Love, Work, and Dissent in a Time of Hazmat Suits and Political Hypochondria
by Phil Rockstroh
Recently, discourse, within the free-range pathogen zone of the U.S. political realm, has been infected and inflamed by the use of verbiage (applied both in the metaphoric and literal sense) related to disease and contagion by editorial scribes and political hacks. For example, we have been informed that Occupy D.C. sites were attacked and destroyed by police authorities for reasons related to public health and hygiene.
These actions (part of a series of ongoing coordinated, anti-democratic measures) carried out on orders from the current governing class of the U.S. display the tendency of the hyper-authoritarian mindset to regard the inherent messiness of freedom--including those individuals who engage in acts of dissent in public space-- to pose a danger to civil order and the wellbeing of the general public on the level of that of bio-hazardous material.
(In a vain attempt to assuage his germophobic mania, J. Edgar Hoover had a throne-sized commode constructed for his exclusive use that included an appurtenance that allowed his feet to perch upon an elevated pedestal to prevent contact with the subversive-enabling floor of his bathroom where, presumably, seditious microorganism seethed and plotted his doom.)
Hoover's OCD pathology is axiomatic of the anti-freedom mania gripping the nation's capital where the concept of freedom has become so repellant to the ruling establishment that expressions thereof have been relegated to be almost exclusively expressed in cold marble statuary and soldier's tombstones. Not only is this approach fitting for late empire's cult of death, it is convenient for D.C.'s insular culture of prevaricators, for the dead don't protest; hagiographic monuments cannot mic-check liars.
Authoritarian personality types favor empty spectacle, such as sporting events and parades, over occupations and protest marches, because there is little danger of the primary taking on a life of its own, of evolving a consciousness beyond simply a provisional surrender to the intoxication evinced by an immersion in the mass. People are transformed by social movements, while they are benumbed by spectacle.
Calcified power structures detest the living architecture of social and political movements, wherein individuals, by engagement in the messiness of life, forge identities distinct from those favored by a self-serving elite who have rigged the dominant order to their benefit.
"When the individual feels, the community reels"-- Aldous Huxley
Mortified by this, authoritarian personality types are obsessed with the fantasy of scouring (a panopticon/predator drone mode of mind) life of all disorder. Not only making the trains run on time but demanding that the passengers on said trains psyches be cleansed of impure thoughts…sanitized for their protection, then covered in a sort of societal prophylactic plastic to safeguard the principles of societal propriety--in short, have the populace rendered Body Bag People.
Better this, they are convinced, than allow the person-to-person contagion of dissent to spread. Perhaps, this provides a clue as to why the enforcers of our fear-driven, ruthless authoritarian power elite go so far as to don Hazmat suits when attacking and dismantling Occupy sites.
As well as viewing dissenters as a dangerous contagion, the one percent, along with their operatives and enforcers, are convinced that we are just plain filth and are as dumb as dirt to boot…that we who revolt are ourselves, by nature, irredeemably revolting, or, as Mel Brooks, impersonating Louis XVI, in his movie, The History Of The World, Part One, sniffed, "[The peasants]-- they stink on ice."
The architects of neoliberal imperium have built gleaming towers and sterile high-rises into the pure, blue heavens to avoid our perceived reek. What they detest, in fact, is the musky redolence of humanity; although, they don't seem to be troubled by the stain of the blood of the innocent that is forever affix to their names, for these are people who believe they can ascended to heaven by scaling the mountain of corpses that their imperial pursuits have created.
Yet, they claim we are unclean. Granted, the endeavors of liberty can get messy--but not so much as the orgies of blood wrought by the militarist agendas that maintain the privilege of the 1 percent. One would think they would have the presence of mind to clean up their own act before they go about lecturing us on the finer points of hygiene.
"Nothing is more exhilarating than philistine vulgarity," wrote Vladimir Nabokov
The Romantic Age poet, John Keats, believed earthly existence--life as lived in the muck, mire, and uncertainty of mortal circumstance--to be what he termed, "a vale of soul-making", wherein an individual is challenged to descend from life-devoid towers of habitual action and insular thought into the eros and accountability of the human condition, and, in so doing, one descends into one's humanity. By commitment to this process, the poet averred, one is provided with a means to transmute grandiosity and a sense of entitlement (defining traits of the 1 percent) into a sense of appreciation of being in the presence of life’s grandeur.
Thus, one is advised to: show your face to the world…Yet the corporate state demands an individual become a job résumé on two legs, as opposed to the sustained act of revealing one's innate self by means of a chosen vocation. Moreover, the hierarchy of vampires who lord over the present economic system demand the 99 percent surrender their very life force to sustain the disastrously narrowed, self-serving agendas that ensure the privileged status of the economic and political elite.
In so doing, they reduce work to empty servitude, as opposed to allowing one to make a contribution to the interwoven fabric of life as a whole by the everyday sublime of one's individual art and labor. What these corporate state undead demand is an abomination. Conversely, one's work is an act of providing and receiving common communion, an activity of both solemn reverie and joyous reverence…a process that originates in and is borne by love--but is not bestowed with soulful agency by the small bribes and unspoken coercions imposed by the operatives of the neoliberal state.
