and L'ère de l'ennui
My first month of middle-classin’ below the poverty line has been marvelous. And perhaps even a success. If I’m good at one thing it’s rolling up wealth into a tight ball and tossing it over the bridge. An enjoyable pastime, really. Henry David Thoreau said that about life, it being a pastime, and I have to agree. Sure he scored some free meals with the Emersons, and his sister washed the great coat every October. No matter. He wanted to live life as an art, as close to the bone as possible, and according to his appetite. A stubborn man with high moral expectations for himself and others. Unlike his neighbors, Thoreau refused to pay the tax to support the rape and pillage of Mexico by Polk’s army, and a great essay came out of it. Civil Disobedience. As you know, I don’t support Biden’s mass murder of Palestinians with Boeing bombs, and this little project has sprung from it. Also, I refuse to pay my government to help Israel commit genocide. I guess it’s in my blood. Thoreau is a cousin of mine 11 times removed. Years ago his philosophy woke me up to the power the individual has to force his own change, and then by example, possibly influence others. It’s always a tough row to hoe. Emerson mocked him in a eulogy he wrote for Thoreau in the Atlantic (a 19th century noble magazine turned into a modern day Neocon hellraiser). I wonder how much the greedy bard got paid to embarrass his dead friend:
Had his genius been only contemplative, he had been fitted to his life, but with his energy and practical ability he seemed born for great enterprise and for command; and I so much regret the loss of his rare powers of action, that I cannot help counting it a fault in him that he had no ambition. Wanting this, instead of engineering for all America, he was the captain of a huckleberry party. Pounding beans is good to the end of pounding empires one of these days; but if, at the end of years, it is still only beans!
Ha! I think Thoreau would have laughed, “It’s still only empires Ralph!” Funny, after all these years, I’m not reading and learning from Emerson, the ambitious one. Is anybody? I don’t think “The Poet” is recommended reading in high schools these days. However, Walden is. I bet Emerson craved more and more applause after getting a taste of it. Maybe, if alive and celebrity today, he’d be hanging out on some billionaire’s yacht, conversing with Zionists about the ongoing genocide like it was the 10-day weather forecast.
Thoreau lived his philosophy out loud for the neighbors, who most certainly were not going to get their bodies escorted into jail for the suffering chiquitas of Monterrey. There was no progressive income tax in 1840s Concord, Massachusetts. As a manner of protest, Thoreau didn’t have the option to go more broke than he was already. He was white. He was a man. So he had to pay the government tax. There was no creative protest besides jail for the man of conscience. Paying the tax and then “protesting” is never an effective way to keep bullets out of guns anyway. Emerson paid his tax. As did other fair weather Transcendentalists like Alcott and Hawthorne. Modern Americans have an amazing window of opportunity to make meaningful change now. Men and women of conscience can refuse federal tax extortion and jail by managing incomes just below the poverty line. And, unlike poor Thoreau, maintain a diet of veritable smorgasbords compared to his pathetic fire pit potato. How cool is that?
I can tell you from a month’s experience that financial sacrifice brings strong feelings of empowerment. Eyes and nostrils wide open. Potential expanding. What was once a dead leaf on a rock gets picked up by the breeze and flies. Working for poverty is uplifting, especially when it can’t afford U.S. government genocide. Frugality is power to anyone with a roof, health insurance (at my age), and tropical bananas for $.59/lb. No need to pay for child slaughter. And we still get to keep our smart phones and used cars! Thoreau didn’t have all this fluff to cushion his choice.
I’m curious. When do we actually think we’re living? What age is this? I wonder who among us has a sense of history? A kind that makes him or her a bit mad (both the crazy and angry kind) like me. Can this be the Age of Total Boredom? Has enthusiasm died? Is anybody doing anything creatively to jump start a day, a week, a year of their lives? I think we’re just set in nauseous repeat of the same used bureaucracy song that stops and starts in another game of depressing musical chairs.
I believe that now is the yesterday for tomorrow. We are human history being made every second that passes. A nineteenth century bourgeois understood this. That in comfort they had the power to “direct” history. A precious life without suffering was an opportunity to make great efforts improving oneself and the world. Not so much today, I’m afraid. I am reminded of a sign I see carried at anti-genocide protests in the big cities where group fear of non-comformity is lessened by the high numbers of collected, sensitive citizens. It reads: “If you ever wondered what you would be doing during the Nazi Genocide, this is it.”
Yup. It is.
“Dis coont hahpin today,” I hear my neighbors say in an all too familiar made-for-TV accent. “Vee have methods to stop a genocide. Lettuce be good Germans and vait for da Führer to inform us. Zay are only poor brown people of no consequence, for goodness sake”.
I really don’t anticipate others taking up the torch of poverty to stop a genocide, any more than Henry Thoreau could convince his contemporaries to slow the fuck down, and just be. Perhaps my effort might benefit posterity. A more worthy goal, I believe, than waiting every four years to vote for the most politically correct killer. A long term goal for me is spending the rest of my life, expanding the song list for the musical chairs suffered by my great grandchildren. Lots more songs at least. More choices, less dystopia.
Thoreau from Walden: “So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one center.”
Meanwhile, if you won’t go broke, can we at least stop voting for these psychopaths taking our money and wasting babies? Can we use our collective morality to not invite fascism deeper into our country? It looks like this will be a fateful year. Lawlessness on the Presidential ballot from both parties, and also the Independent, the latter, literally the nephew of what gave us Vietnam and the blockade of beautiful Cuba.
I spent a total of $921.49 on my living for the month of January, 2024. Zero dollars went to genocide. At this rate, it will be easy to remain below the U.S. poverty line.
And I still have all my hair, and cookies when I want ’em.
Conaire the Great was a contemporary of Jesus Christ and a direct descendent through my father’s line. Legend has it that Conaire was a high king of Ireland. You can listen to his story here. I love Ireland. I want it. Return the Throops to Ireland! My ancestral blood is washed o’er the fields of County Meath. Thank you Great Grandfather Henry Throop (1880 - 1956) for all your hard work.
And to keep in the same vein with the previous rant, the following is a “Free, Free Palestine” march I walked into while visiting Cork, Ireland on October 14, 2023. By that time, six days into the Israeli bombing, 1,900 Palestinians had been killed, including at least 600 children, more than 7,600 injured, and over 423,000 displaced. For the retributionists of earth, it was a very successful comeback to “even” the score of the Hamas atrocities on October 7. They didn’t even have to leave the plush interior comfort of their U.S.-made fighter jets! Cork has a moral population. Its people are dear to my pagan heart, even if most of them are Roman Catholics. The Golden Rule applies to all human beings. I just pray the Irish have a way out of paying taxes to renegade politicians who, like ours, are prone to redistribute death around the globe, happily.
Finally, some more work from this week: