Saturday, May 05, 2007


It is always a warm feeling to be amongst kindred souls. You don’t have to be a penguin huddling together against an Arctic storm to enjoy the company of empathetic friends. I spent thirty years attracted to a place where I could rely on finding at least ten of sixty such spirits to hug with the fullness of our mutual admiration. This cadre of characters gathered daily for no better reason than good company. There were no causes more serious than the celebration of our existence, no agenda more urgent than the anniversary party, no leadership more authoritarian than the annual king and queen of the krewe of bubba for several years in the Austin wannabe version of Mardi Gras, no rules except, “leave your firearms outside.” And, take my word for it, everything else happened inside. Bursting out through the windows on several occasions.

I have never experienced the breadth and depth such as our kinship any time or where else although I’m sure it happens all the time for people who live in the same place long enough and care to notice. I remember a cowboy who began hanging out for a couple of weeks who never seemed to quite catch on to something that puzzled only him. One evening he put two and two together and declared, “Now I know why this place is so weird. Y’all‘r all yankees!!” He dashed out and never returned to learn how diverse our genesis really is. When Rolling Stone wrote about the place being the colorful hangout of the latest musicians in their spotlight, we found delightful sport with any groupie tourist who sought us out from afar, totally oblivious to their sore-thumb visage to a bunch of strangers only to them. The percentage of these carpetbaggers who remained to become regular habitués was about the same as we who had happened upon one another and enjoyed the company — a resonant cross section you might say.

I have experienced that feeling to a lesser degree when attending concerts, exhibitions and lectures by people I enjoyed, knowing the other attendees must have similar feelings. Often, as I approach the venue, the spirit of the attraction seems to become denser as my anticipation assumes everyone is on their way there too — even out on the highway if the event is out of town. Although we all have a fairly common appreciation of the drawing card, it may be the only kinship we have. Such gatherings have one thing in common with the gang I described in the first two paragraphs — they were motivated and shaped by attraction with no qualification or purpose beyond enjoyment of their occurrence.

Most other sorts of human gatherings appear to be motivated by repusion by, fear of or competition against a perceived foe, real, imagined or artificial. From prehistorically natural fear of real predators to the mythical vengeance of wrathful gods through majorities of voters clamoring for security from each other to nations indulging in mutual genocide, mankind has celebrated its worst characteristics, performed its most devastating acts and resorted to the only means left to anyone who cedes their individuality to a misery that loves the company of the mob’s bumbling momentum always perversely perceived as strength in numbers. Rarely do these groups remain merely circling the wagons in defense of themselves against a foe that considers them an intrusion. The growth of such groups convinces them of the evangelical righteousness in preemptively spreading their truth to prevent sins yet to be committed amongst those to be saved or exterminated for their own good. Such mob mentality creates laws of conduct for the entire membership based on controlling the behavior of the least competent among them leading Vonnegut to posit counterweights to be worn by the strong to compensate for the weak. Ayn Rand visualized the free thinking individual as sitting trapped in a cell catty-cornered from a perfectly inactive, but voracious behemoth whose appetite awoke only when its cellmate manifested signs of creativity.

The closest kinship I have ever felt to any generalization that swept me up, lock, stock and barrel, into a group was when I heard Cornel West describe a leftist as someone compassionate, unable to be indifferent to the suffering of others. The form such concern takes varies from the blessings of Mother Theresa through the cursed sham of religious, political and corporate missionaries to conscientious Save Our Rain forest and elite mendacity protesters — and then there’s those silent, unallied, more numerous than any of us know, individuals who live lives that consciously do not contribute to the existence of those things they perceive as causing misery to themselves and others to not only experience the alternative, but to be an example of an exception to the cultural myth that keeps the matrix in the myst generated by smoke machine spin doctors dressing the missionary octopi in saintly savior suits.

One of the joys of being a walking contradiction, once one admits its inevitability, comes when two seemingly opposed ideas are found to be those same kind of exceptional examples to each other when juxtaposed properly. The behemoth in Ayn Rand’s example was her metaphor for the parasitically malignant collective she had escaped in Soviet Russia and perceived in the full, yet mutant bloom of West’s inclusive definition of the left here in her adopted country, ala McCarthy. Using the Democratic Party as its leftist front, the bean counter’s bottom line goal for the Corporation of the United States is served up public coffers full of money to be laundered from welfare to warfare in times of hostile takeovers of other companies, er, countries declaring it to be, with utmost facetious arrogance, the preemptive spreading of capitalism, er, democracy for their own good. Riiiight.

Well, now I’m in the streets in solidarity with and sympathy for both the troops being taught to hate and ordered to kill innocent people in their homes for their president and for the people who have been taught to hate and incited to kill representatives of the United States for their malicious imposition, disruption and murder. I know that such demonstrations can only serve as a wider than local example of government abuse when the authorities choose to attack and draw the blood that draws the piranha press from the mainstream to come running to gobble tidbits of juicy footage from leftists who get it all, and then to be digested, shat, diced and spliced for the evening's smorgasbord injection of excitement into the vicarious boredom of dinnertime consumption by a target audience who willingly pays for the war while muttering under their breath about lost freedoms lest their new found security overhear.

I am automatically part of any group, and by definition they would have to be leftists, who wants war and weapons (tools designed specifically to kill) banished from the face of the earth. For such a thing to happen the largest human paradigm shift since the mistake of totalitarian agriculture must occur. If only the hundredth monkey theory were true. If the planetary population could imagine and accomplish that, maybe the rest of the reasons for leaning left or needing to form majorities would banish themselves. I have a belly button, what other group ID is required?

There is no group one can join to stop the rape and poisoning of the planet. Giving lip service to global warming from ones SUV isn't gonna get it. That is one form of suffering we each impose upon our environment by our individual behavior and shopping habits. Well, now I am out in my garden in solidarity and empathy for those who have fully realized their responsibility to become a living example of low impact, small footprint existence on the planet. No trendy hoopla will spread this idea any more effectively than genuine, personal examples in everyday life.

1 comment:

Ché Bob said...

Nice post Greg!

I was reading Debord this morning and got to thinking about religion. Perhaps another group disease, no?

It pains me to watch the churches, synagogues, mosques and temples build tents of benevolent, tolerant notions around itself, only to find its individuals acting according to the reward of a brutal system. Thus individuals are benevolent and tolerant in name only as excited members of a group.

I agree! "Personal examples in everyday life!"