Town & Country Ch.9: Walk Away From the City Racket
Meandering amidst the Angeles National Forest on the weekend, Danny and Landon sorted with their eyes thickets of scrubs and brush. A terrain of littoral desert, here and there overrun with pine and fir blanketed slopes, held its face proudly to the sun, asking to be pet by its rays. Douglas-fir, Coulter Pine and California Walnut made special these 29,000 acres. Old growth of Jeffrey Pine forests, Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forest, Ponderosa Pine, White Fir and Lodgepole Pine were all a southward travelers’ last reprieve before the true wilderness of the racketeering city was upon him, slicing nature apart in all dimensions. The topic of conversation was focused and heavy-handed.
“Danny, I don’t think you quite, uh, get it,” Landon was saying while their feet made tracks on the trail beneath. “Global events transpiring now can be explained, sure, in many ways, but what is crucial is the overwhelmingly historic nature of the now. We live today in between two ages; in an age of global intimacy and terror, but also bountiful data and information that probably overwhelm our emotions and our instincts.”
“Oh Landon, it’s okay, I was once generational-centric, too; when I was your age,” Danny riposted, more-or-less lackadaisically.
“With time you realize there is nothing more significant about your life than folks who lived 500 years ago.”
“I am not so sure of that, Danny—in these times, the amount of change in any given period is exponentially greater than ever before. What once took one hundred years to emerge, now takes ten. This is a very simple but crucial point, for not only does it orient the disposition of the average person, but also directs the aims of the elites. And these aren’t Buddhist masters, Danny—these are the managers of the universe, in their own minds. To be generational-centric, means to imagine some disconnect between yesteryear and today, a break that I don’t pretend to see. I just see this life cumulative,” Landon tried to explain.
“You’re always clawing at moments. You should have liked to be a master of the universe, but that you can’t be. You’re being unreasonable.”
“All progress, then, depends on the unreasonable man. Dude, the present—that is, life in the now—in a manner like so few other times in our history, is a bread basket stuffed with beauty, suffering, happiness, catastrophe, compassion and possibility,” Landon paused for a second to collect his flexible thoughts. “Deep within each of us there is an equanimity that evokes prescience as though it were the root of all things. However far away from this tranquil abyss we may live, it still resides within us and the entirety of being of which we are but tiny subsidiaries; in other words, programmed into us are tangible, incontrovertible truths of nature, and, promisingly enough, the socio-historic victimization of us by civilization has yet to strip us of these.” “And they won’t ever be stripped from us, Landon. They are ours.”
“That is, until the course steering of genetic space is the vehicle by which we evolve, command and control style like useless shoes in the Soviet Union. Dan, you don’t really get that we are living in a future-present—that this is the god-damn twilight zone.”
Twiggy trees were splashed sparingly atop the beige and pink of the pale clay, resembling cement after a drizzle. The stingy Mediterranean-like biome of the Southern California bight offered the many species more sun than water, more desert than coast. The sky was wide, but hues of red stood at the center of attention. Amidst gliding hawks seeking afternoon eats, Danny and Landon bobbed where a sea of splashing sun met the desert’s best forest, dampening everything all around with a smooth electricity. Just as bodies of atoms escaped the realm of perception, so too did the barium salts, aluminum, and general industrial pollution of the spoiled city seep out into the diverse vicinities of which the forest was. Like a stove left burning after a meal, Los Angeles suffocated its surroundings.
“Landon, I know human folly is frustrating, but it’s not going away. I understand where you are coming from. And I, like you, feel we’ve got to serve others through selflessness. Ya gotta note what it is that makes people feel purposeful and comfortable and be unceasingly aware of it. But at the same time, action is not conforming. It’s a defeating dichotomy. I don’t want to kill the earth, but we’ve also got to let go.”
“That means sacrificing a part of our own humanity and that helps nobody,” Landon interjected. “I realize that perhaps, by being selfish, I help everybody, simply because there is no difference between me or you or anybody. The elusive separation of formal being can never be pinpointed, ever. In the end, we are our individual selves, sure, but at base we’re awfully similar. I know, Danny, focusing does not come naturally—after all, our neuronal efficiency has been executed by tortured development, a fast life, propaganda, eugenics, malnutrition, general toxicity, pharmaceuticals, escapism, a penchant to depreciate happiness and the positive, lack of experience in healthy relationships. We therefore latch onto the atomizing and egotistical elements of our socialization so as to justify our own exponentially increasing depravity—but we’ve got to ensure the ideas burn and bloom. It’s a pyrophytic acumen.” “Fuck it, I say—maybe partying will help.”
“Then that is it, submission complete. Look, I am not against having fun, Danny, but, as adults, we are supposed to be a sentient dichotomy: living life with the reckless abandon and wonderment of an innocent child, but the serious and competent edge of a focused adult. Instead, we lose the natural confidence we enjoy as children—breast fed by a sense of community and belonging as it were—only to become lifeless ostrich cynics, who ignore the details and true state of affairs and yet presume earth to be a lost cause, without hope—therapeutically nihilistic with the veneer of thin optimism, just so we can still have friends.”
“There’s still hope,” Danny suggested. “No new hope, to be sure. Even your unwashed masses know somewhere, that hope ain’t getting them very far. “I think there is hope, Landon. The hundredth monkey is right around the corner, enlightenment and nirvana.”
“Not if we don’t work towards it.”
“There is still hope—like you said yourself, there is still an inner peace inside each of us, the state of nirvana. Hope makes anything possible,” Danny spoke calmly.
“I guess I just prefer the band Nirvana,” Landon said with his eyebrows raised.
“The elite, dude, are aware of their own total and absolute destructive behavior and the rest of us are simply compelled by some ephemeral death-wish that entrenches itself in our minds to go along for the ride; and so, neuronal synapses in our heads are like trenches on the Somme in 1917: there’s scant a way out. Just as hope helps us live an at ease existence, it enables us to serve passively some Uberclass’s program to enchain us for servitude to their stark raving insanity—slaves, and always slaves, forever. Ever read 1984? Orwell had insider information, you see. Not even did Kurt Vonnegut think up as satirical and dark shit as this. We’re beyond the bizarre, like that film Brazil.”
“That film Brazil was made before you were born, Landon.”
“Exactly,” Landon said. “I bet whoever made it had insider information, too. Five million bucks?” Danny ignored the dare.
“Hope is good,” Danny remained focused on this isolated topic, walling his rationality off from points harder to stomach. “Hope comes out of happiness, Landon. We must realize hope is part-and-parcel of living life as a human, lest we cease being happy.”
“We can certainly lie to ourselves about hope. I mean, we drink from the same fountain of hope as we always have, like you said, even though long-ago the well was dry. We’ll become so parched in this uninhabitable arena, eventually, that we won’t ever again recognize real possibility for nourishment. Hope is crossing fingers for an ideal fate and fate is the oft unrecognized process towards result, a preponderance of small decisions made by people that, for most, end up as insentient instances and happenchance—coincidence. They don’t do the reacting needed to help themselves out! Hope is inaction and compliance.”
“Well, for now,” Danny said, falsely imagining some future deviation.
“Of course.” The two looked at each other, Landon with an expression of confidence and Danny with a wrinkled brow.
The stranglehold of drought continued to thin the landscape around them. Détente in detritus was not to be found; yet, an array of species still plugged themselves into the synchronicity of the environment and danced in rhythm as children on a playground do. To be away from the roaring city, which , like a lion, digested what it consumed, brought rushing back memories in the two trekkers that had been reduced to remembrance.
A hare with eyes like headlights raced across the trail up ahead and darted determinedly into the brush, and then was again a memory. The far-removed humming of the highway reminded campers and wanderers that the natives, dictated by interstates, were still there, impatiently awaiting their return. Cars heading north would race through the hills and mountains of the grapevine, and then onto a desert of 21st century agricultural wasteland and crisp, the bullion hills already written by Steinbeck. Despite being aware of the glossed over look in Danny’s eyes, Landon continued:
“The quickening in the machinations and behaviors constituent of civilization is multifaceted. For simplicity’s sake, let’s talk about ‘them vs. us.’ One the one hand, there is the increasing speed with which goods and services are centralized. And on the other hand, there is the rate at which people are awakening to the factors which attitudinize their environment; that being, social engineering, capital accumulation always by some sort of dispossession, power and control, all developed over thousands of years within the civil hierarchy and an ancient deference, a certain nefarious juggernaut. The vector of civilization, an intermixture of human biopsychological processes and progressively established culture, is a diffraction—a phenomenon that occurs when there is an alteration in the properties of the medium in which energy is traveling. Civilization, by the way, has as its nucleus conquest and repression; dispossession to accumulation. The medium, in this case, is human agency.”
“And so we are human and at the same we are not human,” Danny said, having known Landon so long as to know his points of view. “Next you’re going to tell me that the dictionary is propaganda,” Danny accused, sounding withdrawn but affable.
