Thermonuclear Terror Rules; Christianity Encourages USians to Hate Anyone Who's Mentally Ill; Post-Apocalyptic Fiction as Manifest Ignorance; Notes from a (Possible) Work-in-Progress
Spring is Springing! Praise to the Maiden and all the joy that she brings. (Photo by Loren Bliss ©2015)
THE UKRAINE WAR has rekindled the nagging underture of terror about which, mostly for the emotional protection of my first wife, I dutifully maintained silence throughout the entire Cuban Missile Crisis.
At the time the crisis became public, 16 October 1962, I was six weeks to the day beyond my return from Korea and release from three years of active Regular Army duty, though I had yet to serve a three-year reserve obligation; I thus remained solidly within the grasp of military discipline, which no doubt reinforced my determination not to trouble an already-frightened Carolyn by sharing my trained knowledge, some of which was probably then still classified, of the horrors thermonuclear war would inflict on us both.
I speak out now, an honorably discharged civilian since 31 October 1965, because the war-warnings from my subconscious are again unmistakable. The intensity of my fear is measured -- albeit far more intrusively than ever it was in 1962 -- by sequential nightmares. This time around, they make it impossible for me to sleep more than two or three consecutive hours. In '62 they woke me maybe two or three times a week.
One of the 4,000-odd soldiers who returned home from Korea aboard the U.S.N.S. Sultan at the end of that Summer, sailing from Inchon the second week of August and disembarking at Oakland Army Terminal on 4 September, I realized as soon as the crisis was publicly disclosed that our unarmed and therefore defenseless troop-transport had itself been among the Soviet targets. That targeting began in late August, with Soviet construction of the Cuban launchpads already underway and its apocalyptic threat well known among our Masters but inexplicably kept secret even from the active-duty military. Departing Pearl after refueling, we aboard the Sultan discovered the next morning we were being tracked by a Soviet submarine. The sub, which followed us all the way to San Francisco Bay, announced its presence by surfacing daily to recharge its batteries and run for about an hour maybe 800 yards off our port side before vanishing back into the Pacific depths; it became such a seemingly benign companion, we USian soldiers and the Soviet submariners would invariably wave at one another in apparent camaraderie whenever our two vessels were mutually visible.
But disclosure of the crisis made it obvious the sub had been there for one purpose: to sink us if the war started -- to kill at least 4,000 trained and duty-seasoned soldiers plus the l00-odd Military Sea Transportation Service sailors who crewed the ship -- as it surely would have happened had President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev not each been sensible enough to keep the proverbial war balloon solidly moored to the ground.
I should note here I do not fear death itself. To me, turned Marxian by the harsh lessons of life under Capitalism and therefore primarily an agnostic, death is merely the termination of what has been an utterly thwarted, therefore mostly wretched existence, with all my marketable skills nullified by our Masters' relentless malevolence. Their atrocities include at least two major editorial job-offers cancelled by federal intervention plus the 1983 arson and its aftermath; the consequences include the premature termination of my journalism career, the destruction of my life's work and the reduction of my being to everlasting insignificance. Even so, I will never welcome death, at least under so-called "normal" circumstances; as William Faulkner wrote so memorably in The Wild Palms,1 concluding what I have always regarded as his best novel, "...between grief and nothing, I will take grief." Now, less than 48 hours before my 82nd birthday, I realize it is the one axiom by which I have lived my entire life. But regardless of the adjectives we might choose to define the nature of our existence, nothing can alter the scientifically confirmed reality each individual death is nothing more than a microcosm of the eventual extinction that dooms everything including the cosmos itself.
What does terrify me is the agony of a lingering death like that suffered by so many at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which thanks to the Ukraine War has again become the probable fate of most sentient life on this planet. As in '62, it is the bottomlessly frightful likelihood that when The Bomb drops, I will be too far from ground zero to be slain instantly, but too physically disabled by the blast to manage my own exit. Like anyone else similarly half murdered, I'd then be tortured to death by the literally indescribable agonies of flesh melting by away by radiation poisoning, suffering for hours if not days or weeks as a victim of what -- by every description I have ever read -- is undoubtedly the most terrifying form of mass execution we humans will ever know.
