For the second time in recent weeks, I refer to song lyrics from music of the seventies. [I usually stay away from that kind of thing, as it’s generally a pretty silly thing to do.] Sometimes, people just nail something square on the head in a song. This time, I recalled the song The Freak Parade, from Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, and let’s just say that had a certain resonance to it as I was thinking about it and other things a little bit.
It’s natural that I found myself thinking about various things of then and now, reflecting on many things and adding the layer of context of the time of that 1974 recording. It was a different time. On the other hand, some things don’t really change. It was a different time, different circumstances, a different culture in 1973-1974, but somehow, you can always find some kind of manifestations of that old French aphorism, that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Pick any given period of history and the human cultures of the time, and there will always be something to be made of the subject of what, exactly, constitutes a freak, and who thinks so. In the time period of right now, looking at things in this light might be as interesting as ever. The word “interesting” might be best considered in the sense of what’s said to be an old Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times.
I just had something from classic wonderful American oddball Hunter S. Thompson flash through my head, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”. That’s a great line, although having had that flicker through my mind, I think it’s getting a bit off the path here.
People can end up finding themselves regarded as freaks by some other people, some kind of misfit, oddballs, just plain weird, by being seen as somehow outside of the norm, of accepted “common knowledge” or “conventional wisdom” that’s neither knowledge nor wisdom, or some perceived failure to conform. What happens when things have become so, well, weird, so deranged and dysfunctional, that to simply try your best to maintain a grip on reality and deal with things honestly puts you outside of mainstream conventional norm? What happens when the domain of that accepted normal is a place where, to try to play along, and conform to what seems to be expected, puts you deep into the confused, dishonest, even fully delusional and just plain batshit crazy?
Among other things, it’s worth repeating something I just wrote recently. When “fake news” satire like The Onion, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report do a better job of getting to truth and reality and putting it in perspective than supposed real “news media”, something is very badly out of order.
In a similar vein, things are truly deranged when there are apparently significant numbers of people who pay serious attention to fools like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck, just to name two particularly gross examples, for political leadership, in the case of one of those example characters, or education and information, in the other.
The idea that anybody would regard either of those two as anything other than pure comedy is just shocking, and there are others like them. Actually, part of that’s not quite right. This isn’t shocking anymore. It became normal at some point. That, then, becomes the next shock, or, at least, all this is a source of shock for anybody who can still pay attention and notice what’s happening. It’s a disturbing scene to view when a mob of assorted kinds of fools, liars, bandits and goons are not just accepted, but elevated to various positions of importance and authority, while conscious, conscientious, thinking people of goodwill and candor are dismissed, and even reviled.
We need these people, as much as we ever have.
Right now, things are continuing to run right along down the road of the parade of lunacy, as we have the current episode of a cluster of Republican party members in the US House of Representatives basically holding the United States government hostage in a fit of idiotic pique, while strutting around portraying it all as a stand on principle. They have refused, with the cooperation and control of the Speaker of the House, to turn out a bill to continue the funding of the government without a clause specifically negating any funding for the implementation of what has already been passed by a previous session of Congress and signed into law by the president as the Affordable Care Act, or, as people insist on calling it, “Obamacare”.
That has been tagged with the nickname of “Obamacare”, despite the legislation in question having little in common with the plan that had been proposed by Obama. What ended up as the “Obamacare” is apparently almost entirely a plan proposed in the past by Republican party critters, from origins in the Heritage Foundation, an organization that usually has the phrase “Conservative think tank” or words to that effect attached to it when it’s being described. Kicking up the absurdity another notch; that, in turn, was put into effect as law in the state of Massachusetts under Republican state governor Romney, the 2012 candidate for election to the presidency of the Republican party. Now that this plan is federal law, suddenly it’s “a leftist socialist takeover of healthcare that will destroy America and must be stopped”, or whatever phraseology is being belched out at any given moment about it. Throughout all this circus of contradictory nonsense, people refer to it as “the president’s healthcare law”, whether this nonsense comes from people barking about it being a terrible thing the president has done to the nation, or from people, including the president himself, portraying it as a wonderful enlightened step forward for the nation.
For an extra layer of mendacious absurdity, now, a large portion of the Republican party are running around screeching about “Obama shut down the government!”, with some of the theatrics being stuff that’s hilarious, up until the point when you stop and comtemplate what a dysfunctional mess we have happening. Some people are foolish enough to fall for that. Some of us are not.
