Writings and Letters

A blog oeuvre… a "bloeuvre"

Tag: history

Quotidian Relics

Just the other yesterday, I finished Walter Benjamin’s One-Way Street. It’s a wonderful collection of the man’s kaleidoscopic analyses of modern life in 1920s Berlin. He bounces from one subject to the next with all the grace and flow of an eclectic dancer. And like all good dancers, through his movements you recognize and cherish his brilliance.

Many sections of the work stand out to me, but I couldn’t help but dwell on his reflections on stamps, postmarks, and postage by and large. As he puts it: “To someone looking through piles of old letters, a stamp that has long been out of circulation on a torn envelope often says more than a reading of dozens of pages.”

For Benjamin, it’s not just the brunt of obvious historical linkage, holding a piece of the past in your hand, but the whole social and historical contexts interweaving in the moment. What’s on the stamp? A country, a castle, a king? Who created it? Who sanctioned it? What does the image convey in itself to the viewer? What is its significance in the system of postage? What do these links to the past tell us about ourselves? How do they affect our social imaginary?

Even the trivial postmark holds some weight to him. The variety of postmarks, the way they alter the image “[placing] a halo about the head of Queen Victoria” or “[giving] Humbert a martyr’s crown.” Or just the way they messy up the once pristine stamp with their sinuous lines, covering faces and bifurcating lands like earthquakes. Think of the lowly artists who were commissioned to create these works, what must they think of it now? Is the work tarnished after the black marking, or was it tarnished the day its creator signed the contract?

Just briefly interacting with these simple pieces of paper, conjuring up all these wonderful thoughts, creating this “stamp-language,” it is no wonder Benjamin concludes this section of One-Way Street with a lamentation. He sees the coming future of telecommunications: telegraphs, telephones, radio, etc.: as the great destroyer of stamps, postmarks, postage, like winter to flowers. “It will not survive the twentieth [century],” he closes the essay.

Benjamin got me thinking about this account I follow on Twitter. (Now that’s a helluva sentence!) Postcard from the Past (@PastPostcard), provides images of postcards sent over the years (mostly the 50s – 70s) from (mostly) British travelers and a brief out-of-context sentence the messenger wrote. The comedy or quaintness of each post is often spot on, but what attracts me to these posts is something similar to Benjamin and his stamps. I get to thinking: Who were the photographers who took these images? What about the people/locations trapped in their images? Who commissioned these postcards? What was the purpose? What does one make of postcards of abandoned English castles, sweeping landscapes, locals dressed in traditional ethnic attire? What did the manufacturers want the consumer to think about these images? What was it about these postcards that the senders felt compelled to buy and send along? These questions persist, but they tend to circle the drain of commerce. Capital tends to behave like an undercurrent at each modular point, interweaving the subject/land to the artist/photographer to the stamp/postcard to the consumer/sender, on and on.

Benjamin recognized this with the stamps. It was why he foretold of its demise at the hands of the more efficient telephone, et al. Capital does not care for the well-articulated illustration on the stamp or the essentially captured moment through the lens. Accumulation is king. Craftsmanship be damned!

And so, in the great empty time of modernity, these objects of the past are in direct threat of being discarded and forgotten precisely because of their perceived uselessness. In the world of capital, if a market-based value cannot be extracted from it, what use is it?

But it is important to remember that the accumulation of wealth did not produce these small works of art, neither did it create the wit or beauty of the words written on them, or the thoughts conjured up by the likes of minds like Benjamin’s. We must not accept the ground offered before us in these circumstances. The stamps, the postcards can be of great use to us still for whatever reason works for us in the moment. Because in these moments with these artifacts, as banal as they may be, they still contain great depths of our humanity.

And so it’s important to hold onto these items. Because we need to be constantly reminding ourselves of this simple fact: Humanity presses on. Not because of capitalism, but despite it.

 

Deep Historical, Intellectual, Political, Social Significance in the Picayune, or… “Covfefe”

It started in the wee hours with a tweet. If the last word of the preceding sentence doesn’t tip one off, what follows should be of glaring unimportance. Then again, Twitter has never had a direct feed to the id of a sitting President/Prime Minister/Royal Figure/Dictator/Etc. until fairly recently.

But there it was, sprung into life like a gadfly from the bowels of a dying mule:

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe”

It was a typo. An honest mistake that humans, because of their proclivity to err, make. Anti-45ers had a good laugh at the author’s expense. Even those on the right (or at least the Anti-anti-45ers) were able to make some jokes, too, though pointed at their opponents.

Yet, in the growing spastic shitshow that is the White House, we sit front-row to the unyielding horror of ineptitude playing out before our eyes as the knell of decency and hope for good governance play throughout the theater.

A Clockwork Orange

Me. Every day.

For we are witnessing the dumpster fire that is our nation’s political system, and the Fourth Estate’s coverage of it, unfolding further. Case in point, the White House had an opportunity to confirm what we all knew, make light of it, and move on. But that didn’t happen. Instead, under directions from the Oval Office no doubt!, that poor man-sized baby Sean Spicer doubled down on the illusion of 45’s infallibility: “The President and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”

This hurdled sections of the nation into an unnecessary state of confusion. It left the possibility open for meaning. Thus, devoted masses of 45 were whipped into a frenzy to defend their fearless, persecuted leader. They plunged into the deepest historical and linguistic waters to vindicate the author. One could say they “covfefed” with the dearest conviction.

Then, evangelical Trump-supporter Joshua Feuerstein went on the other festering wound of American culture to tell his audience of 45’s greatness: (https://www.facebook.com/joshua.feuerstein.5/videos/1041724925930189/)

The “researcher” (Dianne Marshall) Feuerstein cites does indeed claim to have solved the mystery of “cuvfefe.” In fact, according to Marshall, covfefe is: “an Antediluvian term for ‘In the end we win.’ ”  Sadly, she never provides any evidence to support her claim.

Anyway, we all know it’s bullshit because it was a typo, but that didn’t stop Marshall from writing such claptrap, or Feuerstein from publishing this misinformation to his audience (the video topped over two million views), promulgating the mystery of “covfefe” and the myth of 45’s greatness.

So why still focus on this? Well… apart from it being an obvious insult to history and intellect, and a continuation of this hardcore political lampoon, there is also a deeply troubling element of a cult of personality solidifying here. His voters are turning into believers in the idea of a Trump. And there is no limit to their faith. Once this idea ossifies in their minds, there will be very little to reverse it. As Weber pointed out, the charismatic leader has authority over his supporters in part because they have chosen to believe in him.

If the implications of this don’t terrify you, you probably think Comey is the reason Clinton didn’t win.

Personal Crisis in “Politics, Saviors, and Political Culture”

In Robin Marie’s brief, but wonderful post on the romanticism of individuality in the American Mind (by looking at the Hunger Games and The Man in the High Castles series), she calls for us to abandon: “our fetish for extraordinary individuals and learn, instead, that a durable collective freedom can only be won, indeed, collectively.”

The whole piece is worth a read and nicely intersects with where my head has been at (off and on) for the past year or more. There is something deeply troubling with a tradition of messianic fantasies shared by members of the political Left, Right, and Center. But as I’ve thought more about the subject, it is not only the image of a singularly championed individual that should frighten us, but the few who have the engines of power (fueled by massive amounts of capital) to steer this nation, too.

I was thus inspired to write the below comment (oddly enough, while listening to Tangerine Dream’s “Loved by the Sun” on repeat). There were a few questions I posted, and I’d like to open the floor to any reader. Give it some thought, and if you care to share, please do.

Another wonderful post.

“… suggesting that individual moral intuition will always be superior to the morality of collective reasoning and effort.”

Or the morals and ethics of a few to the many. I lately find myself in a bit of a cognitive feedback loop on this subject… or maybe it’s a reoccurring waking nightmare? In an age of Citizens United, the political arena seems to pit David Brock and his “do-gooding” liberal billionaires against the Koch Bros. and remaining members of the Legion of Doom. And there appears to be no end in sight to this political-financial arms race playing out in our elections across the nation—not just congressional or presidential elections, but the state level, too.

And I have serious doubts/fears about putting hope into the hands of either of these wealthy cadres. Regardless of where one finds oneself on the political spectrum, this current landscape should be downright disconcerting. And yet, when I hear dear friends/family members comment on how they (as Trump supporters) are OK with antithetical billionaires running their respective cabinets because: “that’s how the Founding Fathers intended it to be: disinterested elites to govern the flock” or some liberal pals of mine talk about how billionaires like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg need to “get off the sidelines” and really combat the “new red menace” I wonder if the terror on my face quite aptly describes the situation in its entirety.

At this point, I usually scramble for some solace from the past, anything to beat back the creeping despair. I like to think about the Gilded Age (very simplistically, I confess) and how movements arose from such inequality that gave rise to better living conditions (granted much later, and often not enjoyed by those who suffered then), labor unions usually come to mind first. But I quickly remind myself that in today’s world such social apparatuses are on life support.

In light of this, the image of the messianic individual (from the left or right) is quite appealing to a society that is reeling from anxiety and has little agency other than to shack up with one side funded by millionaires/billionaires or the other—which only intensifies your call for small-d democracy and durable collectives.

But… to get back to history…

What example(s), if any, of the past can be used for this goal? What was a durable collective that “worked”? How did it come to be, what was the context of its genesis and success?

critical-theory

Pork Soda in a Time of Tremendous Tremendousness

“Art” is malleable. Not only is a work’s meaning derived through the individual’s consciousness (both creator and interpreter), but the same consciousness over time. It is through this subjective-temporal evaluation that a larger appreciation, or contextualization of said work can be realized in its totality.

But as much as the observer is analyzing the work, the “Art” also acts as a tool of analysis on the observer, and as much can be said about the evaluator as the work being evaluated. Not only are the work and viewer being evaluated, both then and now, but the surrounding apparatuses that construct the scenario.

So when we revisit a painting, or novel, film, musical album, etc. we are not only attempting to arrive at a better understanding of the work, its creator’s intention, and all the like, but of ourselves and the extending circumstances we find ourselves in, too. These moments can give way to beautiful, personal intellectual satoris, but also act as wedges to reinforce particular myopias. We may very well emerge from the cage, shackles untethered, only to never realize we are inside a prison.

Not similar but running parallel to this risk of shortsightedness is the misreading of the past: events, works, or people. This type of thinking can be seen in certain opinion articles claiming certain actors in the past (Richard Rorty, David Foster Wallace, or even the Frankfurt Scholars) had predicted the rise of Trump and conditions of 2016 that would precipitate his election. These thoughts are a) flattering to the thinkers they label as prescient minds, b) fun to read and remember the pleasures of said thinkers, and c) completely ahistorical and thus silly.

The anachronism is best dismantled in Andy Seal’s critique from the wonderful USIH blog.

Neither Richard Rorty, David Foster Wallace, nor Adorno, Marcuse, Benjamin and the rest of the Frankfurters were capable of reaching such heights of clairvoyance, no matter how brilliant they all were. To claim otherwise is a dangerous form of closed-mindedness and recklessly treats the past with little reverence, and history as a plaything.

Why. With such logic, one might credit the band Primus’s 1993 album, Pork Soda, as being much more than some “goofy” “amalgam of elements that have no reason to be joined together in a sane universe,” but an artistic cri de cœur against the decline of the human condition in this ever-modern world and a quickening doom at the hands of the 45th President. It would not be difficult to then say that Les Claypool predicted Trump!

trump-soda-3

It starts with a brief overture called, “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty”. A quaint intro of mandolin and faint percussion lulls the listener inward to this unknown world. Like a mixture of Disneyland’s Splash Mountain and the promises of Trump’s slogan, it seems colorful and wholesome until (with the slap of a bass guitar) you nosedive into the macabre of “My Name is Mud”. From that point forward, you experience a wholly different realm, one that feels very much like an alternate reality but in retrospect is a death knell foretold: it signals the undertow of hillbilly malice about to be unleashed.

