cliches that we don't even understand even though they are cliches?
The implication with gotcha culture--the underlying thesis--is that the person making the accusation has never done anything of the kind, never had a thought of the kind, and, further, never had a single though--not even so much as a thought--that would get them in trouble were it to have come out. You cannot be more vainglorious than such a person. You cannot be more delusional, or more narcissistic. More ignorant; if your life has a code by which you live, it is the code of the lie. But that's the premise with the person making the charge, always using the word "systemic" now, never mind that six months they had never heard of it, and they still don't even know what it means, just like they didn't know and don't know what "intersectional" means. Meaning is completely besides the point. These are tools, instruments. Like meat hooks. You don't have to know how the meat hook was made or what supplier it came from--you just know that you can hang flesh upon it.
Think about this, too. You have a child, your child has a business, your child has a home, and the home or the business is destroyed. Or maybe it's your home, your store. Maybe it is your mom's. You know what no one who has ever lived is going to say in these cases? "Well, it's for the cause, it's fine that this thing I worked twenty years for is gone now," or "It's for the cause, so, sure, my daughter was attacked when she was a kid, she has PTSD, lots of years of therapy, people wrecked her place, this is a big setback for her a lot of ways over, but it's cool, this is progress, I get that, definitely needed."
Everybody has a story. What very few people have right now is empathy. A tenet of empathy is imagination. We are horrible at imagination. We often have to decide to imagine. It's an effort you consciously elect to make. I'll have stories that just come to me. But I have stories, too, I have to decide to make. I have to decide to use my imagination, which also involves looking within. It's very draining. You're not lifting bales of hay over your head, and to someone watching you, you look like some person coming down the street with a Dunkin' Donuts coffee in the hand, nothing at all going on. The things that matter most life are things that we consciously choose. Small or big. We choose to learn more about Billie Holiday, using the example I gave above, and from that choice may following an enriching experience that grows and grows, becomes a passion, a means to experience truth, a comfort, a joy, solace in hard times, inspiration, a sonic traveling companion through one's lifetime. One makes a choice to love someone. I don't mean you spout bromides like love is the answer, any of that mindless crap. I mean that real love requires vulnerability, and to be vulnerable is to decide to be so--to lay one's self open that way to another. Empathy is the same way--you choose to use your imagination, you choose to use that imagination to transport yourself into what another person's situation, their life, might be. We don't do empathy--I would argue that we rarely do love, and we rarely discover that lifetime traveling companion in the form of art--because we make no effort right now. We need things presented to us, given to us, splashed in front of our faces, dictated to us, repeated to us, trending for us, and we need to fall ass-first into them, as if by accident, like we fell over into them. We don't think, we don't feel, we don't imagine, we don't love, we don't empathize. We're repeating, broadcasting, threatening, grabbing for petty power, and we so very rarely have a true, earnest thought for anyone else, or even a true thought for ourselves. That's the problem you're going to want to focus on.