My heart felt as though it had been ripped into tatters in a windstorm of shame. It seemed as though all I knew about myself had been negated.
This is how shame works on a person. Internalized shame seems to commandeer a person's DNA and replicate itself into the cellular structure of his being.
In the thrall of internalized shame, one is gripped by the compulsion to hide his face from the world. One's own thoughts and feeling seem a foul pestilence from which to flee. Thus, a person will come to believe that the only way to absolve oneself of one's inherent reek (Marc Leftcoff claimed he had seen my father shirtless and announced to our classmates that he "stunk like a rutting n-word") was to become someone else"to have a family blessed with money and nice things"to have a smug alligator gazing upon life from Saks Fifth Avenue-procured shirts, and have dimes glinting unto creation from the tops of one's polished loafers. This is one, among multiple means, that the capitalist/consumer state forcefully usurps one's mind and holds it in torment.
After school, buffeted by these sessions of shaming, I would take refuge in the wooded areas near my home. There, sheltered among the pines, popular trees and ancient oaks of the Georgia Piedmont, I would seek solace in books and my own wild imaginings.
I recall writing a story in my loose leaf notebook involving a lonely, bullied boy, who--shaken by shame and humiliation--played hooky from school:
Hiding out in a section of woods near his school, he was bitten, while exploring a deep ravine, by a venomous copperhead snake camouflaged by a carpet of pine straw. The incident was witnessed by a grizzled hermit/wizard who dwelled in a secret cave in the woods. The boy is revived by an elixir of anti-venom of the wizard's devising that had the unattended side effect of bestowing the boy with the ability to bring inanimate objects to life which, the boy, much to the distress and consternation of the old wizard, utilizes to transform the Izod alligators adorning his school yard tormentor's clothing into agents of vengeance that devour the offending parties.
Anger dwells as deep as the pain leveled by being shamed and humiliated. From road rage, to internet trolling, to the compulsion to humiliate women in certain forms of porn, to right-wing radio ranters, to violent video games, to gun-sown episodes of mass murder--the shame-besieged psyche of the American male, in vain, attempts to mitigate a psychologically devastating sense of powerlessness.
The actual progenitors of his torment reside in the ghostly domain of personal memory as well as are veiled from view by a class-stratified economic system that serves as an analog of childhood humiliation.
But such prodigious amounts of pain do not remain buried. In the
current-day U.S. there are multiple factors that bar access to
collective memory: the heap of fragmented images constituting the mass
media multi-scape and its attendant 24 hour news cycle; suburban
atomization and urban alienation; a cultural refusal to confront the
true nature of the nation's history, other than through hagiography,
because to face our past would serve to bring us to a rude awakening
regarding where we stand at present.
Cue: Existential dread. We are approaching the endgame of (global) capitalism; the system is headed straight to the landfill (its own creation) of history (that is, if global, late stage capitalism doesn't bury the human species first by means of ecocide). Therefore, it is imperative, as we move towards the future, that we straddle the past as we become attuned to the lamentation of the ghosts of memory, personal and collective.
Otherwise, the unhinged among us psychically bearing the things we bury, literalize our denial, even by acts of murdering the living (even school children) in a futile attempt to kill the raging ghosts of memory deferred.
There has been a deadly legacy wrought by social structures that inflict shame and thus sows seeds of inarticulate rage. By the malefic vehicle of these tormented individuals, who are lashing out like a wounded animal, we can apprehend much about the death-besotted trajectory of U.S. culture.
Deep emotional scars can warp libido; thus, in our age of corporate state hyper-authoritarianism, obsessive materialism, and neo-puritan pathology, all too many people have become terrified of their own passion--from sweat plangent lust to incandescent enthusiasm, right down to even accepting the shadows and perfumes borne of an inner life--and have withdrawn into forms of self-exile such as addiction, alienation, depression, compulsive materialism, and narcissistic striving.
We are convinced we know our own mind. That the decisions we make are based on logic and the wisdom gathered from experience. We believe our night-borne dreams and seemingly random, daylight imaginings are furtive shadows, inconsequential to the choices we make moment by moment as we navigate the linear timescape of our days.
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