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Been Down So Long It Looks Alt Right to Me

2,857 words

HAarlem VEnison
[1]DEATHTOTHEWORLD: an interracial racist love story [2]
Evohum Press, 2016

“I feel like the dirt on the ground. I can’t tell up from down anymore.”

In modern society, only the so-called or self-styled “racist” is the true free-thinker, the true outsider. If so, then the race-realists must assert their identification with, and take for their own, the literature – or literatures – of the Outsider.

Chief among these, at least in the American context, is the literature of the Beat. And what is the Beat? As the Beatdom Website [3] answers:

It seems that being Beat – even before the term was first used – meant being an outsider. It meant thinking differently and acting differently. […] Perhaps Amiri Baraka said it best:

“The so-called Beat Generation was a whole bunch of people, of all different nationalities, who came to the conclusion that society sucked.”

HAarlem VEnison has done something remarkable: he’s reimagined the footloose wanderer so popular in Beat literature for the twenty-first century, and recuperated the archetype for our side.

According to his Amazon page [4], “HAarlem VEnison is a digital vagabond who wanders around the various no-man’s lands of the world. He blogs at: www.AcidRight.INFO [5].” A reviewer [6] has described the latter as “as a bizarre unholy fusion of a hippy beat-poetry aesthetic and an openly racist right-wing worldview.”

Rolling off another train, armed only with a teacup and ukulele, Zeb wanders into a Boulder- or Woodstock-like exurban outpost where yuppies and other bourgeois mooks move or retire to pursue their “artistic sides,” while never getting dirty, hungry, homeless, or in any way upsetting their bourgeois mindset.

It should be noted that although Zeb is certainly detached from society – he sports a “Fuck Society” tattoo on his forehead,[1] although this was a more anodyne choice than his initial one, “I Hate Niggers” – he’s not a murderous shithead like the characters who populate the literature of what I’ve called Nowickiland.[2] He’s a friendly sort, more, as Kerouac would suggest, beatific than Beat.[3]

Needless to say, they all take an immediate shine to Zeb, who seems to embody their just-under-the-surface “free spirits” they just know they must have. Even after, cajoled into singing a song at their arts and crafts fest, he offers a performance of his “I’m the last nigger” song on his pink ukulele, they find it hard to fight the cognitive dissonance until a local Internet podcast celebrity pronounces the awful verdict: “You’re a racist.”

And so it’s on the road again.

In Part Two, we meet Natty, an improbably sepia-skinned, nappy blonde-haired and blue-eyed girl who relieves her frustrations by taking to the Internet and becoming a White, male, Alt Right blogger of some note. She also knits, a hobby which she regards as “a vestige of some halcyon past in which lives were lived according to an inviolable script, rich in meaning, which optimized stability, mutual human trust and support;” it also helps her find inspiration for her science fiction novellas, which usually revolve around “alternate histories in which the Nazis won WWII, or else rose up from the hollow core of the Earth to smite … the degenerators and destroyers of civilization,” which she holds “responsible for her racial dilemma”:

She had been born at the bloody altar of the post-racial experiment, touted like the young pretender to a vacant throne, sovereign to the promise of the world to come. In other words, misled on false pretenses, objectified for the sake of social-engineering, brandished by her mother – for a couple years at least, and thereafter by her foster parents – as a badge of morally-astute Koolaid-drinking, like they had something to prove.

And later:

She’ll never have a job, never go to college, never aim to benefit from or bolster the mainstream moral power structure that has suffocated and misled her since her birth. If anything, she will try to keep her mind cycling at a slow and steady throb such that she can weave together fantasy novels depicting the fall of all that she opposes in the world around her, the world that she, a conscientious objector from the start, disavows as unsustainable, divisive and heedless. She does not miss the comforts of a simplistic, closed-system worldview governed by the razor-sharp needle of a moral compass devised by men who, despite their noble intentions and penetrating insight into the human condition, were categorically, tragically mistaken in their imputation of white racism as the culprit behind all racial divides. She disavows fully this decaying world order. She would rather go down in flames with Zeb, like a Tibetan self-immolator if need be, than endure the wool of Antiracist dogmatism strapped snug over her eyes, existing like an ostrich.

They are not peas in a pod of stereotypes. Zeb, for all his “racism,” as he proudly calls it, believes that “humanity is being forged in the same furnace of brutal evolutionary pressures” which will lead to an “inevitable fraternity of mankind,” which he dubs, in true Emersonian fashion, “the compound eye.” Natty insists “that life is a zero-sum game and out-group altruism is a dead end.”

