Paradise of Storm

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Anti-Abortion Laws Discussed in a Bath House

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The following is the unannotated transcript of a discussion in a high-end bath house about the recent anti-abortion laws sweeping through several states of the country. SHARIA KENDOLL is an almost entirely hairless man, with a cavern of a dimple in the bullseye of his chin. He’s a pastor at a nondescript megachurch in Oklahoma not destroyed by surrounding floods, and has been struggling with depression and a test of faith after recently walking in on his only son watching Top Gun—a film of notorious gay propaganda—with another boy. JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA is a part-time sorcerer, and a big fan of spoiled meat and expired produce, who spends his free time shouting obscenities at stray cats and children walking to school. He has a pigeon named HOBBLES. MITCH MCCONNELL is also there, his face and neck sagging like plastered vomit passed his tits; his lips are entirely gone, so all that remains is a black hole, gasping like the violent and muted tremors of an asshole immediately after a gangbang. No one knows why he is here. He mostly just stares at the floor, and thinks about when he would tie worms in complicated knots as a child. JORDAN PETERSON, although Canadian, forced himself in the room for reasons unknown. He’s been on a strict meat-only diet for years, but now just throws a couple of dead pheasants on the table in the middle of the room, and sinks his teeth into them, feathers and all. CLARENCE THOMAS has a beard now, and scratches it furiously, and wipes his runny nose with the back of his hand. This has become a habitual tic. We begin.

SHARIA KENDOLL: So, um, yeah. Thank you all for coming. Thank you for gathering here, I mean. We’re here to discuss the recent abortion bills passing through such states as Alabama, Georgia, Ohio—can I get an “Oh, HEYOOOO!”?

This obligatory introductory attempt at humor falls to complete silence. The others are staring at the feet of MITCH MCCONNELL, where a pool of flesh-colored slime has formed around his ankles. He tries to speak, but his incoherent Southern drawl just splurts out animal sounds, like a cow giving birth in the hottest day of summer.

JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA: What the hell are we looking at? The man is melting. And he just moaning shrieks of death. Would someone put this poor bastard out of his misery?

SHARIA KENDOLL: No, no. He’s by no means melting. And don’t you hear what he’s saying? He’s mapping out a superbly fascinating strategy on how to win back the House. How can the Evangelical community—how can America—expect to win back the House, if we can’t get the houses of America to live by the law of God? We need babies now more than ever. We need babies to crawl out of their mommies already waving American flags. Gosh darnit! If I ever had an idea, by golly that’s it. Clarence, you’re a lawyer. What if you propose mandatory miniature American flags transplanted in with the babies in their little cubbies—what do you call those things?—those liquid jello-sacks they bob around in. Inside the mother…Anyways, we staked the American flag in the virgin soil of the New World, didn’t we? Well, maybe these mothers don’t want their babies because the babies don’t know they gonna be born in the United States of Awesome! Huh guys? Ammirite?

CLARENCE THOMAS: Eat shit.

JORDAN PETERSON: Uh, yes, well, you see, to have American flags planted, Mr. Kendoll—I would like to extoll you the importance of uttering such unsavory mishaps as “trans” anything, as the young postmodern neo-marxists in America are trying to subliminally indoctrinate our minds with these bloody…these bloody words. And I’m not being rhetorical when I say that. Words do have blood, and I have sucked their throats…Anyways, transplanted is not accurate, as it suggests to the subconscious of the deep recesses of the mind that a man can make me call him a her. Well I’m not bloody doing it! Because next a baby is going to tell me it’s not a baby. It’s going to say it’s a booby, one of those blue-footed birds in the Galapagos. And on and on, until nothing means anything anymore. And we may as well not speak because these radical leftists have hijacked language, and then all of a sudden we’re trapped in a jetliner headed straight for the building of meaninglessness. [He starts crying uncontrollably. Then slaps himself across the face, falling to the floor, before eventually collecting himself, continuing as if nothing happened.] But anyways, these are complicated matters that just can’t be succinctly summarized in just a few phrases. As you were saying, put it in the woman’s, um, in her, stomach lining. Whatever it’s called.

JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA: Tummy!

CLARENCE THOMAS: No, not her tummy, you idiot.

JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA: Her midriff! The whores have midriff! That’s where the babies are.

JORDAN PETERSON: Thank you, in her midriff. To get an American flag planted in her midriff is no simple matter, Mr. Kendoll. And for starters, let’s be reasonable. America was never loved for being miniature. A big American flag represents big ideas, big freedoms, big trucks, slaughtered pigs the size of sumo wrestlers, and so on. The bigger it is, the freer we are. A dead cow, with her guts spilled across the floor—it’s a beautiful thing. It’s what I love most about your country—all the dead animals. What are we doing here talking about saving dead babies when we can be talking about the virtues of overflowing hog lagoons. They contain vital nutrients that the environmentalists conveniently ignore…[to JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA, pointing at HOBBLES] Are you going to eat that?

JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA: Hobbles? He’s my best friend!?

CLARENCE THOMAS: Plebeians! The last half of “friend” is “end.” It’s the bird’s fate to be eaten!!

[MITCH MCCONNELL’S neck is now just a flesh-waterfall that has finally reached the floor. His bellicose gargling suffocates him, and what’s structurally left of him falls to the floor, mimicking something like Gumby getting hit with a baseball bat. He’s probably dead, but no one seems to notice except for JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA, who looks around nervously at the others.]

SHARIA KENDOLL: This has been an extremely productive conversation. Justice Thomas, you always seem to declare such enlightening truths. We are all indebted to your lifelong commitment to the law.

CLARENCE THOMAS: Fuck off.

SHARIA KENDOLL: Exactly. So, to conclude, Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat are made from aborted bambinos. Little sprouts, I like to call them. Little buggers, for fun, when I’m feeling cheeky. You get the point. No, no: teenagers, with bad breath, actually. Ha! Ha! I crack myself up. Heck, may as well be graduates of West Point, fighting for the freedoms of the malnourished. Which is why all vegans are the infernal children of Satan.

JAY WALKIN’ DRACULA: This is awful.

SHARIA KENDOLL: I want to thank our sponsors, the protein smoothie startup Loaded Phlegm, and the nightclub The Pulse of God, found in your hometown—actually, in every living room—for making this conversation possible. Thank you all, and I look forward to sweating with you all next week.


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The Last Temptation of Empire

Westward the course of empire take its way;
The four first acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
Time’s noblest offspring is the last
-George Berkeley

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What role do the arts actually play? The Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, David Mamet, thinks it’s all just for entertainment, which is fine, he says—the kids need a good puppet show to scream and cackle at. The cannibalizing weight of the world strangles us; the tropical depressions swirl like miniaturized cyclones inside. There’s nothing wrong with teasing ourselves with the beautiful and profane. Writer-director, Paul Schrader, sees it differently: the arts are tools no different than a hammer and saw, to build some edifying totem that tells us about ourselves. He wrote Taxi Driver as a story about a man colonized by loneliness in order for Schrader himself not to become that man. And it clearly struck a nerve with the public. The audience of 1976 didn’t crowd around that film with evangelical fanfare because it was simply a well-executed puppet show, only serving us piecemeal entertainment. But who’s to say where the sustained reverence comes from—is it just a necessary and immanent thing to proclaim to everyone that you saw, and you “absolutely loved it!”, no different from posting artfully stained selfies in front of The Starry Night and gloating confessions about how moved it you? You may as well accost every stranger you can on the street, gushing about Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans, saying you saw them once…and they’re a-mazing!

Schrader and Mamet agree on this: the arts haven’t changed, but the audience has. Schrader’s 2017 environmental-noir film, First Reformed, received comparable critical accolades to Taxi Driver, and is almost mandatorily a more important film, but it came and went, failing to constitute a wider dialogue about faith and environmental stewardship. I happened to read Mamet’s Theatre before sitting down to write this, in which he states that when he was in acting school in New York more than fifty years ago, there were seventy-two new Broadway plays produced. Half of the forty-three plays in 2009—when he wrote the book—were revivals. Most of the modern art museums today are filled with the abstract expressionists of the 1950’s rather than any new, crusading work that fundamentally changes how we see the world.

I have asked myself this innumerable times as a painter—in the lonely, alcohol-soaked hours of the night, hunched in front the twisted splinters of an easel: what am I actually painting for? Should there be a cultural, topical relevancy, or does all anyone want is glorified hotel art? An expensive ejaculation smeared in the confines of a framed rectangle, arranged so guests can gawk at, eat their rotten cheese, letting the chihuahua lick their hand. Picasso’s Guernica inserted itself into the real world, where war, starvation, rape, general hell exists. But what does one do today, without achieving only inevitable triteness, or just being ignored? Thomas Cole painted The Course of Empire, a five-painting-series on the cyclical propensity for the rise and fall of civilizations, a masterpiece of millenarian form, foreboding the circus of bile and cruelty. It should be studied, and painted again a thousand times.

The timescale represented in the five paintings span over many centuries, perhaps millennia. They’re also single flashes over the course of a day—the rising of the morning sun in the first painting, The Savage State, where man consists of just a few subjects in an otherwise verdant, all-consuming landscape. The sun draws higher in The Arcadian or Pastoral State, where boat-building and the herding of sheep frequent a scene that is still dominated by nature. The third frame, The Consummation of Empire, at high noon, is a towering broadcast with obvious resemblance to Greek and Roman civilizations. All the human achievement collapses in Destruction, where a statue of a headless soldier careens forward with a broken shield. The city around him is burning; women are being brutalized and raped; men killed; and somehow, a child’s toy boat forcibly sunk. The day finally settles into the dreary cycle of return, as the full moon sinks back under the horizon in the last of the series, Desolation. The tangled ivies and clumping herds of trees are finally swallowing man’s phallic landmarks to himself; his bridges and temples how just crumbling relics, mere mineral deposits for mosses and lichens to slowly suck on. Birds have returned, nesting atop the lone column standing in the foreground.

