"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Jul 13, 2010

Where upon realizing that I've reached the terminus of a delightful nihilism, I just lean over the ledge a wee bit and say it...

I feel like an anarchist.

I won't state explicitly that I am an anarchist, well, because I just cannot stand the verb form "to be." The liar's verb, that little two syllable infinitive.

Take, "It is raining."

I get, blah blah blah, that a person staking this claim in ordinary English means, "Raining outside," which is a shorthand for "water falling from the sky, of which I take note."

But the niggling little "it" which precedes the nasty fucking "is" changes everything. It really does. What "it" rains? What being behind the event of water falling from the sky actually precipitates that aero-aquatic wonder?

Obviously, no "it" orders the rain. But the sentence creates a deception, once which (if you care to see it) you can find in almost any grammatical equation hinging on the verb form "to be," even in its merely copulative arrangement.

Take, "I am Jack Crow."

Seems simple enough, right?

Nothing more slippery and deceptive than that little "am." It establishes - ex nihilo - an equation of identity between a "me-as-subject" and a "me-as-object."

It divides the naming of names into two arbitrary parts, one which does and which "is done, or done to."

It engenders the passive, the tone of the victim, and all other manner of nefarious and hateful grammatical constructions. It allows some men to state, "we are the State" and get away with the obvious fiction, since "the State" doesn't exist outside of the description of it. In all seriousness. Examine the alleged thing (a filthy being, no less), the State. Stripped of the grammatical magic of being ("the State is"), what you find never exceeds the parts.

And those parts look a whole lot like people.

And claiming that the "State is just people" still preserves the magic of grammatical being. That dastardly "is" does all the work. It transforms people working together and competing, so that they might rule others and derive considerable benefit,  into a separate entity, a thing unto itself.

A thing which does not actually exist. Like the corporation. Or the congregation.

The verb form "to be" transforms the actions of individuals into a belief about those actions, a belief that those various persons constitute a single thing.

And these beliefs in the being inherent in human choices, in the so-called organizations which people magically create by working together, bind men to them.

If Mark claimed that his breathing meditatively on Mondays, plus Julie's eating of pork on Thursdays, plus John taking a shit outside on Sundays "is the People's Living Council" and that such and such an entity could achieve things on its own, as an entity, you would rightly conclude that Mark had just tried to sell you a tall tale, probably in order to deprive you of some portion of your life and labor.

You'd rightly conclude that you could not trust Mark, and if you had your wits about you, would chase him off, preferably with wickedly hefty blunt objects brandished in poses of menacing intent.

But, if Mark, Julie, John and their friends told you that they "were the duly elected government of the Great State of Vermont," and "were entitled to obedience, a portion of your labor, in the form of promissory notes" and other claims on your time and person, you would (if you resembled most any other person on the planet) very likely believe that this thing, "government," possessed a separate and tangible being. Whether or not you thought that Mark and company had any right to order others around. Even if you'd spent the bulk of your adult years acting in opposition to them.

But why?

Because, quite simply, you believed in groups of people as "things." You believed - as do almost all of us - that people who act towards some goal, or share resources, comprise the lesser parts of a greater whole.

It starts in the family, which most of us experience as The Family, growing up. You get that belief reinforced in church, masjid, ashram or temple. Later, buttressed by guys with guns in uniforms, or guys in uniforms riding red trucks, or guys in khaki going off to kill guys in olive drab, you very likely come to believe that the world has a whole lot of these supra-personal and magical entities in it. A legion of them. Legions of legions.

Later, you join others to do some work you probably detest, or come to loathe in short order, and most of what you do gets taken from you, because the organizational entity to which you belong has an owner, with a legal title to your labor.

That fiction has some real consequences. And perhaps you learn to believe the lie because the consequences show up all around you. Others can own a fiction and take stuff from you, on account of owning it. They can control a set of beliefs, and order people to their deaths. And others to do the killing.

