Tag Archives: capitalism

No Life During Wartime

Back to bite, back to bite, don’t breath, thump thump.
Lights, gone. Food, gone. Drugs, gone, Hope.

Desperate sex and wobbly legs.
Get me drunk, look after me, stop the thinking, stop the world.

Back to bite, back to bite, bite me harder, fuck me harder
Than this silence, than this screaming, are they screaming, is it me?

The terror is like popping candy abusing my skull,
Like angry clots of blood trying to burst out of fingernails

Pulsing, screeching, moaning, and then silence.
The constant ringing and now your face has gone all blurry.

The thought of all the itches we will never get to scratch.
It’s all rotting, it’s all gone and you just keep being so fucking kind.

The bile in my stomach, my hands in your pants, is there even a point?
Splashing about in mud, looking for familiar faces, for a trace of something human.

Slaves demanding justice, then wanting the crown.
Grey days, skipped days, were you slowly drift away.

I don’t want to be pretty, I don’t want to write pretty
To hide behind niceties and disgusting adoration.

In the darkness I’ve stopped tripping, I walk steady now.
I’m not longer funny but I’m lonely, as you roll me the millionth cigarette,

As I gulp the millionth gulp of bitterness, my bitterness.
We lost a long while ago and we’ve wasted all our time.

Toxic waste and suspicion, is that mask because of me?
They’ve turned us against each other and there’s no going back.

There’s no life during wartime, only slow self-destruction.
Before the bombs, before the lights went out,

Before the mould and the stench and the disease and the hunger,
The mind numbing stupidness had already knocked us out.


 

Featured image: Jobkill by Pushwagner, Hariton (1987) can be found in the Norwegian National Museum, or online at: http://www.pushwagner.no/galleri/kunst/JOBKILL

Empathy

I washed three times but still:
I smell the vile breath, and still
I see the sunken bloodshot eyes
a pain too deep and miserable to scream
from its open grave, vestige of human lies.

Tomorrow your vacant eyes will not remember this face
yet the fetid smell will not ever leave my head.
Again and again it plays,
the blurry vision of a heat induced hallucination
sneaking up, once again, to threaten my sanity.

I thought it was a child,
an innocent, ill-fated child on a bike,
perhaps still burning, perhaps still alive.
Yet all I could find was the shell of a human life
bruised by a world which is infinitely unkind.

As you blinked at me and slurred your dissent
I disentangled your legs from the wheels
tugged you out of your certain crematorium
dead weight to weak arms and shaky knees,
dead weight to all our cushioned lives.

My abandoned car blinked furiously
ignored by the lives that unblinkingly drove by
No longer human, no longer of use,

illegal smelly immigrant

I wretched violently on the way home
the smell of your skin on my clothes and hands
the unsettling disgust in humanity
steeped into my disillusioned plans.
Only one man stopped:

‘anche io sono straniero ma…’

His conscience dirtied by judgement over judgement
your rotten breath etched deep into his identity
an anchor of blame which has nowhere tangible to go
defensive and defenceless to this worldwide generalisation.
Anche io sono straniero ma.

Did I really save your life, did I choose to be this way?
To follow the trail in the grass
where the cheap boxed wine pulls drunkards off course.
To acted upon automation, like the Belding’s ground squirrel,
putting itself in danger in the name of evolution.

You asked god to bless me but did I really do you a kindness?
Or should I have let the heat put you to sleep, cease your pain?
Head nuzzled in the prickly grass, feet tangled in your rusty bike
barbed wire inches from your eye
invisible to the road, invisible to the world.

And as xenophobia prevails, as hatred and fear win the UK
and all these cars speed away, I feel lonely and wired incorrectly.


 

Featured: Pink Man / Leviathan (Blu), to be found on  Oberbaum Brücke / Falckensteinstraße ( U Kottbusser Tor stop).

