Toxic Prison Housing: How Trump’s Playground Treats Its Poor

(Originally posted at Gods & Radicals)

“‘You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,’ she pleaded. ‘Something beautiful and full of monsters.’

‘Beautiful and full of monsters?’

‘All the best stories are.”

― Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer

They say that slavery is over, that the days of big plantations are long gone. This is the New South, so the saying goes, and the past ain’t nothing but a bunch of statues in a park.

The same people will tell you a rising tide lifts all boats.

I seen somewhere where the tide doesn’t do anything but drag people out to sea.

Down here in Florida times may have changed but they sound much the same: rich folks living in luxury while people sweat in the cane fields, armed white men patrolling and killing whoever they wish. In fact I’d go so far as to say Florida still has one big plantation in operation, one gigantic blight upon on earthly paradise that ought to be cleansed with fire and high-grade ammunition.

That place is Palm Beach County. And in Palm Beach County a rebellion is beginning that could topple the whole damn plantation.

The following cannot do justice to what I saw, felt, heard, or smelled. This, if nothing else, will stand as a testament to future generations. Let us never forget as we move forward how the workers lived. Let us never let our indignation grow sour and meek. Let us never forget how people first started groping towards real world solutions, instead of mindlessly arguing over historical fantasies.

Stonybrook….

The word will one day mean two things.

Hope.

And revenge.

A Little History

I never planned on coming back to South Florida.

A ceremonial magician and devotee of Horus had contacted me about an investigation. He said there was big things brewing in Palm Beach County, real class war shit, and that I had to come cover them. Shadowy figures he’d dreamed of had called me by name and demanded my presence. He offered to hook me up with all the folks involved, house us overnight, and even to sacrifice a chicken for my protection.

Palm Beach County, you have to understand, is a vicious den of unending exploitation and lies. It’s merest mention often brings groans and cries of disgust from elsewhere around the state.

I know. I’m from there.

Born in Boynton Beach, I’d long ago forsaken my birthplace. Truthfully spoken justice might as well be a figment of imagination till the day comes when machine guns mounted on trucks roam Palm Beach County like wild boars, obliterating every mention of that wretched corner of the world.

The area that would become Palm Beach first appears on American radar back during the Seminole Wars. There, in the Battle of Jupiter Inlet, American colonial forces were resoundingly defeated by the freed slaves and indigenous peoples that made up the Seminole bands. Undeterred the Americans decided to convince the Seminoles they intended to give up the war, asking them to meet them under a flag of truce in exchange for the freedom to live as they wished. 600 Seminoles did just that.

They were immediately thrown in shackles, carted off to prison, and sent to the dusty wasteland of Oklahoma.

Skullduggery is built into the very fibre of Palm Beach County; even its name comes from a scam. The coconut palm, the specific palm in “Palm Beach”, is not native to Florida. Its presence in Palm Beach County is due to the shipwreck of the Spanish ship Providencia in 1878 near today’s Mar-a-Lago, a deliberate grounding to receive an insurance payout. Smallscale smuggling was the name of the game until a man named Henry Flagler came to town. He look one look at the people living in tropical paradise and just knew there was money to be made. He built the county into a playground for the Gilded Class.

The playground itself was a scam in a way: palaces like The Breakers or The Royal Poinciana Hotel became fashionable destinations for America’s uber-rich. Flagler’s railroad was the only way to get there. They paid him for the ride, paid him for the stay, and when they wanted a house it was Flagler that helped them out.

(The Royal Poinciana Hotel in 1900. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Since then Palm Beach County’s golden rule has been a simple one: maintain the pipeline and do so quietly. Flagler ensured maximum comfort for his patrons by having his lieutenants kill and maim any workers that raised a fuss. Journalists that spoke unkindly disappeared. Labor disputes of any type were strictly forbidden and bodies were often buried beneath the rails.

Think about that: a giant cemetery guided the rich into Florida, and while they spilled wine and laughed they rode over the corpses of the poor.

Is it any wonder shit is so weird down here?

The Palm Beach Social Index-Directory, a yearly published, privately circulated little black book designed to separate the socially acceptable wealthy from the uncouth rich, keeps the circle of the ruling class small. Thirty of Palm Beach County’s residents are on the Forbe’s list of billionaires and they have no interest in being bothered. To this end they employ the police who have always understood themselves as servants of the rich.

Hunter S. Thompson, when he did a story in the region, perfectly captured the social contract between the The Well-to-Do and the Well-Armed:

“The police are no problem in Palm Beach. We own them and they know it. They work for us, like any other servant, and most of them seem to like it. When we run out of gas in this town, we call the police and they bring it, because it is boring to run out of gas. The rich have special problems, and running out of gas on Ocean Boulevard on the way to an orgy at six o’clock on Sunday morning is one of them. Nobody needs that. Not with naked women and huge bags of cocaine in the car. The rich love music, and we don’t want it interrupted…

We don’t pay these people much, but we pay them every week, and if they occasionally forget who really pays their salaries, we have ways of reminding them…”

The Police are eager to avoid such reminders, and when not running errands for their masters they have one mission: keep the poor in line. Cases like Jewett v. City of West Palm Beach Police Department (in custody police beating death), Lamore v. City of Riviera Beach Police Department (jury verdict determination of municipal liability), and Mueller v. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (police beating injuries, conspiracy retaliation claims involving PBSO Internal Affairs Division) are stark reminders that the Flagler model is still in effect.

But that might be changing. In one of the worst neighborhoods, amid extreme segregation and implied violence, people were starting to fight back.

Out in Stonybrook the class war went from theory to tangible reality. My wife and I rushed down at ninety-five miles per hour, eager to bear witness.

Read more here…

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egoism Vs. The Nazi Aztecs of Eco-Extremism

(This was originally a facebook post that was mass reported by meme pages like “Everything is Bad” and “Post-Left Rage,” as well as the fans of the “Anarchist” publisher Little Black Cart(who makes a living publishing eco-extremist as well as egoist texts). They wanted it off facebook and, essentially, for it to go unread.

True to my asshole nature, I not only published here but expanded it.

I invite you to read it and become aware of Eco-extremism, the journal Atassa, and what their “ideology” is. When you see people sharing their memes or talking about them, you’ll know what they really want to do)

Many of you have asked me “what is ITS” over the past few days. Today I’d like to talk about it because I think its important you know.

ITS stands for “Individualists Tending Towards the Wild.” It is a (supposed) group of people living in Mexico who started out, or at least claimed to, in the egoist/nihilist tradition of Anarchism. This made them heroic figures for many on the Post-Left side of thinking, reeling from the failures of the 1990’s and very much looking beyond Green Anarchism. ITS puts out communiques that are discussed and fawned over by a journal called Atassa. Atassa also shares copies of their communiques online. Atassa is published by Little Black Cart, the largest publisher of Egoist and Nihilist literature.

ITS operates strictly within the “anti-civilization” line of thought. One of the very odd things is they seem to worship “wildness” and despise “civilization.” Both of these are abstract concepts, symbols really, the very thing Stirner wrote an entire book denouncing. For ITS however they are the two gods at war for their very souls, the prime motivators of all history and all human endeavours. To fight back against “civilization” and preserve their wildness they engaged in bomb attacks against scientists in Mexico.

These attacks and their communiques became the bedrock of a new ideology: eco-extremism.

