A certain amount of despair is, well, healthy. But that fine line between using it as a motivator and that other type of the neutering kind, or the type of despair that pushes one over the edge into depression, it’s a matter of degree. And perspective.
Denial certainly staves off despair. The huge swath of Americans who are either MAGA crazed or believers in the democratic party line of war, neoliberalism, austerity, and the facilitators of the dog eat dog mentality that is capitalism under any level of American self-declared red-white-and-blue. Bloomberg or Gates, or Bezos or Buffett, they all are the power brokers of despair.
Their riches and their self-importance and their overlord power, all of it, the cause of so much despair in thinking and feeling people.
For me, a few weeks away from Dissident Voice and these polemics is more of a symptom of business that is the new normal for Americans, young and old. I turned 63, and here I am, with three jobs, and a fourth avocation attempting to hawk my books in a climate of controlled opposition mega-obscene celebrity publishing.
All bets are off since all books readings have been canceled in Washington and Oregon, thanks to CV-19.
But it begs the question . . .
No one buys books of fiction anymore, and few read novels and short story collections, two of my forms of creative expression. My writing is not happy-go-lucky, and the concept of narrative and the great American novel/short story form I have little tolerance for.
I’ve done the college degrees – Journalism, English, Rhetoric, Writing – and have had my time with smug MFA types and worse, belittling professors of writing, AKA Literary Little Eichmann’s.
The despair I have within the context of my own struggle and creative avocations, conjoined with my disregard for this society, or the Western culture of rapacious theft and degradation of other peoples, other cultures, other lands can set forth a type of nihilism or cynicism that proves unworthy of my own desire to continue chopping at the windmills in a ritual of helping as many people as I can.
It is struggle, talking to commercial novelists, or those that have tenure outposts at colleges who are a safe bet, or who wrangle their words from a highly structured environment of strictures that kill any outlier or outrageous way for writing.
There are not just rules for their form of creative fiction, but rules of the game.
The oddity of the US Forest Service having a little outpost near Yachats, Oregon, called Devil’s Churn is remarkably absurd. Think about it – the number of things in western societies named “devil this, devil that” in a land ripped from the true caretakers of these places is both pathetic and demeaning.
All original names from first nations people’s have been ham-fisted into suffering Anglo Saxon or Germanic or Greek oddities. Spanish, too.
I take the path almost daily to this little cataract of waves surging in and out and pounding the volcanic rocks of this cool place along the Oregon Coast. I leap around slick rocks, look for a sign of any sea star clinging to the rocks, even though I know seastar wasting disease has decimated most of the species of sea stars in Oregon waters.
Along a rocky portion of the geographic stop I see a placard, put out by the Forest Service, in some sort of historical remembrance of the native people’s who used this part of the world for centuries as clamming sites, and well holy places.
It’s been scratched to death, this plaque, with most of the wording obscured by gouges in the Plexiglas. Amazing, this plaque is off the beaten path, under salal and pine boughs. I feel that despair – how the white tourists, the miscreant species, probably with their collective balled up hate for the Indians, just decided to say to the world that the history of these indigenous people are meaningless.
So they scratch off a culture, at least in their square small minds.
Probably dangerous to the illiterate masses this wasteful country keeps churning out yearly in our PK12 “schools” and those bastions of “higher” education called colleges and universities. Knowledge and history are the bane of Americans’ thinking, whether it’s the current accused pedophile in high office who daily bombards us with lies, or masses more that have the power positions: business heads, politicians, the financial class, CEOs, the rich and famous.
In this time of hysteria, bad planning, no health care safety nets, no leadership, no human governance, we are all stuck in the place of plague!
Thatcher is more relevant now than every. Her words are tattooed on the asses of Fortune 1000 sociopahts and on Trump LLC’s neck, on Pelosi’s and Schumer’s and Dianne Feinstein’s dirty rotten backs.
Margaret Thatcher said it plainly, remember? The clipped syllables yet issue from that throat of near-mechanical inelasticity:
“ … there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”
Therein lies the dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, the fired Apprentice shit Americans consume and bow to.
