48.5514° N, 123.0781° W (2021)
Posted by <Erik Simkins> on 2021-04-19
At a mass spreader event. Preachers line up on rigged stages, pulling diffused charisma from fanatical crowds. Their origins don’t matter. The crowd, the speakers. It’s all a simulated experience. Police are in attendance. Shows of force are exhibited between everyone, like psychic wrestling. We need to work out our anxiety somehow. Without these theatrical displays, our disdain would fester into an explosive combination of phosphate and electronics. So, even if we hate the show, we buy our ticket knowing the alternatives would be a callous affront to the humanity we ultimately seek to restore.
Leaders of the free world sit inside, inculcated with wealth. Sitting, printing money. They don’t feel its weight; those jewels draped across their body. So thick there’s no touch. No constituency will reach them. Hypnotized from what the people endure, they sit ripe for plucking. That’s what happens after generations of only discussing money by way of the federal deficit.
Entryways are overcome. People storm the halls, but no one is really inside. The symbols they’re looking for have long ascended into another, distant world. The only power recognized there is a raw one: a crushing force. Anything else is a demand for power and not an extension of it: childish play. Groups of bodies are just silly targets. Human rights, the dignity of life, and our collective spirit are data points to be monitored and adjusted. Mapped on a spreadsheet. It eventually translates into lived experience, but one that’s totally “out of touch”.
Just as politician's imaginations wither under the weight of their wealth, debates are shallow displays of woke-coded, future transgressions. The meekest stance wins. Taunting us, like a street-facing department-store furniture display framed above a homeless person staying overnight. They feign aghast when called to add another “broken window” into the repair column. They treat the glass like a misguided question, to which they respond with confused shrugs and a light chuckle before turning camera-right, catching the light to utter: “we’ll tune-up the spreadsheet, don’t worry”.
Online discourse. Online criticism. The opportunity of digital space to expand a public forum is closing. We tried, and this is what it looks like: tens of thousands of people gathered, eager and irritated, to intimidate symbols of our democracy.
Have you ever been to a protest where there’s people as far as your eyes can see? Everyone’s heated, excited with potential energy. Uniquely aligned, ready for work.
Why come all this way and not push a little further, some ask. We are righteous, some believe. Who would dare challenge our divinity? Pure flow state. Half an inch in diameter, traveling 800 feet per second, 15 grams of lead follows a straight line. Green line. Vertical. Stone age surgery. Someone took the breach too far and crossed the state’s hollowpoint security curtain. Falling back, their last words were “I’m ok”. Whispers of the movement uttered between gasps of bloody air from a shredded body. Someone next to them, with tac-gear and “SWAT” insignia on their chest, alerted on their radio of an active shooter. Two different police departments on either side of an informal barricade. Protestors casually saunter between them, hurling rocks and sticks, unaware they’re inside a military industrial blender. Hair trigger.
The confederacy was tread upon. Flags whip in the wind, air full of fresh chemical agents designed to “install order”. A sophisticated substitute for the stick. A spicy carrot, one could say.
No Step Snek fandom is irreparably trauma bound with an increasingly obscure parasitic, yet resentful, relationship to their hosts. I wonder how they’ll show up for the next round. A call emerges from down the street. Their nation tells them to stand back, and stand by. Sadness weeps across the speaker’s voice. An unwinnable position. Castrated. Social media revoked (a placeholder for real accountability). Spotify revoked (their revolution will not have a backing track).
Outside on the lawn, people line up for hot dogs. They weren’t expecting such hunger. The spec-ops style protein bar, warmed by their pocket, can only take them so far. Zizek style, with one bun in each hand, their eyes glitter with excitement. Laughing, they pause to reflect how to pay; which hand to retrieve their wallet with. They thank the vendor, eyes never breaking from the sweet relish. Double pump. Representatives of the interior count their blessings. No mutual aid was distributing food. It honestly might’ve tipped the scales.