Eco-extremism combines the worst aspects of Nihilism and Green Anarchy. They very much believe in human nature, and consider all humans as unnatural creatures that must be destroyed to return to “wildness.” Again, if that sounds like a laughable religious position that’s because IT IS, yet ITS and Atassa(the only journal that publishes their screeds) believe they are nihilists who believe in nothing.

Except of course all humanity is bad, all technology is bad, and “wildness” is sacred. People must die, for reasons never really explained, and who dies doesn’t really matter. The pursuit of a return to “savage” nature is the sole goal.

This elevation of “savageness”(itself a very weird, fetishistic view of native cultures) has overridden any other desires. So eager to return to Holy “Wildness” the following piece was published by Atassa advocating a “savage kingdom” rather than anarcho-primitivism.

Let me read you a quote. Please recall the editors of Atassa considered this a turning point for eco-extremist theory” and a definite view to take forward. They are speaking of the very war-like, and almost Aztec-level hierarchical civilization known as The Calusa:

“It is a shame that they fell so shockingly short of the fully nomadic, immediate returns hunter-gatherer paradigm that is the apex of anarcho-primitivist sanctity, but we would hope that the priests of that ideology find it in their hearts to forgive them of their mortal sins of hierarchy and authority. . .

Eco-extremists may continue to draw their inspiration mostly from warlike
nomadic hunter-gatherers, but I would speculate that, given the choice between a Calusa ‘king’ obedient to his gods and nature, and a humanist green anarchist playing social engineer, they would choose the former as an ally…”

It may seem a shock that any Post-Leftist would speak joyously of royal hierarchy, that any Egoist would look upon unquestioned obedience to gods and “nature” as some glorious goal, yet Egoists and other Insurrectionists are told(by meme pages such as Everything is Bad and Post Left Rage) that these people are the most amazing thing to happen since Stirner himself. Eco-extremism, which places an undefined and abstract “nature” above the Unique, is in stark contrast to Egoism.

“Stirner himself, however, has no truck with ‘higher beings.’ Indeed, with the aim of concerning himself purely with his own interests, he attacks all ‘higher beings,’ regarding them as a variety of what he calls ‘spooks,’ or ideas to which individuals sacrifice themselves and by which they are dominated. First amongst these is the abstraction ‘Man’, into which all unique individuals are submerged and lost.”

In contrast to Stirner’s absolute rejection of any kind of authority, eco-extremists see nothing wrong with “natural” hierarchy or political institutions. In a text titled “Our response is like an earthquake: It comes sooner or later,” ITS writes:

“It’s true that ‘authority’ has existed in ancient ethnic groups before civilization, but it’s worth asking: Is the authority exercised by a leader of a Bushman tribe (for example), one that helps to feed them, something that is harmful? Is the authority of the Taromenane shaman, one which cures and alleviates illnesses in his band of wild humans, something harmful? Was the authority of the great Teochichimeca warriors, who were able to take revenge against the Spanish in their day, something harmful? If you say ‘yes’, you’re hopeless…” 

That communique was shared on Anarchist News, a website run by the nihilist who calls himself “Aragorn!” He also runs Little Black Cart, a nihilist/egoist publisher.

Again, even from a nihilist position, why should any one respect “natural” hierarchy any more than “presidential” or “military” hierarchy?

Interestingly enough most of these people live online. Beyond meme pages and this small, niche journal eco-extremism doesn’t exist. It’s the “egoist”(and I use that term in jest) version of 4chan. The only people who carry out any “eco-extremist” actions are ITS, whom Atassa and other Eco-extremists laud as heroes carrying out a war against technology and “civilization.”

What does this war look like? Let’s look to an actual ITS communique to find out.

In extreme misanthropic skepticism and experimentation, beyond any human notion, I claim nichilistically the following attacks:

-The arson of 2 mini buses transporting elder people.

Why? Why don’t you ask the guys from the books you read to tell you why? Oh shit! They’re dead? I’ll tell you why then! Because I hate old people! Hahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahaha!!!

-A package bomb left totally indiscriminately at a central location selectively.

Why do I not think of the ”innocent” people one might think… I answer with a question… Did my birth giver’s pussy think when it was fucked to be fertilized with microscopic semen that creates the vessels that I hate? Did anybody ask me to be born? Did anyone know what I would become? Do you know that some see consciousness as a curse? Fuck you, pathetic pricks, you don’t know shit then!”

Of course this is probably just bullshit. Let’s assume these attacks, which again may not even exist, are actually real.

This isn’t a “war against civilization,” it’s just a bunch of assholes “killing” people. Atassa and meme pages like Everything is Bad or Post Left Rage eat them up.

Atassa and the meme pages that celebrate them are basically just cheering on the death of random working people. Not rich people, not even the technology-researching scientists they claim to hate. Just random people. Eco-extremists claim this is due to their “misanthropy” which is somehow very different from Fascist hatred. After all, like the old Hot Topic t-shirt says “I don’t hate any one race, I hate them all!”

“All that surrounds me, every ‘normal’ humanoid, is performing a litany towards crushing determinism. One more time I seize the opportunity to act and unleash My Hatred. I get ready not to stray from the mechanistic ‘life-form’. I call upon Death and we enter in a maelstrom of the heartbeat of Chaos that transforms blood into a pumping engine in the libido of voidance that dissolves humanity attempting indiscriminate Destruction and Murder.”

Compare this to Stirner’s response when asked if Egoism should inspire people to misanthropy:

“…that would be a man who does not know and cannot appreciate any of the delights emanating from an interest taken in others, from the consideration shown to others. That would be a man bereft of innumerable pleasures, a wretched character . . . would he not be a wretched egoist, rather than a genuine Egoist? . . . The person who loves a human being is, by virtue of that love, a wealthier man that someone else who loves no one.”

If you criticize these practices Eco-extremists default to a Jordan Peterson-esque line of thinking: if you criticize them you are a “moralist” and misunderstand what they’re saying. If you criticize ITS, Atassa claims they are just one aspect of eco-extremism and that they don’t speak for everybody. They also claim that you haven’t “read enough.” And, if you get that far, they moan about how you’re “moralizing” or that somehow drinking a pepsi is the same thing as blowing up a bus of old people.

(Postscript: this is exactly what happened after publishing this material)

Go ahead and read that Calusa essay. I invite you to read anything else Atassa publishes. Recall, whether they support them or not, Atassa routinely publishes ITS communiques they believe to be real; recall also meme pages like Everything is Bad and Post Left Rage as well as Atassa freely admit ITS is the only one carrying out the eco-extremist mission.

Other insurrectionist cells across Mexico, ones who might rightly be claimed as Egoist in structure and methodology, want nothing to do with ITS or eco-extremism; they see in the sad behavior dressed up as ideology nothing more than the industrial society eco-extremists claim to be free from:

“That is the case of these disastrous ones. Axiomatic fruit of this pitiful civilization that they say they want to destroy. Only in the deepest entrails of this decay can such decaying behaviors manifest themselves. It is in the sewers of this society where these pathologies are nourished and the most delirious fascistoid rhetoric takes shape. That is where these deformations are formed and the irrepressible protagonistic anxieties throw them at the reflectors.

