What Lies Beneath: Privileged Grotesques, Ordinary Monsters and the Iraqi Deathscape

At present, George W. Bush is unpopular with the majority of the American public not because of the murderous mayhem he has unloosed in Iraq; rather, his standing has plummeted due to the fact that he didn’t deliver the goods. Americans are fine with fueling our republic of road rage using the blood of Iraqis (or any other distant and darker people) as long as “the mission” doesn’t drag on too long or reveal too much about ourselves.

How did we come to be a nation of vampires who live by sustaining ourselves on the blood of others? Is our mode of collective being so toxic in the United States that a writer must bandy about metaphors culled from Gothic horror fiction to describe it?

I’m afraid it’s come to that: We are a people whose psyches have grown monstrously distorted from an addiction to imperial power and personal entitlement. (Imagery of Smurfs and Teletubbies won’t rise to the analogy, albeit as terrifying as those demons of hell-bound cuteness are.)

The corporate culture of exploitation has begot a hellscape of narcissists. It is an authoritarian culture riddled in kitsch and cruelty, in nationalistic hagiography and displaced rage — all the distortions of national character inherent in privileged grotesques and ordinary monsters.

A narcissist’s actions are monstrous because his only love is the image of himself wielding control and power. (Does this remind you of anyone, perhaps someone who struts about in a flightsuit — someone prone to proclaiming himself “the decider” — someone who grows intoxicated to the point of becoming insensate from a whiff of his own pheromones as he swoons in macho-narcissistic self-worship?)

And what about the everyday monsters, those who feel nothing — not outrage, not remorse, nor sorrow — by the conscience-devoid attempt made by our vampiric leaders to sustain “our way of life” on Iraqi blood? Are you not a monster as well when you feel nothing before immense human suffering? If you are impervious to, grown inured of, or have chosen to remain ignorant of the agony of the Iraqi people, then you might as well join the ranks of the undead — because the distant landscape of corpses in Iraq and Afghanistan matches your internal deathscape.

In short, our empire’s dependence on the resources (the life’s blood) of others renders us a nation of vampires. Moreover, the corporatist character (our national character) is defined by the vampire’s trait of taking, never giving. Accordingly, what do the big monsters at the top take from us, the little monsters?

To name one: our time, the precious hours of our finite lives. The corporatists are Time Vampires: For a moment, reflect on all the hours of life you’ve wasted away — in office cubicles, in commuter traffic jams, in the addictive pursuit of consumer dreck, or simply numbed-out and exhausted, rendered inert from the incessant, soul-sucking stress of the corporate state.

The corporatocracy devours our time and, like the charges of a vampire, has made us dependent and slavish in return. In our bloodless enslavement, we lose the vitality borne of existing within life’s inherent mysteries and grow estranged from the deep resonances of participation mystique.

How does one begin to take back one’s soul from these elitist usurpers? Start with this: The ebullient skepticism engendered from calling out soul-numbing, self-serving authoritarian lies.

In an era as perilous as ours, it’s imperative we act with utmost urgency. Yet, tragically, the exigencies of our age are being played out against a panorama of longer, more stressful work hours, superficially ameliorated by a mass media culture comprised of ceaseless trivia and mindless distraction.

This pathology began years ago when our ancestors offered up their life’s blood to the early corporatists of the Industrial Age. Henry Ford was a gray ghoul who measured out our flesh with his productivity-measuring stopwatch; he was a cunning practitioner of the black art of convincing human beings they’re mere cogs in an inhuman machine. It was only a short trudge from there through history’s slaughterhouse to Adolf Eichmann, insulated within his vampire’s coffin of cold calculations that shielded him from the horrific implications of the system of mechanized extermination he devised.

The corporate vampire’s creed is defined by ruthless efficiency; the fear of a “loss of productivity” is the driving force of the death machine. The system is so ruthless and inhuman that it must conceal its true face, hence the rise of the telegenic undead known as the corporate media. Do not look to them to report the facts of our condition: After all, a mirror can’t reflect the image of a vampire. A vampire is empty to the core; therefore, there is nothing to reflect.

Furthermore, his emptiness is the progenitor of his destructive nature. Rather than face himself, his appetite for death will devour all in its path: rain forests, Arctic glaciers, the people of Iraq, the hours of your life, as well as your inner being.

It is the force that holds Democratic politicians in the thrall of their own fecklessness, because they answer to the same blood-sucking, corporate masters as the rest of us. Quite simply, they’re afraid of their bosses, too. The Washington Beltway is a version, in miniature, of the entire soul-dead American corporacracy. The careerist politicians within the Beltway are afflicted with the same diminution of choice — the same hyper-attenuation of the will to freedom — as the rest of us.

And what remains for us? An existence (or lack thereof) within this hierarchical hellscape of narcissists. What sort of a pathetic mode of being is this, a life shackled to the service of a monstrous system wherein one must evince the obsequies of a vampire’s bloodless lackeys?

To reverse this situation: Now is the time to drag the lies of the corporate state into the sunshine where they will writher to dust. We are not powerless: We live in a world where our collective, hidden intentions are made manifest by our outward actions. This is why Gothic — even B movie — metaphors are not an overwrought description of our present condition. Ergo, by the vehicle of cultural collaboration, we are a nation of world-destroying, B movie monsters — we are a hack-scripted, second-billed feature at the drive-in movie of existence — a laughed-off-the-big-screen of the cosmos, box-office poison of a people.

