Because, at this time of the year, we take pleasure in being frightened, let's shuffle through the US Empire's House of Horrors. On our tour, we cringe before: Brain-eating zombies of exponential destruction; soul-sucking vampires of eternal self-justification; right-wing, talk show demons whose wrathful voices rage into empty air; road-rage werewolves; hungry ghosts shuffling the aisles of supermarkets, convenience stores, corporate restaurant franchises and the food courts of shopping malls; and, running on a continuous video loop, The Fat, Mindless Blob That Ate the Planet.
The US mass media is rife with imagery of vampires, werewolves, zombies and other symbols of suppressed rage, insatiable craving and submerged terror. These narratives, resonate with the warnings implicit in nightmares, reveal the culture's tormented soul. By foisting imagery so arresting that it cannot be ignored, nightmares break through the ego's wall of denial; their disturbing imagery can be read as a wakeup call from the psyche that augurs warning and insists upon change.
On a cultural level, a profusion of nightmare imagery warns: paradigm shift or perish. Accordingly, the hack-scripted B-movie of the current political system could be titled: Duopoly Of The Dead: The Democratic/Republican Zombie Apocalypse. By their almost exclusive devotion to maintaining the status quo, these hulking, putrefying parties of the undead shamble through public life ... risen from the mouldering grave to tear the flesh from the present and eat the brains of the living. Neither party questions the zombie values of empire. Hence, in a soul-defying attempt to reanimate, by imperial might, the decomposing corpse of US power and influence, both parties are culpable for the senseless deaths of multitudes worldwide.
This zombie empire and its planet-decimating, neo-liberal death cult are marching toward the boneyard of history. What an empire contributes to the world is equivalent to the carnage an army of zombies inflicts upon the scenery of B-movies. Zombies (neither living nor dead creatures that create exponentially larger numbers of themselves) are an apt metaphor for the entropy inherent to closed systems -- the exponentially destructive force of The Second Law of Thermodynamics.
That is why I'm not a member of either party extant in our current duopoly: I'm betting on the emergence of the Entropy Party. It is the only party with a plausible platform; the only party that will keep its promises.
The US Empire is dead meat. We should lose the imagery of a noble and lofty bald eagle: rotting road kill should be proclaimed our official national animal.
When I hear people respond to a request or brush off a small affront with the popular rejoinder, "no worries, " I think, you have no worries, how is that even possible? Are they now selling nitrous oxide balloons at Starbucks?
Empire inflicts a warped and hyper-attenuated state of being upon its citizens: all the distortions of national character present in privileged grotesques and ordinary monsters.
The metaphor of monsters can be appropriated to illustrate selfish drives and unexamined impulses. Withal, a common trait of monsters is to take and destroy while giving back nothing in return.
Accordingly, what do the big monsters of the corporate and political elite take from us -- the little monsters? To name one: our time, the precious hours of our finite lives. Corporatists are Time Vampires: For a moment, reflect on the time lost — languishing in office cubicles, in commuter traffic -- or simply numbed-out and exhausted from the incessant, soul-sucking stress of the corporate state. The corporate state not only devours our time, but demands, as is the case with the charges of a vampire, one grow dependent and slavish in return. Afflicted by this bloodless state, one begins to lose the vitality gained from participation in the abiding resonances of human life.
Life in the US is becoming creepier and creepier. From the cuisine, mummified in preservatives, served to insatiable shades at an off-the-interstate Cracker Barrel Restaurant to the cracked-brain casuistry marshaled to preserve the mummified empire itself, Milton, Dante, and other chthonic travel writers who chronicled the empty rage, endless craving, and other deprivations of the human spirit evinced by the damned of the underworld might recognize the psychic terrain of the present hellscape. This stanza from Milton rises to mind:
"Farewell, happy fields, Where joy forever dwells! Hail horrors! hail, Infernal World! and thou, profoundest Hell, Receive thy new possessor! One who brings A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven"--John Milton, Paradise Lost - Book I
The damned, as imagined by Dante, are creatures of grotesquely narrowed perception who are locked into endless feedback loops of obsessive, self-imprisoning thoughts and actions that the poet metaphorically limned as the circles of hell.
"In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.-- Ivan Illich
In contrast, we, the living, are beckoned to exist in a world of dappled light, and myriad shades of color, of a million gradations and combinations of sight and sound ... It is complex, nuanced, multi-faced, haunted by many gods ... It is anything but monomaniacal and one-sided. That is why the reductionist, materialistic obsessions of the corporate/consumer state drive its adherents flapping bat-wing crazy (like Dante's description of Satan, in the inner most, frozen circle of the Inferno).
