On The Nature Of Self-Defeating Convictions
A missive to an estranged southern friend
By Phil Rockstroh
March 29, 2012 "Information
Clearing House" --- Although I have
resided in New York City for many years, I was born in the Deep
South. On a daily basis, I negotiate Manhattan’s gridded streets and
avenues, yet, in many ways, the terrain of my heart still winds like
an Indian trail through a pine forest. I visit the south on a
regular basis; the stain of red clay will never be scoured from my
To this day, I retain close ties to a number of southern friends and
contacts who did not venture far from home. As the years trundled
on, I’ve witnessed the quality of life and emotional wellbeing of
these friends, hailing from both laboring and middle class origins,
experience a steep, accelerating decline.
I’ve gazed upon the tormented faces of men I know, now deep in
middle age, who are facing the prospect of never again holding a
steady job that affords them a sense of dignity. As a consequence,
all too many of these men — men who I thought I knew well — have
been rendered sullen, spiteful, and, much to my heart’s duress, an
unreachable shell of their former self.
As their economic prospects diminished, their denial and displaced
rage grew malignant. In the case of a couple of my friends, their
resistance to reality became so vast, toxic, and all-encompassing
that any attempt at dialog proved prohibitive.
Emblematic of this situation is my strained to the limit friendship
with Vince (not his real name) who, due to the carnage inflicted on
the U.S. laboring class by so-called free market “values”, has been
chronically under or unemployed since the Wall Street bankster-perpetrated
crash of late 2008. Yet Vince remains stubborn in his refusal to
connect his dismal plight with the reality-resistant political
notions he clutches. To this day, he describes himself as a
“conservative libertarian — a proud believer in the values of the
free market”…This conviction, coming from a member of the laboring
class, is analogous to a slave proclaiming he is a believer in the
auction block and the verities of his master’s whip.
Worse, as the day to day humiliations exacted by the corporate state
continue to inflict deeper, more emotionally debilitating wounds,
the more Vince reacts like a wounded animal…lashing out at all but
those who bestow him with the palliative of rightwing demagogic lies
that distort the source of his suffering by means of directing his
rage at a host of scapegoats i.e., phantom socialists (and, of
course, their OWS dirty hippie dupes) whose, schemes, he insists,
have denied him his rightful place among the serried ranks of
capitalism’s legion of winners.
My apologies to Vince and all of his likeminded brethren of my
native region: Although we rose from the same southern soil, I’ve
never had a knack for telling reassuring lies…for conjuring the sort
of displaced emotional resentments and engaging in the brand of
bigot-whispering that is the stock and trade of contemporary red
state conservatives. Conversely, I have shown some promise in
encouraging people to embrace the reality of their circumstances,
and passing on the hopeful news that they are stronger than they
know…Withal, the act of carrying the burden of denial in a marathon
flight from feelings of angst and despair is the force that exhausts
one’s energy and demoralizes one’s spirit.
This is why such a large number of those whose lives have been
degraded by the deprivations of the present economic order will not
focus their anger at Wall Street grifters: If capitalism, by the
very nature of the system, allows a swindlers’ class to not only
legally exist — but to thrive — then it follows that there must be
something flawed about the nature of capitalism itself.
Accordingly, a depressing revelation waits at the margins of Vince’s
(and other downtrodden true believers in the existence of free
market fairy dust) sense of awareness: that the energies of one’s
life have been devoted to the maintenance of an elaborate lie; not
only have your labors been for naught — but your sacrosanct
convictions have laid the groundwork for the crime that was
committed against you. You have spent your life as an accessory to
your own robbery.
Your faith in capitalism has left you in a similar position to the
followers of a fanatical cult who were instructed to stand upon an
isolated hilltop, so that, at midnight, as prophesied by their
charismatic leader, their ranks will be lifted to heaven upon
chariots of glinting gold…but who now stand stoop-shouldered before
the breaking dawn, shivering into the cold light of day.
