Category Archives: Arts and/or Entertainment

Showtime in America: Idiots’ Delight

 The making of a journalist: no ideas and the ability to express them.

— Karl Kraus, Half-Truths & One-and-a-Half Truths

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress.  But I repeat myself.

— Mark Twain

All cats die. Socrates is dead. Socrates is a cat.

— Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros

If believability is your gauge for discerning truth, you are living in a fantasy world.  But that is the reality of life in the United States today. This is the land of make-believe in which actors and audiences are engaged in a vast folie à deux full of sound and fury signifying a nothingness that passes for intelligence.  Assertions made convincingly enough are the new facts for a population hypnotized by a stage-managed reality show.

The recently closed Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford Show that mercifully had a short run at the National Comedic Congressional Theater is the latest case in point.  The believeability of the actors was said to be the key issue.  In other words, who seemed to be telling the truth.  Demeanor was determinative.  Facial expressions evidence.  The mass media, those paragons of truth-telling, entertained their audiences for a few weeks by marching out their puerile pundits to tell audiences who of the two primary actors was more believable, while the politicians, not willing to allow their media accomplices to outdo them in truthfulness, donned their masks and performed their usual public service of moral outrage and did the same in their unbiased ways.

There was no child to yell and tell the world that all the king’s sycophants, like the king, were naked – naked liars whose jobs depended on disinformation and deceptions meant to amuse an entertainment-besotted and bored public hungry for a bit of truth in a society drowning in agitprop and propaganda.  A public watching the wrong show.

The words the real Frank Serpico, the honest and brave cop, not the actor, Al Pacino, who played him in the movie Serpico, come to my mind.  He told me that when he was lying in a pool of his own blood on the night of February 3, 1971, having been shot in the face in a set-up carried out by fellow cops, he heard a voice that said, “It’s all a lie.”

“It’s all a lie.”

Those words sum up the spectacle that is American society today.  And while lies are nothing new – didn’t Aletheia, the Greek goddess of truth, flee into the wilderness just last week and say to a wandering searcher, “Among the people of old, lies were found among only a few, but now they have spread throughout all of human society”? – we are living in a time of unprecedented technological media mind manipulation difficult to penetrate.  Harold Pinter called it “a tapestry of lies” in which facts don’t matter.  What happened never happened; what never happened happened.  It’s all about believeability in the national media’s hypnotic show, whose purpose Russell Baker described 25 years ago as being to “provide a manageably small cast for a national sitcom, or soap opera, or docudrama, making it easy for media people to persuade themselves they are covering the news while mostly just entertaining us.”

I know something about believeability.  When I was a young teenager I appeared on a famous game show called “To Tell the Truth.”  Of course, I lied, since lying was the name of the game then, as now.  I was not who I said I was.  When I walked out in front of millions of television viewers and the celebrities who would question my veracity, I knew (although I was an impostor and not the real Robert McGee – son of a U.S. Senator, by the way) how to put on a face to fool the faces that would scrutinize my smallest expressions for any sign of feigning.  Although these celebrities knew the game well, I beat them at the believeability game, I am sorry to say.  My demeanor or mien (facial expression) was in sync with my words, an ability to act that I didn’t know I had.  I was an all-American boy – a student at an elite Jesuit boys’ prep school, the captain of the basketball team, my father (Edward) a lawyer – learning the national pastime of seemingly being “perfectly honest” as I lied.  And it worked, and the $250 that I won – I almost said earned – set me on a path that led to a fork in the road that I took.  When I picked this fork up, it hissed and tried to bite me with its poisonous forked tongue. So I quickly threw it down.  It was then I realized that my thirty pieces of silver ($250) were a betrayal that would haunt me forever if I didn’t try to become a genuine actor.

Soon I would come to realize that my Jesuit schooling was preparing me to be “a man for all seasons.” It had nothing to do with beer and girls. It was all about becoming a member of the ruling class.  In other words, a man with a forked tongue who could speak out of both sides of his mouth to suit the occasion.  Learning this skill would lead me to the social heights where I could smoothly move among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, elites and regular people, defense attorneys and prosecutors, actors and audiences, alleged victims and alleged victimizers, etc.  Nothing would be foreign to me, except myself, for I could become a perfect hypocrite, a double-man, my own doppelganger without a shadow.

I could become another judge-penitent like Albert Camus’ Jean-Baptiste Clement in his novel, The Fall, and take up a double profession, become double-faced and rich in the process.  Perhaps I could join the CIA and “sincerely” follow its motto: “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

I could become a professor with nothing to profess but my innocence.  I could become a psychologist and specialize in lie detector tests.  I could learn how to lie while sincerely telling the truth while hooked up to one.  I could be confused and act confused and not know the difference

I could denounce torture while justifying it.  I could pretend impartiality while being partial.  I could claim independence while playing the puppet. I could remember to forget and forget to remember and remember that I forgot the details of what I remembered.

And no matter how I acted or what I did I could always remain a “nice guy.”

I could even say with Clement that I am 100 % innocent, my case is exceptional, as I played the parts of victim and victimizer; could say:

As I told you, it’s a matter of dodging judgment.  Since it is hard to dodge it, tricky to get one’s nature simultaneously admired and excused, they [we] all strive to be rich.  Why?  Did you ever ask yourself?  For power, of course.  But especially because wealth shields from immediate judgment, takes you out of the subway crowd to enclose you in a chromium-platted automobile, isolates you in huge protected lawns, Pullmans, first-class cabins.  Wealth, cher ami, is not quite acquittal, but reprieve, and that’s always worth taking.

I could become such a celebrated actor that I could make you believe my believeability when I put on a tearful face or a devastated face or a confused face or an angry face. I could confess my vulnerability and make you my ally, and I could plead with you in a halting way to sympathize with how I was victimized so long ago or yesterday.  But even if you didn’t believe me, I could feel justified in knowing that I was playing my part in Show Time in America, keeping you amused, and doing my part to advance the interests of those who accepted me for the role.  And I could always deny that I had been selected, and could always maintain I entered center stage of my own volition because I wished to fulfill my civic duty to see justice done.

But I promise, like Clement, I would never reveal who stole the painting of “The Just Judges” that I keep hidden in my cupboard.  Some things must remain hidden.  After all, who wants to know the truth?

But I digress.  I’ll be quiet, and stop with the what-could-have-beens.  The show must go on.  We both know that.  It is what is.  I look forward to reading what will no doubt be a best-selling and most truthful exposé of the Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford Show.  I imagine contracts have been signed, and the mini-series shouldn’t be far behind.

In the meantime, I would like to leave you laughing with a quote that has been disturbing me since I first read it after writing it:

Until we see through the charade of social life and realize the masked performers are not just the politicians and celebrities, not only the professional actors and the corporate media performers, but us, we won’t grasp the problem.  Lying is the leading cause of living death in the United States.  We live in a society built of lies; lying and dishonesty are the norm.  They are built into the fabric of all our institutions, into our psyches.  In America, there’s no business but show business, and we are sham actors, amusing ourselves to death while we spread death and destruction in our war theaters all around the world.  Theaters in which the tragic plays we direct hold no interest for us.  We prefer our Idiots’ Delight.

“It’s All a Lie.”  Maybe that should be the title of the next show.

 

Orson Welles, Broadcasts and Fake News

Orson Welles’ spectral return to the screen, ingeniously in posthumous mode, should have come as a comfort to the magicians skilled in the arts of trickery.  Beyond the grave, he seems to be exerting a continuing influence, with his film, The Other Side of the Wind making its debut after 48 torrid years at the Telluride Film Festival.  His delight for illusion and the magical manipulations of the camera would not have been out of place in the anxiety-filled age mistakenly called the “post-truth” era.

Starting momentously grand and at summit greatness in Citizen Kane, and heading low into financial difficulty and stuttering projects, his genius was as prodigious as his luck was absent.  His aptitude in mastering the brutish nature of the directing set was unquestioned – except in Hollywood.  Throughout he was plagued by the curse that money has over the genius of expression.  Power and control do not necessarily entail backing and profits – for Welles, it was the sheer sense of doing something, the need to run multiple projects that might never have seen the light of day.  His mind, and application, proved inscrutably errant.

What Welles did master, to an extent, was the degree of fakery, creating a world of illusion that refuses to date.  The word “fake” has a certain pejorative quality, having been further stained by its users in the age of Donald J. Trump, often in connection with that other unreliable companion, “news”.  But Welles managed to give it a boost of respectable guile, a teasing sense of about how other realities might be seen. Now, to challenge such ways of seeing by claiming them to be fake would either make you a mental patient or a US president.  For Welles, it was a cinematic experiment or a broadcasting contrivance, an effort to alter the senses and entertain.

Welles could hardly have been despondent about this age, he being the finest exponent of the values of fakery.  He would have gotten down to work, tyrannically engaged with his staff in producing a fine work on the odiously named “post-truth world” (since when was there a fully truthful world in any case, one pulsating with verity?).

His most delightful ribbings would have now been subsumed under such tags as misinformation, crowned by the meaningless nature of fake news.  Could he have gotten away with the radio announcement made on October 30, 1938 that extra-terrestrials had, in fact, landed on earth and attacked it with single minded fury?  Any empanelled jury would have to ponder.

