For Marshall, who showed me another way.
The lady stumbled through the door of the dojo, a blur of blonde hair and blue sundress, pushing her little boy with one hand and holding a phone to her ear with the other. As the boy began training, she spotted an acquaintance at the far end of the viewing area and immediately launched an ear splitting, “Hey Gggiiiirrrrllll,” designed either in a din of self-absorption or of a pathological need to be seen – some people love surveillance as much as it loves them. And apparently it loves them a lot.
The Atlanta Police Department recently unveiled Operation Shield, a coordinated program of more than 5,000 public and private security cameras and license plate readers that are monitored through cutting-edge analytics and smart software at the Laudermilk Video Integration Center. Operation Shield is “among the most robust and sophisticated surveillance systems in the world,” serving as a strong deterrent to crime in Buckhead, the most secure neighborhood in Atlanta, with over seventy percent of homes existing behind security fences, and having the highest white to minority ratio of any incorporated neighborhood in the State of Georgia. The program also maintains a budget for rewarding anonymous tips that lead to the arrest and indictment of criminals.
Within seconds, the acquaintance and everyone else in the room was made privy to her exciting news: that her husband was still in the car, closing a $1.5 million real estate deal, and that in so doing had caused their late arrival. “Imagine that,” she said, “Jacob has been taking karate for three months, and today, on our first time seeing what actually goes on here, we miss the beginning of class. We are just so busy this summer, what with the kids also in ballet and soccer . . .”
With everyone duly impressed, the blonde settled into a vulgarly loud and enthusiastic conversation with the acquaintance, and for thirty minutes we thrilled at her insider knowledge of the Sara Smith Middle School bureaucracy, the best place to buy “appropriate lunch boxes for a kindergartener” (Hannah Anderson, over at Phipps’s Plaza has good ones), and the current must-see movies and TV shows – the ones that all the students would enter the upcoming school year talking about.
Meanwhile, little Jacob lined up next to my boy. Even if his parents weren’t watching his lesson, I certainly was. Unsurprisingly he made an impression that confirmed and justified his parents’ disinterest. If they were willing to pay for lessons so as to add “karate” to the list of little Jacob’s achievements, then he was willing to stare at the ceiling for thirty minutes and perform the desired movements and postures as flaccidly and disrespectfully as possible.
As the son jelly-armed a few jabs, the proud, striving husband came inside, all flushed from his triumph. The blonde was overjoyed and made sure to let us all know that if we wanted to buy or sell a house, then her husband was also “[our] man.” He was justifiably proud and she was beaming. And why wouldn’t they be? They were happily living the dream, a model of life at the end of history; and neither was aware of what a pathetic masquerade their son was performing just a few feet away.
Front kick being performed by the mannish five-year-old with the shaved head and determined focus: a tight tripartite – chamber, fire, and recoil. Front kick being performed by little mop-topped Jacob: a gi-legged representation of a woman swinging a purse.
From the perspective of those of us who are less timely, those of us incompatible even with the margins of the blonde’s living dream, she and her striving husband appear to be a different species: those who are frightened by Five Nights at Freddy’s but undaunted by a life of wage slavery . . .
Thank you, Dad, for helping me justify my servitude by teaching me that heroes are those who pay bills on time and that courage is keeping my nose to the grindstone until my superiors recognize my ability to increase their profits!
. . . Those for whom the new Braves stadium is being built, opining that Major League Baseball should recruit low-wage service workers from Chic-fil-A. “Even the blacks and Mexicans at Chic-fil-A are so polite, ‘Yes sir, yes ma’am.’ When we go to McDonald’s, or even Kroger, and I see the people they have working there, I just fear for America’s future . . .”
Dad, I always remembered your advice that, by keeping a high credit rating and staying out of trouble, I could be anything I wanted. And now that I have a son of my own, I am so gratified by his obedience and willingness to be led to a slaughterhouse, and I hear your words echo through the years: only those who disobey have anything to fear!
. . . Those for whom violence and danger are anathema to life, to be encountered viscerally or in a once-in-a-lifetime coincidence with a lone gunman or terrorist.
Officials at the Coca-Cola Co. in Atlanta, Georgia were horrified to learn that their iconic bottle was chosen as the most functional, and anecdotally the most meaningful, form of Molotov cocktail conveyance in the world. From the long, sumptuous neck, which offers a safe barrier, or stopper, between the ignited fuse – of which flannel rags soaked in high octane gasoline were deemed the most effective – and the hand of the assailant, to the easily and tenderly handled waistline, which was said to aid the distance and accuracy of throws, and finally the hippy “envy of Shakira” basin, perfect for holding an adequate amount of fuel to ignite a police cruiser. “The bottle,” as one masked respondent suggested, “is just made to be an explosive, to break, spraying fuel into a high arc, with vapor and fuel droplets ignited by the flames, producing a rainbow fireball and then a burning fire, consuming not only the remainder of the fuel but whatever it ignites. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
In a Coca-Cola Co. memo on the disturbing poll results, Thomas Murphy, a Vice President of Marketing, suggested that the company may consider changing the bottle’s “sexy waistline” to a form more representative of the portly and less aerodynamic shapes of many Coca-Cola drinkers’ midsections. “We are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Coca-Cola from being associated with violence against the heroic efforts of law enforcement. We are horrified by the thought that Coca-Cola, through its commitment to maintaining the traditional form of its bottle – which has made it one of the most effective marketing tools of all time – has enabled sociopaths to use a destructive power far beyond the monetary output it takes to create a six-pack of petrol bombs.”