Its roots are none other than the nauseous dung of social dysfunction. After a sad childhood and a frustrated adolescence, harassed by bullying from the cradle and traumatised from their family, they begin to channel their frustrations and all the accumulated self-hatred and project it without ethical mediations. That is the Individualists Tending toward the Wild. His misogynist discourse and his authoritarian actions are the result.”

You can’t call them eco-fascists however! Oh no! Totally different! Why would they be featured by an anarchist publisher and by Anarchist News?

Says one apologist:

“In what sense do they resemble the fascism of Mussolini or Nazism? Fascism is a statist, nationalist, and (ultimately) pro-civ ideology – none of these labels apply to eco-extremists…their ideology is essentially all about continuity with pre/anti-colonial savagery of the indigenous warriors.”

The fans of Atassa, and by extension their publishers, prefer to ignore when Atassa compared themselves favorably to fascists, gleefully advocated genocide, and called people “degenerates.” I have trouble remembering the Aztecs complaining about degenerates. I seem to remember somebody in the 1930’s talking about it alot. Here’s the screenshots:

Of course they’ll tell you that post was a “mistake,” someone running the page yet having nothing to do with the journal. You still can’t call them eco-fascists. They’re totally different. They might advocate the same things but somehow they having nothing to do fascism.

Sure. Just look at the latest Atassa journal cover:

Atassa, meme pages like Everything is Bad and Post Left Rage, and increasingly the “Anarchist” website called Anarchist News are uplifting one of the most garbage ideologies I have ever had the misfortune of learning about. The idea that they are essentially trying to ship a green “nihilism” that worships “wildness” and advocates genocide into Egoism, an idea that posits human uniqueness as the most liberating concept, is a goddamn shame. There is nothing Egoist about Atassa, Eco-extremism, and by extension the meme pages that fawn over them.

But they sure do love to pull in as many Egoists as possible to buy their shit.

Egoism is changing. It isn’t 1995 anymore and Wolfi’s old ideas about making everything “play” and running off into the woods aren’t cutting it. Egoism is confronting a world where most Unique Ones can’t afford healthcare, don’t own any property, and have almost no time to develop their unique and individual selves. For some people the path to liberation involves seizing territory, enriching their lives, and destroying the forces that would seek to turn them into to a socially-obedient slave. Those people are Egoist-Communists.

For some people liberation involves leaving everything the way it is and cheering on a semi-fictitious band of assholes in Mexico who claim to kill random old people and women.

Those people aren’t Egoists. They’re eco-extremists and are fit only to be pissed on whenever possible.

Have a great night.

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Going To Be A Long, Hot, Deadly Summer.”

(Originally posted at Gods & Radicals)

“It’s going to be a long, hot, deadly summer.”

As the moon rises above the palm trees loud grunts of a pig frog break up the otherwise secret meeting. The shifting eyes move along with hushed tones under oak trees and spanish moss. Cicadas sing loud enough to muffle the voices. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. The occasional car goes by and the shadows sweat in the darkness, talking of magic and insurrection.

“These people are under a spell, that’s what makes me nervous. First they claim nobody is being separated at the border.” The new voice coughed then continued. “Trump then says they are being separated but that it’s actually Obama’s program. Republicans then argue that things aren’t that bad, that there’s nothing to fix. Trump does a 180, claims the separations are bad, and decides he’ll keep families together–provided he can detain them indefinitely.”

“There’s a very weird game being played here.” Another voice lights a cigarette, the red dot looking like a rolling eye. She clicks her teeth and adjusts her hat. “Intentionally false statements are being made then they pretty much wait to see if people will believe it. And they do. We’re talking about a good chunk of the country just believing anything, defending anything, as long as it comes from the halls of power. That’s not going away. So where does it go instead? What does it do?”

“We know where it goes.” The shadowed heads bob along. Lines of sweat trace raised and pointed eyebrows in this abandoned lot serving as church, temple, and school. Someone spits on the ground and picks up where another left off.

“History is a story, see? When we tell a story we already know the ending so we get confused. We begin to think the people in the story are aware of the ending like we are. Nuh-uh. This species has chronic amnesia. A Wizard’s gift is to see the lines of probability and chance moving the dice rolls, shifting the cards. The natural world has ‘tells’ like any other gambler. It’s our job to study those and bring them into our radicalism.”

There were grunts of agreement as a small wind rubbed palmetto branches together. The speaker slapped a mosquito and carried on. You want to know what’s coming? What Anarchists need to worry about? I’ll tell you exactly what’s going to happen between June 27th and August 27th, but I want to tell you a story first. Keep it in mind because I sure as shit know it changed the way I think about my own sense of agency…”

Read the rest here….

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is The Revolution Your Religion?

(Originally Posted at Gods & Radicals)

“The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler’s Holocaust, according to a new research study. They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand.

They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them.”
–John Ezard

“Tell me, Tarrou, are you capable of dying for love?’

‘I couldn’t say, but I hardly think so–as I am now.’

‘You see. But you’re capable of dying for an idea; one can see that right away. Well, personally, I’ve seen enough of people who die for an idea. I don’t believe in heroism; I know it’s easy and I’ve learned it can be murderous. What interests me is living and dying for what one loves.’”
—Albert Camus, The Plague

MOSHED-2018-6-13-20-4-17

On January 14th Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. was in mortal danger. He didn’t know it of course, couldn’t sense the odds and probabilities stacking against him. He may have never glimpsed his ancestors draw closer or the slow chill of Death creep across the floor. He was in his home, totally at ease and listening to music. How could he have known from this moment on he had no future?

As I sit under the Florida sun and stretch out on tourist-free sands I can’t help but think about Gregory. Was he relaxing as I am? What did he think of his neighbors? If “justice” finally came after 500 years would it mean anything to a man stolen forever from his children?

It’s 98 degrees and Floridians are heading towards water. My wife and I are at a beach so hidden I dare not speak its name, an undisturbed stretch of the legendary A1A. Most folks drive past it, seeing nothing but sea grapes and palmettos. That’s part of the appeal. On top of that the nearest gas station cooks chicken gizzards and homemade empanadas. You can score a six-pack of Landshark there for $4.99. There are no hotels and public drunkeness is a way of life.

Cheap booze. Beautiful views. Nature in abundance and a carefree attitude that flies in the face of the nine-to-five. For a moment the world drips away. We forget anything else exists.

But on the horizon the world waits, among the clouds slowly rolling in. For Gregory it knocked right on his door.

We’re All In This Together

Gregory was on disability leave from a Coca-Cola warehouse. He probably figured if he wasn’t going to be working he might as well enjoy himself. He turned on some music, had a few drinks, and relaxed in the small sliver of paradise he’d carved out for his self and his family.

Gregory has a fiancee, Monique Davis. They have three children together.

There is a knock at the door. Innocuous. Gregory doesn’t know it but somebody from the school across the street has called in a noise complaint. Gregory goes to the garage door, where the sound is coming from, and opens it to see who it is.

It’s the police.

Gregory closes the door. He may have wanted to grab his wallet, change his clothes. Maybe turn down the music. The police, after all, were responding to a noise complaint.

He didn’t realize he’d committed a grave error: even alone, inside your own home, it is a fatal condition to be black in America. At this moment, though he never knew it, there was no future for Gregory.

