Thomas Paine's Corner
You know, one of the things that has been interesting about our long dialogue here is that you are *there* and I am *not*. I forget, I think, what it must be like to live in the middle of the madness, of the vast necropolis of the mighty empire. Someone asked me recently if I didn’t miss the US, and in particular Los Angeles (my birthplace). I thought about it and said, “no, I don’t”. And it’s true, I don’t. I miss small things of the culture; Mexican food, good Bar B Q, and of course a lot of my old friends. But I DO NOT miss anything else. Burroughs once said, many many years ago, that whenever he left the US he felt a great weight lifted from his shoulders.
The sense of constant selling is overwhelming. My last visit to the States was several years ago, and the most vivid impression I had was of a populace addicted to buying what they don’t need, arrogance, intellectual hypertrophy, and obesity. The other most vivid impression was that of American television. Let me post this link to Scott Ritter’s latest:
Journalism only exists, in the true sense, on the internet at places such as Cyrano’s Journal. It means one has to dig a bit, but unless you do what you end up with is Katie Couric in fantasyland. I suspect that even small doses of this propaganda has an effect on people. And it really is more than just the reactionary content of fictions like *24* … or the mindless crap put out by MTV or the reality shows that seem to breed like speed addicted rabbits; it is the very rhythm of the medium, the fractured and atomized form of NON-thinking that is encouraged. This brings me to this question of narrative, again. One feels there is an over-all loss of story telling ability; both in writers and in the audience. Few films I see, and less TV, actually seem able to form coherent narratives any longer. Combine this schizoid gestalt with the craven apologetics of corporate news and you find that buried only JUST beneath the surface are assumptions (Mike Wallace assuming a blood bath if we pull out of Iraq …. when asking Ron Paul questions during the recent Republican debate). Assumptions as a default setting in any dialogue. Sloganeering and jingoistic jargon, and constant disinformation. The very fact that TV refuses to show DEAD people should alert any sentient human, and yet it doesn’t. A blood bath? Because, you know, there isn’t one now. It’s theatre of the absurd, only worse.
Here are a couple more links on a subject I find more and more important; the food we eat (or you guys in the US eat)…
I’m, as I’ve said, growing a number of heirloom vegetables next spring. When I showed some of these selections to friends they didn’t believe there were such things as purple or white carrots, or bi-color beets or even purple/black tomatoes. They didn’t know about the many squash varieties available that date back to the 1700s, (some to the dawn of history). This is how profoundly the food industry and agribusiness have co-opted eating. Schools provide no (zero) education about food, nor about growing food. A culture so cut off as to not know nor much care about what it eats is one doomed to extinction.
The pathology of militarism shows no sign of abating. In fact, one suspects the coming US election will feature a lot of guys in uniforms. As I say, the default setting of certain assumptions usually include this adoration of the military. Dems and Republicans alike will grovel before men in khaki.
So, people watch propaganda, eat fake food, and worship all forms of state authority. They also cannot follow simple story lines anymore. The looming fear is that these realities will serve to numb even those people who abhor the system. Again, one should make it a point of honor, and survival, to toss out the TV and stop reading the Wall St Journal. A somnolent and unresponsive populace growing more obese and taking more anti depressants; this is the Empire. More cruel and more angry, and more addicted to the illusory benefits of a technology that actually has created a dependency on mechanical solutions to even basic problems, and has generated a psychic prison of adumbrated personal choice. When Bush says “they” hate us because of our freedoms, the hidden meaning is that there is a fear “they” will someday have to suffer these same *freedoms*.
John Steppling: Playwright, director, screenwriter and teacher, Steppling was an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival and has had his plays produced in London, LA, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Poland. Plays include The Shaper, Teenage Wedding, Neck, Dog Mouth, The Thrill, Wheel of Fortune and My Crummy Job. A collection of his work was published by Sun and Moon Press in 1999 (Sea of Cortez and Other Plays). He is a Rockefeller Fellow, multiple NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner. His last film credit was Animal Factory (directed by Steve Buscemi 2000). Steppling lives in Lodz with Norwegian director Gunnhild Skrodal, and teaches at the Polish National Film School.