Travel Post # 4 – Indigenous Communities of the Rio Tapajos – A Reflection on Learned Helplessness

There are no jaguars here, and there is no conception of power. Chicken. Featherless chicken everywhere. And dogs, skin and bone, sickly and hungry with empty eyes, biting at each other´s skin for a mouldy orange. Ants explore my legs and arms, as a dragonfly buzzes about and I wait for the boat, sweating, thirsty and useless. And often my eyes cross, a curious bloodshot glare – of men, women, children. But it isn´t malaria that haunts the forest and fills the air with sickness. It isn´t snakes and wild beasts that flood me with fear. It is the demon of helplessness that lurks here, by the edge of the Rio Tapajos. The air in these ´comunidades´ is drenched in learned helplessness. The playfulness, the dancing, the brincadeiras – they make me sick as a poisoned rat and I´m suffocating. Brincar, brincar, bola, bandoleira. Blissful ignorance and hunger. Laboratory dogs – they have been taught there is nothing they can do. Things will never change here, we will always be conquistadores. One cannot change what doesn´t want to be changed.

All I can do is hold on to this heaviness of heart. As always, I let the weight of the world sink in. The one that floats around in this forest, homeless, ignored by the bodies it belongs to. There was nothing I could do for that man who lay helpless in the mud, covered in ants and mosquitoes amd soaked in cachasa. Life had run him over. Life has run all of them over. All of these children, all this Criança, the demon of passivity etched upon them from the womb. A helplessness that is almost genetic. They queue up for the special merenda: chocolate milk and three biscuits. They look at me curiously, the meninas touch my braid. Eyes open, brains full of potential. Yet they are all slaves to Globo TV, that want to grow up to be modelo or a football star.  There´s no spirituality in these comunidades in these washed out wooden structures with holes for doors, but with TV´s inside, flashing telenovelas 24/7. I´ll always be a gringa here, eyed with awe or hatred, even if I play bola barefoot and let the insects eat my feet. Even if I swim naked in the rio with biscios. If I carry heavy things in the sun and take nice photographs and sleep on hammocks under the stars and learn amazonas music. Even after the insistence and casually handed out sexuality, just cause I´m playing a yes man game.
A transparent albino child plays in the middle of this dark brown criança. I wonder if he feels as much of an outsider as I do. I feel terribly lonely and nostalgic. The language, the faces, the colours, the heat, the upset stomach. Pull me, push me, make me feel alive. Maybe they´re right, autonomy is too hard a plight. One must choose and pick and do. Better to have someone do it for you. How many of you have really felt these chains? Understood the possibilities, felt the stagedness of this narcissistic freedom? And even if you do feel the chains, would you still choose to run alone? If you don´t know that you don´t know, you don´t torture yourself in doubt and uncertainty. To reach the knowledge of not knowing implies a duty as the next move: to act. So maybe openness to experience doesn´t have to come without care or with stupidity. It means considering and choosing what feels right, not playing a yes man name. And does recklessness really feel right what it comes with the risk of snake venom, malaria a hepathitis? I value this, because I recognise how easy it is to fall prey to the contamination of stupidity and carelessness. It snuck into my every pore over here and for two nights I gave into a carelessness that doesn´t lead to freedom. A million bloodshot eyes stare into mine every day to prove it. Freedom and versatility come with choice. I want to choose, not prove. I Have nothing to prove to these people. I don´t have to be like them. I need to learn how to stop feeling like I´m in debt to the world.

Note: All photos taken and thoughts written during work with a indigenous community development program of the NGO Saude e Alegria, based in Santarem.

Post #14 – Incomprehensions, Reason and Grandiose Beliefs (featuring Edgar Lee Masters)

Today, dear friend, I realised I had become a faulty puzzle piece: incapable of communicating with you. The sound of my voice left the bubble of my mind with powerful distortion. And my magnified words, filtered by anger and resentment, would weigh heavily in your ears, incomprehensible. And of course you would confuse the strain on my face for disgust.