Christopher Newman, a white Florida sheriff’s deputy, shot him three times through that door. This killed him. Every dream, every hope, every project that Gregory put off was lost like rain puddles under the Florida sun. Officer Newman would claim Gregory pointed a gun at him. A gun was indeed found on Newman.

Unloaded. In his back pocket.

Odd thing for a dead man, falling back from being shot, to have the muscle memory to unload his gun and tuck it safely in his back pocket. Even odder the placement–no gun owner carries a pistol in their back pocket. You can’t draw it worth a damn in that position. Why would you sit on your gun anyway?

We know Gregory was executed for no reason. We know the cops maintain a system of white supremacy and brutal exploitation. This isn’t a story about a Black man being lynched by the police. That is as common as swimsuits at Cocoa Beach. This is a story about what came after, when “the people” have to decide if he deserved to die.

Four years ago a grand jury declined to indict Officer Newman, the usual response. Grand juries, often made up of the same “revolutionary” class destined to overthrow capitalism, frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials who kill their fellow workers.

Gregory’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Newman and his boss, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara. The hope was if “the people” weren’t willing to put a cop in prison for murder, perhaps they were at least willing to provide a small amount of resources for his widow and children. This wouldn’t harm officer Newman or the Sheriff at all: research from Joanna Schwartz of UCLA Law School found that governments, not individual officers, paid 99.98 percent of damages in the case of wrongful death.

The case finally came to a close just recently. The jury deliberated for 10 hours.

Read the rest here…

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Is Impossible To Be “Anti-War”

(Originally posted at Gods & Radicals)

“I do not weep at the world–I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”
– Zora Neale Hurston

“What is a rebel? A man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation. He is also a man who says yes, from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion.”
– Albert Camus, The Rebel

“I go over my own escape routes all the time. To survive in this state, you have to think like the French Resistance.”
― Tim Dorsey, writing about Florida in The Stingray Shuffle

Everybody pretends this is Florida in the 30’s, the 50’s, the 80’s. Nobody wants to stare into the ugly mess we’ve become or the horrible future that lies ahead. This isn’t a question of philosophy or ethics but a fundamental problem of perception that leaks into everything. Take foreign policy: if we don’t change something quick we’ll be left behind as the planet descends into the fourth layer of robot hell.

I am parked underneath a causeway, the rhythmic beat of tires against concrete echoing across the Kia which now serves as a small cabin. Pillow behind my back and stretched in the back seat, I’m typing away as I think about how many days we could camp here. The car, as always, is kitted out for misadventure: camping stove, mosquito net, hammock, table, cooking gear, and a host of supplies as well as enough beer to enjoy them.

signal-2018-05-21-205523

We weren’t in the woods. Florida’s Scenic Highway is our preferred hunting ground, a stretch of road riding up from the Keys all the way to the demilitarized zone bordering Georgia. Beside the pavement we travel is a constantly changing landscape: mangrove swamps and dilapidated motels, the Indian River and stark naked ocean, abandoned orange groves and mutated beach communities where palm trees once towered above the buildings.

Those in particular always seem dumbstruck, confused at how big they’d gotten. Rather than change they hold on to a memory, selling the illusion that everything is the same. Condos litter the shore, the mom-and pop’s have been shut down by Walmart, hell you can’t even buy fresh squeezed orange juice on the side of the road anymore.

So be it. We live and play in the here and now. The spirits of this land still speak to me, still run strong.

As the reassuring stink of low-tide hits my nostrils I laugh at the anxiety of comrades about the future. Will we invade Iran? Will we attack North Korea? And if we do…what then? The anxiety spills out to performative gestures: filters for profile pictures, memes, and the occasional street rally.

But what does that do?

The answer usually given is those in power will become aware that we, the “people,” will not stand idly by as they slaughter millions. That our rage has consequences. Politicians that want to get elected will heed the will of the people. We will go to the polls.

But what if the polls no longer matter?

We talk about war like its something that rolls out, like a rug. That it requires mobilization. That at any point the people, given just enough information and just enough voice, could stop the train and end it. We picture presidents and cabinet members rubbing their hands, hoping the voters stay quiet. We like to think we have that power.

That our emotions alone, our indignation, might set the world aright.

The truth is being “anti-war” is the same as being “anti-space” on the Space Coast. You might believe humanity nothing more than a pack of locusts, you might truly think the export of capitalism beyond our atmosphere will be nothing more than ejaculating the most foul, diseased, and fetid load onto the most pristine face we’ve ever encountered, but at the end of the day you long ago lost the ability to do anything about it.

Read the rest here…

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If Leftists Follow The Tampa Model We Might Actually Have a Chance

(Originally posted at Gods & Radicals)

“So then an egoist could never embrace a party or take up with a party? Oh, yes, only he cannot let himself be embraced and taken up by the party. For him the party remains all the time nothing but a gathering: he is one of the party, he takes part.”
– Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own

“But this force does not appear spontaneously: it must be transmitted. All objects, beings, or consecrated places exist only through the acquisition of (ashe). It is understood that the Ile, it material contents and initiates must receive (ashe), accumulate it, maintain it, and develop it…

To receive (ashe) means to incorporate the symbolic elements that represent the vital and essential principles of all that which exists, in a particular combination that individualizes and permits a determined signification. It is an endeavor to incorporate all that which constitutes the aiye and the orun, this world and the world beyond…”
– Juana Elebein Dos Santos, Os Nago e a Morte. Translated by Medahochi Kofi Zannu

Spend approximately 2.5 minutes on the internet and it will become clear to you: the Left can be the most toxic, hate-filled “community” you’ve ever had the misfortune to experience. Outright lies and willful ignorance abound, and right behind them are usually threats of violence and mass murder. Communists will get the bullet, Anarchists go straight to gulag; the Left often has a lot more in common with warring wings of the Latin Kings, Bloods, Bandidos, and Crips.

Except of course all those organizations are actually feared. They also actually do things, often violent things, and are quite capable of returning on any threat to even a score. They have power and control territories that run across multiple states.

I knew of no leftist organization that could match the tenacity, strength, and cunning of the average street gang. That wasn’t the point. I drove 180 miles into the heart of Tampa Bay to see whether or not the Left was capable of doing anything besides shitpost.

It was May Day, the holiest of days for hearts both black and red. I cracked open another beer, gulping down the frothy brew as I did eighty in a forty-five, reaching for my voice recorder.

“The event has been put on by traditional unions, Maoists, Marxist-Leninists, Wobblies, and the local DSA chapter. It is a perfect laboratory, a window, into the disparate wash of various strains of Leftism. I am unsure of what to expect.” I paused for a moment, watching the trailers and cattle zoom by, as much as piece of the landscape as the acres of oaks, pines, and palms. “The event could be a total wash, an abject failure; it could kick off a riot and potentially get me killed; it could be nothing more than one big hugging match where everybody feels good and goes home as if they’ve actually accomplished something when in reality nothing’s changed.”

Shadowy tendrils began to capture my tone. “Whatever it is…whatever I see out in Tampa today will be of great significance. If anything will happen in Florida, maybe the country….if ever there was an ideal setting for this kind of thing, this is the place. If today comes to nothing?”

I rolled down my window and turned up the cumbía. The thumbing tropical beat brought a grin from ear to ear. I set down the empty beer can and reached for another.

“Then…there is no hope. And at that point it won’t really have mattered anyway, would it?”

