“Owners of the new mechanical technology created a new technology of social control through abundant use of police, spies, sabotage, propaganda, and legislation … In the society just ahead, one profession has astonishingly good prospects. I’m referring to the various specialties associated with policing the angry, the disaffected, and the embittered. Because school promises are mathematically impossible to keep, they were, from the beginning, a Ponzi scheme, like Social Security.” (Gatto)
“School is a jobs project for a large class of people it would be difficult to find employment for otherwise in a frightening job market, one in which the majority of all employment in the nation is either temporary or part time.” (Gatto)
If I were to die in my sleep, this philosophical autobiography would end right here, right now, and that’s how it ends. Since the “I” writing this would no longer exist, this would not matter to “me” in the least. Does a subversive thinker such as myself even want to “publish books” while still alive? Maybe subversives prefer to hide. I know how far away my concerns are from the masses of philistines. Maybe it is best for me to just sneak through life.
Things I don’t have to do: write a novel, write an autobiography, post on the Internet, get married, reproduce, have friends, get a job, save money, buy life insurance, eat, breathe …
My philosophy is not a book but a mode of existence in the flesh. I don’t have to seek out a psychiatrist just because I was instructed to do so by hospital staff after the police had an ambulance deliver me to them. I don’t have to pay taxes. I don’t have to live.
What happens to my student loans if I should croak before they’re paid?
I am really inspired by The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto, recommended to me by a mysterious malcontent who goes by the AKA purple1.
People who know who they are make trouble for schools.
One method people use to find out who they are becoming, before others do, is to keep a journal, where they log what attracts their attention, along with some commentary. In this way, you get to listen to yourself instead of listening only to others.
This is great advice. I encourage this as well.
Books can serve as mentors if you learn to read intensely, with every sense alert to nuances. Books can change your life, as mentors do.
Do those of us who know who we are and who are not afraid of revealing who we are make trouble for those who want us to play our assigned roles, read our scripts, and act as if we were what society tells us we are?
“There was a time when the artist mobilized all his defects to produce a work which concealed himself; the notion of exposing his life to the public probably NEVER occurred to him. We do not imagine Dante or Shakespeare keeping track of the trifling incidents of their lives in order to bring them to other people’s attention. Perhaps they even preferred giving a false image of what they were.” ~ Emile M. Cioran
Will there be an audience appreciative of my insights or do I write for my own satisfaction and relief?
Removing my presence from the Internet is something I want to do long before removing my presence from this realm altogether. I want to live as though I will die soon, and yet this, for some reason, compels me to go through my notebooks and type up what is relevant.
Schooling is not about intellectual development, not about character development, but about the inculcation of a synthetic culture in children, one designed to condition its subjects to a continual adjusting of their lives by unseen authorities. Anti-intellectual schooling is determined by the attitudes and the needs of prominent businessmen. Even at the university level, the mathematics departments seem to be funded by “applied math,” technological interests of businessmen.
The crux of the difference between education and schooling is that education nurtures knowledge and comprehension, whereas schooling nurtures discipline and obedience. Schooling, in concert with a controlled workplace retards the development of imagination … intentionally.
The psychological tool is alienation. The trick is to alienate us from our selves so that we can’t turn inward for strength!
This is the essence of scientific management.
Gatto lists what centralized schooling should deliver:
(1)Obedient soldiers to the army
(2)Obedient workers to the factories, farms, and other workplaces
(3)Well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function
(4)Well-subordinated clerks for industry
(5)Citizens who think alike on mass issues
(6)National uniformity in thought, law, and deed
Welcome to Orwell’s Nightmare, where Freedom is Slavery and Schools make people stupid.
A productive work-force, a growing economy, high material standards of living, high-tech medicine, and a strong military could not be accomplished without second rate systems of education. People like President Obama make the error of equating material prosperity and power with education when affluence in the United States is built, not on education, but schooling.
The truth is that Amerika’s global power and wealth is a direct product of a third-rate educational system, upon whose inefficiency in developing intellect and character depends. If we were educated better, we could not sustain this corporate utopia/distopia. Schools build wealth by tearing down personal sovereignty. (Gatto 2001)
John Taylor Gatto claims that mass society, industrial civilization itself, depends on masses of “dumb” people not only to serve in the “work-force,” but to justify the careers of the managers and engineers of mass society, which include the politicians, ministers, psychiatrists, judges and their court clerks, prosecutors, etc … as well as the Slave Patrol (all forms of police, from the military to the security guard). It sounds cruel and even arrogant to point this out, but it’s true. Consider the Unions of prison guards who think it is in their best interest to keep the prisons full. Job security. Priestly castes depend on the status quo to secure their artificial positions of authority. Many suicides are simply displaying their ultimate POWER in this social arrangement.