Powerful shit, these fixed ideas.

And yet, every single one of these imagined entities vanishes upon unbiased observation.

They just don't exist.

Because people working together don't form new beings, new entities.

People working together just work together. And then, they don't. And maybe after the earth spins on its axis once, they do again.

The labor they do actually happens. They do it. But, the doing of labor does not shape the laborers into a new entity.

That entity, in truth, resides entirely in the head. A fiction. A fixed idea. A belief resident entirely in...

...language and memory.

Which others have endeavored mightily - a project spanning generations and ages - to culture into us.

A successful one.

Until you stop believing it.

And end up feeling like a person who just doesn't believe the word magic any more.

Perhaps, upon discovering your own disbelief, you decide that you'd like to actively live without all these ghosts in your head.

Let's call that anarchism.

Or not.

I'll call it anarchism all on my lonesome, and feel happy with the result.

But it comes with some consequences, this refusal to believe in the word djinn and grammar angels.

It means that - let us take this as our leaping off point - whatever people do ends with the doing of it. The doing alone suffices. And so long as they chose to do it freely - even the stuff we don't personally enjoy - they do so on their own terms. We don't have a say. Not you. Not me. Not anyone. Even if it looks ugly and mean and low brow and full of sexual decisions you would never make.

Of course, it doesn't always play out so neatly. Food and water, shelter and lovers, resources and materials - none lasts forever, comes in an infinite supply, or shows up evenly distributed across the planet.

But, we have to start somewhere, no?

I say, let's start with killing the fucking fixed ideas...

10 comments:

drip said...

Two things: First, somebody, maybe the Buddha, pointed out that just naming something, separates the maned thing from the the naming thing. You've gone a little further,arguing that just acknowledging another thing separates us. Maybe, but that seems a result of consciousness and is real exactly to that extent. My meager and long past education in philosophy leads me to believe that there is a whole lot more going on here,

Second, all that matters is what you do. I don't care whatit is called, whether it is good or evil, right or wrong, doing is the only reality.

For a while, as I watched the train wreck of 2008 politics, knowing that whether it was the evil little monster Obama or the slightly different evil little monster McCain, that I was falling through anarchism into nihilism and it was the only thing that made sense. I am still falling, somewhere between the two, but I have discovered that it is possible to do things that help other people outside of any organization, or at least an organization that would be recognized as well-functioning by anyone in a position of authority in imperial america. What I do isn't much, but because I spend no time or energy maintaining or supporting any institution, all of my efforts (most of which involves cooperation with others) go toward doing things that appear to me to benefit others, or put me in a position to do so.

That is why I get out of bed in the morning.

Anonymous said...

dear crow,

do you pay your taxes, even though you know it goes mostly to the empire?

do you obey laws you feel are wrong, just to get along?

how do you reconcile your conscious with this, and would it make a difference to try to emigrate to a different country?

i ask this in a friendly way, and as a well-to-do young person with the freedom to do many things.

Jack Crow said...

Dear Anon @ 9:34 am:

I pay no direct or payroll taxes, because I have no employer. I understand that this places me in a rather unique position, vis a vis other US citizens. But, each of us has to walk the path of our choosing.

I rather obviously pay those taxes embedded into the price of commodities (especially gasoline, electricity and natural gas), though more rarely than most. My wife and I use our car so sparingly that we only have to gas it up every two to three weeks. She walks to work, and I run several miles a day. Our kids, not raised to assume that a box-on-wheels ought to provide all manner of transportation, have instead accustomed themselves to the four seasons. They seem to complain less than other, more coddled children. We don't pay the fat backed convenience tax, either.

I don't obey any laws. I don't actively break all laws of which I have some awareness. But I feel absolutely no compulsion to obey a law on account of someone having dreamed it up. If my idea of right conduct (courtesy on the road, not murdering people who piss me off, never raping women, holding doors for harried mothers and older folks using walkers, not setting fires to other peoples' homes, properly handling food prepared for public consumption) coincides with the letter of the law, I chalk it up to coincidence.

