By Gary Corseri
Dec. 20, 2008
“… pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks. …” — Mark Twain (The Mysterious Stranger)
Those who take the long view of history often wind up with the short end of the stick.
That’s because, as John Maynard Keynes himself said, in the long run, we’ll all be dead.
While the handful of contemp philosopher-kings (largely on the Web these days!) ponder the ponderous evolution of humans over the eons–and even the ebb and flow of life-forms over the vast reaches of geophysical time–masses of consumer worker-soldier ants stuff and gorge, vomit and defecate on their own and others’ food and energy resources. They can’t help it. They’ve been programmed by nature and, worse, a rapacious, predatory-capitalist, materialist mind/heart-set to seize every opportunity to plunder, rape, steal, hoard, waste and conquer.
But, I digress.
I was going to say, before rudely interrupting myself with speculation on our malleable character and all-too-often sordid human penchant to expropriate and exploit-, I was going to say, We Amer-I-CAN’s have just won one fleeting victory in the Culture War, but we’re losing our asses in the Class War vs Holy War vs Earth War. And while some of us have been ejaculating self-praise for “change we can believe in,” the more sober polar bears among us perceive solidity melting beneath our paws and holy-war hunters and madmen behind every errant ice floe.
A friend writes me from West Bengal, India, where, a thousand miles from the November Mumbai massacre, they are still reeling from the aftershocks of that particular horror:
“What can I say about the current situation? It seems we are living in an absurd reality. There’s so much hype for a war on Pakistan and people who have never cared for hunger, torture, famine and flood are calling for blood in the name of defending the country. But what sovereignty do we have when Ms. Condoleeza Rice dictates who will do what and the FBI comes over to interrogate the terrorist? I’m sick and tired of this war game. … We simply can’t afford that, none of these countries.”
Condi Rice in India telling them what to do? Why, Who’d a thunk it?
But I restrain my cynicism (somewhat) and respond to a friend’s cri de coeur:
“For a long time I have thought–it is the modern political state that is the real travesty, the real absurdity. Our “leaders” keep people in ignorance and hostile to each other. It is the old “divide and rule” game. Most of the time our real enemies are not those beyond the borders, but those within our own state who are on top of the heap politically, socially and economically. “Patriotism” and “religion” (i.e. doctrinarianism, not spirituality) are 2 chief ways the “leaders” keep people in bondage and in strife.
“We are in dangerous times. The world is over-populated and our distribution system is execrable. I often think of T.S. Eliot’s words from his poem, “The Wasteland”: “I think we are in rats’ alley / Where the dead men lost their bones.”
I might also have quoted Twain (Satan is speaking!):
“I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. … The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitless minority they don’t dare to assert themselves.”
Actually, Satan is the most sensible character in my favorite work of Twain’s, his remarkable novella, The Mysterious Stranger. Set in feudal Europe, the more recognizable human types are engrossed in witch-burnings and genuflections before sacerdotal and secular authorities.
Are matters so different now? The “vast majority” of our American “race” would like to extricate itself from our Middle East wars, but the “aggressive and pitiless minority” of Obama and his appointees-particularly, Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel and General Jones-assure the sadly cognizant among us that McCain/Palin are apt to have the last word and we may still be torturing, killing, and counting our own dead and wounded in 2100.
Like my friend in West Bengal, or my sister in Ft. Lauderdale, who called me, crying, during the Mumbai massacre, wondering, Rodney King-like, Why can’t we all just get along?-the “vast majority” of us would like the bastards and bitches to get off our backs so we can carve a measure of happiness and meaning out of our brief sojourns on this planet. We may not be as “kind-hearted” as Satan supposes (!), but if we were inherently malignant, how could we have raised children and created art generation after generation?
Our human flaws are not in our hearts, but in our minds and our spines. We do not perceive how we have been used and manipulated by noisy fear-mongers century after century. We do not perceive how war morphs into war and how the noisy little elite harness the passions of war to divide us from ourselves and from our kindred across the borders. I suppose after the “War on Terror,” we shall have a “War on War.” Fought with even better weapons!
In a sense, we have that now. In our recent primaries, the Masters of our Universe cleverly deployed young soldiers to march through the snows of New Hampshire and Iowa-a new army of “Continentals,” in the Culture War against the redneck stupidity of racism and anti-feminism and George W. Bushism. So earnestly enlisted, our coastal libs forgot about fighting the Class War-battles that engage their “redneck” brethren from shower to grunge-rinsing shower. Meantime, the justifiably aggrieved “rednecks” could proudly sign up to fight the Infidels in America’s Holy Wars. And through it all, the War against Earth continues unabated.
War vs War. And if we have the minds to perceive the nature of the duplicities of a socio-political-economic system that promotes complaisance and inanition among the dominated sheep–and complacency and violence among the sheep-herders, have we the spines to stand up and stop bah-ing? Or is it already too late?
Gary Corseri has posted/published his work at Dandelion Salad, The New York Times, Village Voice and hundreds of other venues. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He served as the Arts Coordinator of Prout’s “Building a New World Conference” (Radford, Virginia) in May, 2008. His books (which may be ordered at Borders, etc.,) include the novels, A Fine Excess and Holy Grail, Holy Grail, and the anthology, Manifestations (edited). Contact: Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.