Rather than admit error, one’s pride can compel one to blame phantom
enemies for humiliating circumstances. Thus, as Vince’s prospects
shrank, his gun collection grew to mini-armory proportions. Perhaps,
he believes the weapon’s heft in his hands will stem the inexorable
drift of his life into purposelessness; perhaps, his firearms will
bestow a sense of security, in a life buffeted by uncertainty;
perhaps, if he squints down the site of his rifle long enough, he
can target the phantoms that made off with his hopes.
Vince, old buddy, the solution is a great deal more accessible than
that. To mitigate feelings of hopelessness attendant to isolation,
the simple act of starting a conversation is helpful…The doable act
of leaving the house and attending an OWS function can serve to
transform gut-gnawing rumination into fruitful dialog…thus, Vince,
you will become enjoined in an ongoing conversation — a
collaboration between your soul and the soul of life. In this way,
we can become part and parcel of the story of our times, part of a
living tale, unfolding in the eternal present that will affect the
future in ways unseen.
Still, I’ve learned, on an individual basis, I remain powerless
against red state belligerent ignorance of the collective variety.
My experiences as a southerner inform me the process of change will
be difficult, because only cultural earthquakes alter the course of
streams of surging stupid.
Sure, start a dialog with even the most obtuse teabagger
sort…attempt to convince him that the views he clutches are
self-defeating…try to disabuse him of his calcified bigotry — but
don’t be optimistic about the outcome of your efforts. Trouble is:
Depressingly large numbers of people have invested a great amount of
time, energy and identity in the maintenance of their
reality-defiant attitudes…There is just too much fragile
self-esteem, bulwarked by brittle pride, at stake.
While self-doubt is the worthy adversary of the wise, belligerent
ignorance is the dubious ally of those who fear and resist
self-awareness. Often, a journey towards self-knowledge and an
attendant awakening to the nature of one’s condition can be
unnerving and painful. The process is fraught with free-floating
anxiety and weighted with saturnine regret. If I’ve made numerous
life-determining choices based on my acceptance of proffered
falsehoods, then I have lost many years constructing my life
accordingly. The grief can be overwhelming. What alms does one chant
into the grieving dawn on the morning after one’s illusions have
This is why so many choose to spend their hours commuting through
life in the company of the corpse of capitalism. Accordingly, the
nation resembles the Bates Motel…its spree-killer government
reflected in the acts of its murder-prone citizenry e.g., Staff Sgt.
Robert Bales and guarded gate, vigilante flake George Zimmerman.
When a system of governance loses its purpose for existence (when
the system becomes a mindless self-perpetuating monster) its
sustaining lies will be internalized and acted on by those governed.
Militarized police units lower truncheons upon the heads of peaceful
demonstrators, as individuals, unhinged by displaced grievances,
mirror official policy in tragic acts of rage engendered by
We live in a culture that worships the god of violent death; of
course, its sermons will be played out beyond the confines of its
official temples, in the form of hideous bacchanals of spilled
blood. The chickens come home to roost, and they are heavily armed
and in the thrall of a violent psychotic episode.
Vince simply cannot wrap his corporate/police state colonized mind
around the fact that, as is the case with any nation containing the
vast amount of wealth inequity extant in the U.S., the elite will
utilize the services of the police to achieve less than noble
ends…that police repression and violence will be exercised at a
level equal to the lack of legitimacy of the governing class.
As we have witnessed in the case of the OWS movement and its
encounters with police authorities, when members of the citizenry
challenge the corrupt arrangement, dissenters will be met by brutal
methods intended to crush those perceived as a threat to the
To Vince and any others still holding the quaint notion that the
governing class of the U.S. possesses legitimacy, the actions of the
NYPD testify to the contrary; their ongoing, brutal suppression of
those attempting to exercise their right to dissent should disabuse
you of that noxiously innocent fantasy. When justice has been
banished from the precincts of power, it must be reclaimed in the
commons…Hence, occupy defiance…Make yourself at home on the
premises, because, if you are outraged by oppression and you long
for a more just world, you will be spending a good deal of your time
in this location.
Vince, one day, upon your arrival, I hope to meet you there.
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in
New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit
http://philrockstroh.com/ or at FaceBook:
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