So simultaneously looking at this amazing place of crashing Pacific (Devil’s Churn or Devil’s Punchbowl) waves and realizing how my fellow citizen and I are world’s apart lends a certain despair in my bones.
THE DIFFERENCE between despair
And fear, is like the one
Between the instant of a wreck,
And when the wreck has been.
The mind is smooth,—no motion— 5
Contented as the eye
Upon the forehead of a Bust,
That knows it cannot see.
–Emily Dickinson (1830–86), Complete Poems, 1924, Part Five: The Single Hound
Worldviews, Not Enough Local Views
This is meandering and it should be. I have gone many miles inside my brain since I started writing this. Man, the world has topsy-turved, but it was expected. My next piece is on bats — all those bats I lived with in caves in western Vietnam working with teams of researchers on biodiversity studies. Bats, man, some 1,300 species, and then, the corona!
I can leap around back to the bailouts for airlines, for a putz like Richard Branson, for so so many millionaires and billionaires. My daughter in Spokane, however, is out of work. The aesthetician school she was about to attend is on hold. Her photography is on hold since she does cool shots of businesses and people. Her significant other just opened up a New York style pizza place, and that too is closed down. Things will close more and more.
The closing of the American mind slammed shut decades ago. My new book — short stories, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam — has my preface in it discussing the “no more Vietnam War mistakes” syndrome. That is the neocon syndrome, the neoliberal syndrome, of making sure to go into someone else’s land and bomb them back to the stone age, both literally and with financial nukes.
Vietnam was all about the ramped up bioweapons (that started back thousands of years ago, but for USA, well, read on, and weap: A Short History of Bio-Chemical Weapons.
Damn, this well-done Counterpunch article doesn’t even have listed the Swine Flu USA/taxpayers/CIA unleashed upon Fidel’s Cuba — San Francisco Chronicle first reported this, and alas, it’s not even discussed in a time of bat corona, AKA SARS. That was 1971.
With at least the tacit backing of U. S. Central Intelligence Agency officials, operatives linked to anti-Castro terrorists introduced African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971.
Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.
A U. S. intelligence source told Newsday last week he was given the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at a U. S. Army base and CIA training ground in Panama with instructions to turn it over to the anti-Castro group.
Why oh why have the chickens come home to roost?
“…it was the evil of slavery that caused the downfall and destruction of ancient Egypt and Babylon, and of ancient Greece, as well as ancient Rome,” Malcolm told his audience. In similar fashion, colonialism contributed to “the collapse of the white nations in present-day Europe as world powers.” The exploitation of African Americans will, in turn, “bring white America to her hour of judgment, to her downfall as a respected nation.”
Malcolm’s core argument was that America, like the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, was in moral decline. The greatest example of its moral bankruptcy, Malcolm argued, was its hypocrisy.
“White America pretends to ask herself, ‘What do these Negroes want?’ White America knows that four hundred years of cruel bondage has made these twenty-two million ex-slaves too (mentally) blind to see what they really want.”
All those Wall Street, Military Industrial Complex, Economic Hits, CIA-launched Businesses, Structural Adjustment, Bioweapon-producing, Fat Boy and Little Boy Nuke hugging leaders of the free world need these pandemics, these September 11, 2001’s, all of it, to keep the engines of money and surveillance capitalism going.
And it all comes down to my friend Joe from California. It’s a long letter to me, but so many layers of truth and emblematic connections to the DV readers’ everyday lives and struggles in so many ways. The layers of how messed up USA under capitalism are deftly stratified here.
My oldest brother was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a nurse binding my mother’s legs together because the doctor was still at the golf course and not present for the delivery. As a result of that stupidity, my oldest brother, who was already engaged in the birth canal, starved for air. It fucked him up pretty good.
My father never really handled my oldest brother very well. I think he felt my brother’s handicap was somehow a reflection on him. People and society back then had some pretty weird ideas about what being a man was. Coming off the war, a man was supposed to be tough, and having a child like my brother I don’t think fit in real well to my fathers image of himself.