For Primus is, in many respects, a more apt representation of white working class ethos than the sitting President or any member of his cabinet. It’s unorthodoxy is only matched by its simplicity, and its irreverence for what mainstream pop culture audiences (i.e. typical bourgeois consumers) is indicative in its apoplectic distortion, manic guitar solos, and un-artful lyrics which either offer cheekiness or champion quotidian life. One sees this working class attitude unveiled best in songs like: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” “John the Fisherman” “Shake Hands with Beef” “Those Damned Blue-Collared Tweekers”: and particularly on this album we find “The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon (Fisherman’s Chronicles, Part 3)” and “DMV”. Primus is the soundtrack to white working class id. And in Pork Soda, the band is demonstrating this spirit from the very start.

The song”My Name is Mud” is concerned about a man who has, in the heat of argument (“a common spat”), murdered his friend (“sonsofbitch who lies before me bloated, blue and cold”). It is a chilling representation of the repressed rage of the white working class, who feels marginalized and whose concerns (mainly about their livelihood) are not taken seriously. So they have lashed out, mostly in the form of voting into office the only man who seemed to notice them, but also in the most extreme examples through reified hate (few though they maybe, still terrifying). It is a new reality we find ourselves in, to which Primus says: “Welcome to this World”.

The song perfectly captures the world to come over the next four years: a world of unfettered neoliberal economic policies that will enrich the already wealthy and place an unbridgeable gap of inequality in the void of gutted welfare programs designed to aid the lowliest, and where hardcore rightwing policies suppress goodwill and civil liberties in the name of national strength and homogeneity, cultish adulation, and “pink champagne and swimming pools”. For the sociopolitical atmosphere that will be unleashed on the nation will be tolerated by many for the sake of prosperity. But as the song suggests with its clownish melody, this is a mean joke. The affluence imagined by many but experienced by few cannot resolve the existential dilemmas of what it means to be human in this world. In the absence of meaning, with close to half the nation in a state of nationalist fervor, when the dreams of the left and the attempts of liberalism have failed against outright hostile capitalist hegemony and ruling class power, perhaps the only remaining option is the big fail for some. To excuse themselves from the world completely, which may have been what Claypool and the boys were getting at in the song that immediately follows: “Bob”. A song that tells of a friend “who took a belt and hung himself” in his apartment. A moving dirge of Claypool’s artistic friend “who drew such wondrous pictures in the apartment where he lived” and was found “dangling” by “his woman and his little bro”. It is a cry of pain, not only at the loss of a friend but what Bob represented. The closest expression of what it means to be human can only be found in those “wondrous pictures” or songs of Claypool, or in “Art” at-large. But in an ever-shrinking market world, aided by big data, where algorithms enhance a homogenous culture industry, and someone’s human worth is equivalent to their net worth, the marginalized artist is rendered valueless. For the survivors, like Claypool who learn of Bob’s passing, we are left with the same powerful image looping through our memories and the weight of its meaning, like the chorus that plays out the song until Claypool is reduced to illogical scatting: “I had a friend that took a belt, took a belt and hung himself // Hung himself in the doorway of the apartment where he lived”.

The album is full of these lamentations. It may have been unclear for people of the early nineties to understand or appreciate Pork Soda until now when the true genius can be appreciated some twenty-three-plus years later.

In fact, the fingerprints of 2016 are all over this album.

Look at the song “Nature Boy”—about a man who shelters himself in his room/house, gets naked, and masturbates to bottomless pits of porn, is irritated by the fact that his “genitalia and pectoral muscles aren’t quite what I’d like them to be”, and craves his privacy/secrecy: “But you don’t see me” “No one can/should see me”—which is a clear portrait of hyper-agro men’s rights Internet trolls who scurry through the web to prey on decency and spread their vicious hate-mongering, anesthetized by the veil of faceless avatars, deindividuation, and outright psychopathy. There is also “The Air is Getting Slippery”, a clear nod to the environment spinning radically out of control while Average Joes (portrayed by Claypool here) focus on Pink Floyd and hanging out at the bar, completely oblivious to the creeping doom set upon them. “Air” connotes two other thoughts. There is a nefarious quality to the use of the word “slippery” both used in the title and song. As if, this destructive change slips our grasp of it, or slips by and grows more dangerous by the year without our intervention. Of course, the other side of “Air” only  hinted at is the suppression or outright willful ignorance of vested interests in climate change’s cause. They try their best to evade or silence evidence and knowledge and let humanity rot because they: “don’t give a F***”.

“Pork Soda” addresses the confounding stupidity of modern life and our inability to comprehend it, to which consumer culture can only prescribe more capitalism: “Grab yourself a can of Pork Soda // You’ll be feeling just fine // Ain’t nothin’ quite like sittin’ ’round the house // Swillin’ down them cans of swine”. In one of the least-known songs of Primus, “The Pressman” is certainly a diamond in the rough. Not only does the song relentlessly drive at you with it’s haunting melody (again, simple but effective), hypnotic in its quality, but the lyrics Claypool writes vividly paint the picture of rightwing media in today’s society. A Bannonesque protagonist tells us of his days reporting the news: “I deal with fantasy // I report the facts”. A clear nod to the “alternative facts” we are accosted by daily, an endless spew of disingenuous half-truths, logical fallacies, misrepresentations, misquotes, and outright fabrications from this bile hurricane blazing across our news feeds. For Bannon and his ilk, they have done what hard-right reactionaries are best at: take the humanist logic of liberals or the left and use it as a cudgel for their own purposes. So, the rightwing media takes relativism (which they despise in theory, but use to their advantage in practice) and bludgeons our concepts of “facts” and “truth” until they are unrecognizable only to their own side. They gerrymander the American Mind, cutting out large swaths of the country like Swiss cheese, and build a wholly separate country with their “fountain pen[s]” and “stain” our memories, so that when we use history to look into the past we confuse the victims for the villains and carry this broken translation with us into the future.

Even the instrumental tracks carry this prescient, unwavering grief. How else can one explain the song “Wounded Knee”? Clearly, in the advent of the Dakota Access Pipeline (as it continues to unfold) one must not forget what happened at Wounded Knee. It cannot possibly be a coincidence that this song was released on Pork Soda! In any other year, on any other album, the song makes no sense. Only listening to this album in the context of 2016 can one truly appreciate all the correlations!

But the clearest example of the album’s instrumental disquietude comes in the song “Hamburger Train”. It plays out like a psychedelic jam session, only some joker slipped us a bad dosage of the electric Kool-Aid and we’re having a very bad trip. What better way to explain the emotional, psychological trauma we felt that night?** The song comes towards the end of the album, as did the election in that god-awful interminable year. While you listen, you can almost feel the walls melting around you and world collapsing as you did well into the wee hours of that night, only to realize it is the physiological reaction of your brain when hope partially dies. By the time the distorted guitar comes into focus again, bleating like a stuck sheep, so too does the realization of what is to come—paralyzing you in waves of terror. It summons a sense of cosmic dread to stay henceforth until the song collapses under the exhaustion of its own inertia right into the arms of the second rendition of “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty”. It plays again like a taunt to remind us civilization and barbarism are tied together by the same dialectical rope, and it has just swung quite negatively.

And so it makes perfect sense to close out the album with “Hail Santa”, which for obvious reasons is the band’s darkest, cruelest joke of all: combining imagery of the fascist salute with the personification of capitalist joy. It welcomes us to this new world by leaving with a wave and wink to the amalgamation of these two forces: our 45th President.


** Incidentally, the song for conservatives on November 8th was: “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” 

Infinite City: Blue Vandas (Dorcho’s on 139th and N. Vorschein)

I’m sitting at the counter in Dorcho’s on 139th and N Vorschein. It’s been around since the late 20s. The decor clings to the epoch when diners “mattered” (something an arthouse punk I know said to me), which might make it post-war 1950s. The brown floral linoleum peels at the edges, reminiscent of a dried lakebed, or withering bouquet. The entropy is most visible near the entrance, around corners of the booths, and beneath the door to the bathroom, exposing the burgundy-painted concrete lying beneath. The walls are covered in a crude wood panelling, sections of which have warped around the ventilation system of the exposed kitchen. At night, when the room is colored in tungsten, the walls nearest to the storefront windows show how faded they have become from UV radiation. The two-tone quality accentuates the aesthetic binary of the diner, the counter to the front, the booths to the back.

Dead-center, the kitchen consists of one large blackened griddle with sundry knobs and compartments housing various thawing meats and variations of starchy sides. The decades of grease, dirt, fluids, anything transmitted through the conduit of ill-washed hands have formed a thin coagulum. It gives off a certain blue-collar sheen, or in other words: filthy luster. The health inspector’s grade “Q-” hangs alongside the framed pictures of the past: headlines from local newspapers spanning the centuries next to photos of past store owners as they age, their families, a collage of human continuum.

Blue vandas perch on the windowsill facing the street, and on rainy days (like this one) they produce an exquisite sadness, looking almost longingly out at the rain drops as they hit the glass and fall in sporadic patterns. They are well-cared for, the flowers. Their petals environ the white plastic vases that hold them forming a purple canopy (dark blue in the shade of thunderclouds) with starlight pistils at the centers. Their beauty invokes an emotional, intellectual response, some natural provocation similar to staring into flame.

My waitress, Madonna, tells me they’re the current owner’s favorite. She has a garden of them atop the building. “Cuts ’em every Sunday or so and puts new ones down.” That’s a lot of flowers. “You better believe it.” Madonna tells me some other things, opening up as women do once we realize the other isn’t a threat. This impromptu civility transforms from blue vandas, to awful weather, to my order, to Madonna complimenting me on my glasses and necklace, to a brief conversation about cervicoplasty, and then a historical account of the place: It opened the week the market crashed. It changed hands a few times, from one relative to another, but has been under the ownership of this little ole grandma named Barney for the past fifty years. Her father had a heart attack at the griddle and she inherited the business at nineteen.  Flash forward a few decades, add a couple of kids and ex-husbands later, she now spends most of her days sitting in one of the few booths towards the back speaking Portuguese to the Angolan immigrants who live around the area.

Madonna motions and I turn to notice Barney sitting in the back speaking with an Angolan? as she sips on her coffee? tea? from her skylight blue mug.

“A Love Bizarre” by Sheila E. plays. I know now because Madonna tells me—it’s her iPhone playlist.

I steal looks over at the old owner of Dorcho’s. Her eyes are fixed on her interlocutor. Her lips move calmly as she explains? argues? jokes? with the other person. Her face and hands hint to at least four? five? decades of labor. The word “velleity” pops into mind, though I can’t quite imagine why. Then I look back at the photographs and newspaper clippings over the years, all spread across the wall behind me. Customers conversing, eating, ignoring the captured past hanging muted above them. I look at the stories of the pictures and headlines, I follow them from the door, flitting from framed image to article and other, children growing old, interchangeable men and fashions from one frame to the next, “Best Diner” “Best Burger” “Dorcho’s Fights Back” “75 Years and Counting” “Local Diner Does OK”, all the way to the back where Barney sits.

I follow the points and I counter-reference them with Barney. And I wonder about the in-between moments, all the pluses and minuses that make the sum, the production not the product, those ignored or forgotten moments that are almost as important if not more than the important ones. And for a moment, I start to pull away from myself, staring deep into Barney’s sad beauty, overcome and alive, and start to understand something until Madonna sets my meal down in front of me.

“Surf’s up!”

The End of History… (Cubs ed.)

by Francis Fukuyama

 

In the course of watching Game 7 of the World Series, it was hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental was happening in world history. To read some of the recent articles posted after the game seems to point to the end of over a century’s worth of misery and the upcoming of spiritual “peace” throughout the hearts and minds of North Siders. Most of these analyses lack a certain macro-study of what is ultimately of merit and what is analytical rubbish, and thus laughably cursory.