Meanwhile, a bit of irony is that we also have the coincidence of the start of the process of people inquiring into insurance in the new “health insurance exchanges”, and from what I gather so far, a big theme of that is people finding either serious disappointment or malfunctions, or both. People tending to stick loyally to the “D” team of the “two-party” game and really really want very badly to believe that Obama is their man, and a wonderful president, and wishing so much that the ACA actually is what they wanted and should have been, are trying really hard to hold on to these notions.
That is hanging on with determination, even as the evidence starts to mount that the Affordable Care Act is yet another massively overcomplex and ineffective clusterfuck piece of shit turned out by Congress, that never solves the actual problem at hand. It pretends to be “healthcare reform” (for a start, it was supposed to be, to be correct about this, about reforming health insurance, but never mind that now), something like the ridiculous Dodd-Frank Act pretends to be about “reform” of finance and banking that avoids the actual problems, was diluted and corrupted by a parade of lobbyists making sure that the law of the land never keeps their masters from running amok, instead of doing the simplest thing that should have been done, namely, the return of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933.
I digress slightly. As all this circus plays out, I wonder how many people have noticed something. I have, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
While the whole circus I’ve mentioned plays, how much do we hear about anything else?
How much have we heard about the beating of the war drum to go attack a country on the other side of the world that hasn’t attacked us and poses no threat, for one example? That was just weeks ago.
What was the last you heard, and when, about Edward Snowden, or Bradley Manning, and what they revealed about the misconduct of our own government? When the general “Big Story!” attention was turned to those two people, how much energy was devoted to focusing on some irrelevant personal story, and how much attention focused on “look what our government has been doing!”.
Here’s one to test. What have you heard lately about the damage done to a large region of the planet by the gushing underwater blast of petroleum from beneath the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster, other than the regular televised appearances of advertising spots from the BP “we care a lot” propaganda campaign telling us that all is just swell, why, by gosh, the Gulf region is better than ever?
The list goes on and on.
Now, instead of what we need to know, what we should be hearing about, anybody who isn’t really trying to wash away the bullshit is quite likely to be suffering large does of true freakshow entertainment of the tabloid variety, usually via television screens. People can chatter about all kinds of idiotic trivia about TV “reality” show entertainment or talent show competitions of empty mediocrity, while knowing and understanding virtually nothing about events and circumstances of actual reality that are vitally important to them, their country, the human race in general, and the future.
Piling on to everything above, part of the circus of dysfunction in politics and government is the additional squabble about whether or not Congress will, again, raise the legal limit ceiling of how much debt the US federal government is allowed to rack up. This is a huge issue, and it all comes down to the simple and scary fact that this is such a huge issue because the government can only continue to “pay its debts” by piling up new debt to pay existing debt. This item alone is a subject that demands so much to even get a general grip on it that it’s overwhelming, and certainly beyond the scope of a little blog note like you’re reading now, even as anything addressing the subject and covering more than a few paragraphs will have some people recoiling from it and criticizing it as “long winded”. How many people who can’t spend 20 minutes trying to get at least a general grasp of something like this will spend hours watching televised babbling about football?
These kinds of severe malfunctions of attention and consciousness are only making things much worse. To even find it necessary to say this is disturbing, to state it gently. Many people are certainly already aware of all this. I hold no illusions about carrying some special insight and wisdom about all this. The problem is that these people are a small minority in America right now, and, to too many others, regarded as some oddball misfits, weirdos, malcontents.
The malfunctions of American politics keep putting themselves into the picture, and one classic example comes to mind of something that both makes things plain and obvious, while being almost entirely missed. Going back to a year ago, an event went almost completely unnoticed by the American public, near the end of the marathon circus of the presidential election “cycle”. Hidden away on one of the C-Span channels was a televised event that got zero attention in any of the “news media” that I saw. This was a “third party presidential debate”. A pair of hosts/moderators sat at a table before a stage in an auditorium asking questions and guiding the proceedings, while onstage stood four candidates, each from a different party, seeking to be elected president.
Right away there is the sheer tragicomedy of what’s arguably the most absurd part of this, which is that here we had four people representing their own parties, and they were all universally referred to as “third party” and “third party candidate”. All four of them were “third party candidates”.
Staring us in the face there was the thought that all the months of endless babblling about the presidential election were dominated by people who appear to be unable to count. How do we arrive at this silliness? People want to perpetuate the notion that the government consists of actors from the dominant two parties, and all else is some silly game being played by silly, eccentric, and just plain odd people, to be disregarded as a joke.
