Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgment difficult. – Hippocrates

from Hippocrates, from the Wikipedia entry on aphorism. Aphorisms sort of converge upon basic grounds when it is that the thoughts are invigorated by a struggling population against some sort of calamity. In short, these are “inspirational” ideas that lie low like the superflousness of pessimists in times of great insouciance, when it is possible to accept moral cowardice, when the chains of the poor and the declasse intellectuals rattle in our dreams, when we die the little death each comfortable day.

The middle class is a sort of drugged household pet, one that does tricks, some quite impressive, for token reward. But, even in our little beds, wearing our little collars and piddling in the corners of our weirdly confabulated and conforming landscapes, we cry out, because these struggles will come to rest heavy in our dreams, because we are not alone. Somewhere beyond the artificial horizons of our skylines, beyond the increasingly empty quarters of our suburbs, beyond the agrideserts of GMO corn and soy, beyond our trash-choked and over-fished oceans, lies the open territory of space, black, eternal night. When we lie down and are washed out to this cosmic sea of interviduated dreams, our collective unconscious recognizes archetypes of longing, of desire and sorrow, like little stars, little bright lights, and like moths even unto death, are we drawn towards sources of illumination.

The urban poor who crowd the perimeters of street lights at night selling drugs, their bodies, each other, weapons, are only the vanguards of a greater population of the impoverished and disillusioned. Lying awake at night, when we should be dreaming, worried about food for the hungry, do we wonder what the 1% are worried about? Do we care how they suffer? Is their cowardice and callous indifference to the suffering of the great majority of people going to change how they act tomorrow, when they wake up and slavishly bend their minds upon the anvil of greed, forging sharp weapons of their thoughts to cut away the chaff of the working poor, to enjoy minimalism, the emptying of our shanty towns with all their incongruent lives living so shabbily upon the shores of Cash Island.

Do we tell our children there is no hope in changing the system? It is the rare species of artist, of intellectual, of theologian, of scientist who, inside the furnace of this great devouring beast of Western civilization that finds a way to reject the pallid trophies handed down by the crapitalist masters, to look at this decoupage we are encouraged to call a value-system, to call a “civilization” and say, I’ve been robbed. What I have is shit. The trappings of conspicuous consumption, the fear of the lash. The proud business deal, the iron bars upon the minorities, locking down who cannot be locked out. It’s the same thing if one cause the other. If, by excluding the majority of people from access to good food, clean water and air, shelter and education to create technological advances in civil engineering and medicine, in art and culture, if we trade these zones of happiness for the chance to have a swipe at these pinatas of bullshit, then we have for prizes to share the mendacity of our own retreating courage to share.

We are encouraged to deceive our children. It is a tradition. We feed them ideas of imaginary, gift-bearing creatures that come to sweep us away in a pageantry of joy and sense of belonging. And, behind each holiday, we have an industrial-scale system of slave wage workers pumping out the goods that we can share for these brief respites from the crushing, endless road of struggle we face. We know things are not going to get better. We know the banks aren’t going to return the possibility of interest to our savings accounts.

The grain silos are bought, the land built and bought-out. There are no more corners of the globe to explore that we haven’t already been, haven’t covered with commentary and given substance to the shadows of our vacations. In the light of day we all hide in the open, waiting, waiting for what? I feel like I’m watching a lumbering beast lying before an advancing forest fire, aware it’s in danger, but not willing to stir from its cool shady mud bath until the oxygen is sucked from the air, the mud dries, until it is trapped in the mire that once served as refuge from the mosquitoes that feasted upon its immobility, its great bulk of comfort, congealed like glue, holding it fast forever, the vice of comfort.

When I was young, I threw away my life. I threw away most of my acquaintances, slipped from my identity as if it were some sort of robe, and decided to travel, if but to struggle alongside the people who made my blue jeans, who harvested the food flown in to my city that I might enjoy “a night out”, who toiled in the gardens under the threat of deportation, who didn’t have places in which to gather and protect themselves with legislative representation. I wanted to do black market agricultural labor, to find a window for refugees to at least find egress from collapsing city-state and nation-state. Having lived in the jungle in Malaysia as an exchange student in high school, I had learned that there is no safer quarter for the heart than in poverty. Poverty is honest. Where the masters have taken away nearly everything, you still have song, you have heart, you have a love of your compatriot that you can’t get when packed like sardines in the corporate matrix. I went to greece to work. I thought i would fill my pockets and move on. As luck would have it, Ii was robbed of my possessions, my camping gear, and in the course of some work for free room and board I landed a job as a youth hostel manager. Suddenly, I realized, my job would be the geography of discovery, and not the land itself. The world was going to come to ME.