Growing up in that household was one Hell of a life experience never knowing what was going to set things into pandemonium. The best and worst thing or maybe the worst and best thing that ever happened to my brother was that some medical quack recommended my brother have shock therapy, which turned out to be like pouring gas on a raging fire. The best thing that ever happened to him was that he was institutionalized and assigned a councilor that did more to help my brother than probably anything else in his life. This man was truly a Godsend for my brother. And then came Ronald Reagan. I’ve often pondered who was crazier Ronald Reagan who closed the mental health hospital where my brother was being treated, or my brother. Fortunately the councilor that was helping my brother, before getting the ax, got my brother on aide to the totally dependent.
ATD and with the help of the family, my brother was able to live independently in his own small apartment in Merced. He was crazy as a shithouse rat, but he wasn’t stupid. In some ways I think my oldest brother was the smartest of the bunch. When Nixon went off the gold standard because Charles de Gaulle demanded gold as exchange rather than paper dollars, my brother would take cash from his check and exchange it for rolls of coins. He would take the silver coins out and replace them with the copper coins and do it over and over until he ran out of money and had to wait for his next check.
He did this until he had about fifteen hundred dollars in face value of silver coins. When the Bass brothers in Texas decided they were going to skin a fat hog and try to capture the silver market, my brother got my mother to come in and take him to get the silver coins he had amassed exchanged for dollars. He made a sizable wad of cash out of the deal, and, fortunately, my Mother who didn’t know my brother had been doing this, took possession of his wad and doled it out to him to help with his food, clothing and rent; otherwise, he would have just pissed it away.
I would take vegetables to him after Market on Saturdays; he would never let me inside his apartment which I’m sure was a fucking mess. What finally ended up happening to him was he contracted a disease called Guillain Barre Syndrome. It’s the most horrible fucking disease you can imagine. It started as numbness in his feet and slowly moved up his bod,y until he was completely paralyzed. The only way anyone could communicate with him was to formulate questions in a yes or no sequence and have him blink once for yes and twice for no. He was sent from hospital facility to hospital facility like yesterdays trash with every move ending him up further away from his family.
Somehow I got designated as the contact person for his affairs. I was contacted one morning at about 3:00 AM by a hospital down by the San Fernando Valley that my brother was having a series of mild heart attacks and wanted to know if they should continue treating him or just let him go? During the telephone call, he had a massive heart attack and died. His death certificate listed his cause of death as a heart attack. I later found out that in fact it was a heart attack, but it was caused by gas gangrene because of bedsores because the facility he was in didn’t have a bed that moved his muscles like the previous facility had and no one was checking him for bedsores.
I, along, with my sister got the job of cleaning my brother’s apartment out before his death. It was the most unbelievable mess you could ever imagine. No animal would ever live that way. It made a hog wallow look sanitary. I would suspect it had a lot to do with his chronic health problems regarding his breathing and maybe even helped bring on his Gullain Barre disease. The filth he lived in was a danger to himself and others in the building he rented.
I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this, Paul, other than as I read this essay on homelessness [ A Crash Course on How to Handle Homelessness ] all this started coming back to me about my brother. This fellow that wrote this piece brought up a lot of things my own family experienced with my brother; he also left a lot out. Dealing with mental illness is a tough row to hoe. As a social worker, I’m sure you well know that. But what little help there was for my brother was always under assault, and if it wasn’t for my parents, my siblings and myself it would have gone a lot harder on my brother.
Maybe that’s why I get so incensed by a cocksucker like Jamie Dimon who never worked a fucking day in his life and who gets all butt hurt when someone questions his success. His wealth came at the expense of my brother that couldn’t help himself due to circumstances beyond his control by a cocksucker doctor and his Nurse Ratched who totally fucked him up because of the same arrogance Dimon displays. And I do hope the Devil has his arrow- tipped tail up Ronald Reagan’s ass in an eternal effort to never let Reagan forget the Hell he brought on to a lot of those unable to defend themselves.