Cigar City

yep

The assignment started with a simple message. In my inbox, from a name and face I did not recognize, was an invitation:

“Yo are you doing anything for May Day? We’re planning to have a huge-ass event in Tampa and are trying to get leftists from around the state to show up. It’s gonna be militant as fuck.”

I was intrigued. Truthfully I had no plans of my own and had been wondering what exactly I was going to do for May Day. There was no leftist presence where I was, not even an inkling; I knew if I wanted to see real human beings even vaguely challenge the ruling order I’d need to put many miles under my feet.

The location seemed ideal. I had roots in the city and kin buried out that way, having spent the most poverty-stricken years of my youth in nearby New Port Richey. I knew Tampa was big enough to probably draw a crowd and remembered an energy there uniquely suited for revolutionary politics.

Everything in Florida cities revolves around money: Tallahassee is all about borrowing it, Miami is all about spending it, Orlando is all about taking it, and Tampa?

Tampa has always been about making it.

From the late 1880’s all the way to the 1930’s cigar manufacturing completely dominated the local economy, hundreds of firms fighting tooth and claw to outproduce and outmaneuver each other. A proudly immigrant city, Tampa also boasted its own division of the Italian Mafia, and had a stranglehold on every racket, hustle, and scam from Havana to New Orleans.  The Tampa Bay mob became notorious early on for a peculiar method of making a point to anyone that stood in the way of profit: a shotgun blast directly to the face, done in broad daylight and right in the street. The violence may be gone, but the killer instinct familiar to hustlers everywhere still survives: Tampa has gone from from cigars and bolita rackets to become the industrial, commercial, and financial hub of Florida’s entire west coast.

Electronics, medical equipment, beer, paint, steel, fertilizer, citrus products, livestock, processed shrimp, all roll through Tampa and its eighteen lines of railway. The port of Tampa handles 50 million tons of cargo every year and, thanks to its status as a “foreign trade zone,” goods can be unloaded for repacking, storage, or transshipment without being hit with additional taxes.

In a state dependent on cattle and tourism, Tampa alone had taken the Capitalist model and ran with it.

That naturally creates problems.

In the Tampa Bay area a black third-grader is half as likely as a white counterpart to read on grade level. Just a few years ago it had the nation’s highest homelessness rate. Tampa, along with Miami, is in the top ten every year for the prized position of highest income inequality in America.

Money, power, corruption, violence. Tampa was the real deal, a quiet powerhouse of global trade long reliant on a dispossessed and oppressed population. No matter what happened I’d at least get a good story out of it.

I just needed to cross the dangerous and uniquely odd territory known as the Floridian interior first.

The Sunny Place for Shady People

Moving-to-Tampa

I lived on the eastern side of the peninsula, and mere miles outside my town lay a vast and unforgiving wilderness. Danger. Death. Dismemberment. Towns long since dropped off maps and shambling, inbred creatures. Concrete castles and roads where cars rolled uphill. A trip through the Florida interior could bring one or all of these things.

Tampa was going to be easy. I could expect electricity, antibiotics, even basic literacy. Even if there was a riot, even if I got arrested, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t get cancer from the water.

No such guarantees exist in the interior. Perhaps that’s what gave Tampa a better revolutionary chance. The rest of Florida was simply too wild, too cutthroat, and too focused on eating one another to give a damn.

After packing up the essentials I hit the road…

(Read the rest here)

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Time In Connecticut

As I write these words I am deep in an unknown, alien territory. Everything around me is old, dead, looming or crumbling. Ghosts of the past and half-way forgotten factories stretch out in all directions. Dirt and trash fill the streets as black snow piles up in mini-mart parking lots. The air is cold, but not bracing. Even nature seems to have given up its efforts.

“How many fatalities on this road usually?” The driver seems puzzled I would ask such a question. The woman beside me smiles.

“Uh…not that many.”

“Accidents?”

“No. There’s so much traffic you can’t really build up the speed for that.”

I think back to the night I loaded up on vodka and hit I-95 at one-hundred and ten miles per hour, daring the world to kill me as I pushed a 1990’s Camry to its limits. Some part of my engine exploded, leaking oil all over the road and bringing me to a halt. I was stuck eighty miles from home for a day and a half.

This is not Florida.

We eat at an Italian restaurant run by a family that lives in it. They do not accept the magic fun money the college has given to its students.

“Come by tomorrow,” he tells Marten. “Is that okay?”

“Sure. Is that okay with you?”

“Yeah, yeah. I trust you man. I trust you.”

For someone hailing from a land more familiar with lynchings this is all unreal. I have never been to college. I have never been around so many books, so many young people, or so far from the sound of gunshots. These people do not pray for the deaths of their enemies, nor earnestly hope those that piss them off die in ditches.

On the way out of Florida a friend and I were talking about people we knew who’d been jumped in the woods. Why we carried guns. The moments where there was a distinct possibility we would be snuffed out like candle flames and nobody would find our bodies.

Here that world seems practically unknown.

Perhaps it is the area I’m in, the people I’ve met. Maybe none of this is normal. I watched a group of Anarchists make a shiv to break into a car when someone locked their keys inside. They then changed the motherfucker’s tire for him just because.

Nobody lives alone here and nobody owns what they call home. They tunnel into ancient houses old as the country itself, massive structures built by hands long dead and whom they’ll never know. Four, six, even nine people sharing houses, food, clothing, rides.

“This is so weird.” I’m staring out a window, hung over and near death.

“Yeah.” A man I’ll call T. taps the glass. “See that abandoned building there? I have no idea what it is. The wall completely surrounds it. There’s no entrance or exit, everything is blocked off.”

It certainly sounds like The Future.

Connecticut by all measures is a shadow of whatever it once had. You can actually see where the towns gave up as they headed towards the mountains. The landscape is no different from any other part of New England, the history not that interesting. It is a place almost without identity. Colleges and insurance companies hold most of the dignity while a general sense of “getting along” seems to be the prime ambition.

The United States will probably all look like this, though with much worse architecture. Beautiful ruins here will be burned out strip malls everywhere else, half empty super-markets home to heroin addicts and the pit bulls they care for. Less urban areas will become sprawling wastelands, wild patches of absolutely nothing but the occasional Walmart. Gangs will rule entire towns and the fires they set in dumpsters will keep them warm.

The decay is comforting in a way. Nobody believes anything will be built like the leviathans of brick and wood, the steeples and three-story towers now home to colonies of graphic artists. The past is never coming back. There is nothing to “make great again.” Connecticut has had its time and place in the sun, the long shadow of winter being all that remains.

But it is in these shadows that something peculiar is happening. Something is rising from the ruins.

My initial talk did not go over well. Asking young and impressionable college students if they were ready to “have their fingers cut off” or be sentenced to 41 years of solitary confinement for organizing was perhaps a bit…dark. I delight in the macabre, the horrifying. In a clean, safe room perhaps I was incoherent. Some people did get it, almost all of them working class. They knew the horror I raged against.

What’s better is they were actually doing something about it.

I am sworn to secrecy so I must speak generally of course. What I can say is real, dirty work is happening in the shadows of Connecticut; it is perhaps one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. They are building networks out there with very real security structures and intelligence services. They have militant action and free therapy for those negatively affected. A simple word about “opsec” was enough to make strangers nod understandingly and give conversations a wide berth. I was investigated before I ever met them. What I have seen here will change my life forever.

