Fiction…sometimes, and sometimes non.

7 Jan

One good exercise is to watch “The Motorcycle Diaries” followed in quick succession by “Before Night Falls.” Or better yet, READ them. You see the cause for change in ideology in the former, and the devastating effect it has on humanity in the latter. I remember the first time watching “Diaries” thinking that there must have been a huge disconnect (which they missed outlining in the film) between the Che Guevarra travelling throughout South America, and the Revolutionary, murderous Che who commanded death squads 10 years later in Cuba for Fidel. Indeed, seeing and acknowledging extreme poverty and the exploitation of the poor by the “haves” is repulsing (as it is to me to-day), but does it drive that violent instinct we all have to flourish like it did in Che? Is the repulsion and disgust that strong to change you from within, and then turn around and torture and murder the likes of homosexuals, intellectuals, artists, etc.?

This will be a weird and savage connect-the-dots to my idea above, but for a brief few seconds yesterday I felt it. This enormous rage and repulsion against a segment of humanity which, at least temporarily, yielded a murderous instinct within…one that was so powerful (albeit brief) and intoxicating, I actually had to check myself out of the particular situation and go pour a pint of black and tan. I watched about half an hour of a show on Bravo called “Housewives of Orange County” or something like that (I won’t bother to factcheck). It spotlights the daily lives of four or five Beverly Hills-type women whose mere existence on this planet is to consume and to annoy. Of course each woman has various augmented body parts, preposterously-skewed ideas on life, and is armed with a certain color American Express card, which actually mandates that owners spend at least $150,000 a year using it.

My pressure was rising with every minute I watched, but nevertheless I watched because I have never before SEEN people like this; I’ve heard OF them, having lived both in Los Angeles and Palm Beach, FL…but I had never seen or heard the likes of this sort of human waste. As I started thinking that the world would be better off if this sort of animal was literally eradicated by any means necessary (including travelling death squads a la Che), I realized that this is not entertainment, despite its billing by Bravo. It’s brainwashing…dangling the carrot…it’s advertisement for and perpetuation of a lifestyle which is detrimental to humanity and this planet in general. It’s consumerism in its most vile and foul incarnation. It’s the ugliest of ugly sides of capitalism and social class oppression; even a form of environmental apartheid.

And so in my rage at this despicable spectacle of human beings and their destructive behaviour, I thought of the triggers that must have driven Che to radically switch from the compassionate doctor he was studying to become, into the murderous communist revolutionary thug he ended up. And I fully understood the rage Che Guevarra cultivated and harbored for those of the upper class (politicians included) who “have,” and who mindlessly walk through this life, exploiting weaker or less fortunate human beings for the sake of consumerism and acquisition of material. I fully understood that society could stand to be without these human beings, and that this segment ought to be forcefully erradicated. And I fully understood that for that instant, I thought like a communist.

If you know anything personal about me, you know that I am an immigrant from a communist country. My mother defected to the States in the late 70s, fleeing an oppressive, totalitarian regime which sent hundreds of thousands, if not millions of innocent souls to their brutal deaths. You must realize how taken aback I was for thinking what I had just described. For aligning myself—even briefly—with that reprehensible dogma from which I was saved almost thirty years ago. It’s complicated. This government and this socio-economic system have driven me to the point at which I feel I have very little choice but to give in to my animal instincts and start going down a lethal, radical path. The better part, or larger part of me checks and balances that awful bile and vitriol. But it’s the first time I truly felt the absolute rage and hatred that, I assume, changed the likes of Che from compassionate men into revolutionaries. I am realizing that the maze which capitalism has created for its consumer-citizens, doesn’t have any way out. It has painted me into a corner, and no matter how much I resist and fight, I cannot make headway.

This is not a declaration. It’s a realization.

“The United States is unusual among the industrial democracies in the rigidity of the system of ideological control – “indoctrination,” we might say – exercised through the mass media.”
–Noam Chomsky


8 Responses to “Fiction…sometimes, and sometimes non.”

  1. daydreamsdandelions 07/01/2009 at 10:40 AM #

    I’ve had an assignment in my first year writing class about stereotypes on TV and almost every year a student writes about this show as an example of a really stereotypical portrayal of something vacuous & shallow. Even the fresh-people usually get it that it’s banal & terrible, but they don’t usually get the WHY Hollywood does it.

    I think it’s spectacle, like public hangings, public floggings. These people flog themselves by being idiotic. I hope/think that an awful lot of the people watching are doing it in a fascinated “this is horrible” way. I sure hope people aren’t hoping to BE like them.

    The “fourth estate” grows more and more powerful, but it’s also very decentralized/fragmented with the invention of the Internet. I think there are wonderful & terrible things out there.

    Also: I’ve seen you angrier. :) (Not a challenge, by the way). !

  2. Jasper Palmer 07/01/2009 at 11:11 AM #

    Interesting piece . . . ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ is one of my favorite movies. That is how I like to remember Che’.

    I share your frustration with being trapped in the capitalist/consumerist deathtrap, and your thoughts made me think about sea glass. On the wikipedia page for sea glass (yes, there is one!) it has this sentence, which seems particularly appropriate in this context: “Sea glass is one of the very few cases of a valuable item being created from the actions of the environment on man-made litter.” We just gotta think like the ocean – keep on keepin’ on, and over years, maybe generations, we can create something beautiful.

