From my weekly column at Greed: “No Quarter.”
(GREED) – Anomie: a condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals. It is the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community, e.g., under unruly scenarios resulting in fragmentation of social identity…
Contrary to popular belief Thanksgiving was not founded as a holiday to celebrate the American genocide of first nation’s people, nor to remember the salvation of any pilgrims. It was made a national holiday by none other than Abraham Lincoln at the height of the Civil War for “the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” In affect it was a holiday celebrated independently by the States brought under Federal control for propgandic value creating a sense of unity and national togetherness, one gigantic collective hallucination to fuse diverse cultures and peoples into one.
According to a Gallup poll released Monday, 77% of Americans believe the country is split over the most important values that govern their lives, revealing a people more divided and different than united and free. These aren’t mere trifles either, but the ideas and motivations that people think make the world go round. The end of the Civil War didn’t erase the cultural differences among and even within the states, and numerous tribes and societies that had existed on their own kept living as they had before, merely paying lip service to the law in exchange for some tangible benefit.
For millions of Americans that tangible benefit is slowly dissolving.
“What’dya spend drug money on? Exotic animals.”
Wrapped around my friend’s hand is what once was an extremely rare scaleless everglades rat snake, a creature she bought with less-than-legal means for the low low price of $3,000 several years ago. At one point it was one of only 30 in the world, it’s home now a humble plastic bin in a low-income apartment complex.
Halloween masks hang from corners of the wall, previous year editions of costume contests that could end up costing hundred of dollars. The sewing machine in a corner hisses away as another comrade affixes patches to my reporter bag. “FORTUNE TELLER” reads one, “ARCANE LORE” reads another.
The girl with the snake leans in allowing me to touch this strange and magnificent creature.
“It’s so smooth,” I remark as I pull from a small rum bottle tucked in my pocket.
“$3,000 is nothing. When you start getting into ball pythons your looking at 15, maybe 25 thousand. People will line up for them. It’s insane.” She says the same snakes often end up as King Cobra food when the different mutations wane in style and price.
Living toys, breed and sold for thousands of dollars only to eventually wind up in the gullet of another snake so dangerous it was barely legal to even mention it. She tells me of enthusiasts nervously doing special knocks on local hotel doors, rooms for cheap salesman or aging hookers becoming “hot” zoos for one night only, entire pet pigs fed to illegal constrictors that sell for prices that rival new homes.
“That’s where the real action is,” she exclaimed from wet eyes, “any reptile meet in the US has a whole underground scene following it. Cobras, Black Mambas, things you can go to jail for. It’s an entire world.” She paused for a brief moment and then spoke in an aching tone.
“I miss it so much.”
There was something uncanny in her words, an odd attachment to a scene that rivaled emotions one was supposed to feel for one’s “countrymen.” She thought little of the American mass, even less of it’s institutions, and from tattoo to tattoo seemed to exist without any acknowledgement of the “power” above her, much less felt any sense of kinship for it.
She existed beyond national control, and she wasn’t the only one.
It’s a long standing idea that the United States is actually a collection of much smaller nationscoexisting, cultures complete with languages, codes, and histories all their own, united only by force and the might of the Federal government. While the Civil War brought the states under control organizations like the Hell’s Angels, the Bloods, the Mafia, and the Winter Hill Gang have practically lived outside of national concerns and even wielded immense power on local levels often rivaling that of governments, yet they’ve never seen themselves as anything outside the United States. To do so, as the Black Panthers learned, was to invite immediate ruin.
Mini-societies, legal or no, have recently existed during an age of relative economic stability, and no community has yet been able to match the benefits of courts of law, social security, or finance laws that keep the bank at bay while they file foreclosure. No matter what the gang can do for you, no matter how much your neighbors share and work together, only the government provides the safety net for you to fall back on, and as such, demands a loyalty all it’s own. That or it has enough force to ensure you keep your head down.
But what if the things that made that loyalty, those safety nets, went away? What if companies were allowed to do as they pleased and it was well known the government wouldn’t lift a finger to help you?
Consider that fact that at Standing Rock private contractors are rumored to be snatching people up in the dead of night and quite publicly treating a supposedly sovereign people as livestock in the way of “progress.” Just recently a woman had her fucking arm blown off by a concussive grenade while handing out water while the government keeps announcing things will change and that they want to“let it play out.” Black Lives Matter protesters know this bitter truth all too well, being paid the barest of lip service by Democrats when convenient and having the struggle to ensure black folks aren’t wantonly murdered by police referred to as “terrorism” by Republicans.
The country draws ever near a precipice, fracturing everywhere. We were told we were free, that our voices mattered, yet increasingly all the benefits of citizenship in a country none of us picked to be in seem increasingly shabby. What might this disillusion with the federal government look like on an even grander scale?
“Hey,” the comrade at the sewing machine gets my attention. “You remember those mushrooms that wouldn’t grow?”