Of course we have our own markers today—this week, this month, this presidency—that make the series seem like a relevant scrying stone. Yes, of course, Donald Trump is what is causing the collapse of our sacred American system, is the guttural temptation, like a pavlovian scapegoat that we can blame all our degeneracies one. But it’s always been. Thomas Cole was responding to Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party carrying out their Manifest Destiny and its slaughter of the so-called savage state. Our corrupted history, our original sin. The innumerable frames not included between The Arcadian or Pastoral State and The Consummation of Empire also necessarily include these same scenes that are shown in Destruction. An American empire built on the backs of slaves, corralling the natives into ever-tightening, sordid paddocks of spoiled land. And Thomas Cole was surely aware of this. The cyclical theory of history spins into rapidly dizzying circles the more you look at history, the more localized and personal you trace the origins of wealth and plunder.

It’s everywhere. Of the five mass extinctions on this earth (most ecologists say we’re causing the sixth), between seventy-five and ninety-five percent of life was wiped out during each one—a near return to the origins of biological life, like a cosmic intervention that decides it’s going to start all over again and try something completely different. This time, we humans are roleplaying the astroid or the sun flare or the unstoppable plague. We have always sort of fetishized the end of the world, building billion dollar cinematic franchises to pawn off a bleak garbage munching future as something to look forward to. A romanticized version of roughened heroes battling their way through fields of angry holograms, limping pigeons, general anarchy.

The Course of Empire was created between 1833 and 1836, a time of seemingly relative innocence compared to our present-day frat party of an existence, the spongey, vomit-soaked legacy of our privileged upbringing, the mess of humanity more resembling the binary fission of some mutant cannibalizing bacteria. Today, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have repositioned the Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight (the nearest to self-annihilation it’s ever been, including this same time, positioned in 1953). It’s been maintained since 1947, when a devastating nuclear exchange was the only global threat possible to take place. Now, it includes climate change, and the innumerable threats that it includes, from decades-long drought, to flooding of major cities, to wars over dwindling resources, to billionaires clutching onto power with private armies, to the release of zombie viruses thawing in the permafrost. Clearly none of this was a concern when Thomas Cole created his series. The time of Cole was Walt Whitman and Henry Thoreau—a splendorous dance of garlands, a big gay festival of erudition. It’s not what we typically think of as fodder of forewarning to our self-destruction. Nevertheless, he was aware that our death drive merely took different forms, that it doesn’t matter how we kill ourselves, because we’ll always be thinking of new, more inventive ways to do it.

Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, and his most recent, Enlightenment Now, make the case that life in general is vastly improving over the course of our domain—that our pessimism about ourselves is more generally a self-indulgent fad. It’s cooler to pontificate some Nietzchean quip of how we’re all fucked as you smoke an American Spirit cigarette you rolled all by yourself, than to look at the encyclopedic data of why things are actually improving, why poverty, violent crime, rape, war, domestic violence, have all declined dramatically over time. And yet, still, clearly we are fucked. The consummation of misery as a ubiquitous norm may have improved; but the extent of our death drive has drowned out these superficial improvements. Killing the ecological backbone necessary for our survival—the bugs and weird bacteria in the jungle—is far more creative, psychoanalytically, than the direct slaughter of each other. War by machete still happens of course, but our death drive has evolved to outwit these antiquated ways, like a horror of mist and function that turns these hellish moth-eaten tweeds to dust.

What is happening in The Consummation of Empire that leads inevitably to the swirling chaos and misery depicted in the next panel, Destruction? Nothing is out of the ordinary: a velvet-robed king is ushered across the bridge by an enormous flock of supporters; an opulent fountain spurts its excess. Children play in its shores, splashing, pushing toy boats. Unbeknownst to them, disaster looms. It will all morph into an inferno of self-destruction, as if we are administering, perhaps unwittingly, the cyclical theory of history through periodic extinctions and new beginnings.

And here, today, at least from my vantage point, nothing is out of the ordinary. The scientific consensus may be that we have triumphantly fucked ourselves for good, but there’s nothing obvious, nothing experientially that demonstrates it such. I’m drinking a foamy latte in a sunny outdoor patio, as every other wannabe prophet of cool writes their screenplays around me. A generation raised by pornstars singing karaoke; the slow drip of dopamine easing everything to a gradual acceptance. I’m headed to surf at Malibu once I finish this piece; herds of others are performing their iterations of the same. And yet, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity stated that up to 150 species are lost every day. An ecological genocide that makes Rwanda look acquiescent, every single day; and most of us who are privileged enough to choose not to notice carry on with a passive awareness at best, our dicks shoved in some glory hole of philosophic pretension.

Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, published fifteen years before the first of Cole’s Empire paintings, famously depicted man’s will to life as the source of all our suffering. The possession of more things serves only as the representation of happiness, and quenches the Will ephemerally, this momentary escape soon evaporating like a fart on the windy ocean shores. The insatiable Will makes Destruction and Desolation inevitable. Schopenhauer thought that man’s dismissal of any reasonable stewardship of nature was a guarantor of our general moral collapse.

If Cole painted his series today, it would be ignored. Schopenauer would be ignored. Because First Reformed was ignored, the mass of attention given to the masturbatory ennui of A Star is Born and Bohemian fucking Rhapsody. Schrader strongly believes we are beyond saving ourselves, that we’ve catapulted passed every tipping point, and there’s no turning it back the other way. But he still makes films. He may be a bitter, angry doomsdayer, but he still lectures on filmmaking, teaching young storytellers how to be better, more effective in their craft. David Mamet believes everything is fine, and we should just carry more guns and let Israel conquer the entire Middle East, but he still writes drama, dosing the world with magnified versions of ourselves. That’s all we can hope to do—as an audience, to pay a little more attention, for attention’s sake; and as artists, to lash whatever wands we have, to let the world putter through us, and see what we can make of it.

‘Cold War’ and the Campaign for Identity

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by Guy Walker

It begins with optimism rising out of the rubble. Wiktor Warski, played by Tomasz Kot, and his colleague Irena (Agata Kulesza) begin as ethnomusicologists, touring Poland’s post-War ramshackled bourgs, its residents doughtily croaking out their best attempts of favorite songs they grew up learning. It’s a designated attempt to categorize and resuscitate the most deserving marks of a Polish identity, to modernize its quaintest musical traditions for a well-founded pride, like an endangered language that is then broadcasted for others to notice its potency. Country peasants are recruited to audition, baited to step out of their lives of slop and moth-eaten tweeds, and earn a spot with the newly formed national folk ensemble, learn choreographed song and dance numbers that best represent their musical heritage.

It’s important, briefly, to frame this in the context of the cannibalistic depression of the Cold War, and what it meant for cultural identity. The Youtube channel, Cuck Philosophy, presents absorbing and well-informed videos that typically analyze elements of pop culture through some applicable philosophical lens: “Hegelian Recognition and Incels;” “The Late Capitalism of K-Pop.” Or more generally, on what makes Jordan Peterson so wrong about postmodernism, which, although satisfying to watch, still requires watching Peterson squeal and whimper about Derrida’s Notion of the Centre, as he’s seemingly always on the edge of bursting into tears, his bones crumbling like saltine crackers, his hair pomaded with Crisco so a curling head-pube dangles somewhere around his forehead, trying to look whimsical. But there’s another important video that analyzes the rise of World Music in the context of the end of the Cold War and the proceeding spread of neoliberalism. When the Berlin Wall fell, it was thought by many as the final stage in our collective sociocultural evolution, that Western liberal democracy had finally claimed victory, such presumption paraphrased neatly in Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man. Not that different from the First World War considered to be the war to end all wars. Much the same was believed about the Second World War. But, when much of the West’s identity was built around iterations of being “better dead than red,” and defending themselves against the insufferable Red Menace, shuffling out products of a political industry dependent on fear of the Other, the West spiraled into something resembling an identity crisis.

Much of the entertainment industry is sanctioned and propelled by careful state propaganda. Casablanca is widely regarded as the highest form of this, energizing the United States’ citizenry to join the war. In it, Rick begins as an isolationist, preferring to drink and play chess alone, declaring he “stick[s] [his] neck out for nobody,” which in turn is replied as “a wise foreign policy.” But by the end of the film, he guns down a Nazi Major, and helps the resistance leader escape with his own true love. The high artfulness of it though, is that you don’t notice you are being gently coaxed into the dutiful patriotism of going to war, because it’s woven neatly into stories of love and loss, and the velvety throes of self-worship. Remember the Duck and Cover film of 1951, featuring a cartoon of Bert the Turtle tactfully dropping inside his shell when a bomb goes off. Or any of the innumerable films throughout the Cold War that painted the human embodiment of American values succeeding above the gnarled corruption of the Soviet Union.

Cuck Philosophy’s video, “Neoliberalism, World Music, and Corporate Aesthetics,” describes a West void of identity after the end of the Cold War, scrambling like a trust fund teenager trying to find what he’s actually good at, his pimples erupting like snow-capped mountains, his fortune already splayed out in front of him, maids and servants doing everything for him. In this quest, is something inevitable—certain corners of the popular culture returning to some putrid resemblance of the past, something so desperate to look authentic and worldly. As far music, there’s no longer the necessity of the Sex Pistols or Black Sabbath, no chorus of rebellion that in turn find its meaning. Iron Maiden’s “Two Minutes to Midnight” was about the Doomsday Clock during the Cold War that reached that same grim hour, edging towards certain global annihilation. (With the triumphant collision of climate change and the revival of the arms race, the Clock has since returned to this same time.) But with no culturally ubiquitous fear of some ghoulish ungodly people, ours was an “aesthetics of a return to ‘simplicity’ and ‘purity’ represented by third world countries,” as described by Cuck Philosophy. The video tells of ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp, who recorded a lullaby by a woman named Afunakwa, from the Solomon Islands near Papua New Guinea, which in turn was released by fusion band Deep Forest, and then on to many other corporate commercials. Through the meandering desperations to come across as indigenously literate, the song became known as a Pygmy melody, obviously a gross misrepresentation of where it actually came from.

