Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters
socratic

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Bitter as you want me

I realize that this journal can be profoundly unpleasant at times. It's something that I've struggled with, whether I should cut the vicious entries or filter them out or even make them private. I've decided against that, partially because it would be untrue as to who I am and partially because I want this journal to be difficult at times. I think that if I really wanted to I could make it consistantly pleasant and interesting, rope in a greater number of readers and all that jazz. I could write more essays like my one about independence day, mix in some better fleshed out comedy bits, and edit edit edit. Maybe I should, it would probably be more constructive in terms of making friends and contacts, as well as working on a more commercial writing style. It's not me, though. It just isn't. I can be pleasant and even charming at times, but that's only one aspect of my personality. So I will praise the rain and the female breast one minute, and talk about young boys' throats filling with their own blood as they try to cough it up and suck down air into punctured lungs the next. That's just who I am.

It's also a bit of a privacy mechanism. I've run through a whole lot of friends during my time on LJ, more than the norm I think. A lot of them burn out in a couple months and decide they don't want to read about my shit anymore. That's fine by me, and completely understandable. blorky the boy from Gallilee recently pointed out that I can be overly verbose, and then there are the black pits of despair I stumble into on a fairly regular basis and the mind-numbing self-overanalysis (that's right, I just accused myself of self-overanalysis in the second paragraph of an entry that's so far been nothing but self-analysis. (I also make too many parenthetical references.)) This journal is like a porcupine, there may be a cute and funny little rodent in there, but man are there a lot of quills. I'm not against this, I don't want too many readers before I'm ready and I like not having to worry about whether people I know in real life will stumble upon it, I prefer to be the gatekeeper for them.

I feel compelled to explain some of the bitter darkness. A lot of people see a bitter worldview as a character flaw, like it represents an inability to handle the difficulties of life. A babyish reaction to things not going your way. I understand this point of view, and think it's accurate for some people, but I don't think it's the only possible explanation. The world is, indeed, a dark and bitter place, and leading your life in the land of sunshine and lollipops can have severe ramifications.

I learned that the world was a bitter and unfair place when I was 12 years old and my dad was late coming home and then it turned out he wasn't coming home at all. I can't come close to describing what that inspired me. Let me just say that they're wrong when they claim that grief is a four stage process. That's bullshit. It comes in waves, like an ocean during a hurricane. The first few knock you down and swirl you around, then you come up, get a gasp of air, and get slammed into the seawall by an even bigger one. You don't even understand what you're feeling for the first few weeks, and after that you feel so bleak that you don't believe there's any light above the waves. It's more than a tempest in a teacup, it's an A-bomb in a thimble. My particular circumstances were more complicated than most and I don't even fully remember what happened during those first months. I do remember that people who offered help or sympathies quickly became my most despised enemies. It seemed like a non-sequitor for someone to offer something. Like I was drowning and they were asking if I'd like a Pixie Stick. I loathed them, and to this day I still bare my teeth at those who want to be helpful or sympathetic towards me. After it was all over I was left profoundly changed, and perhaps most importantly with a very real concept of mortality. People die, they die and they never come back, they die no matter what you do or what's right or just. They die and their bodies get laid out like pallid wax at some cheesy funeral parlor and you have no idea how to react to the corpse that was once your father. That's a fact.

But you should transcend this, right? Given some time (four days) you should be able to pull yourself back together, accept the fleeting nature of life, and go back to seeing the good things in life. Rainbows and kitty cats and butterflies. Some people do, or at least pretend to. The thing is, you can never really go back once you've seen the wizard. You can pretend the emperor has new clothes all you want, but if he's naked as a jaybird then you're going to see his dongle. I saw the emperor's dongle when I was 12 years old.

