Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hungry Dog & The 17 Year Man

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1. American Society And I Have A Little Talk

- Introduce yourself.
- I am American Society.
- And who am I?
- Someone with a complaint. You know, I can't talk about these things.
- Just pretend. You can lie, right?
- Do it all the time. It works.
- And working is what you're about. I want to talk about your work.
- What's the problem?
- I grew up with you in a time when to try to live without compromise and learn how to do something creative very, very well was risky but not life threatening. Dangerous, but not life or death. I could tell you, American society, to go to hell and you would just smile and say, well, I guess you don't want all these nice things I got together just for you. No problem. I have other takers. That's what you said then.
- Have I changed?
- You've been trying to kill me for the past five years. I've been surviving on miracles. Arriving not immediately when required. Only eventually.
- You're angry at me.
- You're the one who's angry. You pretend to be cold and calculating, caring only about work. The truth is you get extremely angry when someone gets in the way of your work.
- But I perform miracles too, you said.
- Who said they were your miracles? You're not the only world around. There's you, American Society. You are public life. And there's private life. In private life people care about each other. Relations between people other than money have no place in your world. In your world, everything goes on fairly well. You try to explain a little what's going on, not accurately, not honestly. The important thing is that not too many people kill each other. Life works. You work.
- And what's wrong with that?
- You broke the deal! I was to be allowed to make things as good or better than anyone else, and yes, you wouldn't give me pretty things in return, but you wouldn't try to kill me either. You're no good.
- Good? That's something in that other world of yours, private life. I don't have anything to do with that. I'm not good. I work. I am as I am.
- The words of god. Do you think you are god?
- I don't like to talk about myself. I don't want to have to lie, but it's not efficient for me to always do as I say. What can I do? I am as I am. And my world contains miracles.
- No thanks to you. You can't perform miracles. Miracles interrupt the rules and you are about efficiency, rule following. I said that for the past five years miracles happened. That's why I'm still here. The miracles come out of the other world of private life. It also has its gods. It's not your territory, but sometimes you are there too. 
- I don't recall.
- You lie to yourself. You are not supposed to be there. The two worlds of relations between people based on money and of relations between people of every other kind are not supposed to be mixed. That was the deal. When you show yourself in private life you end private life. But when private life enters public life, enters your world, that's the definition of miracle. It shouldn't happen, because in your world the more people care about each other the less efficient they become and it is imperative they be efficient. 
- Or they'll become like you. I agree it is a miracle someone gives someone like you money.
- You refer to charity. In charity the two worlds don't mix. There's no miracle. The good deed has its rewards in the pubic world, feeds the giver's confidence of power over others and is thought to translate into more efficiency in trading. It is a public act in the public world. Charity is not a personal relation. Giving money you don't care about the person you give money to. You don't share your life.
- I'm not supposed to visit you in your personal life. Well, I do. And what about you? What are you doing with your private miracles in my public world? 
- I'm not the one who broke the deal. And you were always going to break it. With no idea of good in your world there is no reason for you to keep yourself out of the other when you can do your work there.