We are soul-sucking creatures of kitsch. Flesh-eating zombies of conformity. Road-rage werewolves. Right-wing, talk show demons whose wrathful voices rage into empty air. Hungry ghosts wandering the aisles of supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurant chains and the food courts of shopping malls. We are: The Fat, Mindless Blobs That Ate the Planet.

To survive, first, we must find the monster within, then drive a stake through its heart.

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at phil@philrockstroh.com and FaceBook. Read other articles by Phil, or visit Phil's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Eric said on July 12th, 2007 at 12:06pm #

    Am I the only monster that heard the wake up call today? I guess it’s hard to get people to look in a mirror, especially if they’re scared of the eventuality where they might see nobody standing in there. It surely is where we can look given the possibilities to confront such problems. Especially if we consider any laughable attempts such as Live Earth and the like, the real message should get through before the corporate “moral persons” of this netherworld set up to look as if they will (yet again) “save the day” and be the ones looking good in the end. And still, it would be easy to cut the funds of those terrorists by simply stoping to consume what they produce. I’m just happy to know it will end soon enough, and not in the Hollywood movie fashion we all like. Are you ready for the final test?

  2. Paul Walters said on July 12th, 2007 at 2:42pm #

    Those pesky arctic glaziers. I prefer my glassware made in the lower 48…..

  3. Jan Allen said on July 14th, 2007 at 9:15pm #

    We are not alone in this seemingly voiceless protest, and above the din, the shrill cacophony of the aptly portrayed ‘undead’, those nascent vampires of our times, will RISE the cries of those ‘liberated’, elevated to the forum of the ‘Republic of the grave’ where all are equal and colorless.

    I am convinced that the pendulum will swing, will eventually strike down those bloodthirsty architects of this evil empire, this ‘Coalition of the Killing’ whose lust for a delusional glory, for ‘endless’ power, for empire and pharaonic legacy will all go the way of cursed ‘gods’ whose ends are but as dust.

    The struggle for justice will continue regardless, let us not despair that fact and, in the face so much white noise that is generated by a so-called technological superiority, is written, in the annals of history of the certitude of a dismal failure. This truth is already evident in ‘theater of war’ that is now playing to a full house in the Middle East. A story of ‘Vietnam Revisited’

  4. Roy Murtishaw said on July 15th, 2007 at 11:05am #

    ” We are: The Fat, Mindless Blobs That Ate the Planet. ”

    Phil,
    As a resident of the Wal-Mart State ( Arkansas ), one need only visit that neighborhood ‘ evil empire ‘ to see first hand an example of the NOT-WEE, WE’S of whom you speak: mindless, obese, Bovine-Americans; stuffed on empty calories, short-term greed and disregard for any consideration of others who might delay self-serving gratification. Amoral corporatism has so infected our society that we
    cattle crowd every aisle that leads to our present moral, intellectual,
    compassion. humaneness ‘American Idol’- idle. Roy

  5. Joe Ayer said on July 16th, 2007 at 12:44pm #

    “To reverse this situation…To survive, first, we must find the monster within, then drive a stake through its heart.”
    Between your two declarative statements there is the uninterrupted drone of clever cynical castigation and sadistic sarcasm that will soon lead us inevitably back to the next Rockstroh indictment that will collectivize us all into soul sucking mindless and hungry American blobs muttering the name of Paris Hilton to keep our attentions distracted.
    Instead of chasing our linguistic tails with you, Phil, maybe, just maybe as you suggest, we could all coerce the monster within us, no matter how much we think we have minimized, muted and mutilated it with our cultivated self-rightousness and progressive purity…..and try something different – like compassion in thought and action.
    Compassion – how comical some will think, too simplistic, stinking of a religious connotation – but shall we all try it just for the collective novelty of it.
    Jojo

  6. Finn O' Connor said on July 17th, 2007 at 1:43am #

    Hmmm, compassion? I like it, and it is an essential ingredient for what we all want (peace AND social justice!). I like this piece, however self-loathing. I am unhappy to say, my interaction with US folk on the net has left me a bit unimpressed by their grasp of world affairs and inability to engage in discussion without resorting to mudslinging. Yes, I am Irish and no, that does not mean I am a terrorist and therefore forfeit my right to a point of view! This kind of reaction (common, I’m afraid) does not speak well of an understanding of current affairs, so there’s no point hiding what Phil is saying. The problem isn’t some flaw in American people..i see it as stemming from your insane corporate/media set up and your laughable ‘political’ system. Both ensure change is almost impossible.
    Almost. Discussion like this one will always ensure a glimmer of possibility.
    Love n respect, Finn. …..and compassion!

  7. Ed McDade said on July 19th, 2007 at 10:14am #

    Yo Phil-Your vampire image is right on. Hey in my old hood, we would just call bush a “fuckin’ jerk off”. They just waste your time with facist dreck, piss all over our beautiful Mother Earth and then sell us useless shit that we don’t need. Listen, I think we are at the begining of something new and possitive or we’re about to go over the cliff(I sure hope it’s the former)
    Power to the People!!

  8. sheldon g said on August 8th, 2007 at 12:54am #

    “i m a member fo the F.V.K!!”