And these people care. They are not “party members” or ideological tools for some greater good. They actually love one another. They are people first and foremost, with names like “Grease Trap” and “Smokestack.” Anarchism wasn’t something they tore out of a book, it was a visceral byproduct of how they lived. Surrounded by these people, in these DIY spaces and crowded homes where ownership and law practically ceased to exist, I have never felt more safe in my entire life.

It is strange to be an alien here, a visitor from another planet. Hope is not my way, nor peaceful co-existence. The height of my own ambition sometimes is to secure an outpost in the wilderness where I can successfully do what I wish and kill anything that vaguely lurches in my direction. These people could surely be no kin of mine.

And yet…

Someone took a bus from New York just to hear me speak. Rhode Island showed up too. I have been hugged, quoted, even seen the very book I wrote in countless bedrooms. I have asked again and again “who am I to you?” How have I found myself here and in this company? Who were these beautiful souls I felt as if I’d known forever?

The unflinching friendship, the deep conversations, the very real sense that as the world slowly crumbled into madness and oblivion….that some people were going to be alright. That scattered about a dying planet humans were caring for one another and making sure Capital would not kill them.

Here, among the shadows, crumbling steeples, and shuttered houses, in the decay of the American empire, the final last gasps of a civilization long dead and finally rotting, new life is poking out.

Death and dismemberment will rip the United States into a thousand bleeding pieces. If this is what will rise in its place, if what I’ve seen in Connecticut even has the remotest possibility of spreading elsewhere…I look forward to each new horror with unfettered joy.

Dr. Bones
11:30am
3/30/18

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Red Scare Redux: Haven’t We Been Here Before?

(Originally posted at Gods & Radicals)

“You must recognize that, being born into a society that is harmful to us, we rebels are in reality the best slaves. Being slaves of evolution, by means of our sacrifice, we allow humanity to take a tiny step…
The people are conservative: they are satisfied with the society they find. The minority are innovators instead and therefore they rebel. The mass restrains revolutionary action with its brute weight and submits it to it.
It grows accustomed to the new state of things. It rots there until the minority rebels once again.

And do I have to suffer through this entire balancing act?”
– 
Bruno Fillipi, “The Rebel’s Dark Laughter”

This story has no real beginning for the same reason it has no ending. It’s still happening.
To you.

I had almost killed someone the night before and was nervously drinking my coffee when I noticed facebook was hiding my articles.

“Slithering fucking weasels! Miserable pieces of SHIT! I wish I could get my hands around these little bastards and just squeeeeeeze until their eyeballs POP out!”

“Who?” My wife was stepping out of the shower, drying her hair.

“Goddamn facebook! They’re-“

“Did we wash my uniform?”

“-throttling my views! What? Uh..yes. They’re downstairs.”

“What were you were saying?”

“Well its…ever since that article about gun control went viral my posts are being hidden. Look at this: a weekly reach of 68,000 people but only three people see this one? Two people here? Its bullshit! Somebody wrote me today saying everytime they try to post my articles it gets flagged as spam.”

“Maybe they think you’re a conservative?”

“With a hammer and sickle on my face?” She paused for a moment, grabbing her toothbrush.

“Didn’t you say twitter was purging accounts?”

“Yes and people are cheering it on, as if a gigantic capitalist corporation is somehow working for them. This, this is just like the hate speech laws. Remember that? When all these ‘Anarchists’ were saying we needed laws like in Germany and France? And what happened? What fucking happened? Turned out NATO considers the Anarchist ‘A’ a hate symbol. This is exactly why I’m a fucking Egoist.”

I was in no mood to watch the news, no desire to focus on anything besides card readings for clients and the ever-distant goal of some day owning my own fortified swamp compound. Trouble was everywhere, and having my dead and immobile jeep broken into the night before was not helping me calm down. There was this desperate sense pervading the air, seeping into my skin, that time itself was tightening. Some unseen clock had ticked forward and some unforseen judgement dripped closer with each passing day. But what kind? And from who?

“They act as if this is something new,” I told my wife as I passed her a mug, “that it isn’t something fundamentally American to go into a public place and murder as many people as possible. So hopped up on theory they won’t acknowledge the darkness. I’m tired of all this. Tired of being plugged in. I said what I needed to and I don’t plan on writing about it anymore, at least until the next Point of No Return. For now we need to watch.”

She blew on the coffee. “Watch for what?”

“Well…to gauge the times. This whole thing is running right at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, right at the base of the pyramid. People are being put under alot of emotional and mental stress. This is when true colors fly. The Leftist tradition states that the people are inherently liberatory, that given the chance they’ll work for the common good and advance towards freedom.”

“And the Egoist?”

“Heh.” I set down my coffee cup, running my finger around the edge. “I suppose the Egoist position would be based on…well I wouldn’t call the people reactionary. The poet Bruno Fillipi had alot to say about them. He believed that, on the whole, revolutionaries did move society around somewhat. But that the people usually ended up killing them. The innovators, the rebels, most people are fine with them up to a point. But most people don’t want change. They don’t desire any ideology or high flying ideals. What they really want is security, safety, food. Comfort. Its when that comfort gets threatened….”

The coffee mug toppled off the table and into the carpet.

“Shit.”

“I got it.”

“No no, I’ll wipe it up.”

I went into the bathroom, grabbing a towel. By the time I was back in the room my wife was flicking through the channels. It was then, right then, that I saw what appeared to be some kind of mobile corpse with its skin stretched too tight on the tv screen, a strange creature vaguely attempting to be human.

“Who…what the fuck is that?”

“The NRA is giving some kind of speech. You want to watch it?”

“Yeah. Turn it up.”

“…they hate the NRA, they hate the second amendment, they hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government they have revealed their true selves.”

It was NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, a ghastly looking figure resembling some kind of white fish with its hair pulled back. LaPierre, head of the NRA since 1991, had cemented the organization as a full blown cultural force. Whatever he planned on saying would have deep implications.

The gun-control crowd thinks the NRA is merely a lobbying organization, a gang of lawyers hidden in hallways waiting to pounce on otherwise nice Republicans and turn them into gun-toting mercenaries.

The truth however is much worse….

(Read the rest here)

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Hunter

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life…. This is the artist’s way of scribbling ‘Kilroy was here’ on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.” –William Faulkner, interview with Paris Review, 1956

There are no schools to teach you how to be a writer. You can learn the mechanics of the thing, the grammar and spelling and how to write an outline, but you’ll still be nothing more than a dressed up copy machine. To write something worthwhile, something people will remember for years to come, requires an artist’s eye and touch. You have to be capable of not only capturing life as it happens but bring out what it means; reporters can tell you the percentage of homes back on the market, but it takes a gonzo journalist to notice the semi-deflated balloon dangling from the power-line above a foreclosed home. She reads “happy birthday” in sun-soaked letters, touches the grass once made flat by children’s feet. She asks the neighbor what happened.

“Damn shame,” they mutter, “damn shame is what it is. The whole family had…had just a tremendous personality.” Later at her desk, needing to be numbed by drink, our journalist won’t just write about a family made homeless. Within those paragraphs she’ll write about God, humanity, and a system that promised everything yet never kept its word. Pain, anger, frustration, it will contain everything inside us. The emotions, the images, the very states and subjective storytelling that literally bends reality. The outside wedded to the interior, exo to eso, actual real life. Put on the page it will live on forever, pure art summoned out of real experience.

