by j-a

[main menu] [thoughthistory menu]

August 2005

Just Passin' Thru
(this nightmare landscape)

two dreams

Nobody's right when everybody's wrong.
Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"
I need a new format gimmick. This one is getting pretty boring.
Or maybe I'm the one who's getting boring, stale and dun.

1. I'm living with a woman, but when she leaves the house one day for some reason I secretly follow her to a marginal neighborhood of row houses where, as far as I know, she has no reason to go. She enters one of the houses and I and a friend stake out the place, trying to discover why she is here. Apparently, she has left me and is choosing to live here. Later in the day, a woman comes out of the house and discovers us. She summons two Arab guys to "take care" of us. They're skinny little younger guys whom we can "handle" easily, but their sinister appearance gives them a fearful edge. (They are afraid of us, and we are afraid of them.) I try to communicate with one of the guys, but despite the fact that I speak fluent Arabic and he speaks fluent English, and we speak to each other in both languages, I have a difficult time convincing him that we are not enemies and that our presence here has to do with a woman, and nothing more. But I finally manage to get my point across. Nevertheless, when people, mostly Arabs and only a few "poor whites," start coming out of the row houses into the large (three-sided) courtyard (really just a parking-like area between two streets of row houses), we feel threatened and begin to shoot them. We massacre all of them as they try to run away; we can't let any of them escape to tell of the atrocity. I corner one particularly good-looking young white woman with black hair. I'm attracted to her and I'm sorry that I have to shoot her; but I do. And then, as she's dying, we fall in love. We have a few ecstatic moments, and before she dies, she tells me not to grieve, that she has a terminal illness and was going to die soon anyway. Whew!

I don't know why I never realized this before; it's so obvious: There's a definite connection between psi phenomena, death, and love. The ability to love readily is the same openness as responsiveness to the "psychic" realm. In either case, intuition enables a connection, a communion, that defies the barriers of "normal" human thought/belief. And dreams are the most obvious manifestations of the psychic realm. But I may be playing two different definitions of the word "psychic" against each other here; I'm not sure. I fall back into sleep wondering why there should be any discrepancy between an internal and an external form of psychic experience.

2. I am President Bush speaking at a press conference in response to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's videotaped threats against the U.S. and Britain. I say that al-Zarqawi is an ignorant thug who wages war against the West because he's a small man who is incompetent in dealing with people in a normal way and must resort to aggressive behavior in order to express his pathology. "And," I add as an afterthought, "recent intelligence leads us to believe that he has a very small penis." The reporters in the room are astounded; a few of them are offended, but most of them are amused. The media, of course, turn the statement into the story of the week. TV pundits ponder the implications of the President of the U.S. having used the p-word on national television. At a subsequent press conference, in my opening remarks, I say that I've been advised not to make any more penis jokes and that I'm a bit dumbfounded that there's been such a media uproar over the remarks I'd made. "I only said it," I say, "because I thought it was common knowledge." I awaken laughing.

You see, this is exactly what Bush (or any politician) needs to do to win the hearts and minds of the citizens. Everyone is so damn serious.

I mean, it's only life, people. And the terrorists are going to blow us up anyway. So why not offend them publicly? Everyone is so uptight and pc.

Politicians (and a lot of other people) feel like they need to protect themselves, because they won't get re-elected. They do what's necessary in that regard.

But Bush is the same loser he always was throughout his earlier life. He was never reborn; the only rebirth was his image that he became something different.

I know that a lot of people will take offense at that statement. But so what? I'm not a politician. I'm just the messenger here folks, just passing through.

People "kill the messenger" either because s/he reports only the news s/he agrees with or because s/he's a bad-newsmonger who enjoys upsetting people.

I may be both; or neither. I haven't decided yet. But then again it's not really my decision, is it? People (will) make up their minds about me, one way or the other.

We should have learned a lesson from Nixon; but we didn't. And we won't learn a lesson from Bush either. When it comes to politics, the electorate is incorrigibly naive.

And, if you voted, that means you, so don't be pretending that you agree with me that all of those other people are the ones I'm talking about.

Right and left wing zealots are the problem, true; but moderate centrists are as much to blame for sitting on their asses on their big, fat fences.

