I upgraded the domain for my insanity, which you will, from now on, enjoy here: http://www.theemptysubject.com
American Prospect, a liberal leaning magazine, is offering a two year writing fellowship to budding journalists. They are giving the winners of the fellowship 33,000 dollars a year, as well as a full package of benefits, including vision and dental insurance. Writers for American Prospect have gone on to write for The Atlantic and other pap and gruel, quaker oats left of center publications I couldn’t give less of a shit about. These magazines are staffed by yapping sardines in suits who write cotton candy articles spun of the finest vaguely liberal sentiments. Every edition comes cram packed with loosely wound reasoning and reporting passed through the sieve of pseudo objective language, with just a teeny touch of personal, moral concern, a little drapery of indignation atop the furniture of neutral observation. I want to write for them, because if there is one thing that is blindingly obvious about me, it’s the lack of fellowship in my life.
I don’t know what I’m talking about, ever. I hate doing actual research, checking sources, and keeping track of dates and numbers. I’d be an extremely irresponsible and venal journalist. Bold misrepresentation is my style, caricature and perverse satire are the brooks in which I babble. Every article of mine would be a hit piece, a sniper shot takedown of every dog in the fight, whether it’s over or under. Corporations destroying natural habitats to manufacture plastic dolls with obscene, alien proportions that give little girls eating disorders, politicians getting their rectums reamed with fistfulls of hundred dollar bills held by pharmaceutical giants, tobacco and soda magnates, government officials in collusion with mafias and gangs trafficking drugs and preteen sex slaves, getting coke line kickbacks and olive oil rubdowns from kidnapped cuban boys in steamy backrooms in celebration of another greasy deal.
But the vigorous, rude, ruddy imbecility of the common man would not be spared or justified either. I would unsympathetically, condescendingly cover the tumorous masses, the protuberant, swollen, cancerous social body lurching and heaving to the polyphonic hymns of demagogic delirium, following and describing its every twist and turn, even as it fractures along the multifarious fault lines of identity politics and niche marketing, and the hair splitting segmentation of aspirational lifestyles and branding images congeals every atomized individual together in a grimy collective soup of jerk off dreams. Every stereotypical player gets a nod and a feature, from the unseasoned, grub bodied man boy burrowing deep in the digital hole of role playing games and extreme anal porn, to the desperate, scorched earth womb of a woman crying out for life sustaining sperm while its owner ignores her true biological destiny to pen tawdry erotic chronicles from her impossibly priced, hauntingly lonely manhattan studio apartment. Not to mention the ham headed, outmoded working man griping about the gutting of the manufacturing sector by corrupt elites, unable to admit that his dull, rote conditioned ass never deserved 40 dollars an hour to fasten bolts 12 million times a day in the first place.
I don’t really stand on the left or the right. I don’t hate anyone, and I don’t feel much allegiance to anyone or anything, even myself. I can barely manage my own life, and feel unqualified to participate in public debate for or against any policy or position. I constantly regret my decisions, my actions and the things that I say, even, and maybe especially, when I am joking.This is why I write repulsive vignettes with no real direction or purpose. My writing is a gallery of grotesque portraits, a sordid slice of life, a shit stomping tour through the back alleys of an imaginative, thoroughly redundant soul. I labor in true obscurity, the most popular and provocative writer that no one reads. Causes, agendas, coalitions, movements, fund raisers, public policy, self help, other help, the people, the party, the earth, the one true god; they all make me queasy.
I’d better get started on my application for American Prospect. I need money and dental insurance.
Woke up too early, even for me. If it’s before 5 am, I feel like a mental patient. Trying to be more positive, and not let despair overtake me. The anxiety is quiet and creeping, a subcutaneous murmur of regrets, a pit of churning, rumbling fears and suspicions. Maybe I am making a huge mistake. Maybe every word I’ve ever spoken and written has been a waste, an offense, an affront to reason and good taste. Have I been a good friend, a good boyfriend, a good son, citizen, or employee? In this moment I can only say no, I have failed on all counts. Have I squandered my youth, my good looks, my intelligence? Did I let my faulty dick run my life into the ground? I’m now trapped in a pit with no money, no career, no identity, and a silicone device jammed into a spongy protuberance that I’ve always hated with searing, flesh melting intensity. The persistent soreness is stretching my threadbare patience. It still hurts. Before I couldn’t get aroused without the attendant psychological pain of an obstinately limp dick. Now I can’t get aroused without the attendant physical pain of stubbornly sore tissues. It’s rigid now, but feels like a fire ant Mardi Gras, a cheese grater deep tissue massage. Before I desperately struggled to stay erect, and now I desperately struggle to suppress the grinding ache of my mechanical member, gritting my teeth like Clint Eastwood battling an impacted bowel.
