Rather than going the traditional route of making a “long story short” (which never turns out to be the case anyway), I will attempt to answer a simple question, or rather, a series of simple questions, detailed and to the point, complete with examples, digressions and stream of consciousness ramblings as I see fit and necessary so as to ensure, to the best of my ability, that what I’m trying to convey comes across clearly. Or to obfuscate it completely.
As a man matures and grows older, he starts to ponder his place in the universe, what function, if any, he has in the greater scheme of things. As the process of coming to terms with the meaning of his life, his position in the cosmos, the restraints placed on him by circumstance and the environment, and whatever effect he can reciprocate on his surroundings etc., develops (I’m reasonably sure that this sentence is grammatically correct), he may find in his heart an urge to express his philosophy to the world, and so it became that I decided I wanted a tattoo.
Having obeyed the rules (mostly) for more than half a century, being a closet rebel, a natural born free thinker trapped in a world of Jante’s Law, and having come to the conclusion along the way that I don’t much like them, it didn’t take me long to come up with a general objective of what I wanted to express with my tattoo. From the rather generic idea that the rules suck and I didn’t want to take it anymore, I put my creative powers to work and reduced the general concept to the concise (or so I thought) phrase “Power To The People, Death To The Machine“, which neatly covered my feelings, and, if not precisely self-evident, I thought the wording would be pretty self-explanatory to the Common Man of average intelligence (I may have been wrong). So as any self-respecting, pseudo-intellectual, radical arm-chair subversive worth his salt, I immediately decided to translate my dictum (which I by the way make no claim to be the originator of (I generally subscribe to the notion that any thought worth thinking has already been thought by someone else and I have little of original value to contribute to the greater discourse of mankind), but I assure you that it is not deliberate plagiarism) to Latin. And this is where the real story begins. But more about that later.
First I want to say a few words about the design I have in mind. I imagine a Soviet-era, propaganda style clenched fist on my upper arm/shoulder with the slogan split in its two halves on separate banners top and bottom. I’m not a big fan of strong coloring and heavyshadows, so I’m leaning towards a distressed, faded look. I’m not much of an artistic type myself, so I’m sure the tattoo artist can give some helpful input. I have a specific guy in mind (he did my wife – twice!), but around here there are almost as many tattoo parlors as churches, and it’s probably a good idea to shop around to make sure the artist understands my vision, and, not unimportant, has the skill. References and portfolios need to be checked out, for sure. Disclaimer: this may never come to fruition (and whether or not I actually end up getting inked is irrelevant to this particular story) at all (I have a hard time committing myself to irreversible body art, ref. my earlier statement about a lifetime of following the rules), but I reckon it’s a reasonable bet that I only have approximately thirty-or-so years left of breath in me, the ten last of which may possibly be spent wearing old-man diapers drooling in front of a TV stuck on the shopping channel at some godforsaken home for the old and unwanted, waiting to die. So if not now, then when? My inner, unfulfilled rebel is getting aroused as I write these words.
So about the Latin translation. I don’t speak Latin. I can make myself understood in the English speaking world (though not fluently), the Scandinavian countries, except Iceland, insomuch as they qualify as a Scandinavian country; I have the scantest knowledge of German (less than conversational) and I know how to tell a guy he’s a cock sucking faggot in Spanish, that’s it. As you can see my linguistic circumstances are a bit foggy, and maybe the subject for another post. I’m almost 100% certain that an online translator would get it wrong and should I choose that route I would run the risk of being permanently embarrassed every time I walked by the Latin departments of any of the Ivy League universities. Luckily I have a friend with a linguistic fetish who dabbles in Latin recreationally (I shit you not!) who helped me figure out a reasonable translation of several possible variations that I believe captures the essence of what I stand for (thanks, bro!). “Power To The People, Death To The Machine”, or as Lucretius would (or not) have said (depending on the validity of “machinae” used figuratively in classical Rome, which is still up for debate), “Potestas Vulgo, Mors Machinae“; it rolls off the tongue mellifluously, but still with gravitas, both in English and Latin. The perfect motto, beautifully raw and simplistic, yet plainly signifying both a moral principle as well as a call to action.