Right wing zealots who deny left wing protestors the right to assemble and express their dissent think they do so out of patriotism; but they do not. These are not patriots of a free democracy, but fascists who want to suppress the democratic ideal in favor of a single-minded politics wherein only the acceptable beliefs are allowed. There is no better symbol of this state of mind than the redneck supporter of the president who ran over the crosses and American flags at that display that memorialized the military dead on the road to Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch because they were erected by the supporters of Cindy Sheehan during her camp-out effort to convince the president to talk to her in person about the death of her son.

Not that the left has any moral high ground here, because it's just as contentious; maybe more so. How do you expect people to react when you stick it their faces and "defah their authoritah?"

But, hey, I don't care. Do what you want, y'all. I'm just passing through, remember?

wrong number

Message on my answering machine:
"Dave, this is Ralph. It really wasn't important. I'm just trying to figure out what day it was. I think today's my birf'day, Maybe I'll get this message... Give me a call and let me know what day it is."

My new neighbor--not the current neighbor who's living there now, but a new guy who has moved in next door--is remodeling his house and has dumped a whole lot of excavated and residual building material into my side yard. I don't want to confront him about it, I don't want to be a confrontational kind of person, so I watch from inside the house and wait to see what will happen. He quickly begins to clean it all up and move it around into his backyard [a kind of self-fulfilling expectation; if only that'd work as well in "real" life]. One of the reasons I don't want to confront my neighbor is that I am in my underwear [recurrent symbolism for feeling socially insecure]. I'm standing in the kitchen in front of the mirror on the wall next to the bathroom, but at the same time it's as if there is no mirror and I am standing outside myself and surveying my body image in a way that is more critical than if I were looking in a mirror because I can see myself as if I am someone else; and I don't like what I see. [This is symbolism for me analyzing myself in a social context.] I see myself as the new guy who moved in across the street (which is not all that bad, now that I think of it, because his woman is hot; and she likes me, judging by the way she looks at me and talks to me when I encounter her in the street). I think that the guy looks slightly more macho than I am (which is not really true; I don't have a good--or bad--self-image in this regard); but he looks a little bit paunchy and neo-nerdy too, a bit like Carson Daly before he lost the weight. [Hmm. Maybe I look that same way and am in denial.] I'm disgusted with my heavier body image, even though it's more "beefy" than actually fat. That is, I should feel good about my new, more macho look; but in the dream, I do not.

The answering machine awakens me, and I realize that the message had started before I dreamed the above and ended after I dreamed it. It amazes me that "all of that content" could have been packed into that short period of a few seconds. But, when I look at the content critically, I understand that there were only three brief images: my neighbor dumping stuff, my neighbor cleaning it up, and my consideration of my body image; three quick ideas/images, laden with a lot of affect that need not be directly expressed in the dream so much as felt afterwards in memory--or, more correctly, felt in the passing moment, but expanded in time in retrospect. Dreams are strange and funny distortions. Or is it reality that's the distortion of what we dream?

Dreams express what we typically repress, so that we have an outlet for the thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. that would otherwise remain bottled up. (Actually, they do remain bottled up, within the dream, which we interpret in our waking state as being expanded, but which in truth is a highly compacted form of experience, a big, wide world contained within the confines of our small brains.) We tend in this modern world with its diverse forms of psychotherapy to think that we should work with dreams to come to an understanding of them so that we may grow in conscious awareness of our own hidden selves. But maybe, and this is nothing but pure conjecture, just accepting the fact of dreaming itself and celebrating its existence is enough--because what is dreaming, after all, but our unconscious therapy? In our dream world, we are healed, able to feel and express what we cannot when we are awake. Movies are the second best unconscious therapy, where we can project our unconscious content onto them. But, as with dreams, if we do not strive for some kind of conscious realization of the process, the therapy lasts only as long as the dream/movie does. And I'm beginning to see the possibility of a third form of therapy: telephone calls and messages.

switch baiting

First, I only keep my phone for emergencies and so that my family and few close friends can get in touch with me. I never answer the phone for any other reason.

Second, I don't know that you're really from the census bureau. You could be a telemarketer or a scam artist phishing for information in order to steal my identity.

And, anyway, all of my past dealings with the census bureau have been by mail, and I assume that if you really want to contact me, you'll use that traditional means of communication.

But even if you should, I still would have no reason to believe that you're legitimate; and even if you are, I have no reason to believe that what you have to say is true.

Considering the way the government has been lying lately, it seems likely to me that you're just another branch of the government trying to put something over on the citizenry.

