Warning! Today's post is reactionary and illogical. It is fear-based, and will prompt some of my readers to wonder how I can often be rational in my behavior and yet still feed this lurking fear that has been running around in my head for the last week...
Shrieking, slithering, torrential shadows of red viscous madness chasing one another through endless, ensanguinated condors of purple fulgurous sky... formless phantasms and kalaidoscopic mutations of a ghoulish, remembered scene; forests of monstrous over-nourished oaks with serpent roots twisting and sucking unnamable juices from an earth verminous with millions of cannibal devils; mound-like tentacles groping from underground nuclei of polypous perversion... insane lightning over malignant ivied walls and demon arcades choked with fungous vegetation...
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Lurking Fear
[The Bad Beginning: "If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle." --Lemony Snicket]
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” --George Orwell: It's my warning again. My post today is only about questions, not answers. It is not a happy post. It is a self-indulgent "letting" of the bad humours that have been festering in me for seven days now. I have been reading the news this last week the way I usually check Facebook or the weather app on my phone. I keep button mashing on my custom feed of the NYT and WSJ. [I cannot stomach looking at Fox despite knowing it is the most watched single news source out there. I prefer NPR, even though I know those who voted for Trump did not use that as their primary source at all.] I avoid the Washington Post and CNN as much as possible, worried that they are only feeding me what our President has called fake news and alternative facts. But I am reading news like I watched TV after 9/11. How's that for reactionary for you?...
I question everything
And I'm the first to admit
If you catch me in a mood like this
I can be tiring"
--Sometimes by Depeche Mode
A context of literacy: I have a liberal arts education. That means in some part I have been exposed to (and was expected to read) lots of different kinds of literature with the hopes and intention of expanding my perspectives. I confess I struggled with Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native and never finished it, nor did I ever even try the great American novel Moby Dick after hating Billy Budd. I may have used Spark's Notes on most of my Shakespeare, although I loved his work each and every time I struggled through it. But freshman year was different. I devoured everything we were assigned...
"For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.” --George Orwell
A musical setting of the mood: In 1986 Depeche Mode released Black Celebration. It was the soundtrack for my summer reading that focused on dystopian literature. I read 1984, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, and more... all while I consumed glorious volumes of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages and quart cartons of Whoppers malt balls. It was a confusingly wonderfully melancholic summer to say the least. I was exploring my own freedoms, regularly walking to a nearby shopping plaza called the Rotunda to buy my snacks, smoke cigarettes, and think about a world larger than my own back yard. And I read...
Depeche Mode's album provided an unintentional backdrop of darkness different from the loud driving sounds of my usual punk/hardcore fare at that point. Depeche Mode was softer, and allowed me to tune it out while I read. It was also the time I watched Ridley Scott's Blade Runner which coincided with my adolescent worries that the whole world was out of control and headed for a cyberpunk era of government controls and hacker rebellion...
It was a time that my father and I often argued about my distain for "the man" and belief in conspiracy contrasted by his rational positively focused perspectives about the world around us. I was trying on my own way of thinking and probably needed to press back against his confidence and clear thought. It's a psychological thing...
And so I was in a self-inflicted adolescent macabre (can I use an adjective as a noun?... well, I just did!) Here are a few lyrics from the first two tracks of Depeche Mode's work to help establish the scene of my reading of Orwell's and Bradbury's work back in the mid 80's:
Let's have a black celebration
To celebrate the fact
That we've seen the back
Of another black day
Death is everywhere
There are lambs for the slaughter
Waiting to die
And I can sense
The hours slipping by
"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.": So Orwell's 1984 made it back to the bestseller list this past week. I can hear the cries of my more rational and conservative friends asking me what I mean by all this; I can hear the arguments getting built in their heads, and I confess I am making them myself as I look closely at this fear that is lurking in the back on my brain, running around like a maniacal monkey who wants to angrily throw his shit at my reason and logic. I do not have a good answer. I worry that my adolescence is showing and that the news world is merely feeding my worries in their conspiracy to topple their new whipping boy.... But of course I do not completely believe that. There is just too much division and tension for me to believe it is merely that. I see a flurry of executive orders that seem to divide and separate. My friend and colleague teaches a simple enduring understanding: "What you can separate you can violate." I know I am probably wrong in letting my fear lurk. I know I have faith in the law, and the glorious balance of power we have set up in America. I know that despite Orwell's line, “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship,” we are not in a revolution, nor is our President a dictator. But I also know that the only way to make sure things work out well is to watch, be mindful, and continue to think for myself...
Next week... Something more focused and lighter. I promise!