“You are living in the free world and in the free world you must stay.” Phil Ochs
An Eclectic Study of the Mundane and the Profane
By todd boyd
I live in Sacramento, California, USA. It’s early November 2018. On a Thursday, November 8th morning the people of Paradise, a northern California Sierra Nevada foothill town comprised of retirees and working class people, are waking up to the alarm of a fast moving fire, pushed by winds of up to fifty miles per hour, and their town is in the bullseye seat.
In southern California, the same day, two wildfires begin to push their way to the sea, threatening the city of Malibu, an enclave of beautiful people and beautiful homes.
A short distance, and seven days away from Malibu, a lone gunman kills 12 people in a crowded bar, just eleven days from the last mass murder (killing of eleven Jews) in America.
For the past two years, fires have raged almost all year long in California and my city has been enveloped by smoke, toxic air, and, maybe, the least noticed effect, limited recreational respite for many of the people, unless they get on a plane or travel hundreds of miles from the state, where they may escape the fires and the smoke but their chances of being killed by a gun will increase.
The following are some of my thoughts.
The Mundane (Change)
We depend on science to tell us how the Future will happen, throw back the curtain for us on the Wizard on all those mysteries about living which affect us in so many ways. Yet, we have no control over any of it, not our natural environment nor a social climate created for us by social, religious, political, and economic leaders, most of whom remain anonymous, like the Wizard, and who have made us who we are and what we are. It’s the perfect dystopian Present for those of us raised in the middle of Western Civilization where there are too many choices and too little time for contemplation upon what’s being done in our names. We are, in some ways, the Artificial Intelligent beings science has been trying to create since they started experimenting with the alchemy of changing imagination into reality. We are relatively compliant, complacent, and perfectly fitted to whatever tasks or choices are laid out for us.
This is quite different from those who are the vast majority of the world’s population, who have been consistently affected by the adverse consequences of so called Civilized Societies and their grandiose searches for resources and/or other worlds to dominate/conquer in the name of Profit. This majority continues to be more interested in its own survival rather than in strict obedience to rules, regulations, and laws which have little to do with their reality.
To those in the middle classes, issues such as Climate Change are an example of the dilemma significant Change in itself presents to modern society. In order for any society to try and reverse the ill effects of Climate Change (if it can even be done at all is still at the heart of the controversy) those who are comfortable with where they are will need to give something up, maybe a lot of somethings, while even those who have little, will find that even the little they do have is not adequate.
Dealing with Climate Change also exposes another set of issues. It requires a degree of imagination about what the future should look like and once again, it’s obvious that the entire spectrum of current economics, politics, power, equality, and a myriad of other ideals upon which we have lived or tried to live will have to be brought into the ring of our thoughtful reconsiderations.
Climate Change is way too slow for the normal mind to grasp. It’s like an advancing glacier. Based on anecdotal evidence, measured in increments of less Toads, Roadrunners, Snakes, Amphibians, Bats, and Bees or based in scientific statistical analysis only scientists and intellectuals can fully appreciate, it all culminates in simple Belief and Trust in something or someone who says they have the answers.
It’s not like you wake up one day and realize something’s missing. Maybe you notice it more on the days it doesn’t rain but you think it should and you try to remember when you realized it always used to at this time of year or never did and you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Looking into the near future, we may eventually conclude there’s nothing we can do, and if there is something, it’s more a matter of being too little, too late. There’s nowhere we can go because unlike other mass social, cultural, political, and natural changes, the World is now filled with nation states, surrounding us with border walls, property lines, well-armed militaries, cruel dictatorships, and regional, chauvinistic, and cannibalistic prejudices. On this future road to nowhere millions will march, trying to escape whatever political, natural, economic and social calamity besets them.
The fight for space and the musical chairs of rapid, thoughtless development, redevelopment, and gentrification have already driven these survivors further out to the fringes of our civilizations.
We are the generation that doesn’t feel the water in the pot getting warmer as much as our children or grandchildren will. It’s something that can’t be felt unless you are the one driven from your home, your land by not only the helter-skelter of Mother Nature but also by the machinations of wars, and economic stagnation. Our grandsons and granddaughters are the real frog generation, not realizing that the water is getting hotter and they’re in a pot with no escape.