And even if you're not, even if you are totally aboveboard, I have no reason to want to enable a federal bureaucracy that is at best incompetent. I have no use for government.

The census bureau has been leaving messages, a whole lot of them, on my answering machine. I refuse to answer any calls the import of which I do not know for certain.

(It's a defense mechanism.)

So, one day while I'm working with my plants on the porch, a car pulls up and, before I can escape into the house, I realilze I have been seen. A lady gets out of the car and heads my way.

"Mr. Jackson?"
[No response. Just an expectant stare.]
"Are you Mr. Joseph Jackson?"
[Slight rise of the head, which could be acknowledgement.]
"I'm from the United States Census Bureau."
[No response.]
"We've been trying to call you about a study we're doing."
[No response. Only an expectant stare.]
"We'd like your cooperation. It's entirely voluntary."
"Well, if it's voluntary, then I'm not interested."
"You're not interested in helping out your government?"
[I hear a bit of incredulity in her voice.]
"May I ask why not?"
"It's a matter of personal psychology."
"Still, you are a citizen."
[No response.]
"I'd think you'd want to help your government."
"I don't support the efforts of people who kill other people."
"But I don't kill people. Our department doesn't kill people."
"You're a part of a corrupt government.
"I'm not corrupt."
"You can't separate yourself out from it."
"That's not fair. I'm a peace-loving person."
"Funny. That's what the president says too."
"I'm sure he is."
"I'm not."
"I don't see what one thing has to do with the other."
"Unless you stand against all killing, you're the problem."
"I'm just a government employee trying to do her job."
"Just following orders."
"What could I do, anyway?"
"You could quit your job."
"It's a very good job. I wouldn't want to lose it."
"So you go along with genocide instead."
"You think Iraq is genocide?"
"How can you say that?"
"Maybe if they weren't killing so many innocent people."
"Those things happen in a war."
"Which is why we should refuse to support all war."
"But there are just wars."
"You're either with us or against us."
"I can't say that I agree with you. Sometimes war is necessary."
"Are you a Christian?"
"Yes. I am."
"Then you should know better."
"Christians are just ordinary people, you know."
"Yeah. But they're people who supposedly strive to be better."
"Well, if that's the way you feel, then I guess there's no sense in continuing this conversation."
"That's what I said in the first place."
[She turns and huffs away.]

supply and demand

Our heritage informs us that it's okay, under certain circumstances, to kill people. But we should be better than that by now. We should be striving to adopt a new psychology. We may not be capable, as a species, or within the limitations of our sociological constraints, to prevent ourselves from wanting "justice" (which is what most people call revenge, a delusion they must maintain), but we can at least formulate an ethos where we restrain ourselves from acting in kind, in act or even simply by lashing out verbally, when we are confronted by those who would restrict and/or denigrate us; and, better than mere ethics, we can make it an individual conscious contingency management program, those of us who care to improve ourselves alone, even if we despair of the improvement of the species.

I've improved myself by disallowing others to get beneath my skin. I know how to stonewall people--when I can manage to exist for a while in a state where stress does not accumulate into a chronic condition. I have learned how to achieve this state. It's easy. All I have to do is avoid people for a long enough time. And if I do this, eventually, as if acting out some cosmic script they don't understand they are participating in, they come looking for me. It's all a matter of supply and demand: the more you hide away, the more people wonder about you and want to know you. And if they ever get that opportunity, often they will come away either disappointed or upset--because there was a reason in the first place for why they found contact so difficult to begin with. When your psychology seems foreign to others, because they deny and repress so well, you have no choice but to exclude yourself, before they do it for you; or before they begin to insist that you become like them and try to manipulate you in that direction. This is why I turn to art, a secondary derivative of communion.

ingrained division

Writing is like painting; it renders images. All art is mimetic, despite the supposed theoretical difference between mimetic and eidetic forms of art: eidetic art is merely an interior mimesis.

My art, especially my writing, has tended toward the "eidetic." When it's not a direct interior monologue, it's psychological analysis of the "characters" I encounter, disguised, if you will, as art.

All storytelling is mimesis, with perhaps punctuations of eidetic "imagery" that conventional critics, especially modern ones, consider flaws or, at best, asides of the writer/artist to be tolerated.