People only appear dumb. It has to be an act. It’s inauthentic. I believe the real difference between so-called “intellectuals” and every-day, keep-it-simple, don’t-worry-be-happy types is the latter’s preference to become absorbed in practical pragmatic issues, whereas the former may be more focused on the universal dilemma, which is existence itself.
Where the masses are distracted with the practical, the one who “suffers” an excess of consciousness is concerned with trying to figure out how it has “fallen” into this predicament.
The position of the mental health industry ought to give us a clue: There is an inclination to avoid suffering. If the price to be paid for developing our powers of perception is “mental anguish,” it appears that most prefer less anguish. That’s what I find so inauthentic about psychiatry and even pop philosophy (the self-help therapy scams that go on and on about the “power” of positive thinking). Rather than recognizing mental and emotional disturbances as signals from the human brain responding to its environs, the “experts” and “professionals” try to sell a cure for the unpleasantness of the symptoms rather than acknowledging the legitimacy of the mental states experienced by the so-called sick.
This is like silencing a fire alarm and ignoring the flames.
“The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the careers devoted to tend to them will seem incredible to you. Yet that is my proposition: Mass dumbness first had to be imagined. It isn’t real.”
“Once the dumb are wished into existence, they serve valuable functions: as a danger to themselves and others they have to be watched, classified, disciplined, trained, medicated, sterilized, ghettoized, cajoled, coerced, jailed.” ~ John Taylor Gatto
Recall that, essentially, a gort is someone who has missed the bottom line in human consciousness. There is a point beyond which one may not be using one’s brain to the full extent necessary to qualify for a membership card to the human race.
Just because an individual has all the socially approved credentials does not mean they are really using their brains much at all. Think of the “programs” the managers and engineers come up with … Programs are for machines … machines that only understand on and off, if x then y … Machines don’t have consciousness or the power of reflection.
When the program has an error, the electricity follows the instructions blindly.
Mass society requires stupidity. Civilization would collapse without stupidity. Were a generation of youth be encouraged to develop their powers of perception, their critical thinking skills, and gain confidence in following their thoughts to their conclusions, our current social order would be seriously undermined.
philistine – a person who is lacking in or hostile or smugly indifferent to intellectual pursuits, aesthetic refinement, etc., or is contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes, i.e., the phonies who fancy themselves “the middle class.”
The French Revolution was regarded as the work of a horde of underemployed intellectuals. Are extremely productive workers often deficient in their intellectual capacity? An even more suggestive question would be, “Just how many ‘successful businessmen’ or corporate executives show any interest in Hesse’s Stepppenwolf?”
Richard Stites described Fredrick W. Taylor as an anti-intellectual and a hater of individuals. One could even proclaim with confidence that Taylor was one of the assholes who had such an influence of uniformity and efficiency in the workplace.
I feel I am now hacking at the roots of the poisonous tree. Psychology has been a business from the start – an aggressive business lobbying for jobs and school contracts. Fabian practitioners developed Hegelian principles which they taught alongside Morgan bankers. One Hegelianism was that to push ideas efficiently, it was necessary to co-opt both the political left as well as the political right. They work with military precision to get control of the education of the children of the land.
To prevent mentally independent individuals who stress development of the intellect from becoming role models and mentors, two solutions were proposed around 1903 to make “instruction” teacher-proof: (1) grow a hierarchy of non-teaching administrators (principals, assistant principals, subject coordinators, guidance counselors); (2) the standardized test and subsequent test scores would signal the presence of a deviant teacher who strayed too far from “approved texts.”
Grandfathers of the Universe, behold me! Arthur Schopenhauer, behold me! Hegel, that charlatan, is regarded as “the most influential intellectual thinker in modern history” – what a scandal!
Hegel was important wherever strict social control was an issue. “Ambitious states couldn’t let a single child escape,” said Hegel!