But before I say more, let's drop all the lies and euphemisms and call this ever-more-probable Armageddon exactly what it is: yet another ecogenocidal horror triggered by a new and entirely unnecessary war of empire-building, the ultimate expression of our patriarchal Masters' infinitely murderous greed and sadism -- specifically the USian Empire's continued conquest of the Soviet Empire's former Eastern European possessions and the present-day Russian Empire's ever-more-determined intent to reconquer those realms.
To which I dare reply -- much as the Communist Party of the United States and the World Socialist Web Site of the Fourth International dare reply -- a curse on both their houses for threatening literally every higher life-form on this planet with extinction.
1The Wild Palms, one of several influential books I read in 1959, is now included in a larger work entitled If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem (Vintage: 1995). Based on the number of times I continue re-reading their works, Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, the latter a distant maternal cousin, are undoubtedly my most favorite writers of fiction, with Shirley Jackson probably running a close second.
KNOWING HOW APPROXIMATELY six millennia of patriarchal tyranny have reduced our entire species to a captive population ruled mostly by deliberately inflicted ignorance and meticulously conditioned hatred, I was well aware the USian Empire-supported Nazis had started a de facto civil war in the Russian-speaking regions of the Donbas, an ancient conflict renewed eight years ago with modern weapons and the smirking sadism that defines today's fanatics. The political crisis engendered by its skyrocketing casualties -- now authoritatively said to exceed 14,000 children, women and men -- ultimately compelled Putin to yield to the deadly undertow of Russian history. Thus he proclaimed himself the alleged protector of the persecuted Donbas people and now seeks to conquer the disputed territory, obviously more for its vital heavy industry and fossil-fuel wealth than for the protection of its inhabitants.
But I never imagined his mustering of troops in numbers sufficient for invading all Western Europe was anything more than a Russian version of the massive readiness-drills the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has conducted since its birth in 1949.
And even when I came to realize Putin sees himself as another Tsar and intends to take the entire Ukraine militarily, I never imagined he'd let himself be provoked into terror-bombing civilians, much less openly brandishing his weapons of thermonuclear extinction, threatening to start World War III and thereby indicating his willingness to murder every sentient creature on this planet.
Though I voted for Biden, I did so only because I was way more fearful of Trump; I never imagined Biden would respond to Putin's threats like a 19th Century plantation owner challenging a rival slave-owner to duel, not with swords or pistols, but with guided missiles that will forever reduce our Mother Earth to naught but a bug planet.
Obviously I should have known better; as I said in a (slightly edited) comment I wrote last month: "Thus -- since there is absolutely no longer any rational hope for 'change' beyond the ever-more-disruptive Big Lies of 'change we can believe in' -- my personal ethics demand I stop writing as if our betterment were somehow miraculously possible. Why stop? Because literally every humanitarian cause to which I and so many others of my age devoted ourselves -- the defense of our Mother Earth; government-funded universal health care; government-funded public education through graduate school; freedom of inquiry and expression; sexual, racial and ethnic equality; restoration of workers' rights; affordable housing -- all these efforts have been permanently defeated, and now their (few) accomplishments are being forever undone."
"Nor -- with the U.S. Supreme Court now thoroughly Nazified by lifetime appointments -- is there any rational hope for betterment."
In other words, I had already realized that to write about politics in a society deliberately being restructured into an Auschwitz without fences is merely to perpetuate our Masters' deceptions -- that is, to intensify the crippling imbecility of hope and strengthen the attendant shackles of mandatory optimism the patriarchs have forged from their millennia of lies.
Thus I should have extended my decision to write no more about USian politics to include the military situation in the Ukraine and remained silent about the apocalyptic events we now know were already taking shape there.
I apologize accordingly, especially to anyone who might have been misled by my errors.
Though I am hardly alone in falling victim to the toxic effluent of disinformation maliciously spewed by all sides.
Primarily, though, there is the fact the USian imperial intelligence apparatus -- the 17 secret police agencies we are allowed to know about (plus however many more such organizations remain clandestine) -- has eternally discredited itself.