I wanted to ride the ragged edge of struggle. I’m just glad i never entered any violent enclaves of war. I don’t know if I would’ve made it out. When I ran a youth hostel in Sitia,Crete in 1992,, I watched the walls of jingoism and ignorance fall away. I encouraged artists and poets to write upon the old plaster, to draw pictures, to dream themselves anew. The place was a crossroads. I met tourists, refugees, criminals, the insane, the truly lost, even a couple of ghosts, and when I left, I had become a kind of chimera, a less-than-me individual full of more-of-you. I had become the crossroads I sought, a fertile ground for ideas, very fragile, very pure, and when I returned to America, about two minutes inside the airport, I felt myself fall apart. The immensity of the culture shock took me nearly a decade to internalize to the point that I could function within my community well enough to try to volunteer and help others again. It took a decade for my broken heart to heal, my body to overcome the self-destructive invitation to consume the lies that would allow me to wallow in the refreshing filth of an uncritical lifestyle, to have the strength and courage to abandon self-pity.

Life is short, art is long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgement difficult, said Hippocrates. But, with better tools, these things become easier.

We have acces to information. Democratic control of information gives rie to democratic control of life-resources, to medicine, to food, to a safe environment. I am not so blind to think that my dissidence is pitted against an unfeeling machine. There are those who worked inside the machine that is destroying the world who are waiting for the parallel infrastructure of rebellion to appear, to pick up the slack and pull just as mightily to bring down the rabid monster of unchecked power no less passionately than the minority youth who languish in prison on stupid and racist drug charges. Black urban men who wanted to get ahead and feed their families, protect their communities, build their churches, their sanctuaries, they were unfortunate to be the low men on the pole for the money-laundering, international banking cartel slave-drivers that are running the whole planet to the ground. They went down first.

The first thing people can do is stop buying garbage and putting it in their bodies. If it comes from a company traded on the NYSE, if it has an “investment class” behind it, you can be sure they’re not investing in you nor your future. If you think they’re going to wake up and say, wow, I want to relinquish my choke-hold on the planet’s resources just so I can selfishly maintain this need to sit atop this heap of misery, you’re wrong. The subaltern dissent in the technical sectors, in the outsourced management communities, they’re just waiting to vie their trades for the right reason, but too afraid to stick out their necks, to be the “no man” in the board room. This is a death cult, and it will come at a price. If it is that the declasse intellectual sitting at his desk in his cube farm stands up, declares mutiny, it would take a small amount to arrest the flow of capitalized wealth, destroy “investor confidence” and grind the machine to a halt.

Seriously, I don’t want to see the cities burn. I don’t want the paranoid masters invest more time and money to militarize the infrastructure of the police and surveillance state. It’s already ridiculously incompetent. After all, this was all done to fight the “terrorists”, and the very rich are deathly afraid of losing wealth. If you have any understanding of Karl Marx, you would know that the working poor are terrorists, that doctors and social workers are terrorists, artists are terrorists, children are terrorists. They are unknown quantities of imagination and freedom. They are making decisions to have fun, and to share good times. Crapitalism is not about sharing and preserving resources. Crapitalism is about excluding the greatest numbers of people from the greatest abstractions of wealth. We’ve been singing along, alone in the night, for so long. Can we get it together and make it right? You said follow your heart. You said to be true. You said kill your idols, you said to be the change you wanted to be, you said you would wake up and make a change. Well, honey, sing it louder.

Built To Spill, “You Were Right” 

You were wrong when you said everything’s gonna be alright
You were wrong when you said everything’s gonna be alright

You were right when you said all that glitters isn’t gold
You were right when you said all we are is dust in the wind
You were right when you said we’re all just bricks in the wall
And when you said manic depression’s a frustrated mess

You were wrong when you said everything’s gonna be alright
You were wrong when you said everything’s gonna be alright
You were wrong when you said everything’s gonna be alright

You were right when you said you can’t always get what you want
You were right when you said it’s a hard rain’s gonna fall
You were right when you said were still running against the wind
Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone
You were right when you said this is the end

Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?

 

Sitting on your hands and watching the world go to ruin will eventually lead to the flash points of violent uprising that the power structure is designed to profit from.