The occasion is worth retelling. Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, and the Mercury Theatre group, featured, along with an updated version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  National radio supplied the thrilling medium and the delivery.  “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the air in the ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.”  A mild mannered, sensible start.

Then came the Welles’ introduction, followed by a weather report.  The announcer duly took listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.” Cue the music, then a report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory, Chicago, Ill” had noted “explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars.”  Re-cue the music, then an interruption that a meteor had found its way into a farmer’s field in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.

The Martians had purportedly arrived.  Observers were on hand.  Emerging from a metallic cylinder was a creature “wriggling out of the shadow like a grey snake. Now here’s another one and another one and another one.”  There were unsettling notes of “wet leather”; the faces were “indescribable”. “The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent.”  Then the shooting commenced: “heat-ray” weapons trained on the humans at the site.  Some 7,000 National Guardsmen were vaporised. The US military were deployed.  Poisonous gas followed in retaliation.

The hoax had seemingly had its dastardly effect, though the extent of it remains disputed.  Tim Crook, in his discussion on the psychological potency of radio, suggested that the newspapers had embellished the account, largely on account of the threat posed to their estate by the emergence of radio.  “It does not appear that anyone died as a result, but listeners were treated for shock, hysteria and heart attacks.” Welles came to a similar conclusion: paper headlines reporting lawsuits running into $12 million were a consequence of envy occasioned by threat posed by radio advertising.

One myth speaks of thousands of New Yorkers speeding from their homes in deluded panic, their minds impregnated by the prospective deeds of extra-terrestrial terror.  Ben Gross of the New York Daily News recalled in his memoir a scene of New York’s streets: there was a state of near total desertion that October in 1938.

The Federal Communications Commission, trapped between the remit of enforcing regulations ensuring proper use of the airways for such things as “promoting safety of life and property” yet also fostering “artistic, informational and cultural needs” conducted an investigation into the affair. It found the laws of the United States unbroken, regulations intact. This was a fine thing, given the famous assertion by US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Schenck v United States (1919) that, “The most stringent protection of free speech should not protect a man in falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theatre and causing panic.”

The wily Welles, ever the tease, escaped ruination and duly went on to make Citizen Kane.  “We can only suppose,” he reflected on being informed that the FCC would investigate the episode, “that the special nature of radio, which is often heard in fragments, or in parts disconnected from the whole, had led to this misunderstanding.”  And in this, we have the precursor to mass information and disconnection; between selected parts and the baffling whole; the Internet and social media dissemination; Trump tweeting at midnight and digital trolls roaming around the clock; the misinformation merchants and the mercenaries of trickery.

At the release of The Other Side of the Wind, Peter Bogdanovich struck a melancholic note on the Palm Theatre stage. “It’s sad because Orson’s not here to see it.”  But then came a rueful qualifier.  “Or maybe he is.”

Work, Shame, and Art

The story broke of former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens working at Trader Joe’s, despite the fact that Mr. Owens himself was more than happy to move on, the story spread as people suddenly discovered that actors have to pay the bills like everyone else.  The actress Tamara Braun summed it up on her Instagram:

What I also know is that being an actor, musician, writer, dancer, photographer or artist/creative of ANY kind is REALLY HARD. Most have other types of jobs while pursuing their craft. Unless you come from family money it is practically impossible not to. I have had MANY jobs to pay the bills while pursuing my career.

It really is strange that Geoffrey Owens’s story spread so widely because tabloids and rumor mills have been pointing out that actors take other jobs for years.  Twenty years ago there were stories that Lee Majors was working in a school cafeteria to survive (actually he was helping out at his daughter’s school).  Despite appearing on Seaquest DSV and still being recognized as Lana Lang from the Superboy series of the early 90’s, actress Stacy Haiduk admitted to driving for Uber.  Alan Ruck explained the situation in an interview:

So here I am, working at a Sears warehouse, and because Ferris Bueller had been out already, people were clocking me and going, “Do you know you look like this guy in this movie?” And I was, like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not me. It’s not me. I’m not that guy.” Because I didn’t want to get into it. I thought that they’d probably go, “You were in the movies and then you wound up here? We should just beat you for being stupid!”

There is a larger issue here that leads into the unspoken bias as to which jobs are considered acceptable and which ones are not.  The entertainment industry is a billion dollar business, but the Arts, in general, are not considered an acceptable career (until artists have a proven return on investment).  If a former actor ended up working as a banker or a lawyer, or some other high paying professional class career, there would not be any shaming, but because the retail and service industries are generally “unskilled” (another shaming term) they are vocations considered to be a step down from a previous level of success.  It is even worse for artists who have not yet broken in because despite years of training and honing of talents, most artistic disciplines are not considered “marketable skills.”  So in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, artists of all types take whatever jobs we can find to pay the bills.

An unfortunate necessity, and a cold hard reality, but there is a deeper issue that has been overlooked.  A lot of people, in their eagerness to defend Owens and other artists, have come out and spoken about the “honor” of work, and we should all be grateful that we have it.  While it is generally a good trait to be grateful for what blessings we have in our lives, especially compared to so many other people around the world, I have never considered work to be honorable or something we should be grateful for.  It is a brutal process whereby we must cede a third of our lives to a disinterested Other under threat of starvation.

The professional classes need to learn that for many people, but most especially for artists, we do not seek personal realization or validation from our job.  That is what our creative work is for.  Artists have chosen to adopt a life on the margins, knowing that we may never be successful at doing what we love, yet we do it anyway.  The real question is this: These are the people who create the art and tell the stories that give meaning to so many, or at the very least offer a bit of an escape from the relentless marketization of our lives; why are they forced to those margins in the first place?  It recalls the words of author David Graeber who once said: “Where is the next John Lennon?  Probably packing boxes in a supermarket somewhere.”

Adventures in Narcissism

Most of us won’t recall it, but on February 7, 1989, the Milton Bradley Corporation proudly announced the launching of its newest board game.  Modeled roughly on the buy-and-sell machinations of “Monopoly,” this new game was based upon the cult following and commercial exploits of then New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump.

We’re not making this up.  The box containing the game featured a photograph of The Donald himself, looking shrewd and confident, and its snappy, in-your-face tagline was:  “It’s not whether you win or lose.  It’s whether you win.”  Ah, yes, so wonderfully Trump-like.

Hoping to benefit from the success of Trump’s recently ghost-written book, “The Art of the Deal” (1987), the board game was called simply:  “Trump: The Game.” Although serious “gamers” found it a bit too complicated and tedious (the instruction booklet itself ran to 12 pages), its suggested retail price was $25.

In fairness to Milton Bradley, it’s rare for a newly introduced board game to navigate its way into the hearts of America’s serious gamers and amateur enthusiasts.  Because the board game market is so wildly unpredictable, all a company can do is launch its product and hope for the best.  Accordingly, “Trump: The Game” was a bust.

But in 2004, a new opportunity presented itself.  In the wake of Trump’s surprisingly successful TV reality show, “The Apprentice,” the game was reissued in a slightly modified (simplified and slimmed down) form, this time by Parker Brothers, a Hasbro subsidiary.  It was still called, “Trump:  The Game,” but this time the irresistible tagline was:  “It takes brains to make millions.  It takes Trump to make billions.”

Alas, even with the improvements (and Trump’s splashy assurance that a significant part of the profits would be donated to charity) the re-introduced version also failed.   Again, the board game market is a tough nut to crack.

However, now that Donald Trump is president, the time may be ripe for the introduction of yet another version of the game.  Just to be silly, we invented one that would be far simpler than the earlier versions.  Not only simpler but more pertinent.   The game would be called:  “I Didn’t Say That!”  The box cover would have a photo of Trump doing his Mussolini pose, and its snappy tagline would be:  “I’m president, and you’re not.”

The action would consist of 3-4 players taking turns drawing from a deck of 60 cards.  Each card would have three preposterous quotations printed on it.  One of the quotes will have been positively verified to have been uttered by Donald Trump, and the other two will have been made up by comedy writers.  The first player to correctly identify 10 Trump quotes wins the game.

To make it more interesting, the deck will include three “denial” cards.  Each denial card will have a picture of Sarah Huckabee Sanders on its back, and the words, “I didn’t say that!” written on its face.  Any player drawing a denial card will be required to relinquish all points accrued by correctly identifying Trump’s quotes, and be forced to start over.

There will also be a “Banishment” card in the deck.  This is the card no one wants to draw (worse even than the dreaded queen of spades in the game of “Hearts.).  On its back will be a picture of Steve Bannon, and on its face will be the words, “You’re fired!”

The unfortunate player drawing the Banishment card will not only be required to quit the game, throw in his cards, leave the table, and exit the room, he will also be required to leave the house.

In June of 2016, “Huffington Post” reported that, despite Trump’s assurances, it was unable to confirm whether any money earned from sale of The Game had been donated to charity.  In any event, the original board game is now considered a collector’s item.  An unopened box sells today for $150 on eBay.

The Sexual Passion of Winston Smith

Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice.
— Frederick Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
— D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The so-called consumer society and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of man which ties him libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form.  The need for possessing, consuming, handling and constantly renewing gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people, for using these wares even at the danger of one’s own destruction, has become a ‘biological’ need.

— Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man

There is a vast literature analyzing the political prophecy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Big Brother, double-speak, telescreens, crimestop, etc. – all applied to our current political situation.  The language has become part of our popular lexicon, and as such, has become clichéd through overuse.  Blithe, habitual use of language robs it of its power to crack open the safe that hides the realities of life.

There is no doubt that Orwell wrote a brilliant political warning about the methods of totalitarian control.  But hidden at the heart of the book is another lesson lost on most readers and commentators.  Rats, torture, and Newspeak resonate with people fixated on political repression, which is a major concern, of course.  But so too is privacy and sexual passion in a country of group-think and group-do, where “Big Brother” poisons you in the crib and the entertainment culture then takes over to desexualize intimacy by selling it as another public commodity.

The United States is a pornographic society.  By pornographic I do not just mean the omnipresent selling of exploitative sex through all media to titillate a voyeuristic public living in the unreality of screen “life” and screen sex through television, movies, and online obsessions.  I mean a commodified consciousness, where everyone and everything is part of a prostitution ring in the deepest sense of pornography’s meaning – for sale, bought.  And consumed by getting, spending, and selling.  Flicked into the net of Big Brother, whose job is to make sure everything fundamentally human and physical is debased and mediated, people become consumers of the unreal and direct experience is discouraged.  The natural world becomes an object to be conquered and used.  Animals are produced in chemical factories to be slaughtered by the billions only to appear bloodless under plastic wrap in supermarket coolers.

The human body disappears into hypnotic spectral images. One’s sex becomes one’s gender as the words are transmogrified and as one looks in the mirror of the looking-glass self and wonders how to identify the one looking back.  Streaming life from Netflix or Facebook becomes life the movie.  The brilliant perverseness of the mediated reality of a screen society – what Guy Debord calls The Society of the Spectacle – is that as it distances people from fundamental reality, it promotes that reality through its screen fantasies.  “Get away from it all and restore yourself at our spa in the rugged mountains where you can hike in pristine woods after yoga and a breakfast of locally sourced eggs and artisanally crafted bread.”  Such garbage would be funny if it weren’t so effective.  Debord writes:

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images….Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior.

Thus sex with robots and marrying yourself are not aberrations but logical extensions of a society where solipsism meets machine in the America dream.

As this happens, words and language become corrupted by the same forces that Orwell called Big Brother, whose job is total propaganda and social control.  Just as physical reality now mimics screen reality and thus becomes chimerical, language, through which human beings uncover and articulate the truth of being, becomes more and more abstract.  People don’t die; they “pass on” or “pass away.”  Dying, like real sex, is too physical.  Wars of aggression don’t exist; they are “overseas contingency operations.”  Killing people with drones isn’t killing; it’s “neutralizing them.”  There are a “ton” of examples, but I am sure “you guys” don’t need me to list any more.

Orwell called Big Brother’s language Newspeak, and Hemingway preceded him when he so famously wrote in disgust In a Farewell to Arms, “I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice, and the expression in vain….Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene…”  This destruction of language has been going on for a long time, but it’s worth noting that from Hemingway’s WW I through Orwell’s WW II up until today’s endless U.S. wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, etc., there has been the parallel development of screen and media culture, beginning with silent movies through television and on to the total electronic media environment we now inhabit – the surround sound and image bubble of literal abstractions that inhabit us, mentally and physically.  In such a society, to feel what you really feel and not what, in Hemingway’s words, “you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel” has become extremely difficult.

Language, as the Greeks told us, should open up a clearing for the truth (Greek aleitheia, unhiddenness) to emerge so we can grasp the essence of life.  And so it is ironically appropriate that Orwell’s Winston Smith discovers such essence, not in analyzing Crimestop, his tormenter O’Brien, or Doublethink, but “in a natural clearing, a tiny grass knoll surrounded by tall saplings that shut it in completely” where he secretly meets a young woman who had passed him a note saying she loved him.   Away from the prying eyes of Big Brother and his spies, amidst bluebells and a torrent of song from a thrush, they come together almost wordlessly.  “Winston and Julia clung together, fascinated” as the thrush sang madly.  “The music went on and on, minute after minute, with astonishing variations, never once repeating itself, almost as if the bird were deliberately showing off its virtuosity…He stopped thinking and merely felt.”  Here the secret lovers affirm their humanity, the truth of sexual intimacy that is the enemy of all abstractions used by the powerful to control and manipulate normal people and to convince them to participate in killing others.  “Almost as swiftly as he had imagined it, she had torn her clothes off, and when she flung them aside it was with that same magnificent gesture by which a whole civilization seemed to be annihilated.”  Reveling in love-making in a free space outside the Party’s control, they felt they had triumphed.

But as we learn in 1984 and should learn in the U.S.A. today, “seemed” is the key word.  Their triumph was temporary.  For sexual passion reveals truths that need to be confirmed in the mind.  In itself, sexual liberation can be easily manipulated, as it has been so effectively in the United States. “Repressive de-sublimation” Herbert Marcuse called it fifty years ago. You allow people to act out their sexual fantasies in commodified ways that can be controlled by the rulers, all the while ruling their minds and potential political rebelliousness. Sex becomes part of the service economy where people service each other while serving their masters.  Use pseudo-sex to sell them a way of life that traps them in an increasingly totalitarian social order that only seems free.  This has been accomplished primarily through screen culture and the concomitant confusion of sexual identity.  Perhaps you have noticed that over the past twenty-five years of growing social and political confusion, we have witnessed an exponential growth in “the electronic life,” the use of psychotropic drugs, and sexual disorientation.  This is no accident.  Wars have become as constant as Eros – the god of love, life, joy, and motion – has been divorced from sex as a stimulus and response release of tension in a “stressed” society.  Rollo May, the great American psychologist, grasped this:

Indeed, we have set sex over against eros, used sex precisely to avoid the anxiety-creating involvements of eros…We are in flight from eros and use sex as the vehicle for the flight…Eros [which includes, but is not limited to, passionate sex] is the center of vitality of a culture – its heart and soul.  And when release of tension takes the place of creative eros, the downfall of the civilization is assured.

Because Julia and Winston cannot permanently escape Oceania, but can only tryst, they succumb to Big Brother’s mind control and betray each other.  Their sexual affair can’t save them.   It is a moment of beauty and freedom in an impossible situation.  Of course, the hermetically sealed world of 1984 is not the United States.  Orwell created a society in which escape was impossible. It is, after all, an admonitory novel – not the real world.  Things are more subtle here; we still have some wiggle room – some – although the underlying truth is the same: the U.S. oligarchy, like “The Party,” “seeks power entirely for its own sake” and “are not interested in the good of others,” all rhetoric to the contrary. Our problem is that too many believe the rhetoric, and those who say they don’t really do at the deepest level.  Fly the flag and play the national anthem and their hearts are aflutter with hope.  Recycle old bromides about the next election when your political enemies will be swept out of office and excitement builds as though you had met the love of your life and all was well with the world.

But understanding the history of public relations, advertising, propaganda, the CIA, the national security apparatus, technology, etc., makes it clear that such hope is baseless. For the propaganda in this country has penetrated far deeper than anyone can imagine, and it has primarily done this through advanced technology and the religion of technique – machines as pure abstractions – that has poisoned not just our minds, but the deepest wellsprings of the body’s truths and the erotic imagination that links us in love to all life on earth.

In “Defence of Poetry,” Percy Bysshe Shelley writes:

The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.

We are now faced with the question: Can we escape the forces of propaganda and mind control that run so very deep into American life?  If so, how?  Let’s imagine a way out.

Orwell makes it very clear that language is the key to mind control, as he delineates how Newspeak works. I think he is right.  And mind control also means the control of our bodies, Eros, our sex, our physical connections to all living beings and nature. Today the U.S. is reaching the point where “Oldspeak” – Standard English – has been replaced by Newspeak, and just “fragments of the literature of the past” survive here and there.  This is true for the schooled and unschooled.  In fact, those more trapped by the instrumental logic, disembodied data, and word games of the power elite are those who have gone through the most schooling, the indoctrination offered by the so-called “elite” universities. I suspect that more working-class and poor people still retain some sense of the old language and the fundamental meaning of words, since it is with their sweat and blood that they “earn their living.”  Many of the highly schooled are children of the power elite or those groomed to serve them, who are invited to join in living the life of power and privilege if they swallow their consciences and deaden their imaginations to the suffering their “life-styles” and ideological choices inflict on the rest of the world.

In this world of The New York Times, Harvard, The New Yorker, Martha’s Vineyard, The Washington Post, Wall St., Goldman Sachs, the boardrooms of the ruling corporations, all the corporate media, etc., language has become debased beyond recognition.  Here, as Orwell said of Newspeak, “a heretical thought…should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words.  Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express.”  The intelligently orthodox, he adds, must master the art of “doublethink” wherein they hold two contradictory ideas in their minds simultaneously, while accepting both of them.  This is the key trick of logic and language that allows the power elites and their lackeys in the U.S. today to master the art of self-deception and feel good about themselves as they plunder the world.  In this “Party” world, the demonization, degradation, and killing of others is an abstraction; their lives are spectral.  Orwell describes doublethink this way:

To tell deliberate lives while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.  Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink.  For by using the word one admits one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

It may sound silly to say, but language, as its etymology tells us, begins with the tongue (Latin, lingua).  And the tongue is a bell, tolling out its meaning.  Indeed, all language springs from the body – is body language. And when language becomes abstract and devoid of blood, it becomes etiolated and unable to convey the truth that is the mystical body of the world.  It becomes a viper’s tongue, dividing the “good” people from the “bad” so the good can eliminate the bad who have become abstractions.