The neoliberal corporate paradigm is based on the fallacy of exponential growth. In cybernetic theory, this is akin to "systemic runaway" i.e., analogous to a runaway steam locomotive, careening, at an exponentially faster rate of speed down the tracks because its governor function is stuck. Empire is a monster of systemic runaway; its collective mind doesn't contain an operable governor's function (that also could be termed the stuck-on-stupid override switch).
In a similar manner, a vampire is seized by a singular hunger for blood and a zombie for living flesh, our context-narrowed, consumer consciousness allows too many of the US populace to deny, diminish, or remain toxically innocent of the whole of contemporary scientific evidence regarding the gargantuan rampage of environmental destruction we have inflicted on our planet. This monster-sized denial allows us to collectively knock aside the verities of exponential mathematics, chaos, cybernetic and systems theory, and oceanographic and meteorological science like Godzilla knocks over the architecture of downtown Tokyo.
Ruthlessness, exploitation and insatiable craving define the corporate/consumer vampire’s mode of being: When we dream of only money to purchase disposable things, the collective mind of the corporate state dreams we are disposable as well. Ernest Becker counseled: “Once you base your whole life striving on a desperate lie, and try to implement that lie, you instrument your own undoing.”
Conquest and murder abroad, anomie at home: This is the way empires bring themselves down. Sadly, anyone and anything it meets on its way down stands a good chance of coming down with it.
A monstrous emptiness gnaws at the core of the US empire; this emptiness is the progenitor of its destructive nature. Its rapacious, insatiable appetite devours all in its path: coastal wetlands, Arctic glaciers, the lives of the people of occupied lands, the hours of an individual's life, as well as one's hopes and longings.
“The destruction of the world is the last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it."--Eric Fromme
Although tacitly, the monster confronts us with this imperative: the hour has come round where we must face the abyss. In doings so, one will see one's image framed in the void. Inevitably, empires will stand at the edge of the abyss, yet its leaders and ordinary citizens alike refuse to gaze into the howling darkness.
Mark Twain had this to say on the subject:
"Man cannot tell the whole truth about himself, even if convinced that what he wrote would never be seen by others. I have personally satisfied myself of that and have got others to test it also. You cannot lay bare your private soul and look at it. You are too much ashamed of yourself. It is too disgusting."
It has long been apparent: Those benefiting from the present system have become so ruthlessly driven that they have become bereft of the ability to reflect on their own actions. Apropos, we've witnessed the rise of the telegenic undead known as the corporate media. Do not look to these aggregations of preening narcissists to report the truth of our condition: After all, a mirror cannot reflect the image of a vampire. A vampire is empty to the core; therefore, there is nothing to reflect. Regarding this contemporary class of vampiric careerists who haunt the electronic mass media, there is no one there beneath the coiffure of immaculate hair.
In an era as fraught with peril as ours, it is imperative we act with mindful urgency. Yet, we, to our detriment, have been conditioned to ignore the up-welling of our inner visions and instead allow ourselves to be drawn by mass media nixies into a holographic sea of electronic imagery ... We stare at our glowing appliances while exquisite things are extinguished, forever ... mistaking configurations of pixels for the breath and brilliance of the world.
Instead, we might scan the waters of the abyss for the gliding form of a black swan.
"True sanity entails, in one way or another, the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality: [...] and through the death a rebirth, [...] the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer."– R. D. Laing
(excerpt from The Politics of Experience)
How does one begin to reclaim one's soul from the usurpers of one's true self? Start with this: Embrace an exuberant fatalism in regard to the dark side of human nature -- the very essence of the forgotten symbolism of Halloween.
Of course, this world can never be made perfect ... How dull would that be? No errors committed to tease wisdom out of obdurate will. But change only comes through renunciation of the old order, and a commitment to walking into the yawning breach of the unknown. The mapmakers of antiquity stated the principle with the concision of poetry when they scribed on the edges of their maps indicating the demarcation point of the known world: "Beyond this place there be dragons."
To transform the situation: drag the deceptions that allow one to rationalize one's place in this house of horrors into the sunlight where they will burn to ash. Only by apprehending the monster within does an individual stand the chance of holding on to his humanity. A confrontation with the monstrous compels one to face mortality and human limits. This is why Gothic, even B-movie, metaphors are not an overwrought description of our present condition.
As a late friend of mine use to quip when folks were waxing grim, "It is always darkest, right before it goes completely black."
And as Henry Miller counseled: "There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy."
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Phil's website http://philrockstroh.com/ And at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000711907499
Mr. Rockstroh's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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