One does not have to be a monk, artist, poet, mystic or musician to approach their vocation with élan and ebullience; yet one should grant oneself the right to surrender to ardor while engaging in work. To derive meaning and resonance from life demands artful labor--the awful daring of choosing to give oneself over to responsibility, thus allowing one to occupy one's occupation, heart and soul.
The act of working is a journey (not the prison sentence demanded by the 1 percent); one cannot predict where the journey will lead or how one will be transformed along the way. Antithetically, the corporate state, by means overt and covert, demands an unjust portion of one's fate.
Therefore, to some, dissent becomes imperative.
Yet love and work (the act of political protest falls into both of these categories) places one in a struggle with oneself, as well as with the powers that be. Oh, what vehement angels and dogma-besotted demons are unloosed by the process, and, often, it is difficult to discern the difference. Apropos, the latest leftist tempest as to whether the Black Block delivers belligerent balm or inflicts carcinogenic rancor to the OWS movement.
"Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once, beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything is in its deepest being is something that needs our love."--Rainer Maria Rilke
Still, many seem at a loss to understand why some are driven to struggle for a more just world, even though, time and time again, their ardor will be met by seemingly implacable, ruthless resistance…that one’s heart will be repeatedly broken.
One might as well ask, why one's heart yearns to move towards beauty?
We are compelled to move towards beauty and justice for the same reason a sunflower follows the course of the sun across the sky…opening, wheeling across the eternal moment, ripening and casting seeds of futurity beneath the heavens.
At our best, we are graced by the type of moments, engaged in craft and suspended in beauty, that an earthworm knows as earth passes through its body, as its body, in turn, passes through the body of the earth…Now, that is perfection achieved through labor; beauty incarnate; a living line of verse.
And that is what one experiences when one's character is aligned with one's destiny--when one has gained the wherewithal to insist on one's portion of fate.
This is essential: One diminishes oneself and the world when one chooses to ignore one’s heart’s calling to passionate engagement, for the fate of an individual is determined by the collective fate of humankind.
May we all be so graced as to be granted an earthworm's portion of fate.
There are, of course, obstacles (because no story worth telling unfolds without antagonists and obstructions). Thus, at present, in an era in which one's humanity is deemed only worth its value by the amount in dollars that one generates for the one percent, as, all the while, one's sense of self is continually inundated and buffeted by the come-ons and emotional coercions of the commercial hologram--one holds unto the debris of one's essential nature, as one is pulled along by powerful currents of a cultural death-drive.
In this age of economic imprisonment and exponentially increasing environmental devastation (e.g., How can one adapt to the social and political climes of a culture that is dangerously altering the climate itself, yet denies it?)--what verities should one hold to?
Perhaps, we might grow so desperate that we open ourselves to the spirit of the following quote--an eminently more resonate sentiment than that expressed by garden variety Valentine’s Day cards:
"The spirit of justice is nothing other than the supreme and perfect flower of the madness of love."--Simone Weil
Now we have something to work with: spirits, madness and love.
One's spirit (which includes the spirit of conviction, labor, and dissent) goes into the world with the ardor of a lover--and becomes enmeshed in its madness. How could it not? Spirit in itself is by definition as impersonal as nature: to be possessed of spirit is to be suffused with the inhuman fury of nature itself…of spiraling galaxies and spindling earthworms; spirit is borne of a womb of thunder and the autochthonic urgency of daemonic (i.e., instinctual) drives, and, like the act of surrendering to romantic love or to an immersion of the self within a mob, while in its grip, one is apt to be spirited away.
Conversely, to be devoid of spirit, one becomes cipher; one lacks vitality; life is a prison yard shuffle, in which the condemned serves a life sentence for the crime of not choosing life itself…the crime of refusing to commit Eros' error.
Yet upon committing the crime of passionate engagement, one places oneself in an asylum for the hopelessly insane i.e., a life lived in this human realm.
What to do? Proceed to the ward of the madhouse of yourself where the powers in charge have placed in lockdown the most hopeless cases…and love the inmates within.
Give voice to the suffering lunatic whose mouth is frozen in terror. In our age, it should not evoke bafflement as to why he has been struck paralyzed by fear. It is quite possible, he cannot drive the knowledge from his mind that our species, by means of manic consumption, is destroying our planet--our only home and collective body--yet the allegedly sane go along as if nothing of the sort looms. Given the state of the situation, it might be proof of one's sanity to be driven a bit mad with grief.
Weep into the darkness with the inmates. Rage at invisible demons in the air, until they make themselves visible to you; a strategy by which one can keep a close watch on them, because it is from one's inner demons'--those shunned and shunted aside, lost, troubled spirits--from their tormented minds, from their fear-palsied hands, out of their gibbering tongues, from their raw, raging energies bloom "the spirit [of justice, of meaningful labor, of protest] of the supreme and perfect flower of the madness of love."
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