Has Left The Building:
An Open Missive Of Anger And Hope
By Phil Rockstroh
23 November, 2006
Recently, we've been plied and
pummeled with the absurd proclamation that "the system worked"
-- that our congressional representatives listened and took note of
the collective, antiwar fulmination of the people, registered in our
faux republic's latest, sham plebiscite … Yes, I suspect, the
political classes of Washington did hear the people's thunder -- and
then went running for cover within the comfort zones of their sheltering
smugness, constructed of the brick and mortar of arrogant power and
inequitable privilege. Just ask Joe Lieberman: He's the self-satisfied
fellow seated comfortably upon the large, plush lounge chair, stuffed
with campaign dollars, nearest the door with access to K Street.
But we must not let ourselves
-- the true beneficiaries of empire -- off so easily: Our national tragedies
(from all the corpses amassed, buried and forgotten in our imperial
wars -- to our intransigence and denial regarding Global Warming) are
a collaborative effort with our leaders: A joint and living lie of the
mind -- made manifest by collective desire and remorseless pursuit.
Upon the occasion of our
cultural confabulation of colonial hagiography dubbed "Thanksgiving,"
a tradition when we stuff our overweight bellies by devouring big, growth
hormone-injected, flightless birds in order to celebrate, what in truth
was, a Thanks-taking of this land by our ancestors from its original
inhabitants -- (but a hearty salutation of "Happy Genocide Day"
doesn't exactly stimulate the appetite, does it?) -- I will address
the following missive to you -- my fellow unindicted (perhaps even unconscious)
co-conspirators in the crimes of our country.
Let's begin with the things
nearest to us: The structures and objects we see before us, everyday.
And it's not a beautiful sight to behold.
Due to the banality, blandness,
and flat-out ugliness of the stripmall/big box store/fast food outlet,
prefab nowhereland of our contemporary landscape, life in the US under
corporatism is as seductive as the glare of florescent tube lighting
in a convenience store.
The architecture of the US
looks as if Aldophe Eichmann grew bored endlessly calculating the human
weigh capacity of death camp bound boxcars -- rose from Hell -- and
went into the prefab structure design business.
Now, don’t get ugly,
Tell me: What is truly ugly
-- the composition and dissemination of a heartfelt, political jeremiad
(or even an angry rant) – or the squandering of the passing hours
of our finite lives within ugly suburban subdivisions, oversized, ugly-ass
motor vehicles, soulless stripmalls and sterile office parks.
Man, have we let ourselves
go: and its not only the sprawl around our middle: it’s the phony
way we comport ourselves in manner and deed. Our shallowness –
our hollowness – our lack of conscience, self-awareness and conviction
... all of which, the architecture and accoutrement of our commodified
nowhereland merely reflects.
Worse yet, we no longer even
see it. We are inseparable from our environment in the same manner e-coli
bacteria are inseparable from feces ... The nowhere-scape before us
exists in equal measure to the nowhere-scape within ...
It seems as though: Our landscape
has become so vapid and banal, it can't even rise to the level of being
tacky … Whatever the case -- even an attempt at tawdriness would
show some kind of low-grade involvement. Instead, there is an overall
feeling of flimsiness — a sense of a world devoid of substance.
And the pervasive unsubstantiality creates an underlying aura of anxiety
— the feeling that all of it can and will be leveled and scattered
in some approaching cataclysm ... In this way, we hear the death rattle
attendant to a closed system in entropic runaway ... The system is still
replicating itself, exponentially -- yet, in equal measure, it bears
and spreads the seeds of its demise.
This is why I have come to
squat in your comfort zone, until you take notice.
Because the manner we're
living is as salubrious as a tsunami.
And is about as sustainable,
body and soul, as Elvis Presley's final binge.
Our emptiness is compensated
for by the gigantism we see everywhere around us: from an epidemic of
obese children to bloated McMansions. But whether its wooly mammoths
or SUVs -- or Elvis, stuffed into a sequined jumpsuit -- or the fate
of unwieldy armies of over-extended empires, bogged down by local insurgencies
-- gigantism is a precursor to extinction. Worse, at present, this phenomenon
is transpiring on a global basis.
Corporatism has rendered
us analogous to the last days of Elvis ... Puffy, bloated -- we wheeze
our way through our set ... Guarded gate communities are our own private
Graceland where we die in excess and isolation. The electric lights
sequined across the entire planet, now glow from space like one of Elvis's
Las Vegas costumes. But does no one see the dying man beneath the jeweled
jumpsuit? The land and The King are one.
America has left the building.
Because, like any disorder
of the psyche, being the organic system a culture is -- pathology will
increase, exponentially. Inevitably, a collapse will come ... Then it
can and will get even uglier: Homegrown Brownshirts emerge, brandishing
bibles and automatic weapons (convinced when Jesus returns the first
thing he'll do is apply for membership to the NRA and then saddle-up
and ride a Cruise Missile, Slim Pickens-style, aimed at the false god
idolizing hordes of the Muslem world). Then will come detention camps,
built by Halliburton and guarded by Blackwater rent-a-thugs ... In time,
the sky will be darkened from the floating ash of the furnace-devoured
flesh of those pushed into the flames lit by collective psychosis.