The fallout, a smoke cloud of “who and what to avoid” quickly engulfed cultural producers. Backlash against artists in attendance gave the media a soft line of inquiry. Compared to the sticky mess of Q, its crackpot bakers, and their material conditions, I can’t say I’m surprised they took this easy way out. But I am disappointed.
The capitol protests showed our rabid faith for slash-and-burn accountability. The mob doesn’t want a lesson on power, they want to wield it against someone. They want the memory of overcoming resistance. A triumph of their identity; a clear, hard win.
A traitor's body falls, offering them a bloody step up into a better world. Heaven-On-Earth awaits, where capital-G(od) has suspended habeas corpus. True believers can cut through that bureaucratic red-tape. Let them melt into blood.
Lofty think pieces cast all attendees as terrorists. We love strong language. It really keeps people awake. Sedition. Treason. We have to have it: a clear antagonist. One with a face. You can’t apply the death penalty to a concept. There’s nowhere to stick the needle; you can’t watch the light fade from its eyes to know it’s gone.
One thing is obvious: imperialism still resonates with people as a defensive stance, rather than a stern, aggressive one. I don’t know why; perhaps because people feel it’s them verses everyone they don’t already know. So, it might as well be them against the world. They’re being shuffled to make room for new players. Their board is receiving a patch update. It’s transferring their whiteness. A ceremonial bleaching.
The new administration was brought in today. Social media reporters cataloged the layers of militarized stop-and-frisk checkpoints between them and the red carpet ceremony. Considering the circumstances, it’s no surprise. The brazen continuation of national power is on everybody’s shit list. Doesn’t matter which side you identify with.
Nobody was at the inauguration except those shown on television. Official guests held fashion and spirits under each arm like aggressive carry-on passengers boarding their cross-country flight. Rowdy, like return flights from earlier protests, which put dozens on the no-fly list. Headlines championed the administration’s heavy-handed application of identity politics within their staff. Perhaps this move will finally deflate the “progressive” neoliberal argument that idol is an adequate substitute for meaningful policy. Perhaps I will eat my words and we will be engulfed in a tidal wave of changed circumstances. Anxiously waiting for either of those two possible futures to pop off might be why I can’t stop holding my breath.
A long lens surveyed our previous leader’s sad little steps toward their government branded helicopter. The real deep state revealed itself. Perched above, their shot resembled parking lot security footage. I reviewed C-Span records of past exit coverage, and this was by far the most detached. Engine heat, along with atmospheric haze distorted the video into a readymade normcore vaporwave image.
Our preferred primary candidate showed up with an air of pragmatism that ripped through social media like forest fires through a desert valley. It would inevitably be cast as a distorted take on white male privilege by big brain cynics. But in the meantime, their humble, wholesome nature immediately triggered a cascade of memes portraying them as the “done with this shit” everyman.
I didn’t listen to any of the speeches. Not by the new president, nor pundits. During the inauguration, I was on a kayak. Sort of uncharacteristic of me. Birdsongs skate across the water. The current sweeps me down the coast of a northwest pacific Island; I’m staying here for a week. Still in the US, but close enough to the border that Canadian cellular services are fighting for my signal. Invisible territories roam atop my physical terrain, prompting regular network surcharge notices on my device. I feel fortunate for spotty service. I’ve indulged in the current heavily lately.
Would it be appropriate to metaphorize the digital environment as a sauna? I’ve been sweating away in it, turning into a little human raisin. People say we absorb more information than those a hundred years ago would’ve in a lifetime. Were stuck in the sauna together.
Yesterday I heard ravens talk about the wind’s flavor as it crossed their wings. I was maybe thirty feet below them, coasting down the bend of a long bluff. Their voices resonated with my inner ear like they were adjusting to pressure changes. Visceral like hearing whales singing in West Seattle a few years ago. Penetrating. The only difference in content, as far as I’m concerned, is the type we prioritize; its volume remains unchanged. But the consensus is that now is more, and more is better. Ok, fine. It can get hotter so long as I have enough water. IDK what else to do.
