“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
That was a (great) line from the movie “They Live!”, the schlocky “B” movie I was mentioning the other day in a previous post. I’m not kicking anyone’s ass, and I don’t really chew bubblegum anymore. In all honesty I have no desire to kick anyone’s ass anyway, I just happen to love that line.
Anyway, so in that previous post, I mentioned that Roddy Piper’s character puts on these special glasses that let him see through the illusions that have been put in place throughout society that encourage people to obey and consume without question, and even though it was a not-so-subtle jab at consumer culture back in the day, or at least that’s how I interpret it, I think it fits nicely here as well, especially when one considers how much more attached to our cults of power and celebrity we have become. We nod our heads at the news, we are easily distracted by shiny things, and we are taught to not question authority, instead we are to consume and obey ceaselessly.
Anyway, what is my point with this? The point is I feel like at some point, someone slipped those glasses over my head, and now everything looks different. The seams in the fabric of our society are glaringly obvious. This entire society, the U.S. included, has traded its freedom, its soul, for shiny beads and trinkets. Traded for glittering promises of wealth, of safety, of having our millions of dollars sitting just around the corner, if only we’ll walk a little longer to the beat of the drum we’re told to follow.
I’m not being a conspiracy theorist, because this is something people know about already, it’s just that we have implicitly decided to follow along, because we believe it is what’s best for us.
You know, I look around at people when I’m out. I’ve always been a people watcher. It’s not something I can really help, I just pick up details on people when I’m out and about. I see patterns of behavior, listen to inflections in the voices as they make small talk, look them right in the eyes when I’m talking to them, which is something that I’m finding more difficult to do as people don’t seem to like having direct conversations anymore.
Even when they are, it feels like the discussion is happening by rote, rather than a genuine exchange of ideas, like people are just going through the motions, and it happens on all levels, from top to bottom. That’s one of the things I fear the most, that sharing ideas has become something of a chore for people, and if you don’t just automatically agree with them, you’re only out to prove yourself right and them wrong, because that is how we play this game now, apparently.
What am I trying to say?
I’m saying that words are becoming as ineffective as a pebble thrown against a wall of hardened steel. There was a time when one had a level of free agency when explaining one’s ideas, but now it seems if one strays from the script, one is immediately shut down, and summary judgment becomes the only remaining path. That does cause fear in me, because I believe we are seeing the eventual death of context. We have embraced an absolutism that permeates our way of thinking, at least here in the United States.
You’ve heard statements like it before: “you’re either with us or against us,” “he’s either guilty or he isn’t,” “she’s either completely right or completely wrong.” Our methods of communication are becoming more simplified. How many of you are still reading my entry at this point? How many of you have skimmed past this to get to the gist of the post? I don’t fault you for that, because we are slowly becoming trained to do exactly that, to glean just enough from a passage in order for it to bolster our worldview, or disregard it for being “wrong.” The nuance in between that allows for gray area thought, where not everything is cut and dried, is diminishing faster than the middle class.
Zero thought, zero tolerance, zero nuance, zero compassion, zero forgiveness.
Anyway, I have meandered just a bit, so let’s pull ourselves back on track. So the glasses are on, the ones that let me see everything as it truly is (from my perspective, of course), and the way I see people now is so different from how I saw them before my nervous breakdown, and yes, I’m going to call it for what it must have been: several months ago, I had a nervous breakdown. The anxiety attacks I had were a constant assault on my system, and it has irrevocably changed how I see certain things now.
I hate to say it, but my love of music is fading. My enjoyment of TV shows and movies has diminished. The way I see people has changed. Where I once thought the best of everyone, now I feel paranoid. Whether on TV, in movies, in the papers, magazines, or in person, now when I see someone, I wonder what they have done, what terrible things exist in their past. Part of this stems from seeing what I saw months ago, and it doing some serious kind of damage to my brain, or some PTSD I am only now coming to terms with, but some of it is also due to the headlines we see every day now, where yet one more person has murdered another human being, or has sexually molested a child, or an adult. Hell, children, or adults plural, and they were welcomed, invited, into spheres of influence even with this history available to everyone around them, or at least those in power.
It frightens me. Who can I trust? I mean, yes, we all make mistakes, every last one of us, and I am certain that we have events in our past that either make us feel shame or sadness, no person gets out of life without wondering if they’ve caused anyone harm. It’s a part of the human condition. The problem is when you have people who simply do not care, who engage in these actions and live a normal life of love, luxury, and access to more situations where they can harm again, and they do it again and again and again, with the implicit permission of their coterie of admirers and those who make it possible for them to continue in that behavior, even encouraging it as long as they personally benefit from it.
That carried over, with me anyway, into how I see what I consider ordinary people on the street. Where I would once smile at the thought of seeing a man purchase a gift for his wife or husband, for example, now I wonder if he’s ever abused his spouse. Has he ever threatened them? Cheated on them? Sexually assaulted them? His friends? A family member? These thoughts invade my mind and they won’t go away, and they horrify me because I don’t want to see these things in people, I want to see human beings being good people.
No human being is perfect, none of us are, not one. We’ve all made mistakes, done stupid things (even if we meant the best out of it), made moronic statements that hurt someone, lied, cheated, stole, but I accepted this before, I knew that people were flawed. Sometimes it’s what makes them so approachable and worth saving. Yet now I can’t get these damnable glasses off. I’m seeing the ugly side of people I don’t want to see. The images haunt my memories, the words they say, the actions they take, the things they have done, and yet they smile, they laugh, they hold positions of power and authority over other flawed, imperfect beings, and everyone seems to have kind of accepted that this system works for them, or at the very least it works enough to ignore the deep flaws.
I’m trying so hard to reconcile what I’m seeing with what I know. I am finding it increasingly difficult. I have no problem with forgiveness. I love people, I want everyone to be happy, safe, free from harm, and when they make mistakes, I want to forgive them and offer my compassion to them. That goes for all people. Some people say “I’ll stick by your side when you need me,” well I mean that shit from top to bottom. Even if I don’t approve of what you did, or think you were foolish, I won’t abandon you, and that is my word.
Still, it doesn’t do anything to make these new impressions go away. Why can’t I see people as they were, not as they are now? Why have I become so discontented with society, especially that of the U.S., that it’s making me question everything I once thought I knew? Is there anyone out there who wants to help? Who wants to genuinely help? Are there people in positions of authority who genuinely want to make a positive change for all people? Not just the ones who follow the rules, and bow and scrape, but for everyone? Are there people out there who still care, or is what I’m seeing how people have always been?
Because if it truly is the latter, then I don’t know how much longer my emotional stamina will hold out. I say that even knowing I have friends who love me, who care, but it’s not my friends for which I ask this, but for those who would be a stranger to me? Is there room in people’s hearts for a stranger they don’t understand? Someone who ignores the laundry list of rights and wrongs and just loves somebody? Outside of myself, do those people exist?
DO they? Because until I can get these damned glasses off, I simply can’t see them anywhere, and I am all out of bubblegum.
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”