April 26, 2004
Time was we Americans would to revel at the sight of witnessing
pomposity deflated, the arrogant stumble, an underdog fighting back --
Charlie Chaplin giving authority a swift kick in the pants.... It is
high time to say -- The hell with dignity, decorum and Fox Network, faux
Patriotism -- Forget so-called traditional values -- What the United
States of America needs is a return to seditious values.
But I fear we have retreated into a bubble of humorless narcissism.
The narcissist loathes humor; he detests every molecule of existence that cannot be absolutely controlled by him. He, if given the chance, would pin the fluttering wings of the butterfly of creative chaos to the dry pages of his self-created hagiography. But, being guided by obsessive self-regard and overweening pride -- he loses his sense of consequences -- he always over-reaches when given power -- The macho narcissism of Operation Vigilant Resolve dissolves into Operation Stumbling Hubris.
George W. Bush, America's Narcissist and Chief, has never been tempered by the consequences of his actions.... He has spent his life insulated by wealth and power. Others have always cleaned up the messes he has created.
GWB is our bubble boy president. Though, he is merely the reflection of our era: He is the banal spawn of corporatist kings. A byproduct of Viagra economics and Steroid militarism whereby limp-dick, aging men mistake their pharmaceutically-induced hard-ons for the rising and falling of international markets. They confuse their artificially prolonged potency for the mandates of heaven: They believe they have become the Fructifying Phallus of God -- the Cosmos Johnson of Jehovah -- their flaccid, military/corporatist fantasies have risen to become the Dick (Cheney) of Death.
To lose power is the only sin in the neo-con cosmology of macho narcissism. Exploitation and aggression are virtues... Bastard child of this hegemonic cluster-fuck, George W. Bush, believes: "God must love me and protect me: for how else could I get away with so much shit?"
Yet, paradoxically, he views himself in constant danger of becoming the victim of terrestrial treachery. He sees threats everywhere: The earth swarms with those who would pierce his protective bubble of privilege...would topple him from his throne of grandiosity...would knock the sceptred crown of entitlement from his ego-tumescent head.
In other words, he simply takes his miserable, trust fund-cushioned ass far too seriously.
Unconsciously, he is aware of the following, timeless axiom -- and it is the true progenitor of his fears: Those who fail to learn by way of comedy are given a crash course in tragedy.
Existence is far too vast to be controlled by the vain caprice of narcissists: History's most powerful totalitarians -- those who constructed for themselves the monstrous mechanisms of absolute power -- will all matriculate though this university of higher humiliation. How long did the Thousand Year Reich of the Nazis last -- twelve years?
How's that for a gag of cosmic proportions? If you put your ear to the ground, you can hear the dynamo hum of tyrants rotating in their graves... It is the nearest thing we will ever have to a perpetual motion machine.
Deep down the totalitarian personality realizes the truth: He knows he will join the subterranean machinery of rotisserie tyrants.
If we could only power hybrid cars with neo-con hubris -- we could drive Priuses to Mars.
But the narcissist is a cipher. During his AWOL time in Alabama, George W. Bush was tagged with the moniker, "The Texas Soufflé," due to his lack of depth, puffed-up pride, and preening sense of privilege. Like the fragile personas of the narcissist themselves, the absolutist regimes they establish will collapse because they lack true substance. This outcome is inevitable, due to the fact that narcissists must sever connection with the verities of the vast cosmos: Larger realities, both internal and external, must be shunted aside, for these truths are far too threatening.
Essence (garnered by both going deep into the world and deep within the self) is lost; superficial symbols become paramount. Symbols of military power are particular favorites. This is why dictators always have the coolest uniforms and why W. lives to play dress-up... It is compensation for the increasing emptiness created within themselves as the totalitarian personality becomes more and more cut off from their own soul and the soul of the world.
W.B. Yeats had this to say on the subject:
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;"
Humvees are an apt symbol for this arrogance of empty power; though, they might give the appearance of invulnerability on the roadways of the United States -- in Iraq -- the opposite has been the case: The vehicles have proven easy prey to the attacks of guerrilla fighters.
The Humvee is a metaphor, forged in metal, for the failure to learn the lessons of Vietnam. Awesome fire-power doesn't necessarily translate into the ability to subdue a seemingly weaker people... Children's stories tell us this same truth: Giants are dim and slow to react and are undone by the swift and nimble... Hell, if allusions to fairy tales are too flaky, then what about all of our hallowed tales of rigid legions of the red-coat, British colonialists falling before the tactics of swift and true, musket-wielding American patriots? It would seem that we Americans, a people weaned on these stories, would be a tad cautious regarding the pitfalls of over-extended empires.... But, alas, the failure of public education is yet another symptom of the entropic decay inherent to empires.