So, when did the Heinrichs and Malmbergs arrive in North America? When did Heinrich become Hentrich? Let’s see … Great Grandmother born around 1895, so probably around 1910 or thereabouts. By as early as 1882 there had been a struggle to preserve the “American social order.” European immigrants were polarizing the country. There was to be an official Amerikan Highway built from police manuals and schoolteacher training texts.
Between 1890 and 1920, when those who spawned me would have arrived in the Divided Snakes of Amerika, “complete medical control” was launched with a vengeance. Few intimidations are more effective than the threat of a stay in an insane asylum. Between 1890 and 1920, the amount of those committed to institutional confinement more than doubled. Gatto’s work continues to attract my attention. He explores the role the then new discipline of psychology played in social control. Because many immigrants in the United States actually favored Germany over England in the pre World War I conflict, and since the managerial class of the “colonies” was drawn from the Church of England gentry and aristocrats, there was pressure to socialize German children in Amerika as English. [cyber-footnote: youtube.com/watch?v=yrRdoY2kzbg]
Schools were “behavioral engineering plants.” Behavioral “healthcare” ???
Urrrrrrrrr ….. All that remained was to convince kids and their parents that there was no place to hide. In 1965 the ESE Act allowed for “interventions” by psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, agencies, and various specialists. All were invited to use schools as satellite offices, in urban ghettos, as a primary office. Now it was the law.
The corporations which offer employment, endow university museums, schools, and churches, actually have a life and death stake in the formation of “correct psychological attitudes” among children toward production and consumption. Schools are about creating loyalty to certain goals and habits. Consumption became the most important end in itself. Good consumers are rewarded with artificial status while the frugal are marginalized as villains. Strong spirits are dangerous to mass societies.
Mass consumption depends on discontent. Spiritually contented individuals are dangerous on many levels and for several reasons. They don’t make reliable servants because they won’t jump at every command. Corporate and financial capitalism are hardly possible on a massive scale once a population finds its spiritual center. Materialistic people tend to assign a price to everything and they avoid spending too much time with those who promise no immediate payback.
John Taylor Gatto examines the perplexity of the corporate state. What is the modern state to do with its masses once they have been degraded to the ranks of the proletariat, and then further rendered superfluous by a stream of inventions? Isn’t this the problem Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was exploring in his first novel, Player Piano? Our modern corporate multiplex society has no adequate outlet of expression for its artists, dancers, poets, painters, singers, film makers, whiskey makers, marijuana growers and renegade intellectuals – no outlet except for corporate work.
What indoctrination strategies are used for building and using psychological tools to create compliant children? Once the doctrine of “exclusive salvation” for the cooperative (and damnation for the critic) is clearly established, rulers will never be seriously questioned. People like myself make do with what they have, but resourcefulness and frugality are “pseudo-criminal” behaviors to a mass-production economy. Such examples threaten to infect others with the same fatal sedition.
School can never deal with really important things. Only education can teach us that quests don’t always work; that even worthy lives most often end in tragedy; that money can’t prevent this; that failure is a regular part of the human condition; that you will never understand evil; that serious pursuits are almost always lonely; that you can’t negotiate love; that money can’t buy much that really matters; that happiness is free.” (Gatto)
“The history of the Hmong yields several lessons that anyone who deals with them might do well to remember. Among the most obvious are that the Hmong do not like to take orders; that they do not like to lose; that they would rather flee, fight, or die, than surrender; that they are not intimidated by being outnumbered, that they are rarely persuaded that the customs of other cultures, even those more powerful than their own, are superior; that they are capable of getting very angry … Those who have tried to defeat, deceive, govern, regulate, constrain, assimilate, or patronize the Hmong, have, as a rule, disliked them intensely.” (Anne Fadiman: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down)
Schopenhauer says of Spinoza: “His contempt for animals, who, as mere things for our use, are declared by him to be without rights, is thoroughly Jewish, and, is at the same time, absurd and abominable.”
Everything that happens to me is grist to my literary mill. Much of my life consists of investigating literary works. Whereas Cognitive Science and Phenomenology are extremely cerebral disciplines, I am now inclined to venture into truths that the heart can feel – and yet, what we call “the heart” is not the actual organ which pumps blood through our animal body, but part of the organ we call “the brain,” i.e., the central nervous system, an appendage of our stomach-self. How are our emotions connected to consciousness? Are our feelings a deeper way of thinking, a more complex way of seeing?