We say it's burning fossil fuels or methane gas from the shit of domesticated animals rising into the heavens that surround us, driving a smokescreen wedge between us and our uncaring gods which have transfixed us with promises of perfection, albeit not here but in the afterlife. They appeal to our vanity, tell us how important we are, we are children of God, or citizens of the greatest country on Earth, or whatever false claim we want to listen to, and we believe them. They will save us, protect us, but they do not love us.
Our civilization merely dresses up a pig in whatever is the acceptable way of the day but the pig’s character always stays the same, as the old adage goes.
Change in Western culture is partially based in a false belief that everyone will eventually see how beneficial it is to take the train/bus/bicycle to work, to eat the healthiest foods, to localize the education system by developing local school community boards that manage and support education, to switch to solar and wind power where hawks no longer need to fly, and where all the races are assimilated enough that no one is completely white (hooray) and no one is completely black (no longer beautiful). A Place where white, black, or brown really doesn’t quite describe how beautiful every color is, where women and men no longer describes how we like to have our sex or love one another, so maybe it will be all right, the rationale goes, once we can accept the fact that a different colored car is not more important than the many different colors of happy neighborhood kids.
In the real world, imagine the resistance of millions of people who don’t want to change or who say “Who wants all that regulation, rigidity, conformity?” In addition to that sort of resistance, a society would need a complete retooling of its military/industrial complex, essentially blocking the ongoing onslaught of relentless natural resource destruction and struggle between nations and the forces of profit and dictatorial power. We’re not only up against Ourselves, we’re up against a Wall of our own oppression and making.
The Profane (Prometheus Unleashed)
I spent the last two summers trapped between the smoke and blazing, both north and south and the heat and razing of what was north, south, west and east of me, the only option of escape making my way through the smoking west until I hit the ocean’s shore but even there was the red hot tides so I put aside any thoughts of recreation I was allowed to imagine in lieu of my own survival.
I stole Fire believing they could use it more than I, but they did nothing but abuse it and for that I was tossed aside, into that flame from which I had risen, was born, a phoenix, the smoke rising black like a dark cloak or cape against the sky, fire crazy in its path all that which could not escape, I, merely an observer, gazing on the devastation of what we are becoming, to want is not the same as giving, we always want the easy meaning,
For days on end, an inferno engulfing ponderosa pine, while to the north there was flooding and homes sunk beneath the rising water lines, to the east, a hurricane or tornados ripping through what two years ago was rebuilt from another catastrophe, and finally to the south, a drought like no one’s ever seen, mirages springing from the ground like boiling steam, migrations of refugees wind their way over sand, roads, and walls, getting to the places, that like Jonah, are in the belly of the Beast.
The Mundane (Anarchy and the Gods)
I’ve always been intrigued with the End of Days scenarios. I’m an anarchist at heart and also not a True Believer in any nation or god with a personality but if there is one consideration I adhere to is the understanding that whenever I come to a conclusion about modern life being unique, I remember that every idea about ‘who we are’ contemplated through rational thought, I see it’s already the basis of, at least, a three thousand year old tradition, religion, or teaching. And the idea that the Human Race, so to speak, needs saving when it can’t save itself has always been around. It’s how we got Prayer.
Religion loves a good moral tale. Look at Prometheus, who steals fire from the gods, possibly out of good will for the People but he must suffer for his good deed and while his suffering is his only reward, the promise of the fires of Hell are our damnation for taking what is not ours.
There’s no compassion or empathy there, it seems, in the hearts of gods or royalty.
We are fated to suffer, unless like in the more modern versions of our belief that things will work out if we are willing to redeem ourselves by sacrificing either each other or some other part of humanity in the name of our Belief.
The gods are, indeed, harsh.
It is the Churches which have traditionally spoken for us, been our intermediaries for what we wanted or desired. The authority of the church has been how god speaks for us.
The woeful aspect of religion in the modern world is that there has been no semblance of Democracy, that modern ideal upon which modern nations have arisen, that pride of Man[sic], as well as the secular ideal which has usurped the Church’s former prerogative that God’s Will can resolve the contradiction of imperfect Man on which we have been suckled. Now we are left with the Secular State which has nurtured its Age of Reason rationale and fostered an obscure abstract evolving promise that it is Democracy/civilization rather than God, who will take care of its citizens. We are no longer the children of God but citizens of the State. No matter how we allow them to define us, we are still led by the same ring in the nose, Fear of the Future.