"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,"
To the totalitarian personality, control (or the delusion thereof) must be maintained. And for control to be maintained, a closed system must be established. Secrecy is essential: Openness creates feelings of vulnerability; feelings of vulnerability engender paranoia; paranoia creates the urge to purge; purging creates even more feelings of paranoia, which engenders more feelings of vulnerability...
The system becomes more closed but, paradoxically, the mechanisms needed to maintain the established order must grow larger and more inflexible in order to preserve the illusion of order and security -- but the larger the system grows the larger the amount of disorder is created -- which, thereby, increases feelings of a lack of control and fears of vulnerability -- which creates the need to establish more secrecy hence engendering even greater rigidity.
It would literally kill the creators of the soulless system to laugh at themselves -- there is far too much danger of exposure in that.
But, ironically, their obsessive striving to maintain the closed system is suicidal as well: Because as the absolutist system strives to preserve itself, it continues to grow more insular, complex, inflexible, and paranoid -- The world outside of it appears increasingly hostile, dangerous -- ever ready to intrude... Preemptive attacks seem the only option -- and when those who have been attacked assume a defensive posture and fight back -- this is taken as proof of their inherent aggression. Hence, the paranoid fantasy of the "clash of civilizations" is born.
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned."
This is how a terrorist attack is viewed as a prelude to permanent war.
In the United States, corporatism, suburbanization, class isolation had already created an insular, bubble culture. Daily, bubble-butt consumers sit isolated from each other inside of their bubble-butt cars, SUVs and trucks. Bubble-enclosed suburbs float farther and farther away from civic life.
Elected officials and media elites, separated by ever increasing gaps of wealth and privilege, have grown almost entirely estranged from the people they are charged to serve; instead, they exist in a self-serving, self-referential universe informed only by careerism, the will to power, and they harbor a thinly veiled contempt toward the ramble outside their elitist nexus. No need to make personal contact with the ignorant peasants: simply form a focus group and find out what will keep them mollified. Naturally, they will want what peasants have always wanted: To be told comforting lies about the beneficence of God and their own importance in the vast scheme of things.
This formula never fails -- that is as long as the peasants have full bellies (and/or full gas tanks) and the awareness of their exploitation by the elites can be misdirected into rage and resentment toward reformers, minorities, queers, immigrants, evil-doing, towel heads -- any ready-made enemy du jour.
"The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
But this canard proves unsustainable. Anxiety proliferates. Desperate fantasies of release gain currency.
"Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand."
But the quotidian consequences of terrestrial life keep intruding -- rupturing the rapture: Neo-con/Christian-Zionist delusions of absolute power are shattered by the realities on the ground in Iraq -- The empire staggers, slipping on those rose petal tossed by the liberated.
Hubris has seeded a shit storm.
Still, religious fundamentalists dream of deliverance -- even if they must destroy the entire world as well as themselves to achieve it.
"The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds."
But all you grim, tight-assed fundies (Jews, Christians, and Moslems alike) have been made the foil of an eternal joke. For, you see:
Jesus will not descend... nor will you rise. The dead will remain dead. Allah could give a rat's ass whether you blow yourself to bits as you evoke his name.
God has no will. God has no more of a plan than a tree has a financial portfolio.
God does not say God bless you. Your life is not an eternal sneeze in need of a perpetual gesundheit. Jesus doesn't love you: That is the job of your dog. And Nature simply sees your silly hide as another morsel of perishable meat -- Welcome to the cosmic deli tray.
We human beings project notions of good and evil unto an indifferent universe. We attempt to fill its vast emptiness with our own hopes and fears, because we find its silence terrifying: It is our thoughts, drives, feelings, and aspirations that bestow its incomprehensible vastness with divinity -- not the other way around.
The time is long overdue that we pause, look at our situation anew, then begin the task of affording this divinity to each other -- by the divine act of not taking ourselves or each other too seriously.
Perhaps this might rouse us from our narcissistic swoon, might shatter our perennial delusions that God desires for us to conquer and kill in his name, and might deliver us to the true Promised Land -- the one that exists just beyond the limited sight-line of our assumptions.
Yeats reveals what is in store for us if we choose to remain within the toxic confines of our own insular, self-reverential, humorless universes:
"The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
Charlie Chaplin offered us another option: Lose your sense of entitlement and privilege, dress down like a tramp -- and, at every opportunity -- give the preening, the pompous, and the powerful a swift kick in the pants.
· · · · · ·
America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Humor on Swans
Phil Rockstroh on Swans (with bio).
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