“It is propaganda!” Landon said loudly, and a reaction of rattling in the bushes around them indicated a startle. “I’m sure if you looked in Webster’s it’d say civilization is ‘a high stage of social and cultural development’ or something. And Oxford English would say ‘a developed or advanced state of human society.’ Sounds partial to me! And who can blame the writers of dictionaries? Would you want to define yourself as terminally insane? I guess there is some sense to these definitions, though; the higher you climb, the harder you fall. Progress, therefore, is the process by which the human technological stage is set higher. We’re sitting on a ticking time bomb staring off into space!”
“But Landon, you don’t understand me. By rejecting that which clearly is, you inhibit your ability to experience life as it is,” Danny opined. “My nonattachment to all of these political things you talk about allows me to let them change. You see—I enable the change by not holding on. When negative emotions do not control my life, it allows others to get a glimpse about how to let go of them in their own lives.”
“Or you just make others more bitter, seeming so at peace, while they’re so uncertain.”
“That too,” Danny laughed. “Many of us have this problem and I don’t think you’re an exception: the past and the future weigh heavily on our minds, but here we are happening in the present. When our state of mind is such, we can’t act rationally in the present. In a moment of manifestation of fear and tragedy—whenever we need to take decisive action to avert some disaster—we act clearly and cogently, or so many people say. Well, this might be because the only thing on their mind is the now,” Danny said, proud of this insight.
“Good point,” Landon conceded. “Still, this is all very passive. Perhaps you’re just chronophobic? The quickening in the processes of civilization we are experiencing, accompanied by chaos as it is, is also invisibly ordered. In fact, it exposes the generally ordered nature of society; ordered, that is, from the top-down. Most people figure society is a highly ordered and lawful procession, but they don’t see the true ways in which this is so. In an age of ubiquitous corruption, the terms republicanism, democracy, fairness, equality, liberty, brotherhood and sisterhood cannot be applied to our ways and means of life. Hell, I personally think the only ordered processes in the history of civilization is the top-down nature of violence and coercion—the story of conquistadores and the repressed.”
Landon did not slow down: “The centripetal social evolution relegates the majority of power to a minority, resulting in, over time, far fewer conquistadores than repressed. After a certain movement of quantity a tipping point is reached at which a quickening in centralization ensues. Moreover, the encroaching nature of power does not imply the dispersion of power amongst individuals, but rather the extension of powers influence over each good, service or participant tied to the nucleus. The shared belief in this matrix—which has at its heart paper money far exceeding true estimates of wealth like gold, silver, landbase and the conservation thereof—constitutes common reality: a resounding testament to the power in the process of belief and, it should then follow, the power of communities. Not to mention propaganda. This centripetal or centralizing pageant, eventually, I think Danny, cements the link between power accumulation and the few, causing an aberration or deviance in the community and a divergence of interests. Such power, accessible only to the few, gives rise to the nefarious and more extreme elements of self-preservation, as opposed to a theoretical harmony of fairness.”
“This is just conspiracy mumbo-jumbo dressed in philosophy! You’re reading too far into all of this.”
“So what if it is and so what if I am!? Lots of people emphasize the role the influential play in the manipulation of markets and political theatre by movement of vasts amounts of capital and clout, volume and volatility. You stand discredited if you believe the current system of money and technology has any legitimacy other than as a massive control grid—over which, I might add, you and me don’t have an iota of influence, for we are the influenced, we are the nudged. You’re hoodwinked to underemphasize the relevance of top-down agency in government and businesses.” “As if everything handed us had to first be permitted by the rich?”
“Eh, I’m not necessarily saying that, but some people would. Just take as an example—oh, I don’t know—the modern banking system which manufactures money outta nothing. Present banking is a sin, for bankers own the earth. We could liberate all of the planet and the bounty she births, but so long as the bankers control the levers of the money print, they will in time buy it back again. If we want to keep on living the unlivable, as slaves of bankers and corporate Kings and Queens who pay the cost of their own slavery, then we keep things as is. It’s okay to have credit, and it’s okay to have business—but in the game of life, there must be some fair rules regulated from down-low to up-on-high. Only God, whatever that may be, has the power to create nothing out of something.” “I don’t know, Landon, I’m skeptical. This sounds awfully conspiratorial. And since when did you believe in God?”
“You’re aloof, Danny, in the illusion of permanence! In a time of global collapse, these questions of human destiny are of utter importance.”
“Wow, how grand. You really expect me to believe that while every one of us is insane, you’re the sane one?”
“I’m probably mad, too. Unfortunately, mostly everyone avoids paradigm shifts by freezing their opinions to some lofty premises and assumptions. Still, I do have faith—if I dare say it—that many people harbor valid views, inspired by compassion and happiness. Compassion and happiness, as they are generally understood, convey a surprisingly vibrant and lucid collection of values. Compassion caters to humanity’s innate capacity for community, whilst happiness, as sprung straight from emotions, speaks for our inner essence or biology.” “Is this some new religion you adhere to?”
“Not a religion, just thoughts I have. To be clear, there’s also a difference between worldviews and philosophies. A philosophy is a way of knowing that is constantly in flux and open to revision, whereas a worldview is static and unchanging. A philosophizer understands that the process of understanding is a movement of fitting differently-similar and similarly-different experiences, whereas one who holds a worldview attempts to hem in their personality, ensuring it is not subject to revision by new experience, to changing circumstances. This limits considerable offshoots of cogitation provided up to and within a certain time and place—let’s say in the circumstances of one’s adolescence.” Landon lectured and lectured from his throne of youthful arrogance. “Denial is the more pervasive cognitive orientation found in a highly censored and monolithic culture. Like in the Soviet Union, it never occurred to people that anything could ever change. Let alone that it could disappear. They all had the impression that everything they ever knew was going to last forever. Ironic as it is, once things did collapse, they found themselves prepared for it.” “People adapt to their situations, Landon. Quite quickly at that,” Danny said. “Think about all of the suffering happening right now in the world, and somehow amongst it, people are adapting and enjoying life happily. Playing tennis in the middle of a battle zone, going to school, all these sorts of things.”
“Yep, I agree with you. I wonder, though, if there really is some sort of global shift taking place, with the help of decentralized dissemination of news and information, at the global level. Maybe people are beginning to ask themselves questions as life becomes more chaotic? Crises precipitate change. Despite the dominant cultures continued nosedive into imprudence, some think an exponential enlightenment threshold has been discovered. Your hundredth monkey.”
“Landon,” Danny’s voice steadily rose. “Don’t you bring my monkey into this.”
“Who knows? They might just be naive. We are all novices at this. But, maybe, because of the internet, because of the radio, because of all these technologies the commoners now have, the rate at which individuals stumble onto enlightened paradigms increases.”
“Maybe so, but so what if they are? The psychology of persons can change quite a bit, Landon, but to transform a mass psychology implies a lot of changes and a lot of cataclysms; I mean, if you are to expect anything more than merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…”
“We can create a thriving culture along the way—all it takes are minds and good ideas. There are, of course, many histories and nows—sordid tales of suffering juxtaposed with the most redeeming of success stories, and so therefore history and the present demarcate an ambipendent-relationship between pre-institutionalized mechanisms and sentient agents drifting between historically given parameters of change over time; culture drifts like kelp upon a holdfast, a prisoner of its own beginning. These preset mechanisms, worked in throughout the centuries like neurons conditioned to a well-known song, predispose the agents, who are ourselves, towards accumulation by dispossession of others based on some perceived difference, like melanin levels. An ambitendency—a tendency to contradictory behavior arising from conflicting impulses—still leads the majority of us, especially those outside the universes of war and austerity, to refrain from, and even despise, utter carnage. Unfortunately, we the sentient drown in an onslaught of psychological terror, false common sense, obsolete premises and, of course, what’s good in all of it, some good reliable information, collectively bringing it forward. Within this state it becomes easy to be determined by civilization and difficult to determine it.” “And so what’s the point?”
“I don’t want to ignore what we’re made of. We have a lot in common with our past, but then again a lot separates us. The past, the present and the future continually liberate a muddled markov process, a mathematical model for the evolution of a memoryless system. The catch? That this memoryless system indeed has engineers: CEO’s, managers, politicians and associates who have set as their agenda the abuse of a system already in their favor. This memoryless system is given memory by human ideas and actions, by the engineers. Each of us can intimately get to know Aristotle, for instance, by reading his works and familiarizing ourselves with his ideas. In large part, we understand him because we exist in the same state of civilization as he once did.” “So, we are bounded not just by the shackles of your Luciferan elite, but by our own thoughts, too!” Danny said in a rising, sarcastic voice. “I am starting to see some hope for us after all” “Shut up, Danny. Ok, so, the digital nature of ideas, expressly their being available to cloning, sharing and reconfiguring—and you’ll like this, Danny—gives rise to cognitive entanglement, you stoner. According to quantum entanglement, objects are linked together in such a way, that no one object can be wholly described without full mention of the others—even when spatial separation is factored in. The non-local connection of consciousness, and its subsidiary of ideas, implies that, while we are all unique individuals, we would never be ourselves were it not for our forbearers and each contemporary sentient creature with which we come into contact. Just as Aristotle and Democrates affected thousands of years of individuals, therefore history itself, we too—especially in this age of the internet, whereby the collective network takes precedent over the influential in many ways—have the opportunity to directly affect the future. By amassing knowledge not only do we compromise the further castration of culture—just look at our insane intellectual property laws—but we also help prove to our descendents what their ancestors did to them, so they can help make us go away.”