Only in the memoir (which has made a big comeback as literature seems to have finally escaped the firm grip of modernism) is interior design praised, when it is (John Updike notwithstanding).

But I'm probably wrong about all this. This may have been truer some twenty or so years ago; that's when I pretty much gave up reading as a full-time contact sport. Now, I watch movies instead--and dream my own:.

I'm at Clarion State College in the Art Department, which is being moved to a new building. The "staff" is taking advantage of this opportunity to clear out a lot of old supplies and art projects that have been lying around, hung onto fondly by previous professors. I'm not currently a student, but am back at this place because of the move. I realize that most of the art is mine, done while I was a student. It seems that enough of the professors liked the work so much that it was never disposed of. But the time has come. And, although I have no official say, I object. I begin going through the canvases, and I realize that I had done a whole lot of good work, complex, colorful and textural paintings that appeal to me and that I think are great, even though I recognize a certain lack of skill in a lot of it. I want to keep this stuff, but I have no place to store it, and no way to transport it even if I did. But I don't want it thrown away. My mother is there, apparently a part of the decision-making group. [Hmmm. So that's what this is all about.] I find a lot of old photos of our family and others, valuable for the antiquity alone, independent of their sentimental value. But my mother seems to have no concern for their value; they're to be discarded with the rest of the stuff. I begin to get upset and angry that I cannot change anyone's mind. I go into a back room and find a wealth of art supplies that are also going to be tossed. This disturbs me even further. What a waste.

Art, for me (probably for everyone) is how I attempt to bridge the gap between my self and others, when more conventional methods of communion will not work. But art itself is communion once removed--and further removed when the mainstream culture you exist within values conventional, superficial artforms that can be easily bought and sold over forms that can communicate a deeper insight into what it means to bridge the isolation gap. (It's an impossible divide when your schizoid orientation is so fundamentally ingrained, even within the society that attempts to nurture you.)

organizational control

When I'm not doing art or forcing myself to complete tasks that "must" be done despite the fact that I don't want to do them, I play video games (mostly solitaire card games) in order to satisfy my obsession with putting things in order, when I can't manage to rouse myself enough to actually get up off my ass and accomplish something physical. And I play them as a means of reducing mental stress, before it builds to a point where it debilitates me, and I justify the activity by listening to internet feeds of the BBC or PBS, so that I can say that what I'm really doing is enlightening myself with the news. Of course, if I would shut off the computer and go get active, that would easily short-circuit the stress as well, probably in a more efficient way. It's something I should be doing. I used to do it all the time, physically organize my immediate environment in order to (at least pretend to) maintain some kind of control. (Maintaining physical organization of your environment is actually mental control of your own inner self.)

I'm walking down my front steps toward the driveway. Marcia walks across the street and stands at the bottom of the steps. I stop a few steps above her. She looks up at me, her lips slightly parted. It's obvious what she wants me to do. I bend down and kiss her. She turns into Eileen and the attraction I feel for Marcia is multiplied. CUT TO:
An old workplace: Rita sits at a desk in the production area of the screen printing department, processing one by one a huge list of numbers. I sit in a chair beside her checking each number as she finishes it. Though I know this is mindless busy work that should be done by flunkies, and though I know we have been assigned to do it to keep us out of the way and out of "trouble," still I don't mind and I appreciate the work. A production worker comes up to me and says he's having a problem with a job he's doing. I go over to his machine. He's supposed to be printing "expiration dates" onto boxes of cereal, but the machine isn't working because the "stamp" that's supposed to be doing the imprinting is missing from the (master) "box" on the machine. The problem is so basic to the fundamental procedure that I feel like management should never have overlooked it. I go into the office to report this to Roger. But he's busy tying up the loose ends of a meeting with a bunch of young newbie yuppie women semi-execs (who have replaced Rita and me?) and he doesn't want to deal with me. But I manage to command his attention in a (subtle and respectful) way so that he has no choice but to consider what I have to say. As we talk, he gathers his things together--a number of briefcase-like bags and pouches, too many to be an efficient means of transporting business and personal materiel. We walk out of the office as his speech gets more and more obtuse and almost "crazy," as if he's borderline psychotic. It's obvious to me that he's losing it, and trying to get away from me, heading home for the day, stressed out and fed up with the place. But he can't leave while I'm engaging him in conversation; he's not that kind of person. But as I'm talking to him, we're moving closer and closer to the elevators. As we near the door, he "climbs" up above me (without actually climbing, but as if he just sort of rises onto non-existent scaffolding). From his position "above" me he begins to pontificate in a kind of management-ese, making no real sense, but just spouting management clichs and babbling about how I should handle the problem. I give up, allow him to leave, and return to Rita, who is still busy working on the numbers. I ask her if she's noticed that Roger seems to be losing it. She says nothing, but I feel her tacit agreement. Eileen shows up, as if she's been there all along. I'm sitting and she stands close to me with her breast touching the side of my face. She says "I'll tell you about that later." It's as if no one wants to talk aloud about the problem that everyone recognizes.