When Winston Smith and Julia hid in the arbor and for once felt free and alive as they fucked – despite its transitoriness – Orwell was suggesting something that his dystopian novel denies is possible: that we can escape our own 1984 in 2018 by returning to fundamentals. Whitman told us that if anything is sacred it is the human body, and he sung “the body electric.”  This is the task of artists: to sing the words that tell the truth the propagandists try to deny.

James Joyce writes in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Welcome, oh life!  I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Perhaps we should add: in the smithy of our souls and bodies.  His fellow Irishman, William Butler Yeats, brings us down to earth with the words:

Now that my ladder’s gone/I must lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

“Yes, I said. Yes, I will, yes.”

Twats and Tweets: Roseanne Barr and the Issue of Proportion

Can anything be said that doesn’t warrant an empaneled jury of twitting twats to determine the fate of an individual?  It is evident that branding, marketing and selling can only be done in a context of controlled hypocrisy.  Companies long happy to use celebrities as fronts for promoting products and the image of a television network have become obsessed with the idea of sensitivity.

While Roseanne Barr’s tweet describing former President Barack Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett in simian terms (“Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj”) was stingingly rude, the hammer option adopted towards her by the ABC was manic.  Was the Roseanne Barr slated to return in her show meant to have been reformed, one more economical in her rattled, and rattling, opinions?

The sense among the writers and producers was to fall in line.  People were all meant to be horrified at this new creation, this new Barr.  Executive producer David Caplan claimed to be helpless before the implications of the tweet.  “I really wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t feel like there was really any response to it.  It was so far over the line and so loathsome that I suspected there might not be any coming back from it.”

Caplan recounted Barr during season 10 of the program.  She was found to be “reasonable with the writers.”  Despite disagreements regarding her political beliefs, she proved “reasonable to work with at that point.”

This suggests a bit of hand washing on Caplan’s part in anticipation of future employment: Barr’s tweet had nothing to do with work matters, and certainly nothing to with the scripting of the show.  Keep new freaky marginalised, isolated, for fear of being contaminated.

This stomach-turning sanctimony can be found in the idea that the ABC network is magically tolerant (family values and all that), and that Barr was somehow out of step.  Take Hal Boedeker, who happily marches to a tune that is not only discordant but silly.

In the Orlando Sentinel, the righteous Boedeker made the following observation held down by the assumptions of pure fantasy: “Disney sends the message that it welcomes all. Barr violated the Disney philosophy with her racist tweet about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.”  As if it made any difference whatsoever, “Barr also had a history of bashing others with tweets, and she trafficked in conspiracy theories.”

What makes such mind addled assessments even more unearthly is the remark that Barr’s conspiracy theories do not cut it in the world of fantasy. (What runs for fantastic these days?)  “Disney deals in fairy tales, not conspiracy theories.”  A good reading of the text, subtext and inner meaning of many a fairy tale repudiates such a view.  In-between readers such as academics keen to secure their next grant constitute, it could be said, a conspiracy of interpretation, finding a spectral hook upon which to hang upon the next questionable interpretation.

True to corporate form, the production vultures at the ABC are trying to find ways to move beyond RB for what is enthusiastically being proclaimed a salvation.  Spin-offs are being sought, though they must be emphatic on one point: the absence of the protagonist that made it to begin with.  In the manner that resembles something of a theft, Barr, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “would not be able to financially benefit from any new incarnation of the series.” (Legal minds, ready yourselves.)

The point about Barr is that she never changed, which might well be the problem.  To understand the market and the nature of one’s employer is to understand how hypocrisies and cant might change at any given moment in time.  The fury directed against her is the misplaced anger of the trend follower with the attention span of a light lured moth.

Treating Barr in such a manner is also bound to encourage others to come out with their scything swipes.  An example is provided by Jonathan S. Tobin in The National Review, who has asked for “an amnesty for speech offenses.” If Barr can be sent to the television’s salt mines for a racist tweet “why shouldn’t Samantha Bee lose hers for a presumably scripted line on her show in which she called Ivanka Trump a cunt and implied that she could get her father to change her mind about an issue by wearing something tight and low cut?”

Ironically enough, in the age of Trump, where the ad hominem remark has been given a whole new lease of life, becoming total, normal and unstoppable, mechanisms of control and punishment are finding their bearings.  Trust broadcasting to be one of them in their righteous corrections.

Those familiar enough with Barr would have taken her comment as deserving of a chastising, disturbed rebuke, a point she would have been more than capable of accepting.  But debate before the lynch mob is nigh impossible.  The noose speaks volumes, and expression can gradually slide into a dull, controlled oblivion.

Frankie Boyle: Your new show betrayed Gaza

Dear Frankie Boyle,

I’d prefer not to be writing this as an open letter, but you didn’t leave me much choice: I can no longer engage with you on Twitter because you blocked me (and many hundreds of others, it seems) for criticising the first episode of your New World Order TV show on Friday.

Since then, having purged your Twitter feed of critics, you have created a series of straw men. In the worst, you have suggested that those unhappy with the show are really closet racists for objecting to the fact that you spent half of your 30-minute schedule allowing your guests, led by David Baddiel, to flay Jeremy Corbyn for a supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in the Labour party. Presumably that offers you a comfortingly circular proof of Labour’s anti-semitism problem.

Another straw man is that those criticising you are simply Corbyn devotees defending their man. Well, that’s certainly not true in my case. Like you, I am dissatisfied with the Labour party as a vehicle for real change, and I think Corbyn is too moderate on a range of issues. But he is also a blast of fresh air in British politics, and the only party leader in living memory who has put anti-racism – and class solidarity – at the heart of his political agenda.

Which may be why some of us were infuriated watching a show hosted by you – probably the only true dissident currently given a show on mainstream TV – trash Corbyn in exactly the same terms used over the past two years by every section of the corporate media, from the Daily Mail and the Times to the Guardian and the BBC. Even were these anti-semitism allegations grounded in a verifiable reality, we really don’t need Frankie Boyle indulging prejudices we’ve heard almost every day since Corbyn was elected Labour leader.

Politically toxic

But sadly, that segment of your show was more than simply wasted airtime. Far worse, you peddled – or rather gave a platform to Baddiel and the other guests to peddle – allegations that are rooted in no reality at all, as people like me have been pointing out for a long time and in a great deal of detail. (See, for example, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

We are not saying there is no anti-semitism on the left (another straw man). Unfortunately, there are racists, including anti-semites, everywhere in life. We are saying that there is no anti-semitism crisis on the left. That is not my or anyone else’s opinion. It is documented fact. Surveys show that Labour is significantly better on the issue of anti-semitism than the right.

Your decision to echo the Murdoch press by focusing on a Labour/left anti-semitism “crisis” can have only two consequences, both of them politically irresponsible and socially toxic.

The first is that this allegation undermines – completely unfairly – the left, creating the impression among the wider public that there is a significant problem of anti-semitism in Labour, and implying, again unfairly, that Corbyn is the source of that problem. We understand very well why the corporate media is devoting so much time and energy to the character assassination of Corbyn. What we can’t understand is why you would use your own slot in the corporate media to steady the rifle for them.

But the irresponsibility of focusing on a confected Labour anti-semitism “crisis” extends beyond simply helping the right wing damage Corbyn and the left more generally. You have also assisted the right in deflecting public attention from its very real anti-semitism problem. And that kind of right wing anti-semitism isn’t about criticising Israel (in fact, the right increasingly loves Israel), but about promoting hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. While you and everyone else in the corporate media are busy directing our critical gaze at the Labour party, the right can get on with stoking real Jew hatred. If you doubt that, let Donald Trump be a warning to you.

A history of ‘new’ anti-semitism

Doubtless, David Baddiel thinks he’s defending Jews by concentrating on a supposed left wing “anti-semitism” that criticises Israel or, as he was also allowed to argue on your show, vilifies a “global elite”. Maybe he’s right and the Occupy Movement’s talk about “the 1 per cent” was just a way to repackage the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But I rather think not, and you should have required some evidence for those insinuations rather than grinning approvingly as he made them.

(Baddiel exposed his own unconscious racism on the show by making an ugly analogy in which anti-semitism was treated as the equivalent of “cancer”, while other forms of racism – against blacks and Muslims, presumably – were only “shingles”. I have analysed the problem of creating hierarchies of racism that prioritise anti-semitism, and undermine class solidarity, here.)

I understand, Frankie, that you may not realise that anti-semitism began to be weaponised by Israel and its supporters nearly two decades ago – long before Corbyn became Labour leader. From my vantage point in Israel, I have been tracking the mischievious misuse of anti-semitism since Israel began exploiting it more aggressively to silence critics in the early 2000s.