The world is a beautiful place, there's no denying that. It's not just a beautiful place, though. It's also filled with unimaginable ugliness, and until you experience a smidgeon of that it's hard to integrate it into your wold view. Let's talk about death for a moment. According to the CIA world factbook there are around 565 million of them every year, give or take. (Fun fact. The CIA world factbook estimates population down to the singles digit. I'd imagine that even the hundreds of thousands place is pushing it, but they go all the way. That's the sort of thing that only a bureaucracy would decide to do, as any rational human being would think "Hey, doesn't this become obsolete if ONE guy slips on a banana peel?) That's 565 people who shuffle off this mortal coil, leaving orphaned babies, grieving parents, and widows. It's an almost incomprehensible number. We can wrap our minds around the 3,000 lives that were taken in the World Trade Center attack, but that's not even a drop in the bucket of the amount of human death that goes on in this world. On average 1.5 million people die every 24 hours. If you looked at a chart of worldwide deaths you wouldn't be able to pick out something like the World Trade Center disaster. It's well within normal variation. Sure, World War II would be pretty easy to figure, and Hiroshima would probably be a significant bulge (back then it might even have been double), but 3,000 dead folks? I call that 1:00-1:03 PM on an average Saturday.

And that's just death. It doesn't even scratch the surface of human misery. If you tried to dwell on all the suffering and pain that exists in this world you'd fail. Not because you'd give up in disgust (or not JUST because of that) but because the human mind can't come close to comprehending all the horror going on at any given moment. Imagine a rape in Bangladesh, torn clothing, screams for help unheralded. Maybe the family is radical Muslim and they burn the girl afterwards, she runs home to seek succor after being brutalized and violated, and the people who are supposed to care for her most light her up like a cord of firewood and get the thick stench of burning human flesh stuck in their nostrils so bad that the house is filled with incense and cooking food for the next few days just so they can try to get it out. Imagine a robbery in Colombia. A farmer who's worked his fingers until they've blistered and bled, avoided growing cocaine while everyone around him capitulated to economic realities and did so. He's just sold his crop and is taking his meagre payment into town to try and defray a little bit of his debt. Then a rebel group spots him, and it's all gone. We don't need to talk about the guns, the humiliation, the broken ribs. They fade. It's the loss of land, the hungry children, the complete lack of opportunity. Those are the things that linger. Are we having fun yet? While I've typed this another few thousand such incidents have occured. While you've read it, maybe a hundred. It's futile to even attempt to catch up.

And that's just humans. We can talk about nitro_pb's dog, or the little scrawny starving rat I saw yesterday limping along the sidewalk with a broken leg, unable to compete with his brethren for food or water and just waiting to die slowly, his hind right leg hanging like useless behind him. I think you get my point.

Does that mean that the world is solely an ugly place? Of course not. Others would counter with the millions of weddings that happen across the world. People still only die once in the United States, but they get married 3 or 4 times each. Babies and forget-me-nots and lightning bugs and cicada orgasms. I can, and do, acknowledge that side of the coin. It doesn't cancel out the misery, though, and often times it gets overwhelmed. Because of this, people push the misery to the side, say "la la la it doesn't exist" and accuse those of us who choose to ignore it of having commited the cardinal sin of being pesimists. Pesimists may not start new businesses, but we also don't go around starting fruitless wars, or trusting lying shitheads implicitly, or any of the other lovely little behaviors that those who acknowledge Louis Armstrong but not NiN's "Pretty Hate Machine" engage in. An optimist looks at their 38th shirt purchase of the year and says "Wow, this is so cute, it'll go great with those dangly earings." A pesimist acknowledges that a 9 year old Indian boy was shackled to a sewing machine and paid a dollar a day so you could have that shirt. (On a side note, I've come out for sweatshops in the past, but that's only because I acknowledge that human nature is so vile and greedy that all the other choices are worse.) The optimist happily suggests we drill in Alaska to make up some our gaping oil deficit. The pesimist points out that A) it's only a drop in the bucket and B) We'll be fucking up the wildlife reserve permanently. Both are necessary, but it seems that the optimists have decided that the pesimists are just holding them back from achieving a Brave New World. Never mind that many of the greatest artists of all time have been pesimists. Never mind how royally the optimists have fucked things up. Never mind never mind never mind. Sunshine and lollipops.

