As if I inhabit some perch on a lofty peg, I often encounter behavior intended to lower my peg level. The battle of peg altitudes is a continual playful obsession between friends in Hollywood, and, in various degrees of overtness, most places where people are friends. Perhaps, due to my arrogance, I well deserve to have my dignity slashed. Why should I, a failure by all measures that count, a liability and a burden to all, be allowed to nurture within my soul a thing as precious as dignity? Do I not understand that among the prized rewards for being a meritorious human being is the simple right to exist? Do I not, on a daily basis, witness the casual disregard with which human beings who have not merited a home are left to the bullying of police and the abuse of the elements? What right have I to my opinions? To express them? To hold them? By what effort have I earned anything I possess at all?
Do I believe that merely by existing I ought to be accorded the courtesy one wouldn’t give a crumpled Powerade bottle on the shoulder of the highway? By what graciousness of anyone’s heart should I be allowed to live? I have gathered to me no family won in the competition for love partners, a contest by which one’s intrinsic worth is measured. I have no employment, my writing and art are barely appreciated and certainly do not earn me a lot of money.
Wealth, of course, in this milieu of shallow fashion called Hollywood, is another mark of the worth of a person. I once had an industry insider tell me, in relation to a mutual acquaintance, “he can’t do anything for me, so why should I continue being friends with him?” Here in Hollywood, fealty to fame lies everywhere as thick and viscous as if a zombie army of slobbering polyamorous fans had left a coating of saliva over every surface a celebrity might have brushed against with one body part or another. People here, as in most lands under the sway of extreme capitalism, love things and use people, although here their professions of love for this or that rich or famous person often gush in cataracts of the same fame-worship saliva found coating their entire stunted world.
I must qualify all this by admitting to having encountered a great deal of generosity here, as well as integrity and artistic excellence. Most of it has been inextricably mingled with less stomachable features of human behavior, naturally. In all of us, virtues swirl and intertwine with less wholesome aspects of ourselves. As I’m sure you can gather, I am no model of anything even indecent society might prioritize as “virtue.”
I am petty, shiftless, unattractive, ill-tempered, unjustifiably arrogant, foolish, stubborn, selfish with my time and affection, and suffer from sleep apnea, which I desperately want to spell “apnœa” or even “apnœia” for pretentious reasons. Whatever crumbs of virtue I may inadvertently have maintained are trampled under the rampaging hippo-herd of my myriad more obvious faults.
I even despise myself. There are two reasons I haven’t ended my life: cowardice in the face of pain, and the effect such an action would have on others whose happiness I care about. It is quite a chasm-leaping assumption on my part, indeed, to posit that there might be any negative outcome from my erasure, but I suppose that is what makes me intolerable.
Perhaps you’d thought civilization had moved beyond this “Notes From Underground” type of splenetic confession. And you would have been correct. The erstwhile fine art of spleen has been commandeered by emotionally adolescent mass shooters and the plethora of fear-stoking demagogue-wannabes egging them on. They have discredited and cheapened discontent on the way to hijacking it for themselves. This has meant that, in order to distinguish itself from its faddish usurpers, actual resistance to social indoctrination has had to make itself ultra-specific.
In the marketplace of reaction, one must adopt a quickly-understood label. Those whose reaction runs counter to white supremacy and extreme capital hegemony divide themselves into factional “identities” for ease of consumption. When the people fight for women’s reproductive freedom, we call ourselves “feminists.” When the people fight for the right to collectively organize for decent treatment by our overlords, we call ourselves union activists or labor activists. When the people fight for black people to be able to live without being controlled, coerced, beaten and killed by police, we call ourselves anti-racists. When we do the same for unhoused or poor people, we label ourselves accordingly.
Opposite us, those in support of capital, property, and privilege domination lie to their gullible audiences’ faces, lumping their enemies together as “Social Justice Warriors,” a sarcastic epithet which may backfire in the long run by unifying the otherwise fragmented resistance to these xenophobic fascists.
But there are still a few of us spread across those groups in a love/hate relationship with the very nature of world. We do it in the old-fashioned, craftsperson-like way, in the manner of the young Dostoyevsky, or Gorky, or the dissolute Poe, the consistent Baudelaire, the celebrated Villon, Sade, and Kathy Acker. We practice misanthropy and anti-social philosophy in a more artisanal manner. We represent a re-emergence, and that re-emergence is, I hope, a trend. Let’s call it the “Slow Bile” movement. There, it is branded.
You do not have to merit being in the Slow Bile movement. Either you’re doing Slow Bile or you’re not. There is no gatekeeper other than yourself. In the farm-to-table negativity movement, you are the hen, the farmer, the chef, the waiter, and the diner.
Who else would have you? From whom else do you require certification?
This is no endeavor for a mere contrarian. Au contraire. The agenda of the contrarian is to explode unexamined cliché irritants with devastating logic. But logic destroys the bouquet of Slow Bile. Logic is too busy, too hectic, too rushed. The nectar of Slow Bile is spoiled by such fussiness, while at the same time too fussy to survive being shaken about with didactic turbulence. And logic is what bolsters the lies of demagogues, logic based on false premises.
Slow Bile is organically poetic. It germinates in the spleen, which is a silent glade in one’s soul, sprouts like grain malting and fermenting in a mash, blooms and degasses like pour-over coffee grounds in their initial thirty-second exposure to water, which you should really be allowing for if you want the genuine, dense flavor of the bean to come through. Slow Bile must be given time, warmth, and humidity to rise. Its buds must not be rushed to blossom with tricks of light, contrived temperature changes, or additions of instant-rise yeast.
These fleurs du mal must blossom in their own time, fill the sinus cavity and cranium with their day-lily aroma, make redolent the atmosphere of mutual antagonism between the self and the worlds the self habituates on its rounds, imbibing, haunting, shoplifting, seeking blood to slake its vampire thirst. The blossoms, like the smell of blood, awaken the senses. Such artisanally-conjured poppies grant the mind’s eye eschatological apocalypses which the mere demagogues, scolding preachers who specialize in frightening little children with petty bedtime doomscape fairytales, can never assimilate into their puckered-ass paradigm.
Slow Bile is simple and honest. It cannot be said to arise from any sophistry of didactic logic. It is not a lie. It often commences as an admission of weakness, with the potential, much further down the road, to ripen into a putrid swamp worth wallowing in.
To come into bilious fullness, the dank hive of emotions and impressions must be allowed to fester and swell into an infestation of crawling, swarming despair. An entire insect civilization unto itself, it turns its compound eyes away from civilization at large, though never rejects it fully, tapping those cosmopolitan veins from which to feed its funereal fecundity. For, unlike the morbidity worshiped in the death cults of its commodified cousins, the death inhering in Slow Bile is paradoxically fertile. Demise is renewal. While it rots it grows, a fetid cloud bearing aloft newborn worlds, destined to rain down the plagues of consciousness, of fire, of blood, of frogs, of locusts, of worldly attachments, of life itself, upon an earth denuded and raped by her ravenous exploiters in their money-lust, their egotism, their shallow, brittle vanity. That vain looking glass can have no other fate than to shatter into jagged shards that must ultimately open their admirers’ arteries and bleed them out.
Slow Bile will steadily win the race or suffer destruction in the attempt.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!