2. Hungry Dog & The 17 Year Man

- GQ's video journalist, well into his second year waging internet war on the president, said yesterday the president is mistaken, has fatally miscalculated: everyone in the country is not like him, everyone will not do and say anything for money. For Americans ideology, kinship, and demographics also come into play.
- The president is a great liar, but otherwise fairly typical of Americans in the way dishonesty is pressed into service of family and ideology and demographics: Ideology is chosen to justify money making, which is done for the sake of family and the kind of person and place in life we are. Like our president the average American chooses an ideology that best fits in with his demographic description, for example small government for the rich or big for the poor, neo-liberalism for the rich or managed economy for the poor. Except the insane, no one makes money for the sake of making money, no one thinks for the sake of thinking, reasons for the sake of reasoning, does anything for its own sake, not even lying.
- We do things to stop doing things.
- Yes. If we're people of enlightenment, we stop doing things when we've succeeded in gaining knowledge and are consequently comfortable and confident. If we're people motivated by fear we stop only when our reasoning convinces we have a sense of power over others in our group.* Rousseau famously claimed in a moment of madness there never had lived anyone like him, that he was unique in combining reason and innocence.
- What did he mean by 'innocence'?
- A life of knowledge uncorrupted by artificial manners that represent what arbitrarily a group happens to support. Rousseau was repulsed by the seeming all-encompassing dishonesty of endless varieties of ideology in the service of lying money making in the service of family. It was a trial to your sanity, pushed you to keep out of society.
- Like you keep out. Are you crazy too in thinking there's no one like you?
- Even in my small circle of acquaintance are a couple of people who keep society at arm's length and are more or less successful in not going crazy. There's the 17 Year Man, who despite holding down a full time job has been sleeping outside on the steps of the same church for 17 years. The cheapest room in a divided up apartment would cost him most of his salary and he's not willing to pay.
- What does he spend his money on?
- Restaurants, drink, drugs, his racing track bike. He and his bike were to be seen every evening in the same Beverly Hills coffee shop, which is how we came to meet: I'd stopped by to ask him to keep a look out for my previous bike** that had just been stolen and to ask other messengers to do the same. Like the GQ journalist he daily published his thoughts on the Internet. He identified with the president who he believed was like him an outsider and individualist, he had conservative ideology, he professed himself a 'hustler', meaning he cheated and wouldn't apologize for it, he wanted a family but couldn't have one until something changed. Most of the people sleeping on the street in this neighborhood, priding themselves on being rich in independence if not cash, were similarly conservative supporters of the president.***
- Same pervasive dishonesty, different demographic. Same, how did you put it, 'Ideology chosen to justify money making done for the sake of maintaining family and place in life'.
- And then there's Hungry Dog, that being the name a friend back home mocked him with. He'd been in the city three months, hadn't spent a penny on food, visiting lectures and celebrations at the two universities, the one in the east and the one in the west, for the catered meals or box lunches. At two hour intervals he'd do tours across a campus, visiting the rooms and buildings he'd learned were likely to be holding meetings, as well as checking public notices on Eventbrite.com and the different University Internet listings. He had full employment as security guard, preferring to work at night so days he could throw himself down on a couch in some empty University building or on a park bench, and when he couldn't he rented a bed in what used to be called a doss house and now is grandly known as 'shared living'. Like the 17 Year Man he expressed his contempt for society and his willingness to break rules, he too was a supporter of the president, recognizing himself in his conduct, he too wanted to have a family when the time came. Meanwhile he's getting fat, food is his money and it's out there everywhere for the taking.
- These characters you let into your life are far from innocent.
- I don't let them into my life. Spending time with them both in one day yesterday I told myself: Something new, I had to find something new. A stack of magazines left in a doorway caught my attention: The Jewish Journal. I flipped through a copy, saw a full page ad. for a lecture on the European reputation of Israel to be held the next morning at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
- And you as a Jew decided to go.
- I did. The parking valets at the top of the drive insisted on taking my bike. I let them have it when I realized they weren't joking. Big coat and bike bag I checked in at reception desk, looking then, if you didn't look too carefully, fairly respectable, maybe even stylish. I hadn't been to the hotel in forty years. I wanted to break the pattern. I couldn't be the innocent who stayed at a distance to the dishonest world, enjoying taking it apart and putting it back together in ideas, which is exactly what I'd done with the 40 years of my life since I was last at the hotel. I'd be doing it still now but the world won't let me. Things have changed. Now I was like Hungry Dog and the 17 Year Man, unwillingly thrown up against all encompassing, absolute corruption, but unlike them adamant about innocence and trying not to get too crazy.