Okay. So there's a problem here that I'm not getting. But maybe someone will tell me about it soon enough. It's not so high on my list of priorities.

a birthday wish

"I had you fooled."
"You think so, huh?"
"You agreed with me."
"That doesn't mean anything. I agree with everyone."
"No you don't."
"Yes I do."

It's my birthday, and I'm thinking that birthdays are so not important. And yet, it's my birthday and somehow I want to think it's important anyway. I eat too much, all day long, because I have an excuse: it's my birthday. People come and go and wish me happy birthday; and the ones who don't know me so well bring me presents--mostly food. Hmmm. Maybe they know me well enough.

If you have a weakness, habit, or flaw that causes consequences you don't like, you can only reverse those consequences by investing the same amount of suffering as the pleasure you derived when you were developing the behaviors. Suffering counteracts indulgence. For example, if it took you ten years to gain the weight you want to get rid of, you should expect it to take ten years to lose the weight, given that you choose, by dieting, to suffer to the same degree that you enjoyed yourself overeating. But it's not quite so bad as it might at first seem. First of all, you can lose the weight a lot more quickly if you suffer more. But more importantly, you can mediate the more intense suffering by "chipping" the substances you are giving up to achieve your chosen goal. So, if you choose to lose weight by cutting all carbohydrates from your diet (the quickest and most effective way that I've found to lose weight), and you don't think you can stand one more minute of suffering, then go a few minutes more, and then a few minutes more, and then... But finally, when you really can't stand it any longer, cheat with one small bit of carbs; then go back to eating all protein again. Yeah, it takes will power; but then, what worthwhile thing doesn't?

I've been ten pounds overweight for nearly a year now. I hate it. But I can't do anything about it today. It's my birthday. And, anyway, I rationalize, ten pounds isn't all that much. Recent research has indicated that people who are slightly overweight tend to be healthier and live longer than people who maintain their ideal weight. And since I maintain my extra ten pounds primarily by drinking beer (other, empty, carbs are the real problem; but beer lowers my will power to the point where I will not avoid them), and since recent studies have also indicated that a glass of beer or wine a day may also factor into health and longevity, I figure being ten pounds overweight isn't so bad--except that none of my pants fit me and I hate to go outside in a close-fitting tee [which I like to wear to show off my arms and upper torso (man, am I vain, or what?)], where the waistband of my pants push my love-handles out and exaggerate their size unnecessarily. I'd buy new pants, but I'm determined to wear out the six pairs of Levis I've had for so many years before I buy new ones; so that's my primary motivation for losing pounds and for maintaining my ideal weight--not health, but using up existent clothing. It's a suspect motivation, the Scottish part of me.

But weight isn't the worst problem I have. I need to be getting more sleep; I need to get enough sleep. Without enough sleep, I don't function properly; and there is the additional danger of aggravating the heart rhythm problem. When I don't get enough sleep during the night, for whatever reason, I take an extended nap during the day. No accomplishment, not even tasks I absolutely must do, is worth the acute and chronic health risks posed by lack of sleep. And, although the melatonin I take ocassionally works for six or seven hours (sometimes), I need more sleep. A consistent eight hours seems just about right for me. It keeps me productive and sociable, when otherwise I will begin to slack off and engage in avoidance behavior.

"Shit," I say, when a friend of mine says that I should see a doctor and get a prescription for a "good" sleep aid. "I don't like taking prescription medicines."

But she's more concerned with the fact that I said "Shit."
I say, "What should I have said?"
"Poo would be okay."

I don't get it. It's the same damn thing. I don't get the whole taboo words thing. You can say sex on tv, but you can't say "fuck," even in non-sexual applications. You can "penis," but not "dick" (unless you're a regular on "Laugh-In"). I just don't get it.