In Cold War, Wiktor’s initial group who sing and dance traditional Polish songs are then instructed to integrate songs praising their country’s love of Stalin, the renegotiated purpose and identity now a stalwart propaganda. But later, Wiktor has his own identity crisis. After fleeing, and living in Paris for years, he tries to return to Poland to chase after his love, Zula. In what is presumed the Polish embassy in Paris, he is reminded he is neither Polish nor French. Frankly, they tell him, he doesn’t exist. In Paris, he plays piano numbers in the smoke-whipped amour of Parisian jazz clubs, caressing neatly into the finally realized fantasy of falling in love with a beautiful French poet, Juliette—to some of our sentimental prejudices, this achieves the highest romance, so much a cliché it somehow becomes reasonable. But writer-director Pawel Pawilowski only acknowledges their relationship. It’s mentioned, but we barely see Wiktor and his French lover together. It’s a relationship that would have been enough to fill three Godard films, or any other heavily stylized piece of masturbatory nostalgia. It’s something the immigration delegate, or ambassador, asks Wiktor: why would you want to leave? But love is the corruptive madness that would rather ruin us all than let us be together. Once, after getting broken up with, I drove through a snowstorm with broken windows rolled halfway down and no heater for seventeen hours to watch her dance in a ballet, only to be rejected again, finally driving home in the flaccid pain and dehydration, my only food being old wind-scabbed cookies from a rest stop vending machine. It’s horrible, and yet, everyone has a similar story. It connects us. We occasionally divulge these stories with one another for a bit of comically disguised sympathy; or rather, like old men bragging about the size of a fish they once caught, the most of us crow on and on with one another about who acted the stupidest amidst the intoxicated blur of heartbreak. Wiktor on the other hand, took it a step further, returning to Poland and thus being sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor at a prison camp. We don’t see much of the camp, but we nevertheless ask ourselves, more than viewers, the same: why did you leave Paris? You left a world of maple, lace-veiled tits, the velveteen ennui saturated in the heart of cosmopolitan magnetism, and traded it for a bomb-blasted hellworld, everything gross and stupid wrapped in wreaths of barbed wire.

Zula, sitting on Wiktor’s lap at the prison camp’s visiting room, as they kiss and cry in each other’s arms, remarked the rhetorically blunt question: what have we done? She was never really smitten with the overly-confident pretension of Paris. And he couldn’t live there without her. But surely, anything was better than this—his broken and swollen fingers zigzagging their way to resemble a far worse condition than the rickety men singing their best in the beginning of the film.

In their own way, Wiktor and Zula were resistance fighters, pushing back against state tyranny. But the music Zula made in Paris, with Wiktor, wasn’t her music. She called them bastard songs, without a fatherland she loved. At its simplest, Pawel Pawlikowski described Cold War as an intimate story told in a big world—an old fashioned love story where it was possible to look across the room and fall in love. We don’t have that opportunity today, he continued, because we’ve been playing an endless game of Hot or Not on our phones, staring down into oblivion as true love may be walking right by our real-life gaze. We’ve lost our own identities, searching in the blaze of madness for something to love. Cold War, maybe, is about it being right there all along.

A Future Squatting Amongst Stars

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by Guy Walker

Like a resurrected god emerging from cobwebs and gold, the tottering heroisms that only existed as lore are then redressed in the milky fog, conspiring with pigs, their buckled snorts are now for everyone to sing like prophecy.

The future is a cruel vampish remark of ourselves, either too self-complimentary of our abilities, or too elaborate in its cynicism that it’s somehow made exciting. The real monomania of man is straddling time as it hurls towards some far more theatrical hellworld, like Major King Kong riding the bomb towards global annihilation in Dr. Strangelove. We devour any new hypothesis about what the future will look like. Most are grim: men cloaked in shredded ponchos sifting through the ashen garbage of a bomb-blasted city; an all-consuming eyeball watching its slave-citizens exert their last breaths in some menial chore, when they open the mail, how much sugar they spoon into their government-regulated coffee, rationing bathroom breaks into paranoid gasps under a permanent gray sky. It’s no longer called “going to the bathroom”; instead, it’s just squatting in the minefield, shitting poisoned gumdrops into gofer holes, ducking under the propellers of crowded drone highways. Or, we envisage paradise: glowing diodes scaled in pink flesh, the libidinal Turing test coaxing millions of penises upward like miniaturized dancing tube men you see outside gas stations. Our willingness to submit ourselves to the fantasy of being controlled by AI sex demons is enough to fund clinical research into the ubiquity of our madness, a race gorging itself on a five million gallon tub of popcorn, swimming in bubble baths of Diet Coke, the half-chewed corpse of our animal selves left to die in the expanding sun.

There’s never stories of a flourishing utopia where citizens enjoy fortunes of wine and gold-leafed genitals. It’s not because stories need conflict to be deserving of telling, but rather because we all know the future is already haunted by our collective stain. “Utopia,” of course, originally translates as “nowhere” or “no place” from the Greek and Latin. The term was coined by Thomas More for a book in 1516, about an imaginary island that could never realistically exist. Because humanity is a marching band of rabies and excrement, parading our predestined death drive for everything to touch.

The Earth isn’t enough for us. We were never really meant to stay here after all, we tell ourselves. We have to expand up and out into the cosmic arena, the future suddenly become the present.

Isaac Asimov penned a piece thirty-five years ago for The Star, predicting what the world would look like today in 2019, the same timeframe from when Orwell wrote 1984, in 1949. Another pointless stream of musings by a science fiction writer, perhaps, electing himself as another voice in the orgiastic industry of fortunetellers hunched over their gleaming orbuculums. His mangled and teased sideburns curling every which way, like human velcro strips, antennas that were meant to signal his way back to the alien ship he wanted so desperately to exist. You can almost picture him, not stroking his chin like true learned men do, but rubbing the furry islands on his cheeks, one set of pointed fingers in each nest, so as to think doubly hard.

The essay is short and yet somehow achieves a grander more bestial form of tedium. He makes brief nods that the burdens of overpopulation and pollution would be “strenuous,” and at worst, “painful” to overcome, but after what amounted to a woefully self-evident position that anyone who paid any attention to the course of current events could come up with, he roared on to what you’d expect only a sci-fi writer gorging on his most reasonable conceits would write. By 2019, he predicted, we’ll have vast space colonization efforts under way, expanding solar power stations on other planets and microwaving unlimited amounts of solar energy back to Earth. An “international force” will be mining the moon and taking it to “places in space” in order to manufacture the soil into the structures we’ll then send into orbit around the Earth.

The gloating vagueness of what new undetermined spacecraft will be manufactured from the ashen rubble on the moon only illustrates that people like Asimov never really had a plan to begin with. It’s just getting closer to resembling the Jetsons without thinking what it’s all for.

Computers will revolutionize the education system, he continued, and therefore, “Education will become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.” His predictions were more optimistic than nearly anyone else who scribed their tellings, more than the self-assumptive powers of George Orwell who stated 1984 was a warning if we weren’t careful. More than Aldous Huxley who thought we’d degenerate because we enjoyed sex too much. Asimov wrote over 500 books, and around 90,000 letters, an expulsion of mostly awful fantasies exceeded only by the likes of L. Ron Hubbard. If you write that much, you are simply ravenous, your nostrils dilating like a bulls, your retinas clogged with surfaced arteries, beads of sweat squeezing through every pore. When hearing of Kerouac’s writing style, Truman Capote commented, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” But Asimov didn’t even type; he leaned over stacks of paper that were spread out randomly and stuck his fist down his throat, waterfalls of words spilling haphazardly onto the pages, books less sensical than Jack Torrance just repeating the same sentence over and over ten thousand times in The Shining.

There is something obviously maniacal and self-loathing in our proclivities for some undetermined future. And Asimov may be an easy example of the boyish fatuity to leave this plane of banality in exchange for something much more colorful and exciting, but Elon Musk wants the same thing—he just goes about it in more adept ways. Carl Sagan wanted the same. Stephen Hawking. All those who indulge in altered states of consciousness are doing the same thing. Consuming highly powerful psychedelics like DMT isn’t really about any spiritual endeavor; it’s about rocketing yourself to the ninth dimension in an instant just because you can, because eating ramen and driving to work and jerking off to the same dreary image of a bleached asshole, and everything else is the same fist-clenching tedium we’ve been forever trying to escape.

Our economy on Earth relies on people continuing to buy meaningless shit, selling advertisements on Youtube for underwater headphones, while you wait for a video to load of a raccoon playing with a Made-In-China plastic toy. It’s too crowded here, with the voluntary onslaught of linoleum and styrofoam and dog hotels and signs pointing every direction at once. Outer space is the frozen empty void, Arena Todestrieb where human-engineered ballast phalluses cartwheel for two hundred years, the whole crew cryogenically frozen, as the distant whirring and periodic beeps sink away into a deathless midnight; and they’re doing this simply because this is the new frontier.

We speak of frontier enthusiastically, in the way our dead incest-advocate great great grandparents spoke of Manifest Destiny, that it was justified and foreordained. Even the eminent sun-tendrilled poet Walt Whitman, who wrote at length of the indelible handsomeness of nature and her things, pardoned the chugging pogrom of the natural world in his Pioneers! O Pioneers!, one of the most celebrated iconic poems of the American West: We primeval forests felling, We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within, We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving, Pioneers! O pioneers! We can’t help but plunder the untouched edges of the world, until the American West is finally completed as it was always meant to be, into one gargantuan neon shopping mall, the florescent tube lights buzzing off the polished floors like marble, runny-nosed children stretching their fingers out for another ice cream, the whole mad slippery empire swallowing up the moon, and then Mars, and then forever beyond.

