Monday, January 14, 2013

McSweeny surrenders

by Jesse S. Mitchell

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

It is most of the time that I feel like we are already living in an ancient civilization.

Some old museum empire stuffed full of sawdust and feathers, all stale air and quiet reminiscence.

In fact, everywhere I turn my face I can see the ruins, not yet ruined, the crumbling battlements, the mothballed fortresses; make an appointment, take the tour. Everywhere I see the crumbling, rotten rock and stone and wooden skeleton of the world I was supposed to inhabit, dry rot and sagging beams, degenerating sheet rock and spreading seams.

It is too awfully bad it was already dead by the time I was born…at least that is how it feels. It feels stifled and frozen.

It feels like every single possibility and prospect is by now set in stone, deceased, ceased from living and now only dreaming, sleeping, dead and gone. It feels like we are written pages in a history text-book and the covers are closed shut. 
Most of the time I feel this way and almost certainly, another attitude accompanies this mood, the sincere hope that the future is blind.

That while we may already be a patinated museum piece of a society, the future has no eyes at all, no way of observing us or studying us. And there is no reason to feel the push and pull of explanation to reflective observation.

I can see no way for us to justify to more advanced souls, how Rankin and Bass, Mother Teresa, and Pol Pot all existed more or less contemporaneously.

And that is without getting into the Cultural Revolution, Tintin, the Shoah, and Wounded Knee, and all these things are relatively recent. Imagine our compounding shame if they started to dig deeper.

I mostly hope the future is completely sightless, senseless, ignorant of us entirely. Go point your microscope elsewhere.

But even that seems too optimistic and in more dark humors, I know no reason why we deserve such anonymity, oblivion.

And I hope the future is made of nothing but eyeballs, red, dry, lidless, ocular nerves engorged and stained, staring back at us, glaring, pointing every light and illumination at their disposal our way.

Let us cast the long shadows we deserve.

Let us answer for ourselves. Not that any of my whims or wishes matter. The latest released national security reports paint a very evocative picture of the very real world to come, a realm of desolation and dread.

A dried-out, barren desert wasteland of scum and villainy, where marauding bands of costumed bikers and craven mahouts lurk and roam the streets in search of easy gold, sex and oil.

(Malnourished luchadors hanging like bats from high rafters waiting to drop and swoop down upon us for our social security numbers so they can go online in Nigeria and buy bowls of millet and rice for starving Islamo-socialist children in Indonesia. Oh the humanity! Oh the Anti-Americanism! Oh the horror! It is nearly here!)

If anything the government tells us is to be believed. Personally, this latest possible scenario they have proposed sounds a trifle suspect to me, and not a little Hollywood, but…

Of course all of this criticism requires a great deal of surrender. A letting go. An acknowledgement of certain perceived or hidden weaknesses of both character and motivation, a retraction of all pride in oneself and ones previous blood.

A cold act. And one that all follows total defeat. A useless act in reality. Defeat is defeat enough, there is no logical reason to supplant it. And defeat is a difficult thing, a tricky situation. When does defeat truly become actual defeat?

William Carlos Williams in his introduction to Allen Ginsberg’s ’Howl’ said that defeat was a natural thing, an ordinary thing. Defeat was one of the most trivial of all human experiences and simply must be gone though because every man is defeated but a man, if he is to be a man, is never defeated (I paraphrase slightly).

Maybe the point of this epoch, and I mean epoch in a poetic sense and not the strict geologic, is to test our limits of defeat, of overwhelming inhumanity, of being crushed not by nature or outside forces but by ourselves.

We are on a precious and precarious course to conquer and crush ourselves entirely, into a fine dust, a bloody pulp, our best natures over our worst, our worst qualities over our best. The wrangling back and forth of man and animal and conscienceless brutality and unimaginable compassion.

Maybe this century of war and wars is really meant to be not a war with each other but one with ourselves (I say tepidly). But either way we do appear to be losing. Maybe this is a civilization of surrender, a nation of loss and maybe it is a thing that deserves to be discovered for what it is, but until that future time let us all share together the teeth of defeat that have us all slung along this horizon and continue to try to survive, all of us in our own primitive, ancient ways.

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