We experience a perpetual worrying about what is going to happen next, and this worry is the principal, if not the sole, cause of our torment. So, let us not try to escape our anxiety, but to embrace it, to expose it, and to illuminate it by focusing our attention on it. Consciousness is this act of attention.
Attention seems to be quite fragile and easily distracted. My “scholarly projects” could very well be what saves me from a great deal of potential misery and torment. Whereas, without this ongoing investigation, I might be susceptible to thinking I was at the mercy of those who might be used to manipulating those who are in such throes of anxiety. Even I am surprised by how I am able to spontaneously find strength within my mind to just grab the anxiety by the horns. I am sometimes even able to sit back and watch situations play themselves out.
I take a break from the Internet, choosing instead to write zen lunacy in my private notebooks as I have been doing long before there was a medium such as the Internet. As far as having a television or furniture moved into the apartment to accommodate the “entertainment needs” of guests, forget it! This apartment is to be a sanctuary, and I must not allow it to be transformed into a flop-house. I will let it be known that I am “an outdoor cat,” and refuse to be trapped in an apartment as if it were some kind of science-fiction Bizarroland funny farm prison cell. From my experiences throughout my life, I have learned what is valuable to me. The choices we make have consequences. We become what we do!
Coming down off the mountain called Mount Si at North Bend
Crawling out of the cold river to begin The End
Somehow I made my way to Downtown Seattle
And among the downtrodden homeless I joined their battle
Against the cold heartless system enforced by police
As long as we have to pay for food and shelter,
There can never be peace
How free do you really feel after you’ve signed that lease?
Some people would rather live under a bridge in a tent
Than to hand over their government relief check just to pay the rent
When I asked where I could rest my head and eat for free
I was directed to Shoreline and a camp called Tent City Three
Then I discovered that there were undercover FBI
Living among the homeless drifters – I saw through the lie
There was nowhere to sing, to speak, to hide,
Nowhere to even try to get a little high
I witnessed our Brother Afrika in drunkeness sob and cry
And the Native Chiefstick – his spirit took me high up into the sky
After we moved the camp to Seattle near Broadway
I set out on my own to find a better way
Much in need of a brighter day
And landed in Village Ghetto Land on the edge of Federal Way
But here there’s nowhere to sing and drum
Hell, I’m barely even free to fuck or hum
So tired of people born on third base
Acting like they hit a goddamn home run
The apartment management said the Native had to go
After recording our natural rock songs toe to toe
We parted ways
We were drunken rebel rockers with the deepest soul
Now he’s back in Montana but still I roll
All alone I flow through the danger zone
Daydreaming of secret places back east
Where I plan to roam, camp out, and smoke a bone
There’s no way in Hell I’m gonna be transformed
Into some kind of obedient drone
I don’t fall in love on no telephone
I witness a woman in the throes of anxiety, and I point out to her that it is difficult to lie to oneself about the unpleasant nature of want. She denies her pain as she throws back the Cisco. If I am going to write, I will write honestly, facing unpleasant facts. If I am going to write about the unpleasantness, I am also going to write about the great relief that accompanies finding an inner dimension of Being that is not afraid to see things as they really are.
I am drawn to the discipline of Cognitive Science and to the neurocomputational models describing how consciousness arises. Now I am looking for “the self.” Where is it? Does it even exist outside the social order? Almost every part of the brain is being observed by some other part of the brain, often by several parts at once. Merleau-Ponty said that “the soul is immediately linked to the brain and to it alone.”
The existence of the cognitive unconscious has important implications for the practice of philosophy. It means that we can have no direct conscious awareness of most of what goes on in our minds. The idea that pure philosophical reflection can plumb the depths of human understanding is an illusion.
Traditional methods of philosophical analysis alone, even phenomenological introspection, cannot even come close to allowing us to know our own minds.
What are the facts of consciousness? Isn’t the practice of thinking itself reality making itself evident to consciousness? And yet, when we think of the self, the subject, don’t we mean consciousness itself? We apprehend the reality of the world directly – both the world within which we experience as desire and mood, as well as the world presented to us through conscious thought. The best method for investigating thought is reflecting upon my own thought processes. I reflect upon my very own glandular secretions (my brainwaves).
For thought to know itself, it must reflect radically upon itself. Does our culture-of-make-believe even value philosophy? The accumulated labors of industrial and standing armies will not solve the problems we are concerned with here! If we, as we have professed, are truly in a spiritual wasteland, that is all the more reason to renew our interest in the real situation we are standing in!