Then it was known as the “New Anti-Semitism”, or sometimes Judeophobia, and the Israeli and US media dedicated acres of newsprint to this supposedly new “problem” on the European left.

One prominent exponent of the thesis was Daniel J Goldhagen, a scholar of the Holocaust, who feared Muslim and Arab immigration to Europe had unleashed a new kind of anti-semitism. In 2003 he wrote in the Forward, a prestigious US Jewish weekly:

Globalized anti-Semitism has become part of the substructure of prejudice in the world. It is relentlessly international in its focus on Israel at the center of the most conflict-ridden region today, and on the United States as the world’s omnipresent power. …

Essentially, Europe has exported its classical racist and Nazi anti-Semitism to Arab countries, which they then applied to Israel and Jews in general. …

Then the Arab countries re-exported the new hybrid demonology back to Europe and, using the United Nations and other international institutions, to other countries around the world. In Germany, France, Great Britain and elsewhere, today’s intensive anti-Semitic expression and agitation uses old tropes once applied to local Jews — charges of sowing disorder, wanting to subjugate others — with new content overwhelmingly directed at Jews outside their countries.

Silencing criticism of Israel

In fact, this theme was enthusiastically picked up by a group of British Jewish intellectuals, who produced a book that same year called “A New Antisemitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain”. The contributors included the Guardian’s executive editor Jonathan Freedland; far-right Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, formerly of the Guardian; novelist Howard Jacobson; and Britain’s then chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. A review in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz described its thesis in these terms:

The irreducible fact is this: something new is at work in Britain. But it’s not the old anti-Semitism. It’s not eliminationist. It’s not genocidal. Nor is it even a deep-seated, visceral hatred of individual Jews. …

Not widespread in “Middle England” at the moment, [Judeophobia] nevertheless resides among certain “cognitive elites” within the news media, churches, universities, and trades unions. … Today’s Judeophobia is an assault on the essence of the Jewish collectivity, both in terms of a Jewish sovereign state in its ancient homeland, and the nature of robust, emancipated, and self-aware Diaspora communities. …

The discriminatory outcome of this campaign of vilification is the demonization of Israel, and by association Jews wherever they may live. Such demonization contributes little to constructive dialogue over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. In fact, it is another obstacle on the road to peace.

In Israel, a few analysts admitted at the time that this new kind of anti-semitism was intended to intimidate critics who were reacting to Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians in the early years of the second intifada.

And proponents of the “New Anti-Semitism” argument, of course, wilfully ignored other, more convincing explanations of the mounting criticism of Israel on the European left – not least the growing exposure of western publics to Israel’s abuses of Palestinians in an age of 24-hour rolling news and social media.

The New Anti-Semitism playbook was quickly updated after Corbyn became Labour leader. He is seen as an enormous threat to Israel: the first head of a major modern European party to prioritise the suffering of Palestinians over Israel’s right to colonise the Palestinians’ homeland. I have written about this in too much detail to do so again, so if you need to get up to speed, it’s all set out here.

Censured for Israel jokes

There are a number of additional reasons why some of your followers are so angry with you over this episode. Rather than shutting them up, it might have been wise to listen to them.

1. You have spoken in the past about the BBC censuring you for jokes you made that were critical of Israel on the grounds that those jokes were supposedly anti-semitic. Remember what you wrote in an open letter eight years ago, before the media had set up Corbyn as the fall guy rather than you. Then, you stated:

I think the problem here is that the show’s producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal, was an appropriate target for satire. The [BBC] Trust’s ruling is essentially a note from their line managers.

It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.

Well, your prediction is fully vindicated. Now you don’t get censured by the BBC for anti-semitism; instead they pre-emptively censor your jokes on the assumption that they are anti-semitic (see point 2).

It’s a bad look for you to claim you were defamed as an anti-semite, and then allow your show to be used to defame others as anti-semites. It’s an explosive and hugely damaging accusation. It needs serious evidence before you joke about it at the expense of others.

2. You admitted in a tweet that BBC executives cut sections of Friday’s show – in violation of promises to you that those segments would be kept in – in which you criticised Israel as apartheid state and spoke out against Israel’s actions in Gaza. It is commendable that you made such comments, and that you have alerted us to the fact that the BBC excised them. It is yet further confirmation that the British state-corporate media is deeply unbalanced and untrustworthy on issues relating to Israel.

But that’s the point, isn’t it. Israel, as I have explained, chose to weaponise anti-semitism to silence criticism of its actions. When the BBC censors material critical of Israel, (as it has done to others, such as Max Keiser) it does so because – as you, Frankie, noted in the video clip referenced in point 1 – it conflates that criticism with anti-semitism, just as Israel hoped.

The BBC and the rest of the corporate media have similarly ignored the fact that many of the most high-profile suspension cases in the Labour party for anti-semitism have actually been of anti-Zionist Jews outspoken in their criticisms of Israel. That important fact is not mentioned by the corporate media, or on your show, because it dramatically undermines the narrative of an anti-semitism “crisis” on the left.

Now censored for Israel jokes

You want to treat the fact that your show focused on anti-semitism as entirely separate from the fact that in the same episode the BBC censored your comments critical of Israel. However, everyone but apparently you, Frankie, understands that these two matters can’t be separated because Israel, the BBC and many others now blur any distinction beyond recognition. Just take Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, who has argued that his Jewish identity is inextricably bound up in Israel, and therefore to criticise Israel is to attack him as a Jew.

When you play the anti-semitism card against Corbyn, you open the door for the BBC to play the anti-semitism card against you (as it has) and any routine you might want to perform that is critical of Israel. You threw Corbyn and the left under the bus with Friday’s show, while you whinge about the fact that you were censored on Israel. It simply won’t wash.

3. The anti-semitism allegations against Labour and Corbyn have been festering away for the best part of two years. Aside from all the other matters I have raised, it is not unreasonable to question why you would dredge them up now. The most topical issue of the week was the massacre by Israeli snipers of Palestinians protesting in Gaza, after a decade in which the enclave’s two million inhabitants have been slowly starved to death in line with Israeli policy.

You dismissed one of your followers who raised the incongruence of your priorities by suggesting that she was racist for holding the Jewish people collectively responsible for Israel’s actions. Yet another straw man. She did nothing of the sort.

But presumably she, like many others, has noticed that anti-semitism has been weaponised against Corbyn and the left more generally. It is intended to shut us up for talking too much about Israel. Quite how this has passed your notice is less easy to explain, given your double admisson that the BBC has censored your own criticisms of Israel and censured you by conflating such criticism with anti-semitism.

The very week when Palestinians need full-throated support, and Israel full-throated condemnation, you trotted out stale and bogus allegations of an anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour precisely designed (whether you understand it or not) to foreclose criticism of Israel. That is a betrayal of the Palestinian people in their time of need. I can’t think of a nicer way to dress it up.

Keeping you honest

There are those who say you, Frankie, are trying to do your best in a tough spot from within the corporate media, and therefore we should cut you some slack. Certainly, it is good that you have a platform that can reach far larger numbers of people than any of us social media activists.

But that is not a good reason for us to keep quiet. First, we need to keep you honest. You slipped up badly in this first episode, both in enthusiastically adopting the right’s anti-semitism “crisis” narrative and in not making a bigger noise about the censorship of your Gaza criticisms. If we don’t kick your arse over it, no one else will.

Second, we on the real left have to raise our expectations. Okay, it’s good to have you on the BBC, but we need to make as much noise as possible when we have a chance to remind viewers that you are a one-off, the exception that proves the rule; and that even so, you are being censored and doubtless forced to make other major compromises on your material to remain on the telly.

Our job is not to stand loyally by you while you trim your sails. It is to challenge you on your compromises and expose the difficulties you face to a wider public. That helps to raise awareness of how rarely alternative perspectives are available on the BBC, while at the same time deepening our own critical thinking.

The fact that you have blocked so many of us for simply pointing out what should have been obvious to you in the first place is a good sign that you do indeed need your arse kicked. We’ll happily do it again next time you play by the establishment’s rule book.

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The Commodification of Art

Art is the last line of defense against authoritarian control, and artists are contemporary shamans delivering message. The eternal protectors of this little light of mine. Within the artist resides connection to source that rejects what is diseased within the soul of humanity. The artist courageously holds the lamp of truth in the darkness when all other luminaries have absconded into the void.

The premonitions of the artist are what defines an epoch until the pendulum swings and signal degradation renders the vision inert, at which point a new message is necessary. A new plan must be envisioned with sufficient emotional thrust behind it to launch an incipient vision into being, and propel us to escape velocity out of the gravitational lure of petrified ideologies that entrap our minds in cultural falsehoods. Art provides a perspective shift, and it’s the artist’s conscious awareness tuned into a vibrational hum resonating at a precise frequency that shakes apart the inset stagnation of the masses, laying waste to their broken institutions, and illuminating a path to the genesis of novel ideas.