And yet…

These articles nevertheless (poorly, by accident) point towards some grander conceptual apparatus at play, viewed through the praxis of the Cubs playoff run: first with the remnants of a once powerful San Francisco Giants team, then the tinseltown darlings Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally a revamped derelict named the Cleveland Indians that threatened the hopes and dreams of America’s Pastime with the apocalypse. But the beginning of the twentieth century has been bookended by the beginning of the twenty-first in very much the same fashion: the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

The triumph of Chicago, of the very idea of the North Side Cubbies, is not only evident in the final tally, the hoisting of the gold-clad trophy, or the deluge of tenth-rate bubbly, but it transcends into the highest form of Western excellence: consumer products. Lakeshore Drive Yuppies and Northwest Suburban Soccer Moms wearing T-shirts, caps, pajamas, and flags all doubled their original markups; post-college bros and dentists alike with their signed baseballs, bats, and jerseys for upwards to $4000; picture frames, bobbleheads, commemorative books or Blu-rays, you name it! found in Belmont as well as Boystown, or Albany, Norwood, and Lincoln Park, and “Go, Cubs! Go!” can be heard on radio waves all across the city; over $70 million dollars-worth of merchandise sold within the first full day alone from buyers all over the country (even the poor children of Laos, Sudan, Afghanistan, Honduras, Haiti, and more, who will wear the over-sized T-shirts intended for hulking adults paid exorbitant salaries so high the gap between the two is as imperceptible as the words “World Series Champions” and “Cleveland” or the beet-faced racist caricature smiling back at them, even these children are a sign of the overwhelming success of the Cubbies excellence).

What we maybe witnessing is not just the end of the century-plus epoch of misery for Cubs fans and thus the exuberance of fans and profiteers in an orgy of commodity exchange, but the millennium of peace and prosperity for all baseball fans at the behest of The Loveable [Winners] and ergo: THE END OF HISTORY.

I

Of course, the concept of the end of history is not original. No. It started over seventy years prior this essay with the deleterious Greek, William Sianis, and his filthy goat: Buckles. Upon being ejected from the World Series game in Wrigley Field on account of either his or his goat’s smell, he used his crypto-gypsy black magic (sacrificing Buckles outside the gates of the historic ballpark) to curse the Cubs, stating: “These Chicago Cubs, they ain’t gonna win. They’re a buncha bums. They ain’t gonna win the World Series. Because they insulted my goat. They ain’t never gonna win a World Series ever again, or my name ain’t William Sianis of 374 South Halsted Street! Mark my woods [sic]. It’s da end of history for d’em!”

Sianis was borrowing this concept of the end of history from a far superior German thinker: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich von Puff’n’Stuff Hegel: whose legacy has been tarnished a bit at the hands of Billy Goat-worshiping descendants of Sianis (and possibly closeted Satanists) who appropriated Hegel for their own anti-Cubbie rhetoric, he now has the misfortune of being seen mainly as a precursor of Sianis goat cursing.

However, there was a man from Wrigleyville who attempted to wrestle Hegel from the claws (or hooves) of the Goaters. He was Harry Carey, and he held a long and prosperous career as a baseball announcer for various clubs, including over a decade and  half with the Cubs until his death in 1998. One fateful day in fall, Carey made the astonishing claim: “…sure as God made green apples, the Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” he spoke of the key ingredients of their success that were already in place, even though the team had only finished in first place twice in a thirty-year period prior and achieved a winning record just five times in that span, went through twenty-two different managers, and would eventually lose ace pitcher Greg Maddux. To peers of Carey’s in 1991, comments calling for a new manager “maybe Jimmy Frey” (who had been fired five years previously) or “this is a veteran team, guys who are young but still are veteran,” must have seen like ramblings of a senile loon, trapped in a quixotic myopia that was the blind love of a perpetually tottering baseball club. To some now, he might seem prescient. But Carey was just a dogmatic Hegelian.

II

Hegel is key to understanding the Cubs triumph and the end of history.

To summarize Hegel’s idealist views in a few pithy sentences would be a disservice to the philosopher and only accentuate the intellectual pratfalls of this essay. But fuck it.

Hegel believed the “real” world could be impacted by the “ideal” world (not necessarily directly, but indirectly), so our historical consciouses guide our human action which influences world behaviors which influence our historical consciouses.

So, when Carey stated twenty-five years prior to the realization that the Cubs would win the World Series, he was merely speaking from the realm of consciousness that all Cubs fans had, and eventually that idea broke through the nebulous of ideas into the world of reality, bringing in the end of history.

III

“But,” some might ask, “are we really at the end of history?”

Well, are the Cubs the World Series champions? Can any other team in Major League Baseball win the 2016 World Series now? Can anyone buy merchandise that claims otherwise?

We need not ask every crackpot fanatic their answer to the above questions. It matters very little what supporters of the Colorado Rockies, or New York Yankees, San Diego Padres or Detroit Tigers have to say about matters for they are not important enough. No. We need only ask these questions from other like-minded Cubbies.

Previously, the two biggest challengers to Chicago Cubs world dominance were the St. Louis Cardinals and goat curses. But as 2016 has shown us, what we always knew would be the case from the start, the Cubs handled the Cardinals (starting back in the 2015 NLDS when they defeated them to advance to the NLCS, but then winning the head-to-head series in 2016 and finishing seventeen and a half games ahead of them in the Central Division), and eventually broke the back of the vicious curse (with the throw from Bryant to Rizzo to capture the last out of the season).

Some may point out the Cardinals were plagued by injuries, suspensions, and other setbacks, and in an already weak Central Division, the Cubs were able to move through an easy schedule, or that they benefitted from a Giants victory over the Mets (a team they had a combined record of 2-9 over the past eleven games) in the Wild Card game, or that if the Cleveland pitching staff and outfielders had not played with comical Little League bungling in Game 6 or were not overwhelmed by the weight of their own being Cleveland-ness in Game 7, the Cubs might not be World Series Champions, and others point out that there are particularly searing issues the clubhouse will have to face in the future (Chapman and Fowler might move on; Heyward was not the player they paid for; no team has won consecutive World Series championships since the New York Yankees at the turn of this century) to ensure the Chicago Cubs hegemony.

With all these accusations flying about like a cherished W, it is possible to forget a simple truth. In 1908, the Cubs won the World Series. The present world seems to have confirmed this fact and stayed relatively close to the fundamental principles that a baseball team should win the World Series, and even though it might have been 108 years between then and now before the Cubs won the championship again, no one can deny they did, in fact, win the World Series, thus not only breaking the curse but establishing the greatness and ubiquity of Cubbie-dom.

IV

What, then, does it mean to be at the end of history?

Ultimately, because the Cubs are World Series champions it means they will remain so for the foreseeable future and thus live at the end of history in their surfeit of celebratory goodies, parades, and glad tidings.

Clearly, teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Minnesota Twins still exist in the world, and thus in history, but for any team (or their fans) that want to experience the joy and wonder of being a champion, all they need to do is to stop being them and become a Chicago Cub.

Based off my connections with the front offices in Cleveland and even the South Side the intelligentsia is most likely already starting to make their moves northward.

V

The victory of the Cubs spells the death of the Billy Goat curse. Its passing means the growing “Common Cubbietization” of Major League Baseball, and the unlikely return of any other equal-measured competitor to rise from now till the Rapture.

This does not mean the end of all problems, per se, in Chicago. The river will still need to be dyed a natural color, Jay Cutler will still be the Bears quarterback, and millions of Chicagoans will continue to drink Old Style and eat a glorified bread bowl of meat, cheese, and red sauce they call “pizza”… which might compel one to wonder how significant a Cubs victory is, but… … …

Now and forever, the Cubs will remain the victors valiant, the heroes of the West(ern civilized world), there need not be another champion of the Major Leagues for there is no alternative now to the Chicago Cubs.

The end of history will be sad for many. The struggle for a new identity will be felt. Many Cubbies will have a hard time coming to terms with being winners. The willingness to get piss-drunk and risk arrest for a purely abstract goal of greatness by punching a Brewers fan in the face will be lost. The ethic of “Loveable Loserism”will be replaced by something less adhesive, some cold calculation of victory, an endless sea of championship paraphernalia.

All we will have to look forward to now is this boredom, and perhaps, one day, look back longingly at history.

Your Body is Not Your Own: Brief Thoughts on Patriarchy

Bad Thoughts

Late night at our house in Nashville, my roommates and I sat around the dinner table engaged in a lively brainstorming session. Two of my roommates were trying to develop the concept of their band’s album art. Our other roommate, Melissa, the band’s photographer and friend, sat in on the discussion. I was more or less there to eat my dinner (back then, probably mozzarella sticks) and chime in if the Spirit moved me. The basic concept was related to the more occult qualities (since the band played a modern rock twist with hints of the delta blues, and was inspired by the more gothic aspects of the South centered around the imagery of voodoo, witches, the supernatural) and lore of rock music (i.e. the story of how the Devil taught Robert Johnson how to play the guitar). It was a loose connection between the taboo, the sexual, and the feel-good. In hindsight, it was a confused, simplistic renunciation of mostly Southern Victorianism, and fear of black culture, but that’s really neither here nor there.

Though jejune, the purpose of the artwork was not the problem (not outright, at least). It was where the little group’s thinking ended up that is of note. Of the four of us, the three guys were really spearheading the conversation. The (de)evolution went a little something like this:

“We should have a woman on the front of the album, and like, we should convey that she is moving seductively. It’s like she’s tempting the listener.”

“Yeah. She’s like the sorceress that we’ve fallin’ under her spell.”

“Yes, and we have to free ourselves from the spell. Like the album is that for us.”

“Purging her from our souls. The album is how we do that.”

“Right. And we tell this story through the artwork.”

“I have this scene in my head. You know that old barn off 65? The one that sits in the middle of that field. In Brentwood? Yeah. If we shot near around there. Like us looking for her, and she’s running off in the distance. Then a moonlight shot of her along the fence-line out there, where the trees are, we see her silhouette and then ours chasing after her.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Maybe we could have like torches or something, or is that lame?”

“It’s a little cheesy.”

“You know, during the witch trials in Salem, they used to drown them to see if they were witches or not.”

“Right. We could like shoot something in the river.”

“Yeah, maybe we end up there.”

“Like we see a scarf of hers, or something, in the water. We highlight it. Go back to the front cover. Like it’s a black and white cover and just the scarf is in color, like red. And then in the river we see the red scarf again floating away.”

“And then the last shot, on the back of the album is like us with shovels. Standing around.”

The three of us were quite pleased by this final imagery. We kept asking one another what we thought, and we all were nodding our heads in agreement. It was a cool concept. Using a gloomy feel of the Nashville wilderness, mixing in the elements of horror, myth, and music to drive a narrative. The way it would be photographed would be cinematic in quality. What was there not to like?

It was at the apex of our euphoria that Melissa voiced her opinion: “I in no way want to cramp your guys’ creativity, and I’m not saying you have to change anything, but as the only woman in this room right now, hearing this conversation, this album art terrifies me.” This statement struck me. But sooner than I could form a thought, she continued: “You introduce fans to this woman. She’s beautiful, she’s dancing, she’s having a good time. She seems innocent. And then you show, through the subsequent photos, her being chased down by five guys through the woods at night, through a river, and eventually being murdered and buried out there somewhere.” She pressed her hand against her chest to help catch her breath. “That is just so disturbing and halting to me. As a woman, I would just be so struck by something like this.”

I cannot speak for my roommates, but from what I remember of their physiognomies, they felt just as shocked and ashamed as I did. Like them, I never considered myself writing a narrative of grotesque objectification and brutality. What disgusted me more about myself was not that I was just completely oblivious to this, but that I had willingly participated in the act. The room fell silent. Melissa felt as though she had done something wrong, offended us in some way. She quickly offered: “I mean that’s just my opinion. You can take it or leave it. I don’t want to shoot any idea down. It’s your album. It’s your music. But I just feel like I need to be honest with you. As a woman, as a friend.” The bandmates nodded their heads and thanked her, canceling any notion that Melissa should feel bad, or that somehow this was her fault.

