The Black Dog

Finally took me down, that dog did.  As I come to realize more and more just how much influence my poor benighted brain chemistry has over my life, and has had, it gives me a straw to cling to when that black dog leaps up like a big fanged hand in my head and yanks me down into deep, dark places.  It’s just chemistry! I say to myself in as jolly a manner as can be mustered.  Deep breathing! and all the rest of it.  And indeed, keeping the perspective is a crucial piece of survival in these moments of depression and panic and General Hideous Worry.

When this sort of thing happens to one, all kinds of things go sideways.  Suddenly the body looks like the Incredible Hulk, when just yesterday those feet looked perfectly normal.  The smallest things can be just more than can be coped with and naturally it becomes very difficult to do one’s work.  Not, seriously, a good thing.   Also, it colors your analysis of events and stuff- which is why I think this latest plunge into the icy waters of awareness was precipitated largely by the train of thought that took off after the news of Osama Bin Laden’s demise.  Clinging firmly to the ledge, looking neither back nor down, I suddenly lost my grip with that revelation and, essentially, slammed into a wall.  I thought about the whole episode, about how people were actually out singing in the street, about all the unanswered questions and the truths that people don’t want to look at.   All the people who have been killed or maimed, lost everything, the incredible price on every level that has been extracted since September 11.  We’ve lost considerable freedom in this country over the past decade, our government lies to us, our economy is in a shambles, the rest of everything continues in terms of social and environmental degradation (oh, and, BTW?  who needs the Gulf of Mexico anyway! Keep drilling!.  Keep going down that untenable road to the ever closer denoument.  Which will not be pretty, even if it is televised.  Seriously.  The government knew the BP wells were very likely to have operational defects and big problems, but so what? Right?  We just gotta do this til we get more nuclear facilities built, right?  Don’t worry about the plutonium in the water, kids.  It’s better than losing the ENTIRE ozone layer isn’t it?  And we’ll be pretty darn close to that by the time we finish up with all that important offshore drilling. And now that the middle east is in so much turmoil we gotta find another way to rake that money into our hands, you can see that can’t you?) and corporate corruption and masses of people not having the basic elements of a tenable life, including knowing how to read.  It’s horrible, and even while we try to keep living, keep working for the betterment of all of us, it seems as though that eternal standoff between good and evil is rushing to the final act.    So, somehow, I found it hard to be very happy about Bin Laden’s death.  I have the utmost, absolute respect for our military service members and am totally behind them, if not what they’re being paid to do.  This is, after all, war, we’re told.  But.  I can’t quite get to the point of thinking that Bin Laden was the uber-evil guy in the world.  He did bad things, yes he did. Terrible, horrible things.  Also, apparently, he was afflicted with the same vanity as the rest of us: he dyed his beard.  However, if you look at the history of what he did, and what the U.S. did, none of it happened in a vacuum and he certainly didn’t commit the entire amount of evil on the planet, nor did he do it by himself.  Therefore to pin all of it on this one individual as though it were a situation of here’s the donkey, here’s the tail,  isn’t this GREAT, made me very sad, ultimately very angry indeed, and now? Depressed.  Because I am so angry at, and feel so totally powerless about, the lies and deception and greed that what George Carlin referred to- brilliantly- as the ownership class gets away with.  And the stupid rationales they throw at the rest of us and which we’re supposed to take as  truth.  The incredible amounts of money they keep, and throw around, over which we have literally (and perhaps virtually) no control even though we get to come up with it.  And for which, we will soon get nothing.  Social security is something I’ve paid into all my life and which will most likely not be there when I need it.   The disconnect between the truth I experience in my life and what I am TOLD is the truth is reaching a point of such powerful dissonance as to be almost totally overwhelming.

