Friday, March 30, 2012

Reality you make, reality you don't.

Everything is socialized in that you perceive things the way you're told. Menstruation or puberty are facts. They just are. But they get bundled with a number of stories, narratives of shoulds and shouldn'ts, which is to say morals and values. The physical will go on no matter what you do. The valuation is where the anarchist strikes, unless it's made by the individual.

So you happen to live in an area. That just is, unless you move. And the movement is, and the notion of emigration/immigration are, but one is a material act. The other is one that lives in fiction.

I am a citizen because I accept the fiction, play the game, of fealty or affiliation or whatever. You can do this with knowledge or you can accept it passively. Assuming it's true in the way gravity is, or genetics.

But we ought to think about what we can change, and there's so much. In my opinion, racism is infinitely more impactful than the nature and origin of your blood. In my opinion, I can't unmake the cripple and the ill, but I sure as hell can ask why buildings don't allow entrance to people who are maimed or deformed or somehow different in their physicality.

Nature is not the enemy anymore. We live as if we are cavemen, frightened of brush fires and predatory beasts. But we are the deluge, we are the storm, we are the predators and the prey.

I'm tired of us forgetting what we made and what we haven't. I'm tired of the confusion. I'm tired of people saying that this or that are the way things are when they plainly are not. If you take away human effort, the buildings will crumble and the pests will breed. That's nature. If you remove the hands that maintain the way things "are," how much of it will fall away?

We are truly our own gods now. It is our will, your will, that we see all around us. We live in artifice that was made. What is so hard to understand about the fact that it is maintained by effort and, with one good hobby or a fuck, those hands will find other activities and we can, quite literally, remake the world over night? Humanity is self-made and refuses to admit it. Better to chalk it up to God or nature or history or fate. Anything but accept responsibility that we have made this hell, and remade it many times.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Out of Wisdom

I don't have much to say to the world. I've been whittled down to the basic individual interactions. Is that where I'm supposed to be? No such thing. That's just where I am at the moment.

I've known enough people that younger people sometimes find me funnily, almost spookily knowledgeable. "Stop being so insightful!" my friend's sister--both are roommates--says with a laugh. She's 21. I find it funny in that grim, poker-faced way. I'm not insightful. I've just read this book too many times.

But others have lived more, outlived me by decades. Have they just not paid attention, or been too deep in the bottle, to notice what I observe about their ancient cycle of pain, indulgence, guilt, and oblivion? This isn't insight. Wisdom's all around me, in the moves people make, in the ways their lives play out in such familiar patterns. What intelligence is behind me knowing that her mother will speak Urdu, but a Hindi speaker will do? That's knowledge. I don't feel smart. I don't feel witty. It's all replay. I know my brain too well. You don't act surprised at the player producing music from its files--or, for antiques like me, a disc (let alone a cassette or cartridge!). You don't act surprised at the gun firing bullets concealed in its clip. That's all I'm doing. Spitting out. It's not intelligence.

Dealing with authorities makes me familiar with them, their needs for respect, flattery, and obeisance. Dealing with the weak makes me familiar with the way to walk, the way to talk, the way that at the end of a session you can throw out a curse and they'll think you're an okay guy, not this little stuff-shirt shit. I pretend to be way more composed than I am.

"You! Are you white?"
"Mostly, sir."
"You must be some kind of Native American. You don't look prejudiced to me."
"No, sir. My people are all invaders. Mostly white, and Turk."
"Ottoman Turks! Like Genghis Khan, now he was some fighter."
"Some of my people followed him, yes. But if you'll excuse me..."
"Oh, I'm sorry about that--"
"Nothing to apologize for, sir. We're all here to talk."

Didn't know his story at the time. Came off as grandiose, but then a lot checked out. I've let myself be surprised quite a bit. It's good to let others have some space to define themselves. But that's not decency or intellect. That's just experience.

And I still find myself out of my league when it comes to certain fields. Like dealing with people I don't know but want to, and people I thought I knew who have become very, very different, or simply changed their presentation. Dropped their masks.