Mars One is a private Dutch company of four people, pledging to colonize Mars by the 2030’s, turning the whole red-stained circus into the ultimate reality show, literally. They’re planning to send regular folk up there, so they can shuffle around like penguins on the deserted planet, seeing how long they can survive before the lonely mania sets in, before they start ripping their spacesuits off and running into the frozen landscape, naked and free at last. It has been broadly criticized as a suicide mission by the aerospace industry; and yet still, the proposed mission recruited interest from more than 200,000 people, all knowing it’s self-described as a one-way trip, just so their Real World vacation can be filmed and beamed back to Earth for our viewing pleasure. It’s the ultimate death drive. Our collective vanity perspiring into a dribbling goo, so that we were on some television sets for a few hours.

Even though SpaceX rejected Mars One’s proposal to be a part of their mission, Elon Musk also wants to die on Mars. He’s certain this planet isn’t big enough for him. The dull terraqueous hubris of nature isn’t even enough to tickle the poets—the spindly greenery suitable only for animals and peasants who still succumb to their sublunary programming. When Musk first steps off the grated ramp, and sinks his feet into the bloodshot soil, he will laugh, having successfully left one dead planet for another. It doesn’t matter what happens next—how many steps he takes like a stumbling newborn, where and how he finally falls, hugging a rock, gasping his last breaths. The point is it’ll be a return to nothingness—the whole mission a huge success in returning the human species to the rest of the dumb impartial emptiness of the universe, to the infinity of nothingness, turning back the evolutionary clock on ourselves, until before we were apes, before the first fish and microbes, before the first squiggling turds of existence, until all that’s left of us is a fading stain across the glittering mosaic of the cosmos.

There is a very real possibility we are the most intelligent and technologically advanced beings in the universe. Even though 80-100% of stars are predicted to have planets orbiting them, and an approximate 20% of those planets are thought to be in the Goldilocks zone, where life is prone to take place, there is no built-in impassioned drive towards intelligent life. With the innumerable elemental factors in place, we don’t know the odds of life going from slime on the warming shores to space-whizzing humans, but that number could be so low that we’re the only ones for now. And yet we’ve persisted in replacing the death of God with the absolute conviction that aliens visit us on a regular basis. My otherwise intelligent colleague was just recently convinced aliens put us all here, and is controlling us by having us invent smartphones for our own distraction—not all that different a theory from the Scientologists. The so-called New Atheists—Dawkins, Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, et al.—miscalculated their burden to convince the masses to abandon their silly creeds. The challenge wasn’t that we wouldn’t know where to get our morals from, but that we would then select from the library of daydreams to replace them instead of fostering the sterility of empiricism. Even amongst a serious scientific community, programs like Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) are endearing iterations of our failure to be alone, our trembling fear of the dark.

But our collective fixation to leave this cannibalizing orgy and begin anew somewhere else was no worse depicted than in the 2014 epic Interstellar, a convulsive meltdown of narrative in which humanity must scramble to discover and colonize a new planet before being ravaged by an unexplained error in our crop yields. We are yanked from this planet with still many signs of life, the diversity of biomes great enough to guarantee nature’s resiliency, and travel through other dimensions, looking to settle on another dead ice rock. It doesn’t follow a sensical narrative because nearly the entire genre of futuristic sci-fi doesn’t follow standard cogency. And here we are, in real life, trying to mimic sci-fi’s worst aspects, pursuing technological feats “because we can,” because we’ve seen Kubrick’s flying bone turn into a space shuttle too many times, and we construct that as our toolmaking destiny, still masturbating our collective selves to the perceived nobility in JFK’s quip of going to the moon because “it is hard.”

In our temptation to draw out some picture of the future we either fear or hope for, we do best when at the very least we stay on this planet. The future is never epic when it is arrived upon; it’s the fantasy of it that entices us again and again to spend our time and money consuming it like a porno vision of tomorrow.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was directly inspired by 1984, even though Gilliam admitted he never read the book. The concept of dystopia is attractive enough; the details will fill themselves in after the fact. It’s tempting to compare the whole lot of futuristic books and films and the like, and idolize the most accurate and likely, the thought being with enough guesses eventually someone will get it right. And Brazil is probably the most rigorous and faultless in regard to its social aspects, at least for the time. It’s stylized humor is not actually humor and not actually stylized, but just a form of observant note taking; the most absurd accounts now looking more like accurate depictions of our present-day ennui. In Brazil, the rich stretch their faces tight with saran wrap and wear leopard-printed high-heels on their heads; we inject our asses with a toxic clotting fluid, and lay in tinfoil sleeping bags binge watching other sci-fi possibilities, imagining ourselves on another frozen rocky frontier, through another dimension, far more lonely than this one here.

We already lost the future. Now, all that’s left to fix is the present, or what we have left of it. Climate change, nuclear annihilation, never-before-seen inequality, more and more military-clad despots who sneer like baboons with opposing jeweled grills—these realities won’t go away with never-ending prophecies and productions. They won’t go away if we try to get away, to other deserts on other planets. The real life strata of decay will follow us like a shadow, until we fix it here amongst ourselves, on this lonely island bobbing in empty space.

Mid90s is the Beginning and Ending of Our Lives

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by Guy Walker

Growing up in Los Angeles in the mid nineties was supposed to be a time of perspiring boredom. There was no Great War to protest against, no major cultural upheaval, no new mind-expanding drugs to try. There was just the day-to-day unfolding monotony of being a kid, wading through the creamy smog the way grandmothers swim, swinging lunch pails, conceding that yo-yos and Pokémon were scenes of glamour and social footing.

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s, observes so much more than the fragmented trademarks of growing up in this strange and passionless orgy—the standardized confusion of slang, the Teenage Ninja Turtles ubiquity, the stapled fortresses bunched together into a barren and broken purlieu. Most representations of the nineties serve more like they were accruements of nostalgia organized neatly on the fireplace mantle. And within the context of skateboarding (as well as surfing and snowboarding), Hollywood has never achieved anything worthwhile. For the most part, these types of films have come across as one blurred and contrived iteration of Dazed and Confused, which in itself was feigned nostalgia.

What makes Mid90s the delicate masterpiece that it is, is our own obsession with authenticity. We’ll scour endless hours of interview footage and Twitter feeds to find a person’s single public stumble, and confidently write them off as a counterfeit icon. Jonah Hill rightly stated that a single Kowabunga! in a film that’s really only peripherally about skateboarding would disembowel the whole work, lump it along with the rest of the ridiculous genre.

But there’s none of this caricaturized glee. Thirteen-year-old Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic, comes from a moderately broken home—with a single mother, and an older brother who beats on him, he turns to a new group of friends. He stops watching movies with his mom; he starts smoking cigarettes, and drinking forties in the bathroom in order to catch up with the older kids; he’s deflowered in a sense, vaunting his success of fingering a girl for the first time. But Mid90s is a return to innocence. The resounding meliorism in Hill’s picture is finding family outside one’s own, in the ramshackled guardians who roam around like us, searching for some invocation of purpose. It seems negligible at times to try to pontificate on why a film is so successful in its delivery, in how it was molded over four years into its nice 84-minute package of what it means to grow up in a broken home. And maybe this was unintended. Director Paul Thomas Anderson said it was only well after he completed Boogie Nights did he realize it was about family—about finding it in the most unexpected places.

The return to innocence is what drives so much of the American adult narrative. It’s why so many of us have children, so we can vicariously relive life’s gleaming optimism through our children’s eyes. The innocence is summarized neatly in a scene when Fuckshit, a rhapsodic long-haired skater a few years older than Stevie, played by Olan Prenatt, explains to a genuinely engrossed homeless man about why they skateboard all day: “[It’s] why we ride a piece of wood—like, what that does to somebody’s spirit.” If an adult uttered those words, we could aptly scoff at their own self-indulgence; but the unprompted candidness of the young is what makes it good and true. That same scene was inspired by a moment just before the end credits in Plan B’s 1993 skate video, Virtual Reality, when one of the skaters sings along to Here Comes The Sun with a homeless man playing on his guitar. There was no mockery, no escaped abuse; just a moment of genuine kinship for the streets.

Because the treatment of the homeless and of skaters at the time were similar. Especially a young black man like Na-kel Smith who plays Ray, the oldest and most talented of the group, who occasionally nudges Stevie in a direction that an older brother or father should. He offers gentle encouragements that could only have been learned from his own time living and falling.

Mid90s has been compared much with the 1995 classic, Kids, for the obvious superficial similarities. Kids is about a day in the life of a group of New York City teenagers, their experimentation with dirty words, their required exaggerations of those novel sexual exploits, when every kiss and touch of a nipple felt like Rocky Balboa’s celebration at the top of the stairs. But as accurate as the youth’s depiction in Kids may have been, it was the product of generational cynicism, a sort of updated Reefer Madness that terrified parents on every friendless cul-de-sac than it did inspire more of an introspective art form. The similarities are there: Telly, the main teenage stalwart of awkwardness, intones to his friend about virgins. “I love ‘em. No diseases, no loose as a goose pussy, no skank. No nothin. Just pure pleasure.” It’s two excruciating hours of this. Watching it today, you don’t cringe for him and his clumsy gloating, but for yourself. We remember when this was the way it was—a collective effort of mentally inscribing the most irreverent displays from our older brothers and drunk uncles and coming to school each day as if to share our dirtiest vocal capabilities, gluing “pussy” with “cocksucker” with “your mom” like they were loose interchangeable Scrabble pieces. There’s a moment in Mid90s when Stevie first steps foot in the Motor Avenue skate shop, where he glimpses from behind a t-shirt rack at the private dialogue of his soon-to-be friends. They debate if they’d rather suck their dad’s dick or eat their mom out. Life or death. It’s as accurate of a moment as ever could be. Lunch hour was an endless joust of hypotheticals: would you rather break both legs or let your sister shit in your mouth. Debates that could run on for hours, fissuring our unrealized ideological confines. But there was always the bleary self-awareness that the whole thing was in jest, that life itself is just some strange ephemeral quip, fueled by waggery and drunkenness. Mid90s captured that integral lightheartedness within its dialogue that Kids didn’t.