- Weren't the Jews your family, wasn't the purpose of the lecture fund raising to pay for Israeli propaganda, that is, lies in support of the ideologically claimed necessity for a Jewish people? The whole corrupt constellation: lies, ideology, money, and family. Weren't you going off the deep end?
- No. That is what I found interesting. Israel had been for dozens of years willing to go its own way and let the world hate it, just like a Rousseau innocent standing back taking the measure of the corrupt world at large. But like happened with me in my personal life, the time came for the state of Israel when keeping that distance no longer was practical, they had switched course and were now on the attack. They realized that the American congress was made up of people who were against Israel for no better reason than going along with what others were going along with, going along with political fashion. For them there was no money, no profit, no ideology, and not being Jews no family involved. So all they had to do, Israel realized, was fly every member of congress to their country and show them the reality as opposed to the money and ideologically driven lies they had been accepting hitherto. They'd pass over onto Israel's side seeing it was obviously civilized, developed, rich, and stable, a good political partner in its own right and out of all comparison when you looked at its neighbors in the region.
- And they went?
- Yes. And the lecture was about the recent expansion of the program to Europe, and bringing every single member of the legislature of each country to Israel, hoping for the same result.
- Brilliant. And this is what you'd like to do in your personal life? Find a way in out of dangerous, sanity threatening marginality? Did you try to talk to anyone there? Would Hungry Dog have been made happy, I mean, was there food?
- There was. First though came the Sabbath prayers. I planned to blend in with the scenery but the rabbi pulled me in to make up the minyan, the ten man minimum needed to begin the prayer session. Many more came for the lecture, at the conclusion of which the rabbi invited all attending to his house around the corner (where houses go for ten million and up) for lunch. I went, of course, leaving bike and bag and coat with the hotel.
- And don't tell me, nothing came of it except a full stomach. You didn't find your way in.
- No, I didn't. After the housekeeper, an immigrant from Mexico introduced to me as personally responsible for all the cooking and catering, had urged me repeatedly to stop standing up with my loaded paper plate and join the others at the table under the trees, I finally did. The Rabbi was there, seated to my left, between him and me his very aged England-born grandfather, standing in the background a real, honest-to-goodness Russian oligarch who was funding temples all across Russia, and to my right was seated the head of the Los Angeles chapter of the propaganda organization for Israel in Europe, a fund raising job, and lastly a real estate agent, who asked me what I write. Lately? About our president. / What about him? / His hypocrisy. / We're all prostitutes, you too, he says, -  and we're off on our discussion fueled by the rabbi's Scotch whisky and Swedish vodka. Prostitution, I said, was the synecdoche of our society, the part standing in for the whole. Live out of fear, you will pretend to be who you are not. Prostitution will be for you natural and inevitable. Ideology, money-making, family loyalty, all will be forms of prostitution. But live for knowledge, and putting on a show for the sake of power over others is about the last thing you'll do. I insisted: We are not all prostitutes. I for one was not.
- No, you're a Rousseau innocent trying to break back in without losing your mind. Did you offer to work for the organization?
- Sure, but offer not taken up.
- Why? It's perfect for you.
- Because I don't share with them those societal concerns so often prostituted we've been talking about. I'll count them down: #1, share no ideology, being a non-religious Jew with #2, no family relation to them or even to my own family. And #3, money-wise excluded as culpably and unacceptably property-less which, I regret to say they, being perceptive Jews, creatures for the most part of knowledge rather than power, figured out.
- And #4, demographics? Why couldn't you do what Israel had done with the legislature in the U.S. and was presently doing in Europe, convince them to let you in, to live with them 'live and let live'?
- Because unlike Israel I had as I said no material results to show for myself, and to advance to my age without was to be no more than a spectacle, with bits of my life story drawing exclamations of astonishment that anyone like me lived.
- I'm sorry. But at least you tried. How did the lunch end?
- We'd emptied the bottles of Scotch and Vodka and the consensus was it was time to give the Rabbi and family back their house. The rest of us went our separate ways. Mine was around the corner and up to the hotel on the hill where my bike was waiting.

Further Reading:

Beverly Hills Jews
Prostitution & Torture
Trump's Lies
____________________
* Those who speak to the end of power rather than knowledge don't fear their lying will interfere with their grasp on the truth, couldn't care less about being caught out in inconsistency.
** A Bike In Trumpland
*** One story about himself the 17 Year Man might not have published on the Internet, showing more of his affinity with the president, has him riding his bike drunk one night, falling down in the street right in front of a synagogue and shouting out in Hebrew against all the foreign born Jews coming to and ruining his neighborhood. Someone made a call, and six police cars chased him across Beverly Hills, cornering him at a laundromat, where he, a familiar character, was issued a warning and told to cool down.