After Cointelpro and the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia and Operation Chaos and Chile and Iraq and Afghanistan -- not to mention the now-reflexive anti-government cynicism generated by the 11-year campaign of political "cleansing" that began with the obviously unsolved murder of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on 22 November 1963 and (apparently) ended with the officially unsolved murder of Karen Silkwood on 13 November 1974 -- no publicly disclosed USian "intelligence analysis" can ever again be (rationally) taken as anything other than latter-day Nazi war-mongering.
Note for example the ongoing controversy over alleged biological warfare labs in the Ukraine: Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland's admission versus an ever-expanding wave of official denials, with the truth remaining as unknowable as the (real) origin of Covid-19, in all probability forever.
Meanwhile the best I can do now is repeat my appropriately mortified apology for having been so arrogant in my ignorant obliviousness to the fact we live in a time so absolutely ruled by evil that almost nothing is believable in the old sense of knowing it as fact. Indeed we cannot know anything for certain beyond the hideously undeniable fact we the people of the Working Class -- those of us to be locked out of the secret nuke-proof bunkers our Masters' relentless warmongering proclaims to the world they now have completed to their own survival-minded satisfaction.
We must therefore learn to be agnostic about everything else, especially the fast-dwindling possibility of rescue.
ONE OF THE darkest reasons the USian Empire is "exceptional" is the unprecedented hatred and contempt that fuels its thoroughly institutionalized savagery toward anyone who happens to be mentally ill, making today's United States the worst place in the world to suffer any such afflictions.
As I have repeatedly witnessed literally everywhere I've been in this wantonly murderous empire, a decisive factor in USia's definitively pre-genocidal climate is the patriarchal misogyny, hatred and bigotry at the philosophical core of its prosperity-gospel Christianity, which traditionally views mental illness as divine punishment for sin and therefore as something that can be "prayed away" -- though only if one is sufficiently contrite.
Meanwhile, had Trump with his legions of Nazis and Christian theocrats won more votes than Biden (or had they succeeded in taking the Capitol on 6 January), history warns us their rabid inclination to genocide undoubtedly would have generated a new USian Holocaust, probably within days of Trump's second inauguration.
FOR THE PAST several years I have studied what claims to be post-apocalyptic fiction, films and novels alike, and I find myself astounded by the ignorance and stupidity of its three paramount assumptions: that electricity, fossil fuels and modern ammunition will somehow remain available indefinitely.
The truth, of course, is that once the electricity fails, modern civilization is dead. Period. Electricity powers everything including our access to fuel and running water. Due to Pacific Northwest winter storms -- and thanks entirely to our Neoliberal Masters' profit-maximizing abandonment of infrastructure maintenance -- during my final years of rural living, 1986-2004, I survived brief periods without electricity and running water more times than I can count -- once, in '89, for nearly an entire month. Thus I cannot but suppose the power outage due to a thermonuclear war would be forever. Whatever fossil fuels might remain in storage tanks could never again be accessed without electricity, which means the entire "Road Warrior" scenario is utter nonsense.
Ditto for the many tales that assume seemingly limitless supplies of modern ammunition; a combination of panic buying and governmental policy has already obliterated -- probably forever -- the ammunition supply formerly available to the U.S. civilian population, and the Apocalypse is only in its beginning stages. As a consequence, rationally thinking USians resistant to enslavement, compulsory pacificism and mandatory victimhood are already arming themselves with muzzle-loaders and even more primitive weaponry including swords, axes, archery equipment and atlatl-powered spears.