Best case scenario: I am still just healing, and my tissues are stretching out. The pain and soreness are signs that my penis is slowly adapting to the device, which was expertly oversized just slightly at the time of the surgery. And it will be comfortable, large, and unyielding. But what if it flat out wasn’t sized properly, or it hasn’t healed correctly? What if my body just isn’t taking it the way it should? I had this done by the best surgeon in the game, in my eyes at least. Nevertheless, everyone makes mistakes, even the best. Maybe I am one of those mistakes? Maybe a sterling reputation and impressive track record sometimes translates into being a little arrogant, a little careless, a little sloppy. The attitude of “this will work out because I simply don’t mess up”. If I need more surgery to correct anything, I can’t afford it. I couldn’t even afford the surgery I just had, and I’m in the process of setting up payment plans with the doctor and hospital to cover what my insurance wouldn’t. It’s going to end up being around 5000 dollars total, which to people who make money is doable, and to people who don’t, well, it’s going to take some time. If I have to go back under the knife, it’s another financial punch to the gut. And then there’s the added recovery time, the pain, the nightmare of immobility and helplessness. On top of which there is no surefire guarantee that everything would be fixed, that I will ever be totally comfortable and functional.
While visions of protracted penis pain swirl in my brain, my girlfriend is losing her mind, and taking mine with her. She has been on two kinds of anti depressants for most of her life, and has recently been unable to get one of her prescriptions refilled. The result is paranoia, extreme moodiness and sensitivity, bursts of mania, and a sleeping schedule that would put Rip van Winkle to shame. We’re both depressed. My depression manifests in insomnia and bad writing, hers in hibernating and crying. She has nightmares. What little sleep I’m getting is disrupted by her inchoate cries. I’m sent to the rickety card table in the dining room, where I’ll write uselessly to no one. My life in D.C. is a thicket of loneliness, a social deprivation chamber. My girlfriend is even worse off, as her job puts her in a closet cataloging objects all day, and she has made no attempt whatsoever to meet people. I am her sole source of real human contact. She has had a few friends from out of town visit, but if not for that she would be utterly isolated. I can’t hold two people up, I can hardly care for myself, and I can’t deal with my own problems while another person falls to pieces in our shitty apartment in the shittiest part of a shitty city.
I wanted to read Plato and talk about Justice, but I’m just too goddamn distracted and anxious. Maybe if I get some sleep soon.
Let us, on occasion, turn our eyes from the passing moment, the flashbang present of spectacles and controversies. I make myself sick gorging on media, on news and entertainment dressed up as political commentary and philosophical reflection, and must take time to purge myself of contemporary pathogens. The digital milieu in which we live brings many evils along with its many goods; it is a pharmakon in the sense Derrida developed from his reading of Plato’s Phaedrus. Through the window of the web, we can reach out and connect with the like minded, encounter healthy opposition, and research and write on any subject we like with untold resources at our disposal. In the course of our electronic lives, we will also be confronted with the worst of humanity, in thought, in speech, in picture and video. Now, watching a beheading is better than being beheaded, but if you weren’t going to be beheaded, the possibility of seeing someone brutally decapitated, and the internal struggle with morbid curiosity, would nevertheless disturbs and upsets your otherwise tranquil, sedentary, surfing soul.