We all seem more fearful in today’s world than we ever were when we were mere mortals at the mercy of glowing eyes out in the dark peripheral shadows cast against a campfire light. Now the Fear is instilled in us from birth without any context to reality and it’s this abstract fear that sears our imagination. It’s largely a question of “What if (shit)…happens?”
My own nihilism tries to negate these sources of our lies, tries to get behind the glitter and glamor of our institutions which, according to scholars and experts, are the only ones who can save of us from ourselves.
One problem is our inability to see very far into our future. Oh, we can imagine beautiful stainless steel cities rising from the desert or jungle plains where all citizens wear togas or simple cloth but our imagination cannot fathom a future without a dystopian element so there’s always a wall protecting everyone from the unfathomable, uncontrollable mysteries of the natural world that surrounds. Plus, everyone seems to have a job that requires a security clearance. There are no simple janitors or plain Janes. There is no gathering dust in our imaginations, thus no chamber maids, Science will take care of those mundanities. What if they refuse to go away?
We’ve allowed Capitalism to get so far out of hand its hard to fathom the majority of people who involuntary don’t have enough to expect nothing more and those who have more than enough to accept less. It’s an argument dependent upon whether or not you believe everyone can have what even a typical middle class person (around the world) has today. It’s more than just defining Economics, it’s about trusting that out there in the dark on the other side of the moon no one will harm you. Even if you can accept that, the notion of going backwards before we go forward is anathema to ideals in the western world where Bigger, More, Newer, and Forever are big in the lexicon.
The Profane (Waste)
Modern economic theory will never look for a better way to reuse millions of ruined, empty, abandoned buildings that lay all over the land nor will it ever look for a way to recycle billions of cans, cars, trains, plastic, rusted iron and steel that it has created and disposed of simply because New is always better than Old and Money is more important than Equality, Justice, and the Rights we say we hold so dear.
We’ve strewn across the landscape, piled high as hills in all our cities, filled up the landfills, spilled it, drained it, wasted it, pumped it underground or mounted on ships and sunk it at sea, shipped it to China, let them spill it, let it drift back to our shores. Let it rust right where it sits. This is the waste we hide from each other, all from our uncontrollable wants and needs.
The Mundane (Do Not Do What Is Done to You)
Capitalism can only survive in a moralistic religious world from which it was born and raised to the level of a new religion. In most of the worldwide religions the relationship between wealth, success, and power go hand in hand with god’s approval. No common, ordinary god fearing Man is going to try and put back together what God or Nation has torn asunder. We’re taught to turn the other cheek, do unto others, phony admonitions to soothe our soul while we turn a blind eye to the so-called privileged Man[sic] proscribed sanctioned approval, unrestrained by minimal rules, regulations or laws.
Yet, the Marxian Dream is that Capitalism would not survive if… What if ..We stood up and said NO to it?
Saying NO is only the beginning and not the end.
The Profane (What’s Inside)
Then will come the discovery of what really burns inside of us. The instincts, the Reason, the real Dreams, and the wild imaginary Fears we’ve built civilizations upon.
Archeologists and scholars have discovered the walls we once divided and isolated ourselves with, uncovered our scorched temples and places of worship we’ve prayed in, dusted off the scriptures we live and fight by, deconstructed the histories we rely on, and finally all the scholars have concluded that there are no real differences between us. Now what? We’ve put so much effort into believing those superficial differences have to be the alchemy of all our fears.
There's nothing like real history to take us from the idyllic reverie of false here and now, to where “there's smoke there's fire” hell hole Reality was, is, and can be. Once the smell of smoke or burned remains dulls our sense of danger to the rise, no one can escape the perpetual smoke in our eyes that burns like napalm on the rumbled, crumbled twisted steel structures and mud hutted cities of the Old and New World Order. It's never what it seems. We try to live in unanswered dreams and timid prayers. We don't ask for enough nor ask hard enough from those who promise us. Nor for the right things, saying we say to them, “We’re here” and they answer, “Just wait and you’ll see what we mean, before we crush you with our mighty ideals.”
