The Establishment. The Machine. The Human Being
The spectacle is grotesque.
The establishment is deadly afraid of the spirit. It is afraid of the spirit because it is a machine.
I pass through carefully
So as not to step
Into talking points.
I tiptoe around
The mining field of platitudes:
A lonely but optimistic
Personal brand defector.
I am going to present two stories: a fighter story and a story of a human being who is hurting. Both of them are mine. I don’t believe the two-dimensional tales of rebels and victims that the television tells us, it is never like that in real life.
FIGTER STORY: A TALE OF THE MACHINE
The establishment is deadly afraid of the spirit. it is afraid of the spirit because it is a machine. The establishment is a mechanical structure designed to contain enemies and servants. It runs on a set of rules that are said to be based on a lofty ideal—power of the people, freedom of individuals, building heaven on earth—but in practice, are meant to protect machine operators and their routines.
What’s worse is that we are dependent on it. We are dependent on a machine to regulate the relationships with each other. The mechanical principle has comfortably and confidently installed itself where our collective heart used to be—and before we can yank it and shed our robothood, we need to find our way back to the heart. Without that purity of the heart, we will keeping falling on the mechanical pendulum that swings between the functions of the abuser and the abused. It doesn’t matter how many times we swap systems and upgrade to the proper slogan of the day.
A little bit of history: Before becoming “civilized” in the modern sense of it, human beings lived in smaller communities, and it was the wisdom of the elders that led the way, not a set of mechanical rules. Even today, there are indigenous communities that do well without algorithms or law enforcement. But getting rid of a scholastic regulatory framework is impossible without first building a strong sensory—also emotional, and spiritual—foundation. The mechanical principle is flawed—but as long as we are hollow, we will continue depending on the hollow machine. Without the heart in the right place, no “ism” is going to save us from ourselves. Have you ever gone traveling in hopes of running away from yourself—only to find that you take yourself with you anywhere you go?
HURTING STORY: A TALE OF A PURE HEART
I feel like the establishment has spat me out. It’s not like I didn’t try to kiss its ass—with a sour face, I did—but it wants me to do a lot more than touch its fat buttocks with my tongue, ever so lightly. It wants me to go all the way in—and even when I close my nose, the smell of bullshit blinds me. The gagging reflex kicks in before I become eligible for the benefits.
The sea of bullshit is vast and strangely magnificent. Its surface is embroidered with attractive sunshine—but if you dare look under the hood, the glitter turns into rotten slime before your eyes.
The wondrous, treacherous spectacle is made of all the familiar droplets: The apparatchik pundits who are eager to say anything for money and compliments; the lying and greedy statesmen; the dysfunctional and neurotic news cycle; the value system that is so arbitrary and volatile that no human being can adapt to it without forgetting how to locate their soul… nothing for the heart, nothing to hold on to.
Never has the spectacle been intended to be genuine—but in the past few years, it’s gotten grotesque. Perhaps the developed world almost ran out of foreign resources to abuse, and the kings got scared. Perhaps something else. But the farce became unbearable. As the economy of rich Western countries started falling into the neurotic vortex of app-induced human indignity, and the word about the disintegration of our habitat started getting out into the masses—albeit immediately commodified and castrated beyond recognition—our psychopathic feudal overlords upped both the lies and the censorship.
I can barely breathe the air filled with state and corporate talking points—and as a Soviet expat, I am extra disheartened by it. I have already lived through the fall of the spectacle. I remember it very well. The fall of the Soviet Union and its spectacular propaganda was akin to a spiritual renewal on a national level. The naked king was declared naked, everybody shouted and exhaled, and the metaphorical fireworks were thrown to celebrate the legitimacy of calling a spade a spade. And now this? Yikes, fuck, shit!!
As a philosophically inclined adult, I am a reluctant rebel. I guess I am traumatized a little. I will rebel if I have to but I prefer peace and quiet. There are people who are like, “Oh I am such a #rebel, look look look at me just gimme the spotlight and I will #resist”—and I am, like, “Can I have some peace and personal space, please?” I am a classic introvert. I would gladly cover up my nose and accept the stupid establishment for what it is—a stupid establishment run by selfish crazy fucks—were it not consistently abusing my basic senses. I guess this is how tired adults are pulled into public truth seeking.
YES A THIRD STORY: A TALE OF A CONFORMIST NONCONFORMIST CHILD
I, for one, was an eager conformist early on. My early childhood essays had all the talking points about class struggle and bad bourgeoisie, and lacked any semblance of aliveness or originality. I wrote them for praise—or rather to avoid the pain of not receiving the needed praise—a child’s cry for love. Conformism was all that was available, and it didn’t have a special name. It was the default behavior outside of which was pain.
I was conditioned to be “good,” to trust the system, to rely on it. It was the Soviet establishment I was supposed to embrace—but once you rely on one of them, you love ‘em all. The establishment is a place where you belong safely. A human being needs to belong. I wrote poetry about Lenin!!
At five or six years old, I went to the library across the street (yes, it was cool back then). As I was rummaging through the books on the shelf, I found what I thought was a treasure of belonging. It was a Khrushchev era book entitled, “Yes, You Will Live During Communism.” The book felt sacred, a printed initiation into the ranks of the smart people who knew all the smart words. It was a token of adulthood. I felt very proud of myself for finding and recognizing an adult book. And then I brought it home, showed it to my parents, and they laughed at my excitement. They said it was outdated garbage. Years later I would figure out that the titillating feeling of being “smart” was simply the physical sensation of being plugged into the communal electric field, the feeling of being approved and validated by others (who could be right or wrong but provided crowd support to conforming individuals none the less).
And then one day, the Soviet Union disintegrated. The apparatchiks were overthrown, and the dissidents were invited back into the house and given respect and prime air time. The underground artists who existed with zero hope of ever seeing the light of day, became superstars. Freedom was so total that everything was free-falling, and everyone was falling in love (some with change, some with money, but falling in love none the less). My friends and I were imitating American kids from our imagination and feeling like winners in the game of truth. The air was filled with truth-telling and hope. Gang member were killing each other in the streets, mainstream art told stories of gloom, drugs and prostitution, and we all believed in the power of love.
Now I realize that a lot of what was going on was about the cynical redistribution of markets and profits—but back then it felt magical.
Did I foresee that years later, a near identical establishment monster—albeit covered in leftover glitter and a different set of soundbites—would be a part of my life in America?
Somebody pinch me.