It was truly one of those transformative experiences for me. In that moment, I became acutely aware of hidden biases and blindspots I held, and the capitulation to certain abhorrent narratives (or “common sense”) of a male-dominated culture. I was perpetuating the same kind of practices and ideas I myself found so despicable. The profundity came from the realization that I did not possess the type of insight I thought I had held for women. And equally important, I learned another example of human complexity. How my roommates and I, we were not “bad guys,” but we were easily making an incredibly poor decision. I’m only grateful Melissa was there to point out the inanity, the cruelty of our imaginations before it became worse. Still, to this day, I think of what must have been going through Melissa’s mind, watching her three friends talk about hunting down and murdering a woman with such enthusiasm. She had to bear the burden for all the those who might come across this album art and experience the same anxiety and heartbreak. For that, I still feel awful.

From here I’d like to expand this thought piece. I’d like to take notions that are grafted to the “bad thoughts” that occurred in the dining room area in Nashville, and extend them to other areas of realization. So that one can see just how these ideas become metastatic when applied to social relations—specifically here in relationship between men and women. Also, I hope to show how patriarchy and our (American) sense of moral actors play together on this topic.

X-Men: Apocalypse

I imagine something quite similar to our “dining room chat” happened amongst the marketers of X-Men: Apocalypse as they planned the outdoor campaign for the film. Only those marketers didn’t have the benefit of a Melissa to expose their blindspot.

Amongst the half-dozen outdoor posters or so, there were two that featured the strongest female leads of the movie: Mystique and Psylocke: in less-than-flattering form. In the standalone image of Psylocke (played by Olivia Munn), she is shown bending forward, arms swung back, hair flowing with her cleavage prominently in the foreground. For Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), she is being choked to death by an Apocalypse two times her size.

XMA_Psylocke2

XMA_Choke

Set aside the fact that both Psylocke and Mystique have always been highly sexualized characters. In the comics, both women are drawn with impossible figures, skin-tight clothes (that don’t make a lick of sense for combat), and are clear projections of the basest visceral hetero-male desires (all of which is rich with its own issues steeped in patriarchy). Set aside that Hollywood was successful in saying: “I see your highly-objectified women images, and I’ll raise you.” So we transform Comic-Mystique, traditionally (or iconically) fully clothed in a white dress (and skull belt), into Film-Mystique, who is dressed, well… not at all. And although Comic-Pyslocke is quite salacious with her tight purple (what I can only assume is) latex outfit, Film-Psylocke ups the ante by cutting out all that unnecessary clothing atop her breasts, leaving them exposed for strategic value one must assume.

Set that all aside.

Focus instead on a very particular issue with these two specific images being displayed in the most public spheres: amongst the images of the most carefully selected models dressed in high, mid, and low-fashion clothes, amongst the shoe ads, promotions for lingerie next to calls for gym memberships, beautifully airbrushed actresses hawking perfumes, skin creams, shampoos and conditioners, eye-liners, jeans, and coconut water (just to name a few). See how these two images from the film, in this deluge of beauty objectification and stereotyping on billboards across the nation (and around the world), can provoke a sense of anxiety and frustration in protesters (who often end up being women). In this proper setting, through the eyes of female consumers, one begins to see these images in a different light: Psylocke is a grossly sexualized character, and Mystique is a woman whose received violence is so meaningless it is utilized as a form of advertising for a movie.

What makes this whole instance even more upsetting is precisely how avoidable it was. In a film where these two characters are on screen for a majority of the time, the marketers had a wide variety of still images to choose from (even from the very scenes these images were taken!) that would have portrayed the women in a more favorable sense. That the marketers did not choose any other scene seems to suggest either willful cynicism (i.e. They did not think the intended audience—read: young males—would recognize the offensive quality of the billboards, or flatly would not care, and ultimately not affect ticket sales.) and thus sexism, or they suffered from a painful ignorance (or more precisely, women suffered painfully from their ignorance). To drive this point further, in the outdoor campaign featuring Storm, the image shows the character shooting lightning out of her hands in every which direction and being a general cool ass-kicking mutant. That the Mystique and Psylocke posters were spared this approach is quite disappointing.

XMA_Storm

This poster replaced several “Mystique Choke Scene” billboards around the Los Angeles area after negative reactions.

Before I go further, though, there is one particular counterpoint raised as a defense of the marketing campaign. It is a line of logic that is regularly used in these types of discussions to a fault (quite often by those who want to pooh-pooh the idea of racism’s continued existence in favor of their colorblind claptrap). The argument goes a little something like this: “But if that was a man Apocalypse was choking, no one would even care. Hugh Jackman goes shirtless in posters when he’s Wolverine, and no one cares. DOUBLE STANDARD! DOUBLE STANDARD! #SEXISM! #SEXISM! #SEXISM! I WIN, I WIN, I WIN, I WIN, I WIN!” Or something to that effect.

It is a tempting argument to succumb to. After all, no one wants to consciously stand athwart equality. But this rebuttal is a sleight of hand. While it speaks of equality on the surface of things, it successfully strips the conversation of all context. Quite simply put: the reason people are not taken aback when Hugh Jackman goes shirtless, or if Professor X was to be suffocated at the hands of Apocalypse is because men do not share the same societal experience as women—not in billboard campaigns, not in entertainment/media portrayals, not in office spaces, on the streets, or at home. To bypass this context makes the counterpoint negligent and unnerving. Particularly, it is disturbing (and perplexing) that the argument purposely disregards the plight of women, and consequently the legitimacy of their concerns, and then uses the violence and objectification against men in a negative connotation as justification for the continual misrepresentation and mistreatment of women.

Lastly, what the above failed-refutation does not recognize is easily the biggest difference between men and women in the world of advertising, entertainment, and most anywhere when the human body is utilized as product, and is the true underbelly of the conversation at hand: fetishism. In hetero-male-dominant societies, men are not coveted. This sexual desire comes from the normative roles of patriarchal society: men are the sexual actors who seek out and perform sex acts (attributes that behave as main identifiers of “masculinity”) and women take on a passive role (as part of the “feminine” responsibility). [Note: Animosity towards homosexuals is often derived from these myopic gender roles, too. Oddly, though, the racialized aspects of these identities often work against people of color, especially the African American community. That’s white supremacy for ya!]

Fetishism is nothing new, nor is sexualized imagery in marketing, and the two seem to combine effortlessly in today’s media—some less so. In certain respects, they are the result of the sexual revolution. For all its apparent accomplishments, one failure of the revolution was to actually revolutionize sexuality. So what we are left with is rhetoric rich with calls to action for liberating the bedroom, or our sexual attitudes, and ultimately having more sex (because there is nothing wrong with sex, per se). This is all well and fine, but it does nothing to curb the perceived gender roles of men and women. The liberation still engenders an environment in which women should feel “free” to openly engage in more sex with men without any consideration to whether or not either side truly wants to. Continuing to define masculinity and femininity through the engagement of sex produces the fetishization of women as we understand it today and, combined with the commodity-obsessed capitalist consumer culture we have in the United States, leads to some odious results (as will be discussed shortly). Because if a woman is to step outside of the realm of normative roles dictated by hetero-male society, she is to be dealt with—often through violence. These two ideas: the woman as sexual object, and the disobedient woman punished: are on display in the posters, surrounded by a jungle of further fetishism.

So let’s return to our marketers for a moment. I’ll take them in good faith and assume they suffered from a similar blindness I had years ago in Nashville—only they put their thoughts into action. They must have looked at both posters and not seen the aforementioned styles of objectification and gender-specific violence. Instead, in all likelihood, they saw a bad-ass female mutant (Psylocke) landing some awesome move in the one case, and the powerlessness of one of the more recognizable, strong mutants (Mystique) at the hand of this next foe. I will go one more step and suggest they wanted to highlight the women in this film as much as the men in a gesture of equality. These marketers, like my buddies and I, were excited about telling this story, proud of their degree of female inclusion, and totally unaware of the potential consequences.

Allowing this type of marketing to continue unchecked is damaging for women both immediately and in the long-term. The whole imagery of woman’s relationship to man is seen in this dual sense: sex and brutality. Through the propagation of this type of advertising, the product is not just the film, but the codification of patriarchal logic. Continuously, we are treated to this logic so that it becomes seemingly innate, and feeds our action, which we then observe in real time as if natural to begin with. Granted, in some vague way, societal/cultural attitudes do have origins, but contrary to what some might have us believe, biological determinism alone does not explain the enormous, concentrated efforts espoused by large swaths of disparate people acting cohesively to subjugate, exploit, or obliterate another. Nor does theology, or any other host of singularly-driven narratives for that matter. Instead, a truth lies somewhere deep within the shrouded past across innumerable nameless people, places, and events that helped create our current predicament. What we do know is that there was some evolution to our current hyper-masculine ethos, and that its continuation thrives on this seemingly connate quality, and moreover, if the proliferation of this type of logic continues, again and again we will see it manifest itself in its most heinous, but predictable conclusion: rape.

Brock Turner

Rape (like patriarchy) is quite antediluvian. The two go hand in hand, as evident in ancient records of long-dead people, tribes, and civilizations. There is debate about whether one can place a “start date” on patriarchy. However, much consent is given to the notion that the transition from hunter-gathering groups into agricultural and eventually industrial civilizations marks the genesis of patriarchy, and rape a key ingredient to its formation. Societies were often realized through various methods of violence, and so too was patriarchy. This violence spread towards women in several fashions—the most obvious: rape. Whether it was through an “exchange” of women between tribes (often through raiding missions) as a form of debt payment, or population control, or the conquest (and enslavement) of women during times of war, rape was a constant in this form of male dominance. It is also hard to recognize the creation of patriarchy without acknowledging the relationship economic strife, the rise of militarization, and the formation of states had in its realization as a fully-fledged way of life. There is an undeniable connection between a failure in the market (often related to scarcity), the threat of the state’s legitimacy, and the rise of military power to regain equilibrium (often through conquest of one sort or another).

Flashing forward a few millennia to contemporary times in the United States, though much has changed (scarcity is not as much a result of nature, but human failure at sharing), we still see the same apparatuses and social customs in their latest regenerative forms: the market (neoliberal consumer capitalism), the state (quasi-republican government), the military (nuclear-powered and technologically advanced), patriarchy realized through the commodification of women and rape. That the contemptible effects of patriarchy still exist in a country like the United States, even in environments of the most affluence, speaks to the omnipresent and well-nigh “natural” essence of patriarchy.

To see how this exists in modern America, in its most disgusting real state, let’s take convicted rapist Brock Turner for example. The case of the former-Stanford student taking an intoxicated and unconscious woman behind a dumpster and raping her until two men stopped him is full of various aspects of coeval patriarchy at play. I’m going to focus on just a few. The first focuses on the idea of scarcity and its relation to patriarchy in the modern era, then shame and the idea of honor, and finally a particular strain of thinking concerning the male and female bodies.

The origins of patriarchy might correlate to humanity’s initial struggle with scarcity, but it is not an effect of dearth today. At least, this is the case with much of the United States. It is certainly true when considering Brock Turner—a white man of considerable advantages. Using Turner to examine and understand concurrent patriarchy leads to a better contemplation of, and in some sense demystifies the deleterious phenomenon. For it was not scantness that led Turner to irrevocably destroy two futures—more so the woman’s. As patent in his father’s call for mercy, Turner came from a notable degree of privilege:

Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself. I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice. Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.

[Full text here.]

 

Earlier, Turner’s father calls to attention the fact that his son was having trouble fitting in at college (descending from those Midwestern sentiments and sensibilities, a gentler, kinder breed of American, it was hard for Brock to adjust to the strange, uncouth ways of Stanford University—my reading) and balancing both his academic and athletic responsibilities. Eventually, under the tutelage of senior peer pressure, Brock turned to heavy drinking and partying as a form of relief. Set aside the fact that these are anxieties most college students deal with (especially student-athletes) and thankfully a large majority of them are not rapists; and postpone following this logic to its obvious conclusion (every out-of-state student-athlete at Stanford is a rapist-in-waiting, one college party away from shoving parts of himself into a woman who lay inert). Instead, just recognize this as not a real form of scarcity, and that patriarchy has survived into affluence where it is most exposed for how truly inane it is. To put it another way: starvation, destruction of the land, other calamities did not lead to Brock’s decision to unclothe and physically penetrate an unconscious woman right behind a receptacle where people deposit their trash, neither did some agreed ritual of exchange between his family and hers, nor was this woman a form of payment to him. More importantly, women have had to rely less and less on men (starting in the mid-twentieth century for our brave new postmodern epoch) and the gender normative habitats that were created by patriarchy during the conflicts over scarcity.