Because at that age you’re still learning to form words, trying to croak out some meaning from your smutty orifice. As if there’s a vague awareness that we’ve only recently been weened off the teet, and our mouth is now told to perform, to interact casually and senselessly like normal adults do. Before you become a caricature of yourself, miming the sayings of pristine lawnmower American suburbia, drinking a light beer at your buddy’s bar-b-que, saying things like, “just nod your head and say she’s right,” as you all laugh together like you’ve never heard that witticism before. Mid90s is also the last hurrah of innocence before we start acting out these manufactured identities.

At its core, Mid90s is far more related to Hoop Dreams, the nearly three hour documentary that follows two inner-city Chicago teenagers, and their quest to make it into the NBA. Both films have a similar dialectic between chasing some endless victory lap of a debonair adolescence, sinking deeper into the impishness of being young and drunk forever, and pursuing the original dream of doing what you love professionally. In Hill’s film, Ray and Fuckshit begin as best friends, both with exceptional talent, who gradually drift apart amid their differing interests: Ray pursuing skating as a real, tangible career, and Fuckshit just getting more and more fucked up. This same wrestling of temptations underlies Hoop Dreams—it underlies our daily life. Every momentary lull gnawing with the beckoning of sabotage: am I going to drink more chamomile tea and finish this article, or overdose on ghb with my overweight landlord?

I was never much of a skateboarder, but I’ve surfed most of my life. And walking down the steps to the beach parking lot, there’s always the expected coven of old men, softly shuffling around the dusty blasphemous edge of the world with their shirts off, their dark brown beer-tits mummified forever by the sun, the scaled wrinkles folded over themselves. They still wear flip flops. They still ask me for pot. They still even surf on occasion. But most of all, they stand around like human seagulls, scavenging for the last morsels of cool, talking about their hippest days. It’s why a coming of age story with skateboarding serving as the glaring interest that the plot swirls around is so apt—we know this too will change, that our beloved maple-eyed protagonist lays in his hospital bed at the end of the film with two families that love him, with a myriad directions forward.

The skate documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys showed it without categorically declaring it so: the archived footage was of the Z-Boys as handsome sun-tendrilled kids; but their present day interviews were noticeably different. Stacey Peralta became a famous and respectable filmmaker, while Jay Adams slogged in and out of prison serving drug-related sentences, eventually dying at age 53. The blithe enviability of blond-haired grommets sneaking into backyard pools to skateboard disappears with old age.

Mid90s ends soon after the thwarting romance has fallen apart. These decisions are just beginning to be considered, when the audiences’ own desires for self-correction anticipates for a more comprehensive last verdict. It ends when it needs to end, before the rush of school shootings, before one or more of the friends gets addicted to meth, before the shuttering jolt into the next millennium and all its grotesque calamity. Jonah Hill lets us remember the last redeemable decade as it was, before the lights went out on us for good.

The Transcendence of Hillary Clinton

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by Guy Walker

Everyone was busy watching Kavanaugh. His embalmed hairless face flickering against the light, his slippery greased-up coating penetrating against his accuser, like the slime on a newt or a poisonous mushroom, like he just emerged from a bathtub of K-Y jelly, his tits cold and heavy. His lips were pulled back in a menacing snarl, so as to show off his calcium-fortified teeth, and the type of predation only his kind can achieve. The country couldn’t take their collective eyes off him, nor his pitiful fraternal greed for beer or pussy or god.

What the country missed was something even more agonizing—if that is even possible. Hillary Clinton cameoed on CBS’s revival of Murphy Brown, episode one titled blandly, “Fake News”. It was only a couple of minutes, but there she was, flouting her petrified glee across our television screens once again, this squeamish reminder that she is alive somewhere, breathing, plotting to solidify her entitlement once again. Her appearance went like this: she entered the news offices of Murphy Brown, applying for a secretarial job. The balmy drollery ensued—jokes about her secretarial qualifications, her experience with email, her awesome resemblance to the presidential candidate of 2016. After all, Clinton informs, she’s not the famous Hillary Clinton. No, she spells her first name with one “l”. She then hands Brown her business card, who then reads her email address aloud: Hilary@youcouldahadme.com.

We coulda had her. What happened. She knows her name is forever ruined, but she doesn’t know why.

A study published in The Journal of Social Psychology in 1948, written by two Harvard professors, looked at 3,320 recent male graduates, and the effect their given names had on their academic performance. Those with more unusual names—say, Kipling, Bexley, Severus—were more likely to develop psychological neurosis or drop out of school. Alternately, those named John, Robert, William, had less to worry about. With this in mind, it’s important to note that Hilary isn’t a name. It’s a grotesque fragmentation of another name she ruined. As much as she wants to, she can’t change her name or identity. Her carnivorous Clintonian smile, gleaming for war, cackling for mass incarceration of blacks, advocating for further deregulation of banks. Knocking off an “l” only deepens the cannibalistic void of the insane.

Her continued pandering condescension eats away at daily posture of normal citizens. In her memoir, What Happened, immediately proceeding her failed campaign, she repeated this same smutty denialism, casting much of the blame on Bernie Sanders for not conceding quickly enough during the primaries, while at the same time echoing the same soft and heartless quips of personableness: “I have a weakness for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and was delighted to find out that 55 goldfish were only 150 calories—not bad!” You can hear the strategists whispering these suggestions over her shoulder: “Be relatable. Goldfish are awesome!” Like in her Twitter bio that mentions she’s a “hair icon” and used to include “pantsuit aficionado.” The predictably contrived self-flattery combusts under its own exploding nausea. Every presidential debate requires candidates to talk about their working-class parents, their first job, their overall croaking sympathy for humankind. Soon enough, candidates will discuss their favorite searches on Pornhub, their most overused emojis, their self-immolating tendencies and Netflix binges to make it through another day.

“Pay close attention to what the kids are into these days,” is the general theme of every political strategy—an overburdened hipness, degrading into the rubble of illiteracy. “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water,” is finally more literate than every time Hillary Clinton repeated Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” moment. Every time Trump opens his mouth and lashes words together, they are the utterances of a vile and gelded ringmaster, his lips squeezing and pulsing like a collapsed sphincter. But at least everyone knows this, himself included. Hillary Clinton is different. She’s more similar to Mark Zuckerberg, a misshapen automaton who drinks water only to make us believe she drinks water, or to cool the firing electrodes behind the scanning glass eyeballs.

In emails released by Wikileaks, we know the Clinton campaign deliberately elevated Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Republican primaries, under the self-described “pied piper” strategy. In an email to the Democratic National Committee, their stated number one goal was to “Force all Republican candidates to lock themselves into extreme conservative positions that will hurt them in a general election.” And here we are, locked in a Gumby hellworld, with no way out.

Kavanaugh is clearly guilty, but if he had even a modicum of self-respect, he would just say Fuck all y’all, I don’t want the job anymore, and quietly slumber off and melt into a puddle of milky phlegm. Hillary Clinton should have done the same. She’s the Gwyneth Paltrow of politics—one of the most collectively despised individuals who refuses to accept this. So instead, she started Onward Together, another ineffective establishment Democratic project that aims to “encourage people to organize, get involved, and run for office.” She cameos in sitcoms. She declares, with cold brutality, that she’s now part of the resistance.

The horror.

The resistance. Like the anonymous White House insider who penned the New York Times op-ed about what a scoundrel Donald Trump is, and that he or she, along with many on the inside, are also part of the resistance, trying to maintain some order for refined elites.

Perhaps it was displayed best at John McCain’s funeral. The florid nostalgia of war criminals and war hawks coming together, interacting with such decorum, people liked to emphasize. Isn’t it nice, their decency, reaching across aisles? The public seemed especially swooned when George Bush handed Michelle Obama a candy. They cheered when he put his underwear on over his pants, and somehow jammed the wooden triangle block through the square hole. They threw their arms in the sky and cried with paralyzing beauty when he showed them a painting of a doggy he finished. “His ears were floppy!” he grinned. “Floppy doggy!”

Perhaps the Iraq war cost trillions of dollars, and perhaps it cost half a million Iraqi lives, and perhaps Bush was a fool at times; but at least he maintained the standard vernacular of English-speaking adults, most of the time. Hillary Clinton is the same: maybe she’s a closeted racist, maybe she didn’t support same-sex marriage until the public pressure of 2013, maybe she’s a war hawk who would only escalate military operations overseas. But at least she can poke fun of herself. And that pantsuit, it’s to die for!

When Steve Bannon most recently appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, he predicted the next Democratic presidential candidate wouldn’t come from the establishment political arena. It will be someone like Oprah or Michael Avenatti, he said, someone who’s already a celebrity, someone with a more accessible personality than the dull bromidic fuckery of previous candidates. Because Donald Trump didn’t kill politics; Hillary Clinton did. She operates in an overly calculated impossibility, a self-scripted world, in an age when too many people can see through the drawn velveteen curtains into the self-hatred and paranoiac suppression of what is referred to as decorum and decency. Because we know Hillary Clinton hates all of her supporters their rice milk enthusiasm, their genuine concern for equal opportunity, their care for other humans. We know she only sees her thronging evangelists as a gross and infected puddle of sperm, a necessary collective sin she must entertain in order to advance her way to true power, where finally, after all these painful and patient years she can stand at the cliff’s edge of a flattened world and declare herself god.

