Down With The Virus

I was going to enter this piece into a contest, I couldn’t publish it beforehand, but it doesn’t make sense to not put it out now given the content and theme. I hope people get something out of it, but if they don’t, well, I tried.

There they are. The two anointed “leaders of the free world”. The incumbent with a four-year taste of rule under his belt, the challenger as thirsty for the crown as a desert dog for water. They slug each other with challenge after challenge, rebuttal after rebuttal after re-rebuttal, promise after promise, back and forth with rhetoric so tired that it could cure an insomniac, yet maddening enough that at times you want to kill the television. As I lean back on the couch and watch, I can’t help but pay attention to every little move these two men make. How the president leans on one leg most of the time, the weight which his position holds inflicting a heavy sort of pain, or how he speaks in a staggered, pragmatic way, trying to search for the best… words he can come up with to describe fiscal responsibility. How the governor freezes his face into a semi-constipated squint; knowing that he wants to get the message of “everything is alright if I’m in charge” across, when really his face portrays the message that “I really, really have to shit.” The way both men — because that is all they are at the end of the day, not President or Republican candidate, not Mormon or Christian, not Juris Doctor or CEO, but men – put forth their points of view in a glorified snake-oil salesman type of fashion, makes one wonder if they came from the same school. Oh wait, they did? Sure, a good many people have received degrees from Harvard, it’s just that only two of them are in the race to become king in, ahem, a two-man race. Well, essentially a two-man race. The libertarian candidate from New Mexico is on the ballot – not in the debate, however – but I am afraid it is far too late for enough people to wake up to his ideas. In fact, far too few people have woken up to the fact that there are more than two (what?!) candidates that one can vote for. The fact that the process has always been so dumbed down, yet so simultaneously convoluted, is astonishing. The insult to the American intelligence and systemic status quo which has followed since presidential debates have been televised is nothing if not fascinatingly stupid.

Among all this mental calamity, I see that the two gentleman have traded tie colours from the first debate. A symbolic gesture that always leaves me puzzled. First of all, has any one candidate ever wore a tie not coloured red or blue? It must be a rule that the Committee on Presidential Debates enthusiastically scribbled down in their rulebook. Secondly, if it is a premeditated act, which sure as the sky is (eek!) blue it is, what does this mean for the issues? Does the Democrat act more Republican than normal? The Republican more Democrat? Obviously, they each know where they stand on the issues, but do the people? I fantasize the two men doing a separate coin toss to see which of them will look more buffoonish on this night. Clearly the president picked heads and won. Or maybe they just take the orders from big bank CEO’s, who in many cases play financial backer to both parties, summing up just how bought and sold the whole charade is. Now, I see that I have wasted a large amount of my time on a pageant show; A display of aggressiveness that may very well drive a more sheepish person to the point of cynicism — at least hopefully.

Just before I turn of the madness, I am hit with the ugliest moment of the whole dance: two enormously wealthy Harvard grads, with the emotion and delivery of dueling battle rappers, calling each other out on their respective pension structures. Revolting. Something that could have been reserved for the next alumni social. The governor stiffly moving around the town hall stage struck the first blow; a most certain ‘gotcha’ moment in his inconsiderate, shallow machine of a brain. The president casually scoffing at the subject, maintaining charismatic smiling visage in front of the eyes that have seen things the general public will never be privy to. TV off. Unplugged.

In my absence of nationalism I can recognize and comment on the continual short-changing of the common people under the drape of the stars and stripes. In my absence of humility I feel the license to comment on our neighbors’ social system from a piece of land due north. It is clear we need options. And to fight for those options we need to be active. That is why the empowerment of our digital soapboxes is so important. Through simple use of our pieces of technology — our phones, our computers — we can turn our conversational and intellectual molehills into mountains. The visionaries and prophets of this generation will be harbingers with hash-tags, the Nostradamuses of the network. The voice of the people, which is inherently political, needs to be amplified through a megaphone made of binary code.