And yet, the result was still very much the same: Brock raped this woman.

We are then left to conclude we are living in some residual phase of patriarchy (again, at least in more affluent circles of society). Because patriarchy is as much an ideology as cultural thing, and ideologies are hard to kill, this current phase can easily retrograde, but as it stands it affords us the closest examination of the logic of male-dominant societies—now more than ever, less shrouded in the cultural grips of common sense and the status quo.

Many markers of patriarchy’s logic were on display in the case of Turner. One of the more prominent features was the idea of honor and use of shame. Now, rape has deeps roots tied to the social notion of honor, or more appropriately, it is a method through which women (or females of any age) can be stripped of their societal bond; honor has its ties to the idea of self-agency and generally to moral uprightness (in certain respects as it relates to debt—one of the key ingredients to the social fabric). So an act that is forced upon a woman that strips her of these notions helps form a sense of shame and alienation from society—it’s really no wonder then why “honor” used to be synonymous with a woman’s chastity—and it is doubly felt (and meant to) as a cast of dishonor in a patriarchal society for both the woman (who carries no freedom to decide how her body can or cannot be used) and the men in her life (who could not protect her from the violence, one of their main duties). [Note: From here the fetishization of the female body can also slowly develop and expand (women have no autonomy, they are only things to be protected by men from other men), and given time, it is not too difficult to understand why the before mentioned marketing exists around the world.] In addendum, shame is used to inculcate social norms, and as this awful tango of a priori and posteriori goes on, so does the reinforcement of patriarchy.

Apart from the great mental shame that goes naturally with having suffered an act of unparalleled violence like rape, the victim of Brock Turner also suffered from further shaming in an effort to convince the judge and jury of his innocence. Throughout the trial, the woman’s morals were called into question, constantly cast as a demimonde by Turner’s attorney. Whether it was her history of sexual experience or her loyalty to her boyfriend or her lust, the victim was portrayed as impure, and thus dishonest. She had sex before that night in January (!), she may have intended to engage in premarital sex with her boyfriend in her potation-induced state of mind that night (!) and must have settled on innocent Brock when her boyfriend did not materialize. In this double bind, she was simultaneously victim and violator of patriarchy. But as Turner’s attorney wanted the jury to believe (as is custom for a great many defenders of patriarchy’s honor code), the sin of breaking the bonds of patriarchal rectitude was worth scrutiny and disgrace, and the fact that she had been raped was of the utmost secondary consideration. To put it another way: the woman was a slut, and therefore had no honor to speak of, so what difference did it make that she was raped (“allegedly”)? Her humanity was already unworthy of consideration from the start, so why blame Brock?

Branching off from this comes the second argument made by Turner, his defenders, and more broadly speaking those who defend the state of patriarchy. It concerns the standards of the male and female bodies. Or more appropriately, it concerns the helplessness of both bodies. For it was the booze that did it! If Brock was guilty of anything, it was crapulence! Drinking and party culture was what led him to “20 minutes of action” (otherwise known as three counts of sexual assault). He could not help himself. He could not help but take this woman behind a dumpster, expose her breasts and genitalia, take pictures of her naked, still body and send it to his friends, and then begin to penetrate her body. At this point, his mind had slipped through the earthbound realm, unable to prevent himself from continuing on, yet remaining completely aware of the fact that he was definitely not raping a motionless woman. He was just a male body at that point, coerced by alcohol and festivities. So not only is a woman’s body not hers (more so a vessel through which pleasure can be derived), apparently neither is a man’s. And yet, in patriarchal structures, the burden of avoiding such mindless bodily violence from men unto women falls on the woman’s shoulders. One sees this logic throughout male-dominant societies—most grotesquely in cases where the victims of rape are punished with jail time or worse. Though the woman is dehumanized by effect of her body being violated, she must also take the blame for the attack because men have no control over their anatomy, and she should have known better! Known the gender roles (as stated before). That, by the nature of things, men do and have sex, where as women are done onto and experience sex (sometimes less pleasantly than others).

After all, Brock Turner was not an evil kid. His father, lawyer, even (female) friends from high school vouched for him. He had spent twenty years of his life being an all-around “good guy” and never harmed or wanted to harm anyone. So being a rapist just doesn’t fit his modus operandi. There must be some other explanation for such an event to have taken place. Must have been the witch—I MEAN—women!

Many who doubt rape culture, patriarchy, or that they too are a part of this systemic human problem cling to this notion of binary morality. That “good” people do “bad” things is a very difficult concept to accept—for them and us. The turbid quality of human behavior and complexity challenges our ethics and values each day. Failing to recognize this, failing to place blame where it is due, leads to severe misunderstandings, conclusions, and actions. It also furthers patriarchy.

In order to break the continuation, we must change our thinking. Not just about how men and women treat each other and their own, but how humans are capable of wonderful and horrifying thoughts and behaviors, and how decency has to be reified in that fragile nexus between “us” and “them.”

Nashville Revisited

I think back to that night in Nashville a lot. More often, I think about how great it was that Melissa spoke up, and also that we three listened. It was because the setting was affable that Melissa felt her opinion would be at least heard, and thankfully we saw her valid point and altered our course. This consciousness awareness was not only imperative to my growth as a man, but it is exactly what is necessary on a broader scale. More of these conversations must happen not just between men and women, but all permutations, in the kitchen, the boardroom, and certainly the bedroom if we are to grow together and improve how we treat one another.

And let me be even more unambiguous! Melissa is not a stand-in for women writ large. Patriarchy is not the subject of just one particular set of people (an evil mustache-twirling cabal of white men). It transcends gender, race, and sexual orientation. It is not an abstract concept perpetuated by men alone, thus only subverted by the noble efforts of women. This, too, is a narrative we must disabuse ourselves from because patriarchy is not subject to such a simple binary. Even though it tends to work to a man’s benefit over a woman’s, patriarchy is often aided by the efforts of men and women and can be found in most cultures around the modern world. This type of ubiquitous nature does not result from a single hegemony, but rather widespread communal ones. To complicate matters more, it is often perpetuated by actors behaving cluelessly, who are otherwise described as “decent” people. Too frequently, these members of the patriarchal societies aid its perpetuation unwittingly. In an adjunct, the counter-force behaves in a fractured and ephemeral manner—as minority oppositions tend to do. Combining all these factors illustrates patriarchy’s longevity both vertically and horizontally. Allowed to continue unabated, we eventually see it act out in its most brutal, morally repugnant, yet purest conclusions. The response to its existence does not come with simple, straightforward solutions. To counteract such a pervasive systemic issue, the response must be as wide-ranging and persistent with a malleability to match. There also needs to be a rigorous discussion and understanding of human nature and its relationship with societal behavior. This all sounds crude and abstract in many ways, but the key is to open up and carry forth conversations, constantly thinking about these situations at hand.

More and more anxieties about contemporary hetero-male-dominant culture are being expressed, and more ideas of fairness in the social, business, and domestic arenas are being shared, along with greater discussion about the multiplicity of (and at times contradictory) human thought and agency, and this is great. This needs to continue. Although conversations will not simply wash away generations of perceived behaviors, genuine constructive dialog can (and must) lead to ameliorative actions. People are talking about the ills of patriarchy and what we must do to rectify it, as well as dealing with human complexity. The question now is: will we listen?

 


 

 

A lot of the thoughts expressed in this essay were not possible without the aid of some key thinkers that have blazed a trail in gender studies long before me. I’m in deep awe and gratitude to a whole slew of feminist thinkers. Most prominently featured here are Gerda Lerner (The Creation of Patriarchy), bell hooks (Feminist Theory), Silvia Federici (Caliban and the Witch), to a lesser extent David Graeber (Debt: The First 5000 Years), and more generally Judith Butler, Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, and a whole bunch more I’m leaving out. Without these thinkers, there would not be much meat on the bones of this otherwise gaunt think-piece on contemporary patriarchy. Of course, any faults lie solely with me. My only hope is that I did some justice to this very serious matter.

Lastly, on a personal note, throughout writing about the Brock Turner case and surrounding conundrums, I could not help but regret the fact that the victim will forever be tied to this man and event for the rest of her life, and that for most of us who followed the case, she will only be recognized as “Brock Turner’s victim.” Not Mary, or Celeste, or Vanessa, or Amy, or loving sister, or daughter, great friend, hard worker, funny person, or even: pain in the ass, horrible dancer, traffic violator, etc. etc. In trying to bring her justice, we still manage to void her humanity. There is just something extra disheartening about that. This will not be the sum of her parts, she is undoubtedly strong enough to rise above it and continue on. Her own words lead me to this conclusion. I wish her well. I wish all the women who have felt her pain in one sense or another well. I will continue to try and help change the conversation and raise awareness for all women. You are not alone.

 

 

Infinite City: Berserks and Haunts, As Explained by a Sixzy

Yeah, so like, where to begin? The CC. What a furious dump. Started off with der German pirates Ludwig and Hans-Johanns, and then branched out from there. First it was a pirates’ joint, then eventually the empires came, the joint legitimized and shits and it become a trading port. Gross fertile lands to the east by the river and the discovery of coal and gold in the mountains southbound in King Thelonius’s Range turn the City into half-agrarian paradise, half-shady gang town (plus, you wise, descending from pirates and whatsnot) or so the legend goes—the one that examples the First Civil Unrest in the early 1700s—you’ve got a whole history of a city with people that don’t like each other, don’t even like themself much either. Can’t even settle on a name.

First it was “Dee O-zah” or some German shit like that, denn they changed it to “Noy Himmel” when the Calvinists show up and start causing a ruckus, denn they change it again around the early 1700s to “Noy Reich” which is like “New Country” or something and then when we all start speaking English finally by mid-1700s it gets ang- angli- oh fuck that word, it gets changed to “New Reich” but some just call it Riker City because it’s easier. Anyway, like you don’t know what happens next. The fucking—anglitized! that’s the word, they anglitized it—uh… yeah… where was I? Oh rights, der fucking World War Duo happens and like gross shit happens in the city. You gots dees nuts Nazi sympathizers all over Ghettoland and Booty (they didn’t call them berserks that back then, I’ll talk about that in a minute). Uh, uh, yeah, Nazis, man. All over what used to be the furious fancy tits part of the city, you wise. Had FBI and police all over the city busting Nazi cults left and right, Nazis putting bombs in Jewish mailboxes and phone booths in all over Ass End, shooting up cars they think got undercover police in them. It was gross. And all over the City, I’m talking: Flatport, Reeves, Gorgon’s Alley, Duchess, uh, uh, all over what’s now New Strip, uh yeah, and Axel South, and Merlin Square, and uh… Capital Hall, Capital Hall was a bloodbath for that whole time, man. Not even us in Sixzy were safe, well I mean we never are, you wise, but like we were caught in all kind of gross cross fire. Nazis and Feds going right through our neighborhoods to tear up the other sides. Bayland was borderland between. My old man used to tell about that when he was young, watching the shoot outs from his window.

But uh… what was I saying? What was this about? Oh yeah. So lotta, lotta shits going down, rich? And eventually most of the Nazis get killed or thrown in jail or move to Argentina and Brazil or just move over to Posh Town, but uh… the City loses its name again, and like we all vote for a new one. Well, no. We voted for one before. Like in 1939, or maybe ’40. Definitely by ’41. It goes from “New Reich” to “New Helm.” Now, a lot of people wanted it to be tied back to the Indians that lived in the lands before the pirates killed them all. Chthic City. I don’t remember what “Chthic” meant to the natives. I think it was a mutual harvest god or something. Something about dirt, I think. Because the land was so fertile, you wise. Wait. I already said all that. Uh… yeah… what else? Oh, right. So there’s a vote and some want “Chthic” and some want “Helm” because who fucking knows, they’re as boojie as all tits and the Nazis (who are still around at this point) still want to call it “New Reich” or change it to “Hitleropolis” or something Nazi like that. The votes come in and no two-thirds majority has it so—oh that’s right—they had to eliminate the Nazis and by like ’44, ’45 is when they finally get it to “New Helm” which I still don’t know why. The boojie racists still wanted to sound German, and most of the other whites agreed, or at least agreed more than calling it Chthic City. But you still had like a third of the city that wanted to call it Chthic, so some started calling it the one that won the vote and others didn’t and this shits still sits with us now: some people call it New Helm, some Chthic, or the CC for short. A lot of people call it the City because it’s easier. Plus you gots nicknames: Bay City, Bay Haven (boojie people call it this), and Hemlock City because of that dark-ass bay of ours.

What else? What else?

Yeah, so you, uh, gots twenty-two fucking berserks. I don’t know why. Actually, I do. We call them berserks because it got angli- anglitized from the German word for “district” and there are so many of them because peeps don’t like each other. I know I’m pissing you a little, but it true. First started back with those pirates. Hanzy and Lew-Dogg had some beef and then the factions started popping up left and right, and then Charles Prick (no bullshit, that’s his name) arrived with his Calvinist followers and then the Catholic monks about a hundred years later, and on and on and on, but ever since the pirate dudes split no one in the City has ever liked the other. Actually, ever since the pirates got there and started killing off them Indians, no one has liked anyone. Or actually… them fuckers didn’t like each other either, so I guess it’s in the water or something. But like the reason everything’s got “land” on the ass of it is because for a little while (like before the 18th century or so) there were like fifty little countries all run by different pirate lords or miner gangs, or slave holders, or whatever, and the German for “country” is “Land” so… there you go. Lands. Still sticks because of the boojie white people like the idea of tradition, even if its tied back to awful people doing awful things. White people. What else can I say, you wise?

Uhm… hmm… yeah. Wars popping up like gross all over. But not really wars, just endless battles between small communities. Like first it was the Ludwig faction against Hans, actually no that’s a lie, it was der pirates against them Indians, then the Pirate Wars, denn the Great Calvinist Inconvenience, then The Revolt of 1684, there some more in there… I don’t know… there’s a lot, you wise. Uh… the First, Second, and Third Catholic Purging, there were a few more of those… uh… yeah. Lots of “wars” over the years. But yeah, nows there like twenty-two berserks over the City. It all starts in Gorgon’s Alley, which is what the haunts and the berserk is really called. I mean you have North Eye and South Eye, those haunts, and then Gorgon’s Alley, the Greeks, Pincher’s Post, and the Reeds: those are all a part of Gorgon’s Alley the berserk. But that’s where it all started. That’s the origin of the CC. Then it all just kinda spreads from there. Bloomland and Oldsland are the next berserks. All that land was colonized after Gorgon’s. You got some historic haunts in East Stretch and Pixie. Southfoot, that’s where they hanged Charles Prick, and burnt the monks, and disemboweled Hans-Johanns. Rights out there where Baskin-Robbins and American Eagles hock shit. Eeyore’s got a-ton a-ton of bars, it is furious the number. We call its that because it’s East Oldsland. So mash that together, and get gross shit-faced: Eeyore. Then you got Koossen, which was named after one of the pirates. I don’t remember which though. Then Greenland. That’s like where a lotta, lotta pride is dumped into the City. Lotta Hammer shit out there. That’s where Mmm-Hat is. Right overlooking North Park. The Major Metropolitan Museum of History and Theory. MMM-HaT. My father used to works in there. That’s like where this all comes froms, you wise. Used to take all the boojie kids from their schools in Horthwright Manors and Fletcher Park and tell them all the bullshit you s’pose to, you wise, all that stuff that’s in the news now with the textbooks. Gross stuff. Gross amounts of museums, universities, all the sports teams play there, it’s all there in Greenland, in haunts like: Upper Face, Flatport, Reeves, Aubrey Hills, lotta tight neo-gothic architecture is all over Capital Hall, that’s also where der city hall is and lots of dees government buildings. Uh yeah… what else? I mean those five pretty much make up the Old City as it stood. The lines of those berserks are pretty much untouched. Fact. Du can find bits of the wall Ludwig built to keep the Indians out of his town. It now separates the boojie parts of Aubrey Hills from Sixzy, but it goes all along from the Mond down to Hemlock.

Then you got Bayland, my home. I’m a Sixzy, grew up my wholes life on or around Sixth Street. That runs right through the heart of Bayland, starts at der Pier where du get most of the jobs coming still for peeps, but it’s like heavily boojie now, you wise? Likes a-ton un a-ton of fancy tits restaurants and places like that. Lotta peeps working on staffs in there. Sixth is like a bigs deal for lotta, lotta us, man. That’s where they used to take the slaves in for sales. When the Uprising happened back in the 1800s, Sixth was where freedom spread from out. You had all kinda crazy number of slaves coming in from around the city, out from the fields in der east and flooding Slave Town (whats they called it then). But for likes six gross weeks, man, I’m telling you, Slave Town was Free Town and Sixth was where it was at. See like, the City was still very its own, you wise? Likes even the president didn’t want to mess with the City. But when the things got ugly, and the mayor was like: “Yo, dees slaves be shitting mad hate on us, you better come squash this right now.” But it was all horses and on feet back then. They couldn’t fire up the drones to blow the slaves out of the sky in a day, you wise? So whiles it taken them weeks to get to us, we were setting up a government un defending ourselves from the slave owners trying to steal us back and city police and whatnot. Then the military came and it was gross. Slavers didn’t want their property harmed at first, but by week six they were just like: “Try not to kill the babies if you can.” No bullshit. That’s like in der records un shit. Anyway, Sixth is der Hammer. That’s where we all comes from.

And then you go west to the other berserks from Bayland: Midland, Renaissance, and Beauté. All four are parts of the “Inner Berserks” which is just a boojie term for “where to put all the non-white peeps.” Both Renaissance and Beauté used to have all the wealthy haunts of all der Nazi supporters. During the War, after they kicked out the Nazi from CC, they tore up the area for more military barracks and bases. Then after that they kinda gave it all up and converted them alls into a projects for the poor and immigrant. When they renamed the city, they changed the berserks too, from “Reichland” to “Renaissance” and “Volks-shtott” to “Beauté.” I don’t remember all the old Nazi haunt names, but nows it all like: Liberté, Unité, Fraternité, Égalité, Rois, Bleu, Sérénité. I guess they thought changing shit to French was assperational or something. I don’t know. Uh… anyways, they shoved all the rest of der poor people there and forgot about all that goodwill aspirational shit and left us for dead while they built the Sprawl (more about that in a sec). But it’s like, uh… uh… we don’t even call it that. No one coming here to teach us French. Shit. Only reason I know how to pronounce them is because of my dad. Shit. Those are the only French words he ever knew, and same for me. Shit. It’s all Booty (or some call it Baby, or Bay-B) and Ghettoland for the berserks. And you think peeps from the Inner call those haunts that? Nah. It’s ain’t that at alls. It’s all anglitized, too. Or ghettotized.

Uh… yeah. So then… you go all the way west and north into the WASPy berserks. You got Riverland, Coastland, Charles, and Paladin Heights. Well not so much Paladin. That’s where the Catholics came in. Lotta, lotta Catholics still around there. But yeah, that whole northern part of the city is where Charles Prick came with his Calvinists and started causing a ruckus with the generations that descended from the pirates. Lotta bad blood. Lotta wars. Lotta dead people during that time. It wasn’t until der monks show up. Denn you got them teaming up to slaughter dees monks. Fuckers never stood a moment on the CC and the WASPs and other white peeps coming to the port to beat them to death and steal their goods, grill ’em. Like five, six times this happens. Catholic monks come over from Europe, peeps come out to find them and kill them or send ’em back. Fucking brutal, you wise. They even sunk one of the ships before it could get to land, but it was a merchant ship. So eventually that stops. I don’t remembers, but it happened eventually. Military stepped in or something. No wise.  But yeah, that’s like lotta, lotta industry and factories and big cargo dumps and lotta lotta other stuffs all out there, rich. Like tonna working peeps, but now likes lotta Slovaks and Greeks and Taiwanesians and Persians live out in der parts because most of the others have fucked off to the Sprawl. Un, uh, yeah but most those haunts in der berserks are still gross nice. It’s not until you start touching the Inner do those parts get bad. But whatevers, it’s still like furiously better. Fucking boojie peeps.

What else? What else? Damn. Yeah. I forget how gross this city is with all these places. Gross big. Furious big, man, you wise? Like some twenty-thirty million living in this city—half of that shit in the Sprawl, but stills. So like all dees that I was talking about was the North End of the CC. Denn you gots the Islands. Most of those are boojie islands. You got Links and the Tri-Islands, but everyone calls thems Posh Town and Posh-Annex. Posh Town is where all the uber-uber boojie-time peeps are and their super fancy tits houses and other places. And Posh-Annex is like the step down, you wise? Like the Red Lion to the Black Lion in Voltron. Fucking Lance and Keith. So white. Where are all the black people? In a perfect world it’s all void of brothers? Damn, Japan. Why you gotta do us like that? Nothing about that show made sense. Why wasn’t that shit more orderly? Keith wore red but drove the Black Lion, and Lance wore blue but drove the Red. What the fuck? You mastered intergalactic travel and fight space monsters but you can’t help a kid out and where clothes that match your fucking lion robot? Color-coordinate that shit! And what the fuck with lions? Ancient space aliens know about lions on Earth? The fuck? And whatever happen to that German dandy motherfucker? Sven. Or was he Swiss? I don’t remember.

Anyway, yeah, Posh-Annex peeps are all stiff in the ass to the Posh Town crowd because during the War the military came in and started kicking Posh Town peeps out of their homes, creating a few officers’ barrack and headquarter and naval stations and whatever else, you wise, all that military bullshit, so they started kicking out some of the boojie crowd, others could stay because their land was more inland, or in less “strategic” area. So like the military was doing this to all the islands: Links, Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt (but then it was Cleveland), the free islands. So like anyone who got kicked out was relocated to Ass End, the New Strip, parts of Deebs. A lot of the Jews and Scandinavians that lived in those berserks got kicked out. The City then bought up land from the farmers east of the city, and that’s what was the start of the Sprawl. But then like after the War all the Posh-Annex people wanted to moved back, but what had happened was that some of the property remained under the ownership of the military, other parts converted into private industrial enterprises, or spots (for a lot of the officer quarters) were purchased by those Posh Townies who didn’t get kicked out. They bought up that real-estate and then charged outrageous amounts of monies to the “off-island” peeps who wanted their homes back. Poor boojies, rich? Can’t get their three-storey Victorians back the way they were? Furious, yo. Gross furious. So anyway, the wealthy pricks complained to the mayor and got the Tri-Islands redrawn into residential areas for them. Catch with that was those islands all had city-run facilities to take care of the bum population, the ‘tards, the seniors, all spots over those threes. So what did the city do? Well, they were financing the fucks outta the Sprawl, and the mayor made concessions to the industry businesses to cut back on taxes, so dudes were a little strapped for cash, so they closed all the facilities. The homeless went back to the streets, same with the ‘tards because there were no other facility that could care for or wanted to care for thems. Some of the seniors went into hospitals, or back to their families, but a good amount went homeless, too. You gots this uber flood of homeless peep, you wises. Uh… something like a hundred thousand, two-hundred thousand peeps out on the streets, un, uh, then like a freak winter came in and killed off half of dees peeps. We stills call that one “the Hard Winter.” Gross, rich?

