Slingshots, Anyone? : …Here’s the Rest of Our Lives

It’s a wonderful Tuesday morning with the sunlight shining in onto our wooden dining room table, and I’m sitting down to compose this month’s column. But I have stumbled into a proverbial wall. Each month I ask myself, Can I engage these readers with something beyond status quo “alternative” music coverage? This has been a constant ambition, one over which I have labored and in some aspects obsessed. And each time I spot someone casually poking through this newsprint on the street or in a club, like some agitating fairy dust, I wonder if some genuine thoughts I express can penetrate all the conditioning and resonate somewhere within their psyche.

Prisons? Police? Colonizing Multinationals? Industrial production? This is the only reality we know

It’s not that I have fallen into an existential rut. On the contrary, October has proven quite an eventful month, indeed, for a certain little hobbit columnist. I experienced not only my first opera and ballet, respectively, but also saw sissy-bounce heroines Sissy Nobby and   Big Freedia play for the first time! Hung out real “cool” backstage at House of Blues, and saw an amazing band called Esben and the Witch play to a sparse crowd at the Big Top. Threw an extremely stressful punk show at my house, immediately following which I went to see the legendary Vaselines. Beyond that, I attended a couple potlucks and generally enjoyed the pleasant fall weather.

Yet, somehow, I do not feel inclined to write– at least not about anything I perceive would jibe with the content of this publication. I’m just… discontent. Sometimes more overwhelming than the joys of existence, I feel so utterly consumed with disdain for this unequal world we live in– and my feelings of impotence to do anything to change it. When every cop I pass hurls me into a rage. When I yearn for those around me to begin taking back their lives and protecting their homes from the insidious forces of oppression, but witness only assimilation. How I feel even deeper frustration because I also want to reclaim my own life from this ridiculous, dysfunctional society but feel paralyzed. It’s like I’m trapped between distraction and fear. I ride around the streets named in honor of former slave masters and look at all the condos, the bio-medical-complex monoliths being constructed and the expansion of OPP and the looming wave of privatization sweeping the city under its auspices, manipulating our realities to further suit capital– and it evokes this feverish anger, this bottomless despair. I sometimes do not know how to cope and still feel human.

On so many occasions my relatives and acquaintances– whether directly or indirectly– have assured me that it’s better not to worry, that I would be much happier to simply “go with the flow.” But I believe that the only way to feel truly happy, truly alive under this system is to resist and live in opposition to its imposed restrictions. I used to believe we as a culture collectively suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Except now I feel that a more apt comparison would be to that of victims of domestic abuse: we survive by identifying with our abuser, unable to change our situation because we fear reprisal (whether social or judicial) and can perceive no other concrete ways to live. We have been stripped of any significant options, isolated from our land-bases and true community, brainwashed to such a point that the abuse has become transparent. Prisons? Police? Colonizing Multinationals? Industrial production? This is the only reality we know, the amnesia having disavowed any remembrance of a healthy alternative. Even as I write this I feel selfconscious about questioning the foundations of our culture, that I will be ridiculed and dismissed with an air of casual indifference. Perhaps worse, I can almost hear the bitter cynicism forming on your tongues: We already know this system is fucked. But what should we do about it? How will we eat, how will we pay the bills?

And for that I have no answers. I only wish to let you know that if you experience such devouring alienation, a seemingly boundless frustration and sorrow, that you are not alone and you are not crazy. So many of us feel this way. They call us “criminals,” “mentally unstable,” “clinically depressed” and “maladjusted.” But it is this culture that is pathologically insane, that has borne widespread hunger, patriarchy, racism, planetary devastation and has domesticated the entire world. It is this culture that has infected our minds and bodies like so many industrial toxins. And if we shall struggle and suffer under this society regardless, better to struggle and suffer in pursuit of abolishing it. Remember: all real power and change comes not from above, but below.

“Somewhere in this cycle there’s me and you. What are we prepared to do?” — Chumbawamba