Today I will be a lion for literature. Lions, by the way, do occasionally eat carrion, but only as a last resort. They prefer fresh protein they hunt themselves.
Today, I saw Igor Goldkind reference this quote, and it struck me so:
"Reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world." - Terence McKenna
Terence (1946-2000) is referred to as "The Timothy Leary of the 90s."
Because I am a physical empath, I tend to understand things first through physical metaphor. So much of what is provided to us as books, especially fiction, but also a great deal of popular non-fiction, film and television - and indeed, similar media such as games and internet content, is akin to junk/fast food.
I've done a lot of work, not just on a personal level, but also working with businesses and entrepreneurs, in the area of real food. Food is tangible, and it's something (like reading and writing in a population with 100% literacy or nearly-so) that everyone participates in.
When people eat what I call "corporate food" constantly, it dulls their tastebuds. It makes it difficult for them to enjoy real food. I remember a little girl from our neighborhood when Meredith was young. She was raised on a diet of fast food (Del Taco and Taco Bell, mostly) and literally cried when offered celery with peanut butter at our house. She not only gagged when she tried to eat it, it made her cry. And yes, she was already overweight at a very young age.
The addictive, taste-killing properties of "corporate food" is the direct cause of the obesity epidemic and the corresponding epidemic of "diseases of civilization." It's not a proximate cause, it is the cause, because this food inspires addiction and produces corresponding lethargy leading to physical inactivity. There should scarcely be a person alive in America today who does not know that eating fast foods and junk foods today (or simply eating out daily) is bad for their physical health. To say something like hot Cheetos is "food" is like saying Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" video is Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
Well, there are plenty of people around who find Beethoven's 9th "boring." Even some who might prefer the Miley Cyrus auditory and visual object to an actual music video by a singer-songwriter of talent. That "song" took six people to write. If they're so music-impoverished this is their idea of favorite music then ... maybe they want a little harder-core junk food than Flaming Hot Cheetos to eat as well.
This crap pushed out on the public by - one of my favorite terms, and I can't remember who came up with it, but probably Hitchens - it feels like him - "patent leather-haired vulgarians" with nothing but cynical contempt for any and all foolish enough to lap up their beastly products - it's ruined so many people's hearts and minds. There's out and out debasement and corruption, Dorian Gray-style (that's a character from classic literature). Then there's just people who can't read chapters over 500 words in length. Or, who are so accustomed to reading first-person narratives of characters of 16-22 years of age that they can't read anything else. There are people who think all they can read is James Patterson, or David Baldacci or whomever.
Oh why, oh why, is this so? We are told "people don't read any longer." Then we are told they are only interested in these simple, debased products. I'm not writing this to slag on individual authors, but here's a semi-bestseller not of particular note - a wholly commercial project from beginning to end, exploitive of the author who was certainly not capable of writing something worth so many people reading it, and made into an understandably mediocre film by people who probably wished they were dead by the time they were able to wrap these colossal, derivative bores.
Even Mondelez, even Cargill, even PepsiCo (especially PepsiCo) have realized that they must move toward real food if they want to stay in business. Ten years ago, there were 60 free-range, grass fed cattle ranches in North America. Today there are more than 2,000. About half of the produce section in my local Ralphs is organic, and they've opened a locally-sourced section as well. I can buy hormone-free, organic, grass-fed meats in the store. Yes, I pay more, but it's there. A decade ago, there very nearly were no family-owned ranches left. The family-owned farms were nearly gone. Today, they are coming back. Because people are hungry for real food.
I believe people are also hungry for real books. This is what real people tell me. This is what I see, for example, when Igor reads his real poems. I see faces light up, I hear expressions of astonishment and delight.
Unlike nearly every other industry, the publishing industry is still caught in the business mentality of the 1950s, when they were thrilled to discover food technology and the ability to turn eating into a giant corporate license to print money as opposed to an activity central to life, family functioning, and social interaction. Please do not tell me that the corporate foodists of the past were unaware that processed cheese by-products were not addictive, and that ag hormones didn't also have their corresponding similar impact on young and growing bodies. They knew. As to whether they knew rampant obesity, heart disease, cancer and other concerns would arise, that I do not know.
Now - for business reasons - big food sees that it must go a different direction. People simply no longer want to kill themselves. They are physically choosing life.
We need to choose the life of the mind as well. Killing our brains, deadening and anesthetising them - it's making all of us Americans stupid. It's turning us into weak sheep who will accept the politics put forth in our country. It's making kids who can't find Italy (the "boot shaped" one) on a map, much less know who Mussolini was.
It's making people who are regular readers brag that they "don't like the classics." Hey, regular readers who "don't like the classics," are you enjoying the Penny Dreadful show? It was made by people who "like the classics." Did you like True Detective? It was made by people interested in a little bit different kind of classic. Imagine what I thought when "The King in Yellow" was brought up on the show. "That can't be," I thought. Oh yes, it could be -- oh yes, it was.
No, it's not all bad. But the vibrancy is coming out of film and TV now. And that is limited. That visual, time-limited medium is brilliant at what it does but it cannot communicate complex emotions, ideas and concepts across time and space.
There were two notable products made in 1605 that are still sold and consumed in the same form as they are today: Don Quixote, and Hamlet. These are today's first loaves of real bread made by wheat and yeast and hand, these are today's version of that first bottle of wine.
Everyone, everywhere, in all sectors, are hungering for real things. Let's take just that wine, for instance. A vintner will tell you all about the grape, the weather, the soil, the appellation, and every tiny aspect that goes into making fine wine, as opposed to, oh, say Annie Green Springs or Thunderbird.
Well, what's the word?
The vintner who makes the real wine cares about the person who drinks it, and cares about every single thing in that bottle.
The writer who makes the real book cares about the person who reads it, and cares about every single word in that text.
A publisher who has a clue - cares about these same things as well. This cannot be said at present, for the most part. The only way we have to communicate beyond time and space, to tell stories encompassing the imagination, the heart, the mind and the best that is in us -- as Faulkner said,
"I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."
He was speaking about the Cold War, and the effect it had on young writers, causing them to give up hope and belief in humanity.
I am speaking about our cultural desire to really live, and the war we are presently fighting against those who wish to feast on our own bodies and minds. They wish to take our hard-earned money. Debase our families and daily lives. They have no interest in who we are except as something to support their ravenous lifestyles. They have made us slaves to their needs.
Do you know what Frederick Douglass did as the most-salient thing in his earning his freedom and being probably the one person who did the most to spur on Emancipation? What thing he did that could have cost him his life? Look him up, by the way. Use your spare brain (Google).
He taught himself to read and write. It's real. Most of the books that are shoved in your face: are not.