Why do I care about this? Well, aside from having family the states, I have increasingly felt, through online interaction with people all over North America, they are all my brothers and sisters. So why wouldn’t I do what I can to help? Especially through something as simple as spreading ideas. Through such ideas, the system is kept in check, and the people can structure and implement a social anti-virus around those thoughts. But it takes people.
I bring this to mind in relation to a concerted effort put forth through the use of humanity’s new friend, social media. This effort, whether conscious or unconscious, is to spread awareness of the corruption and ultimate breakdown of law and social justice emanating from the Western world, as well as eliminate, or at the very least marginalize, this corruption. This is no militant strategy in a physical sense. This is no militia-style coup hell bent on organizing online to overthrow anybody – well, not physically anyway. This is about killing viruses that manifest in our society’s operating system.
I believe that a pertinent phrase here would be: “Kill the body and the head will die.” For if you look at North America on a standard map, through an anatomical filter, well, Canada looks like the head, America is the whole torso, and Mexico is the shaky leg which props up the whole Western being. As hip-hop artist and political activist Immortal Technique put it, “We [Latinos] don’t run America, but we make America run.” Which brings to mind a question: Who does run America? I’m not so sure anymore. In fact, now that I think about it, in my 23, almost 24 years on this planet, I’m not so sure if I’ve ever known. But I do know, based on the evidence put forth, not just on blind prejudice, that America is sick. It has a virus that spreads daily, invades nearly every facet of global life, and rapes a border of the Dominion of Canada for an incredibly wasteful form of oil. While attempting to block the poor, hungry, dirty-clothed men and women of Mexico from entering into the land of the free, the American businessman puts on his best suit, and plays bureaucratic border-jumper to the land north of the 49th. And the worst part is that the decision-makers of Alberta, and Canada as a whole, are not only letting it happen, but being lobbied to encourage it. Could it be that the American virus is too strong? That we attempted to safeguard and barricade our natural resources, but our weak spot had already been tore down in the face of so-called ‘free enterprise’ and the colour of money? Who knows.

All I know is the real freedom lies in the information. An informed public is a dangerous public. Dangerous to all the right, or in this case wrong, kinds of people. The suits who amble around 1600 Pennsylvania avenue all day, and proceed to walk a wicked wobble back to their elaborate shack in Potomac County. Just one manifestation of what happens when this land is given license to consume something rotten. It is clear that The Virus is well established, and while we can’t be sure as to the exact location it was born, we do have evidence that it is holding strong in the District of Columbia area. Developments of a major outgrowth of this sickness have appeared in the quiet tundra of Bluffdale, Utah, where The Virus is building a massive compound aimed at collecting emails, phone messages, video surveillance footage, even computer webcam footage, of its own people. Former NSA executive and mathematician William Binney, who was also regrettably responsible for creating algorithms used in the development of these high surveillance programs, hypothesized that “There is enough space [in this new facility] to store over 100 years worth of personal information.”

This sickening surveillance project is as ominous as it sounds. ‘They’ say that this right-violating program would be used only to collect information, not to view it in real-time, and that doesn’t mean they would use this information to unlawfully punish citizens of their own land. But I’m afraid it is the ‘could’, not the ‘would’, that is important here. This new program, coupled with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is like a mob pushing the so-called dissenters to a new edge that is a mile up from the bottom. This chasm, mind you, was created by the ever-charming, self-contradicting democratic president on New Year’s Eve of 2011, while most people in America and all over the world were breaking into their second case of beer; perhaps the most opportune time for the chief to put down his drink and pick up the pen, effectively stripping away the rights of his brothers and sisters. Taking the power away from ‘we’ and giving it to ‘they’. And now ‘they’ could have an American citizen “indefinitely detained” without trial. So long habeas corpus.

Now that these facts have come to light, the aim has to be to slow this freight train of hard-headed nonsense and arrogance. Alas, it seems we do not have a Superman to work his magic. But the rational sect of humanity, the ones not too far gone – or perhaps further gone – is starting to recognize that their freedom is being run down more and more by each tick of the clock. The efforts of the valiant and the conscious can form a social leviathan so large in stature that it rises above the clouds and squashes that steam engine with a single step. This superhero fantasy is not unattainable, but it is taking – and will take still – more steps to counteract the stagnant, devolved democracy being witnessed.

This is why a ground-up movement, started by the socially conscious, can affect change for our body, our continent’s heart, and make it better. For the grass is only as green as the condition of its roots. And the roots are the people, cleaning our social social soil of viruses sprung from this militarized, industrialized, material mindset. Because, like it or not, this virus has one good quality, and that is its ability to see through borders. So we need to use our humanistic traits, rather than divisive methods that alienate a New Yorker from an Ontarian, or an Albertan from a Texan. We are all people. Let our head communicate with our darkened heart so we can run the right way again. You know and I know that it does not have to be this way. Let The Virus know.


The Big Dance

It was a show that left us both entertained and slightly embarrassed.


In real life and time we were dancing. The soft ripples of hair moved in a wave, following her head whenever and wherever she turned it. It was all in slow motion, or seemed to be. It was all enhanced. Our hands were moulded together, feet moving swiftly with the running rhythm of the bass, my arm wrapped around her side like a vine finishing at her lower back, my fingers were sensors for the comfort of her dress-covered skin. I was smiling at every moment, even when showing no teeth, looking around casually and pretending like what was going on was not magical. Magic: there is a concept worthy of intense examination. Magic, like most anything, requires a performer and an observer. It presents a situation and alters it. The more extravagantly a situation can be altered, the more magical it is. As such, this was not a display of extravagant magic. It was simple as simple could be. It felt energizing, acting as  spiritual nourishment. This feeling was a simple sugar. It sustained the body, but only for the short term. When burned, I would be burned out. But for now, I felt as if we were feeding off of our respective energies. Part of me wanted to believe the whole dance was a dual effort. A huge chunk of me wondered if it even mattered.


Such wonder allowed me to fade back and gaze at the simplicity of it all. Two ants congregating in the atrium of the nest, dehydrating, producing sweat that acted as a lubricant for whatever primal gears were attempting to turn. Social queues were missed, but what kind of unoriginal bastard would I have been to just go through the mechanistic motions of the forgettable routine and not provide my observer with a unique interactive experience? Questions like “what’s your name” and “where are you from” were mere frivolities standing in the stream of consciousness that connected souls; so frivolous that I neglected to ask them. It did come out that she was from Atwood and I was from Fergus. Those names, however, were just that. Labels slapped on a geographical location. As far as I was concerned, she was from Here and I was from Now. And we looked good. Outside of ourselves, one could see how good we looked even in the midst of a moving hive. It was as if a small spotlight was cast onto our bodies. And as we circled and stepped and looked off in the distance, I could see we had at least one observer.


The friend. Our eyes were locked for a moment, and whether she or I was conscious of it was inconsequential. Her look was rigid, but only as much as her soft skin would allow. There was a dispassionate tone coming from her language of body with a hint of desperate romanticism. A moment of eye contact with someone else so intensely seemed to startle her for a millisecond. They became unlocked as I turned with the girl to the music. She was in a semi-cocoon made of me, her head resting gently on my chest. Like all fleeting things, that moment was gone, and I was locked in a distant eye contact again with the friend. She seemed surprised at my frozen line of vision. If complete strangers cannot look each other in the eyes, then there is no hope for them to become anything but. Her level of involvement in this exchange mattered not, because I expected nothing. I started reminding myself of that: Life is not a fairy tale, do not expect anything. A premise that may sound incredibly depressing to someone who feels, and unbelievably freeing to someone who thinks. I, a hybrid, consequently found myself chained in this freedom. But it worked, because anything that happened after that moment was icing on this warm night’s cake.


My mind resided in the depths of an unassuming body of water. My heart bobbed on the surface, dormant until some form of joy hoisted it into the sky like an emotional geyser if only for a fleeting moment. But that is what made it special. If Old Faithful sprouted all day long, there would be little to no speciality to behold. And even if it was originally a sight to be seen, that feeling would fade, the sight would lose its lustre and one would become so jaded as to deny the fact that this was once a great phenomenon.  


And she was gone. Something like a phenomenon. I was on my way off the floor and up the steps to the bathroom, the bar, or the patio. It did not matter. I just wanted to get off the dance floor, so as not to run around like a caged and confused guinea pig and get in the way of something over which I had no control. I had to let the wave wash over, or get out of the way of it. The patio door softly closed after I walked through the vacant doorway; I thought I heard the wave smack into that flimsy piece of balsam wood. The need for a cigarette was apparent.


