The Chairman Mao Exhibit at Jurassic Park

I recall an event that occurred almost twenty years ago, in which Harry Cleaver, a notable figure in autonomist Marxism, called New York ‘the land of dinosaurs’. What he meant was that leftist currents that had died out years ago were still viable here. I don’t think anyone could foresee that the internet would provide a Jurassic Park for so many unfortunate ideologies.

I am used to Saturday travel taking me past two dinosaur exhibits. On the North side of the road there has been an ongoing gathering in support of the Trumpian flavor of right wing idiocy. On the South side is a peace and justice rally for most things vaguely to the left. The lefties have a better spot, being positioned next to a bagel store, which provides both bagels and a toilet. I don’t know where the Trumpists go to the bathroom. In each other’s mouths?

The evolution of this dynamic is unclear to me, but the peace and justice folks have been around longer. It is very likely the case that the Trump people showed up to hate them from across the street.

The number of people in attendance varies, and the Trump people seem to have run out of steam following his defeat in the 2020 election. I can blame them for a great many things, but a lack of desire to wave signs at a generally uninterested public isn’t one of them. Honestly, I miss them. It’s nice to have people to throw garbage at. The vehicle gets cleaner and, hopefully, they get just a tiny bit more demoralized and paranoid.

There was a new phenomenon on the road this week. A group of people were tabling outside of the post office and they had a number of confusing banners. One said ‘Crush the Green New Deal’, another said ‘Don’t Blame Russia and China’, and the most perplexing one advocated for the construction of new nuclear power plants. And then I saw, in the lower right hand corner of a banner, that they were associated with Lyndon Larouche. One of the more confusing things about this is that Lyndon Larouche is dead.

Someone being dead doesn’t necessarily mean that the politics they espouse die with them. People call themselves Marxists, Trotskyists, Maoists, Leninists… on and on and on. Christian is a thing, so let’s throw that in there too. I’ve recently begun to engage with Facebook again, and in a profound error of reasoning, joined the ‘Marxists Discussion Group’, and it is shockingly and alarmingly stupid.

My bad, really. I should have considered the name more closely, though it’s possible to misread it no matter what. Instead of an engagement with the thought and writings of Marx, it is an engagement with the thought and writings of people who identify as Marxists, and we’re not talking about contemporary theorists, who may or may not be dumb. We’re talking about the unsavory characters, like Stalin, Mao, Lenin and so on.

Participants have very weird questions which almost always devolve into arguments about the merits of autocratic socialist regimes. Someone will begin a thread by asking something painfully stupid, like ‘In a country where commodities are abundant is it necessary to have a dictatorship of the proletariat?’ (which is like asking what the right saddle for a pegasus is, but with more violence implied) which will somehow devolve even further into an argument about whether the deaths attributed to Stalin are propaganda or not. This is a baffling argument. If Hitler only killed half of the people attributed to the holocaust it doesn’t really change anything, except people will know with certainty that you are dangerous and should not be asked to take care of their pets when they go away for the weekend.

Initially I was just trolling, and then I realized that most of these people were impervious to mockery, which they might have trained for or they might just naturally be gifted with. Either way, lucky them. Even if the fantasy you live in involves eating white fish and making people dig their own graves, it still provides you with scaffolding for your internal world.

I see parallels between this and the Larouchians on the side of the road.

Lyndon Larouche was a fucking lunatic. And a predator. I accuse people of rank madness all the time so maybe it loses its impact, but really, I’m not crying wolf. With any cult leader it’s hard to separate out beliefs expressed that allow them to maintain power and beliefs expressed that were actual beliefs. If you’ve seen Wild, Wild Country his movement works along the same lines except without any promise of spiritual ascendance. Followers would turn over all of their money to the organization, be encouraged to engage in campaigns of harassment and direct violence against political opponents, and would undergo ‘therapy’ with Larouche intended to ‘destroy their egos’ (which always seems to be a theft- the cult leader holds onto the ego, no matter how shattered).

As well, there were always shadowy enemies waiting to kill Larouche, which provides a convenient way of creating a group identity. If the Queen of England (who is an international drug kingpin) is trying to have your leader assassinated then shit, you must be on to something.

This is not to say that assassinations of figures on the left weren’t occurring at the time, but rather that it’s relatively implausible that Henry Kissinger, Queen Elizabeth, the Communist Party USA and Nelson Rockefeller were the ones planning the assassination. Grand conspiracies are attractive to people who really want to believe something and don’t care if that thing is stupid.

