Friday, 21 June 2013

19th June 2013 - Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains


File:Jacques Réattu - Liberty Traveling the World.jpg
Source: Wikimedia Commons

They can’t hold us. Or so we told ourselves: That was before they held us, a tight vice grip of encircling, banana-chewing gorilla arms squeezing around our waist, hugging our ribs so tight that we thought they would crack; with hot air breathed down the neck, they whispered insane-creepily into our ears, directly onto our cochlea:

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

A rustle of Rousseau on the lips; it didn’t have any real meaning but it sure sounded scary. Those gorilla arms tried to slip a snake’s length of chains around us but we just shrugged our arms loose, and like that we were free. We renamed ourselves the Enchained Ones: our first, weak attempt at an ironic passive-aggressive statement on the nature of liberty. I personally didn’t see the irony in the statement, I wasn’t that kind of intellectual guy: I just liked the sound of ‘enchained’ as it rolled off the tongue and floated quite meaninglessly in the air. That was why I agreed to be identified with such a pratty name.

As free men, we were free to practice what we preached: and boy, did we practice. Free as larks, liberated as sharks, we flew and swam aimlessly around the world, sowing our seeds of femininity and masculinity and destruction, leaving behind fields of flame and salt, never again to be reaped by mankind.

For the dumb-os out there—just like me—that means that we fucked. A lot. We drank and fucked and smoked and ate every mind-altering substance on the planet that we could get our hands on. Our arteries became vehicles for the deliverance of hallucinogenic, intoxicating, psychotropic materials that redrafted the world around us into a series of blues and blacks and reds and colours that don’t even have names. We talked to folks named Hannah and Charles who didn’t even exist; we let guys and girls called George and Sophie and Roxanne fuck us for a few dollars, only to wake up and find that that rolled up note stuck into our mouths as payment was, in fact, an unlit cigarette stuck in our gobs that we had been too fucked to light.

They say there comes a time in each man’s life where he must settle, cease the spreading of oats (the explosion of sperm) and till the land in a more appropriate manner. We never reached that point: our bodies did, though. One day, in the middle of a mind-fuck feast of drugs and absinthe, we looked down at our navels to find the same pair of gorilla hands stretched around our waist, clinging on for dear life and not looking like they were going to let go. The same insane-creepy voice from before crashed back with a roar, bellowing: 

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

Our minds screamed at us that this was a banality echoing from the corridors of an era lost to France centuries ago, but goddammit the voice was right. We tried to tell ourselves otherwise, and lost ourselves in a maze of smoke, blurred false-real memories and mirrors reflecting some real aspects of our personae, some false; run all we might, however, we could not shake the truth: we had shed the chains of middle-class suburbia, and exchanged them for chains of another kind. Worse, these chains were much stronger, being formed from a compound of multiple restrictive chemicals.

Chemical dependence was the least of it, but it was still a bummer. There were nights where we didn’t feel like getting hopelessly, desperately trashed because, actually, we felt alright that night. But we fucked ourselves up anyway: our brains, our bodies, were much too used to their chemical receptors being stimulated by alien bodies to give up on it now. 

However, worst of all was the realisation that we had run from one nightmarish set of chains only to collide slap-bang into another set. We had escaped from the crushing mediocrity of the rat-race and suburban life and the faux intelligentsia propounding the virtues of modern life, and had instead flown straight into the arms of another cliché. And wowza, it was ego-bruising: when we looked back, the overwrought cliché of escaping our problems by jumping into drugs was so… Middle class. Even writing that word makes us cringe, but it’s ultimately true. We had grown up with a middle-class mindset, and that mindset included the conception of substance abuse as a way to shatter the mold of middle class-dom, a way to flip the middle finger at your stunningly boring parents and move into a higher plane of knowledge, existence and awareness. By ‘breaking the chains’, we had only reinforced them. We didn’t gain any more knowledge or awareness, we received a handful of fuddled memories, an even larger mouthful of non-existent memories and a crushing awareness of the inescapability of who and what we were. As for reaching a higher plane of existence? We almost annihilated our bodies, imbibed a plethora of STIs and quite a few of us made a permanent crossing from the sane to the insane (as it turns out, the membrane separating the two regions is porous in one direction only: border patrol is quite strict about that).

From the very second of our birth, we had been conditioned to think and feel and act in a certain way. There was no escaping it. It was so middle class. It kills us to say it. Those gorilla hands sneaked tighter and tighter, and that demented, cackling voice shouted with glee:

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

Then we realised: life is a series of inescapable directions, written in our minds from the instant of our birth, formed by the incessant repetitions of modern mantra and axioms, which our parents instilled and distilled into us right from the get-go. We may not have a destiny, since we don’t believe in God or any of that shit; but by God, our outcomes are certainly written on stone. Useless to fight it, there’s nothing we can do about it.

There remains one option: another cliché, and one that few people take. The utter eradication of the body. Obliterate the mind. Expunge the record. Allow society and ourselves to forget who and what we were, the shame we brought, and the fear we inspired as we fought to break loose.

It turns out that this is the ultimate act. Our previous rampages had been but a penultimate series of actions leading to this inevitable conclusion; an interval between acts.

We load the barrel, cock the hammer and pull the trigger.

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