Human beings are, for the most part, not much better than the animals we descended from. Hobbes said life is nasty brutish and short in the state of nature, and he was right. It's nasty, brutish, and short because we're nasty, brutish, and short-tempered. We do untold damage just by living. To the environment (Nice SUV!) to others around us (I was a cool bully in grade school!) to the nation and the world (I done voterered for dem Busheses). We need to acknowledge this, even if it isn't completely preventable (and it honestly isn't.) The United States uses about 25 percent of the electricity used in the world and instead of talking about conservation we're talking about "clean" coal technology and building more plants. Talk about whistling dixie while the sky is falling. There are thousands of examples, and it's all because of optimists (Don't worry, be happy. We'll find a way to clean the smog out of our children's lungs as soon as Asthma reaches epidemic proportions. Well, more epidemic proportions. Among the rich, let the poor fuckers choke to death in the gutter. 1.5 million a day, baby, what's another 3 or 4?) I'm not saying it's entirely unjustified, but we can't let it run amok. It has. Big time.

Being optimistic about the world is often easier than acknowledging the darkness. It can pull you under, make you bitter beyond recognition, nasty, or even sociopathic. That doesn't mean that we can just shove it into the closet. That's not a long term solution. I bit, clawed, and fought my way back to sanity after that day more than 10 years ago. Really, I'm much better now. If you don't acknowledge that then you didn't know me way back when. That doesn't mean I'm willing to move on and declare the world a happy place. It isn't. It's a brutal jungle of death and decay. We live artificial lives, pumping idiotic television in through our eyes, and moronic soundbites out through our mouths. We're ruled in large part by inhuman corporate masters, bureaucratic machines that cater to our lowest impulses and actively and openly try to control our behavior and force us to bend to their whims. We live dull little lives in office cubicles filling out pieces of paper to feed these behemouths just so that we can feed ourselves. You want to talk about the Matrix? Let's talk about a big city office building. Thousands upon thousands of people devoting 8 hours a day to the cause of an organization that wants nothing more than to fatten them up and take their money. Is that so much better than being hooked into a machine? Why? Because you get to go home in your Hyundai, sit on your Ikea sofa, and drink a Coke when the day is done?

Ugliness is all around us and you can't get rid of it through thinking happy thoughts. You can try to ignore it, but at brutal and tremendous costs to yourselves and/or others. You can let the homeless people starve in a gutter to keep taxes down, but what happens when you lose your house then?

So if the journal is sometimes depressing, ugly, uninteresting, offensive, or horrible then I think that's a reasonable reflection of life. I think that means it's honest, which was my point all along.

P.S. I've been accused by people here of being an agressive non-believer. It's true, but that's because that's the only way the world makes sense. You want to pretend there's some supreme plan that has 1.5 million people, bigger than most cities, expiring every day and leprosy, floods, amputations, castrations, rapes, tens of millions with AIDs. Okay, I can understand that, I can dig it. It's ludicrous, but I can dig it. On the other hand, you start with the "made in his own image" shit and you think about how fucked up human beings really are...well then it only makes sense if God is a psycho who loves watching faces contorted with pain and death. In that case, why would you want to go to heaven? Paradise, try Jeffrey Dahlmer's house only after Dahlmer had 5500 years to perfect his techniques. Wouldn't it be a profoundly funny joke if God was indeed real and heaven was just the most awful place ever, so that those who lived lives according to scriptures would get up there only to find they'd have been better off in hell? It seems likely to me, given the state of the earth (well at least more likely than a benevolent omnipotent God who let things get fucked up this badly in order to work in 'mysterious ways.')

P.P.S. on the subject of God, I thought of a REALLY funny idea for a very short graphic story. It's called "God Vs. Ms. Buttercup's Second Grade Class" and it's told from the perspective of the supreme being as he just absolutely lays waste to a classroom full of 7 year olds who challenged him to a fight. We're talking locusts and meteors and all that while the kids scream and die in bunches. Unfortunately I think it would only work in a comic book format, and I can't draw, so I can't actually make it, but man would it be a hoot.
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