I think my words might have changed, grown darker. Maybe what makes perfect sense in my mind is gibberish to your ears. Was I really that simple, only five years ago? I wonder what happened during this time: I have not only lost my mind, but maybe my grasp on reality as well. Or rather my ability to settle and adapt to your reality. I envision myself as clever and thoughtful, and for this reason maybe I feel superior, to the likes of people who avoid preoccupation. But maybe I am delusional. The doctors say I’m delusional: they say my ideas are grandiose and impossible and, unlike everyone else, you seem to agree with them. If I’m delusional why am I like honey to all these clever bees? But who are they to deem me a role model, who are you to profess me unreasonable, who are any of you to judge? Every unexplored and unconventional field of science, knowledge or consciousness has been deemed grandiose at some point in time.

I am not convinced that there is a page for me in the annals of history. I’m not even sure I shall contribute to the world order in anyway. I am simply following my gut, which for once in my life seems to be in accordance with my ideas, with science and with progress. So what if my ideas are grandiose and unrealistic? If any of you could give me a semi-accurate description of what reality means to us all, I might take your arguments seriously. But you are all clinging with a vice like grip to what you know and you’ve been told. You call me irrational but even logic and reason are irrational! You are accusing me of deviating from a perception of the world that has been proved incomplete. Who is to say that mine isn’t more accurate?

Maybe this “psychosis”, “dissociative state” or whatever, has been the most realistic aspect of my life. I have no conscious grip on this part of me. And my conscious reflections are made up by all I have learned and stored. But what we’ve learned and stored may be wrong. Maybe my thoughts are too influenced, and I cannot see clearly. I am only ever certain of anything when I hear things and see things that others do not. I am certain then, that that is my reality. If only I can see it, it means no earthly phenomenon has put it there to change me and teach me. It is pure, immoral and inhuman. Maybe it is a very visceral and honest part of me and my essence.

I cannot know this at this point in history and certainly cannot claim such a folly through scientific logic. What I can do is listen to my gut a bit more, and do things that make me happy, whether they be clinically validated to do so or not. I may go through many ups and downs, critiques and miscomprehension’s, but never will I ever give up on a life of courage, love and beauty. I will not let fear control me or let apathy grasp me in it’s comfortingly numb tentacles. To understand and to accept the beautiful and dangerous beast that is life, but not to fight and push it away. To contemplate all with lightheartedness and childish curiosity, but not to empty my head of all that could potentially harm me.


On this note, here is a pretty awesome poem by Edgar Lee Masters:

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me —
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbour.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire —
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

(George Gray, Masters E.L, 1916)

Post # 8 Dissertation Blues, Psychosis and Capitalism

‘The university system, I realised in that moment, is nothing more than a capitalist panopticon, aimed at discreetly making me, and everyone else, fit smoothly into this sickly world order. (…) As a place of intellectual stimulation, it is a complete failure.’

In this post I shall recount a recent psychotic experience, which has led me to a profound revaluation of how I interact and react to the world around me.


I was recently unpleasantly surprised upon receiving a negative grade on a dissertation project in ‘Philosophy of Medicine’, which focused on the diagnostic difficulties presented by paraphilic disorders and their definition in the DSM-5. If interested you can find my essay here. 

This piece of work encompassed much of my personal reflections on mental health in general, and writing it helped me out significantly in a period of great personal distress. For this reason, the bad grade represented a very personal and intimate defeat. Upon setting my eyes on the unexpected unpropitious mark, the ‘unquiet presence’ in my head, who so often criticises everyone around me, turned her disgust on me. She accused me of being useless and incompetent, worthy only of a miserable pass mark. I tried, effortlessly to push her away and regain my grasp on reality, but all it did was make my head hurt like hell, shoving me into a state of confusion and detachment which was all to familiar.

I distractedly let my friend lead me onto the woodland path that surrounds my university. My eyes went fuzzy and the leaves on the floor below me began to move and shimmer like worms. Taking further steps filled me with such dread and discomfort I couldn’t bear it, as well as the now in-comprehensive shouting in my aching head. I pushed my way through the prickly bushes and onto the main road, where the yelling abruptly stopped. I was left vacant and annoyed, at myself and the world for being such an unfamiliar and mechanical place.