Deduction, experience, and empathizing with a myriad of emotional dispositions are the catalysts of artistic creativity. The authentic artist’s world is unencumbered by boundaries, yet an insular place – personal, esoteric, and unsullied. A world where potentialities run free in creative bursts; new artistic rhythms foment in a semi-lucid state of alchemical flow where high level conscious interfaces interpret and connect meta understandings together coalescing a wide range of ideas into aesthetically pleasing simplicity.

The artist bounds in and out of feelings and interpretations to land at greater truth giving rise to an array of mental copulations where attracting and repulsing polarities sets imagination gravid, and nascent creative thought manifests into reality via the artist’s choice of medium. A layering of ideas and concepts is fused together until an unblinking mosaic becomes a unified thought construct that consists of many things, but is also a unique thing in its own right, and this is how a genuine piece of art is born.

Conversely a commodified piece of art comes into being by the creator asking a single question “What will sell?” Art becomes a lie when the artist wants to sell you work so they can pay the rent and feed themselves, a worthy purpose for their money, but under dire financial pressures it’s unlikely the artist will produce their first creative impulse, rather they will produce what they think will sell first, at times these things may coincide, but usually not.

Commodification stagnates artistic growth like it would a relationship where a lover only says things they think you want to hear, you may not have anything outright objectionable to say about them since they are agreeing with you all the time, but the hollow feeling is there. The majority of art released by major media companies is just like that sycophantic lover, forever selling themselves out to what they believe will create maximum profits with little regard to any sincere attempt at anything other than hitting that quarterly projection, the result of obsequious pandering to audiences is insipid, feckless, trite, kowtowing dreck. Pandering to an audience cheapens art and creates a lineage of obsequious behavior that erodes authenticity.

An artist is always alone – if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness.
— Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

The art today reflects the lack of a critical incubation period for comprehensive work to come into being. Western society has always had a pacing problem, but in the overpopulated smart phone era the pace has accelerated; thus mostly what we receive are shards of rushed out concepts, or mildly altered rehashes of better told tales.

If one should follow the prescribed path laid before you by parents, teachers, and institutions there is rarely a moment of solitude. Never a moment to collect your thoughts with a fresh mind. Never a moment where germination of an idea can hit maturity, no ability for minds to think and rid themselves of the lies of the ego which muddles the canvas of thought.

Hyper-competitive capitalist culture weaponizes the ego. It lauds arrogance as healthy sense of extroversion and assertiveness. Trophies, awards, accolades, degrees, the panoply of plaudits to puff up plutocrats; well credentialed victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect. All that perfunctory self serving pomposity promoted in capitalist culture is passé, and serves more to embolden egos instead of quell them in equanimity. The self-serving individualistic parade of it’s all-about me-ism might play to a crowd who chases after the fleeting joy of material gain, but it is death to art and to the detriment of all.

At a rushed pace of life, artistic message becomes impeded both when it is being made and when it is consumed. A fearful panicked mind needing to pay bills cannot see past itself, and the artist’s most powerful weapon is vision, the more narrow and constrained the waking awareness the more limited the creative work will be. Likewise, audiences cannot wrap their minds around nuanced thought when they are lost in the worries of a hyper-connected world and can’t let themselves be absorbed in artistic work so it can be understood as intended. Through commodification an intellectual downward spiral locks into place, a slide where dumbed down hurried art is then half understood by the cluttered minds of contemporary audiences, and when capitalists attempt to then again adapt the art to sell to ever more busied minds the art will continue to degrade, and the people continue to descend into more simplistic frames of thought. This cycle represents the decline of reason, wisdom, and spiritual connection, all slowly asphyxiated by blind greed.

When an artist is given a deadline there are immediately choices that must be made as to what can be afforded to be done and what must be cut, the repercussions of which often have a direct impact on quality as almost all of us are feeling the downward pressures of a restricted money supply and the demands that places on our time. Capitalism is corrosive acid to creativity. It is a dulling force of assimilation, necrosis of the connective tissue that is authentic human bonding, trust, and common good will. Capitalism has appropriated the human experience. Missing in action are calm sunny afternoons with nothing to do, missing are the forests that should be speaking to you at early dawn, missing is the magic of a moonlit ocean on a starry night. Also missing is the community of people that would have been your extended family and plugged those desperate needs for validation with human compassion; and this is all because capitalism makes more money by keeping everyone isolated and desperate. Sharing is an evil to capitalism and a necessity to humans to survive. In this very direct way capitalism is antithetical to human cooperation, evolution, or even immediate survival.

All these basic things are stolen from the majority of society and replaced with morning commutes, dreary one bedroom apartments featuring a view of more apartments, the life wasting jobs, and glowing screens that promise or allude to having better things yet never delivers. This economic system takes our art and stylizes it in advertisements and bully-pulpit announcements to convince us to desire things that will only create more misery in our lives.

The supposed real world is a profit-motivated stencil overlay of reality. A reality where we are only allowed to draw within specified lines which run along the most cheaply contrived tracks maneuvering to the reality capitalism defines for us. Most all things are done in some relation to money, which is a man-made fabrication, aka humanity’s proud shackles.  As a result, the tentacles of money weave through the flow of daily life interceding honesty at all levels.

The illusion cast by money is so powerful people find it unimaginable that living without it is possible even though many cultures have before. Art helps us see past the illusion of the capitalist overlay, and discover nothing about capitalism is truth, and if we were to assess what capitalism is doing in terms of need there is scant done which is truly needed for human contentment that couldn’t be done in an alternative sustainable way and without all the authoritarian fascist control that is endemic within capitalism. Of course, those ways are avoided because it means less money is being funneled to our rulers who view the people as an asset to be exploited just like the rest of earth’s resources, the narcissist capitalist mind is lost in thoughts of “How can this benefit me?”

Free market unfettered capitalism is the great appropriator, and our tie to truth is subverted via this appropriation. We begin to conflate values that are fundamental to us with the establishment’s icons, Orwellian utterances, brands, leaders, and manufactured art sold for an audience.

Money buys a voice and many an artist often feels they have to make a significant amount money to have a voice and in doing so they must tread down that path of selling out. Few can maintain their integrity for long before promotions and money making schemes are mostly what they do over the art that brought them the initial success. That’s what money does. It rots out the core so the shell can be reproduced and sold off in mass quantity.

This commodification effect has been rolling along for quite a while now, but now it seems to have reached an acceleration that is noticeably trekking towards corporate society consuming all, while pretending to be all, and offering nothing substantial in return.

Most authenticity was sold off long ago in contractual obligations and copyrighted royalty deals. A clever arrangement of papers signed and percentages held, it’s a groundbreaking deal I assure you, but the result of that contractual obligation is art in a precipitous fall towards collapse along with the economy, the climate, and the earth’s ability to sustain life. This is what decline feels like – the rehashed dumbed down clones of movies, music, books, the obliteration of poetry, the rise of faux cinéma vérité…all these longstanding indications of depleted creativity are all symptoms of a commodified people without much left to say of any importance.

Because novel ideas are untested and unreliable in capitalist markets, media distribution companies are less likely to take a risk especially when there are proven commodities that are almost guaranteed to break even. Better to get those sure thing dollars and bank on what you know works rather than take a chance. Our money is repressing us in the most vile ways. The capitalist dictum has nothing to do with competitive ideas fighting in free markets, but rather to amass capital and use it to control and box out markets with the leverage gained by owning distribution channels.

What is now termed the “far left” has long sought to rekindle what was stamped out in the 60s, an artistic-egalitarian-sexual-social-economic-spiritual revolution, but we can never get there without first ridding ourselves of the illogical falsehoods which have polluted the arguments of the people; e.g., the Democratic and Republican parties, moderates, and other such gutless variations of political abomination who are all people ultimately, though misled, and unable to gain truthful reflection so they can snap out of the lies that have captured their minds.

The decline of our culture is not hidden. It’s emblazoned onto signs and promoted during the intermission of modern gladiator fights. In a time of such obvious decline we find our mouths are most inhibited to speak truth. Artists have become tamed by money.  They aren’t being edgy very often these days, they are just scheduling more dates to make money at gigs. Our capacity to live on the Earth with 7+ billion people is diminishing rapidly while the population continues to grow. Meanwhile the cavalcade of artists we need to howl truth into the night are almost entirely owned by, run by, and catering to the pursuit of money; this offers about as much resistance to authoritarianism as the Democratic party.

While we come perilously close to the edge of oblivion, our artists are not publicly questioning authority enough, nor are they in great enough numbers. They are not questioning how this state came into being, or why did it ever become acceptable for so few to wield power over so many while collecting children for wars that kill innocents with vain arrogance. Why did stealing land from peaceful indigenous people empower those same genocidal people to then charge us rents so we may use what they stole, and they do all this horror while also shaming us for not working hard enough in our jobs that are serving only the wealthy while sending us into a mass extinction event. How did this bizarre logic of the normalized status quo come to take hold of our minds?

And we continue to stand by the same philosophies that performed said horrors.  They are installed and operating as always, the same tyrannical social hierarchies are at play that have been so for thousands of years, and these are the dominant realms of thought still pulling the levers of economic action in the world today.