For my own edumecation as well as the elucidation of my reader(s?), I will now break down and analyze my proposed slogan in an exercise to make sure any reasonable reader will understand it close to the way it is intended and as I do:
Death To The Machine – First of all, what do I mean by “the machine“? Obviously not a typewriter (for those of you old enough to know what that is) or any mechanical apparatus. No, it is a figure of speech denoting an organization/institution, or organizations/institutions, that have grown beyond the intention of their makers, and reached a point of singularity, or near-singularity, where they take on a form of self-awareness and certainly don’t obey their masters, become uncontrollable, and instead of serving as a means to an end, becomes its own, self-justified end. The legendary rock group Steppenwolf called it the “Monster” in one of the best rock songs to come out of the 70’s, or any decade for that matter, by one of the most underestimated bands ever. (The Sex Pistols and Madonna are Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, but not Steppenwolf. Really? REALLY?!?)
More often than not such Machines are to the detriment of its original creators and the people they were set in place to serve. Examples might include imperialistic and bellicose governments, such as the US government; organizations within the government such as Dept. of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA who, originally created to protect society from crime and enemies, foreign and domestic, now spy on society at large, collecting our communications in vast databases without our knowledge and for what nefarious purposes we can only imagine. It could be the military industrial complex that president Eisenhower (R) warned us against in the 50s, that requires, and lobbies for, wars to make a living. Same thing with the private incarceration industrial complex, that requires, and lobbies for, criminals to lock up to make a profit, resulting in America having the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, mostly due to non-violent drug users falling victim to the The War On Drugs and three-strikes-and-you’re-out (or in, as the case might be) legislation. It could be an increasingly militarized police force edging ever closer to an outright police state, running roughshod over the Bill of Rights with impunity. It could be a President instructing his legal council to whitepaper him authority to torture suspected terrorists and assassinate American citizens with unmanned, flying killer robots without the due process guaranteed in the Constitution. It could be a commercial health care system preying on human misery and suffering, where keeping you sick, medicated and hospitalized is the best business model ever devised and the only losers are you and me. It could be an economic system that rewards excessive risk taking with other people’s money and downright fraud to the obvious detriment of investors. It could be too-big-to-fail, too-big-to-prosecute. It could be the revolving door connecting Congress and K-Street. It could be an election system where money matters more than votes and public office is effectively up for sale to the highest bidder. Obviously all the lobbying required to keep the wheels of The Machine oiled and running smoothly invites widespread bribery and corruption, making the will of the people less relevant than the amount of money paid for services rendered and expected. It could be politicians less interested in serving their constituents than protecting their jobs, i.e. getting reelected at any cost. It could be mayors exercising near-dictatorial powers, banning soda, outdoor smoking and deciding what kind of food you can eat (yes, I’m talking to you Bloomberg). It could be a nine-person politicized Supreme Court with lifetime appointees that can’t be fired (what could possibly go wrong?). It could be you, thrown over a barrel and buttfucked by a huge red, white and blue faux patriotic cock. I could go on and on, but hopefully by now you get the picture.
Death (to the machine) – What do I mean by “death” in this context? Obviously (I hope!) not that we should go out and physically kill all the collaborators that constitute the machine (many of us are unwitting participants). While they are biological entities, the individual matters little, since The Machine is more like a hive mind acting in unison, but not giving a second thought to why, perhaps not even aware that there is a why. By death I mean fixing the system, reigning it back to its original intent and a proportional size. Ideally this would be accomplished by the democratic provisions built into the original Machine (poorly devised as many of them were from the beginning and broken further since), but the keen observer will see that we are now dealing with a catch 22 situation. The Machine dictates the agenda as well as methods and ritual, while the populous that put it in place becomes ever more catatonic and ignorant, an instrument for The Machine, dazed and confused as they are by a steadily increasing diet of reality TV shows, Toddlers and Tiaras, Octomom and Honey Boo-Boo. I certainly am not about to incite violence and insurrection; my explicit recommendation is to fix, and if we’re beyond that point, replace, in a peaceful manner. I am not agitating for mutiny and overthrow of the government. That would be illegal, and I am nothing if not the reincarnation of Gandhi. We are encouraged to petition our elected leaders; President, Senators and Congressmen alike. Feel free to do so if you please, but have no illusions that contacting your rep will make an iota of difference (unless your petition is wrapped in a really big check). Your vote counts for nothing unless you live in a few select voting districts in a few select battleground states (due, of course, to a badly flawed Constitution). However, I am not optimistic about the future. If the current trend continues unabated, I do not see the United States surviving in its current configuration (a corporate oligarchy in the form of a two-party dictatorship in the guise of a democracy) one or two centuries from now. Make of it what you will. This article has already been flagged by the NSA. Remind me to get some sunblock for my upcoming trip to Guantanamo.
Power To The People can be split into (or so I’ve been told) three different questions:
- What is “the Power””
- What is “the People”?
- And why on Earth should the Power be given to them?
- Power is what the people for the most part don’t have. Power is what, ideally, should result from a government by the people, for the people and of the people. Power can be an illusion given to us in order to placate us by the corporate oligarchy, the two-party dictatorship, and every corrupt little politician more interested in lining his own pockets rather than doing the People’s work. Power is the ability to determine one’s own future without having to apply for permission. Real power, benign power, is to do unto others what you would like others to do unto you. If religion is opium for the people, than the illusion of power is benzos for the people. So far it looks like Big Brother is winning at this time.
- The People (as of the time of writing this) are the mindless, comatose chattel drugged and dazed by the aforementioned corporate overlords and their puppets, the government. The lowest voter participation in the civilized world bears testament to the fallacy that America is the greatest democracy in the world. The people are those who confuse happiness and greatness with Wal-Mart, Disney, a military greater and stronger than the next 15 nations combined, and all-you-can-eat buffets. The people are those who think freedom is the Second Amendment, all the while Big Bad Leroy Brown is molesting the nine other Amendments in the Bill Of Rights behind their backs. The People are in dire need of a wake-up call.
- The Power shouldn’t be “given to them” (the People). For one thing those currently in control of the Power won’t give it away without a fight. The power has to be taken back. Preferably by peaceful means if possible using the laws and courts. I’m not suggesting assassinating the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelsons of this world. But we do have dynasties in America that differ from the old European aristocracies in little but name. Think the Kennedys, the Romneys, the Bushes, industrial barons who throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries built their empires and vast fortunes on the backs of the destitute worker who bought into the idea of “The American Dream” that was fed to them by their Masters. Power that is “given” is nothing but a privilege on loan. Power must be taken.
Having said all this I have no illusions that things will get better, at least not in my lifetime, before they get worse. Much worse. I don’t rule out a second American Revolution or Civil War; a complete balkanization of the North-American continent. One could argue that a citizenry that dies with a smile on its face from obesity related diseases induced by pizza with cheese-filled crusts delivered conveniently to their doors, complete with a side of Cinna-Bons and a two-liter of Pepsi, and thinking they’ve made it in life, deserves no better. But that would be mean and snobbish.
I am reasonably certain that the People will lose in the fight for power/freedom (greed and the lust for personal power and enrichment always trumps idealism and a sense of fairness and justice), but I am nothing if not an idealist; it has been my curse since I developed a mind of my own at around the age of six.
Finally, I would like to point out that to the degree I am a philosopher (we all are, it does NOT require a college degree), I am more of a big picture kind of guy, leaving it to others to figure out the minutia. Don’t take everything I say too seriously, but on the other hand it ain’t meant to be a joke either.