In 1993, my freshman philosophy professor at the Kansas City Art Institute, Hal Wert, joked about this random calamity phenomena as "the speeding Coors beer truck:" whether Socrates, Koestler, Kierkegaard or Sartre, his answer to any my idols' "profound truths" was ever the same: truth of Self and its intentions and inventions and ambitions will matter not whit against a universe where our human striving is obliterated with utmost ease when our inherent and ignored human frailty suffers the impartial, swift, and unmerciful blows of random chance. Hal gleefully shared with our class that when random chance delivered his final blow at last, he prayed it would be in a sudden and cold strike of a speeding Coors beer truck— so that he might go out in a frothing, intoxicating bath of blood and his favorite beer— a final exit that, to him, was the greater glory than he might otherwise expect chance to deal.
What seemed a ticklish, churlish performance to my 18 year old self now seems at nearly 43, after having witnessed the gravity of heaping calamity on those who have the least and suffer it most, as well as measured on myself, who finds himself having less with each passing affliction, to be the wisest instruction any teacher has ever blessed me with— one that instills utter compassion because those of us who have not the financial resources to cure calamity and misfortune without pain know not that the gravity of these burdens magnifies by orders of magnitude as each piles atop the prior unresolved; and that growing gravity invites ever more calamities to join the fray and guarantees the misfortunate afflicted will never break free from the ever-squanching pile.
For the poor of this country, those locked out of the American Dream— regardless of what diddling name the PC/SoJoWo crowd chooses to divide them with— suffer a thus-far unnamed indignity that prohibits them from ever gaining ground, and it's simply this:
Calamity attracts calamity with multiplying gravity, so that even more follow, followed by still more. Where the privileged have resources to cure each with swiftness and so decrease their gravity and ease the probability of their continued likelihood, the poor are ever-buried, inescapably, by hardships that mount mercilessly without relent, each drawing in the next, amplifying their distorting gravity, and drawing still more calamities into your fray— like friends calling each other to join an amazing party, except that this party is the farthest thing from awesome fun. Certainly the poor are denied access by virtue of institutional bigotries on both sides of the political divide; however, no poor person so afflicted by bigotry's disdainful curse has a chance to stand against and rise above -isms of any kind at all when fate levies a torrent of mounting accidents, one atop another, upon the poor and their families, that erodes the ground beneath them continuously, as retreating waves suck slippery the sand beneath their feet out to sea and in their retreat suck them ever deeper into the muck of the thick, chilly slurry of civic neglect and disdain beneath.
Whether Caucasian rednecks, such as my sister Ashleigh and her friend Lisa and their families sweltering in the Red South, or the long-suffered African Americans in South Carolina or Chicago's Roger's Park, or the First Peoples virtuously enduring the blatantly venomous abuses of a tyrannical government— of the very kind our so-beloved Second Amendment was engendered and remains amply defended by and for white people to cure— it's utterly clear to me that the poor, no matter their education, labels, "protections," nor "access," are incapacitated before fate's unyielding and indifferent might when it inflicts its relentless torments. And despite any notion of social progress under neoliberal charlatan-cum-democrat POTUS "Barry" Obama, none of Privileged White Us has fathomed that cascade’s sustaining mechanisms with slightest accuracy, and so none has diagnosed what is truly needed to remedy what afflicts those who suffer our seemingly magnanimous civilization's cold indifference. And the "liberal" ideologies we so righteously espouse that we suppose liberate the poor from bigotry's oppression fail to account entirely for the even greater significance of calamities’ inescapable gravity and it’s awarded suffocating oppressions. Equity of outcome prized by Progressives, itself a fallacy rendered palatable solely by the inherent biases of English’s grammars to which we mistakenly map ‘logic,’ is impossible to attain precisely because we fail to meet the challenge of navigating as civic body the causal reality of these calamities’ gravities.
No amount of virtuous adjustment to the system can account for this: once a a storm of hardships starts its course— say an unanticipated pregnancy two very young people are utterly unprepared for, the most common of these and typically the first— more and more follow, ineluctably— often involving the death or deportation of an invaluably generous family member— without whose generosity and presence survival of prior assaults would have been impossible— and without whom facing the future ahead looms even more unendurable. My own mother has saved me these last two months as I’ve crunched the final pages of this Ontology into the shapes entering your world now.
In all this, our political system remain astonishingly deaf to poverties’ cries. Universal basic income and single-payer healthcare certainly would go a long way to evening the score. Universal high-quality nutrition, frankly, would deliver vastly greater outcomes.