The spell cast on Americans by sustained propaganda hides the ills of our society like, for instance, massive social inequality and its origins. This society never was voluntary or collaborative with the will of the people. Like people of the western civilizations over the past several thousand years we are ruled. The US constitution is art commodified with pretty words of the enlightenment but the teeth of those words are missing.  Use of other words provide no end to the exceptions they allow to their logical antecedents like all that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness stuff. This, in effect, nullifies those pretty worlds and opts for the dictum of tyrants.

This system, in aggregate, is a brutal a racket, and artful use of words and media must expose the lies this capitalist system is built upon. There is a native American proverb that says: “It’s easy to be brave at a distance”, and this is usually true.  To see something externally we may say we’d do this or that in a given situation, but in reality to be brave in the moment takes real guts, real clarity, and ability to see not just what is in front of us but where these ideas will take us.  This is the role of the artist — to edify others with greater truth held to reason, a role I’d argue we’d all do well to take up on occasion. It is the mind of the artist that must awaken the people from their long slumber.

Capitalists prey on artistic souls, the chain of events set forth by the need for making money ends up consuming the light of many artists physically and emotionally. It either makes them poor, sellouts, or dead, and it does it because it knows fluid truthful creative ideation means the end for capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t hold up to scrutiny in any capacity, thus is doesn’t take kindly to the very thing it purports to promote — competition. Capitalism is. again, antithetical to any human benefit, so it must lie and present itself as perceived good, while it uses money both directly and indirectly to stifle artistic impulse, which serves to control the voice of so many who wish to truthfully speak out.

And in closing, the commodification art was perhaps most artfully addressed by recently deceased writer Ursula Le Guin who spoke on the subject in 2014:

Right now we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art…Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship…Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant and tell us what to publish and what to write…the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art.

We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable, (but) so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art; the art of words…the name of our beautiful reward is not profit, it is freedom.

• See Part 1 of “The Commodification of Art” here.

The Punditry of Shithole Thinking

Our capitalist elites have used propaganda, money and the marginalizing of their critics to erase the first three of philosopher John Locke’s elements of the perfect state: liberty, equality and freedom. They exclusively empower the fourth, property. Liberty and freedom in the corporate state mean the liberty and freedom of corporations and the rich to exploit and pillage without government interference or regulatory oversight. And the single most important characteristic of government is its willingness to use force, at home and abroad, to protect the interests of the property classes.

— Chris Hedges, “Corpses of Souls”

Here’s a thought experiment for social workers assisting homeless, recovery (drug, alcohol), re-entry (coming out of prison), and those diagnosed with mental and physical health challenges: Take a college educated “professional,” George, and then a “homeless” person, Julia, and put them in the same tattered clothes, take away phone, ID, money, credit cards, blindfold them, transport them from say Portland, Oregon, and to Toronto, Canada, or Buffalo, NY, and drop them off in an alley in a run-down part of town at 3 am on a Monday. Then challenge them to get back to square “go.”

We know the homeless person, or the former incarcerated person, or the recovering addict will be home — Portland – within 48 hours. The professional, either in FIRE (finance insurance real estate) or any number of elite fields, will tank quickly. Especially if we were to drop that person off outside of town into a homeless camp.

In my field of social work, many employers I talk to would rather have a former inmate, a former felon, who has gotten his or her life back on track, on the job. Really. There are even Harvard (who cares that it’s Ivy League, by the way?) studies to that effect. Of course, the rationale is based on company loyalty; an ex-con would really appreciate his freedoms now; hard work – workaholic – since all that time in the lobotomizing prison system would kick in an obsessiveness toward keeping busy, keeping moving. Then, some employers I talk to think most workers or potential workers are the problem, would steal time, money, goods, and things from the company. So, the felon has already done time, knows the depravity of prison systems, and would stay on the up and up without jeopardizing incarceration. Plus, in the US, companies get a tax break for hiring former felons!

The fields of social work are growing, yet the pay is shrinking, the work conditions are ramped up, the management are bizarre examples of former social workers themselves (very anti worker, very hard on outside-the-box thinkers, and completely blank on what radical social work is and how to even apply the principles of that form of social work). Most non-profits do the dirty work of what a society is looking more and more to not provide for – mental health care for a bigger and bigger share of the USA population; disability services for a larger and larger swath of Americans mentally, psychologically, intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually broken or disabled; financial, employment, education, housing assistance for an ever-growing population of humans who are not able to work and live and transport and find health care for themselves in this New Gilded Age.

The non-profits I have worked for are top-heavy, have very little money put aside or earmarked or grant-provided for the workers; many of the non-profits hire development associates, upper management shills, PR folk, marketing and events coordinators; many are in shining and remodeled digs while casting shadows on the street people they supposedly care about.

Some of us in social services have come from other professions, and like me, many are former teachers. Very few are radical thinkers, and many are just trying to hang on. When you work in an at-will state, where organizing and workplace coordinating is akin to communism, and when you work for people younger and the same age as yourself who once had their lives more or less put together but who are today on the streets, in shelters, in vans on the side of the road, and who have to pay for legal debts – hospital bills, legal financial obligations, debts coming at them via mean-assed debt collectors and repo men —  the idea of Six Degrees of Separation comes cold like melting glaciers as really Only One Degree of Separation.

Manfred Max Neef calls this country, USA — richest, biggest land rip off abusing, military mightiest, vastest financial thieving, culturally insanest — underdeveloping.

I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem.

This short piece – rare for me at DV, LA Progressive,  and other places, since I still believe that concision is not a favorable tool to understanding the complexities of our society and systems thinking – is all tied to really what many Americans WAY WAY before Trump’s family set foot in this country have always believed about Mexico or New Orleans or Dominican Republic or South Africa or Philippines or Afghanistan (just replace a country like Haiti with any number of 120 countries in the world) have said, stated, written and professed undiplomatically and through the Economic Hit Men: They are ALL shitholes.

I have had plenty of people in my 61 years living on this planet, after being in dozens of countries (I have lived and worked in), fellow (sic) Americans (sic) who thought my white skin and my little lists of three college degrees and my male status entitled my fellow Americans to rant on and on about how dirty, backward, primitive, slow-witted, poor, inefficient, shady, criminal this or that country is — countries from which I lived, traveled and worked and those many have not stepped foot in, beyond FOX News and Hollywood propaganda.

That Trump now voices what Americans have believed, and economists have practiced, and our military branches have reflected – America is Great, and the rest of the rabble (well, maybe not Norway or Finland — that’s about it for that pure white race places) are part and particle the shitholes Trump so undiplomatically states the world is.

In reality, though, if we look at the definition of “shit”/”hole,” it all comes back to this warring, militant, earth-killing, global lording over country called the United States of America. Infantilized, lobotomized, one-paycheck/broken bone/auto accident/employment termination/criminal justice involved/foreclosure AWAY from shithole status.

This poor white and now multi-race co-opting country of people who have zero idea how and why its more or less isolated little status among the global actors is set in their minds as “okay . . . Great/Yes We Can/Make It Great Again/Numero Uno” because of the shit we serve up to the rest of the world vis-à-vis military and economic and resource plundering insanity.

While our own country is full of shit-holes– full of systems of penury and debasement and depravity and delusion and destruction and increasing wrath upon its own populations – we see this spasm of protestations from the Liberal Democrats Who Support All Those Democratic Party apparatchiks of regime change and collateral damage carried out on what Bush or Obama see as the “shit hole Iraqis and Afghans and Libyans and Yeminis and Somalis.” Imagine, the democrats crying about Trump and his redneck Americanism.

Which party said we had to bomb them back to the stone age? Which party wrapped up Japanese Americans in barbed wire luxury? Which party helped to wipe out 3 million Vietnamese? Who bombed, razed, illegally mined, economically double-triple tapped the world’s other shit holes? Way-way before two-bit The Apprentice got raves and ratings and millions. It’s Trump who is still on record ranting about the Central Park Five, found to be falsely convicted and held in prison (now released), stating months ago, after the five men were acquitted, found to be innocent and released, that “they are guilty of the rape, man.” His Trump Faulty Towers Corp. paid or two full page ads in the NYT ranting about “their guilty” after they were found innocent.

Again, a reset button is necessary when looking at the big billionaire’s motley mind and fourth grade thinking style: who is he, how did he get here, where did he learn, how did he exist in this country, what is his American soul made of . . . . The who, why, when, what, where and how are questions Americans of all political stripes never ask.

We can tap dance around those “deplorables” voting for George Wallace or Barry Goldwater or George Bush or Donald Trump, or dance around those millionaires who see other shitholes producing other super predators, or two-step into more delusion when Super Rich Hollywood defines You and Me and Success and Failure, or when Amazon dot com comes crashing into your local bricks and mortar, or how the millionaire media or celebrities come into your living rooms via cable or iPhone and kidnap your loved ones, young and old.

Seriously, which shithole shall we concentrate on in the US of A, the engine of shit holes, the Mother of All Shitholes, coming to a neighborhood nearby, or Flint Michigan, or Charlottesville, or Fortune 1000 boardroom or dis-education college faculty and administration?