The Mundane (A Conversation of Sorts)
Come on! Does this seem? Come on! Does this seem? Come on! Doesn't it seem as if it's all ready to fucking blow out, blow UP, once and for all?
Blow like an incessant wind the flames of our discontent, or the fake notions of Paradise we maintain within, take us into a Future we can’t imagine or ever bend, and never return us back to normal again, like a permafrost meltdown surrendering Artic towns or nuclear holocaust fears that stifle our cries for Peace.
Come on! She thinks Capitalism is the heartbeat to all our problems so I paternalistically try to explain that when she gets older, a little closer to menopause say, and a little more cynical about how miracles play, the world will look a lot softer in some ways while Capitalism will look more like the sledge hammer it really is and she’ll feel more like the head of a nail about to be slammed rather than like some goddess lover of Thor, or Isis, all powerful in her youth, as she sees in herself today.
The Profane (Born Again)
We’re all born into this worldly strife, the same as a squirmy rat, the best thing about it is we haven’t been tattooed with a corporate logo yet. That comes later but for now, on that original birthday, we have no understanding of what awaits us upon arrival into our nation’s history. Depending on whether or not we’re born black and all the shades of inequality, how much money our parents have (or parent in many more cases than is satisfactory), or how much equanimity and right circumstance we possess, we’ll plod through their authoritarian fogs ignominiously, each individual according to their own degrees, all the while lacking nobility.
Yes, I’m one of them who realizes
The world won’t abide by its own rules,
If you were born black, woman, brown, or countryside
Dreams were never what they were made to be,
Great men have died soon after no truer words spoken,
Their words lost forever amongst smoke and fire,
of many a forgotten generation’s confusion.
We burn dreams for Hope in smoke from the Paradises of worldwide genocide,
Dreams speak of what’s to come,
Yet we sleep on. Dreaming…
Those false dreams pushing us down the path of American supremacy, those false dreams that are pounded into our being from the moment we are born, leaked into our hearts and minds, soaked into our porous white skins of duplicity, darkened by genocide and slavery, greed, and superior cultural ferocity, whilst others in the world just disappear in the consuming fire of our forgotten wars and injustices of our historic false dream.
I’ve seen america burning while its leaders fiddled with culturcide, fanning flames of color pride and blowing smoke of false illusions.
It’s sad but true, america’s legacy is all confused.
I’m mindful again of Langston Hughes (America was never America to me). No one wants to believe they sacrificed for a lost cause because there can be no acceptance of failure of the American dream as false, no reconciliation with forces of good and hate, no empathy for all the innocent victims of our own hand, no sorrow for the deeds we’ve done, no forgiveness for each other nor for our so called enemies, america always moves on without looking back and it’s future always looks as bleak as it’s past.
The Mundane ( Hope Is Out of the Box, or Pandora is Vindicated)
Every living thing on Earth is made up of the same stuff. When the least of us goes then we’ll all soon follow. Still, there is a good reason to try and fix what we deny is broken. That fix is in Ourselves. We’re the real masterminds of our own creation as well as our extinction and the only saviors of our future. We don’t have to just stop making things worse with our wars, our greed (read: our needs), our fears that each one of us has inside, but we must also stand up and call for an Intervention, call for a Recovery, call for Redemption.
This chaotic world is not the end of us. We are resilient, that’s been proven. It’s just that civilization took the wrong path. They invented the gun, they used war to conquer and destroy, they developed a history of slavery and practiced and protected usury. These may be embedded in the human genes, buried deep in evolution’s past. I don’t know. I don’t think anyone else does either.
That’s why I can still Hope because I have Faith that we are potentially capable of more than we thought we could be. We are made up of the ability to destroy right alongside the willingness to sacrifice for another, made to persecute the weak alongside the patient nurturing of a child, made to be a murderer of innocence and the one who turns the other cheek.
The contradictions we share can go on and on. In a way it is the capability to Hope, that no matter what happens, Good will prevail, and assuredly, when that day happens, Bad will still rise in many forms like a wisp of smoke, and when that happens, maybe it will be noticed, the alarm sounded, we’ll stand up together and stamp it out before it begins, and life will go on without it for a while longer, until the next time the Fire comes.