Sunday, November 04, 2012

So, Why Does Henry Drink?

"My house is made of wood, and it's made well,
unlike us. My house is older than Henry;
that's fairly old.
If there were a middle    ground between things and the soul" -- John Berryman, "Dream Song 385"
Down here, the genius of the place is the water moccasin. No grizzly bears or elk, no trout or thatch, but the cotton mouth, which developed its poison out of accursedness rather than need, stands for our soil's natural produce. As fallen leaves turn the grass into a mosaic, and every glance at the ground presents us with the vertigo of endlessly repeated leaf shapes at shifting angles, the very soil is a 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The wind will shift the pieces, and people will rake them into bags, until the waters and acids break them to stickiness, and then that will be the new paving of the world for a season.

Left to their own devices, the people will be both kind and cruel, spring and autumn, and they will do all that is possible to deny the fall's spring, the false spring, and the failed spring. Fallen nature and fallen humanity try to avoid one another and keep their hostilities decorous. The kudzu will wait a while before trying to teach lessons in hegemony, and the honeysuckle will climb through all the shrubbery, then the screens and lattices, and the possums and raccoons will take what they can as quietly as they are able. The people, for their part, will rapture in five point bucks and the "hallowed" traditions of testing inescapable technology against herbivores. Ducks, doves, and a few quail will fall from the sky, but the people will claim that it was all in good sport, and all the sweeping and raking and cutting back will not be grudged.

Of course this is a land of the polite lie. The water moccasin is aggressive in a way that a snake need not be. It gets its broods shot because it is perpetually angry, perpetually certain that it is better to die in killing than to live in fear. Copperheads can cringe beside a sneaker and hope its owner goes away, but not a water moccasin.

When any one or any thing gives offense, the people, too, will welcome the useless martyrdom of rage over the life of compromise. No wonder, either.

What is it that we have gained, you and I, through peace? When the braying, kicking ass comes down the hall, and we duck into our offices, what did we get? When the "poll watcher" begins to harass a brown skinned person in line because a chauvinist told him he could, what did we get for ducking our shoulders?

Carl Jung talked about the shadow. As much as you want peace, your shadow wants war. As much as you want to pay the bill and leave, your shadow wants to slap the waitress, stab the cook, and set fire to the building. Carl Jung was writing in the golden era of the bourgeoisie, before "bro humor" and other crimes became entertainment.

It was an era that claimed a great many minds. The people who wanted to kick against it had very loud fits. Nietzsche wished he could punch it in its face.

Today, restraint is dead, seemingly, but people are as restricted as ever. Remember how Republican presidents said they were going to lower "our" taxes to "give our money back to us?" Did it go back to us? I seem to recall that "giving our money back" meant making states do Welfare and Medicare, and they didn't raise the money. If they did, the money didn't come back. I recall that we were going to get rid of company pensions because "unions" and because "government" would be insolvent, and yet everyone still kept having money deducted, but now it went to an IRA or 401, which meant that it went to Wall Street. No, I don't recall anyone getting more money except banks, but I have seen services decrease year on year.

The cell phone would solve the problems of high phone charges. Of course the contracts that can't be cancelled without $200-300 of fees are not making things better. The "overdraft protection" on our banking accounts became ways of generating profits for the banks. We have no say in whether our power bills go up or down or how the power is made.

No, we're not free. We're pretty damned bottled up, hemmed in, and compromised, but now we don't have a name to associate with our losses or a face that we can dream of slapping.

I find myself at present being widely praised by my family as the one who has looked after my mother in her illness, but not at all trusted by any of them to have a clear point of view or the best point of view. This has led me to think again about how Jung praised a good stiff drink and a solid bender every once in a while. The problem is that it's really, really expensive to be a drunk.

Being a druggie is even more expensive, variable in its results, and dangerous.

No, the sane thing to do is to be a pill popper. First, the excess production of the nation favors that. After all, the strong manufacturing base in the U.S. is of drugs. We don't always know what they do or how they do it (Lyrica, anyone? Abilify?), but we can make it very well and at great cost. Astonishingly, we can make any medicine cost $2.00 per dose.

The truth of such things is, I think, not what Jung had argued, though. He felt that societies and persons needed to blow up their societies and allow misrule so that they could reintegrate the hierarchy. Essentially, by allowing the bacchanal, they defused the Shadow. This was his way of understanding the world wide presence of carnival. Most folks still, I think, view these events as purgatives.

I avoided Mardi Gras when I lived in New Orleans, but I think I have nevertheless come to a realization. Why would a person drink to oblivion? It's not to forget the world, but to forgive it lest we go back to agreeing with our spirits that it is better to have the consuming flame than the bitter acids of the dirt again.

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