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Joe, Why Did You Crap Out On Us?

By Joe Bageant

April 16, 2010 "Information Clearing House" --


Did everything get so hopeless you just gave up? I liked your fighting spirit here, in 2004, and feel when you've got a voice, as you have, we'd appreciate hearing it as a call to arms instead of an old man's complaints. I can say this without being ageist, I'm probably older than you.

So get out of my way and Katy bar the door! I for one am taking to the streets, joining every damned faggot commie tree hugging protest march that comes rattling the pike. I don't care if these are the last days of the empire of the locusts. I don't care if the entire jackal nation is at our very throats. Let whatever history remains record that some of us went down with a fight, and that perhaps a few of us indeed became "sages with transfigured faces".

The economy stinks, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done -- that in itself is an indictment of our economic policy.

The environment is trashed. Even more work to be done here.

In the meantime the jackals are winning.

Just some thoughts.




Hi Diane,

Well, I've certainly changed my view of things since 2004. In the subsequent six years of reading, listening, trying to learn what's going on, I find the conclusion inescapable that that it will take a collapse to initiate the sort of ground-up change necessary. That doesn't mean good people should not carry on the struggle if they can find it in themselves. But I really don't think there are enough souls with time or stamina to pull it off in the face of the overwhelming corporate/government machinery opposing them (us).

At the same time I believe we can become finer within ourselves, even during collapse, which will take god only knows how long. Or not. So I have become interested in the in the spiritual side of things, as well as the political -- because as near as I can tell, spiritual courage, insight and judgment, are what is missing from the progressive struggle (or whatever you want to call it).

It is seeing everything in material terms, just like our avaricious capitalist overlords, that holds us back, Of course it's about money and the material, and its fair distribution. But that ain't the whole picture. Engorged as we have been for so long on goods, services, commodities and spectacle, I think we have lost sight of the power (and frailties) within us as human beings, as souls on this planet. I am not saying saying that we should run away to some transcendental space and never come back. I'm just saying we can never have a clue unless we look inward and learn that spiritual territory, then look outward and discover that it's common ground for all of mankind.

And besides, doing that helps one get up every morning and do the right things -- such as stop mindless consumption (which in itself is subversive in a nation of zombie gluttons), stop following sham leadership (we don't need elite "leaders," and indeed they are all elites by virtue of making choices for the rest of us). We need to own our own lives, inside and out. And you can never own the outer, other than in appearances, until you possess the inner.

Meanwhile, the world devouring system that western man created, and in turn recreated him, is reaching the apex of its terrible energy. It will soon be spent. As historical, much less as ecological, planetary and evolutionary time goes, it was a brief folly.

So at this point I am content to let up, to quit raging so much (though there's no accounting for the occasional effects of ethyl spirits). Rage fatigue eats up one's stamina and inner resources, without one bit affecting the autonomic predatory system in motion.

Beyond that, I am seeing others do the same, directing their energies to places out of the path of the machine Places like Ecuador, northern California -- all sorts of places -- creating little spots of sustainability as best as possible. They're not going to stop the collapse either, and in all likelihood go down with everyone else, just not as fast. (After all, we are in the sixth great species die-off here). But when I am around these people, I feel healthy human beings flourishing both physically and spiritually -- something you don't see much in America these days, and something I've not seen since my boyhood on a West Virginia mountain farm. And I want to bounce their babies on my knee, and savor a little rightness in the world for a change.

And when I'm done, I don't much feel like going back to raging and cussing and screaming at an empire so vast it can never feel anything I'd do to it anyway. It takes actual destruction and killing to get its attention, because all it understands and responds to is brutal force, despite the pretense of democracy and all -- that is, manufactured consent. So if it could feel any effect from me as an individual, then I'd simply be branded a terrorist and disposed of, wouldn't I?

I'm too old to be shitting in a can in Gitmo. I used to go to sleep at night contemplating just what sort of violence I could perform that would do any good. Believe me, like so many others with whom I've talked who felt the same, I seriously contemplated some horrific stuff. But when I looked at the sorts of company I'd be keeping in America by doing so, I did not like it at all. Perhaps if Trotsky's ghost came one night to call me out, I'd get dressed and go. But as I see it, there is no "will of the people" mandate. Hell, the people want more cable channels, fried chicken buckets and someone to tell them there really is a free lunch. And that they can return to the same shameful waste and stupidity as before, through "a recovery."

I'm rambling, I know it. But readers have asked me this before. So in the end all I can say is that I do what I do. I make my own choices each day, without any self-conscious concern for reader opinion. Or even the opinions of my own family much of the time, most of them being as they are, attached to the fictions of the empire -- one of which is the power of the people. Another being that they can have security, and that if they just keep their heads down, be nice around people and work hard, America will not fuck them over.

Common sense eventually told me there ain't gonna be no revolution, just things the empire will label revolutions as a distraction from the utterly remote possibility of one are -- such as the "Tea Party Revolution."

In the end, maybe all we ever have in this world is each day we awaken to. In which case, I might as well do what I can until the collapse, which I probably won't quite live to see: Live lightly, find joy in age, and tickle younger people's babies when I'm lucky enough to get the opportunity.

Would that I could give you a more elegant answer, my dear. But that's about all there is to it.

In art and labor,


About Joe

Born 1946 in Winchester VA, USA. US Navy Vietnam era veteran. After stint in Navy became anti-war hippie, ran off to the West Coast ... lived in communes, hippie school buses... started writing about holy men, countercultural figures, rock stars and the American scene in 1971 ... lived in Boulder Colorado until mid 1980s ... 14 years in all ... became a Marxist and a half-assed Buddhist ... Traveled to Central America to write about third World issues...



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