After she leaves, I complain to my one remaining friend who accepts me just as I am. He says,"The problem isn't that she believes that people shouldn't use profanity. The problem is that she wants to impose that belief on everybody else. She insists that you do not use bad language in her presence."

"Well, fuck her," I say
"Yeah. That's what I say too."
"Fuckin' right."
"And, you know, she smokes pot.
"No," I say, in mock exaggeration.
There's no accounting for cognitive dissonance.

There are a number of reasons for not smoking pot, far more so than for not using "bad" language. It may or may not be as harmful as cigarettes, caffeine, white sugar, or red meat. (I doubt that it is, but even if it is, as a society, we don't seem to worry too much about those vices.) But there's one reason that is very real and very dangerous: there are assholes everywhere who make it their business to ruin your life by arresting you or acting to get you arrested if you smoke it. Of course, the same can be said for a number of other personal preferences. The problem is not one of substances, but of people who don't believe in minding their own business, who think that what other people do is their business, whose intent is to impose their beliefs, valid or not, upon the world. And this airheaded Dixie Chick smokes it anyway. And, from what I understand, although she hates the word "fuck," she loves the activity. It just doesn't make much sense. I'd like to remake the world with just this one criteria: that people be required to mind their own business and never interfere in another's life unless that other person explicitly requests it.

Once upon a time, I lived in a world of my own construction, blissfully ignoring social convention, never wanting to grow up, like everyone else seemed to want me to do.

I continued this state of detachment by happily pursuing knowledge, as an excuse, at a several universities. Then I was graduated and my life took a decided turn downhill.

I entered a phase where I felt that it was necessary to work long hours for thankless companies. The last job with a thankless company lasted for twelve years.

Then I awoke to the realization that I was working my productive life away. My dreams had long since been dispelled, my dreamy existence hardly even a memory.

The problem all along had been that I desired external objects, when all along I derived the most satisfaction from internal mechanisms of existence.

So I tralineated the normal lifestyle I had unwittingly attempted to define. The nightmares of the world are nearly over and the pleasant dreams of personal experience have begun (again).

Will technology kill the democracy star?

In the world of my imagination, which is fed by input from the world everyone considers real, I transform toxic scripts, the ubiquitous codes that culture produces to reduce existence to the lowest common denominator where differences between individuals are leveled out so that some form of superficial communion (community) may be achieved, into idiosyncratic symbols consistent with my particular form of consciousness. Unfortunately, I have to work too hard at this because I no longer have daily contact with a real-world cadre of ordinary people. Instead, most of my input these days comes from the daily news. Thank Whomever for the internet.

I'm amazed (though I shouldn't be) that I find so many highly significant news stories on the net that are never covered at all, not even in passing, by the cable television media. They have 24 hours a day to devote to the news and they concentrate on the same few stories. Their defense, of course, is that they don't have enough time to show those other stories; but that's bullshit. They'd have plenty of time if they didn't show the same few stories 48 or 96 times a day (that is, when they're not devoting their entire airtime to a blow-by-blow coverage of hurricane damage or war minutia). They assume that people will watch only 15 or 30 minutes of news a day and so they choose the stories that they think people want to see and repeat them over and over again. But what's wrong with people watching different news stories depending on the time of day they happen to tune in. The problem there is that the news organizations (or the spin masters who control them) can't propagandize the public in that way.

For example, the mainstream media reports that inflation is at 3%. Bullshit. Maybe it's that low when you factor in the decreases or slight increases in all of the top end products like yachts, SUVs, quarter of a million dollar houses, and similar items that affluent people buy; or even if you consider things like televisions, VCRs, computers, etc. But when it comes to the working poor having to buy basic staples like food, medicine, and gas, my experience is that inflation is somewhere between 130 and 150%. And people wonder how it is that the number of poor in this country is rising every year. It's all a part of the plan: divert the money away from the poor and toward the rich, and disguise the plot via government agencies and the national news media.

Because politicians (and others) spin information through media outlets, consumers can never be certain whether or not they are being misled. In order to get an accurate picture of what is happening in the world, it is necessary (as it has always been) to get your information from as many different (and divergent) sources as possible, and to actively involve your own critical mind in the process instead of allowing yourself to be spoon-fed information, like:

They've passed a new "fight force with force" law in Florida. It used to be, as it is in many other states, that you had to attempt to escape when attacked. Now, if you fight back, the law will protect you (unless your attacker is well-off and can afford a good attorney and/or has political connections; but that would be true in any case). People complain that this will usher in a new Wild West. I say, it sounds like a good idea to me. How did we ever get into that "victim" mentality anyway? I mean, we're Americans for Christsake.

