Wednesday, July 23, 2014

House of Mirrors

 House of Mirrors
 26 June 2014
El Paso County Jail

Don’t freak out now, anyone. I’m still out of jail, pending appeal, as of today, 23 July 2014. 

Sorry, no footnotes in the blogger. You can get them here 

Pogo couldn’t have known the heft and resonance of his words: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

I wrote a screed a while back, (Today’s Tom Sawyer), excoriating shitty Christian behavior. There’s still plenty to say about all that, and maybe some of it will come out here, but it’s not the point of this one. During that earlier rant, i promised to harp, eventually, about bad behavior on the part of pagans, dope fiends, felons, bikers, disgruntled employees, GIs, vets, and some of my other natural affinity groups as well.

That isn’t it either. Or maybe it is. But not really. Not quite. I promised to write about the Fear, too, and nor is it that, though the Fear runs through it all. This is about a war.

Many members of of various of the groups on that funny little list i jotted just now recognize and will now openly state that there’s a war looming. They’re wrong about that much anyhow--the looming is all done and the fight is on. Right now. It’s been on for decades, (or maybe forever). I’m here “jotting” because that’s what one does in the county jail, where i am a political prisoner--a POW, really, though i prefer to think of myself as a prisoner of conscience--but maybe it’s a digression to say so. Or maybe not. Let’s explore this amalgam of notions a bit, and see if we can find out.

Here at the county jail one finds a  peculiarly refined microcosm of the way the dynamics of the variously conflicting groups involved in this bizarre  war interact, cleared of much of the dross of false civility that ordinarily circumvents the fight out on the sidewalk, at least here in the U.S.A.

I know Europeans living here that want to skedaddle from this place and others afraid to come here because many of them can see the shitstorm brewing and it scares them. They often seem to see it more clearly than we Americans are able to do at least in part because our access to real news is barely over nil, of maybe because as outside observers they aren’t saddled with the cognitive dissonance we sorry brainwashed frogs that live in this hot-ass boiling lake must so often suffer. I don’t know. I hope they realize this pond holds us all.

Oddly enough, while the interactions at the county jail display some of the finer points of conflict in our absurdly labeled free society, they also show some reasons for hope. There are still lights burning.

“Fuck the Police!”

I don’t know how many times i’ve heard that phrase from some of my dearest friends. I’ve uttered them myself. Often. Sometimes at the top of my lungs. Sometimes it was far more personal: “Fuck you!" That’s right, you, personally, whomever you may be in your opposition to me, my pursuits, my people. Maybe i should refer to the less common; “Fuck the Pigs," because the police are only a fractional representation of one segment, one camp of that particular overarching social entity the hippies were talking about when they began to disparage swine so badly as to label their opposition thusly in this odd existential war from whence the flesh and blood scrap derives.

“Battle lines are being drawn,” went the line from the Buffalo Springfield some fifty-ish years back. They’re pretty well drawn, now, though they resemble lines a three-year-old might scribble. The shit’s on. People are fighting. The skirmishes often feel like some kind of kids’ game though too, involving blindfolds and billyclubs. Maybe i can’t deny swinging a stick around myself, sometimes. Maybe that’s what this is--a chance for me to look in the mirror a little, Maybe it’s because it’s hard to sit the game out when i keep getting hit in the head. Whatever. Let’s keep on through the maze and just hope we don’t smash too many mirrors.

During the Occupation we intrepids staged a few years back, (and some of us still engage--viva la revolución and all), my son and i traveled to Denver for the final push when the cops razed the encampment there. The scene that October of 2011 there in Denver was some shit this country hadn’t seen in over forty years maybe, where armored brigades of soldiers--not cops at all but stormtroopers--rolled on a huge, disparate group of unarmed citizens. It was tragic. And beautiful. Versions of the same scene played out all around the world that fall.

There at Civic Center Park, across the avenue from the State Capitol building, the Boy and i stood in the thick of it as those battle lines sharpened, and then blew apart as the whole outhouse hit the fan.

Some thousands of us had marched boisterously through Denver’s business district, pausing for a special visit at the Federal Reserve. After completing a wide loop around downtown we mounted the Capitol steps for whatever confrontation the Denver planners had planned. They, (to claim a thing--we), had been warned explicitly beforehand to stay off that particular edifice, so the moment we took the steps and began railing through one of our ubiquitous bullhorns, the shock teams appeared, as if the bearded-Spock Enterprise had beamed them to the scene.