Edmund Husserl discovered his being as the transcendental ego – a disembodied self-subsistent psychic entity. Merleau-Ponty rejected this. He began by identifying the “subject” – the “experiencing self” – with the bodily organism. It is a radical move. We are accustomed, from Socrates/Plato to Freud/Jung, to consider our innermost essence – the soul, the psyche – as something incorporeal. We are our body. Perceiving as we do with our body, the body is a natural self and the subject of perception.
How does our animal body, our Natural Self, make its primitive needs, wishes, wants, and desires conscious?
Subhana Barzaghi wrote:
The shadow comes back in the form of erotic fantasies, attractions, romantic projections, that haunt us until we understand that there is something very deep there that needs our attention.
The essence of animism is a radical rejection of Cartesian dualism. Animism is the recognition that we are our bodies and not ephemeral spirit wrapped in an arbitrary fleshy shell; animism is the simple belief in our own experience (Godesky). This is where phenomenology and animism merge. The body becomes the symbol for the I.
What is the effect of embracing our weariness as a natural life process rather than trying to repress it or escape from it? How do the market forces prey upon the inevitable weariness we are bound to experience just with being a living creature chained to the demands of biological necessity? Wouldn’t what Nietzsche called resentiment be severely challenged were the disenfranchised to develop a mature understanding that “financial security” and material possessions (capital, property) can never conquer the general weariness inherent in existence? In other words, is there a spiritual or intellectual method that can liberate us from oppressive states of overwhelming despair?
What has passed unnoticed as “reason” or “rationality” is, at base, defined by repression and domination of nature. This is reason’s dynamic and inner logic. Civilization depends on domesticated reason for its existence and continuation; hence, the threat posed by madness and madmen. We seem to have lost the innocence of the animal. Our animality and life itself has become repugnant to modern man. Modern man holds his nose in his own presence.
I spontaneously spend the afternoon sitting on a rock in the sunshine next to a large tree in an empty lot next to the library, tripping face without any hallucinogens whatsoever. Sure I would not mind drinking some beer or smoking some herb, but I have no money at all, and yet I still feel delight finding my mojo sitting still on a rock even as the traffic flies passed on Pacific Highway only twenty yards from where I sit.
Arundhati Roy wrote:
Another book? Right now when it looks as though all the music, the art, the architecture, the literature, the whole of human civilisation means nothing to the monsters who run the world. What kind of book should I write? For now, just for now, for just a while, pointlessness is my biggest enemy. That’s what nuclear bombs do, whether they’re used or not. They violate everything that is humane, they alter the meaning of life.
I could write about my fantasies … where a huge group of hungry angry unemployed people block traffic by burning tires in the highway … riots in grocery stores … people refusing to leave their apartment or house when the Sheriff comes to evict them, people killing bullies who play them for a sucker one too many times … Things like that … but I have to be careful these days. Why compete with the daily news?
There are plenty of people writing screenplays for TV and Hollywood. I’ll stick to philosophy.
Writing is an alternative to suicide and its cure. My “memoirs” are a long suicide note, so long in fact, I will most likely die of old age before the freaking thing is finished. Before I die I would like to create a story that might reach the youth and inspire another lost generation to rebel against those who think they own us, those who think they’ve got us all by the pubic hairs.
The protagonist could confess in the very beginning to being a scoundrel on the dole, living on nothing but eggs and spinach – a cigarette smoking, beer drinking, sinning philosopher who fantasizes about having sexual encounters with unattainable women and writes prose all day mocking those who fancy themselves “authority” and “the establishment” … you know, “fiction.”
And yet, what’s the point? Schopenhauer wrote in a way I could never dream of writing, and yet even he had to pay out of his own pocket to have his works published! Why bother? Why not just scribble it down for my own amusement just for the relief of making myself chuckle? Anyway, it feels great not to give a shit enough to even attempt to write a story. Still, it could be fun to create scenes where I can let out some aggression in fantasy. I used to work for the State Park Service of New Jersey as a maintenance worker. While cleaning the toilets I would feel like a super-intelligent chimpanzee from Beyond the Planet of the Apes who was planning his revolt. I used to hate to be watched when I was working.
I think people write novels because they can have the protagonist say things like, “It’s enough to make you want to kill people!” – things like that, the way Salinger pulled off “Catcher in the Rye” … but you can’t write stuff like that in a diary!!! Hoooo haaaaa.
