On Regaining a Spirit of Defiance: Part One

Phil, rockstroh, politics, trebuchet, magazine, article, consumerism, capitalism, ows, activism, occupy

 'I'm Worried Now but I Won't Be Worried Long'

The course of action taken by the present day U.S. political class in addressing the era's rising tide of economic hardship and ecological peril has proven as helpful as tossing an anvil to a drowning man.

The following two, axiomatic headlines reveal much about the dovetailing mindsets manifested by members of both the drowning class and the moral compass-bereft captains of the ship of state:

Nike Foamposite Galaxy Shoe Spurs Frenzy At Malls (Associated Press, Saturday, February 25, 2012)
 Mitt Romney: Wife Ann Drives ‘A Couple Of Cadillacs’ (The Washington Post, Friday, February 24, 2012)

Inadvertently, Mr. Romney's declaration, stated in his own blandly deranged way, captures the As Above/So Below nature of consumer state psychology.

By means of incessant, womb to tomb, commercial propaganda, the corporate class has promoted the idea that an individual's identity is based solely on the sum total of his worldly possessions. Yet, when young people, denied a decent education and stranded in circumstances where they have been deprived of a means to gain a sense of identity by acquiring the skills and the development of the talents necessary for the pursuit of their individual aspirations, have the temerity to reflect the societal values they have internalized….

For example, by acting in an aggressive manner in a mindless pursuit of material items that they have been conditioned to believe will bestow a sense of self worth — then media elites and bamboozled bourgeois should not, as they can be counted on to do, react with consternation, carrying on as if these acts of desperation on the part of the young are wholly devoid of any cultural context.

multi-millionaire, presidential candidate's braggadocio involving the multiple ownership of luxury automobiles 

A defining trait of declining civilizations: A yawning, unbridgeable chasm develops between the ability to connect cause and effect e.g., between the excesses of the privileged and powerful (apropos, a multi-millionaire, presidential candidate's braggadocio involving the multiple ownership of luxury automobiles) and the causative effect that evincing such an arrogant and self-serving worldview exerts on the actions of the so-called underclasses. 
 
As a consequence, a demeaning view of the world–and of themselves–has been instilled within the young: According to the internalized cosmology of the consumer state, individuals, sans materialist signifiers, register as non entities.

the coveting of relentlessly hyped athletic shoes by a few of the least powerful denizens of the consumer state

When the one percent crash the global economy and loot national treasuries, this is termed the neoliberal economic model. But rowdy behavior, including the coveting of relentlessly hyped athletic shoes by a few of the least powerful denizens of the consumer state, evokes waves of condemnation. Existing in a culture that robs people of self-respect by countenancing the ongoing crime wave, perpetrated by the one percent, we should not be shocked when those born bereft of privilege, at times, conduct themselves in a less than polite fashion.
 
The emptiness of consumer state existence leaves many so wanting for purpose and identity that, in their confusion, they seek meaning at a mall…. Lost in endlessly proffered distractions, swooning in the negative enchantment of the commercial hologram, it is no mystery why so many in the general population of the U.S. cannot approach, neither on an emotional nor intellectual level, the dire situation presented by, for example, feedback loops of escaping methane gas now active in the Arctic, Siberia, and the Gulf of Mexico, and the manner that this manmade phenomenon imperils their own survival.
 
In this regard, predictions of doom are not the stuff of dour old men, afflicted with Cassandra complexes, long, unkempt beards flapping, as they hector passersby with gloomy auguries of a rapidly arriving "time of reckoning"–when what they mean is, their libido is waning, and it feels to them like the end of the world.
 
No, this is truly bad news. And if these effects of climate chaos are not mitigated and begin to be reversed–and soon–then there will come, in the not too distant future, mass suffering, in the form of a great die-off, on a scale almost impossible to envisage.
 
We're talking peer-reviewed scientific inquiry not crank-speak here. These are extraordinarily dangerous circumstances.

Business as usual will constitute a death march 

The cultural, social, and political arrangements that have created this approaching catastrophe must be radically confronted and changed. Accordingly, the times call for extraordinary action. Business as usual will constitute a death march.
 
Not being an advocate for the dreariness intrinsic to compulsive self-denial, I accept the need for almost all forms of human excess… with the exception of those actions and pursuits that are deliberately cruel, belligerently ignorant, and sadistically or mindlessly destructive. You can pursue excess to the point of collapse, as far as I'm concerned, just don't harm any innocent bystanders or leave others to cleanup your mess.

pursue excess to the point of collapse, as far as I'm concerned, just don't harm any innocent bystanders

These forms of excess are anathema: the agendas of the corporate/consumer state that are reducing the spicy resonance of the global agora into a bland shopping mall food court, and demand excessive work hours and debt slavery to maintain the system; overfishing that has reduced the stocks of large fish in the world's oceans by ninety percent; the carbon footprint, created by excessive industrialization, that has become an iron boot on the neck of all living things; the commercial/ entertainment/public relations/advertising complex, specializing in endless self-referential spectacle, that offers neither revelation nor cathartic release; the defining traits of our present economic system which are identical to the actions and attendant rationalizations of an addict on a death-besotted bender…desperate, joyless, and devoid of the shared sublime of a communal bacchanal.
 
The Road of Excess might lead to the Palace of Wisdom but one cannot arrive there by modern jet travel or by any interstate highway; conversely, one has to give oneself permission to get lost in a wilderness of inner states of being. Wander long enough, descend deep enough, take enough wrong turns, resist intransigent power creatively enough, and when the night becomes dark enough above the tangled tree-line you will find your lodestar.
 
Nowadays, one must cultivate a high tolerance for being lost. Because, in a doomed culture, in order to have a chance at gaining an original sensibility, one must wander far beyond the royal court of flatterers, uninspired fools, and scheming courtesans who are driven to spend their days truckling before a senile king nodding on his throne.

a system that demands that the untamable yearnings of the human heart be expressed almost exclusively within the limited lexicon of consumerism 

We find ourselves, currently, stranded in a crisis of selfhood, engendered by a system that demands that the untamable yearnings of the human heart be expressed almost exclusively within the limited lexicon of consumerism, that the path of self-expression be obstructed at the velvet rope-fortified domain of corporate state showbiz types and elitist-approved artists, that the imagination is useless unless it generates vast monetary rewards for the one percent.
 
In short, because the known thoroughfares now dead-end into a wasteland.
 
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. — T.S. Eliot


Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: phil@philrockstroh.com. Visit Phil's website or at FaceBook.
Part One of this essay will be published next week.

Sidebar Image: Damian Brandon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Phil Rockstroh
About Phil Rockstroh 177 Articles
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Yet a bio amounts to dharma for dimwits: It defines a human being in the same manner and degree of veracity as a restaurant menu describes the various slabs of meat offered … commodified things that were once living beings.

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