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This Content From 2003 (or earlier) see index

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(Political Ideas Less than 100% Baked)

Waiting for Something to Happen

I recently got another fantastic email from my friend Nick in LA:

Man, sometimes I just get really fucking tired of myself. Last night I went out to the bar with some friends and had a few pints, or like seven, so I'm being all ornery, I pierce my own ears with the pins of these flashing buttons they're giving out, smear blood on my face like war paint and promptly get into a fight and get tossed by the bouncers. Drive home drunk and momentarily pass out on the way. I wake up this morning to go to work and see myself in the rearview mirror with encrusted blood on my face. Man my question to you is this: am I actually getting worse?, when am I going to grow up and get past all this macheezmo shit that keeps me from acting like a normal civilized person. i'm really tired of being such a fucking asshole all the time.

This got some juices flowing for me, and I think I articulated some innaresting stuff in my response...

The urge to self-destruct has been rumbling around my psyche since the new year clocked over. That urge to just fall down a bottle and blow off all responsibilities, to leave town on a greyhound bus and let my roommates divide my stuff, to engage in a crime spree or drag racing or other predatory male behavior.

I think it's a symptom of the times, meaning both the spot we're at in the course of our lives (people like me and Nick here) and the historical moment we exist in. I mean, post-college, there's not really that much of a point to anything, now is there? There's no mid-term to work towards, no brass ring to grab, only the vast and humbling expanse of years and years left to live and no idea what it is all supposed to mean. Naturally, there's a sub-conscious urge to avoid the crushing responsibility of all that living: hence the tendency to self-destruct... or slip back into post-secondary education. Grad school, baby.

Add to that the extreme spiritual poverty of early 21st century American culture, and you have an environment in which one naturally seeks to either sequester ones self away in some fantasy world or another, or else to blunt ones mind and senses (drink drank drunk) so as to not be forced to contemplate the horror of ones own existence, ones own implicit hand in perpetuating the ongoing rape of the natural world.

I'm not a great fan of Radiohead, but whenever I ponder this topic, I always hear the lines from The Bends in my head:

Just lying in the bar with my drip feed on
Talking to my girlfriend, waiting for something to happen
I wish it was the sixties, I wish I could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen

But nothing does happen. I was first-hand witness to one of the biggest events of our generation (9-11) but thanks to the heavily mediated and anti-experiential culture we live in, I honestly feel as though nothing has happened. I'm sure for the friends and family of those who lost someone feel as though something (death) has happened. But speaking on a larger (cultural) level, Nothing Fucking Happened. Nothing Changed. Sure it's more of a bitch to fly and we've killed a lot of people halfway around the world, but nothing changed. I see the same shit spewing forth from the flickering screens, it's just as hard to meet people, to make connections, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and the People In Charge divide and conquor, turning The Rest Of Us against ourselves. It's almost enough to make me believe in Hobbes, that the natural state of Man is the War of All against All.

But fuck that. I mean, this is a tangent I know, but this is the type of thinking that keeps me going in the times of trouble. I don't want to turn into a cynical laconic effete intellectual asshole (hiding in ivory towers, with degrees and big words to prove that we know it better than you all out there, you unwashed sweating masses) and I don't want to kill myself or burn out or give up and just live a happy little life. I want to change things, and I have to believe that positive spin is possible. We're all hypocrites, yes, but that's no reason to quit trying to improve the world. Look, let's get down to brass tacks: things are not as they should be. This is not as good as it gets. We need to stop apathetically accepting the culture that surrounds us.

In fact, I know it's possible. Here in New York there was a time before the rhetoric really kicked up, before they cleared out Union Square, before Order Was Restored, where people were really living and really thinking and really struggling to work it all out for themselves. And you know what they were doing? They were getting together. They were sharing information and experiences. They were figuring out that We Are In This Together. And then the war machine kicked up and in the interests of national security all progressive social development was suspended, along with civil liberties.

So that's what mostly keeps me from bludgeoning myself too bad, the notion that we the people can make a difference if we want to. It's just difficult because so few people really seem to want to, and no one exists to lead the charge. Monumental tasks fraught with failures, unlikely to pan out, and not prone to improving the personal life either... the life of a frustrated liberal intellectual. Revolutionary in training, I suppose.

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Trips

Trips in Space and Time 8/02/03

Big Wheels in Berkeley
I scored a set of west-coast wheels today at the Ashby BART station flea market. It's a very tall schwinn road bike, black, deceptively heavy but smooth-riding. Thirty-five dollars to boot. I oiled and cleaned the works, dialed in the bakes and took it out for a shake-down cruise immediately. Nice riding on a beautiful saturday, realizing how out of shape I am as I wheezed my way though the hilly area behind the Berkeley campus.

After about an hour I started to get the swing of it. Made some minor mechanical adjustments (including a free wheel truing at the bike collective on Shattuck), drank a few liters of water and started finding my groove, cruising up and around and ending up with a beautiful view of the whole bay. The roads here are not kind to the speed inclined -- too many stop signs and crosswalks and lights -- but it was good to get out and proj for a while. This changes my summer dramatically.

...older trips...

...context...



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