Have you ever had a number of things go wrong for you in a few consecutive days? Well, perhaps I have begun by putting too much emphasis on the word ‘wrong.’ Maybe ‘not the way I wanted them to,’ or, simply, ‘that has not met my expectations.’
I am in that situation right now and I tend to react with barely concealed rage. I lash out at everyone–at my family, at friends (of whom I have an increasingly smaller number), and most certainly here online, if not specifically in this forum, than on any of the bullshit ‘social media’ sites that I occasionally frequent and quite often use exclusively for self-promotion.
The specifics do not matter as they are things I will have to deal with and I do not wish to create some sort of sob-story about poor, poor me. If I mentioned what I was so angry over I suspect that most people would roll their eyes and tell me what I great opportunity I still have so I should just shut my fucking mouth and do the job I’ve been hired to do. And this is exactly what I plan on doing, and I won’t even much complain because things have gotten, actually, a whole lot easier. But that does not numb the pain, or frustration, or the genuine outright rage these personal set-backs have inflicted upon me.
Nevertheless, the way I so often cope with these things, other than drinking (I have sworn off booze for a time as I recently made an absolute fool of myself in some drunken fugue that I remember, although certainly not very accurately), is to step outside of myself and intellectualize and theorize on just about anything. For today I have decided to keep very close to home and define, in my view, exactly what is meant by ‘Editorial History.’
This project is many years older than this ‘blog–‘ or whatever this is. I first began it, with the same title, more than twenty years ago with scribbles in notebooks. Most of my writings in those days, at least in this forum, are negligible, although some still have a certain power for me. What the whole thing was originally started as was a warm-up exercise, focusing on world issues that interested me, before I went off into my sincere efforts and made a bunch of shit up.
But the title of this has held a lot more significance for me, beyond many of those subsequently abandoned projects (A Brave Man, For a Million Dollars, The Unfinished Writings of Desmond L. Sullivan, not to mention all of the failed short stories and neglected film treatments and essays I lost interest in and general academic studies that bored me to tears). Recording Editorial History has become my weigh station for thinking and it is the longest running figment of my life–well beyond jobs and relationships and even family connections (we fall out of touch so naturally). And so I want to try and explain myself–at least to myself–and perhaps gain some more insight into what it is, exactly, that I intend to do.
Okay, with the preamble out of the way let me see how I want to start this . . . Editorial History is just that, a collection of thoughts and opinions over the years that, more than anything else, chronicles the changes in viewpoint of an individual. Of course my ambitions are higher and I believe I have been at least somewhat successful to this point in consuming opinions that are not just my own. In this respect I can pretentiously call this something like “A Study of How Everyone’s Beliefs Change Over Time.”
I am fascinated by belief systems and individual ideas about the world. This is really all I write about in my professional work and certainly what I dive into here. It is dazzling to watch people argue, saying more or less the same things, but having the most vicious debates over nuance and tone that divisions only get deeper.
Language is a tool–a brilliant, mathematical design that was engineered originally to forge connections with others, then to explain beliefs to the mass of people, and finally it was sharpened into a weapon to tear somebody down for, well, literally anything. I mean, look at just the commentary section on a place like Twitter (which, admittedly, is known perhaps most for its nastiness and irrational statements than for any positive contribution to human understanding). You can have a news story about the death of a famous person–a tragedy, certainly, to greater or lesser degrees depending on your opinions. But when you see a faceless discussion you can range from tears and thoughts and prayers to cold-blooded ‘Good(s)!’ and even ‘I’m glad that piece of shit is dead!’
All this makes one wonder: has the internet destroyed civility once and for all? Many will blindly and immediately jump to the conclusion that this can be nothing but an absolute ‘YES!’ but I am not so sure. There is a certain grace to the crudeness, to the heartlessness and bile spit up all over the place; to the fragmentation of society and the breaking down of seemingly all moral barriers. And it is not just buzz terms like ‘fake news’ and outright ‘lies,’ although that is certainly a part of it. But the falsehood is about changing the narrative, about re-imagining the past and predicting the future in probably the most accurate way since the oracles made shit up and sent people on the path to complete their doom.
And there is truth in the cruelty too. When someone does not have to face the consequences of their actions, they are willing to go farther and farther with their hatred and attack something so thoroughly that even the basic premise of the original thought undergoes a change, and it always ends in duel-sided hatred of the opposition. I have seen this break down over debates on how cute a baby is, on those stupid target ranges about what this person is actually saying or what that is really a picture of.
But truth, honesty, regardless of the facts. Facts any longer have become malleable–never less true than they actually are, but imposed with doubt, an uncertainty about what really happened and therefore reality is reduced to opinion. And this has gotten much worse as time goes by.
I am presently reading an anthology called Extremism in America, which collects the documentation and definitions various left and right wing radical groups gave to themselves and further promoted in the 20th century. Now these were all ideas from fringe groups, what some might call crazy people, or even terrorists. But the most frightening thing about this compendium is how relevant it is to today. Because the paranoia every single one of these organizations exhibit with froth-mouthed glee is still very present today. Only now these ideas have gone mainstream. Here are two quotes, and I’d like you to consider which on is from the past and which from the present:
“We believe in patriotism. Most of us will gladly
concede that a parliament of nations, designed for
the purpose of increasing freedom and ease with
which individuals, ideals, and goods might cross
national boundaries, would be desirable. . . .
But we feel that the present United Nations was
designed by its founders for exactly the opposite
purpose of increasing the rigidity of Government
controls over the life and affairs of individual men.
We believe it has become, as it was intended to
become, a major instrumentality for the establishment
of a one-world . . . tyranny over the population of the whole
earth. One of our most immediate objectives, therefore is to
get the United States out of the United Nations, and the
United Nations out of the United States.”
“RESTRICT IMMIGRATION to protect employment for
American workers, and to preserve the spirit, the heritage
and traditional values of our nation.”
Of course the way this doctrines are written there is very little one might disagree with (except for the rather conspiratorial tone of the first). Sure, there are problems, and even encroaching fears about the intentions of the United Nations, and of course we should want to help American workers. But there is also something subtly sinister in these ideas. Know who said them? (both are from the past, by the way):
The first one is from 1962 and comes from The John Birch Society. The second is from David Duke’s 1988 Presidential campaign. Just for context, here are two more quotes from the same sources:
“The object of the ancient mysteries was to make men like unto gods.
The mystery took on more of the divine nature as it rose morally
and intellectually further beyond the level of common humanity.
The programme of Initiation has not changed even in our own day:
the modern Mason, too, also becomes more divine, but he realizes
that he can only become so if he works divinely, that is, by
completing the unfulfilled task of creation. Raised above the
level of man’s animal nature, the Builder, by carrying out the divine plan,
himself became a god, in the ancient sense of the word.”
The first, from Joseph Welch, the founder of The John Birch Society, using for some reason the archaic ‘programme’ like a ritualistic phrase to invoke the ancient gods. He talks about man as gods, or at least raising up to this theology through his secret society.
The other, by Duke, is nonsense, and seems to even accept the rape of a black woman because it is, to him, so much smaller than the black-on-white aspect. This is far more important to him–racial intermingling–than actual rape. Rape is a tool to him–something that most people find objectionable. But the numbers? 200:1? This even implies a subtly racist insight that white women are two hundred times more desirable than black women. And who knows where those numbers came from? Perhaps to him any interracial couple represents rape. Nothing is made clear in this statement and, ultimately, is just more Editorial History.
So what is my point? Let’s look at some past tense fringe left quotes now and then compare both right and left to comments from today:
“We want self determination and independent nationhood.
We believe African captives in America will not have
freedom until they have land of their own and a
government; a nation that we govern and run and control.
We demand the states of Mississippi Georgia, South Carolina
Alabama and Louisiana as partial repayment for injustices done
to us for over 400 years.”
“Welfare recipients have all the rights other citizens have
plus special rights guaranteed by Federal and State
welfare laws. But, like all rights, welfare rights are meaningless
unless welfare recipients know their rights, demand their rights,
use their rights, and protect their rights.”
The first quote is from 1971 and The African People’s Party. In fact this document is a part of their “10 Point Plan,” which also includes a ‘national black strike’ through ‘separate black unions’ (kind of undermines the whole concept of ‘union’) to ‘make our demands met.’ Dr. King would be proud, huh?
The second quote is from the 1980s from the National Welfare Rights Organization. This also includes an all CAPS 13 point plan explaining to people how they don’t really ever have to work so long as they spend their time protesting and sucking the government tit while they do so. Nothing could encourage lazy people more. This is not about helping the indigent and those fallen on hard times through lay-offs and closures and other things beyond a worker’s control. It is about forming a protest coalition to pressure the government into getting whatever they want. We tend to attack ‘lobbyists’ for numerous things and the most public crimes seem to be done by the right. But this . . . this is a disgrace.
“You have a color of your own- Dark chocolate,
You have a culture your own- Hip pop,
You have a revival of your own- Harlem Renaissance,
You are the spot on a ladybug that adds its beauty,
You are the pupil of an eye,
You are the vastness of space,
You are the richness of soil,
You are the sweetness of dark chocolate,
You are the mystery in nature,
Blessed Black chocolate, God has made You to rule the Land, that made You a slave.”
― Luffina Lourduraj
“If the shooter has a serious health condition then is taking potshots at the GOP leadership considered self defense?”
First “God has made You (notice the capital implying divinity) to rule the Land, (capital and, for some reason, a comma) that made You (!) a slave.” If this isn’t a supremacist comment, then everything is open to discussion. And the other–very recent–justifies the shooting of Steve Scalise with a sob story about mental health care and a righteous defense of crazy people killing people that, the fringe left (now mainstream) considers their enemies.
This is what Recording Editorial History is to me, a collection of shouts, a chronicle of passing rage in the public sphere. It proves, once more (to me, at least) that far left and far right come around a circle until they are the same exact thing. Only now these views are becoming increasingly acceptable. It does not matter that in 1798 John Robison wrote Proofs of a Conspiracy about the Freemasons (including all the founding fathers) and the Illuminati secretly controlling the world. These ideas continue to flow and metastasize within an ever changing culture.
Still, it seems that things have always been the same. Hasn’t every generation believed that society keeps getting perpetually worse?