If my conduct violates the letter of the law, I really don't care. I mean that. I have sufficient confidence in my own moral composition to accept the consequences of law breaking, when I have no choice, and to dodge them whenever and wherever I can. I don't care for Heinlein's complete moral philosophy, but I sure do abide by his Eleventh (don't get caught).

As for "just get[ting] along," fuck all that, kindly. I have lived enough years to know that for a bad plan on which no one ought to waste his mortal span. If the end result of my choices brings me closer to my death, and I have to choose between that death and groveling, I will rightly prepare myself to die well, and to die with my boots on.

I won't negotiate with those who want to punish me. Ever. The will to punish, itself, assures enduring enmity.

All that in mind, I don't need to reconcile my conscience with anything.

As for emigrating - I don't really respect borders. Perhaps one day, though, I'll have what it takes to acquire, build or fix up an ocean worthy vessel, and then my wife and I will quit the imperial realm, to wander the South Seas, the Caribbean and the Medi until death takes us forever.

Respect,

Jack

* - ps, Drip - still thinking on what you wrote.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Hell yeah, Jack.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

drip --

For a while, as I watched the train wreck of 2008 politics, knowing that whether it was the evil little monster Obama or the slightly different evil little monster McCain, that I was falling through anarchism into nihilism and it was the only thing that made sense.

My observation on the above: it was not confined to 2008, but perhaps the 2008 election was the election in which your perspective had gained enough detachment and objectivity to finally see that the whole shootin' match is a big charade, that the game is not too unlike the Wizard of Oz and the man behind the curtain's operation of the holographic Wizard's visage.

I think if you take whatever led you to see Obama and McCain as only nominally different evil little beggars, you can use those same observational skills to look backward at every POTUS election.

The skills would likely lead you to find every Federal office election to be the same.

Personally, I don't see any significant differences, don't see anything remotely human, until the level devloves to the smallest size -- township elected office, planning boards, etc.

People have fabricated holographic Federal Politicians, inhabited by each citizen's desires. Our Fed pols are projection screens, and the voters project their ideals and whimsy onto the screen. This was Obama's strength in 2008, his shapelessness, his hollow outline. The fact that he's biracial with an exotic name, and the fact that he went to all the right schools and his CV is like an American Success Story -- well that just cinched the deal. Everyone wants the Articulate Light-Skinned Black to get ahead, if only to absolve us all of the taint on our conscience resulting from slavery and other types of personal and institutional racism.

Anonymous said...

That was exactly what i wanted to hear. thank you.

drip said...

CFO-- I could see what was going on and had for many years. I am very old and when I say many years, I mean many years, but it wasn't until that election that I understood what paying attention was doing to me. It is unhealthy for me to pay attention in the detail that I was and some do. So I stopped.

Ethan said...

Jack, I really wish you'd stop giving me so much to think about, as if I don't have enough already. I mean come on.

You too, commenters. All of you. Quit it.

Jack Crow said...

Argh, Ethan.

My sincere apologies.

:)

Andromeda said...

Yes, please, let's start with killing the fixed ideas.

You know what I like about you, JC? You help me on a daily basis kill more and more of my fixed ideas.

Who am I? I AM ______

It's when you try to fill in that blank that you limit yourself.

Or, as Thom Yorke put it in the Eraser: "the more you try to erase me, the more, the more, the more that I appear / the more you try the eraser the more, the more, the more that you appear"

What I term "The Eraser" (h/t to Thom Yorke) is my favorite game and pastime, by the way.

I'd like to go back to tabula rasa---perhaps that is an impossible goal, but it's one I will strive to attain throughout my lifespan.

Again, h/t to Thom Yorke on "Analyze"---"a self-fulfilling prophecy of endless possibilities"