Monthly Archives: May 2016

Love your language…

Some people wonder why I make such an issue out of language use. I can give two answers. One, I’m a writer, so it really matters to me. Two, can you imagine A Tale of Two Cities opening with, “It was dope, and it also really sucked.” ?


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… is the name I give to voyeuristic filming and watching of violence between state and citizens. I wouldn’t bring it up, except that I’m seeing websites (shared on Facebook) dedicated to collecting and streaming clips of riots from around the world. They are the porn distributors.

If you are addicted to watching riots and violence against police and other arms of the state, I would suggest that you have a problem: you feel impotent to change anything. We all have that problem to some degree, but not all of us are violence voyeurs, in particular, celebrating violent clashes between ‘them’ and ‘us.’ I’m seeing clips of riots, celebrating the ‘victory’ of ‘everyman’; that victory, of course, being little more than throwing a rock or other weapon and damaging some cop or soldier. If this is empowerment, social-media style, it is pretty infantile, and sadly lacking in insight or wisdom.

Do people not realize that watching this kind of brain pollution only makes us sicker, more anxious, more blindly angry at a target that we cannot truly name? The state claims that terrorists are everywhere. Impotence porn claims that state psychopaths are everywhere, and that the state is monstrous. How does ingesting that information day after day help anyone liberate themselves from the abuse of power inherent in the state as we know it? It merely enfeebles the voyeur, who, infected by violence (which truly does damage the body, the adrenal glands and body chemistry) cannot think beyond violence and retribution as ‘solutions.’

Retribution against something as all pervasive as the state is like the so-called ‘war on terror.’ It is a war on an amorphous target; a war so huge in scope that the main side-effect is paranoia and anxiety, and a desire for more gratification through violence. Yet this violence must remain the armchair kind: Those actually involved in riots and larger scale violence are damaged, and cannot last long – they soon become casualties of the real ugliness and sickness they experience.

All you armchair rebels, ask a war veteran how glorious violence is. Ask how they feel about making war on other states, in the name of freedom. Ask yourself, “how would I fare, mentally, emotionally, physically, in the real war zone?” Maybe then, you will not find impotence-porn so addictive and worthy of celebration. Maybe then you will understand that the state, or some cynical entrepreneur  is just as likely to be the creator of these riot/violence websites as are any ‘empowered’ citizens. Somebody is making a profit off your impotence and addiction to armchair revenge. You, on the other hand, are making yourself sick by watching it.

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Despair? Are you kidding? Get some exercise.

My friend James Shelley, in his wonderful series of books called the Caesura Letters, writes about despair.

“Despair is certainty. Absolute certainty. Certainty that you have apprehended the universe in its entirety and found existence wanting.

Despair is a destructive self-delusion — the foolish conclusion that you have perceived the whole of everything. Hopelessness is the inability to see any possibility beyond the horizon, yes, but who are you to project your own blindness onto the cosmos? Who are you, ant, to profess such omniscience?”

He concludes thus:

“What is hope, if not the conscious, humble acknowledgement that everything you perceive and contemplate is but a sliver of what is? How foolish, indeed, to project your fractional perspective onto everything you have yet to see and examine.

If despair be the disease, curiosity be the cure. Doubt, self-doubt, is the antidote. Be suspicious, mind, of your despair: for only an eye so foolish to claim that it has seen everything can claim that there is nothing worth being seen.”

My response is that of a man who has lived with lethal despair for decades. I live with what they call Major Depressive Disorder, and this is my response. It is not for the faint of heart, or those who know little about depression but want simplistic ‘cures’ for it.

What is not often discussed as regards depression is the way in which it dominates every thinking and feeling process, and, essentially, negates them totally. When major depression takes hold, it has already done its nihilistic work on the mind and world view, so that there is no ‘seeing’ beyond utter, comatose emptiness. At the time, it may be felt as despair: but it is just as likely to be experienced as a total lack of mind/body engagement with the inner and outer worlds – that is, a state close to catatonia. When such despair and catatonia or nihilism (or any combination of these) takes over, there is no reasoning with the individual, no enticing the mind to be curious about what it does not know, and thus coercing it toward a sense of meaning or hope.
This is not momentary despair, which can lift, giving room for the wedge of curiosity to open a space for light. Momentary despair, by comparison with that suffered under major depression, could be seen as a self-indulgent delusion, which sounds like what you are describing. A delusion can be ‘untriggered’ sometimes as easily as it can be triggered, or with difficulty. Arguably, it can, ultimately, be accomplished, at least in theory.

The despair that is integral to major depression is not that species of despair at all. It cannot be reasoned with, seduced or enticed into better behaviour. It does not make room for optimism no matter how much you wish it would. Often, the only way to survive such despair, because believe me, that comatose, isolated, terrifying condition cannot take  you very far into anything resembling living – is to either induce prolonged sleep (which may or may not work) or entertain the option of suicide. For many, suicide becomes the solution. With major depression, suicide is as logical and reasonable as 1+1= 2. And there is its horrible lethality. It does not listen to reason, it does not engage with hope, because you have none. Hope is an empty word, as are so many kinds of human converse. This despair leaves you with nothing other than absurdity, pain and a desire for annihilation which will end the physical pain of meaninglessness, of being worth absolutely nothing.

Curiosity comes in at no point on that existential stage. I cannot stress that enough. The despair of major depression is a cancer that devours you, piece by piece from the inside; it works for years, even decades, even while you are being treated by drugs that to some degree manage to keep the horror restrained, stifled. When the drugs work well, despair is the memory of something you have been tough enough to survive. That memory is the Croix de Guerre that reminds you just how incredibly tough and resilient you are, because you are still surviving, and, yes, finding moments of curiosity and engagement with your life.

Then, when the drugs inevitably fail you, for a multitude of reasons, and this deepest despair conquers body, soul and mind, you are doing nothing but fighting for your life, like a terrier with his teeth clamped to an apex predator out of your worst, suffocating nightmare. This despair has no antidote in curiosity and does not lessen with the help of friends or loved ones. It can only be engaged with by means of an automatic (ironically hopeless) power of will, on which you bet your life.

If that will allows you to hold on in the utter blackness beyond the visceral desire for death, beyond the suicide-planning and out the other side, then you have won the battle. The war, however, continues. Major depression, when it strikes lethally, means that you are absolutely alone; more alone than you can possibly imagine, even in the midst of family and friends. The depression that drives you toward suicide is not an external phenomenon to be battled, like two warriors engaging. It is yourself – a being you used to know, with a name and desires and hopes – who now has become absolutely nothing but annihilating, visceral pain. You are the nihilistic zero. It is not something outside you. That is what makes you the nihilistic, zero-point of utter despair. It is not outside coming at you. It is inside, destroying you.


I wish I could have added something pleasant there. Well, the fact that I am still alive; along with millions of other near-suicides, or failed suicides, has to be positive. But curiosity about life did not keep me alive. Sheer, war-zone, battlefield, shell-shocked willpower is what keeps us alive, to find, somewhere along the timeline, another moment of joy, as if stolen from the jaws of death.That, honestly, is the utterly horrible reality of major depressive disorder. I have been surviving it since I was a young teenager. Every battle is just as bad as the previous. The war is endless, its guns sounding off in the distance of even the brightest of days.

Out of such war zones come the Churchills, the van Goghs, the Hemingways, the comedians and actors and the heroes and heroines you see every day and do not know. We do not ask for your pity, or least of all your advice. But our lethal illness… we would benefit, just a little, from your improved understanding of what it is. Perhaps, then, it would not be sensationalist, tabloid fodder, only trotted out when a celebrity suicides.


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Pith and Vinegar

When tolerance at almost any cost is the Holy Grail of a society, discrimination is one of the first victims. The fact that most people today understand ‘discrimination’ to signify ‘prejudice’ is proof of this fact; they have been cultivated in a society that values tolerance to the point of lunacy, where any form of dissent with the tolerance paradigm is some version of prejudice or ignorance. The fact that many of those who understand the benign, creative meaning of discrimination still, nevertheless, laud tolerance above all, suggests that we are truly losing the capacity and liberty to truly think for ourselves.

With a gentle wave to Allan Bloom…

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