Best I've come up with is the mask of a calm face. I had a genuinely blissful, round face when I was a baby. Then came the desperate eyes of the clever, rail-thin teen. Now I'm a slightly narrow-eyed white with a beard and the face like some monk. My brow furrows at times, but I try to let my eyes go cool. Pictures of my old country grandfather, sitting there, open to the world but inscrutable if you lacked the comfort to ask him his thoughts. I can really appear profound and still like a calm, deep lake. There is no conclusion to any of this. Stillness, solitude, has become natural to me. It is an attempt to balance out the change in my life, I rationalize. But a part of me is realizing that I'm becoming more me everyday. There are some parts of my life that will only return, however, when I'm past the attacks and the danger and the crisis. I don't know where this is going. I'm trying to be okay with that. Looking forward to a life that's not so full of calming self-talk. I'm tired of soothing myself like I've had to do for my children, like I had to do for my brother after the beatings my father would give him. I want to cheer, but there is no joy. Shit is too serious to laugh, too dangerous still to cry.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

One Death, a Hundred Thousand

President Obama expressed sadness that a person could kill a young man on nothing more than suspicion and, maybe, a little too much eagerness to use force.

Um, but that's the president's foreign policy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Facebook Action!

I read what I wrote, my son sleeping a few feet away from me, and I don't know what to think. I am buoyed and then I sink with the waves. I am trying very hard to float. I will be cast along by the tsunami, but I will not be crushed. Right?

Anyway, what I want to say today is that, while I abhor the missionary impulse, I hate the "let's get together with likeminded people and bitch" mentality even more.

I want to articulate this, even if it's just in my own little echo chamber here.

I do not want to hear you talk about Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum and how sexist they are, how cruel they are, how they don't like darkies or A-rabs or whomever, while you practice polite with your friends who talk of welfare queens and queers and knuckle under when Granddad booms at the table.

On one hand, yes, the Mitt and the Rick and the scary men, be they Repub or Dem or Paulite or whatever, are so much stronger than your Demjanjuk of a father. They can do a lot of great harm. So yeah, act against them, but don't rail against them. Don't make it psychological. Don't make them the scapegoat of your unease in this unjust world. Because the thing is that this shit is imposed from above and below. This stuff grows up through the family, through the neighborhood, through the Bible study daycare as sure as from some priesthood from on high.

So yeah, if it's just about evil men in high places, I can dig that. But the amount of energy you invest in between stints of Farmville appears odd. What about the one teaching your kids that blacks are uppity? What about the one who treats you like shit and devalues you because of what's between your legs? No, no, let's talk about Washington. Tell me about what the Christianists say. Because nobody wants to talk about their old sick bastard mother or their lout of a husband on Facebook. I mean, your friends might. Who knows?

We always like to other what we tolerate in our lives. Let evil thugocracies and despotisms be dressed up like Arabs or blacks or Republicans or Catholics or whomever. And meanwhile, what have you done to make your household or your street better? If you are so arrogant as me that you believe in imposing your will upon the universe, if you are that vain that you say "I say this is wrong and I will make it different and hope it turns out better," then what exactly have you done? And as unlikely as it is that you will change the mind of that bitter, entitled old fool, do you really think that one more Facebook re-post idealizing Obama or denigrating some little clerical fascist shit candidate is going to do one goddamn thing? Fuck, you could fly a black flag on your car antenna and do more.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Protracted Conflict

Today, for the second time in seventy-five days, I slept in the same house as my son.

Things got worse. Far worse. Like violence worse. Like aggression in front of our children's eyes worse.

I am glad that I am a man who chooses not to answer violence with violence. Even as I am attacked, I don't turn the other cheek, but I keep my eyes wide open.

Think of me, and (this sounds so pathetically slogan-y) think of the children exposed to violence, anger, and injustice.

Be willing to suffer any blow while keeping your soul. Love the aggressors, or at least love the part of them that feels, as you do, that injustice is warranted in order to serve their needs--

And do what you must. But do any of us know what we must do? It took me a long time, serving without distinction in a relationship, to distinguish needs from wants. Everything used to be a want. I was like Nietzsche's donkey, gaining dignity through what I could deal with. And then I was like his lion, roaring and aggressing if I wanted.

Today I was like a child. I wept before my mother and son. And I stepped on, played, played parent and told the boy to clean up his toys and brush his teeth, etc. And I made him laugh and he made me laugh and I dreamed of a world being born right now, a world where I and my loved ones are kings and queens of their own....

If you can be conflicted without hate, then you understand more than most of us, for the world is conflict, but you need not debase yourself while struggling with others. I am a wrestler in a grand arena and I can say "I oppose you" without saying "you are wrong." It is a good place. I must remember it often.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Non-Pacifists Need Consider

Thirty seconds ago, she was a slave. Her ownership was not formed in law but in bodily fact. He had no deed to her and yet he fed her. He controlled her movements, limited her world to three rooms in an apartment. She did not speak the language, was not protected by the country's enforcers. Was not sought by a family. Received no mail. Received no money. And he was her companion and her master. He allowed her some property. Through him she encountered the world in pieces. In his implied anger, in the familiar manner that followed, in his soft-seeming touches and the kind-sounding words, she was owned and he owned her. He had everything and she had nothing.

But that was one minute ago, and now he was nothing and she everything, or at least all of what little remained in the apartment. Perhaps soon the gravity of a power-ful world would crush in on her too and soon she would be nothing, but she had made herself, in the pool of his blood and the absence of breath, a conqueror, however small. A revolution, however small.

It is an option for all of us to forsake violence in every form. I will not preach that path here. I am a parent and a family member. I will defend my loved ones against violence by taking up violent means, the same as I pull a dog off another's throat, the same as I have shoved and struck others. If I prevent it otherwise, I have often done this too. To prevent violence through nonviolence is a good. But to prevent violence or cease it through the use of voluntary and conscious violence is justifiable to me.

Is it not also for the soldier? Is it not also for the policewoman? Is it not also for all of us who see violence in our lives as ambiguous, for all of us who have not yet renounced all violence? Let us be plain about it--to consider it in a moment or a bar conversation can be much the same as considering it in training or discipline. We tell ourselves, civilians and state enforcers alike--that if it comes to certain conditions, we will pull the trigger or hold the throat. We will cut into life, and we cannot assign this responsibility to instinct or morality or approval from others. We consider the thought of justifiable homicide when we consider robberies and rapes and reprisals. We make the choice that we would or we wouldn't and delude ourselves that we are not saying that terrible, much more certain thing:

That if it comes to that, we will or we won't.

Perhaps I would take more seriously the threat of violence around me, from bodyguards to military orders, from gun owners to knife owners to martial artists to anyone with the strength of their arm intact and the willingness to, perhaps, use that strength--if they had written out their commitments ahead of time, looked at them on a page. Perhaps police departments could post signs.

And if it's scary out in the open, maybe we should look down at our hands and ask ourselves a few things.

Accidental Learning

On the way to the ex's house I noticed the boy's school with its usual academic message out front.

Only this week it was curiously ambiguous.

I always loved seeing alternative interpretations.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oaths for the Oathbreakers

Does an anarchist need to honor his word?

Of course, the answer is "no," because no human needs to honor her word. And yeah, categories are notional and labels don't blah blah blah.

But let's just say that things change or feelings shift. You know, like they do with pretty much any person. Of what importance to the individual is their consistency, their dependability? Is this manners or this there something political to the way we speak with others?

Are we justified in lying to the powerful? I know plenty of folks who believe that. Where does that run out? With mightier individual peers? With acquaintances or close friends? Or do you base this on institutions, and their sources of power? Can you justify forging a license agreement but not lying on your taxes--or vice versa?

What about fucking somebody who's not your husband?

Most people I know today would consider that "a private matter," which is American for "I'd rather not stake out a policy opinion on that" or "pass the potatoes," depending on your dialect. But you know, a few people have considered that a very philosophical issue. A very political issue. Anarchists, rightists, socialists all. At one point people cared about this, instead of relegating it to Maury and mental health.

And this goes way past Goldman or Engels or the hedonistic tendencies of, oh, every man in power other than Hitler. It's relevant to consider that more than ten years before she'd decry the hippies as moochers, pinkos, and altruists, Ayn Rand was nailing a man half her age. In a right-libertarian counterpoint infinitely more disgusting than Lennon-Ono's showdown with Cynthia Lennon (which I'm sure Rand would consider irrational and thus immoral), Rand and her lover, Branden, actually confronted their spouses and impressed upon them the rationality of their new arrangement.