Walter Mosley suggests we write without restraint. Almost all adults are emotionally restrained. Our closest friends and our families never know the brutal and deviant urges and furies within us. Mosley suggests that the writer loosen the bonds that have held us back all our lives. Sexual lust and unacknowledged hatreds can be unleashed through writing. I want to explore the conflict between the “anti-hero” and society. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden saw everyone around him as phony due to his strong opposition to material wealth, which is a strong characteristic in our society. It may be difficult for some of us to function in a society dominated by such phony inauthentic philistines. No shit Sherlock!
What are the themes I would want to explore? Rebellion; alienation; racism; environmental crises: pollution, the effects human activity is having on the wilderness; classism; injustice; the prison industry; phoniness of polite society; the vulgarity of consumerism and celebrity culture; war; violence; economic violence; toxic sludge; the toxicity of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam …
Do I have a message to send our society’s outsiders? Do I have some vendetta? Do I want revenge against those who may have silenced me, bullied me, or mocked me? Who would acknowledge me as worth reading? Most people think Schopenhauer was an asshole just for writing so honestly and thoughtfully. That’s the thanks one gets for being authentic and sincere! Most academic philosophers praise Hegel and ignore Schopenhauer! What the use of knocking ourselves out? Why not sit back and scorn the universe in ambitionless peace?
I skimmed through Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel but now I’m pretty sure I don’t want to write one, unless of course, it is a story about a madman who is a philosopher in disguise … like Dostoevsky’s Underground Man or Hesse’s Steppenwolf. The setting may have to be in a jail or asylum … Maybe the protagonist is in a funny farm prison hospital in a futuristic dystopia where the workers, staff, and even the doctors and nurses are illiterate TV-addicted idiots and the anti-hero is considered to be “deeply troubled” because of his obsession with philosophy, ethics, and coherency. He has an obsession with writing down his thoughts, and he smokes constantly. [COUGH] There’s an idea.
From a source I forgot to note: Humans did not come from apes. All apes and all humans descended from a single proto-ape species that lived millions of years ago and no longer exists. Thus, humans can be said to be closely related to the other apes, but we are certainly not descended directly from them. In plain honest and direct language, we are apes, no less than chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons. Whether or not one ascribes to evolutionary theory or not, there is no doubt that all human beings, including Jesus Christ himself, are classified, both genetically and morphologically, as an ape species.
Ethics is the continual questioning from below of any attempt to impose order from above. I want to be a philosopher who takes philosophy out of the academy and puts it into circulation in daily life, in the streets, in the institutions … Knowledge itself is a practice.
Alain Badiou suggests we invent the philosophical militant, to make philosophy into a militant practice in its very presence, in its way of being: not just a reflection upon politics, but a genuine political intervention. We can become philosophy in the flesh. In literature, the madman is the philosopher, giving the author an opportunity to write whatever the hell he/she wants to.
By acknowledging that we are in fact a species of ape, by overreaching, we at once admit that all “races” of our one species branched off from a common proto-ape-human. All archeological evidence points out the origin of our species as Africa – what is called Africa. With the realization that human beings are an ape species, we may begin to mock and ridicule the myths that profess human beings to be some kind of non-animal.
Zapffe believed that the only escape from our (human) predicament would be to discontinue the human race. Though extinction by agreement is not a likely scenario, that is no more than an empirical fact of public opinion. In principal, all it would require is a global consensus to reproduce below replacement rates, and in a few generations the species would dwindle to nothing.
It is at that point in the month where I exert a great deal of “mental strength” to prevent myself from suffering too much over worries about having such a difficult time “managing income” with my debts: rent, utilities, food, tobacco, some clothes, and the spontaneous alcoholic binge may or may not ensue as soon as I have a few dollars in my pocket. If I could find myself ridiculous, I might escape from self-hatred. The day when the “government relief funds” become available brings with it stress of realizing how quickly the funds are absorbed by debt, and so I have to be somewhat careful and alert, making sure to pay my dues and have food and tobacco before I get inebriated.
A young woman who works at the counter of the corner informed me that “Fours” and “Locos” destroy brain cells. I told her, “That’s OK, I have too many braincells, anyway. I could benefit from some braincell destruction.”
The police officer who was killed on Halloween (2009) in Seattle supposedly had raped a 15 year old girl in a jail cell. The man who killed the officer was the young woman’s uncle.
