The Underground Lady [Page Thirty-Seven]

Something can be a real threat, while at the same time presenting itself to us as far more of a threat than it really is.  Illness teaches this harsh and unusual lesson.  Often when we are the most worried about our health, the problem is minor—we contract a simple cold, and convince ourselves that we are going to expire.  But when we are deathly ill, we rationalize, we attempt to negotiate the situation away, by telling ourselves that this illness, which is steadily, surely claiming us as its own, is just a temporary source of discomfort, a mild disturbance, a bump along the way.  The illness that kills us is almost always the one that first presents itself as a nearly unnoticeable tremor, a small lump, an itchy spot on the skin.

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Global capitalism is not the perfect exploiting machine it claims to be.  Furthermore, it is not truly global in its reach.  It has always been a series or loosely organized collection of local aggregates—assemblages of politics, culture and exploitation.  Its failures are constant and numerous.  It breaks down all the time.   And yet we are convinced, through its vast apparatus of myth-making about itself—media, politics, propaganda—that what we are dealing with is an unapproachable monster.   The damage it causes, however, which is great, comes mostly through its failures, its gaps, its constant stupid crises and childish fits.  It demands our attention by being always on the verge of collapse, and requiring us to help it put itself back together again.  It is the Humpty Dumpty of economic and political systems, the cry-baby grownup in a diaper.  If we let it fall apart, then we are sure of our own failure, but only because we continue to identify with it.  If we stop, then it becomes obvious that there are many other alternatives, some of which we are already pursuing, despite our continuing attachment to this legendary failure.  Already we participate in far-flung lateral economies on the internet, belong to co-ops, organize our neighborhoods into cells of sanity against the breakdowns in the machine that by now we know must come.  The creaking, sputtering thing no longer impresses us, and really we have moved on, and yet the mythology of capital’s “success” will not let us go—even leftists participate in this ridiculous fictional build-up.  Why?  Because we are not ready to rid ourselves of the present drama, we are not ready to move on to the next narrative.  Still, at some point, we must.  In its hacking throes, the failed monstrosity is beginning to do a great deal of damage.  In its pretensions to religious allegiance and god-like substance (the sure signs of senility and impending death, whether real or imagined), it represents a dangerous potential to do evil, a demonic temptation in which we all participate, whether we denounce it or fight its insipid battles for more consumers, more acolytes, more victims, more land, more ruin, more stuff.   And as each of its local assemblages collapses, the rickety “global” structure slapped together to act in reserve, comes to the rescue yet again.  And then in another region.  And another.  In the meantime we are killing ourselves off slowly—both through ecological disaster and sheer economic exhaustion—and still, still, we refuse to let it go.  So…let it go.  Let it fall apart once and for all.  That is what we should have done with the global banking crisis.  That is what we should do with the next (predictably) even larger crisis.  Let it go.  The resulting chaos and collapse will make our resistance to the corporation, the growing virus which festers and thrives within this collapsing system, easier to sustain at all levels.  If we do not succeed, what we will end up with is not some kind of global system dedicated to making everyone happy, but a hulking, wobbling wreck, dominated by a nightmarish, absolutist organization bent on having us worship it as God—a pathetic, anemic God—which is precisely the same condition of authoritarian squalor we endured for centuries during the Dark Ages.

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The Underground Lady keeps the Demon on a leash.  She laughs when she hears me speak of him with fear and hatred.  But once he got away, and she was very frightened.  She’s not as courageous as she seems at times—like all of us.

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A friend of mine who had read part of this chapter said to me, “Why are you trying to start a  new religion?”  “I’m not,” I said, “I’m trying to prevent the emergence of one.”  He couldn’t see any difference.

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Language is not a tissue that binds us together in the world.  It is a battlefield, pockmarked by centuries of abuse, and each of us is surrounded.

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The Bohemian seeks to make a pact with the Demon, with his own capacity to do evil.  Through detachment, austerity, and equanimity of spirit, the Demon can be persuaded to become an ally.  If not, he becomes the destroyer of worlds, the crusher of ideas, the latent homicidal maniac.

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Murder is not unknown to the Demon.  He has known it, and enjoyed it, for millenia.

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The first sin outside Eden, in the Christian tradition, comes in the form of an act of fratricide.  The real meaning behind this derives from the ideal of fraternity, or brotherly love.  Its failure enters through an outside agency, a third party.  Cain kills Abel because he is jealous of their father’s attention.  This is the corrupting influence of authority.

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