But it’s over. It’s all too late for these pallid attempts of revival. There won’t be another generation of her type, of the Wolf Blitzers reciting testaments like drowning holograms. Only the dead and dying watch Murphy Brown, like only the dead and dying watched Rosanne. The illuminated overhead signs directing our laughter and applause; the warm-up comedian massaging the festering wits of the audience. No, instead of cameos on Murphy Brown, two thousand reality stars will be outcompeting one another for the next viral video, vying for the presidency, a sudden explosion of VR Snapchat confessionals that exclaim what flavor of goldfish is their favorite. Standing in front of a rented Lamborghini, a generation of Iggy Azaleas will say, “It’s three in morn, and I’ll be dir to git dat fone biiitch!!!”

And then we will cheer.

Jordan Peterson and the Last 12 Commandments

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by Guy Walker

In the end, Jordan Peterson tore his own flesh off until he was just a sobbing human scab, warning the world of a postmodernist nightmare in which everyone had shitty posture and didn’t pet the neighborhood cats.

Nobody knows what Jordan Peterson wants. His sad enthusiasm for pedantry seems to be all that he’s capable of—his strange and gruesome moanings are like that of a schizophrenic homeless man screaming endlessly about the color of the paint used in an alleyway. “It’s not scarlet!! It’s a deep vermillion!!!” It’s just this that makes him seem so useful—he is so tirelessly eager to talk about mysticism and Bible stories and peoples’ preferred pronouns, that some people actually pay attention for a while, more just to see if the Toronto-based professor will collapse in a self-made reservoir of tears, or if he’ll explain a pumpkin’s sexual proclivities. He tours from under the gleaming shamble of academic superstardom, as mobs of college-age males gather to see him speak; his mighty edifice of reason and purpose—the very reason his name erupted into the mainstream—is his refusal to ever mention non-binary pronouns, things like ‘zim’ and ’zir’ instead of ‘him’ and ‘her.’ And a storm of grotesque and frolicsome self-flagellation ensued, everyone protesting everyone else

But it’s his recently published book that has finally blueprinted a path of self-help for intelligent people, not the parading outrageous eulogies and feel-good confidence that everyone else corrals around. The Tony Robbins types. The sociopathic calmness of Wayne Dyer. The fanatical grandfather approach of Zig Ziglar. Peterson’s book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Its initial burst sold well, perhaps enough to ignite its own cultural revolution, a steaming courtship of suited-up bros hustling to get laid like real men, their pomaded hair-dos gone solid with bacon grease, their long noodle fingers reaching out like a Tim Burton animation figure, reaching for anything, reaching to pet every cat they can get their hands on (Rule #12), reaching to cover their mouths so they don’t bother children skateboarding (Rule #11), reaching to clean their room (Rule #6).

Cleaning your room is a contrarian dangerous act—this is actually what Peterson argues—because it’s going to upset your other filthy plebeian family members. They will resent your aristocratic order, resist against your clean dishes because clean dishes are shiny ornaments defying the laws of decay—the universe is a driving rod spiraling out of control, with supernovas of dirty bed linens and used condoms exploding with entropic infinity.  Entropy says that dogs’ natural state is defecating on the street, cracks in the asphalt burst into forests. It says every window eventually smashes into a million little pieces, instead of the other way around—instead of the sandy beaches magically forming themselves into polished rectangles. It can take years of labor and a lifetime of money to build yourself a house, but only minutes to destroy it in a fire. The fetid extravagance and overall weariness of the world would swell into mountains of feces summiting over the roofs of houses, and canopies of morning glories would suffocate the tallest buildings; the extraordinary granite faces of El Capitan will turn to helpless farts of dust taken away by the winds. Cleaning your room is the great defiant act for young white men in the early twenty-first century; it’s the ostended philosopher’s cry that has made all too real Nietzche’s Will to Power. The compounding evolution of history’s great thinkers and influencers have climaxed with the enunciation of Rule #1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back, and the rest follows.

Jordan Peterson is only trying to make this world more orderly. When he comes, clasping the metal bathroom handle with his delicate bone-peaked fingers, he screams something indecipherable about Carl Jung being a god. He doesn’t ejaculate across the backside of the upturned toilet seat; rather, he floods himself into a funnel, which diverts everything neatly into a mason jar—a clean organized system of Monday to Sunday bathroom vessels, stacking them in chronological order, and shipping them down the Euphrates. On weekends, he heads to the desert with a broom and goats pulling a cart of human chattel, sweeping the dirt into perfectly symmetrical cone piles, instructing his men to organize the granules from smallest to largest, and from shade to hue. He goose steps loudly into toy stores in the middle of the day and constructs all the puzzles in the most brazen defiant manner, afterwards laying the cardboard sceneries out side-by-side. “Get your store in order, Bucko,” he croaks, leaving with a few more greased-up men than before, the kind who see Patrick Bateman in American Psycho as a heartrending icon, a misunderstood hero of sorts.

Always tell the truth; or, at least, never tell a lie. Rule number whatever. It doesn’t matter anymore. Jordan Peterson has triumphantly binded the most sordid avenues in plastic wrap, the animality and bivouacs of sweat are now sterilized packages of saltine crackers. People line the glistening streets, waving a million kekistani flags, tossing handfuls of rice at the sun, asking Peterson what he will do next, now that his cheese-guzzling victory for meagerness has spread everywhere, now that skateboarders can do synchronized kick flips, now that the once terraqueous throes of the outdoors have been turned into a cathedral of cruel lividity. There’s nothing interesting anymore. The whores have become Youtube personalities, doing makeup tutorials to become Pepe the Frog. The jazz players are teaching basic chords to three-year-olds, vowing no further refittings of their once popular improvisations. The beggars and schizophrenics have bundled their pubes into charity hair depositories; they wear three-piece suits, and host Bible study groups. Everyone quit school, and just watches Jordan Peterson videos on the Internet, because “education is so easy now.”

It’s very clear where this is all headed. Jordan Peterson has corralled an army, men of coruscating morality have strapped themselves to two-by-fours to keep their backs straight. They are forever panicked about the spread of postmodernism, unclear of what it actually is, occasionally sobbing into brutal fits and extended months of anorexia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—author of The Gulag Archipelago—is the only other author they know, and they repeat the name over and over, like men with a single and severe mention in their turrets. The intellectual Mount Everest has finally been summited by a pristine masculinity, a polished thousand-foot cock standing perfectly straight in the storm of diversity. Jordan Peterson stands atop of the violet shiny bald head, his stance spread wide, the brittle gusts of wind billowing his long coattails, the crooked pulsing veins zig-zagging down like bolts of lightning, and the final and extraordinary explosion of cum rocketing Jordan Peterson to the stars.


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To Scoff at Tragedy

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by Guy Walker

In reaction to the recent news that Florida lawmakers voted down a bill to ban assault weapons, a photograph surfaced of the students from Parkland, Fla. who were visibly distraught. This prompted Dinesh D’Souza to tweet, “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs.” Uhh…wut. The seething mockery of working at Hot Dog on a Stick, as you shovel masses of breaded hotdogs into the general public body while wearing the costume of a circus villain is indeed a degrading feature of adolescence. It’s the creeping realization that the days of building forts and selling lemonade merely for your own amusement are over. You now have to participate in this real-world lampoon of wearing shitty uniforms, shuffling through the ashen tedium of making some higher, remote entity its money—you walk hand-in-hand into this required indentured servitude for the rest of your life. It is indeed bad. But is it as bad as the sudden but predictable gasp of realizing your dead peers are now just collateral damage? D’Souza’s pandering disregard for the permanent trauma many of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School now face, isn’t unusual in any respect. The same Florida lawmakers who voted not even to consider a bill banning assault rifles and high capacity magazines did vote about pornography, successfully declaring it a “public health risk.”

Perhaps it does no good in stating the obvious here, that many of these teenagers just saw their friends and classmates killed, and then conservative’s favorite convicted felon taunts them for their visible frustration at the enduring political inaction. “Adults 1, kids 0,” D’Souzsa quipped ever-so-cleverly.

Trump Jr. favorited tweets that alleged shooting survivor, David Hogg, was given talking points by his father, a former FBI agent.

Ben Shapiro, the impish chud-hero of a young reborn conservatism, repeated generally this same sentiment in the National Review, in which he asked only the truly brave questions: “Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development?” And, “What, pray tell, did these students do to earn their claim to expertise?” For starters, “pray tell” is one of those idioms so profanely archaic that it’s only used sarcastically today. It is a desperately inane use of language. Furthermore, his skepticism of the validity of victims’ opinions on the matter of gun control is symptomatic of the political nihilism currently haunting the right. What Shapiro is asking is, Do they really think they have the right to protest against assault weapons after being shot with one? It says, Fuck you! Wipe the blood off your face, and sit back down at your desk! He doesn’t offer a proposition of autonomy, when the transition into adulthood actually occurs and they are allowed to have thoughts about this sort of thing. On Twitter, he iterated simply that “experiencing horror doesn’t confer expertise.” Perhaps the surviving five-and-six-year-old victims of the Sandy Hook shooting were too young to articulately voice their thoughts on the matter; but the age requirement is irrelevant due to its self-exemplification—if you are capable of articulating thoughts on gun legislation, then you are indeed old enough.

According to Bill O’Reilly, this is not the case. The former conservative powerhouse emerged from his squalor and suppressed perversion, his private glamor as the King of Kink, to question if the media should really interview teenagers who are “in an extreme emotional state.” After normal mass shootings—the ones with adults—the usual retort is that it’s “too soon” to talk about gun legislation, that we should respect and mourn the lives of the victims first. When kids are involved, they’re too young. It’s the equivalent of arguing a rape victim is too hysterical to advocate for more efficient processing of rape kits. Besides which, Donald Trump hosted the survivors of the Parkland shooting for a listening session. He did this, we imagine, under the presumption that the students’ suggestions would be lucid and sane, not the possessed dramaturgy that O’Reilly nodded at.