That’s the kind of writing worth doing. Hunter S. Thompson taught me that.

Strange feelings at the desk tonight. I’m compiling notes and typing away at an article for Gods & Radicals, a very weird one with plenty of thoughts on journalism. For a week I’ve felt this compulsion, like alligators driven to mate, to engage in all manner of magical weirdness. All specifically about writing. Such compulsions usually arise when I’m being pushed somewhere, when some new ledge is heading my way. A few days from now the altar to my left will be ablaze with candles in an attempt to summon something I’ve never attempted before. Beyond that plane tickets are being bought for a future event that…well, certainly makes it seem I’m heading somewhere.

Where I don’t know. For a few months now I’ve been riding this weird zone between total new-comer and semi-infamy, or at least the closest equivalent a journalist advocating revolutionary politics can reach. My last two articles had 6,000 views in a matter of days. I had a book published and co-host a podcast. People write me letters about how my pieces inspire them or dreams they’ve had where I show up.

It’s a long way from the lonely shadow staring out into the darkness of strip malls and death-by-convenience. Probabilities twirl and I’m left thinking of the past and a few dead people I have to thank. About how I got here.

It comes with the magical territory: you get to know dead people very well. Not just in the sense of saints you’ve summoned or ghostly shades you’ve enlisted to help in spells, but spirits that have changed your life. Max Stirner’s graveyard dirt sits on my desk, mere inches away as a type this; one night after downing four tabs of acid I am absolutely certain I was visited by the spirit of Jun Tsuji and taught what being an artist really meant.

But above all one dead person looms in the periphery of mind, unspoken till in a flash of lightning I remember what February 20th means.

Today is the day Hunter S. Thompson killed himself.

I was only a pre-teen when he took his life, and it wouldn’t be till later in my twenties I’d really find his work. Back when I was a kid Thompson was just a character in a movie, a cardboard-cut out that told we buzzed few we were going to be okay. Vodka before class, getting high in abandoned houses, the movie told us weren’t just cool but that we were right. That somewhere out in the world there were other fiends such as ourselves, getting paid and making it big. The infatuation, if any, was fleeting, and we moved on to other heroes.

It wasn’t till I started writing, or at least thinking about it, that I found Hunter again. In an airport on my way to Tennessee I somehow stumbled on one of his first published pieces–a tour through the community of Big Sur.

If half the stories about Big Sur were true this place would long since have toppled into the sea, drowning enough madmen and degenerates to make a pontoon bridge of bodies all the way to Honolulu.”

I found a home in his visceral and uncompromising prose. Something clicked. Vivid, funny, weird and descriptive, I quickly found myself devouring every article of his I could find. They were all straight journalism, stories about things going on, but something extra was there…an artist’s eye. Something I’d felt in myself but wasn’t quite sure how to develop. I figured when I’d get home I’d order some books and learn from the most entertaining shit I’d ever read.

He was a teacher, in every sense of the word, at least for me. Too poor for any education all I could do was read and try to understand, to see the method behind what appeared so natural. Between his pages I discovered what a triangle lead was, how to shape my beginning and endings, how dialogue could be used or highlighted. Notebooks scattered with phrases like “gonzo is the novelization of reality” hung around on tables and I felt as if I’d discovered a wonderful friend.

Hunter taught me that the real world could be just as bizarre or maddening as any fiction. That it had extra power because it contained real events. People said things, did things, that if pulled from the imagination might not be believed. Thompson, rather than retreat from the world around him, ran at it full force and armed to the teeth.

Other writers I knew wanted to write beautiful words, poems, painted landscapes and glorious futures. Long paragraphs that I quickly skipped over, boring statistics or endless chattering about theories and hypotheticals.

I liked rough words like fuck and piss and shit. I liked calling those I despised wretched, disgusting insects whose teeth deserved to be smashed out with crowbars. I saw a world ravaged and torn and I wanted to bring that home, not hide it. Thompson introduced me to the idea of “wordphotos.” I wanted to introduce them to the crime scenes of a blood-soaked world.

Gonzo journalism wasn’t just “write whatever you want fucked up.” It was a style, a specific vein of narrative. A method hidden by madness. I looked for other gonzo journalists but couldn’t find them. Through Thompson I discovered Tom Wolfe, read Storycraft by Jack Hart, and learned there was an entire theory behind what Hunter was doing. Nobody spoke truth to power quite like Hunter though.

“This is the horror of it: That in 1995 the standard/text high school history books will not say that America in the 1960s was ruled and effectively gutted by a gang of cheap thugs who also happened, for reason of political necessity, to be Mass Murders. The history books will not say that Lyndon Johnson was more vicious than Mussolini and more stupid than Hitler. They will not say that Robert McNamara’s hands were so bloody that after five years he forgot what blood smelled like . . . and that ranking Generals with ‘honored West Point names’ like Taylor & Westmoreland & Abrams were still screaming, all the way to the end, for more blood and bombing and fire . . . and that even in 1971, with the awful truth so obvious that even Senators could see it, the ranking fixers who still ruled the U.S. congress were threatening editors of the New York Times with “prosecution for Treason” because they finally published documented proof of what a whole generation had been screaming in the streets for five years-while fifty thousand others died senselessly to protect a dozen or so wealthy dope-dealers who were also Generals and occasionally Presidents of that cancerously corrupted little finger of Asia called ‘South Vietnam.’

These dirty truths will not appear in the history texts of 1995. The hired fixers will take over just as soon as the undeclared war is unofficially finished-just as soon as the last shark is called off and brought home for an angry rest. And not one of these blood-hungry Hammerheads scumbags will ever be nailed to the final whipsaw judgement they all deserve.”

That same power, the same horror, was all around me. Choking the world, sending it to hell, working my loved ones to death. Gonzo journalism, as a true style valuing first-person narratives, dialogue, and a novelist’s treatment of reality, became my written weapon of choice in a one man war against all I hated.

Thompson’s writing wasn’t just educational, he was a kindred spirit as well. I read his letters in Proud Highway at the same rate crackheads pawn car stereos. This was not the Vegas Thompson, the one who knows he’s made it. The one with the house, the plane tickets, the press pass. This was Thompson carried on by only a vague knowledge that what he had was special, determined to either make it or starve. I saw him arguing with editors, struggling to pay rent, screaming at bill collectors. He was one of us, the dispossessed, trying to explain to people the magic he saw in Fitzgerald’s wordplay. The knowledge that so humble a writer could achieve such greatness inspired me to keep going.