Who in your group of friends and acquaintances even knows what economics is for? Manfred Max Neef again:

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

I am sorry to say in my years as a journalist, college teacher, union organizer, social worker, environmentalist, urban planner, etc., I have run into more shithole thinkers in this country than all the countries I’ve been to combined, by far. If you want to run into real thugs, real criminals, real depravity, delusional thinking, disgusting thinking, real retrograde philosophy, real illiteracy, real infantilism, come to a town near me – Pacific Northwest, or Texas or Arizona, or anywhere I have done my time in.

Not many anti-Trump people would question the root cause of his shithole role running this shithole country, and the mirror is not large enough for self-reflection: biggest military in the world, biggest land mass stolen from original nations, biggest area cleared of natural ecosystems, biggest group of la-la-land thinkers. Magical thinkers, the lot of us, really.

Let the knee-jerking go on and on as Americans attempt to parse out who they are in that mirror mirror on the wall! Unless you have ended the mythical belief in this country’s prowess and greatness and stopped hiding from this society’s advanced malignant cancer called predatory and consumer capitalism, then you are the Trump in that mirror, without or without the orange glow!

Max-Neef: First of all, we need cultured economists again, who know the history, where they come from, how the ideas originated, who did what, and so on and so on; second, an economics now that understands itself very clearly as a subsystem of a larger system that is finite, the biosphere, hence economic growth as an impossibility; and third, a system that understands that it cannot function without the seriousness of ecosystems. And economists know nothing about ecosystems. They don’t know nothing about thermodynamics, you know, nothing about biodiversity or anything. I mean, they are totally ignorant in that respect. And I don’t see what harm it would do, you know, to an economist to know that if the beasts would disappear, he would disappear as well, because there wouldn’t be food anymore. But he doesn’t know that, you know, that we depend absolutely from nature. But for these economists we have, nature is a subsystem of the economy. I mean, it’s absolutely crazy.

Thus Spake Oprah As The New York Times Spots UFOs Over The Comb-Over Empire

I remember my first impression of the Reality Television program American Idol. I cringed at the thought, what if, a young Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, or the members of The Clash had been forced to have their talents appraised by the sort of shallow celebrities, supercilious moderators, and gallery of lowest common denominator-giddy cretins attendant to the hype-driven fare.

Yet now, there is serious talk among abjectly unserious people that the next presidential election might pit a billionaire, Reality Television grifter versus a billionaire, Reality Television grifter. All hail, The President of the United States Of Reality Television.

Oprah Winfrey is, and has been since her entrance into the US mass media hologram, one of the capitalist elite’s most effective propagandists. By intention, her New Age snake oil-peddling patter never connects capitalist exploitation as the dominant source of individual suffering. Of course not. Oprah is a US American huckster in the model of Norman Vincent Peale.

She retails in the con job that a paucity of positive thinking — in essence, personal failings — is the source of individual angst, alienation, anomie, and suffering in general under the neoliberal order. Yet there is hope, she confides. A positive change in attitude will shift the course of one’s destiny. Thereby, she steers her rapt adherents away from the shedding of internalised, capitalist-engendered false consciousness, and, on a cultural basis, the paradigmatic shift required to steer humankind away from ecological catastrophe.

It should go without saying that me-first-er Oprah, the obscenely wealthy virgin queen of the neoliberal order, would become a prominent promulgator of me-too myopia and its bourgeoisie feminist refusal to connect capitalist exploitation of any and all aspects of human life imposed by her fellow members of capitalism’s criminal class. Wealth inequity and wage and debt slavery are forms of predation. Yet notice this dominant and guiding feature of the mindset, a given since the rise of the Weltanschauung in the Western, Christian imagination: Oprah’s breed of Calvinist crusader animus, as a rule, will be incurred when the human genitals can be blamed as a key source of human misery.

Collectively, according to its gospel, we wretches can start the slog back from our exile within the sin-ridden precincts sprawling east of Eden, if only we scour away the denizens of darkness by a devotion to the purifying gospel of positivity. Resultantly, sinners will become doubt-cleansed devotees of a quasi-religious order, a righteous order in which its canticles and catechisms will vanquish all negative thoughts and untoward inclinations. Redemption and rebirth will be bestowed by the cultivation of a right-thinking, true believer aura thereby a variable pentecost of prosperity will descend upon the keepers of the faith. Never question the degradations of capitalism; instead, keep your eye on the prize of careerist success, a given and deserved destiny for the right thinking but a perpetual rebuke to those possessed by the imps of negativity and the demons of carnality.

Oprah preaches a Gospel Of Redemption. Yet, in ways both explicit and implicit, she urges her followers to attempt to adapt to an economic system that is irredeemable.

She retails Horatio Alger bunkum to a soul sick audience inhabiting a planet taxed to the point of ecological catastrophe. The old verities have ossified. Levels of discontent and despair, mirroring rates of greenhouse emission engendered methane feedback loops, are increasing at exponential rates. Yet Oprah continues shilling reality-veiling palliatives to a populace languishing in depression, drug dependency, and an addiction to manic forms of distraction.

At this point, I request readers bear with me for a moment until I arrive at my point by means of a series of digressive, rhetorical tropes, both anecdotal and collective in form. Recently, on Facebook, I have witnessed, hovering on my newsfeed, a proliferation of recent New York Times pieces addressing seemingly tabloid fodder and 1950s B movie plot lines, bearing headlines such as:

“2 Navy Airmen and an Object That ‘Accelerated Like Nothing I’ve Ever Seen’”

“Glowing auras and ‘black money’: The Pentagon’s mysterious UFO program”

“U.F.O.s: Is This All There Is?”

When I posted a (humorous) take on the subject on my Facebook page, both the number of, and emotional charged nature of, responses to the post was striking, even by the less than decorous to outright bughouse standards of social media.

The post read as follows:

We are not alone. And we should be embarrassed. No species with a scintilla of common sense and common decency should be carrying on in this manner in the public (albeit cosmic) sphere.

OK aliens, we’ve had a few bad millennia…I mean, who hasn’t. You went and caught us with our guards down. But we promise we will clean up for company real nice. Never mind that space junk orbiting our front yard and the fact we keep up our planet like a trailer court inhabited by methheads.

We promise we will clean up for company. Is there perhaps a rehab planet that our entire population can be checked into in order to work some shit out? The other living things on our planet would be forever grateful for any help you can offer.

You don’t happen to possess any galactic range super weapons, do you? Because, to paraphrase an insight by the alien genius Flannery O’Connor, we could be a good species if someone was there to fire a super weapon at us, twenty four-seven.

I cannot speak for other writers but when reportage of events, or even humorous goof-takes on the situation, as was the case with my Facebook post, prove highly provocative, my curiosity is piqued. A hidden door to a room of the collective unconscious has swung open.

It is not my intention in this essay to either advocate for the existence of UFOs or express skepticism. My theme involves the public’s yearning for a paradigmatic shift, a crucial rearrangement of cultural verities.

When I examine my own reactions to UFO phenomenon, I discover I am drawn to and find inspiration in the mystery of it all and its attendant ineffable quality. Carl Jung viewed UFO phenomenon as a collectively manifesting apprehension of an emerging aeon. At present, the New York Times and other keepers of accepted opinion are signalling a sea change in regard to cultural narrative and prevailing mythos.

Given the fact that a radical shift in cultural, economic and political systems of belief must come to pass if the human race is going to survive the catastrophic effects of capitalism-inflicted Anthropocene Epoch, is it possible UFO narratives auger the arrival of an incipient mythos? Withal, when the numinous comes into play all manner of responses are evoked, from the mindlessly reactionary to the outré, before psychical integration and eventual acceptance occurs.

Then there is the following, insofar as recent phenomenon that has evoked an upswelling of passion: the consternation, the bandying of ridicule, and the general agitation of Democrats and liberals in regard to the revelations pertaining to The Oval Office-squatting Orange Beast Of A Billion Tweets and his inner circle chronicled in Michael Wolff’s inflammatory, fly-on-the-wall book.

Yet somehow amid the ensuing snark extravaganza evinced by Democratic partisans, a fact remains unnoticed: Only Democrats could manage to be beaten by — and to this day cannot manage to create a viable resistance against — this klavern of inept arrivistes and noxious buffoons, who, according to Wolff’s book, fully expected to lose and were flat out gobsmacked by the election results, and have yet to recover from the reversal of fortune inflicted by their victory.

Moreover, this aspect of Trump’s ascendancy is shunted from the duopolist dynamic and the narrow, acceptable discourse of political and media elites: Trump’s pathetic dye job, fake tan, and comb-over mirror the US empire. Its decline and deterioration simply cannot be covered up by the desperate application of cosmetic measures. Therefore, let’s term the US — the Comb-over Empire. We should view Trump as not only an emblem but a catalyst of the decline and ultimate demise of the neoliberal capitalist order.  He is its scion, now passed into decrepitude.

Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey are axiomatic of a perishing paradigm, while UFOs, albeit our projections upon the phenomenon not their actual, unknown nature, mirror a collective yearning for a transformation of the stultifying and destructive nature of political and cultural realities. Contemplate how hard evidence of intelligent life outside of our tiny sphere of existence would shatter dogmatic thought and petrified perceptions. It comes down to this: Collective myopia and mass media-facilitated superficiality must give way to a larger sense of vision and a deeper understanding of the human species’ place among the order of earthly life or paradigm’s end will prove to be humankind’s perishing.