In an era of corporate-state colonization of both landscape and mental real estate, when the face of one's true oppressors is, more often than not, hidden from view, thus inflicting feelings of anxiety borne of powerlessness over the criteria of one's life and the course of one's fate, often, to retain a sense of control, people will tend to displace their anger and shame. Firearms provide the illusion of being able to locate and bead down on a given target. (How often does a person without wealth, power, and influence have any contact with -- or even a glimpse of -- the financial and political elite whose decisions dictate the, day by day, criteria of one's existence?)
Beginning in childhood, carrying the noxious notions of the adult world, the viral seeds of mental enslavement to shame and the concomitant attempt to protect ego-integrity through psychological displacement are spread child to child.
All too often, internalized shame robs a child of his innate identity before it has a chance to gel. This is one, among multiple social factors, by which the collective mindset of capitalist/consumer state forcefully usurps an individual's mind and holds it in torment.
Therefore, it is imperative for an individual, marooned in the shame-haunted miasma of the capitalist/consumer paradigm, to reclaim his/her own name. Even if the process entails (as it has played out in my own story) a descent into the underworld of memory and a confrontation with the ghosts therein.
A personal encounter with the raging ghosts of memory: Late autumn. 1965. Atlanta, Georgia.
At my back, as I stepped from the yellow school bus, and hurried in the direction of the small, two story apartment building, a seething cacophony of taunts and insults seemed to buffet me forward. Marc Leftcoff had sneered that the apartment complex where my family dwelled was, "The Projects" that he proclaimed to be "a roach nest for losers, unemployed rednecks and divorced hussies--only a place white niggers would live."
(And no, I didn't grow-up in a Quentin Tarantino movie. People, even children, spoke like that in those days.)
Months earlier, on my first day of school--after our family had moved from Birmingham to Atlanta, where my sister's and my new school district included white, laboring class families (often shattered and reconfigured by divorce and second and third marriages) and neighborhoods of affluent, upper middle class Jewish families--I was debriefed by Josh Corbin.
"So," he clicked--his tongue producing a percussive, supercilious sound by creating a vacuum at the top of his mouth--"Are you upper-class, upper-middle class (like we are) just plain middle class, lower-middle class, or poor?" (He emitted that clicking sound at the word, poor).
"You look poor. What is that you have on--Kmart Specials (click). My clothes come from Saks in New York. My Mother and I buy them there when we visit our relatives in New York City, three or four times a year."
I had no idea what he was talking about. But, I detected, through the mind-diminishing haze of my naivety, a discernible menace in his tone.
"You should really have your parents buy you some presentable clothes"What's the matter, can't they afford to buy you anything decent?"
I scanned his outfit. A little alligator seemed to be smirking at me from his shirt. Why did this kid have shiny dimes glinting from the surface of his oxblood loafers? ("Why insert pennies when you can afford dimes," Corbin was inclined to boast.)
And what was the meaning of that clicking sound that he kept making with his mouth?
Later, I apprehended the sound pertained to the fact that I and my family had been labeled, "White Trash."
Of course, I was ignorant of the social implications of the term but, nevertheless, an image formed in my mind: My family had been dismissed as tossed-away refuse, reeking like garbage in the Georgia sun, weightless as windblown litter. Inconsequential: our existence"only a foul odor, fleetingly detected, and deserving, when noticed at all, of the contempt of society's betters.
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