I read him in The Great Shark Hunt. There were stories of madness of course but also Thompson as a young reporter in South America, miraculously giving us a full narrative in what felt like a mere 1,000 words. There was Thompson going out West and musing on the American dream, writing about the Hippy culture, air-force pilots, anything and everything. He was older and successful there too, mentioning drugs but focused like a laser on the ’72 campaign trail. Beyond mere reporter he gave us a glimpse into the seedy world of politics, the open bars for reporters, the cramped hotels, the endless gambling of points and polls. Everywhere Thompson went he was pulling these deeper threads, drawing out themes and motifs that had been there all along but nobody had bothered to see, the same ones that would carry implications we’re living with today:

“One of the strangest things about these five downhill years of the Nixon presidency is that despite all the savage excesses committed by the people he chose to run the country, no real opposition or realistic alternative to Richard Nixon’s cheap and mean-hearted view of the American Dream has ever developed. It is almost as if that sour 1968 election rang down the curtain on career politicians. This is the horror of American politics today – not that Richard Nixon and his fixers have been crippled, convicted, indicted, disgraced and even jailed – but that the only available alternatives are not much better; the same dim collection of burned-out hacks who have been fouling our air with their gibberish for the last twenty years. How long, oh Lord, how long? And how much longer will we have to wait before some high-powered shark with a fistful of answers will finally bring us face-to-face with the ugly question that is already so close to the surface in this country, that sooner or later even politicians will have to cope with it?”

I read him in Hells Angels, a young Thompson again, not just explaining who the Angels were but why and what it truly felt like to ride with them. He brought us to The Edge, into the bars, and even payed the price when he broke the rules and called out an Angel for beating their wife and dog. He went deep into the thick of it, where the action was, far away from everything bland and safe. In the dirty vests and oil-soaked jeans Thompson saw the first waves of something far-reaching and terrible:

“This whole kind of alienated, violent, subculture of people wandering around looking for either an opportunity, or if not an opportunity then vengeance for not getting an opportunity. They get to be 30 and suddenly they wake up one morning and they realize there are no more chances. It’s all gone. It makes them meaner. They want to get back at the people who put them in this terrible, this dead end, tunnel…

…the same venom that the Angels are spewing around in public, a lot of people are just keeping bottled up in private. I think this technological, the science of obsolescence, or the fact that people are becoming obsolete. The people who are most affected by this technological obsolescence are the ones least capable of understanding the reason for it, so the venom builds up much quicker. It feeds on their ignorance.”

The Rum Diary came to me at a very important point in my life. The anxiety of getting older had begun to creep in and I was starting to lose confidence. Working all the time, no time to write, reading Thompson spending his days riding with outlaws or at home banging out words. Here was a Caribbean world I longed for, the simple chance to make a living doing what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. I saw myself sitting in hot rooms with no fan on, typing in air so thick you could choke on it. Sweating, feverishly so, but happy knowing here I could do as I wished. Odd hours, night-time adventures, running on a weird blend of skill and luck. The chance to be my own person, free to get drunk and muse about the greater Truths that swirled around me. Thirteen hour days made all that impossible. I felt like somewhere I fucked up. A silent scream had begun to build within me and I couldn’t quite place it. Something about everything seemed to be eating me alive and it was on one of his pages I found the words I’d been looking for:

“Goddamnit, man, I tell you it’s the fear of the sack! Tell them that this man Kemp is fleeing St. Louis because he suspects the sack is full of something ugly and he doesn’t want to be put in with it. He senses this from afar. This man Kemp is not a model youth. He grew up with two toilets and a football, but somewhere along the line he got warped. Now all he wants is Out, Flee. He doesn’t give a good shit for St. Louis or his friends or his family or anything else…he just wants to find some place where he can breathe…”

I’m still looking for that place, but I know one day I’ll find it. The Rum Diary, written mostly when Thompson was merely twenty-two, let me know I wasn’t the only one with the Fear I’d never get free.

Not many people know Thompson’s pain, the hidden tragedy of his life. He watched the hippies get jobs and vote gleefully for the Iraq War, watched the Democrats toughen drug laws and incarcerate millions. Reading his letters and watching him speak I saw him struggle with the knowledge that the one thing he’d always be known for was pure fiction; his life, his journalism had been brushed aside for a character he created, leading him to openly wonder if it was better if he just died to get out of the way of the legend.

This version of him seems forgotten by your average reader, the same person who warned us to “never create anything, it will be misinterpreted, it will chain you and follow you for the rest of your life.” The image of Thompson, a larger than life character that hinted the “tyranny of the rat race was not yet final” ended up consuming him. He became food for other people. The same writer who wrestled with the modern world and spent his life pointing at difficult truths was enshrined by an entire public who couldn’t stop staring at his finger.

They forget Hunter’s fast life ended up catching up to him. Wheelchair bound, in constant pain, the same man who craved speed above all else became painfully aware everything he loved was dripping away. Though he owned innumerable pistols he ended up grabbing a shotgun, killing himself as Hemingway had many years before.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t understand. If not understand, at least sympathize.

Hunter visited Hemingway’s grave when he was still a roving correspondent, still youthful and trying to find his voice. He noted Hemingway had somehow become lost in the modern world, unable to deal with a reality of shifting greys and questionable moral choices. Hunter had no such trouble. Even right before his death he railed against the American War Machine, spit venom at our acceptance of torture, and refused to tread lightly while everyone else bowed reverently to a flag. He still saw the greater picture, the greater meaning behind things all the way to the end, and refused to allow his readers to look away.

Hunter once wrote that there was “not much evidence in history of either God or Justice. The best we can hope for is Truth.”

If his writing has taught me anything it’s that sometimes…sometimes that’s enough. And for that I will always, always be thankful.

Posted in Newsroom | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump’s Military Parade Isn’t Fascist. It’s Older and Much Worse.

(Originally posted at Gods & Radicals)

…These aren’t the cowboys of the West, Rhyd. These are those same rough people, true, but ours have been grafted onto a feudal order. Standards are everything, hierarchy sacred. Killings down here arise from pissing contests, bar-fights, or marital promises; they kill for honor, to save face, to hold onto whatever place they can in a doomed and rotten society, the same one that promises them legions of black and brown waitresses, cashiers, janitors, and punching bags…

They are primed and ready to go wherever the finger points. And if skin color is the uniform of the enemy?

So be it.

Where will it go, Rhyd? North Korea? Iran? Perhaps the apocalyptic war with China we’ve all dreamed of? Or will the finger point firmly at our own chests?

Maybe there is a degree of revenge in all this. In the 1960’s the South was a backwards wilderness, the laughing stock of the country. How things change. Our cities are growing, our churches dominate the continent, we ARE the Republican Party. We run this shit even when we aren’t in office. The South’s aversion to both minimum-wage standards and unions, born from the right of the wealthy to treat people like property, is official national policy. If your children go to public school it is we who write their textbooks. Southern ideas are so wedded to what is “American” now you can see confederate flags in Michigan, Nevada, and even Maine.

The United States is their property, the descendants of these settlers, don’t you see? It’s history repeating itself. They’ve colonized the United States, made it theirs, violently pushed out anything that wasn’t their own. This parade is one part NASCAR victory lap and another part consecration ritual for the bloodshed ahead: a mass-produced version of Alabama stretching from coast to coast, soldiers with affected or natural southern drawls fresh from Iraq running security checks on “commies” and “illegals,” itching for a chance to prove their honor by machine-gunning a protest or becoming “doorkickers” in black neighborhoods. No education, no future beyond the whims of a landed gentry living in clean mansions away from poisoned air and cancer-laden food, a trailer-park version of Israel wrapped in eagles and mountain dew. They’ll see themselves as heroes, saviors, champions in a war to put everything “right” as Jesus so joyfully intended… and this time the vile “darkness” in the way of their barbaric and cruel “values” are us.

Read more here…

Posted in Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment