[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
During one of the last nights of February, I was sitting outside my house, marveling at the feeling of spring coursing through me. The quiet excitement, the out-of-nowhere boundless optimism that always grips me when winter gives way, is one of my favorite déjà vu moments.
Basically, the air smelled great and all was well. I heard some frogs tentatively croaking in the near distance and hoped that they were not too drawn out of their hibernation state by the unusual weather. For a small frog, this is potentially a false-flag operation, which could endanger its potential to further the species. An amphibian lured out of sleep to potentially die off by a ripple in Mother Nature's grand scheme of things is an almost noble, “take one for the team” way to go out. If this turns out to be the case, the misery, if any, was unintentional, the suffering hopefully brief.
This got me thinking about my species. Far more complex and needy than the aforementioned, we are the No. 1 pain in the ass of Mother Nature and her all-inclusive wide shot. We are misery-making machines! Homo sapiens has perfected the art of causing suffering. Pain is humankind's collective GDP.
The manufacture and distribution of misery and all its myriad manifestations is one side of the coin. The avoidance and neutralization of misery is the other. Both sides are dependably profitable, and smart investors often hold shares on either side of the line.
Anywhere there are humans, there is pain and suffering. We can't help ourselves! Rainforests, oceans and any otherwise pristine ecological environment are all on someone's shit list. If you think about it, every single species is endangered. Homo sapiens at the front of the line, mosquitoes and lawyers at the back.
It's a lot of work to put so many through so much completely unnecessary brutality but, thankfully, there are people all over the world who have the right stuff and bravely shoulder the load so almost anyone anywhere will have easy access to pain. This is our baseline equality and human energy transference.
Now that the world has left Russia, people there can get back to gleefully beating up gay people in parks. The cellphone footage of multiple people taking turns punching and kicking a single person is very hard to watch. This is the energy exchange. Something got to these humans, motivating them to attack a gay person. The attacked person potentially will seek to escape the pain and trauma by medicating, thus creating a demand that someone else will be able to supply. There's no such thing as a free dose!
In Uganda, president Yoweri Museveni just signed a bill into law that makes homosexual acts a punishable crime. More pain! Some Ugandans took to the street to celebrate the passing of the bill and told Western countries to mind their own damn business. Well, the Ugandans might just get what they asked for. Secretary of State John Kerry intimated that America might take the aid money ball and go elsewhere with it:
We are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.
A nice way of saying we will cut you off, asshole. The only thing about sanctions is that, like a lot of drone strikes, there are countless unintended victims. Cutting off aid to Uganda only increases the pain there.
Americans are black belts at delivering and receiving pain. To work hard at a tough job is a virtue. Agony and bootstraps! When the whistle blows and the boss is done stretching the worker, he or she often continues the abuse at a bar or bad food outlet. Then it's back to the home space for some mind-numbing entertainment and a few hours of worried sleep. We spend millions of dollars to remove pain from our lives. It's why so many people get hooked on painkillers. The body becomes addicted to painlessness. That tells you a lot.
Look at the great state of Arizona. Its cuddly governor Jan “I put my finger in your face!” Brewer had the unpleasant task of having to deal with SB 1062, a bill that allows retailers to not engage in commerce with people who betray their religious beliefs. That is to say, all residents and visitors to the state who have decided to adopt the homosexual lifestyle can legally be declined service, thus depriving them of the chance to ram their gay agenda (purchasing goods with money) down the throats (hello!) of these decent and put-upon retailers. The fact that this barbaric, anti-American piece of trash was written up by adults and got all the way to the governor's desk is pathetic, but so human.
In Kansas, Democratic Rep. Gail Finney recently proposed a bill that would expand the latitude with which parents, teachers and caregivers can spank children. The bill would allow up to “10 strikes of the hand and that could leave bruising.” (Don't worry, he's not a cruel man – hitting kids with fists or using a belt or switch was not considered.) Sounds like Gail Finney has some issues and needs to pass along the pain. Maybe he is into some rugged, “rowdy patriot” freakiness on those long, Midwestern nights. What do you think his safe word is?
In Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit, Garcin asks Inez how one recognizes torturers. Inez answers, “They look frightened.”
Do you realize that, if we stopped beating up on ourselves and each other, America's economy would stall? That if we stopped selling the means to maim and destroy to other countries, our economy could collapse? So, in order to maintain the republic, we need to keep on smashing ourselves to pieces.
I would tell you to do your part but I am afraid what might happen to me.