Later that day, I left my gated community in this bastion of affluence, and as I waited for the gate to fully open, I imagined the blonde adding the tempo of gate-opening to her own manic pursuits – ten seconds is enough to rupture the fabric of this life, after all. It didn’t fully register how similarly she and I live until a few minutes later, as I climbed back into my Jeep with a fresh, hot pizza in hand while being serenaded by a large group of Mexicans having a communal dinner behind the wretched apartments they call home. It wasn’t that I am white in comparison, but that I am bourgeois.
After all this time, I am still governable: a mild-mannered citizen incapable of surviving without capitalist consumption; after all the books, workouts, and range time; after the vast amounts of space that have been blasted away and cleared of State sovereignty and freed of any concern for what the masses of people in this country do or think; after all of that, what am I doing here?
The karate dojo sought to secure our $1,200.00 for a year’s worth of lessons with a brochure explaining that karate would make my son a better student. It said nothing about making him an effective fighter. The gun range I frequent has multiple posters and message board posts announcing that proficiency with firearms will help protect my property from criminal activity. They say nothing about learning how to use a gun to actually kill people.
Men that we all know exist, but rarely visit, are hard at work building bunkers and three hundred blackout-capacity rifles, storing food and hoarding ammunition. They and everyone else we know say the same thing: “We are ready!”
Ready for what? Ready to keep to ourselves, to keep clear of law enforcement, and to keep buying stuff?
What we see in all of this is the same denial of forces that do not coincide with the needs of the State and capitalism.
Karate is great. Pay to learn it but never use it. No! Better yet, use it to make yourself a better worker!
Firearm proficiency is great. Pay to learn it but never use it. Wait a minute . . . of course! Use it to protect your TV!
Bunkers are great. Pay to build one and to stock it with MREs and specialty canned goods but never use it. Better yet, add a new TV and a sofa and use it for entertaining!
Ammunition is great. Buy a shit-ton of it and never use it. Bury it in the back yard. Or . . . use boxes of it as paperweights, and individual bullets as unique bookmarks! Imagine what a statement a bullet bookmark makes: “Want to show everyone you are ready to take reading to the next level? BAM! The Bullet Bookmark, for the reader who loves reading more than freedom.”
AR-15s are great. Pay to build one but never use it. Nah, that would be a waste and might tip off the buyer that the point of the gun is to be BOUGHT. Instead, we can use it to fight crime!
If History has taught us anything, it is that crime doesn’t pay, unless it is a thought crime, which is awesome, since intellectuals rarely have any other capacity for dereliction.
Revolutionary Hobbyists Unite! Only YOU can save capitalism.
What am I doing that truly undercuts the form of life that I pretend to be fighting? One of the great liberal qua Marxist political assumptions tells us that a change in consciousness amongst the people is necessary for creating institutional change. Having abandoned bourgeois politics and any idea of taking and serving either a State or a power, the aforementioned necessary condition for change seems silly and shortsighted, playing into the idea that mobs hold the key to freedom. But if we think about what it assumes for the individual man or woman, we find a kernel of critique: that there is value in reading, ranting, writing, proselytizing, and getting people to think differently about what is happening, both around and to them; that consciousness is the key to converting people to a cause; but what happens when consciousness is not enough? What happens when consciousness amounts to being another niche market for capitalism? What happens when that niche market is more concerned with safety and waging a “war of ideas,” so said the slave, than with actually manifesting their newfound or hard-fought consciousness in this world?
Liberal political thinkers believe that an awakening of consciousness is the most important component to social change, and that consciousness leads to conversion. But this is a dead end without an expression of violence. Without violence, it is a recipe for stasis and misery.
“Without violence words are nothing.”
In February 1963, a large, heavy pipe device was turned over to the Army 61st Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Examination of the pipe disclosed 35 pounds of explosive photoflash powder and two electric igniters capable of detonating the pipe with a damage radius of one-fourth of a mile.
I have a shiny new consciousness, one fought for in (and against) the Academy, but never in the streets. I’ve been a Black Nationalist, a White Nationalist, a fascist, an anarchist, a pretty-boy, and a skinhead; but always, apparently, a capitalist. Through it all, a lot of words have come and gone, though very few punches. Through it all, I’m a different person from day to day – hell, minute to minute, but in the end I still do my duties to the State and its economy.
But I am disloyal – my awesome badass consciousness demands it! Shit, man, the State rapes loyalty: Pay Your Tribute. The misery you face to do so is on you – all that the State demands is docility. All the State has ever needed is a monopoly of violence. And you, looking out the window beyond your shiny Mac with the retina display to see happy men, women, and children playing in manicured lawns behind a security gate; you – Mr. Neighborhood Revolutionary – who can do little more than scowl at Operation Shield while it monitors your every step; you . . . You . . . YOU . . . are the guarantee that the interests of the State and capitalism will be defended, because after all this time, you are a threat to neither one.
“You are just an uglier, more miserable version of the blonde.”