Venison has a fine sense of timing. Just when you might think the journey has begun to drag, the Juggalos drive up to carry our heroes off to their festival:

Juggalos are devotees of the late-90s, early millennial horrorcore rap outfit Insane Clown Posse (ICP). Loathed by mainstream society as two-bit, idiotic, inane, glorifying of ignorance and senseless life-wrecking violence, and glorifying of serial and spree killers, their aesthetic and lyrical content has nonetheless garnered widespread loyalty among the downtrodden, working- and unworking-class whites of America, particularly in rural, backwater regions where methamphetamines, nitrous oxide, and light beer serve as their cultural entheogens. Juggalo culture and Insane Clown Posse fandom is disproportionately represented within state prison populations, manual labor jobs, welfare offices, child services, addiction clinics, GED programs (diploma equivalency programs for high school dropouts), teenage parents, victims of sexual abuse, victims of the socioeconomic power structure, victims of the tyranny afflicted at the behest of the high priests of the open secret of their era[4]—et cetera. They are the salt of the Earth.

They are the embarrassing dregs of the White majority, who have pooled their meager resources to create a sustaining community that no longer exists:

Juggalos, for their part, see freight-riding vagabonds as cousins in their extended family of unrepentant – or at least lacking a capacity for reform – outlaws. Though it is a predominantly white subculture, there are some blacks and Hispanics in the mix, typically ones who self-identify, and are accepted, as “white on the inside.” The various Juggalos celebrate their common fraternal vision of a world where people are “real” and “accepting of all people,” and how Insane Clown Posse’s chief creative forces, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, have enriched their lives for the better, teaching them how to be “kind motherfuckers.”

The Juggalos, though much maligned by urbanely sophisticated “hipsters” [7], are shown here as the direct descendants of the Johnsons that populate the turn of the last century cowboy and criminal landscapes of Burroughs’ imagination:

Burroughs first encountered the concept of the Johnson Family while still a boy reading the book You Can’t Win [8] by Jack Black [no relation to the actor]. First published in the 1920′s, Black’s autobiographical account of hobo life was immensely popular in its day. Burroughs describes the Johnsons in The Place of Dead Roads [9]:

“’The Johnson Family’ was a turn-of-the-century expression to designate good bums and thieves. It was elaborated into a code of conduct. A Johnson honors his obligations. His word is good and he is a good man to do business with. A Johnson minds his own business. He is not a snoopy, self-righteous, trouble-making person. A Johnson will give help when help is needed. He will not stand by while someone is drowning or trapped under a burning car.”

In contrast to the honorable world of hobos and criminals, Burroughs describes a type of person known simply as a “Shit.” Unlike the Johnsons, Shits are obsessed with minding other’s business. They are the town busy body, the preacher, the lawman. Shits are incapable of taking the honorable road of each-to-his-own. Burroughs describes the situation in his essay “My Own Business” thus:

“This world would be a pretty easy and pleasant place to live in if everybody could just mind his own business and let others do the same. But a wise old black faggot said to me years ago: `Some people are shits, darling.’ I was never able to forget it.”[5]

While we’re back with the Beats, let’s swing back to the beginning again, and take another far-out chorus.

As Zeb comes off the (rail)road, I found his initial adventures among the hipsters to recall, in atmos at least, that iconic Beat work, Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me [10],[6] in which college town legend Gnossos Papadopolous returns from the road with a knapsack of grape leaves, dope, and stories with which to barter for shelter and sex, whilst avoiding being co-opted into leading a campus revolt or being drafted.

Like Zep, everyone projects what they want onto Gnossos, who is cool because “I am not ionized and I possess not valence.”

As one can imagine, and like much “hip” literature then and now, Been Down hasn’t aged well.[7] Some elements are almost charming, like Gnossos’ stubborn insistence on listening to Beatnik jazz by the likes of Mose Allison, and disdain for that teenybopper rock ‘n’ roll.[8]  While there’s the detour to Cuba to establish Leftist cred, stateside there are no saintly or colorful immigrants, but only vicious gangs of “pachucos” who kidnap and torture blond boy scouts.  And of course there’s the casual misogyny among the supposed “hip” that makes one understand the appeal feminism would have.[9]

One of the things that has kept Been Down, essentially a first and only novel,[10] on reading lists is that it fairly groans under a layer of onomastic symbolism of the sort favored by the Cornell school of writers, such as Fariña’s buddy Pynchon and their teacher, Nabokov, which makes it  endlessly decipherable by academics.

Once Gnossos makes landing at Ithaca he, like Ulysses, tries mostly to stay put without actually taking on classes or a job. One begins to suspect that his tales of the road are more fiction than anything else, designed to attract attention and support, particularly female; a proto-PUA.[12]

Unlike Gnossos’ vague and mostly improvised for their effect on townies tales of the road, Zeb’s travels have a gritty reality likely based in the author’s own life, rather than a university lit class:

They climb out of the ditch and back into the open yard, circumnavigating the main engine’s field of vision – the conductor’s field of vision. They move down the line in search of a ridable car.

After only a few car-lengths, it becomes clear that Zeb is having trouble finding an adequate car for the long haul. He finally finds a grainer, but lobs a rock into it and, to his dismay, hears it rattle around before landing back in the gravel. “Fuck, another suicide. Wait here.” He runs down a few more car-lengths. The train kicks into motion, slowly at first but gaining consistent speed. Zeb comes running back to Natty. “Fuck it, we’ll find a better car later,” he tells her. They each hoist themselves up over the side of the openbottom ‘suicide’ grainer using their upper body strengths, carefully lowering their feet onto the cross-beam which hovers a scant two inches above the wheel. They clutch onto the side for dear life whilst also trying to compress their bodies downward so as to stay at least partially out of sight. The train brakes, sending the familiar domino-like ripple of steel-on-steel as the abrupt deceleration is transferred down the line.