In my anger, I suddenly realised that I had just had a practical lesson on the foucauldian notion of power I had been struggling with that same morning. Foucault describes a new, modern for of power, that organises society hierarchically through the means of knowledge mechanisms (determined by the discourse of a particular time – in this case the capitalist values of competition and production) which, in a world of complete transparency and observation, rank and punish individuals through praise and blame. We think in a way that makes us view certain things as normal and right and others as abnormal. About other ‘insignificant’ and unimportant things, we often do not even think.

This university system, I realised in that moment, is nothing more than a capitalist panopticon, aimed at discreetly making me, and everyone else, fit smoothly into this sickly world order. It is becoming with increasing invasiveness, an instrument for transforming individuals into pieces of paper and productive drones, in a world so ingrained in competition that there is no longer space for the creative and imaginative human spirit.


‘We are so scared of making wrong decisions, which ‘can affect our entire lives’, of momentarily stopping and deviating from these ‘essential’ activities, that our fear of being ‘left behind’ gives us no time to reflect on our feelings and wishes.’


As a place of intellectual stimulation, it is a complete failure. The majority of the students and academics I have met in my three years of undergraduate study, hardly seem to love and appreciate what they do. It may indeed be a subject of great personal interest that which they are studying, but the pressures that are impressed upon them prevent it from manifesting itself as such.

We are so actively and entirely engaged in the need to prove ourselves valid and worthy (ironically through tiny little numbers on a transcript, which seem to be our only key to self-determination) that even the things we love become an incommensurable weight. We are so scared of making wrong decisions, which ‘can affect our entire lives’, of momentarily stopping and deviating from these ‘essential’ activities, that our fear of being ‘left behind’ gives us no time to reflect on our feelings and wishes.


‘Unlike computers, people are constituted largely by determined knowledge, education, abilities and conserved memory, but also by the creative and emotional ways through which we store this information.’


I came to two life-changing realisations that day:

1. That I myself, with all my convictions and claims of independence, am entirely enslaved by this system. I am so ensnared, that a silly bad grade, given to me by someone who means nothing to me, sent me over the brink of insanity.

2. What I also realised, (being the Economics profit-weighing student that I am) is that in determining and constructing us so thoroughly and mechanically, society is not really creating a more productive world.

The reason for this is really quite straight-forward: people are not machines. Unlike computers, people are constituted largely by determined knowledge, education, abilities and conserved memory, but also by the creative and emotional ways through which we store this information. What I radically believe to be the main failure of capitalism, is that in creating its machine-like masses, it has under-estimated the full value of the raw material on which it operates. The emotive and creative spirit of man, is not as coercible and influenceable as would be required for a similar system to be effective in the long run. It is sufficient to look at widespread human behaviour to see how it constantly squirts out of the facade of perfection of our world. Alcohol and drug abuse are widely diffused (especially in nations that enforce prohibitionism); statistics on mental disorders are disturbing and, especially in the younger population which is subject to intense performance pressure, individuals struggle with depression and anxiety which decrease performance.

When people reach their limit, they explode. When the pressure of society takes too much of a toll on people’s personality, they lose their minds, commit suicide, become insane or turn into mass-murdering psychopaths. Even when they don’t reach their limit, their performance is still not as productive as it potentially could be. Their abilities are stumped by alcohol and drug abuse, demotivation, anxiety and other personality weakening conditions. Furthermore people attempt to deviate and fool the system, by cheating and hiding their activities from regulative enforcements and laws.

We express our malaise and anguish, using our constructed statuses of superiority over others, treating people who think differently from us with viciousness, contempt, bullying them to feel better about ourselves and failing because human emotions are not a zero-sum game.

Perhaps, precisely how this teacher acted in my case.