Aside from the violent, traumatizing, dehumanizing images, we must also contend with the spiteful and ignorant words of our fellows. And we all have the capacity for spiteful, ignorant discourse. I do not hold myself above anyone in this regard. I am petty, willfully stupid, playfully hateful, mocking, crude, insensitive, and downright annoying and meretricious when I want to be. I don’t think my hatred runs very deep, and I never advocate violence or threaten anyone, even the most despicable ideological opponent, with bodily harm. But I will insult and caricature anyone, including myself, in a way that will come across to some as offensive and hurtful. Others will find it funny or insightful. I also stress that I am an artist that combats the pretensions of art, which makes me ultra pretentious, as well as culturally necessary. That’s right, I am delusional enough to believe that my words can be an ironic corrective to the excessive veneration heaped on the scribbling, leg shaking, horn tooting, brush stroking class. Even with my high minded explanation and defense of what I say, I am well aware of how my words may affect others, and ultimately hope that the pleasures outweigh the pains when the utilitarian numbers are crunched.
To make a right turn in this roundabout entry, I’d like to return to my original point, which is this: We can only take so much negativity and conflict in digital form, and we must find ways of cleansing and purifying ourselves. I take the stuffy, starchy route of reading and reflecting on enduring works, exiting the degraded realm of passing time and pondering the perennial. Long walks, meditation, vigorous exercise, and charity are also prescribed for the world weary soul. While engaging in all of this, I’d like to write a few entries on more substantive topics, questions and concerns a little farther removed from the contemporary cacophony. It will be a little experiment, and I’m sure I’ll be back to detailing idiocy and reporting on daily life in no time.
In the case against the modern artist as reckless perverter of public opinion, the prosecution presents Beyonce. Every slack jawed, dead eyed, stoop shouldered, limp wristed, man boobed, soy bleeding, race cuck white boy has already lisped his exasperated love for her latest video, presenting his ultra predictable reaction in poorly filmed and edited youtube videos. Articles have already been hastily scribbled, bravely declaring that Beyonce’s diluted, stupefying trap single, in which an actual artistic performance or display of singing or writing talent is nowhere to be found, represents and empowers the specifically black struggle with such uncompromising honesty and sincerity that white people shouldn’t commit the obvious offense of even attempting to enjoy it. Many of these articles are written by white people. Because it is in no way self refuting and tribalistic to say that because of who you are, and the color of your skin, something over which you have absolutely no control, you are thereby utterly excluded from appreciating, enjoying, and commenting on a work of art.
If you are white, and you say that Beyonce’s video is not for you or for any white person, you have nullified your own opinion, which is still an opinion about Beyonce’s video, which you have denied yourself the privilege of holding and expressing. The dizzying, circular, self sodomizing “reasoning” of the contemporary numb nut leftist bares itself in all of its incomprehensible glory, once again wasting no time in striking against itself first in a darwinian master stroke of grotesque altruistic instincts gone haywire. If, on the other hand, you are black, and you feel that this work pinched out by Beyonce is also not intended for an entire race of people, then you have fallen into the error of tribalism, and I will heartily condemn you. Being black and harboring resentment simply does not, by itself, grant you any moral or legal authority to determine how a work of art is received and used by private citizens of any color or creed.
In an open culture framed by universal principles, any and every product and opinion can be subject to criticism and praise by anyone for any reason. You are certainly free to enjoy art because, for you, it speaks to your blackness. And you are even free, obtuse as it may be, to attempt to shame other people for liking something that you think is only intended for people like you. Just know that everyone else is also free to reject your regressive bleating, and to shame you right back for your infantile behavior. No one should be cowed into silence and submission by an angry, aggrieved mob roused by opportunistic race baiters and professional panderers.
Furthermore, why is it always white people that are insulted and told not to tread upon ground not cleared for them? Can hispanic people enjoy Beyonce’s new song? What about Asians? Jews? Native Americans? Asians and Jews tend to be very successful in America, is that because there is a Jewish and Asian system of supremacy? Invisible strands of privilege swaddling their unearned advantages? It might have something to do with the fact that they work hard to obtain high paying, cerebral jobs, and don’t shoot each other, abuse drugs, and wantonly reproduce without stable family structures. I don’t know though. They still aren’t white, so we will hold off on hating them despite their successes.
Why is it that the fickle brained rabble is so entranced by figures like Beyonce, who supposedly speaks out against oppression, racism, and sexism from her position of extreme wealth and comfort? How does an artist of unequaled grandiosity, self absorption and aggrandizement, a loud mouthed, foul mouthed, ruthless, tepidly talented shameless huckster, become an icon of progressive politics? How does a video with tritely provocative images actually succeed in distracting attention from the actual content of the song, which is, characteristic for Beyonce and artists of her ilk, “I have nice things, I’m from a place, if you fuck me the way I like I’ll give you some things”? I’d venture a guess it has something to do with millennials confusing their narcissistic cravings with the advancement of the common good. In a fallen world the self rises to the old heights reserved for the gods.