Hyperbolic, you say. No,
it's an understatement. Remember we're speaking about the country that
committed the most sustained, large-scale holocaust in human history,
right here on our own soil -- the genocidal destruction of the Native
American Nations. Happy Thanks-taking, America. Holocaust museums should
be as prevalent as shopping malls, upon the blood-sodden soil of this
land. In addition, while we're chronicling the carnage, let us not forget
that we're the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons as an act of
war (the most massive terrorist attack of all time) wherein we killed
hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians for no other reason than
to put Stalin on notice that we were to be the lone colossus bestriding
the war decimated post-war world.
As the years have passed,
we Americans now stand before a contemptuous world: bloated in our subdivisions,
waddling through Big Box retail stores, languishing in ignorance and
anomie -- living caricatures of the grotesques of doomed empires. Therefore,
we must take a long, revealing look at ourselves: Our breath stinks
of carbon monoxide -- it's like we've been French kissing the tailpipe
of a Humvee. Sometimes, I wish, America, you'd just wrap your lips around
that tailpipe and commit suicide by internal combustion engine fellatio.
(I mean it's coming to that anyway ... But must we take the rest of
the world with us when we go?)
Or: the process of awakening
and renewal can begin. It's our choice, collectively; It's our responsibility,
personally -- to be aware of and then widely proclaim the stakes involved.
First and foremost, it's up to political activists, artists, online
pamphleteers, et al to agitate against the neo-feudalist order of corporatism.
The present order is anathema
to the soul-making of creative endeavor.
Art movements, from Paris
in the 1920s, to the Beats and hippies, to the flannel-clad, guitar-poet
wretches of the Northwest in the late 1980s and early 90's had one common
factor, in all those flowerings of life-vivifying creativity -- cheap
Rilke once said something
along the lines of: Everybody has a letter written inside their heart
and if you don't live the life your heart yearns to live, you won't
be allowed to read this letter before you die ... Hence, we might infer:
There exist, across the land, dead-letter offices, vast and cavernous,
where our mail awaits, unopened and unread.
Ergo, one of the prevailing
miseries of our era is: Most of us are to busy earning a living to live.
As rents go down, levels of risk and inspiration rise. Moreover, we
need the reflective power of art to end this impasse. It is imperative
that we awaken to the realities of this death-dreaming empire.
Apropos, forgive me (or don't)
for the angry tone of this missive -- for I am overwhelmed by the immensity
of our nation's collective capacity for denial, casuistry and flat-out
lying in regard to the death and destruction that has been inflicted
in our names.
We must begin to grasp the
unsettling knowledge that the things we, as a nation, inflict upon the
world -- we will eventually inflict upon ourselves. It is imperative
that we start to ask ourselves this question: When so many external
and internal forces work to thwart, degrade, and destroy our essential
selves -- hence the world -- what can help to restore us?
Therefore, I’m calling
you out -- the hidden side of our national character -- right here,
right now. Show us who you are: reveal to us your blank face, in all
its banal symmetry – and finally, and at long last -- give us
an accounting of yourself.
I'm not naive. I realize
you feel you’re under no obligation to do so. You feel no more
need to explain your actions than does Death itself.
Although you have many faces,
deep down, we know who you are: You're a clean-shaven lobbyist, a sharp-elbow
careerist, a public relations expert, a land-decimating real estate
developer, a rent-inflating landlord, a cunning advertising executive,
a weapons designing technocrat, a pentagon planner -- you're the bastard
driving the SUV who is perpetually tailing my ass in traffic, you're
my blank-faced, next-door neighbor, lacquering his hybrid lawn in insoluble
pesticides. -- In short, you're all the quotidian and respectable --
therefore -- highly deceptive faces of Death. You're our own face, personal
and private, individual and collective: yours/ours is the murder's countenance
Even though we all know the
truth about you and our own complicity in your crimes, we push the knowledge
from our minds, as we trudge though our days. And this is the reason:
You promise us safety -- even as, you deliver us, incrementally and
ineluctably, to destruction.
How do I reach you –
how do I beseeched you to cease the madness?
You name the place where
I can confront you: On a thronging sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, during
evening rush, as we’re brushed and buffeted by the squalid grace
of crowds. Perhaps, you might take the barstool next to mine and speak
too loudly in my ear, jabbing my chest with your bony index finger to
punctuate the pointless palaver of your self-justifying lies. How about:
Let's take a cross-country drive, you and I, and see the fever dream
of our sick nation unfurl before us through the dusty windshield of
a grasshopper green, 1975, AMC Gremlin ... so that we might have time
to talk this all through.
Because, I want you to realize
this: There are hidden reservoirs of hope within us: reservoirs as boundless
as the reach of your ruthlessness. These waters are as deep and potent
as you are, at present, shallow and shameless. Yet, they're inaccessible
to you -- as long as you insist your drink of choice will continue to
be oil and blood, mixed with the runoff of melting Arctic glaciers.
What you do not know is this:
From these inner reservoirs emerge rivers of renewal that run between
all of those who turn away from the dry, dead landscape of your lies.
These streams of inspiration
and renewal silently flow between those who have glimpsed this: That
each generation must struggle against the soulless seekers of absolute
power, that each era is a wasteland, that every person learns life is
unfair, yet must seek to drink from the waters of hope -- so that our
tongues will not wither to cynical dust.
Empires rise and fall, but
hope remains, flowing through time and place, bearing all things to
the sea and back again, perpetually returning, bringing new life to
the dry, dead land, slaking our thirst, cleansing our wounds, delivering
to us the strength to make and remake the world anew, and, at day's
end, lulling us to restful sleep to the timeless cadences of its ceaseless
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is
a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may
be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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