Viewed in sequence and in total, the succession of calamities appear rightly to increasingly attract each other in a odd arithmetic of increase that is neither addition nor multiplication— one begets two, two begets three, three five, five nine, and so forth— and the so-afflicted have no purchase to shelter themselves from one storm after the next, nor capital sufficient to remedy those crises most urgent, until tax season of course, at which point retailers and manufacturers are only to willing to promise speedy narcotic relief and timely distraction from the slew of misfortunes beset upon and oppressing every anguished minute of their existence. This reflects one of the Narcissistic Paradigm's steadfast, nastier and more sadistically steadfast parasitic actions: smash and grab the resources you require at a fraction of their worth, then slash and burn and scorch the earth behind you, so that none may return for what you might have missed. This fucked rape of all ‘resources’ is ever the mechanism of profit, our esteemed engine of progress.
It is through Faith alone the poor persevere despite their hardships— if such a word as ‘hardship’ can adequately describe the abysmal inequity of their circumstances. As I traveled, witnessed, and suffered-with-them (Latin: com passio), I realized these hopes were misplaced in a religion of "hard work" and an investment of college that are more a debt-afflicting lie that burdens them further with an expected yolk of indentured servitude worse than any predatory mortgage or equity of mass destruction, and that such a religion blatantly fails to fulfill its false promise of liberation in an avowedly Libertarian and evidently libertine society where such a thing as liberty is in short supply for all but the most privileged of liberals. It’s a janky and suspect circumstance, to be sure. A poor foundation to save a nation from swallowing itself whole, for example; and no basis whatsoever from which to combat and survive the immediate onset of now-parabolic climate change.
Even worse, there is a plague of presumed purpose that has shadowed the species since the days of the god-kings holding claim and sway over primitive grain surpluses— the genesis of property ownership, currency, and the rights of kings, and our true original sin and reason for our rejection from Eden: outright denial of our mammal natures— that has found a heinous and ugly, narcissistic bent in the wake of the failures of the Boomers' naive, narcissistic, halcyon hippie days and has been given eager idiot blessing and full berth by the likes of Madonna and Oprah and her shamelessly proffered prosperity gospel doctrine, The Secret: the notion that for each of us, "success," however measured, is "meant to be"— a delightful reward bestowed by something we call "the universe" for the inherent goodness of our cherished American character.
I've long bristled at this bogus assertion of purpose whenever I've been complimented with it for any of my prior successes. Previously, ignorant of the acute depth of iniquitous and senseless suffering of my fellow-and-sister Americans, I've simply and correctly stated that the bulk of our species on this planet— billions upon billions— nearly the entire physical number and mass of this great body of human being— live and die in continuous, deepening anguish and affliction traps that I simply cannot accept are "meant to be" for them in any rational or virtuous sense if the same statement applies to my good fortune. Why am I, born by chance under the sign of my father’s wealth and the blessings of his name and pedigree I’ve inherited by virtue of his semen alone, more special before the eyes of this universe than so many others? Indeed, I've correctly asserted, any "success" we Caucasian First Worlders With Means can claim for ourselves is largely a matter of the good fortune of being born on this continent to this people and of this race, nationality, and pedigree.
I cannot and will not accept any casual celebration of its concurrent correlate fruits as somehow purposed for us by virtue of our inherent worth when the vast rest of the world lives in senseless anguish and dies in utter obscurity— incarnate souls, equal to any in this country— whose suffering and equally worthy, distinct personhood is forgotten entirely by so-called History the moment they draw their last breath. Why is this wise universe so partial to me and so other few, and so wickedly indifferent to the rest. Here, I recall Dostoyevski again, and herald to his Brothers’ K: Ivan and Alyosha, both of whom stood astonished and galled by the obvious odiousness of it all.
Indeed, to suffer and die without consequence without remedy, let alone reason, a plague of unstoppable cascading misfortunes is the greatest indignity any human being of any nationality or creed can endure. Presuming the Ego has some measure of significance in the ontology of this tiny, viscous species tormenting itself and its brethren on this unremarkable jewel chasing an unremarkable star in one galaxy of what we thought were billions and now think are unimaginable trillions, lost in a seeming-boundless thing we call a "universe," in which not even the magnitude of human striving so significant to narcissistic we could possibly matter a whit in the scope of its vast seeming-eternity, it is abhorrent to me that we the people not only do little to lift us all out of poverty— for when most of us dwell in deepest poverty, we all do— and do everything else to sustain it. It is in the relativity of Self that we suppose Ego's import; but down where the spirit meets the bone, we harbor a greater existential terror: that all that we are is entirely for naught. And that cruel indifference, friends, to our borrowed lives is insult beyond ken for the sufferings we endure, which for us personally seem as mighty as the enormous universe itself.