What if Shapiro and O’Reilly are right though? What if they are too young, too emotional? Maybe the saints of death have a point, and the kids should go back to playing nonviolent video games and Snapchatting gifs of Michael Jackson eating popcorn. Should we be helping the youth, encouraging them to be the future leaders they will inevitably become? Or pat them on the head, and tell them to settle down? In April 2016, when O’Reilly was interviewing then-candidate Trump about how he was going to employ black youths, because, as O’Reilly put it, “many of them are ill-educated and have tattoos on their forehead,” he was making clear his position on the matter: What should we rich white men do with the poor illiterate black boy. It’s a slavemaster’s quip, a passive aggressive allusion in favor of apartheid; O’Reilly sees himself as a benevolent inquisitor, a King Solomon of reason who has dealt equality to the masses through his own shrewd totality.

We already knew Trump’s answer. The private prison industry donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign and then inauguration. A leaked memo from the Bureau of Prisons indicates Trump has already approved the transfer of inmates from federally-run facilities to private contract facilities. Lock ‘em up.

The real problem for the many conservatives who are scoffing with dread at the sight of teenagers demanding change is these kids are white. They never gave Black Lives Matter the attention they deserved because they knew they’d never win over the black vote anyways. These uppity Parkland kids on the other hand will very soon be voting, and much of the conservative establishment is up in arms over because they don’t want to scare them off for good. After all, it’s a new generational crop to fight our wars.

To Shapiro’s point about them being lumps of mental clay, it’s just this—many, if not most of them, are nearing that ripe mirthful age for war. Many high schools host recruitment tents at lunch hour, where some member of some branch of the military solicits them to mime some deadly spasm under the guise of honor, duty, bravery, patriotism. So guns is very much relevant to their conversation. One of the NRA’s most clamorous plague-spluttering advocates, Ted Nugent, dodged the Vietnam draft when he was 18 years old by shitting in his pants for a week—this is true, look it up—and vomiting all over himself. At the thought of war, he literally shat himself; and yet, these Parkland kids are surely too emotional.

There’s no point in predicting anything. If the school walkouts, the protests, the marches, and the entailing media coverage around these actions do in fact strike a nerve with lawmakers, and succeed in passing even the feeblest beginnings of real gun legislation—or in the very least galvanize a democratic effort—it will humanize politics at least for the moment. This seems unlikely. What seems more likely is that the ruckus will peter out, Trump will go back to golfing and tweeting, Democrats will hope Mueller tears everything down, and more kids will get killed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

There’s no telling what will happen; but there are still things you can say with certainty. Silencing the children most affected by gun violence in schools is not going to foster a golden age of reasoning. If other measures are taken instead, such as ratcheting up security measure on school campuses, teenagers won’t come bouncing home from school, telling their parents resplendent tales of how the TSA-like security operations nurtured an affectionate learning environment. The ever-expanding prison conditions of our academic institutions won’t grant the international appeal they once had. The $30 million that the NRA poured into electing Donald Trump doesn’t soothe concerns that he won’t do shit. In the meantime, the teenagers are the only ones making sense.


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15:17 to Paris and the Banality of Valor

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by Guy Walker

Spencer Stone wasn’t supposed to be good at anything. He was deficient in his academics, overwhelmed with sloth, obese as a child, consumed with his love for toy guns and camo. In other words, a great American in the making. He eventually joined the Air Force where he was deferential and persevering, but kept failing in the most menial tasks assigned. But then on August 21, 2015, Stone proved what he was capable of when he helped thwart a potentially bloody massacre on a Paris-bound train.

He was with with his lifelong best friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, traveling through Europe together, unknowingly boarding the same train car that Moroccan-born Ayoub El Khazzani was readying an attack. He armed himself in the bathroom with an assault rifle and three-hundred rounds of ammunition, a pistol, a box cutter, and no shirt, like a self-hating Rambo pantomimist, the sweaty discharge of nerves dripping from his tits. When he emerged from the toilet with gun in hands, he was immediately met with the struggle and force from another passenger, American-born Frenchman, Mark Moogalian. After much hassle, in what looked like a deadly version of musical chairs with the disheveled handing-off of guns, Moogalian was shot in the neck with the pistol, and Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos seized the weapons from Khazzani, beat his face in with the butt of the rifle, and tied him up. They nursed Moogalian’s severe neck wound until the train stopped, and French police and doctors boarded, and all order was restored.

Clint Eastwood’s new movie, The 15:17 to Paris, centers around these suspenseful moments, contextualizing the episode with a strange selection of biographical accuracy. It’s been widely reviewed as a bold, yet mostly failed experiment. By casting the real heroes as the actors, their stultifying charisma is not equatable to bad acting—necessarily, the acting can’t be bad. Criticism of their performance is instead criticism of them as self-conscious young men—a hollow pointless objection that simply says they didn’t entertain the way a real hero would. These complaints are, of course, wrong. Eastwood’s experiment is neo-Stanislavskian idealism, a higher methodology of never breaking character, a newfound commitment towards death. Our heroes will never be in another movie not because they are loathsome as actors, but because they will never be able to prepare for another role.

So, why was the movie so unbearable?

Eastwood has long made clear his political leanings. His queer imbecilic performance at the 2012 Republican National Convention, in which he delivered a stumbling hallucinatory interrogation of Barack Obama sitting in a chair, made everything he did in the future a political act. The 15:17 to Paris wasn’t just shameless military propaganda, or an advocacy of mass distribution of guns and war games for children; it was a landmark entry in the anthology of alternative facts. The single most thoughtful and literary sentence of dialogue was also its worst: my God is bigger than your statistics. It was a moment in the film when our heroes are children; they’re acting up in school, and two of the mothers are speaking privately with their sons’ teacher. She flagrantly and brashly diagnoses the children with ADD, saying they need to be medicated, subdued. The film’s commentary on the reckless haphazard medication of children could have been poignant; but Eastwood’s screenwriter, Dorothy Blyskal, instead diverts it to a gratuitous pandering to Christian conservatism. My God is bigger than your statistics is part of the defiant eulogy in Christian politics—it’s a reactionary crack that’s widely distributed in its application, saying gays are faggots, abortion is murder, war is peace, and so on, until the whole American experience is a porcelain infancy.

There’s about a twenty minutes sequence of Stone and Sadler ambling around Venice, Italy with a selfie stick, posing with the puerile occupation of “Americans in Italy.” There’s no plot here, no advancement of conflict, no foreshadowing of obstacle or goal. But in Eastwood’s obvious senility, in his dithering worship of films about strong men, in his attempt to remain modern and relevant, he inserts the selfie stick as a totem to this is what kids do these days, like a grandfather trying to stay hip with his runny-nosed grandsons: Man, this ice cream is the tits! he says, slobbering everywhere, embarrassing the world.

This has always been an illuminating hallmark of Eastwood’s. His entire career has been about re-characterizing his glory days as the elusive cowboy in the Sergio Leone films, characters that Donald Trump has purportedly idolized himself after—a trick-stopping showman who shoots from the hip and says it like it is. American Sniper was merely an episode in the gradual milk-lacquered entropy of Western heroism, the masturbatory fatigue weighing everything down with the onset of chronic blockbuster depression.

There’s a moment when our three heroes wake up together in a sunlit room after a night of dancing in some club in Amsterdam. One of them mutters the well-known adage: last night was crazy, but man, this morning I’m so hungover. The problem isn’t just that this is profanely hollow dialogue that doesn’t do anything to advance the story; rather, it unearths the more brazenly solecistic aspects of ourselves we’d prefer to edit out; it is unnervingly accurate in its portrayal of human simplicity. In truth, the vast majority of us speak the way an illiterate would write. If an invisible transcriber followed us as we went about our day, and we had to read ourselves in dialogue form each night before going to bed, most of us would shrink into the deepest folds of the sheets, cowering in the face of our brutish parody. A choked starling and her impish gasps is all we get; the rest is theater. The home-loving dramaturges that Chekhov and Arthur Miller beautified give an unrealistic advantage to their kind. Those everyday homely characters that we are supposed to relate to are too pictorial and precise in their structure. Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos are relatable in their doughy normalcy, their artless glorification of helping others.

It’s interesting to compare the incident on the Paris-bound train with a similar, more gruesomely intimate tale of everyday heroism. On May 26th, 2017, on a train in Portland, Oregon, Jeremy Joseph Christian, an ugly mullet-loving white suprematist, was spluttering his yokel philistinism at two teenage girls, one Muslim, the other African American. Strangers in the crowded train intervened, defending the girls, two men of which ultimately sacrificing their lives, and a third man surviving with a severe stab wound to the neck. It’s heroic, but not cinematic. Dead heroes don’t inspire others. But more importantly, there is no flag worship in this type of action; the Other is the victim and not the perpetrator. The messaging in The 15:17 to Paris is clear that these are our boys. Focusing on an incident like that on the train in Portland would confuse that dialogue.

The 15:17 to Paris feels cruel and inept because it is. It never should have been made. It feels like a movie built with stock footage, the kind you see in pharmaceutical commercials with couples walking their doggie on the beach, flying a kite, mowing the lawn—the everyday tedium that we are actually programed to forget. This is all stacked around a single moment of competence, when the shooter’s gun jams, and our hero tackles him. Actually, both of his guns jam. Eastwood makes a nod at the monumental luck, when Skarlatos inspects the guns immediately after the attempted attack, and comments on their “one in a million” fortitude; but Eastwood never fully illuminates this, that the grandiosity of one man’s valor swirls chaotically in our collective farts of ephemerality.

It brings it back to when they are children—my God is bigger than your statistics. “One in a million” is prophecy along this quixotic brand of Pulp Fiction divine intervention moment—it marries Stone’s awesome bravery to run headfirst at the barrel of a loaded assault rifle with the omnipotence of God’s hand at work, ending with the victorious ejaculation of hero-worship dripping off the screen, a hundred flag-waving hard-ons watching determinedly in the theater, their dicks overflowing like lava cakes. What the film achieves in is explicating the pedestrian nature of heroism—it’s something that everyday citizens like you and I can achieve—be fat, suck at school, stop terrorists. It’s the American way.