Some passages from Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces:
The cop asks for Ignatius’ identification and then asks him about the contents of his bag. Ignatius won’t tolerate this treatment:
“Is it the part of the police department to harass me when this city is a flagrant vice capital of the civilized world?” Ignatius bellowed over the crowd in front of the store. “This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft. If you have a moment, I shall endeavor to discuss the crime problems with you, but don’t make the mistake of bothering me.”
“Any connection between American art and American nature is purely coincidental, but this is only because the nation as a whole has no contact with reality. That is only one of the reasons why I have always been forced to exist on the fringes of its society, consigned to the Limbo reserved for those who do know reality when they see it.”
This next segment reminds me of this “excursion” out west to the Seattle area, a “whirlpool of despair” and apathy and smugness.
“The only excursion in my life outside of New Orleans took me through the vortex to the whirlpool of despair: Baton Rouge. In some future installment, a flashback, I shall perhaps recount that pilgimage, through the swamps, a journey into the desert from which I returned broken physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
Another great passage is when he had turned the speakers of a radio off at the pants factory.
“So I turned the music on again, smiling broadly and waving amiably in an attempt to acknowledge my poor judgement and to win the workers’ confidence. (Their huge white eyes were already labeling me a “Mister Charlie.” I would have to struggle to show them my almost psychotic dedication to helping them.”
That’s one of those lines that made me realize that John Kennedy Toole was a soul-brother of mine, that he was of my calibar …. I, too, have an almost psychotic dedication to helping those who I wish I could rescue. Sadly though, I can hardly rescue myself. Evidently and tragically, neither could Toole save himself from eventually being spiritually destroyed by the confederacy of dunces.
Another couple excerpts from Toole’s Comic Masterpeice:
“I sense I have always felt something of a kinship with the colored race because its position is the same as mine: we both exist outside the inner realm of American society. Of course, my exile is voluntary. However, it is apparent that many of the Negroes wish to become active members of the American middle class. I can not imagine why. I must admit that this desire on their part leads me to question their value judgments. However, if they wish to join the bourgeoisie, it is really none of my business. They may seal their own doom. Personally, I would agitate quite adamantly against the bemused person who was attempting to help me upward, that is. The agitation would take the form of many protest marches complete with the traditional banners and posters, but these would say, “End the Middle Class,” “The Middle Class Must Go.” I am not above tossing a small Molotov cocktail or two, either. In addition, I would studiously avoid sitting near the middle class in lunch counters and on public transportation, maintaining the intrinsic honesty and grandeur of my being. If a middle-class white were suicidal enough to sit next to me ……”
“I do admire the terror which Negroes are able to inspire in the hearts of some members of the white proletariat and only wish (This is a rather personal confession.) that I possessed the ability to similarly terrorize. The Negro terrorizes simply by being himself; I, however, must browbeat a bit in order to achieve the same end. Perhaps I should have been a Negro. I suspect that I would have been a rather large and terrifying one, continually pressing my ample thigh against the withered thighs of old white ladies in public conveyances a great deal and eliciting more than one shriek of panic. Then, too, if I were a Negro, I would not be pressured by my mother to find a good job, for no good jobs would be available. My mother herself, a worn old Negress, would be too broken by years of underpaid labor as a domestic to go out bowling at night. She and I could live most pleasantly in some moldy shack in the slums in a state of ambitionless peace, realizing contentedly that we were unwanted, that striving, was meaningless.”
Something strange and dangerous is happening in Amerika. Organization imposes an ethic of conformity on its employees. Businesses test for levels of conformity. There are monotonously similar ideas of success: a house, a wife, a good job with some organization – perhaps a gigantic monster of a corporation that destroys environments in India like Coca-Cola, a car (maybe two or three), a family (at least 2.3 kiddies) … The real difference between people is the degree to which they are other-directed or inner-directed. In parts of Europe, especially England, even in parts of India, China, and Japan, and certainly in the “United States” itself, the character of the last few generations of youth is formed mainly by television and cinema. The so-called “good characters” are socially well-adjusted. The so-called “bad characters” are curmudgeons or are obviously self-centered.