Our lives and their successes only have consequence because we are White First Worlders With Means— even those of us who claim some flavor of favored-minority status (of which I reluctantly admit I am a bland white one: the recovering yuppie gay-divorcee). It is a grievous insult to assert that our lives are favored by virtue of our characters' innate worth before some divine thang or another have absolutely no ken of when so, so vastly many more are fate-plagued worse than Job himself and allowed, unlike Job so-loved by Yaweh, no recourse but death, swallowing us ever silent and quick, to release at last from these relentless existential tortures. And after discovering firsthand what I knew rationally but had never afforded myself opportunity to experience in the fullness of my entire Awakened Self the senseless afflictions of heaping accidents on the poor...
None of them, even the Alt-Right my peer group currently so revile— which is less of a terrorist enterprise than a catch-all for a pluralist body of intellectuals of all stripes practiced in the traditions of evidenced debate and argument who have been rendered disenfranchised and ideologically homeless by their former homies’ lockstep evangelic zealotries— endures this string of care-less and unjust hardships because "it was meant to be." Because these are an adequate reflection of their characters' worth? And no matter what their ideologic affiliation and regardless of their ideologies' failure to comply with sensible-ours, that kernel of iniquitous and unjust hardships unite not us-all but those-who-have-the-least of all stripes and colors, and those who, quite frankly, deserve the most help from those of us who can, from those of us who insulate ourselves with such narcissistic prayers of self-congratulation at our it-was-meant-to-be self-beknighted self-worth from their senseless and cruel sufferings because, our "virtuous rewards" so imply, theirs also was meant to be. And no amount of label-changing, Facebook "shares" and up/down vote "likes," righteous bone-throwing "charitable giving," and the occasional hour bequeathed them on an thinly peopled picketline now ever succeeds remedying that dirge of relentless mounting misfortunes. Indeed, it's all salt on a wound that only festers more with the passing days.
To those who slave in suffering their entire lives, certainly they share the love of narcotic pleasures we so enjoy and defend— infotainment, processed and organic foods— most of still HumanChow, regardless of its greening gussying— prescription drugs, plastic-and-silicon narco-techtoys, poor broken Facebook— but those pleasures that "sustain" us only acutely magnify their suffering when they can catch hold of them in those brief moments of surplus means, or payday loans.
Uniformly then, they console themselves with abundantly available religions of the afflicted, cheaply offered under every white steeple cemented at nearly every intersection in any accumulation of souls outside of the liberal and godless cities— ostensibly to give meaning to the unmeangingable via absolving them of their "original sins" which so clearly have been the cause for these miseries beset upon them ("it was meant to be") and providing them with a path of supposed virtuous, moral living, claiming that dutiful obedience to these bewildering and inscrutable codes will liberate them from the tyrannies of their senseless cascading calamities and hunger, and their inescapable mounting suffocating gravities.
In bitter truth, the afflicted cling to these because beneath it all, these promise not to deliver them from poverty while they breathe today but assure them of a "revelation" of total and unmerciful, exacting and just retribution by a greater might than any of us combined against their enemies, whom they blame for their miseries. As a bonus they are promised an eternal reward that looks too much to me like the very posh and gilded homes and neighborhoods and celebratory comforts the wealthy of each generation enjoys in those particular times while the plebes rot underboot. What the poor fail to appreciate in this fantasy of eternal reward they are church-sold is that such plenty ever rests on the backs of those whose vitality the so-rewarded siphon to service their endless comfort rewards. Presuming their enemies will be cast into fiery oblivion after the poor have cured their soiled karma through dutiful suffering, there will be no vitality to engine their own eternal reward. They will not benefit as they have been trained to suppose from any righteous apocalypse; once the Host departs, having burned the house down in name of cleaning it, the poor will remain, empty-handed and left to hang, same as it ever was.
If you had traveled the country’s side roads as I did through the election, you would quickly discover and have affirmed repeatedly that the vital appeal of Donald Trump is that archetypally his bullish character fits this fantasy of righteous retribution quite snugly; Hillary, meanwhile, fits snuggly as the Whore of Babylon, ever the target of this bloodletting fantasy. Regardless of the particulars of his outlandish, nonsensical campaign babble, of the ruinous embarrassment of his haphazard and ham-fisted unhygeinic administration barely 365 days in, and in spite of his churlish sausage-fingered childishness, under it all and even now, Donald Trump the Emblem fulfills that archetype of deliverer of retribution against the ruling class, the long-reviled so-called liberal elites.
The poor are not alone in misreading their candidate’s text. They forget as we do that not too long ago he himself was a not-inconsequential member of democratic party, and is in fact a blatant carpet bagger in his current party. We forget, also, that until the second debate, the Trumps and Clintons were family friends, and that the Donald had been instrumental in securing HRC’s senate campaign— remedying the accusations of carpetbagging levvied at her by homestaters— as he, too, was with her.