I will repeat until the day my heart explodes and my brain hemorrhages, stop confusing entertainment with reality, stop looking to morally compromised and intellectually deficient artists for guidance.
Lest anyone suppose I identify as right wing or conservative, a Christian warrior ranged against the pagan onslaught of orgiastic infanticide, let me go on record as standing far apart from such groupings. Liberals and leftists are often pretentious, chattering, clattering vermin, but that doesn’t thereby redeem their traditional opposition. The opposition of a certain tradition, with its belief in the transcendent reality of a personal creator god, a bestower of values and truths that endure immutably in a realm of perfection, of which our reality is an ephemeral degradation. This belief system can be beautifully rendered, just check out the history of Western art and thought for proof. Nevertheless, it doesn’t work for me, and though I can even see the practical, social benefits of conservative, Christian beliefs, I feel the need for them as strongly as I feel the need for any kind of group identification, which is to say none.
If I were a philosopher, I’d engage in the time honored practice of esoteric writing. One of the layers of my text would be intended for barbaric, simple minded people capable of tremendous exertion with the right impetus and incentive. Christianity and its traditional values, as conservatives like to call it, would reconcile vulgar but vital people to a life of strenuous toil and minimal indulgence. Catholicism comes in first for me in this regard, as it stresses hierarchy, ritual and obedience on one hand, and then extends the release valve of transgression covered by confession with the other. Pressure and release beautifully balanced in a system of social conditioning and reproduction, what more could a good social engineer want? Protestantism asks too much of the average individual, it overworks the conscience and lays the groundwork for endless schisms. But then again, it instilled a wild, individualistic energy into people that dovetailed nicely in one historical moment with burgeoning capitalism, so everything has its season I suppose.
These lofty considerations do not sway me towards modern day christianity or conservatism. There is something about current conservative individuals that unsettles me. Why do I get the feeling that most avowed conservatives smell like funeral homes? I never get close to enough to smell them, but that’s the olfactory vibe I get from far off. Plus, they are in the annoying habit now of adopting the pose of victimhood, of persecuted wretch shivering and deprived at the margins of society. Well, that’s a real throwback for christians, it might just be where they are most comfortable, and it makes them a mirror image of their sworn enemy. It has been remarked numerous times that the progressives and leftists are mutated christians in sentiment emptied of belief in transcendent power and benevolence. No wonder then that the clash between left and right has become a mimetic circus, a frenzied arms race of nuclear grievances. Only the good grace of persecution enables the party to wield power with vindictive fury.
One of the great things about being an actual individual is that you have the spectator’s pleasure of watching groups of zealous people make fools of themselves, like a recumbent Epicurean god enjoying the view from nowhere.
Tried to have a nice night out in DC. Wound up in Chinatown at a Legal Seafood’s. It was a tacky choice, but sometimes you have to suck it up and enjoy a meal at the sea food equivalent of TGI Friday’s. The food was expensive for me, cheap for someone who makes money and is a discerning consumer of shellfish. And it was delicious. Buttery and rich, an assortment of aquatic life baked, fried, soaked in sauces. Crab stuffed baked potato opulently ordered to round out the gut busting evening. I was so full it hurt to breathe, my eyelids became anchors, heavy stone sinking to the ocean floor. Whenever I eat a lavish meal, I become a child again, and imagine that I am some version of an extremely powerful and wealthy person, a banker, an ambassador, a tycoon, a conquering general. Eating Ethiopian makes me think I’ve just raided a caravan in the desolate North African desert. Taking off my dusty, ragged shawl, I descend upon the spoils of another victorious campaign. I gorge myself on spiced, oiled meats as the dying merchants and their guards stain the sand with blood.