What is that Nietzsche observed frequently? That philosophy serves action, and is often an afterthought or apology more than a motivation or incitement? Yeah... Rationalism is a joke. Rand's philosophy fails and Nietzsche's succeeds when her reason is incapable of explaining what his thought sees all too well: man as monstrous as he is heroic, irrational and spirited and resentful of even his own self-imposed rules.

But anyway, back to the question. What about fucking around?

Who is injured here, if anyone, and who crosses the line here, and if there's a line, and so on--these are all major questions. Do we adopt the indifference of the modern day, a practiced ignorance posing as enlightened cosmopolitanism? If so, is there any surprise when we recoil upon hearing what people actually do, just as when we learn what they actually believe? "You drank his piss?" "You actually believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old?" "You watch Fox and Friends?" (One of these I can deal with.)

I have no great respect for philosophy. Everyone has one or a collection of philosophical parts. As a result, I find it easy to believe that some anarchism may be found among the criminals, as a few continental cranks believed. And I find it easy that there is also a Sadian anarchism of transgression elsewhere. Within my marriage I found it in secluded though public sex, this time along a wooded path, another in a parked car. I am not being flippant. There is something to a moment's zeal, even if it takes place in intoxication or animal excitement. There is something powerful there, a moral sentiment as much as the physical urge. But is it enough? What if it breaks agreements or expectations from other people?

Do other individuals matter? Maybe you feel they do. Maybe you feel they do not. And if they do not there is still the matter of whether your words need to relate in any way to your actions, or your past promises to current reality.

I am talking to people who find conflict between their self-definitions. It's common. It's identity creation. You differ with yourself until you bridge it consciously or hack off pieces or accept the dissonance or reconcile them in some other way. We are an assembly of different input, expectations, messages, role-plays, and so on. It makes sense that we are often confused as children and youths because, in short, society's messages do not make sense. Very few of our parents devote themselves to their own philosophy of being, their own relationships to self. Most of us, as with most of us before, merely struggle to manage with very arcane and arbitrary expectations.

I should know. I just spent a few years on stage, with each act becoming less improvised until some segments became formalized. It would be an insult to invoke kabuki but it comes to mind. To everyone else I would extoll the falsehood and emptiness of the bourgeois moral fantasy, the life ending upon breeding and becoming legally lashed to a woman I no longer recognize and who, and this breaks my heart, lacked the ability or willingness to tell me that she was unhappy, too.

So like I say, I should know. And I do fucking know, because my life progressed in ways I never expected. I know how personal truths get confused and twisted by social conditioning. It's scary.

But I tell others they'd better weigh their options when they cheat. I am not one of those moral harpies who leaps upon the object of desire. Nobody, outside of rape, makes a man run around, or a woman run around. Nor am I a believe in marriage, if that's not obvious, as a Platonic ideal. Every marriage is based upon those married. This is simple. People think they know my marriage because I use the same words as them? Fuck them. Marriage, love? They do not exist. I've seen enough "love" and I neither recognize it as my own nor do I presume to tell others that it's not love. You can still love a man who beats you. Makes me sick, but I've lived it. I've seen it. You can still love a person who cheats on you, breaks you down... My grandmother taught me that you can't just say you love somebody. You've got to act like it. I don't say that's what love is. I say that's what love ought to be.

Because none of us own love, and none of us own marriage. Save those we make ourselves. So it's all random, named so we feel we can get along. But some of your marriages and some of your loves seem less attractive to me than biting on a gun barrel, world.

No, what I say is that some people are comfortable with lying and some people aren't. And the romantics who get the urge the worst don't usually want to hide away, at least not for long. And that's what I talk to the would-be criminal about. What he defines as right or wrong, what she agreed to, what she values, and what the contradictions are. Because even if you have a world where the individual is paramount, she won't know what to do until she figures out the things she believes. We primates, in grasping, often knock over what we would also like to keep. And now I am as one more chattering, and what was an elegant thought on the ride home has become a gross ramble. So much for the clarity that comes with being in exile.