Honestly, i was pretty fucking nervous at that point. It’s not as though i’d never been beaten up by the cops before, but that stuff is kind of a young man’s sport, and i was never really all that much a fan anyhow. Besides, those had always been cops, not armored sci-fi gladiators. But the main thing was the Boy. He was fifteen then and down for plenty, but he looked pretty worried too, and, (the main thing, actually), i knew i’d never live through my next conversation with his mother if i allowed him to be beaten and busted by the police. I suggested we pull back to the park and we did, but i felt pretty spineless for having done it, really.

The Boy and i had a quick consult: “You see what this is going to be, right?” “Yeah.” “Are you down, or not?” Nervous but firm, “Yeah.” “Fuck it then...God damn it; your mom is gonna kill me. Let’s get some lunch.”

The park itself  was packed with crowds of Occupiers, some having returned with us from the march and probably harboring thoughts similar to mine. The encampment had been there for a good while by then, and the Black Flag Anarchists’ Free Kitchen was in full flight. It had already been dismantled more than once as a special preparatory project for the cops--kind of a warm-up. Knowing well what was coming, the no-nonsense scrappy men’n’women in black behind the table were all assholes with elbows, flying around in a frenzy with grim serious joy in their eyes as they did their level best to sling as much great tasting free food as possible before the inevitable hammer fell. Those guys were freaking awesome sauce with motherfuckin’ cherries on top!

Rather than spark an actual and possibly justifiable war on the Capitol steps, even the most radical and adrenaline-blinded of the group holding that position chose to retreat and quickly joined us at the park. The scene was oddly festive, with tents and art projects and folks dressed for carnival. The mid-autumn day was one of those beautiful Colorado Indian summer affairs with pristine blue skies through which flitted happy and blissfully oblivious birdies merrily on the lookout for delectable kitchen scraps. But wait! What the hey!!? The second the steps were abandoned and that contingent joined those meeker souls at the park, the rest of the cops in the danged known universe materialized in a huff and began setting up for some sort of paramilitary invasion. No shit--we all saw pretty quickly what the Denver PD had in mind for all those fun military vehicles and equipment they’d been collecting.

The scene changed dramatically there on the sidewalk where the Anarchists’ Kitchen was set up. There was plenty of action before then, but the top-gun radicals had been at the Capitol along with most of the cops. Now a phalanx quickly formed four deep with armored, shielded, armed, dangerous, implacable, and apparently stoically unflappable police stretching all around, up and down--all over the fucking place. Where the Boy and i stood a few sidewalk squares south of the Kitchen the scene was still like a carnival spreading away and outward into the park in every direction save the east, buy more like something Ray Bradbury or John Clifford might have dreamt up. Moving east to west one would have passed through four rows of cops in a formation that i’d only seen before in movies about Fascist  takeovers where American patriots saved the day by vanquishing some identically clad and positioned foe as we occupiers faced that day, armored only with our damn-the-torpedoes ethical certitude. Stepping by the entrenched police if one were to dare it, one would have passed a modest tree lawn, an ordinary sidewalk crowded with dark festival-goers, and could then step up to the folding table that served as the Anarchists’ ordering counter and serving table set up facing east from the immediate western line of the sidewalk across from the antiMayberry lines facing the stubbornly unaltered scene in the Kitchen.

The cops just stood there for what seems to memory like hours, but it couldn’t have been all afternoon or anything. Maybe so. The Boy and i milled around a bit getting a look at the overall scene and scoping out the various sections of the park. Behind the Kitchen to the west were the bulk of the tents, say a hundred or more, though others were scattered about. Further  west a concrete round with maybe a fountain or something hosted a bunch of info tables, some artsy hippies working on various projects, a triage setup, some chanting Hare Krishnas. More cops surrounded the camp, even more moved to close off the farthest reaches of the west side, We all saw we were utterly circumscribed and our physical position was hopeless. There was plenty of Hope, mind you, but all of it founded on our spiritual position, see.