Indeed in all the years I have been watching for seemingly accurate portrayals of post-apocalyptic worlds -- my sense of "accuracy" powerfully shaped by history and archaeology -- I have found only three novels worthy of repeat reading. The first is Nevil Shute's superb On the Beach (1957), which I read with horror and sadness in pre-enlistment 1959, and later that same year, not long before I reported for three years of Regular Army duty, watched as a profoundly disturbing film, the concluding frames of which haunt me to this day. But Bookfinder tells me the text's been out of USian print since 1983, even as its curiously ubiquitous limited availability indicates to me it's probably been clandestinely banned, though it remains readily available in Western Europe, with copyright dates as recent as 2005. The second such work is A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller Jr., Bantam Books: 1959), which I read as a soldier at Fort Benning in 1960. Hailed by critics as one of the best such novels ever written, it begins six centuries after global nuclear war has reduced most of the barely surviving human population back to the hunting-and-gathering stage, with the resultant loss of technology a prime factor in its decidedly absorbing plot. After witnessing in 1961 and 1962 the remnants of the indescribable damage inflicted on the people and environment of Korea by non-nuclear modern warfare, also knowing from history and archaeology something of the consequences of imperial collapse, what I had seen in the Land of the Morning Calm merely reinforced the apparent realism of Miller's portrait of a ruined world 600 years past its thermonuclear apocalypse. The third novel is Into the Forest (Jean Hegland, Bantam Books: 1996), an emotional odyssey that vividly describes how two sisters, each modern USian women, respond to the dawning realization the civilization upon which they are utterly dependent is no more. Again I give it an "A" for its probable realism, all the more believable because of its psychological focus.
All else I've encountered in this category of fiction fails what I have come to think of as "the technology test" -- that is, the absolute fragility of the electricity grid, and how the magnitude of its collapse becomes infinitely more irreversible once it's recognized power-lines without electricity are nothing more than easy sources of ever-more-valuable copper, the resultant thievery already apparent in the longer USian blackouts.
THE FOLLOWING IS from my journal dated 13 March, slightly edited tonight. I do not know whether it is a beginning, a middle, an end, or merely proof I should promptly abandon as foolhardy any notion I might have remaining capabilities in its indicated direction:
Women tell me that in the best of worlds, they'd be free to explore that realm of consciousness and being they describe as "of the Goddess" by the unfolding of their own minds and bodies, their emotional and intellectual growth typically going hand-in-hand with physical growth.
Obviously this is the one human growth process the patriarchs fear most, for amongst its core revelations -- or so I am told -- is a growing sense of the utter "unnaturalness" of patriarchy and all its philosophically anti-nature derivatives. The patriarchy's response, of course, is to try to abort the self-discovery process at birth, fettering it by a lifelong deluge of religious taboos, its associated shaming and fearmongering based on misogynistic lies.
Though I am probably the first man to recognize it -- maybe even the first human of whatever gender to put it in words -- all these woman-hating taboos and shibboleths are unquestionably products of violent clitoris-envy: the awe and fear (and ultimately hatred) of the female's capability for multiple orgasms that rationalizes the male-supremacist savagery of clitoridectomy and lurks beneath every other expression of misogyny.
For males, the discovery of any mental space at all akin to what so many women describe as "of the Goddess" is unquestionably far less organic than it is for females, if indeed such discovery happens at all. As I myself can attest, it is radically hindered by the very weakness that enables the corruption of our gender by the forces of patriarchy. While I have no idea how Robert Graves or Tim Buckley came to embrace the Goddess-concept, for me its discovery grew out of an eerily persistent childhood sense of a "something" that, until I read Graves in the Spring of 1967, remained "just beyond the edges of my mind." I began feeling this "something" at least a quarter-century before I finally learned how to verbalize it, as I first did in a 1970 essay that eventually became part of the opening chapter of "Glimpses of a Pale Dancer" and was therefore destroyed by the 1983 arson; I also spoke of it in at least two of my fire-lost (and probably in any case aesthetically worthless) attempts at writing poetry.
That sense of a "something" was already there, strong enough even in its earliest nonverbal form to provide an permanent antidote to the sadistic Christianity with which my already violently hateful birthmother tried to warp my four-year-old mind for Christmas 1944...
THOUGH IT IS a bit of an aside, as a former editor it occurs to me the only news out of this dreadful Ukraine War that approaches ready believe-ability is the visual stuff -- photos, video footage and the like -- which, we should never forget, can indeed be faked, though the Associated Press' ongoing struggle to preserve honest journalism means we can probably trust most of the imagery bearing the AP label.
Most importantly, the extensive visual coverage is showing the world -- in many instances for the first time -- the true horrors of total war.
The work coming out of the war also shows us today's generation of photojournalists have not only at long last mastered color, but are now using it in a way that is both increasingly painterly and therefore more powerfully emotive.
LB/22-28 March 2022.
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