I tell this story to an uber-liberal neighbor.
He says, "I hate America."
I say, sarcastically, "Then leave if you don't like it here."

"Fuck you," he says. "I'm a citizen. I have the right to hate America if I want." He didn't hear the sarcasm and thought I was being literal. And he's upset because his girlfriend just left him, which he uses to change the subject in a kind of apology for having reacted the way he did. That'll do it to you, degrade your liberal leanings toward a more caustic conservative agenda.

I want to tell him that I wasn't being serious, but he's going somewhere and he hurries off. I think that I'll have to explain the next time I see him; but usually when I try to do that, I comes off lame, like I'm changing my mind/opinions for no other reason than to prevent people from disliking me. I hate it when people think that's what I'm doing. But then, I'd also hate for him to think that I'm a conservative, although I don't want him to think I'm a liberal either; and, worst of all, I'd hate for him to think I'm middle-of-the-road. It's better if I leave the whole thing alone and wait for him to approach me from a different direction, if he ever will again. My imaginary friends are so much easier to deal with.

When I met my neighbor in the street as I was getting my mail, I was going to talk to him about Muslims, because that was what was running through my mind when I went outside when I heard the mailman coming, that's what I was reading about on the internet:

Muslims Call Comments by WMAL Host 'Hate-Filled'

A local radio talk show host touched off complaints from an Islamic civil rights organization yesterday after repeatedly describing Islam on the air as "a terrorist organization" that is "at war with America."
The Washington Post
But, despite liberal characterizations to the contrary, Islam is at war with America (or the West, in general). It's all fine and good to claim that your religion is one of peace and understanding and that you can exist apart from the dogmatic battles that rage in name of theology; but Islam, by its very nature, is an antithesis of Christianity. It was formed as such, and that core of its nature continues to this day. The problem is not that Islam opposes Christianity and its minion, capitalism; the problem is that Christianity is no more justified than Islam to claim that it's a religion of peace and understanding. Both religions have as a theoretical basis the ideals of peace and love; but neither embodies those values so well.

This is exactly the same situation that exists between the Arabs and the Jews (and a lot of other human polarities around the globe): cousins conducting a family feud. At it's very best, the human race is one large brotherhood; but it's fractious and divisive, often breaking off into genocidal camps so that it can oppose the very nature it yet idealizes. This is why I hate to identify with the human race and prefer my own imaginary world wherein I can co-exist in peace with all of my imaginary foreign global neighbors. Peace is an ideal that I would have predominate. But people are contentious and strive to achieve power and control. There's a basic defect in that agenda, a tragic flaw. But none who want power ever recognize it, always in the long term to their detriment, as the Bush administration is beginning to learn--or maybe not. They (or their replacements) have everything they need to sustain their grasp on power. If all else fails, they have the military, which Bush has been threatening to use in increasingly clever ways: disaster "relief"; pandemic quarantines. This is just not the way for a democracy to be acting and I'm thinking that maybe that phase of our collective existence is coming to an end. As the powerful increasingly apply their stranglehold on the "weak," we will have to find new ways, independent of our increasingly lame democratic principles, to maintain the human balance: If you want real power, you must understand that the most powerful blow is the one you don't throw.

My problem with this whole human power trip is that I find it popping up in my imaginative dealings with world, even as I continually try to beat it down. But you can't fight power with power; you can't repress it, or else it comes out in a different and probably more potent way. You have to accept yourself and the human race for what is it. And I do. But my imagination is a different thing altogether--or so I want to believe. And so I (try to) populate it with scripts and images of the way I want the world to be, by transforming all of the nasty little crap that the world inputs into me into safe and pleasant anti-propaganda. An easier Way would be to climb up to some mountaintop and sit all day in simple peace and understanding. But I suspect that I might find that eternally boring. I'm starting to wonder if, after all, I'm really up to the quest for peace and quietude. It's another addiction, I think--the news that pollutes my refining mind. I'm going to have to deal with that bad habit one of these days by going cold turkey on its ass.