So, that’s where I was when a few more things put in an appearance and brought a sort of clarity.  I read an article in THE NEW YORKER about a woman blogger, who makes a very large amount of money from the advertising on her blog, which is read by millions.  I looked at the blog- with respect and admiration for all the hard work that is entailed- and I was, nonetheless, mystified.  It’s visually lovely, of course, in a voluptuous, magazine kind of way.  The writing is  pleasant, if not spectacular, and the general tone soothing.   But, on the real side, it turns out to be not quite real.  What was it that made me squinch my eyes shut?  Well, I think that was what it was.  Lovely, but not True.  Essentially, fiction presented as truth.  Recently we heard a man interviewed (whose name I regretfully cannot remember, but it was on NPR in April) who had written a book about how rich and poor view each other in the United States.  The rich apparently believe the poor aren’t really that poor.  The poor believe they can become rich themselves and thus don’t realistically appraise what this division of resources means.  He discussed how totally floored and stupefied he was by the fact that people believe in upward social and economic mobility even when the facts not only don’t support it but actually disprove it.     This was what actually ran into that bedrock train wreck started by earlier news of the week.  It is that a sort of disingenuous pabulum is dispensed to people as truth.   In actual fact the dispensers of said pabulum are not, in actual honesty, living like you, Gentle Reader. A million dollars worth of advertising revenue can work wonders.  Kind of like how a tax increase for the very rich will accomplish nothing because the bulk of taxed income is not from actual work-type income but returns on investments and, you know, things like that.  So it can look like they’re actually paying a reasonably fair share when nothing of the sort is actually occurring.  Nonetheless, in that time honored aw shucks manner,  the myth of upward mobility as truth is propounded over and over, and thus encouraging the one thing that IS allowed, which is lapsing into a certain non-critical acceptance of things as they are, probably including shopping (where you are barely able to avoid having every product be from China and can then righteously complain that there are no jobs in the U.S. among other things).  Which I believe allows the same non-critical thinking to be applied to almost everything else.  Which means that the Pabulum Dispensers get to do whatever they want to, and not what is right.  Everyone in this world wants upward mobility and a lot of them have an awful long way to go.  There is a no-pass zone that is real.  It seems wrong to me to support that zone through pretense.  It is true that opportunities exist.  However it is also true that many opportunities are blocked.  One does have to work with dedication and perseverance to accomplish anything.  Life is so worth living, and there are so many things for us to do and to see and to work with, that it is easy to confuse what is really happening here and conflate things that don’t go together.  There aren’t any free rides- but there is a difference between saying that a person has to work with dedication and then they can accomplish ANYTHING and BE RICH, and the actual fact that in a very real way opportunities are not equally available and no amount of dedication, blood, sweat or tears will change that- unless we choose, ourselves to change it.  Unless we abandon, perhaps, the idea of a playing field, level or not.  Competition hasn’t really served us all that well- cooperation could go a lot further.   Making money the final arbiter is not, to my mind, a successful strategy.  To me, the rage that Bin Laden and his followers feel, while rooted in a history extending back long before this current era, is also rooted in precisely this hypocrisy.  They have a resource that Capitalism wants.  Capitalism is willing to reward a few monetarily for this resource, but not the many.  The many, in general, must be kept fairly tamped down lest they begin to pursue, in earnest, upward social mobility.   The many, eventually, understandably, are going to be very angry.  And, perhaps, depressed.

I guess what I felt in all this was that I am” in” a paradigm that I am not “of”.  Part of what this feeling does is remove one’s sense of creative possibility.  And it is THIS possibility that is open to all, and can be reached indeed through hard work and dedication.  This is what makes people feel alive, and good.  Really. It does.  It is EMPOWERING.   Creativity can be expressed in myriad ways, and this expression can indeed make things better for all of us since creativity has no borders beyond which it cannot proceed.   No good deed may go unpunished, but it also does not go unnoticed, without leaving a resonant augmentation of things for the better.  But business as usual with that tee tiny bit of room at the top is, in truth, in direct conflict with the larger population expressing its’ creativity in a way that does in fact move it, and all of us, forward in unimaginable directions- even positive directions! Just think.  And it is this that I believe we should be quite a bit more concerned with- with people being able to have and formulate ideas and execute those ideas in real time in a real way.  And not having money and power being the final arbiters of who really gets to be “upwardly mobile.”   Until we learn to have power be something that is distributed evenly throughout society, until we learn to accept that we all can exercise that power responsibly and that we delegate power to an entrenched group at the top of the  Designated Upwardly Mobile Section at our peril, we’re going to have both many more Bin Ladens and a lot more Pabulum.  More anger and more elevator music.  It’s hard to see where all this is going to go, but I am still hopeful despite last week’s psychic descent.  Surely we’d all rather be actually living our lives than be stuck in a motionless elevator full of boring sounds, about to be attacked by an angry person with a bomb.  This does imply that we accept a more deeply interactive way of life, sure.  But it sounds better to me than that elevator.


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