There was arguably more substance, more honest engagement with reality, than any of the rest of the circus in the R versus D games. Almost nobody paid any attention to this. The whole thing had a sense of something around it in the public sphere like being regarded like some kind of high school speech team event, where members of school debate teams stand up and speak pretending to be candidates for president. It’s as if the general news media in America that should have been covering all this had an attitude toward it, and the candidates, like oh, isn’t that cute, look at these darn kids pretending to be candidates for president.
It gets more real and disturbing than that when you look back and find situations like Green party candidate Jill Stein being detained by force by security forces for attempting to even enter the venue where one of the dog and pony show “official” D versus R presidential debates was happening. There, we had a glimpse of the ugly reality that went beyond mocking dismissal, and into territory where the response was “if you silly people won’t go away, if you insist on trying to disturb our nicely arranged little show of pretense of representative democracy, armed men will make you go away and throw you in a jail cell!”.
The game is obvious, basically operating under a cloud of smiling con-man salesmanship or menace if that stuff doesn’t sell to the crowd, of a general atmosphere of “don’t mess up our nice little game”.
Almost every day now brings an overwhelming pile of malfunction and lunacy that provides more evidence for the argument that both of the dominant American political parties are past due to take their place in the garbage can of history. With any discussion of that comes somebody saying something like “both parties are equally to blame”, for whatever mess is happening, which is just more simplistic nonsense. They’re not the same, they’re not equivalent. The present Democratic party is a hopeless corrupt circus becoming more and more detached from reality, and the Republican party is much worse. But that’s almost a side academic argument, an item almost as absurd as having an argument about two forms of mental illness and arguing about which one is “better”.
We’re in dire need of more conscious, conscientious, informed, thinking people, paying attention to things that matter, with respect for facts and reason, a grip on actual reality, and honest and articulate enough to tell people what’s going on. There are people like this, people I try to mention often, such as, off the top of my head, Richard Heinberg, James Howard Kunstler, Gail Tverberg, Jeff Rubin, John Michael Greer, Matt Taibbi, Bill Moyers, David Stockman, “Jesse” of the Jesse’s Café Americain blog, Charles Hugh Smith, and others.
Unfortunately, they don’t fit in very well with the raging storms of bullshit and “common knowledge” memes holding people in various spells.
I leave you with this (along with some other reading), from Charles Hugh Smith:
I think the way the next decade plays out largely depends on five individual, internally generated traits. Since perfect attainment of these traits is not possible for us mere mortals, I am listing them as goals:
3. Self-discipline (includes self-restraint, self-control and self-motivation)
4. Personal Integrity
I will have more to say on these in the Musings and future blog entries, but for now it is enough to note that as everything we currently assume is permanent evaporates, the temptation to narcissism, negativity and violence will rise proportionately. Our defense, individually and collectively, is not so much a fruitless devotion to reforming failing systems as an individual, intrinsically personal devotion to kindness, compassion, self-discipline, integrity and (perhaps surprisingly to those with little exposure to Eastern philosophy) detachment.
As things fall apart in the coming decade, reforms will fail, half-measures will fail, platitudes will fail, lip service will fail, appeals to past glory will fail–every response of the self-serving status quo will fail. What will not fail is Kindness, Compassion, Self-discipline, Personal Integrity and Detachment from all that has failed and all that is negative, destructive and counter-productive.
Some people might read and think “what kind of freak is this guy?”. I would suggest that it would be the kind of freak we need to be much more common.
by Moogy Klingman, Todd Rundgren & John Seigler
© 1974 warner brothers music
I never was bothered by bad dreams
They never made me afraid
But then I never did dream I’d wake up
And find me in the freak parade
I guess, I had to find out the hard way
I shouldn’t have been so proud
‘Cause here I’m the main attraction
Of every giggle in the crowd
So I gotta take my place in the freak parade
See my face in the freak parade
Get of the sidewalk!
In a world full of freaks
You can creep, you can crawl
But the world’s biggest freak
Is the one with no balls
You know you shouldn’t poke fun at strangers
Or pity their case at all
‘Cause there are lots of friends and lovers
That take it kind of personal
You might appreciate our position
Don’t laugh at our freaky ways
You might find yourself tomorrow
Marching in the freak parade
Take your place in the freak parade
See your face in the freak parade
Get of the sidewalk!
In a world full of freaks
You can creep, you can crawl
But the world’s biggest freak
Is the one with no balls