“The hallucinogenic ones? Yeah.”
“Come check this out.”
I’m lead through the kitchen, past a pitbull, and into a little room crowded with clothing. At one end of the wall, as if an altar, is a plastic bin engulfed in strands of mycelium where only a week ago there was none. I’m amazed at the progress.
“What’d you do differently?”
A big smile creeps over his face. “Organite man. I put it under the bin and moved it around every few days. Looks like it did the trick.” He’s of course referring to Orgone theory, a rival physics put out by the only scientist ever to have his books burned in an attempt to silence him, William Reich. The hallucinogenic mushrooms will be sold, untaxed, to denizens of local night clubs that organize in “vampire clans.”
The prosperity Lincoln stressed in his first thanksgiving day address is long gone and getting worse. Millennials are widely acknowledged to be the first generation worse off than their forebears economically and as an already shitty economy hurdles towards an ever increasing automatized work force(with a loss of 45% of American jobs) folks are assuring us that if we want to survive we “need to increase the number of start up companies” and “reduce the burden of the regulatory environment“that provides things like minimum wages and healthcare.
A nation that already can’t stand each other is being told it’s going to need to get used to a world where 3 jobs and two roommates is necessary just to break even. The American dream isn’t just a lie, it’s a trap designed to lead you so far into debt you’ll put up with anything so long as you have a door that locks and a roof that occasional keeps out the rain.
More and more are opting out, if not fighting against that dream completely.
This apartment home to clandestine snakes and experimental psycho-active physics may exist within the United States but it is a hub of an entirely different world with it’s own culture, it’s own values, it’s own science, and even it’s own economics. The night clubs haven’t yet declared themselves Vampiric Autonomous Zones, but that’s not to say others haven’t.
Serve the People LA, made up of Maoists who have claimed a neighborhood as sovereign territory, are currently fighting developers and city engineers to maintain the culture and rent level of their area. What they lack in capital they make up in ruthless tenacity.
A realtor who invited clients to tour the neighbourhood for bargain properties and to enjoy “artisanal treats” felt the backlash within hours.
“I can’t help but hope that your 60-minute bike ride is a total disaster and that everyone who eats your artisanal treats pukes immediately,” said one message. “Stay outta my fucking hood,” said another.
Fearing violence, the realtor cancelled the event.
An opera company which tried to stage a performance at the park was drowned out by shouts, whistles and a brass band. Students from across town who attempted an educational walking tour of the area encountered masked activists who shadowed them and ordered them to leave.”
On an even larger level we’re seeing the same urge for autonomy play out in the idea of the CalExit, an idea puffed up by Silicone Valley moguls like Shervin Pishevar, angel investor and co-founder of Hyperloop One, and Marc Hemeon, CEO and founder of Design Inc.
The argument is the same that was made during the heydays of Cascadia: As the sixth-largest economy in the world, California is more economically powerful than France and has a population larger than Poland. Yet even in it’s most stoned optimism few Californians believed Uncle Sam was going to let one of his most profitable Human Farms run off and declare independence. Even less likely was the folks from Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco having the lead or muscle to back up any sovereign intentions.
Of course that’s California as it is now. With Trump ready to challenge the sanctuary status of many immigrant-friendly cities there’s no telling how tones might change, and a few million dollars dropped in any campaign’s war chest can either by a lot of advertising or a lot of guns.
The same week Americans will gather around tables to celebrate a holiday designed to remind us of a shared national identity armed Communists were ready to fire on White Supremacists in Austin, Black Separatists were giving survival training in New Orleans, and mentions of Donald Trump were followed by shouts of “Hail Trump! Hail Our People! Hail Victory!” Even if the country somehow defies all odds and becomes an economic superpower it will still be a country in name only, a people on paper but a clashing mass of khanates in reality; trenches are being dug between ideologies so opposed co-existence is simply out of the question. Not since the days of Lincoln has the country been closer to bloodshed and as Uncle Sam weakens the American people will be left to search for something else to give them meaning, security, and a sense of belonging.
As we prepared to leave my wife notices the snake charmer doesn’t have a charger for her DS and offers to give a spare we have at no charge. Drunk on rum I interject.
“Do you know what that just was?” They both look at me confused.
“No,” says the Snake Charmer, “what WHAT was?”
“Boo, did you give her that charger because she had a need?”
“And according to your own ability?”
“With no thinking about capital relations or earning a profit?”
“Here we go-“
“Communism! That right there was full blown communism and you didn’t even realize it!”
They both laugh and return to their conversation, and I return to discussions of armaments with the comrade who goes outside for a smoke, mentioning he had dreams as a child he’d be born for some massive struggle.
We talk politics, riots, guns, and what life might be like in a liberated territory. As smoke rises to the heavens like prayers to the spirits we wait for the death throes of the old world to ring in the birth cries of the new.
If next Thanksgiving looks anything like this one, we won’t have to wait for long.
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