Anyway, it was a decent evening. My girlfriend and I took the metro back to the Anacostia metro station, where the car was parked. Traveling in DC, which is only about 15 square miles, is a logistical grind. You have to take buses to subways, park cars at subway stations and then take the subway to a place where you can get on another bus, transfer subway lines to get on more buses, every day of your life like you brush your teeth and tie your shoes. It’s a never ending additional insult to the injury of living in an hellacious, satanically designed, egregiously segregated, pencil pushing, glad handing, status obsessed, shit pot of a city. You use public transportation because you don’t have money or a car, or even if you have a car, trying to find a parking spot in the heart of DC is a quest for the holy grail, a fruitless endeavor, a sanity straining escapade of failure and frustration. Using public transportation puts you in league with the weary, the overworked and underpaid, the dregs, the quasi homeless and burnt out. God awful rap music explodes out of headphones, droning and drowning out the ambience of the humming bus, the psychotic monologue of the bathrobe clad hispanic woman clutching stuffed animals, countdown to total freak out piss spraying meltdown and you just desperately hope your stop comes up before it happens.
On the way back to our house, driving down good hope road(not at all ironically titled), a car pulled out right in front of us, perpendicular, and stalled there until we honked and my girlfriend lost her temper and started shouting at the jackass. Of course this is how it works. My girlfriend yells at a clueless jackass in a part of town where people shoot each other recreationally, where it’s 97 percent black, mostly impoverished, with racial tension constantly on the rise. Yes, white girl, yell at a black man in a car so your white boyfriend, the only one in a two mile radius, can get shot or beaten by a PCP powered gang of miscreants, sullen and vengeful, aching to take a shot at what, to them, seems to be the establishment, white power, even though I have no money, my ancestors never owned slaves, I didn’t participate in the red lining, lynching, Jim Crow, subprime lending, hollywood blacklisting, academy awards voting, your water fountain is over there by the outhouse, back of the bus system. I didn’t tell my daughter she couldn’t marry a black man, or get angry and petition the high school where my son lost his starting quarterback position to a colored boy, living in the early 1960’s in Virginia with my houndstooth hat and goddamn it my boy don’t ride the pine while that animal jukes and jives around the field.
But I’m still white so I’m a symbol of systemic, institutional racism. I have privilege in need of checking and I commit microaggressions. I don’t sycophantically agree with every inane thing a black a person says about politics and race. I don’t support Black Lives Matter and I think Ta-Nehisi Coates is a complete charlatan goon. I’m not a race and gender cuckold lapping up the aids infused ejaculate leaking out of the left’s encrusted asshole. So I deserve to be beaten with lead pipes and monkey wrenches, kicked with untied wolverine boots, left to die on the shit stained streets of southeast dc, my lifeless body the trophy of a troglodytic uprising.
The man who almost got us all killed had a few choice words for us, thoughtfully delivered at the red light we both pulled up to about a hundred yards down the road. And that was it. My ultimate fate was postponed for at least another day.
I could sit down with my mortal enemy and have an agreeable conversation. We could share a pleasant afternoon of coffee and pastries, walking in the park, exchanging anecdotes, memories, fears and desires. My enemy, a person with whom I disagree on every major political, philosophical, and cultural issue, would feel comfortable sharing their beliefs with me; it would not occur to them that I am an incarnation of everything they hate. Oblivious to the multitude of my moral defects, my cranky temperament, my impatience and impertinence, this imagined interlocutor would lose track of the time, lose track of themselves, having found a partner in conversation so decent, so humane, so reasonable, that the crudity of their average interaction would be thrown into sharp relief.
Whatever I say in an artistic medium, whether I am attacking or defending, mocking or praising, in person, face to face, I value decency and pleasurable exchange over ideological dispute. Even online, I only use a totally anonymous platform to make people feel bad and call their beliefs into question. Facebook and twitter are strictly forbidden, youtube channels and podcasts are off limits. At least for now. I am actually a gentle creature, and the graphic, violent intensity of my thoughts and feelings stand in blunt contrast with my consideration for the possible suffering of others. Existence is already painful and bewildering enough, and I’d rather not make it worse. In this way, I am a lot like that party animal Nietzsche. He lived ironically, defending and exonerating cruelty in his writings, practicing politeness and deference in his daily life.
The separation of art as entertainment and serious political thought is of paramount importance. A robust culture should maintain free space for experimentation and the production of offensive, conflicting works of art, without exerting an undue influence on political and legal structures, without overturning the fundamental habits of civil society. This is something of an ideal formulation, because culture and politics shape each other reciprocally. The artistic values of a society both spring from, as well as condition, formal and informal rules of conduct, traditions, the balance of forces between stasis and progress, and the deep reservoir of unconscious archetypes and mythical figures. I have no intention of attempting to disentangle all of the interwoven strands of art, culture, and politics. Humbly, modestly, I advise caution and critical distance towards statements and works that fall more comfortably within the realm of ecstatic entertainment than solid, sober philosophy and cultural reflection.
My friend has become a progressive cretin. We don’t talk much anymore, so I didn’t see it happen in real time, but recently it became undeniably clear. The Facebook posts and our conversations of the past few months all point to this friend’s enthusiastic conversion to pious, self loathing, worming, squirming, neutered, mutant feminist, white man virtue signaling, posturing progressivism. Earnest support of Bernie Sanders as the spearhead of a revolution. Hemming, hedging, qualifying, prefacing his statements with pseudo sensitive apologies for the unchangeable facts of his existence, his status as a working class white man. Dull witted, ventriloquist repetition of insipid terminology and rhetoric. An operantly conditioned pigeon squawking and shitting in harmony with the ever expanding mass of psychologically self castrated degenerates and their strained, hyper contrived grievances.
We will call him David. This is the story of an intelligence gone sour, turned against itself, curdled by the hothouse atmosphere of maximum outrage and hurt feelings. David used to have actual opinions of his own. Maybe he wasn’t always informed, maybe he was insensitive at times, maybe he was flat out wrong. But he was himself. He had character, personality, he was funny and genuine, a person you wanted to listen to even if you disagreed with him. That person was lobotomized, emptied out, and the space left over was filled with a contemptible prostrating courtier, a greasy flatterer in the progressive palace, where the meek and weak obsess over and stew in their embittered hatred of hierarchy and natural right. I know that deep down he isn’t as botched and wretched as the kind of person he now feels the need to supplicate, but that’s the tragedy of it. He is denying himself, he is sinking in the swamp of belching toads, siding with the perpetually disadvantaged, casting his lot with the outcasts.
In behaving this way, he is a dutiful Christian. I’m sure he is still a nominal atheist, espousing skeptical inquiry and self examination. Despite this, his new political morality resonates with the grand old Christian glorification of failure and destitution, the preference for cripples, drug addicts and prostitutes over hard working, fortunate and successful stock. No complaint is too great for God, no human abomination unworthy of the love and defense of our otherworldly savior. Such love for the idea of something more, a pale, glimmering beyond, such hatred for the world as it actually exists, for how people tend to turn out, unfairly and inexorably. I don’t trust a person who returns time and again to inequality, who ruminates and habitually sees only what is unjust and corrupt. Obsession with people who have more, even if they didn’t earn it, and with people who have less, even if they deserve more, is psychologically unhealthy.
I would be beyond relieved if I could live a single day without encountering someone who only thinks, whose gears only start grinding, when they detect a racial, gender, or class injustice. People don’t have independent thoughts, they don’t even consider themselves to be individuals. They have transformed themselves into cardboard, stage props for hateful, Marxist screenwriters. Useful idiots, as they used to be called.
I don’t trust poets. Therefore, I don’t trust myself. They are fundamentally dishonest people. We grant far too much authority to artists, we mistake their technical skills for practical wisdom. I speak out against myself as a source of wisdom, because I possess none, and no matter how smoothly and adroitly I express myself, nothing that I say is rooted in revelation or special insight. These are just words. Philosophers are rare, maybe even nonexistent. Less rare, but nevertheless uncommon, are the poets, writers, journalists, the class of linguistic artisans. And one rung lower you have the common man, with his undue deference to the particular class of scribes that best represents his feelings and beliefs.
Force of feeling is not truth. Minority status is not truth. Wealth is not truth. It seems the closest we get to the truth is the episodic awareness of our limitations, the perpetual darkness in which we dwell. We are so far removed from the truth that we need fictional devices to adumbrate it. Metaphors, narratives, myths; whether crudely fashioned or finely tuned, all revolving and mutating around an immovable, inexplicable core. Is death transcendence, the attainment of ultimate reality, or the last of all our desperately cobbled hopes?