[note: curmudgeon = “a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man”]
Colin Wilson wrote:
Our problems are fundamentally psychological. They spring from the fact that the complexity of our society tends to create a defensive attitude in many people, the sort of acknowledgement of defeat that a schoolboy might feel on looking into a volume of higher mathematics. The result is a sense of diffidence, a loss of the feeling of being self-determined. This diffidence gnaws into the nervous energies. It narrows the individual’s conception of his own abilities and values.
The powerful forces of our age are mass media. In America, they worship success. In England, they worship royalty.
Revolt for its own sake is not enough. It fails to get to the core problem: the increasing other-directedness in modern society and the disappearance of the hero, the inner-directed man in literature.
[diffident = “hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence”]
The hero of our age would have to be a sort of metaphysician, perhaps even an angry grump like Arthur Schopenhauer. The hero cannot accept the status quo. A wife, a house, and a bottle wine is not a heroic life. In the cinema, the so-called hero always gets the girl. Maybe the hero of our age will have to defy that image and fail to jump through the hoops necessary to be an “acceptable catch”. Or the new hero could be a disgruntled woman who doesn’t give a fuck about “catching a so-called good man.” Wasn’t the original woman in the story of the Garden such a disgruntled, independent woman, Lilith? She was replaced with submissive Eve after the patriarchal Hebrew scholars wrote down the stories they had stolen from whoever it is they had destroyed (the oral peoples … the original peoples). I will spare the gentle reader my useless insights into such matters. We have, after all, bigger fish to fry.
Anyway, Goethe himself had no illusions about successful love. Goethe analyzed the peculiar psychological complexities of the new hero in Faust. The result of knowledge seems to be a disillusionment that involves the whole universe: a feeling that, if a man could shed all his illusions for a moment, he would not want to live.
Existentialism itself began as a revolt (against Hegel), and revolt is essentially NEGATIVE. The writers responsibility is heavier than that of the politicians and church leaders, for what is in question is a revolution in thought itself, not a five-year plan or some recipe for “getting right with God.”
It is a fallacy to believe that action can get closer to life than contemplation (or writing). The aim of philosophy itself is depth and vital intensity. People can’t get away from existentialism – even if they never heard of it, they experience it. It starts with our feeling of the world’s hostile strangeness. There is a reason why there is a “negative” ambiance to critical thinking, for often we are in attack mode – against Freudianism, Marxism, Logical Positivism, and any other “isms” that foster the insignificance fallacy.
It was back in New Jersey when I was living in the Flame Motel in Farmingdale back around 2004 when I seriously began investigating the writings of Edmund Husserl. The day after I began that intense investigation I was almost killed by the Freehold Boro Police Department. Seven vulgar, barbaric, knuckle-dragging, white officers attacked me in public with many witnesses. I attempted to defend myself and was almost killed. The doctor that saved me was a sophisticated “Afram”.
The attentive reader will wonder what one thing has to do with the other. What is the method to my madness? Is there any method or is true freedom pure chaos? Cioran said that being oneself is chaos. And so it goes. Some of my heroes were not exactly well-received by their contemporaries. Van Gogh was never an easy person to live with; fits of nervous depression made his temper uncertain. He took in a woman off the streets who was pregnant, thereby scandalizing all his friends who abandoned him as lost.
There is a parallel in my own life – when I took in Mary M— in 1996 while an employee for the State (see poem/song From Bad to Worse). Her being a Black woman caused a scandal with the slugs who were State employees. They not merely abandoned me but all seemed to conspire against me, making me the fall guy for problems that I was not at the root of. Eh … what of it? That was another lifetime ago.
In George Orwell’s 1984 Winston stays sane, initially, by writing secretly; and “sanity” involves finding forms of self-expression, despite the fear-inducing Thought Police. And yet, there is another face to “sanity.”
If sanity depends on the inability or unwillingness to understand, it is madness to have a realistic sense of what is actually going on. Acknowledging certain things that are going on around you might drive you mad, might destroy your hard-won “equilibrium.”
Who wants to be “sane” and “well-adjusted” when sanity means finding ways of not knowing about all the things that might drive you insane were you to know them ???
Hersilie Rouy used writing while incarcerated in the asylums in France in the late 1800s for nearly 15 years. It was like 540 pages long and called “Memoires dune alienee” (Memoirs of a Madwoman). When a doctor diagnosed her as suffering from the so-called mental illness of excessive intellectual pride, she responded, “Doctor, pride is the wealth of the poor, and a poor person has the right to refuse to act as the toy of the rich.”