Tommy, another guest to the island, arranged a water-terrarium celebrating our arrival: a few rocks, seaweed, and two small hermit crabs in a tall candy dish. They died two days later. Global warming.
How do these deaths compare to picking flowers? What about the destructive wake of our travels here? From Seattle to Anacortes, then ferry to island. So many miles. A study recently confirmed the destructive effects of a chemical compound shed by vehicle tires into marine habitats. Half of all returning salmon are said to die because of it. Industry and politics are in agreement of there being “no clear answer” for fixing the problem. No clear answer.
To what degree does our belief that “you gotta spend money to make money” is hazardous runoff to our relationship with life, translated roughly to “killing is birthing”? It’s rhetorical, don’t bother.
There are four of us here: Lavi, Tommy, and Carson. They’re all working, so I’m carving time to connect with the living history of this strange place. The house is large, big enough for about a dozen people. Its footprint expands in all directions from an initial cabin, hand built in the 1920s. A passion project of some doctor. They self-administered a lethal dose of morphine to opt-out from the end-of-life realities of terminal lung cancer. It was passed on to their partner, who lived until the 70s. It expanded, and the cycle has repeated through today.
Apparently, Colton H. Moore broke in during their ~2010 crime spree. They left a wax sculpture in the kitchen and some puke in the bathroom. Chris Pratt lived next-door for a couple years. When he left, a bio-tech family swooped the spot. First contact with them was a call to split costs for fiber internet. Surprise, surprise. Their neighbors didn’t want to shell out the money. To which they responded: “how much could it be, a hundred?”. As in, a hundred thousand dollars. Cue the Bleuth meme.
How could anyone living on the water could care about raging fast internet. Spaces like this, those closely resembling wilderness, are rare and sacred. It feels cruel to reproduce the oppressive backdrop of city infrastructure within it. Even if it’s a relatively hidden, digital variant. When I was paddling along the shore, I found myself grimacing at houses painted to contrast with the countryside. Dark brown is where it’s at. Any other color carries the vibe of 5G.
Cycling to the downtown harbor, the same skepticism was reflected upon me. Intuition I’ve built for being flashy doesn’t work out here. What in my mind feels liberating is read as oppressive. My aim never translates 1-1 in a new place, but when the backdrop is mostly trees and you’re five hours from the city, it’s a totally different game. Deliberate attempts to stand out, even calmly, are read negatively. I am not uniform.
Maybe the curious glances were aimed at the contrast between my clothing and bike, though. For fun, I’ll just assume so. Carson was kind enough to provide me a working, but decrepit 70s-era Motobecane 10-speed with a rusted paint job. We found it hung in the shed like a forgotten slab of cured meat. It miraculously held air, but its components were dry. So, every moving part became a point of mechanical resistance.
It sounds like an angry coil-spring mattress. Preferred speed: 5mph. Any faster and its mechanical feedback resembles struggling across loose sand. Luckily, the national park is about half an hour away. That’s where I’ve been spending most of my time. It offers a stunning view of the infinite sea. I park on the bluff-side of the road guard. It’s not quite freezing, but the wind is crippling. I fold into a five dimensional shape to stop the breeze from interrupting the flame from lighting my spliff.
My purpose as of yet feels unclear. My life. My art.
Aren’t I old enough to either know or not care?
This morning, I came across a study involving humans’ assessment of risk when calculating for “zero”. In summary, a small loss is more attractive than gaining nothing, but the same small loss is less attractive than losing nothing. In other words, “gain nothing” feels like a negative outcome compared to “lose nothing”. It reminded me of the strategic dichotomy between father and son in Parasite (2020).
Lavi and I watched it before coming to the island. I couldn’t help but associate the insurrection protests and inauguration celebration with its generalized criticism of our economic system. And our two political parties. Which will it be? Lose nothing, or gain nothing? It’s possible that political theatre will remain confined to figureheads arguing which outcome is better: gain nothing or lose nothing. IDK how you see it, but sure seems like they’re leaving room for a third option.