As we awaited  what everyone knew to be inexorable, not so many of us remained quiet, (by “us” i mean Occupiers here; the most visible government employees were silent). I did mostly, and so did the Boy, he for his reasons and i for mine. The whole scene produced its own racket, but the most noticeable volume arose from the collection of spirit-moved Occupiers working the lines of eerily insensate gendarmes. Each was moved by his or her own personal spirit, few of which were very friendly toward the collective juggernaut we faced. More than one strode frenetically up and down whichever line was convenient  hurling f-bombs and spittle with as much force as he could muster. You know: Fuck the Police!!!” and, “Fuck Yoooou!!!” from distances as close as the collected officers’ gear would allow. The pointillistic rows of cops, each in his own world, stared into space, eyes forward and directed at some Unknown, refusing eye contact. Only God and each man in his solitude knew what blackness filled his vision, (and possibly anyone operating one of those guv’mint mind-reading gizmos, if you’re into that sort of thinking).

Sensibly, few of the “non-violent” protesters were mad--that is crazy--enough to attempt to get physical. Those that did were promptly stomped, smashed and removed from the game. Otherwise with many pushing the envelope right to its most extreme limit, the arms-down-and-rigid-face forward-inches-from-any-nearest-random-cop’s-shielded-face stance of extreme and barely checked agitation rapidly became familiar. I for one was amazed at the extraordinary and rather creepy restraint the beleaguered police were displaying, though few shield-screened eyes could keep from betraying internal turmoil. Virtually none of the cops would assent to eye contact.

As this scene played itself out, a few Occupiers attempted to convince their fellows to mellow. In the midst of the very front and most electrical line of all this, there in front of the aforementioned Kitchen, one lone Occupier was working the line of gear-laden men, moved by a different spirit indeed. He was preaching it, baby. Pleading. Begging. Beseeching. As near to tears as i am now as this scene spills its way from my fingertips, fluid in his expressive motion to and fro as any practiced Sunday morning crowd-pleaser can i get a amen. “Don’t you see it? You are us! We are you! Please, stop this! We are one--we must stop fighting!” And in some brilliant, divinely inspired voice, “Lay down your shields! Join us! Put down your clubs and have some lunch!”

And then ...right there in front of the Boy and me...with the scene in the actual Kitchen production area behind the table unchanged from before the lines of them did exactly that.

There was actually a fat queue at the Kitchen counter that parted like the Red Sea, astonished, for this newborn brother of ours to step up and claim his serving. He ate his food in silence and retook his spot in that other line which remained unaltered as his fellows stood unmoved, apparently in both senses. The Boy and i collected our portion of genuinely bomb-ass risotto and began to  eat with more on our minds than i can possibly describe. Before we were half through our plates the order came and we found ourselves dining amidst a police riot, our rice flavored by tear gas. (I got off the hook before, when the story remained vague. I suppose his mom is going to kill me now, after all).

The rest of the action went down as one would expect, with ample blood, outrage, and pepper-bullet injury and indignity and tears and drama. It was all on the news, with much expansion available on YouTube. You can look it up. None of that is the point.

I heard that one cop was fired perfunctorily that night.

We were there. Right fucking there. It really happened. It was so surreal i almost have to ask the Boy if it actually wasn’t some kind of dream.

Those two guys, though. That cop! When we all do what he did, just maybe then the war will be over. He looked up  and noticed he was looking in the fucking mirror.

The thing about all this is that the crowd of Occupiers was a full-on quorum of average joes with representation across several spectra. There were Christians, pagans, dope fiends, felons, bikers, disgruntled employees, GIs, vets, blue-collar Barney Rubbles, Republicans, Democrats, hippies, neo-hippies, and chanting, jangling Hare Krishnas, The cops were disguised as an invading foreign force but we all know they were really just a bunch of Christians, pagans, dope fiends, felons, bikers, disgruntled employees, GIs, vets, blue-collar Barney Rubbles, Republicans, and Democrats. The only groups lacking representation really were the hippies and the chanting, jangling Hare Krishnas that stayed with the rest of us till late into the night serving free food as a replacement for the Anarchists who had been quite the hell shut down. Oh yeah--there likely weren’t too many Anarchists on the cops’ side of the lines. I’m pretty sure  those differences are significant. Maybe the cops would be better if they got some of those groups they were missing. The janglier the better.