“Not again…” Natty whimpers, tasting the tinge of fright that the struggle not availeth.

“No, they’re just testing the brakes or something. This train is taking us outta here,” Zeb tells her with absolutist optimism.

Natural phenomena also show the effects of keen, real life observation:

The rain clouds drift by fast overhead, floating solitary in the blue sky. They’re pretty high up for rain clouds. The wind up there must be blowing faster than the breeze down on the ground, down where individuals like Natty and Zeb congregate and go about all their trite little human historical and personal affairs. When one of the rain clouds on high passes by on its way overhead, miles up, a little shower sprays down like a mist before drifting on. The clouds are dark and heavy, but so far up and drifting so fast that neither Natty nor Zeb gets much wetter than they already are. Most of the water still falling is from wet tree branches and leaves rustling in the wind. The clearing they’re in is rather nice and circular, surrounded by tall trees.

Later sections tackle more themes associated with the Beats. In one, Venison essays a depiction of satori that rivals or surpasses anything Kerouac ever typed (Dharma Bums [11] is name-checked earlier); in another, consciousness-raising is approached through DMT, administered amid the usual teepees and campfires by a shaman with a French accent calling himself Mandelbrot rather than Heisenberg.

There’s an appropriately downbeat finale in New York City, where Antifa thugs demonstrate their nature: the true losers of society, seeking self-affirmation by targeting those who violate society’s taboos.

Reclaiming the Beat narrative is hardly desperately ironic postmodernism. With the stereoscopic vision of hindsight, many of the most prominent Beats, at least older ones such as Kerouac or Burroughs, can seem rather conservative, or even Alt Right.

Whether you can agree with Venison’s “everyone has a place at the table” version of White Nationalism, you owe it to yourself to read this book; or at least buy it, so as to obviate the author’s need to subsist like Zeb on dumpster sushi.

Notes

1. As a cop wisely notes, “The fact that you have ‘FUCK SOCIETY’ written on your forehead suggests to me that you’ve got a record.”

2. See the reviews of Andy Nowicki’s work collected in my The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others [12] (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

3. “Then a complete silence fell over everybody; where once Dean would have talked his way out, he now fell silent himself, but standing in front of everybody, ragged and broken and idiotic, right under the lightbulbs, his bony mad face covered with sweat and throbbing veins, saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ as though tremendous revelations were pouring into him all the time now, and I am convinced they were, and the others suspected as much and were frightened. He was BEAT – the root, the soul of Beatific.”―Jack Kerouac, On the Road [13].

4. By which the author means, racial realism.

5. See Poor Vago’s Almanack, here [14]. I suspect that, as in the book under review, Shits/Johnsons would map pretty easily onto conservative/Alt Right.  Johnsons are not to be confused with, though possibly related to, the eponymous Johnsons of Antony and the Johnsons, named after dead Stonewall drag queen Macia P. Johnson, a “wise old Black faggot.”

6. Richard Fariña: Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me (New York: Random House, 1966). There’s an analysis here [15].

7. Though published in 1966, which is old enough, it is set in and seems to have largely been written in the late ‘50s while at Cornell University, where the novel is largely set.

8. “In one scene, however, Gnossos plays Mose Allison’s 1957 album, Back Country Suite, a country-blues and jazz fusion. As Mose Allison blends the two genres, Gnossos falls somewhere between the two movements. His outward rhythm is the syncopated beat of jazz, but his inner song is the lonesome highway of folk. He shares with both the beats and the folkies a contempt for the bourgeois, the superficial, the mass-marketed.”

9. As Chris Rock said about OJ, I don’t approve, but I understand.

10. Fariña died in a motorcycle accident after a book release party, itself lending a touch of “doomed poet” to the book’s reputation.

11. Such as in a Greek hero named Gnossos, and especially the Grecian nomenclature favored by the university for buildings ranging from dorms to the local greasy spoon, Plato’s Pit. After all, Cornell itself is in Ithaca. Gnossos himself favors the Captain Midnight decoder ring, another touch that makes the book almost as hip as Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story [16].

12. In his largely hagiographical introduction to the Penguin Modern Library edition, Pynchon discloses that Gnossos’ story of confronting a wolf was Fariña’s own, and carefully honed by years of practice on co-eds; what PUA’s would call “demonstrating value.”

13. Even the hippie Pied Piper, Ken Kesey, was basically a Northwestern redneck; Tom Wolfe reported with some distaste that Kesey expressed regret over matching a Negro gas jockey’s display of his gold tooth with his own diamond-studded incisor with the remark, “I out-niggered him.” His sophomore novel, Sometimes a Great Notio [17]n, following up counter-culture favorite One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest [18], is pro-rugged individualist and virulently anti-union, and effectively killed off his literary career.