The current iteration of the movement, operating mostly out of a political action committee, somehow survived the death of Larouche at the regrettably old age of 97, and has pulled hard right. They promulgate the common right wing conspiracies regarding election fraud in the 2020 election, as well as hewing to the line that Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists infiltrated and led the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2020. This is an odd place for an organization that began in the New Left of the 1960’s to end up, but then again, maybe not. They appear to mostly parasitize existing movements, drawing in the most deluded and sucking money out of them.

Their PAC is fascinating, and if you go to their website you can watch a woman who looks like Droopy Dog at an arraignment for possession of child pornography talk about pretty much the same shit that you can hear if you watch Tucker Carlson. But don’t click on their ‘contact’ link, because they download a file onto your computer. Fucking creeps.

Do I have a point to make? Perhaps it’s just that people are desperate for some kind of all-encompassing ideology that prescribes a concrete plan of action that will provide them with a path out of a present that is confusing and scary. Also, maybe it’s the case that people that are hateful are easily enlisted in histories that justify violence on a massive scale. Or, maybe it’s that people are dumb and they feel relieved when someone tells them what to do.

Whatever the case, dinosaurs roam the political landscape.

Cannabis and ‘The Fear’

For a long time I did no drugs, and then for no particular reason I started smoking weed and didn’t stop for about seven years. A family could have built a comfortable and aromatic house with the amount of weed I smoked.

At a certain point I developed a reaction to the substance that enthusiasts call “The Fear”. This is a sense of dread particular to cannabis smoking, in which a person is plagued by anxiety and terror. For me it has two distinct elements.

The first is that I become convinced that I have not so much gotten high as I have inaugurated an episode of drug induced psychosis that will persist for years. Cannabis people don’t usually like to hear that their drug can, for some, have serious mental health effects, but in a year and a half of working as a patient advocate at a large mental hospital I met several people who attributed their experience of psychosis to their first encounter with cannabis.

Mental health crises are many splendored things. It’s hard to get to the root of precipitating causes, but I think it’s important to center the sufferers experience. So, if they feel that smoking weed set the wheels in motion of the ruination of their life, it’s callous and uninteresting to ignore their assessment.

The second of these elements, and perhaps this is restricted to my experience, consists of a deep fear that my body will begin to operate autonomously of my will, and that it will do things that I abhor. It will become violent and I’ll be in the viewing room just watching a terrible thing happen and that this will ultimately be my fault.

Neither of these ever come to pass, but it’s a remarkably bad time.

Despite this, whenever I’m in too much proximity, I decide that all prior experience isn’t necessarily all future experience, which is a belief that is at once true and stupid. My efforts to dunk basketballs from over the rim have all ended in failure, and while some quirk of gravity might let me succeed at it tomorrow it’s not likely to happen.

All of this is to say that I was around a lot of cannabis in a permissive environment recently and I tried, once again, to dunk that ball. Predictably, I got paralyzed by anxiety, and in this state of anxiety I had an interesting reconciliation with cannabis.

One of the things I like about the drug is that I have a lot of ideas while under the influence. Some of them are stupid, some of them are interesting, and some are both stupid and interesting. Nonetheless, they seem cool.
I have been taking intranasal ketamine and esketamine for over a year. I have started narrating the experiences, in situ, and recording this narration. Originally I wanted to keep track of the sequence of different motifs and identify at which points did new stylizations of image emerge.

This has been a very striking instance of an attempt at measurement leading to a radical change in the phenomenon under consideration. My experiences very rapidly shifted from being rather dark and upsetting to being lucid and useful. As a drug person, this has been a validation of the ‘set and setting’ maxim. While the setting remains full of the sounds of typing, blood pressure cuffs inflating, and the rapid fire rapping of transcranial magnetic stimulation, the set is much different: I’m there to learn and I do.

So, in the middle of a panicked weed high I pulled myself towards paper and a pen and started writing. Not like I was creating a narrative, but in terms of putting all the odd thoughts on paper and fleshing them out. This did two wonderful things: It pulled me out of the punishing anxiety I had inflicted upon myself and it resulted in a bunch of neat ideas preserved for posterity.

But the most important realization was a clarification of the nature of cannabis as it relates to my brain.

I don’t like it anymore, which is a thing I always forget, and knowing myself, will always forget. But, the insertion of documentation into the experience moderates it. For me, cannabis has become a powerful but unpleasant psychedelic that I can consume with the knowledge that 1) I’m probably going to feel like shit and 2) that it’s extremely helpful in regard to creative difficulties.

In my weird conceptualization of drugs as distinct personages that express their agency in the gross folds of the human brain I think this establishes a respectful footing. It takes the drug from a flippant thing undertaken for pleasure (which it is for a great many people and that’s great) to a respectful experiencing of a novel intelligence.