And in a way, 15:17 to Paris transcends above all other films. The exhausting banalities of our heroes’ day-to-day are all part of the unsentimental realism of how we live our lives. We’re shitty at nearly everything that’s interesting. We go to Europe—to the safe big cities, and to the hostels in those cities—out of some last-ditch desperation for menial indulgence. The 15:17 to Paris is Westernized avant-garde, an unintended masterpiece of social criticism; it forces its viewers to plug along with the careful representation of themselves—an hour-and-a-half autobiographical biopic in which we stand in front of the mirror staring at the religion of monotony that has overcome us, the utter boredom. It’s a sobering moment, when we realize none of us actually orate like the baroque Tarantino dialogues, that the extravagant fictions of our favorite films are exactly that—fantastic, impossible, award winning in their artistry.

Finally, we can continue as normal. Because this is who we are. Heroes are everyone everywhere, shuffling across the wide open range, consuming things like mac ’n’ cheese and Coca Cola. Our cinematic gallantry always just a moment away.


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A Year of Resistance: What Went Wrong

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by Guy Walker

As Donald Trump wipes his stubby fingers clean of 2017, the pomaded residue from a year of nihilistic triumph is left like a vague stain on every surface. His first year in office will be remembered as the dumpster fire that we all had to witness, day after day. His name, his trademark sullen profile, his jelly-soaked face—it’s TRUMP in its totality, and it follows us everywhere. His daily routine has been thrown at us like it were important: he goes to his room by 6:30pm, alone; he locks the door, turns on all three televisions, the sound blaring all-Trump all-the-time like the mangled orchestra of his own ego. There’s a growing heap of Diet Coke cans and Big Mac wrappers that have gone transparent from grease drippings, there’s shredded lettuce caught in his glittered chest hair like a fly trap, bits of decade-old American cheese mummified beautifully under the folds of his tits. He rummages around for awhile, for a dried out morsel of a chocolate malted, oinking victoriously on all fours when he discovers his evening treat.

But in part because of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, we know he didn’t want any of this. Hillary Clinton and her whole campaign staff and donors have to live with the grim reality that not only did they lose to a reality TV star who boasted about sexual assault and was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, but also that he undisputably tried to lose. According to Wolff’s book, Roger Ailes and Donald Trump were floating rumors of a new media empire—a Trump TV of sorts—following their triumphant loss to Clinton. It would have been built on the progression of mania, the paranoia and delusion so severe it would have made Alex Jones seem as drab and dim-witted as Wolf Blitzer reading off a grocery list.

Even with the cartoonish hellscape that has propogated under him, Trump’s presidency is the best thing that could have happened. If Ted Cruz had won, he would have led like a greased-up lord of squalor, pushing the same oppressive policy as Trump but without any of his brazen ineptitude. If Clinton won, the stampede of reactionaries would have been successfully gruesome in their protest, marching with tiki torches in support of their illiterate ghoul-hero. Congress and the Senate would have gridlocked every dithering attempt of hers to spread her tepid liberalism further. Her closeted racism would have remained mostly unscathed. The alt-right may have become more emboldened because of a Trump presidency, but the conspiratorial charade that would have entirely engulfed a Clinton presidency would have given them the momentum they really need and crave.

They won a contest they never wanted to win. The Bannons and Millers and Trumps of the world function best in their spluttering hostility from the sidelines. Their message is perversely apt only when they are the fringe extremists, squealing like lost pigs in a storm. Resistance under the guise of patriotism worked, but it worked too well. Now they’re in charge, and liberals are in the position the klansmen much preferred, clawing their way towards some respectability. The Democratic Party especially has postured itself as the party of resistance. Resistance was the main theme of 2017, but it resulted in little more than a hashtag.

The problem is in large part due to the fact that the political left has no understanding how to resist effectively. The day after Trump’s inauguration marked the beginning of an era of voyeuristic pusillanimousness—a pacified resistance movement that’s overly pleased with itself. The Women’s March didn’t have a single arrest. In what was deemed “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history,” by The Washington Post, with an estimated 4 million attendees at demonstrations across the country, and not cause for a single arrest, the #Resistance movement was off to its start of withering fruitlessness. It was self-pacified, concerned not with halting the fascistic menology of a Trump administration, but posing with your other nasty gals for another hit Instagram post. It was, after all, a day of fashion. Were the pink pussy-eared hats part of a feminist hallmark, something of a suffragette anatomical allusion, or were they just a response to Donald Trump’s red hats? If the presidency was won with a cheap red hat, then surely it could be taken away with a pink one. One almost expected the alt-right to respond with exaggerated scrotums sagging from side to side on their heads, chanting Balls Are Beautiful! as they summited a hill for everyone to see.

As the year dragged on however, the left did demonstrate that they can indeed incite outrage. When the conservative provocateur, Milo Yiannopolous, came to speak at UC Berkeley, antifa erupted in protest by smashing storefront windows and setting cars ablaze. When conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro came to the same campus, he required $600,000 worth of security. When professor Bret Weinstein of Evergreen State College issued his disagreement when white students were encouraged not to attend campus as part of Day of Presence/Day of Absence, students deemed him a racist, and responded by patrolling the campus with baseball bats. It was as if all the pent up rage had spurted out in the most self-immolating ways, the ineffectiveness of it all making a mockery of their cause.

When did resistance become so petulant? It drives a Prius with a #HillYes bumpersticker fourteen months after the election; it eats mud and then proceeds to brag about it. The Democratic Party confirmed they only want to lose when they elected Tom Perez as chairman of the DNC, completing the powerhouse trilogy of dying turkey-gizzard aristocrats with Pelosi and Schumer.

It wasn’t always this way. In Henry Kissinger’s first volume of memoirs, White House Years, he recounts a Richard Nixon who was terrified that Vietnam War protestors were going to summit over the barricades of empty city buses surrounding the White House gates. In a PBS News Hour interview, The Presidency of Richard Nixon author, Melvin Small, put it this way:

“Henry Kissinger said Washington and the White House were besieged. There were district buses lined up around the White House for who knows what. The 82ndAirborne was in the basement of the Executive Office Building across the street.”

The tyrants were cowering. They feared the people enough to admit it even decades later. The Nixon administration was perhaps the last in which the peoples’ contempt made a lasting impression. When George W. Bush was asked what he thought about the Iraq War protests, he said he welcomed them, because they were expressions of democracy, a freedom they were going to bring to the Iraqi people. In effect, the American peoples’ collective voice was silenced. Resistance never evolved beyond the Gandhian salt march, beyond the quiet stubbornness of Rosa Parks. In today’s hailstorm of controversy and content, an action similar to Parks would never make headlines, much less the history books.

But there’s other reasons why resistance no longer works like it used to. It’s been said elsewhere that one of the key differences between Trump and Nixon is Nixon was capable of shame. Even in his rotten pastiche of character, in his alcoholic’s hallucinatory furor, he somehow had enough rectitude and awareness to be shamed out of office. Trump doesn’t have that capacity, but he is far less impervious than he pretends.

The justice system is heavily bent on its own intimidation of (and sometimes, alliance with) white nationalists. Waco and Ruby Ridge were public relations disasters for the state, directly inspiring the Oklahoma City bombing, and solidifying the suspicions from gray state paranoia. Since these instances, the federal authorities have been tepid at best when dealing with rightwing militant standoffs. They eventually surrendered to Cliven Bundy, releasing back his cattle, presuming the conclusion that if you are white and have enough guns you are immune from federal crimes. And the charges against the Bundys were most recently dismissed by a federal judge, allowing them to walk free after leading an armed standoff. As noted before, there were no arrests during The Women’s March, but there was an unduly amount the day before, during the inauguration. Compare the dismissal of the Bundy case with these arrests, now known as the J-20 trials, involving 230 people, many of whom are journalists. Of these, photojournalist Alexei Wood was indicted on eight felony charges and could face up to 60 years in prison. It’s this kind of justice system that makes resistance as we knew it impossible.

Trump’s mental stability has been called into question by his own staff, his pathological bluster seeming to weaken in its conviction. We want a professional to diagnose him as the madman he is, thinking that this would somehow finally convince his base of his actual ineptitude. But we can’t. Under the “Goldwater rule,” the American Psychiatric Association denies its members from diagnosing members of the public from afar, without having them as actual patients. It is evident though, his ever-worsening madness catapulted his electability in the first place. This is why traditional forms of resistance don’t work—his madness is his greatest asset.

In Foucault’s History of Madness, he describes the Classical Age as one of which the mad were revered for bestowing an unusual kind of wisdom. The literature and art of the time, according to Foucault, cast the schizophrenics and hallucinating as minor prophets wading into other realms of the senses. This is, of course, how supporters of Trump see him. Forgetting the words to the national anthem is actually cool. Not knowing how to read is tantamount to true enlightenment.

By the end of Trump’s term, he’s sitting in the Oval Office, in a pile of hay and newspaper shredding, in just his underwear, his bloated flesh spilling over the sides of the elastic band, blabbering nonsense like he were mimicking De Niro in the final scene of Cape Fear. Kellyanne Conway is standing over him, writing in her clipboard. “That’s great,” she says aloud, “I love where you’re coming from. Keeping your promises to the American people.”

This is how it will end. And if the Democrats and the rest of the #Resistance movement hoist up someone like Oprah Winfrey to compete with him in 2020, it won’t matter who wins—it will be one enormous dystopic circus until the end of time. “Modern man no longer communicates with the madman,” Foucault writes in the preface. And not by diminishing into a language of celebrity and spectacle will the “rupture in dialogue” be restored. A lasting, meaningful resistance is effective through elevated reason, through a dialectical materialism evolved for here and now.

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