we only wanted to be loved. work in progress.

I was brought up with sulphurous devotion: my mother committed to a demanding god who I was told loved me with such passion that I in my six year old faith believing that the world was put together harmoniously was shaken to inconsolable pieces once brought to the understanding that he was ready to torture me with the full fire and zealotry of unleashed paternal rage from the moment of my death if not before should I fail to follow his minute and contradictory instructions for returning his affections.

Neither this god nor my mother could bear to be doubted, to be the object anger or upset. These were always met with a ringing pronouncement of my shame. Only in retrospect can I see the momentary glance of abject defeat that came before or that is the glance at the time struck terror in me rather than compassion for myself or for her. Two children caught in a defensive struggle where only one could summon all the power and capricious skills of parenthood. 

And a heavenly father so helpless in his deep offense at his ungrateful creation that he had no choice but to destroy it. Eventually. As though the longer he waits, the deeper the sea of ever-burning souls, the greater his comfort will be at having finally, at last, secured the love of all of what is left of the universe. 

As children, so the Freudian narrative goes, we unconsciously wish for the death of our parents to the point even of dreaming their murder night after night. Our tormentors, our sole hope for survival. Our little images of the gods. Our prototypes for a lifetime of treacherous promises of salvation: from the death that surely would have taken us without their protection yes but more fundamentally from our deeply ashamed selves. 

The paradox of seeking absolution from shame from those who cannot stop assigning shame out of their own desperate wishes to be relieved of theirs. 

In its divine appearance the projection of the hungriest ghost arrives with a need for regard and assurance so gaping and hollow as to be unsatisfiable. It is invested with a destructive power that is absolute: the wet dream of would-be dictators whose fondest wish is to destroy all who have rejected them as well as anyone who might possibly reject them in the future. That this might include their own selves is only the most obvious suicidal thread in every tale of authoritarian purges of perceived enemies but it is closely bound up with the impossibility of surviving purification when one is already the embodiment of the persecuting enemy precisely because you were made not in their image but with their breath their caress their sweet address in your ear and whatever comfort they were able to give you when their fears subsided long enough to let you close. 

Hungry ghost god–we may call them yaweh or jehovah but they carry other names as well–is adored by hundreds of millions. For centuries it kept grown European children comforted in the knowledge that they had escaped at least its wrath–if only temporarily and conditionally and subject to the whims of its representatives on earth but what else is white childhood made of but the effort to keep first our parents and then our authorities and of course god as well from discomfort lest they be unable to love anymore, lest they be forced to hit us with fists or switches or belts or repeated reminders of our shameful existence and their benevolence toward us so incomprehensible that they themselves cannot account for it and as for us we cannot predict what trespass might cause it to be switched off without notice or promise of being switched back on. 

Europe they followed their tough loving Heavenly Father followed their straight-talking strong arming leaders all the way to Auschwitz so strong was their our conditioning that wickedness was born into them us and needed to be violently disciplined out before they we could be worthy of anyone’s regard be that regard outright respect or the barest of tolerance. 

or the unzipping of jeans, the unbuckling belt. when the confusion of love with violent domination with the unthinkable desire to bond with all of life–life of a fallen world already accursed by its creator–finally overwhelm the bounds of what is called reason. 

We here still trade our labor and profligate adoration for nothing certain at all only the promise that if we are not yet ok we but have to wait for all of our enemies to be killed or driven off and then finally we will have the unfettered opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of a little attention what you thought the reward would just be handed to you in the universe of our fathers this earth is so vengeful and petty that it will not provide a single ear of wheat for the asking only to those who pay for it only to those who pray for it who flail and lacerate their flesh until it cowers at the footsteps of the headman the fully erect enforcer. 

Where are we going, we pattern seeking bundles of neurons pruned drastically in the first years of life to only those necessary: fight, flight, or freeze. you saw them on tv . we saw you on tv.  

there was no question. I would love him back as told and I would love them back as told and so I did she his messenger his liaison his authority and blamelessness she my only hope for survival. the days spent scrutinizing her face the nights spent petitioning him to let me in on the secret the one that clearly he was withholding in order to watch me writhe. 

