| Society

Reclaiming The Commons: Part 2

Phil Rockstroh follows up on last week's essay, and applies poetic thinking to the quagmire that is 21st century living.

Relentlessly, from early childhood on, our hopes and longings are subject to commodification by the dream-usurpers of the corporate state.

The process of mental colonization by the commercial hologram is as pervasive within us as was the dogmatic influence of The Church within the psyches of Dark Age peasants.

Make your life a flaming arrow aimed at the dry and rotted heart of the system or make your own heart a warm hearth of compassion for its victims, as you negotiate its cold realities. 

Thus, hope becomes a process of engagement, not a comforting lie; not the stuff of public relations hustlers and political hacks but a quality of honest conviction and persistent labor; and not a cynical marketing tool.

make your own heart a warm hearth of compassion for its victims

The present order's litany of economic inequity affords few the option of committing the heresy of questioning (or even apprehending) the exploitative and destructive nature of the system. As an example, citizenship as defined by consumerism has created a landscape devoid of public space. (The attempt to redefine what constitutes public space is one of the many threatening aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement to the current power structure.

Therefore, the inherent human need for a sense of place and belonging can be easily warped into a belligerent nationalism that deadens the heart as it warps an individual's libidinous drive for communal engagement into displaced rage, conveniently appropriated by political demagogues into a lust for perpetual war.

Under such conditions, one's life is not one's own. A disassociation occurs, an attempt to distance oneself from the demeaning demands of exploitative social arrangements. Under these circumstances, a kind of cultural amnesia can occur. Perhaps, this relates to the U.S. populace's difficulty involving collective memory, expressed in the well-known witticism that U.S. citizens inhabit: "The United States of Amnesia".

When one's authentic identity is not engaged in creating the criteria of one's life, even one's memories seem the dismal, evanescent dream of a stranger; it is difficult to store and recall unfolding events when one is in a trance of false consciousness.

regain memory and engage imagination

Hence, one must insist upon regaining possession of one's life…to regain memory and engage imagination.

Distinct from self-indulgent navel-gazing, this is a call to action. At this critical point, the situation involves more than a search for meaning and resonance (although those things arrive as byproducts of the effort) — for we have been presented with a worldwide crisis involving not only the nature of our lives as individuals — but also a radically worsening crisis involving the health of our environmentally besieged planet.

"Psychological awareness rises from errors, coincidences, indefiniteness, from the chaos deeper than intelligent control." –James Hillman

Therefore, pardon this writer's brief digression into personal memory.

I buried a turtle in the sky.

While exploring a creek near my home in Georgia, one spring afternoon, when I was ten, I happened upon a group of boys defiling the corpse of a massive–easily five feet in circumference–snapping turtle, by detonating firecrackers, cherry bombs, and M-80s that they had placed in the creature's putrescent flesh.

Overwhelmed with mortification, I turned and staggered from the scene, before the boys, entranced in vicious revelry, noticed my presence. I retreated to the cover of a swathe of scrub brush and pine saplings and vomited.

At that time, I lacked the lexicon, both verbal and emotive, to come to grips with what I had witnessed.

Years later, I had this enigmatic dream. I'm ascending in an elevator into a high tower, a modernist structure that serves as "a college dorm room in the sky".

I proceed to the top floor. Upon entering the room, after passing two pretty, brunette, female twins in their mid-twenties, who dismiss me as "a poor prospect in a material regard," I came upon an individual, who, in the waking world, in the years to come, I would mentor and I would come to write the bulk of a spoken word act he still tours with to this day.

Outside the window of this dorm in the sky, earthbound transportation vehicles, such as passenger, freight, and subway trains, made a path through the heavens.

Then, descending from above, with increasing velocity, an object appeared that was on a collision course with our perch. Before we had time to react, it crashed through the ceiling of the room…revealing itself to be the corpse of a massive tortoise, its shell affixed with wings constructed of papier-mâché.

Apparently, during childhood, to paraphrase the poet, the world was too much with me. Its casual cruelty and inherent brutality caused me to retreat skyward…I was a poor prospect in the "material" realm, with its attendant rotting flesh and vicious laughter. I chose to ensconce myself in a psychic university above the stupid and brutal…to find a means to bury the corpse of that poor turtle in heaven.

The temptation is still great…to stay above it all. But, unlike a child, I now have the lexicon to remain on earth…to hold my ground when I am mortified and give voice to my sorrows and outrage.

Therefore, to be true to myself, I must give wings to the living and dead. I must address matters that are hard to stomach.

It is a hard slog…I proceed along, at times, at a turtle's pace…but there are moments when a terrapin brings me images from the brackish depths, and, on occasion, I can make mundane thoughts fly.

the movement has provided a refresher course in the act of simply being human

One of the powerful attractions of the OWS movement has been its emphasis on reclaiming the public commons from the corporate state, and the dire need for cultural communion beyond the commercial sphere. Thus, for an atomized, alienated populace, the movement has provided a refresher course in the act of simply being human, on existing together in communal space.

But this is not only about me. On an environmental level, as a global-wide business model and a personal mode of being in the world, we, in our demented revelry, are treating the earth as if it is a dead thing, a corpse we happened upon, and, like those cruel, ignorant boys of my childhood memory, we are blasting our world to bits (e.g., bombing, mining, fracking, defoliating…and the hideous list goes on and on) without reflection or regret.

Given, the rapidly declining ecological balance of our planet, a balance of diverse, interrelated systems that are essential for the continuance of conditions favorable for our species to thrive, an individual can no longer afford to bury one's outrage in heaven or vault it in the depths of oneself. It is selfish to believe that one's angst and alienation are exclusively one's own.

the winner/loser dichotomy of the capitalist superstate

OWS is not about "winning" political advantage…that approach plays into the fallacy of the winner/loser dichotomy of the capitalist superstate. Conversely, by acting in the world in a manner that is unique to one's character, one awakens memory and reanimates imagination, thereby allowing an individual to occupy his own life and times, and serving to help ameliorate the noxious effects of the internalized false consciousness of corporate state authoritarianism.

Unless we start to see the world and our role in it with new eyes, we will be unable to alter the structure of the present system. Withal, it is imperative to be in full possession of one's humanity when facing the desperate, dehumanizing forces of an order that has grown ever more brutal in direct proportion to its rapidly declining purpose and legitimacy.

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 is published here.

Sidebar Image: Damian Brandon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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