Back here at the county jail where i’m still Occupying, there’s lots of conflict, though not nearly so boiling hot. The old standby, “Fuck the Police,” is scrawled or carved around and about and plenty of folks on either side of whatever line each has drawn are fully prepared to swing  clubs at one another. Many of the sheriff's deputies and sad, paycheck-to paycheck “detention specialists” are happy to evoke a very dark spirit indeed in their efforts to control us inmates who represent Other to them. I have been struck by the observation that these obnoxious fucks are the respected  representatives of a society that so many of our deluded citizenry expect us of the criminal class to emulate.

Ha! I may be an asshole myself, but no thanks: I have no interest in joining your obnoxious and shitty club.

Meanwhile, virtually all of us prisoners, including myself sometimes, react…”Grumble grumble fuck the police why i oughtta etc. etc. ad nauseum” Various of us slink around and steal or fight among ourselves or in general practice a sort of blindfolded subservience to Self. (Marco! Polo!...Ouch! Motherfucker!!!). We’re fucking obnoxious. We want the cops and the guards and judges and bankers and presidents to act differently but...why would they want to join our obnoxious and shitty club? When they do we wind up with a spectacular clusterfuck like the found at the Denver county jail last month, where a dep was helping a banger sling dope and administer beat-downs. Happens all the time. In every kaleidoscopic variation you can imagine.

It’s no wonder Washington and Wall Street play on like they do.

I mentioned some encouraging developments. Some--possibly even many--of the upstanding folks working around here actually seem to be secretly human. As usual lots of my friends from out in the world are here and we get to visit. Some i haven’t seen for a while. One dear friend, Scott Meehan wanted very badly to kill the shit out of me the last time we interacted out in the unenclosed air. He is a veteran of way too much ridiculous and outrageous conflict on behalf of the United States of America, and after he misinterpreted something i said in public one day he came unglued and kept promising to come over and put me out of his misery for a while, until the drugs caused him to lose interest i guess. Now almost three years later and under altogether different set of circumstances, we’ve established a genuinely natural and free-flowing rapprochement and are back to the same page though it’s a different page for both of us, really. The faces in the mirror are converging. Certain Truths seem to seem to be acting as glass cleaner, lately.

I’ve had conversations with deputies and the like around here that i really suspected might not ever be possible. This conversation. I told one deputy i had been holding my breath for a good twenty-five years for the moment. (Going back much before that i wasn’t interested; you know, fuck the police and all).

“Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” Is this true? What about Zeno’s Paradox which proves the hare can never catch the turtle, due to the nature of the Infinite and its eternally cascading series of halves? Sometimes we sense that those engaged in these epic battles are each right, and that neither is wrong. “The math of morality falters.” Like the Singularity at the Big Bang, or the event horizon at the threshold of the mind-body conundrum. Like division by zero.

But really, this stuff is just riddles, like castles built on air, “perfectly habitable if you don’t look down.” None of it can ever work, really. All the numbers in the real world say we’re screwed. The oceans will drown us in a sea of useless paper money six-pack plastic radioactive fish floating atop a sunken oil slick before our kids can finish college. But the world is a box that holds Schrödinger’s cat, and we can’t tell if the cat will be live or dead when the box opens. “We, together, are the cat, and we, individually are the scientist outside the box.” We can’t say what will happen until the Magick is done, and it doesn’t look all that good. Except we’re bigger than Schrödinger’s catbox. “Like any good cat, we have nine lives.”

Life is both less and more spectacular than we make it out to be, whether we’re talking to ourselves or to anyone else. No one will ever know if Willie’s story is true or not, because it is either way. I really don’t think Willie will ever tell, even though i don’t think i ever explicitly asked him to deal with the question any other way--but he gets it, ya know. Maybe the cat’s fate has more to do with each of us coming to terms with the miraculous than anything on the ground anyways. Maybe the fate of the world depends on a riddle, a cipher one can only read in a mirror.

No matter what we’re all in this life together whether we know it and whether we like it or not, and every last savory breath of it is a gift from the Gods. And, in the end, “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

Although those of you that have read or will now read the other stuff here on hipgnosis will easily recognize the common ground that one may imagine stands to be found on the lawns inside the moats of our adjacent castles in a neighborhood full of loons, all built on air, i am deeply indebted to Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason for some of the truly fine and beautiful language i snatched more or less wholesale to help me build the last four paragraphs here. Even though their book, The Rule of Four is a best-seller of a popular genre, i highly recommend it as the best book i’ve read produced during the twenty-first century. I wish i had written it myself, (while noting the title of this piece). Everyone should read this book.

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