I inject here a postscript: I would come at a surprisingly young age to realize that if I left him nothing would happen. other than giving up the possibility of ever speaking to her again or that is of speaking in a way that refused to give comfort in the place of honesty. which she could not bear then and can only sometimes ease into now. 

we in the west have devised a fluorescing range of diseases for the neurologically distressed and we have a name for this one too: a name for the circular lists of enemies and friends and the limbo of sublists where friends wait to be made enemies or demi-enemies and foes are sentenced to sidelong probation we have a name for the adoration showered upon those who keep their mirrors shined and trained at just the right angle a name for the periodic droughts in that adoration only there are no periods not even chaotic ones nothing but raw unpredictability the provocational limits that never strike twice anywhere near one another except for when they do completely out of the blue. 

this name though rarely is applied in any sensical way. only when the otherwise mundane violence exceeds usual bounds will the diagnosis be handed down and even then its classificatory powers lie in misdirection obfuscation distraction the spectacular excesses of rationalized pathology. 

everyone here has narcissists for parents and everyone here is themselves a narcissist. probably most of us conduct our narcissism in a fairly disorderly way: such is the long inheritance of mammalian of reptilian of arachnid of microbial intelligence converging and diverging webs of stochastically divined and shifting millivoltage the potential in a single grain of salt to produce all the culture there has ever been or ever will be.

~~~

but we are not narcissists either. nobody is a narcissist and nobody has narcissism: are you feeling ok today no I have a bad cold and my narcissism is flaring up. it would be a digression to bring the whole western model of mental illness in for questioning were it not for the fact that the mentally ill scapegoat is central to so many of the feedback loops that drive a culture that has discarded notions of interconnectedness and replaced them with the ludicrous ideal of the compartmentalized, mechanical individual who is absolutely self-sufficient. 

we tinker with sledgehammers and bludgeons where at least obsidian blades were less painful: as though an intelligent sensitive animal could be neatly repaired piece by piece.

Why Radical Academics Often Find it Hard to Write, and What to Do about It

one of the millions of voices in my head needed this. now to find what the other 999,999 need.

Anne Bonny Pirate

blank piece of paperJonathan Neale

This post will be of interest to only some of our readers. But we hope it will be very useful for them.

It is not easy to be both an academic and an activist. The values, the audiences and the constraints are different. Sitting down to write, you can feel yourself pulled in two different ways. The result is often muddled thinking and murky prose. There is too much ranting for an academic audience, and too much gobbledygook for the movement. In many cases, there is no prose at all, only silence, and pages crumpled in the wastebasket or erased on the screen.

The first half of this post offers some advice that can make writing easier, faster and more useful. The second half explains why universities make activists feel stupid, how they do it, and how you can cope.

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it came to me at 3 AM

if I had a place
that is
if there were a word a nice
simple
everyday
easy to pronounce
word for this points
crotchward
or this points
faceward
or this
arms outstretched as if
to say

if there were then
probably I would be happy to give it
give it up that is
let us all be undefined
uncontained happy
free from tyranny
a frolic around a grave labeled
labels

if there were such

or if she had said something more like yeah I don’t use any particular pronouns either instead of
why does it matter
what you call yourself
what I call you
what you all take on the whole of
common language

if there were such maybe
maybe I’d a
had an answer
prepared ahead of time
instead of this.

I am but thirty years behind myself. Here are five minutes only it took all day.

This week I am almost in the mood to construct a long, wide-ranging, single draft from beginning to end and yet relatively coherent manifesto. 

Almost.

I have become preoccupied with voice. Voices, even: those whose near- but not-quite-appearance earned me the “psychotic features” feature of my Official Psychiatric Diagnosis–well, one of them. I have several spread through time and space and now in binary code–but not just those voices. And my voice, or those voices I can describe as available for me to use consciously and willfully even if I have my skepticisms regarding will including a question nobody has answered yet in a way I find useful which question goes mainly like will: what the fuck is it and why are we so attached to the idea of it. I confess I do not “get” will as an entity or function or even faculty although I sometimes get some little where if I approach will as a name that gets passed around among a small circle of verbs having to do with wishing and desiring and commanding and otherwise employing agents of action with or without their consent.

But not just my own voices those which seem to obey what is called me and those which seem to obey the more occult me’s whose functions are not clear beyond their our being indiscriminate attempts to survive the world as they we see it: double-binds chained up into triple- and quadruple-binds to the point that uncertainty issues as its own exponential feedback loop quickly pegging the meters and shredding paper wire and splintered wooden cabinets who crash to the ground and into the crowds huddled around the stacks as though distorted signals were only nutritious if embraced bodily the bass notes picking us up off our feet and setting us back down again 120 times every minute.