We the people are demonstrably retarded in the matter of reading our culture accurately— especially now that Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Bixby have inherited the responsibility of maintaining our memories for us, and thus accidentally and as a consequence of blunt algorithms have misgroomed our history from the hands of credible sources into the mitts of ‘fake news,’ certainly propagated by some Russians, but truly advanced en masse homegrown by the likes of the National Enquirer, Us Weekly, Fox News, and Huffington Post, day in and out. All modern media exists in the hands of five privately owned conglomerates, with combined agendas that stand my hair on end far more swiftly than any agenda I can suppose Russians as having. After all: Those conglomerates’ fingers are deep up our assess and reach through them far into our brains already. Russia’s late too to their game to truly compete.
This righteous retributive threat from such a baboon as Trump was precisely the "message" these oppressed and miserable poor have been programmed by generations of Sunday sermon apocalypse pornography to anticipate the arrival of and meet with open arms. Can you truly feign surprise that the poor were only too delighted to accept that a thundering gamma monkey— a man possessing a magic surname, but who was queerly blessed a monkey-savant armed with magick Twitter-typewriter with the power to agitate billions to deranged self-destructive behaviors— guaranteeing them holy revenge against the indifferent unrepentants was the most satisfying and compelling candidate they could ever have hoped for. I was astonished when I woke to the news that Hillary had maligned them as ‘deplorable’— because Mitt Romney lost his assured victory for precisely the same offense.
Should our democracy survive a Trump term— and Plato in Republic assures us it will not— these poor people will remember not his record but his legend more fervently than his hallowed predecessor, Ronny Reagan.
Plato has been out of favor in the modern era for quite some time precise because he assures us in Republic: democracy collapses into tyranny when those who can help the poor through their misfortunes are too righteously adrift in their narcotic narcissism to actually help those upon whose backs that democracy rests and flourishes. Neglecting them and their cascading afflictions only guarantees democracy's collapse when a compelling, charismatic, and outlandish alpha prick rises from the pack and disingenously promises salvation to the oppressed via righteous vengeance against the bloated, selfish, and ostentatious ruling class.
If we are to understand this terrifying time, if we are to even begin to fathom the lay of the land itself so that we may hope to find some pathways for all of us out of this mad and maddening mess made by we wicked, wicked primates who have been far too endowed by unwise Prometheus, we must start where Christ, Dostoyevski, and Tolstoy chose to begin: with those who have the least because they are most-afflicted by accident and calamity's awful mounting gravity. So long as the entire human body can not rise above these accumulative torments, we can never truly claim to have attained any mantel of progress- not matter how big Elon Musk makes his big dicked rockets. Unlike Buddha, however, we must not insult the poors’ suffering's magnitude and depth with the indignity of "ministering" our supposed "truths" to them— products of all dogmas’ failures to consider unwieldy evidence against more palatable presumptions.
We must not presume to know anything at all about the scope of this dis-ease of poverty if we have not experienced it ourselves, truly, first-hand. We know not what they endure; thus, we wholly unqualified to name its sustaining causes, nor to presume what a "socially just" resolution to those inequities looks like. What is required by those with the most is radical, selfless compassion— and compassion requires above all that you skin in the game of others. One sits on a pillow, removed from the world, and labors to do nothing in the name of the greater good, it should be all too evident after 1,200 long years of Buddhism, accomplishes nothing of the sort.
The call now before privileged us is to abandon, as I did, what we have that comforts us most— the cash to make problems disappear swiftly and with minimal stain and consequence, as well as the narcotic plastic pleasures we reward ourselves with when so-released— and embrace the courage to truly live with and suffer with them, to know the heap and heft and exhausting, harrowing gravity of calamity and its stains upon the innocence of those undeserving souls, and upon the earth, regardless of the pigments or political stripes of those so afflicted. And we must not tell them, through the insultingly insulating comforts of "social justice" philosophy arrived at in privileged institutions wholly removed from and directly apprehending of the sufferings they claim to cure, nor in the vicious "self-help" doctrines that presume only they can free themselves from this slew of civically administered torments, what steps they alone must take to free themselves. Even Hillary Clinton admits: It takes a village.
We must sacrifice wholly the comfort of supposed-knowing that so offensively makes us those long and rightly resented liberal elites and chose to use our imaginations instead for a purpose unpracticed in this species since before the dawn of agriculture and its poisonous surpluses and their concurrent vanities: we must use our imaginations prevailing to experience as they experience, and suffer with them, and so know as they know, so that we may band together to bare the weight not merely the calamities already swamping them, but those just around the bend to drown us all.
Only such sacrifice of comfort and its blind suppositions before the alter of truth and its anguishes can afford all of us the path that may liberate us from the consequences of our narcissistic paradigm and its vulgar, staining sins.