Those the islands. The free ones were given back to the peeps, but fat-fucking chance a Sixzy can ever get over there. Du gotta take like six Metros to get there, takes like two hours. So whites go there. Them and der Puertos and Chineses that live over in New Hope and Little San Juan in der New Strip. Man. South City has all the Hammer shit. Nice parks, nice homes, everythings like a little nicer because of the land and those Lands were built on top of the miners’ towns, which were all just like wood. Most just burnt down in the King Thelonius Riots and the Miners’ Revolts, so they like just started building on them in the early-20ths. It’s all nicer over there, plus you gots the mountains and all that gross pretty shit. Make a Sixzy blush with rage. All dem berserks are furious nice and boojie-adjacent, you wise. The haunts in Ass End are real nice. Lotta Posh-Annex peeps used to live in Mame Loshn and Vidvelt after they took over, but dees used to be all the Jewtowns. They kicked them all the way out. But they are all pretty nice. Mostly Hasids now live there after they reclaimed it in the 80s. Actually I never stepped foot in there. Only heard it was nice. Don’t think I’d ever been invited, you wise? But Parkland, Deebs, and Bergland are like quantum leaps beyond the prettiest berserks in the CC. Deebs has got like the nicest park. Olympia Park. Was built in Glits for the Olympics back in the 50s. It’s pretty Hammer. But denn you gots all these tinier parks that spread across all over there. Same with Parkland. Arcadia Park was the first official city park. That’s where all the hippies tried to convert it into a “free town” but that didn’t last so long. And Bergland is right along the Range so all that haunts: Thelonius, Ashway, Matterhorn, Nord, Karling, Whimp: all Hammer as shit. Alls skis towns and whatnot. Not that a Sixzy gets a chance to ski all the time, a Sixzy don’t love the snow, but every now and again we gets out there.

No wait. Sven was Swedish. That’s right. And the fucker dies in the original Japanese version. But apparently kids can’t handle that shit stateside. Fucking Sven. You silly bitch.

But where was I?

Oh right. Yeah. Those are all nice places. But if I had to like choose. Like choose, choose. I’d probably live in Hearts. Shits got it all. It was likes the first suburban experiment for the CC by Hearts before he got his hands on the Sprawl. But you kinda see what he was going for, mixing the regular peeps with the hard shit of the city, tried to make it real nice and community-based, you wise. Then the Brazilians and Indians (like from India) moved in in likes der 70s. Yeah. Like the Rund or Lesser Thrash, Cubbiehole, Pyramids, all those places are real nice. ‘Course they are becoming real boojie again. Gardens and Dalegate used to be a place some of the Inner peeps were moving to, but not so much now. Shit. Even the other day I was walking through Nouveau Monde in Ghettoland and they’re tearing all that down for these fancy tits high-risers that’s likes three grand for a fucking studio. Who in the Inner can pay that shit? Fuckssake, rich? But don’t worry. They got vouchers for us to live in places like Meadow Lake and Free Forest in the Sprawl. Even though they’re moving all those whites back into the city and the jobs with ’em. And places like Prairie Valley and Hearts Fields have already taken measures to convert low-income housing into boojie spots, or requiring GEDs and some even college degrees for part-time jobs. Part-time jobs! I just gotta like laughs, you wise. Fucking whites. Fuck ’em. Who wants to live a shithole haunt named “Rolling Hills in Spring” anyway, rich? Like how boojie do you have to be to think of that shit?

Yeah… that’s der CC for you. Chthic City. What a Goddamn place.

But you find yourself in Sixzy, and shit I don’t know why you’d be there, maybe because you’re on your way to the interstate, but yeah if you find yourself there, hit me up. I’ll show you some of the places where Slave Town all started and how we fought back in the Uprising and made Free Town for ourselves. We’ll have a beer at this joint, Russ’s. I’ll show you ’round. We can play Zelda. Or you like Goldeneye? Trick question, who don’t?

Anyways, you can swing through, say “hi” ‘n’ shit. It’ll be Hammer.

 

 

City Map 

CityMap

Berserks:

  1. Gorgon’s Alley
  2. Greenland
  3. Bloomland
  4. Oldsland
  5. Koossen
  6. Bayland
  7. Midland
  8. Renaissance (Ghettoland)
  9. Beauté (Booty, Bay-B)
  10. Hearts
  11. Parkland
  12. New Strip
  13. Deebs
  14. Oceanland (Ass End)
  15. Bergland
  16. Subland (the Sprawl)
  17. Riverland
  18. Coastland
  19. Charles
  20. Paladin Heights
  21. Links Island (Posh Town)
  22. Tri-Island (Posh-Annex) with Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Washington Islands

 

Major Parks and Islands, etc.:

  • A) Ludwig City Island Park
  • B) Hans-Johanns City Island Park
  • C) Chinnemuuk City Island Park
  • D) Othahathaway City Island Park
  • E) Bay City Park
  • F) Pearl Coast City Park
  • G) Founders City Park
  • H) Rutherford Chauncey Horthwright Welcoming Island Park
  • “NE” – North Eye Island
  • “SE” – South Eye Island
  • “NP” – Mond River Park, North (North Park)
  • “SP” – Mond River Park, South (South Park)
  • “WEB” – W.E.B. Du Bois Park
  • “PP” – Charles Prick Park (the Prick)
  • “NHP” – New Helm City Park
  • “OP” – Olympia Park
  • “KTMRP” – King Thelonius Mountain Range Park
  • “AP” – Arcadia Park
  • “R” – Roosevelt Island
  • “L” – Lincoln Island
  • “W” – Washington Island

Infinite City: The Trouble with Facts Is…

[The below piece: “How We Got to Now” was featured in The Daily Chimera, news-gathering/reporting and opinion-based website last week. It concerns the on-going disputes over the historical accuracy of certain aspects of the city’s past.]

 

For the past three months the city has experienced a vicious back-and-forth between two dissenting groups of citizens. Death threats have been made, fights have broken out at protests and rallies, arrest have been conducted, a federal investigation has been issued, and much more. This “War for True History” as it is being called has divided parents, teachers, students, citizens in the city. 90+ days into this conflict, it is possible we may have forgotten how this all really started. This was evident yesterday at a protest outside the publisher Macmilliamous-McGrood’s city headquarters. There, both protestors and advocates confused facts and details about what actually caused this unrest.

Below is an effort to explain and clear up some misunderstandings. Here is a very short summary:

Basically it started with one parent. We will call her Mrs. T on account of the innumerable death threats she has received since this all started (she is under police protection at the moment). Mrs. T was displeased with the Macmilliamous-McGrood textbook’s origin story of the city. She took offense at the glorification of the founders (Ludwig von Küssenass and Hans-Johanns Schmudieb) and the overlooking description of the native tribes that inhabited the land before any Europeans landed. She was concerned this kind of (as she saw it) poor historical accuracy was detrimental to her daughter’s (and the other children’s) education.

Her letter to the principal is below.

Dear Principal Wexinburhe,

I am writing you today as a concerned parent. My daughter returned home last week with her Centuries of Events and Peoples history book. This year she gets to learn a great deal about her city’s history. It’s very important. She’s quite excited to learn about all the people that came before her to build up this city we all live in today. I, too, was excited to see her get the opportunity to learn more about the immediate world around her.

I was, however, greatly disappointed in the textbook’s brief summary of the “origins” of our city. Specifically, I was shocked to see the land described as “mostly underutilized” by the “tribes-people” until “the infamous German pirates” came along. There are two things that are particularly upsetting about this excerpt, and the whole summary. The first being this sense of “underutilization.”

As you may or may not know, the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway peoples had occupied that land (by the most conservative of estimates) a full three-hundred years before those two pirates and their gang arrived. The textbook describes their usage of the land as: “…seasonally for ritual dances, games, and political meetings…” This is a blatant understatement of the facts. Both the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway had come to use much of the land that now makes up our metropolis on a daily basis. The specific area in question (“Gorgon’s Alley” as referred to in the text) was of such deep religious and political significance. The only reason they visited the two islands at the mouth of the river (which had much different names than “Eye” and “Mond”) in each season was so that they could appease their spiritual ancestors together, and continue their long peace practices. I wouldn’t think I need to remind an educator, but perhaps I might, the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway had waged bloody campaigns against each other for years over the usufructuary rights of the land. Entire generations of people were born, lived, and died knowing nothing but fear, anguish, and continued hatred for the other group during this time period. Western Civilization does not have anything like this in kind. Not the 40 Years War, not even the 100 Years War. The conflict between the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway went well beyond those two wars combined, and on a scale of comparability were by far bloodier and more tolling on the people than anything the European campaigns might even imagine. So when these two peoples came together to celebrate in shared spiritual practices, and participate in games and tattoo one another, share harvests, etc. it was as a means of perpetuating peace and harmony. Also, it was a means to protect them against other warring tribes from the south and the west. My point here is that this land was being used for a long time before the Europeans came along, and it was of much greater significance to those people than some trading post for pirates.

Speaking of the pirates, this leads me to my second complaint/concern. What is with the beatification of these two pirates? They’re pirates! The textbook seems to paint them in a much lighter tone as the reader goes on. By the end I expected them to start referring to the pirates as “laissez-faire apostles” who freed the world of “evil-doing collectivism.” I mean, my God, these were the same men who (along with their subordinates) pitted the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway against each other, reigniting the war. They were perpetrators of by any account what can only be described as war crimes, enslaved what remained of both tribes, sold off women and children to other insidious Europeans who came along (including the Spaniards!), and should only be credited with bringing the disgusting habit of mechanized/organized subjugation and exploitation to the New Land.

None of that gets mentioned in this text. And I’d rather have that than some lame, half-informed, mostly balderdash writing about cartoon pirate figures bettering some “unused” land, as if other human beings never existed beforehand—like some sort of Shangri-La. That’s not history. That’s science fiction.

As someone who comes from a displaced, marginalized background, from a group of people who have often been side-stepped and left better off unspoken about in the annals of human history (which is to say white European-dominated history), I would appreciate if the school would make a much more concerted effort to educate not only my daughter (who shares my lineage), but also her peers. So that we do not destine ourselves to these awful tragedies again.

I understand the school probably has some sort of deal with Macmilliamous-McGrood and cannot necessarily rid themselves of this nonsense. But perhaps you can issue a formal complaint to the company, or insist the teachers offer some proper context to the lack of text involved in this largely fictional historical narrative.

Thank you for your time.

– Mrs. T

 

Principal Harvey Wexinburhe (who has not received as many death threats) responded about two months later, after consulting the school board and sponsored education board. That letter reads as such:

Dear Madame.

May I first take this moment to express my deep gratitude for sharing your concerns with me. As you are certainly aware, Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) prides itself on being one of the most prestigious public schools in the city. The school does not achieve these accolades without the support of students’ parents—such as yourself—and their communication with the school—as evident in your letter. For over one hundred years the school has maintained its excellence, an excellence students benefit from and parents rely on, because of the continued community support it receives. It is without question that this support is what holds the utmost value for Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®) and its continuation means the prolonged success of the school. This support comes in many forms, as I’m sure you are aware.

One such instance is financially. Another through volunteering time and expertise. The one I find most beneficial is when the parent(s) continues the exemplary education their child/student receives in the classroom at home and assists in reinforcing the schooling lessons, homework, values, morals and ethnics the child learns while attending Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®). There are more still. The most common form of support the school receives is often by way of open, unadulterated communication from the parent. This is the method in which you chose, and we are very grateful for such support. Without you, and parents of your ilk, Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®) would not be able to properly assess what teaching methods, school courses, textbooks, et al. are properly utilized in the continued education of our young generations. 

Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®) prides itself on teaching every upcoming generation in the most effective, responsible, socially conscious way possible. We firmly believe in the fact that children will be the future. Perhaps that is a little obvious, but we do not reduce this universal truth to some platitude. We take this idea very seriously and strive each day to ensure our students, your child, have the best education (an omnibus word we see encompasses the following: fundamental learning, social interplay, proper rectitude). Without the best education provided, our future leaders, workers, thinkers would be operating at a deficit in society. That would be a horrible travesty. So to receive your letter is of the utmost importance to us. 

We were all very troubled by your letter. We took the issues raised very seriously. The fact you were so deeply disturbed by the historical account of our city’s founding gave us pause in considering teaching the passage to the students in the future, in addition we questioned our relationship with Macmilliamous-McGrood. So please know that your concern was our concern, too. 