But also voice in general: who made the first vocal noise on Earth and what did it sound like when mineral and salt and metal and gas all gathered their breath at once to voice almost nothing other than the interminable lines of divisions and multiplications and the branches and the flowerings and wanings and the iterations and the iterations and the daily business of securing stellar energy in some digestible form or another enough to live through the next day or night or month or winter.

Was it a croak or a squeak or a peal of lungs over ossified vocal folds in announcement of announcement.

We are here.

Where.

Here.
 
 
Here.
 
 
 
Here.

So I have been reading and I have been writing but I have not been speaking or that is I whose life’s work has been determining what to say.

to all of this.

have been keeping mum.

It is an ancient imperative I suspect at least as old as my ancestors’ graves on that Asian peninsula we call Europe wherever they might have been lain some thousand or so places who no longer have names that they themselves know to answer to.

This was going to be a cut and paste. Here is one from a letter I wrote to a friend not long ago.

I have some observations and I have some hunches and I have some ideas but mostly I cannot make out whether or not I have a voice. I may have one. I do not really know if I do or maybe it is that I exercise my own voices for my own auditors and everyone in here is fine with that but when I consider any degree of broadcasting any of these voices even in the smallest ways (should I be writing this? I do not know but I seem to be able to keep writing today so I am going to keep writing today) we bombard ourselves with questions and second and third and fourth guesses about the propriety of ourselves, we, myself, all of me speaking at all.

All of the accounts I read whether of my immediate family or my more distant relations in time and space to the extent that these accounts are fitted to typically heterocompulsive protestant imperatives to that extent I cannot find my place in any of them. I could not possibly have existed before now or that is what they tell me or that is what they tell me in not telling me anything more than what they do the covers of family bibles recording sons and daughters of sons and daughters of sons and daughters as though this were all that ever proceeded from the mouths of humanity or even the only possible terrestrial issue these accounts do not account for me at all.

This other thing too: the language I have been given or the terms with which I have heard my life or lives similar to mine explained and described and discounted and disposed of issues from and reiterates such monstrously outsized shame as a throttle and lash that it is hard to maneuver around without sustaining multiple lacerations at my own hands. It is as though the abusive methods that trained me up in the way I should go worked so as to establish internal agents unable to do other than continue to offer abuse.

I was very well trained as I was growing up to exceed expectations especially when I perceived those expectations as having their hopes bound in some point above. Above me, that is: in stature, power, authority, and all that go with them to render the whole deal of growing up quite awful. Which is not so different from what other children felt. On the other hand I do not know many others who had a Lake of Fire held over their heads or under their feet as the consequences of not only not exceeding expectations but of not examining yourself minutely for other signs of rebellion–and this was just one item on a very very long list of things to do and not do and you had to be very careful and watchful because Satan could trick you into thinking you were doing the right thing when really you were doing the opposite and even though that might seem like it was all on Satan it turned out in the end to be your fault or you were going to be tortured forever as a result and this was certainly reasonable even if by the time you were 16 it would begin to show its absurdity at 7 you took it all very very literally. That is I did.

It was inconceivable to doubt what the preacher said even only to oneself. Your opinion was not only emphatically unsolicited but understood as refuted without hearing: silly, selfish, sinful–a scale yes but usually involving divine judgment as early in the process as necessary to make a clearly open-and-shut case whose sentence needed be no more than one single sentence if it were in need of pronouncing at all.

“I never had to spank her. I could just look at her a certain way and she would be crushed.”

It was true. Crushed I was.

It occurs to me to mention something about cultural social capital and how it is constructed by others and by oneself under conditions where oneself is expected always to be speaking from the seat of shame and where this extends to gender and sexuality in particular to make certain subject positions–let’s say however many might be on the “ftm trans* spectrum” in sociological discourse but on a sort of spun off trajectory into a wtf is gender and I may have a beard and I do love it yes but please stop assuming I am a man sort of spot or station or region or place–difficult even to describe much less speak from as though anyone would be tending their ear in a direction nobody would know even where or how to point.

It would not be theoretical exactly although it would have to be no matter what else it was.

For now though the mention is the best I can do for it.

There may be more.

There is more.
In fact.
