What Lies Beneath: Privileged Grotesques, Ordinary Monsters and the Iraqi Deathscape.
by Phil Rockstroh
At present, George W. Bush is unpopular with the majority of the American public not because of the murderous mayhem he has unloosed in Iraq; rather, his standing has plummeted, due to the fact that he didn’t deliver the goods. Americans are fine with fueling our republic of road rage using the blood of Iraqis (or any other distant and darker people) as long as “the mission” doesn’t drag on too long or reveal too much about ourselves.
How did we come to be a nation of vampires who live by sustaining ourselves on the blood of others? Is our mode of collective being so toxic in the United States that a writer must bandy about metaphors culled from Gothic horror fiction to describe it?
I’m afraid it’s come to that: We are a people whose psyches have grown monstrously distorted from an addiction to imperial power and personal entitlement. (Imagery of Smurfs and Teletubbies won’t rise to the analogy, albeit as terrifying as those demons of hell-bound cuteness are.)
The corporate culture of exploitation has begot a hellscape of narcissists. It is an authoritarian culture riddled in kitsch and cruelty, in nationalistic hagiography and displaced rage – all the distortions of national character inherent in privileged grotesques and ordinary monsters.
A narcissist’s actions are monstrous because his only love is the image of himself wielding control and power. (Does this remind you of anyone, perhaps someone who struts about in a flight suit — someone prone to proclaiming himself “the decider” – someone who grows intoxicated to the point of becoming insensate from a whiff of his own pheromones as he swoons in macho-narcissistic self-worship?)
And what about the everyday monsters, those who feel nothing — not outrage, not remorse, nor sorrow – by the conscience-devoid attempt made by our vampiric leaders to sustain “our way of life” on Iraqi blood? Are you not a monster as well when you feel nothing before immense human suffering? If you are impervious to, grown inured of, or have chosen to remain ignorant of the agony of the Iraqi people, then you might as well join the ranks of the undead — because the distant landscape of corpses in Iraq and Afghanistan matches your internal deathscape.
In short, our empire’s dependence on the resources (the life’s blood) of others renders us a nation of vampires. Moreover, the corporatist character (our national character) is defined by the vampire’s trait of taking, never giving. Accordingly, what do the big monsters at the top take from us, the little monsters?
To name one: our time, the precious hours of our finite lives. The corporatists are Time Vampires: For a moment, reflect on all the hours of life you’ve wasted away — in office cubicles, in commuter traffic jams, in the addictive pursuit of consumer dreck, or simply numbed-out and exhausted, rendered inert from the incessant, soul-sucking stress of the corporate state.
The corporatocracy devours our time and, like the charges of a vampire, has made us dependent and slavish in return. In our bloodless enslavement, we lose the vitality borne of existing within life’s inherent mysteries and grow estranged from the deep resonances of participation mystique.
How does one begin to take back one’s soul from these elitist usurpers? Start with this: The ebullient skepticism engendered from calling out soul-numbing, self-serving authoritarian lies.
In an era as perilous as ours, it’s imperative we act with utmost urgency. Yet, tragically, the exigencies of our age are being played out against a panorama of longer, more stressful work hours, superficially ameliorated by a mass media culture comprised of ceaseless trivia and mindless distraction.
This pathology began years ago when our ancestors offered up their life’s blood to the early corporatists of the Industrial Age. Henry Ford was a gray ghoul who measured out our flesh with his productivity-measuring stopwatch; he was a cunning practitioner of the black art of convincing human beings they’re mere cogs in an inhuman machine. It was only a short trudge from there through history’s slaughterhouse to Adolf Eichmann, insulated within his vampire’s coffin of cold calculations that shielded him from the horrific implications of the system of mechanized extermination he devised.
The corporate vampire’s creed is defined by ruthless efficiency; the fear of a “loss of productivity” is the driving force of the death machine. The system is so ruthless and inhuman that it must conceal its true face, hence the rise of the telegenic undead known as the corporate media. Do not look to them to report the facts of our condition: After all, a mirror can’t reflect the image of a vampire. A vampire is empty to the core; therefore, there is nothing to reflect.
Furthermore, his emptiness is the progenitor of his destructive nature. Rather than face himself, his appetite for death will devour all in its path: rain forests, Arctic glaziers, the people of Iraq, the hours of your life, as well as your inner being.
It is the force that holds Democratic politicians in the thrall of their own fecklessness, because they answer to the same blood-sucking, corporate masters as the rest of us. Quite simply, they’re afraid of their bosses too. The Washington Beltway is a version, in miniature, of the entire soul-dead, American corporatocracy. The careerist politicians within the Beltway are afflicted with the same diminution of choice — the same hyper-attenuation of the will to freedom — as the rest of us.
And what remains for us: an existence (or lack thereof) within this hierarchical hellscape of narcissists. What sort of a pathetic mode of being is this, a life shackled to the service of a monstrous system wherein one must evince the obsequies of a vampire’s bloodless lackeys?
To reverse this situation: Now is the time to drag the lies of the corporate state into the sunshine where they will wither to dust. We are not powerless: We live in a world where our collective, hidden intentions are made manifest by our outward actions. This is why Gothic — even B-movie — metaphors are not an overwrought description of our present condition. Ergo, by the vehicle of cultural collaboration, we are a nation of world-destroying, B-movie monsters — we are a hack-scripted, second-billed feature at the drive-in movie of existence — a laughed-off-the-big-screen of the cosmos, box-office poison of a people.
We are soul-sucking creatures of kitsch. Flesh-eating zombies of conformity. Road-rage werewolves. Right-wing, talk show demons whose wrathful voices rage into empty air. Hungry ghosts wandering the aisles of supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurant chains and the food courts of shopping malls. We are: The Fat, Mindless Blobs That Ate the Planet.
To survive, first, we must find the monster within, then drive a stake through its heart.
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described, auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org