That being clearly stated, I must inform you that the school board and the education board affiliated with our sponsored patron (Valvoline® — For All Your Motor Oil Needs) have decided to continue teaching the passage in question as is, and to continue our contract with Macmilliamous-McGrood. The reasons being are thus, as provided from the boards’s ruling opinion: 

– “The passage which is being challenged is in line with the generally accepted history of the city and coincides with historical facts as they happened from the point-of-view of the founders and collaborators. Whether there is any validity to the opposing view is not to the point, and broadly speaking does not confute the accepted position. All of the information provided in the text is accepted, even by the complainant. The only difference seems to be evident in semantics. Therefore, since most of the information provided is accepted as historical fact, the boards rule the text historically valid. 

Furthermore, there is the notion of “Proper View” (as indicated in Section IV, Area 41B of ECFA). The city needs to be viewed by its citizens in the best imaginable light available. To tarnish this view would possibly engender a loss of faith in the city and the community. It is imperative then that the children of Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) need to experience a “Proper View” of their city’s founders, and anything possibly contra to that point is unacceptable. Children’s minds are fragile, and the slightest threat of disillusionment can wreak unprecedented damage for the future.” 

– “Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) is a public school that accepts whatever provisions provided to it by both the city and its sponsored patron (Valvoline® — For All Your Motor Oil Needs). In this particular instance, with respect to the historical textbook received from Macmilliamous-McGrood, the city and the sponsored patron agreed to a lengthy contract with the education textbook publisher. Macmilliamous-McGrood provides quality textbooks to schools across the nation and is generally well-respected. For the book in question, Centuries of Events and Peoples, a team of historians collaborated to create the text, and collectively have years of experience. The board is more inclined to accept the work of those historians, and trust the judgment of the publisher over the complainant. 

Even if the boards agreed to the notion that the passage was unacceptable, or that (say) 90% of the textbook’s contents were historically dubious, the boards could not possibly enforce any change. The books the school receives are upheld by lengthy contracts (as implicated above). So there would be very little, if any, change possible for Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®).”

Your concern, time, patience, and understanding are very much appreciated, and we look forward to your continued passionate assistance in making Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) one of the best schools in the city, state, and nation.

Sincerely.

Principal Wexinburhe.

P.S. On a personal note, being never a teacher or historian, I found your version of the city’s origin story quite interesting, but as they do not fit within the national education algorithms of the “Every Child First” Act (ECFA), specifically with respect to the “Proper View” rule, I encourage you to curb those lessons for your daughter. Perhaps it will be something covered later, say in high school or the university.

 

Needless to say, the response did not go over well with Mrs. T. After reading the letter, she gathered some like-minded parents (most of whom were from various minority ethnic groups, and not all of their children attended Tussock-Chandler) and started staging protests and sit-ins at the school. This eventually started being broadcast over social media, and within a week of the protests the news outlets picked up the story and ran with it (apparently there was not too much going on in the news cycle at that time), then a counter protest group rose in defense of the school and the origin story. The next thing you know chants turn vicious, people get angry, outsiders try to capitalize on the frenzy, social crusaders and grassroots organizations fly in from all around the country to attend rallies, everyone has an opinion on the situation, Donald Trump mentions it in one of his speeches saying: “In the old days, we just took hags like [Mrs. T] out back behind the shed and beat the living shit out of them, just as our founders had intended.” matters deteriorate so quickly people start throwing fists for a cause they don’t even fully understand, usually mature adults get six to twelve-month sentences in jail for things like: criminal threats, intimidation, harassment,  and assault: schools become grounds for outward hostility instead of learning centers, it becomes total bedlam.

And to think, all this started over a few disputed words from a sentence in a junior high school book. It just goes to show how tightly people cling to their histories—because their identities are the manifestations of them.

It actually reminds me of what one of the city founders once said, Hans-Johanns Schmudieb fancied himself a philosopher. He said: “When you spit in the face of an idol, you spit in the face of thousands.”

On Parenting, and History

So we’re all sitting here in the backyard while the kids play around. Little Olivia is shouting at Arie to “get out of the tree!” Arie has, in fact, managed to get himself up in the tree, wedged between some of the Dalmatianesque limbs of the birch sprouting out of the earth. He’s all smiles as he dodges his head from side to side behind one of the limbs, teasing the poor girl. The protestation continues and brings on our full attention, but Arie’s lack of ascent (only a few inches off the ground) renders Olivia’s concerns absurd. Her father calls out: “Honey O, cool it with the screaming. Let’im play.” He’s got all kinds of neat appellations for his girl: Honey O, Little O, Baby O, O, and my personal favorite: Cheeri-O. “Arie,” (which is his nickname, phonetically based off the initials of his first name: Reginald-Ernst) his mother says, “you don’t go any higher than that, understood? And no teasing.” Arie seems not to listen, but he also isn’t climbing any higher, leaving me to infer he either got the message, or is already wise enough to know he can’t possibly climb any further without risk of injury.

Sick of Arie’s shit, Baby O picks up the toy lawnmower and walks off saying something to the effect of: “Fine, but you can’t mow the lawn then.” I’m not certain as she still mumbles a great deal of her words, much like her mother, and her knowledge of English syntax is still lacking, but that’s the gist. Arie watches her from the safety of the birch, clinging to the smooth trunk. The game is afoot, though it is still clear neither child is quite sure what the rules are. Olivia starts humming a nonsensical tune as she continues to pretend-cut the grass. This reminds me I have to pay my gas bill for some reason when Arie decides to dart for the toy. Little O spins to avoid his slow advance, his chubby legs and flat feet let him down in the chase, his sprint some form of unrefined motor skills. She makes an about-face and takes the offensive. The first rule becomes realized: whoever has the plastic mower has the power, and quickly the second: the tree is the only salvation. They chase, back and forth, expanding and creating new rules, evolving along the way.  

Not sure how, but the conversation I return to involves what my friends are reading their respective toddlers. More precisely, the two are talking about their astonishment over just how horrifying older versions of the beloved children’s characters are.

“I was reading O one of the original stories of Bugs Bunny the other night. My mother dumped off a huge stack of my childhood books. I couldn’t believe it.”

“What’s that?”

“Bugs Bunny.”

“Oh I know—“

“Bugs Bunny is a real asshole.”

“Yeah, total bully.”

“They really altered his image when it came to the cartoons. But when I was sitting there reading that stuff to O, I was like: ‘Goddamn. What a fucking asshole.’ Without saying that of course. But the way he instigates and taunts Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig, I’m like: ‘Christ, someone please pistol whip this guy already. What a dick.'”

“And it doesn’t just stop there, you have all those horrible, racist cartoons through the 40s and 50s.”

“‘All This and Rabbit Stew'”

“Sure. Is that one?”

“Well, Bugs always seemed inspired by Br’er Rabbit to me. Which makes the appropriation of him into racist cartoons like that extra painful when you think about it… at least to me.”

“Yeah, all these children’s books are so troubling. I’m reading her these Disney works.”

“Oh don’t get me started on that.”

“I know, I know. But I’m reading her Snow White, right? The young, pretty chick gets slipped a rohypnol apple by the jealous older witch lady, who later turns into a fucking dragon, and has to be saved by the prince. She literally does nothing the whole story except run for her life and get knocked out, then everything turns out OK.”

“No. You missed her most important contribution to life: she stays home and cooks and cleans for the seven dwarfs. That makes her a compelling character, apart from also white and pretty. At least Cinderella was a sweatshop worker.”

“Little Mermaid. My girl loves that story. It’s a story about a girl who changes her body image in order to get a guy. What the fuck?”

“That’s why I can’t stand Disney. I mean that and the shameless marketing to children. “

“Yes, let’s not forget the shameless marketing.”

“It’s not like any of those other children’s stories out there are that much different.”

“I know. I’m reading Arie the story about Little Red Riding Hood. What I remember about the original story was the wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, and The Woodsman has to chop The Wolf to pieces before the two can be saved. Luckily, this book I’ve got for him tones that all down. The Woodsman ‘scolds’ The Wolf to spitting the two out. And then there’s Goldilocks and how she ‘forgets her manners’ when she is breaking and entering the Bears’ house.”

“It’s nice that they tone them down. All these ones I have from when I was a kid are terrible. What’s the name of that collection?”

“You had Disney princess books as a little boy?”

“Oh I don’t know. I’ll find out and text you.”

The conversation turns as my friends start to converse over the silly idiosyncrasies of their kids—at which point I tune them out and start thinking about an article I read not too long ago. The report concerned a series of psychological studies that used false images of Bugs Bunny mascots in Disneyland. The psychologists showed these doctored photos to test patients (them with the rabbit), who upon seeing the photos, claimed they remembered meeting the costumed Bugs in the land of the Mouse—which never happened. This idea of false memories was particularly intriguing to me when placed in the context of these fairy tales. Was this revisionist approach to these children’s tales in a sense providing a cultural false memory for the next generation, and was that a good thing? What would their kids’ futures look like if they never learned their beloved Bugs Bunny, or Mickey Mouse, or other earlier cartoon hero was once a proxy for an entire group of people who were trying to indoctrinate their younglings into a vast racist narrative of superiority and minority debasement? Would it be better? Or, in another case, is it possible that Little O and Arie’s generation will thrive in a community that never grew up listening to the time-honored tales of little children being massacred, or doing the butchering, that they never had to learn these were all narratives told at their outset by a much larger, impalpable hegemonic force we commonly refer to as CULTURE to help ease them into their quotidian existence with relative ease and acceptance. How best to teach them all this? I imagine Cheeri-O’s dad might say: “They’re just too young to learn that. They’re three for Chrissake. Now’s not the time.” Fair enough. No need to expose them to all these matters we adults regularly avoid with boldfaced ignorance verging on beast-like stupidity, let alone actually comprehending what any of this bullshit means. But I can’t help but wonder what implications lurk behind these signs of progression. Do my friends’ children no longer become educable to these pasts, or just as bad: do these histories become a novelty, something reduced to a trivial level? What happens to our futures when we occlude the understanding of our lineage?

I’m not sure. But, being both black and a Jew, I can’t stop myself from thinking about American slavery, and the Holocaust while my friends continue some impassioned conversation of whether or not Tupperware is still a valuable appliance for housing leftovers. I think about the totems to white supremacy. The ones that have vanished, and the ones that remain. I think of the celebration of “Dixie” at high school and collegiate sporting events, etchings on the side of Stone Mountain, the doubly offensive statue of Nathan Bedford Forest overlooking I-65, and the statues and engravings and names that behave as emblems to this country’s known, yet mute identity. Then I think of the only remnants left throughout Germany, Poland, Austria, and other formerly-occupied territories are the ashes. Grim sepulchers that set inside the bucolic countryside, left to help bridge the gap between what was and is. No horrid tokens of the apparatus that conceived, implemented, and executed such doom. Instead, back home, we’ve buried the ashes and obfuscated why the relics remain. Heroes everywhere, and God on everyone’s side. No wrong. No shame. Nothing.

I remember reading about some American taking a selfie at Auschwitz, her face beaming with joy as she stood on the path to the gas chambers. About a year later, people are raising holy hell, crying about “Heritage. Heritage!” as Confederate flags are removed from state grounds.

The meanings behind these symbols have become so recondite they have lost their focus, allowing new narratives to claim authority. I think of this type of revisionism; I think of the Southern apologists, and how few shits Lynne Cheney gave about this type of storytelling influencing the American mind, what the impact this kind of inculcation might wreak on the social fabric.

So why even keep these tombs if we don’t care to acknowledge what lies within?

Then Arie and Little O call out to their parents: “Come play, play!” And Little O’s dad gets up out of his chair and starts to pretend he is a big bull chasing after them, and Arie’s mom tells them to: “Run, run!” The two children dart off with the 40 year old man-bull charging after them. They keep twisting their bulbous heads back to see which one of them he is chasing as their untoned legs move with all the gaucheries of young speed. And I start to get it—I see the danger implicit within its wordless rhetoric, but I understand its necessity. It’s the same that propels me and mine from a separate view.

All these ghosts, arms out-stretched, dying to be remembered, and we in turn look back while lunging forward, wondering if we too have some connection with the intangible, something other than ourselves to tell us to go on, to tell us we are good, and we belong, and are worthy of not being forgotten.