In fact there is more. Already. In so many words. So many that I am running out of storage space again.

so I said this is not finished so I said post it anyway so I said ok I hope you know what you are doing so I said of course I do

I do not even know where to begin.

I have begun. I have begun and I have begun.

So many starts that by now fifty thousand or so of me are deeply involved with their chosen labyrinths each one as necessary and urgent as all of the others combined which presents a logical difficulty but not a phenomenological one.

I cannot wait.

I cannot hold my tongue.
I cannot hold my water.
I cannot hold my liquor.

I cannot hold myself to any promises this I only learned in the last couple of years. Apologies if I promised you anything before approximately now. I would give you the world but I probably would not be able to complete the process of packaging it and printing out the postage and taking it to wherever it needed to be taken in order for you to receive it in this lifetime. It is not a matter of will or laziness or disregard nor have I yet been able to articulate what it is a matter of so far I can only watch myself spend hours trying to choose a direction to move in and being unable to intervene in the thought process that takes each direction up to look at its pros and cons and trace its dependencies over and over again until I run up against the hitch enough times to recognize it for what it is at which point I must deliberate how to resolve the hitch which usually requires much the same process in a slightly different direction and this can repeat indefinitely until if I find the lynchpin before five years have gone by I congratulate myself for a job well done.

Because it is a job well done even when the original job gets lost in the trash heap of what I could not do at the time some months or years prior to that.

We learn to heap praise upon ourselves for brushing our teeth.
For putting on shoes.
For washing something. Anything.
For walking down the street without panic on one side or exhaustion on another.
This is not me complaining. This is me carrying water and chopping wood.
This is life. This is what life is.
Trimming your nails without shame.
Can you do that.
Looking in the mirror without averting your eyes.
Can you do that.
Hercules himself would have collapsed in the effort.
Which does not make me a hero.

I cannot find the right words at the right time.
I cannot allow myself to speak even and especially when I have finally worked out with exquisite detail and exacting turns of phrase to evoke precisely the right scene with precisely the right amount of pathos supported by clear but not overbearing arguments to show that I mean no harm and I do not wish to win or that is I do not wish to be able to defeat or conquer even when I cannot do without what are called fighting words because the occasion calls for them and I cannot ignore that call.

There is no way as it turns out to keep everyone comforted or comfortable and so there is no way to guarantee my own safety even when the last word for me must be to stay out of harm’s way. Nothing I say (saw was the typo that snuck out before I caught it) can be without painful consequences because it is the issue of painful consequences which were the issue of painful consequences: the terror of generations terrorized into clinging to and defending to their deaths the most ruthless most bare and absurd imposters of comfort or calm or peace because comfort and calm and peace themselves fled so long ago none of us can remember when they last showed up as anything other than violation under gag orders.

It is not only that one side of my family is abusive without realizing it except when it looks into the windows of a sister or brother to see someone misbehaving and then all is consternation and confusion. That I recall the hushed conversations and puzzlement over why this kid was being bad or why this one here was showing signs of being unable to maintain even through grit teeth the brittle naivete that had brought us along so far to wherever it i was we had got which was itself widely known to be completely unknown. Nor is this the whole story because I am only here where I am and was only there where I was and only saw and heard what I saw and heard and only remember what I remember if that much.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that another side of my family has successfully ridden its own stoicism all the way to the underworld enough times that at this point there is practically nobody left to answer to. All of us amiable ciphers to all of us or maybe that was just me. In any case we the survivors are of a loose knit to put it in amiable terms. There would be other stories to be told but the storytellers are dying out.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that I live in a culture that enshrines violent domination exploitation and competition over its naturalized delusions of unending lack as not just necessary because hey life is hard toughen up but because we actually believe these things to be divine givens, moral imperatives, and the most perfect and just ideals ever conceived by human beings. To judge our own lives as miserable and in need of salvation immediately upon leaving the womb: the fetus is innocent and even sacred until it crowns into original sin and a personal responsibility so abject as to suggest that all of history is reset at every moment of birth in turn starting over and over and over and over until we are not only each our own island but each our own universe with time and space immaculate for that instant before the mark of Cain sets us against all the others vying for the reassurance that ours and only ours is the righteous and sanctioned path. Even the irreligious believe this religiously.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.