“I can hang with that,” Danny said, nodding.
“Our collective problems, even though it may seem so in the immediate, do not stem directly from detritic nation-states, mankind, et cetera, but, if you think about it, civilization generally; more specifically, the empire’s need to extract from the other and, ultimately, itself. The crafting of the economic, legal, political and psychological realms by elites is a practice dating back thousands of years, enabling the upper echelons to steal and undervalue the labor of the people, what they call human capital. But, although the atavistic institutions by which they come to power—stooped in a violent motion of explainable coincidences as they are—lead us in vain, they have no inherent power outside of their having had a beginning,” Landon went on, finishing up his filibuster for deaf ears. “All of this does, nevertheless, amount to a conspiracy of one: those on the breadline, the demonic and the powerful, the castaways, the miserable and the shunned, the brainwashed and the paralyzed, the conquered and the objectified and those who know there’s a better way.”
Landon and Danny, now silent for awhile, towered over the midget plants of this particular forest. Their hike lingered and they were side-by-side as the universe figuring itself out. Having waded ankle deep into the cosmos from which they fell, the water felt warm to their skin, harnessing an heir of welcoming like a rush of endorphins from the gut, through the heart, and to the brain, like a home cooked meal and a loving mother. They inched further out, only to be wrestled back by the whitewash of attention-spans and death. In this moment they twined to a tango of a happiness, whose core was not found within, but, rather, permeating the without. They brought each other through one another with their words and ideas.
Eternally drying creeks and lakes, scattered about like stars isolated by a great dark, imbued the protagonists of the forest with subtle ideas they mistook for their own. Truly, however—no matter how well-defined the contours of ‘I’ might seem—there was never anything in between what they were and what they saw. The desert of their skins grew wet as the sun, with its pulsing heat, wrung water out of them, and a sort of past left their body—in the sweat there was leftover the city, the foods and drinks.
Out here, belittled by rolling hills and sweeping valleys, a dust of familiarity sneezed its way in-and-out of their bones. Their insanity piled up like rocks and sand on the beach beneath a cliff eroding, while pressure, invisible but not intangible, came down from all around. Such a discussion, as the one they had on this day, was nothing new for these two, and what appeared to be bitter arguing to outsiders, was merely learning to them.
“So Landon, I had a bit of a discussion with Clemens Roger this week. I brought you up, mentioned you were a sharp young-person. Said that he might look into seeing what you could do for him at one of his stations.” Danny surprised Landon by thinking about him.
“I don’t really see what I might do for him, Danny. I appreciate that you mentioned me and stuff, but he will probably figure out pretty quickly that I might be nothing more than a risk for him.”
“Clemens needs to gamble in order for him to stay relevant. Sharp, young people like you are important to him. He made his career with baiting-and-switching. Figuring out what the trends of the future would be, and then repackaging them to fit in with the philosophy behind his media empire.
“You mean worldview, ideology.”
“Sure. Anyway, he will probably invite you over for poker. Do you play poker?”
“I’m not bad.”
“Do you know who the chump at the table is when you play?”
“Well, I don’t know, Danny. Why?”
“Because if you don’t, you’re the chump. Clemens plays well, but none of the other people he plays with are very good.”
“Why’s that? I would think a man of his stature would like a challenge. A man of his stature likes winning and winning good.
“Well, he’s by no means great. Just remember he likes winning when he speaks to you.”
“Who says I am going to accept his invitation?” Danny looked at Landon but did not speak for a moment.
“Oh, you’ll accept. But, be cautious—they probably put the equivalent of your savings account down on each bet. Clemens will probably spot you the money, figuring he will win it all back anyway. If he doesn’t, he’ll take it back as you leave somehow,” said Danny.