“Got a light?” I asked as I gestured to my buddy, cigarette loosely dangling from the side of my mouth like a prospector from the thirties.


As I held the small, half-white, half-burnt twig in front of my face, I could feel a slight paralysis that at first felt intoxicating, then gave me a rush of vague shock. It led me to put it out quickly and walk away from the island table. While sauntering my way inside, I joked that I possessed some “giggly cigarettes”, and we would smoke them later. We passed by a cowboy-hat-clad bouncer on the right, face painted with a smug look of naïve disapproval. I slapped a spiteful grin on my visage.


We funnelled back into the civilian jungle.


The girl. I had questions, most of which were basic. “Where did you go?” was the only one I could grasp. Overlooking the dance floor, full of gyrating bodies, I was unable to pinpoint her. Be cool. It was more of a mantra than a conscious order. For now, we walked with a shallow hover over spaces scattered with bustling humans until we fit into a line to the bar, which was too busy. So the ants went marching to the other bar, which was more reasonable. Thank the gods. I was handed a brown bottle of generic ale and led back down the steps by the crew. Head down, I slowly raised it up after my foot hit the last step. And there she was.


“There you are!” I trumpeted then looked around inconspicuously. The music was too loud, thus my stoic cover remained intact. She was leaning on a railing beside the front of the stage; ‘too far away from me’ I though, and I drew closer. She somewhat instinctually rose up to face me. We attempted to chat about school and a career. And just like a couple of thoroughbreds on a track, we were running everywhere and nowhere. Fast. Yet, through the syntactic rigmarole, neither of us seemed phased whatsoever. We just looked and marvelled and flashed smiles and fed off of each other’s momentary joy; perhaps mine was being fed more than hers. I thought this, but it mattered not. And I was assured of this indifference when the band started up once again. I looked up at the bassist’s fingers pushing the melody into existence, and focused back down on the petite figure in front of me. She held her hands out: one readying to rest at my side, the other offered up for me to hold. And we fit. This was the encore. One which I was not consciously looking for, yet one that was ceremoniously welcomed like a Purple Heart soldier coming home. We made our own amusement, created a human merry-go-round and were the only two midway-goers with license to use it. The motion was dizzying, exhilarating, many degrees more thrilling than the steady buzz of alcohol, although I give credit to drink as the catalyst for this carnal ballet.


The song and dance was over, and it wasn’t the same. The witching hour was closing in fast; every little person had to scatter into groups and make decisions regarding social fractals and modes of transport. I was standing indirectly to (out of sight of) the girl, unaffected and seemingly unaware of this drunken rush hour. One more look at this unmistakeably beautiful creature, and her look turned distant, swiftly followed by her body.


“I’m going now!” She mouthed while looking back at me, a friend pulling her away.


I calmly smiled and waved, in a semi-trance as I looked down to my phone for a signal from one of my friends. Seeing no sign, I mockingly stomped up the steps of the half-empty bar to the exit. They were making their way out, and I carved myself into their movement to the warm air of the outdoors. I let it sink in through a deep breath and looked around once. Then again. And I saw her out of the corner of my eye, at the corner of the building. My voice was ready to sing something out, but what was I to say?


I squeaked out something in need of a microphone. Hey, at least I could get by on my falsetto. She scurried across the road to a parking lot and hopped into a burgundy pick up truck; she and her mates driven home by country boys. No chance of running to catch her; was there even a possibility of closure? What type of person would I be to attempt to stick a makeshift bow on this story which took place solely in my mind? This was my journey. A hero’s journey. In the context of an entire life, it was a cog in the wheel of understanding my role in other people’s lives. It seemed like we both served as stockers of our emotional inventories. Maybe we needed a tune up on affection, empathy and understanding, and used social interaction as a training ground for improvement. It mattered. Maybe we could have went on to be plastic characters in some traditionalist matrimony. Maybe she was already spoken for. Maybe she was my temporary hero. Maybe I was hers. It mattered not.


I jogged to the corner and flashed a fleeting wave, saying good-bye to the girl from Atwood.