    There is no quick, easy, permanent solution or escape. Giving in the the violent urge is an often quick and sometimes easy solution, but never permanent. I hate being an incrementalist, but I don’t believe we have a choice . . . it’s either be a small fish swimming against the tide, or go along with the crowd, swimming ever faster, and closer, to annhilation of the planet and ourselves along with it. Keep the faith, and, as a wise old man once said: “Doctor, always try to do the right thing!”

  3. (S)wine 07/01/2009 at 11:13 AM #

    I see where you’re going w/the public hangings/flogging comment. It’s the metaphorical flogging. But they’re PROMOTING a lifestyle, or one which they hope YOU (as a consumer) will aspire to. Not necessarily on that level, but some PART of it. To want the nice house w/the granite counter tops, to want the fancy car, to want the usual day at the spa, to want the clothes, the bling, the exercise equipment, etc. This is why I loathe advertising, and in particular advertising to children. This is a perpetuation of The American Dream, which is so fleeting and so skewed that we don’t realize the reality: The American Dream is for corporations to keep us as voracious consumers. And they’re starting our kids now. They’re selling lifestyles and brands. I realize shows like this are preposterous–in fact, talking with my wife last night I brought up the fact that these “housewives” may very well be actors; “regular” women taking a gig. I mean, I don’t trust ANYTHING being sold to us anymore. But the issue I have is with pushing values on us via advertising and television shows.

    And I suppose I wasn’t clear enough in this…”commentary.” I felt a repulsion toward the people who buy into this lifestyle; the people whose sole existence is to attain this, at all costs necessary. I felt rage at the segment of population who stomps on others to get what they want, regardless of the damage they inflict psychologically or morally or environmentally. “The low man on the totem pole” is one of my most hated philosophies. To torture the new person just because you’ve been through it and “paid your dues.” It’s a shackling concept. To pass on the mean-spirited agony to the new, green guy or gal coming up behind you.

    The macabre taste for watching punishment live or on TV, or perhaps even transference or projection of inner issues to being a spectator at an execution, I think are much different than what I’m ranting against in this post. I think public torture/executions appeal to another type of our dark side. But the label or packaging under which a lifestyle is sold by corporations is similar: it’s the “Watching a trainwreck” label. It’s under this psychological phenomenon or preference that they feed us the bullshit. And it’s the people whose sole purpose in life is to attain “the dream” (at any cost or by any means necessary) that I harbor anger for.

  4. (S)wine 07/01/2009 at 11:18 AM #

    Jasper, it’s how I think also. It’s why I literally had to walk away from all I was feeling. Because I can check myself and balance out the irrational thinking with real thoughts about real solution. It’s what my wife and I have been talking about…moving slowly and little by little, fighting it, but not killing ourselves. Violent revolution only breeds more oppression. Power is intoxicating. No one is truly able to work for the common good of Man. It’s why communism sounds so good…on paper. But when put into practice…history shows us. Anger won’t solve anything. It will provide yet another distorting lens and will lead to exploitation for self-interest.

    By the way, I love that you reference Da Mayor.

  5. Slyboots 07/01/2009 at 11:55 AM #

    We have a ban on those shows hereabouts. Mainly because it is like reading Vogue. It gets under your skin, and the main point it to illustrate all that you lack- whether it’s looks, fashion sense, money, or youth. I understand your lament. I really do. And believe me, as a female it is coming at me from more angles than I can parse out effectively. But at the same time, there has to be a center. I feel bad for people who mindlessly watch those shows, as I suspect they lack the center. But right about now, the whole sick machine is limping along, and the centerless fools who overindulged are losing their jobs, houses, and the “lifestyle” that they had thought themselves entitled to. So I guess that overall, I have hope. I believe very strongly that our country is comprised of a majority who are made of firmer stuff. If we could pull together and win the war, (the big one, not the minor ones), we can do it again. All it needs is the right impetus and direction. These cultural things- I think they are on the wane. I think that they are distractions.

    Or at the very least, I hope to whatever deity is working this mess that it is so. Like I said, I have hope. Might be the silliest thing I’ve ever said.

  6. Jasper Palmer 07/01/2009 at 12:04 PM #

    I urge you (again) to check out the work of David Korten – I took the liberty of checking your local library’s holdings and they have his first two books in the system, but unfortunately, not his most recent, ‘The Great Turning.’ Part V of that book is encouraging/inspiring, and responsive to the realization that we can do, individually, only small things to reverse course on the path of destruction on which we find ourselves. I could loan it to you if you can’t find it for borrow locally. Their is a lot of good stuff on the website as well:

  7. (S)wine 07/01/2009 at 12:59 PM #

    Jasper, duly noted again. Thanks for the link, as well.

    Sly, we don’t watch any of this garbage. It just so happened my lovely better half was still working and I was looking to kill time for a good hour or so. I came across this thing while flipping channels and refusing to stop on news networks, as I usually do. I’ve never seen people like these women, or acting like them. I had heard about the secret society in Palm Beach, while living in the area, but never was exposed to that segment of the upper crust. I am usually very curious about things I don’t know, so I watched it. The same went for that series on A&E about high school girls. We watched it because we have no idea what’s going on w/teens nowadays. It was definitely educational…but I wouldn’t call it a good show. Just eye-opening.

  8. Casey 15/01/2009 at 12:56 AM #

    The first time I saw a certain part of Manhattan and the billboards advertising all that shiny stuff and all the cars that cost more than most people live off of in a year I couldn’t help but think of the Navajo Reservation I had been raised on and the hogans and the poor, hard farmers of the region. And then I wanted to run an airplane into one of those goddamn buildings.

    I guess part of me thought of the countries we levelled in retalliation for a couple guys doing that a few years before, too.

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