I was randomly goofing off last night after dinner with a whiskey tumbler full of rum and my Final Fantasy Record Keeper game grinding through an orb dungeon when a friend who some of you know shared this piece with me. I feel compelled to point it out here and then run off down the street on my own little tangent because I don’t want to comment too heavily on it or attempt to summarize out of respect for the piece as is.
As it happens, Kathryn’s blog is the one I mention on my About page as having been instrumental in bringing about this blog’s existence. Maybe one day I’ll get around to adding a blog roll to my rather Spartan (yup, went there) little site someday to give a more proper and permanent link to it and the works of other friends and random Internet-folk I find amusing or interesting. For now, though, just enjoy it, god damn you!
Anyway, while I enjoyed the piece and the focus of it, I’m always looking at the underlying themes in the stuff I read and what drives a story or article and what I can reach my hand into and rip out, turn inside-out, and scatter around like a lunatic painting on the wall with his own feces, a serial killer furnishing his home with lovely human skin lampshades, or an Elder Thing ripping your sanity to shreds by simply intersecting with your reality at a non-Euclidean angle for a moment.
I’m almost certain this means I am irrevocably insane, and entirely certain that doesn’t bother me.
I’m a horror fan. Stephen King’s It was my initiatory rite into the world of adult literature, and reading it at a time when I was crossing that threshold from childhood to young-adulthood – just like the book’s main cast – pretty much shaped the entire course of my literary wanderings from that point on. There was no point in anything else for me. I had no desire to read about knights and princesses, no room for tales of valor and war, and no use for the teen-angst standards of the day.
I needed the fantastic. I craved the weird and the scary. I lived for Halloween when for just one night I could get away with unleashing the horrors King had wrought upon my psyche onto the rest of the world. It was glorious.
Mind you, I wasn’t one of the creepy goth kids. I didn’t wander around in black t-shirts with black metal bands emblazoned on them crying for attention or inflicting my inner demons on everyone else. I didn’t need to. I got all the horror I needed in my life right there on the pages of It, The Shining, Tommyknockers, and Cujo.
Horror fiction was the release valve on all the daily horrors of being a teenage boy in a tiny mid-west town. It was horror, experienced almost exclusively through King and Lovecraft, that taught me man’s most valuable and detrimental qualities are one and the same.
Fear drives us in all things, and I hardly need to go into that particular truth at great length. Fear is an evolutionary advantage that drives not only mankind but every living creature with a brain big enough to process the chemicals necessary to generate fear. Fear tells us, “Hey, moron, run from that thing with blood dripping from its teeth,” and drives us to build shelter against the roaming predators that could snatch our babies in the night and feast on the gloriously soft and un-furred flesh of our awkward bodies.
Even the most innocuous of activities can be tied back to fear in the healthy-for-us sense. We fear starving to death because once upon a time our ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestor starved to death and the surviving members of the species saw how fucking awful, painful, and scary that was and ever since we’ve done whatever we had to to make sure that doesn’t happen to us. It’s lead to some interesting inventions and contrivances along the way.
We fear what others will say about the stretch marks on our asses, or the smell of our various fluids and gases, so we wear pants and bathe – and in doing so prevent frostbite and a wide array of infectious and fungal diseases. Some fear is quite good for you, indeed!
But then there’s the OTHER fear, and I mean that quite literally: Fear of the Other. It’s that fear we have of people and things not like ourselves. Sometimes, if that Other is a slavering monster with bloody fangs and a penchant for human flesh, or a semi-terrestrial entity from the void with tentacles that spread madness with their touch, that fear of The Other is perfectly acceptable and absolutely should be listened to.
More and more in the modern world, though, where flesh-eating monsters are less of a worry than they used to be, fear of The Other is turned on less deserving targets. Constructs of “race” and what that word actually means come to mind as we see most frequently even today, but I wander alone through long nights of weirdness and see other Others moving into the forefront as well.
Take for instance the current trend in cable television programming. Where once channels like History and Discovery were actually about… history, and discoveries, and devoted hours upon hours to documentaries about anything they deemed we might find interesting, now we see an endless string of Shark Weeks capitalizing on our fear of fish with teeth and geologists pretending they know historical truths; preying on our fear of education and common sense.
Capitalizing on an undereducated public, these networks and others have been steadily shifting away from droning documentaries by actual experts in favor of the sensational bullshit of conspiracy theorists and woo-peddlers of all shapes and sizes. We can even expand this into the countless ghost and bigfoot hunting shows which often portray crackpots who spend too much time in the woods as experts in things of entirely unsubstantiated reality.
The Average Joe Jack-off has replaced the serious academic as the leading voice in information dissemination across the dial, and disturbingly they often push an actual agenda of resisting the academic establishment or decrying educated people in specialist fields (like archaeologists, historians, physicists, astronomers, and even mathematicians!) as part of an ever-expanding web of conspiracy set in place to do nothing but lie to the common man about everything under the sun to keep them ignorant of the “truth” about the world around them.
What that truth is, however, depends entirely on the woo-peddler of the week. It could be that the universe is a Matrix-like hologram, it could be that aliens abduct everyone nightly and our dreams are hallucinations put there to keep us from knowing about the probes in our asses and the hybridization of humanity, or it could be that a single group of people (take your pick, it’s either the Illuminati – which was a Bavarian flash-in-the-pan for a decade in the 18th century, the Freemasons, or the Knights Templar these days) runs the entire world and all governments are really their puppets.
Regardless, these heroes-of-the-common-man know the truth, and the truth is that anyone who isn’t them is against them. My favorite right now is Scott Wolter. That guy is dumber than the rocks he’s supposed to be an expert on, but he’s now had two shows on History about his Knights Templar wet dreams that are almost entirely built around the premise that the history we’ve all been taught growing up is a lie. This is declared in the actual title sequence for the show. This geologist will save us from our false history, while conveniently ignoring the fact he’s so bad at geology he once misrepresented a rock he sold as a rare Lake Superior Agate (worth thousands) when it was in fact a Brazil Agate worth significantly less and was sued and found in the wrong and thus demonstrates his own lack of expertise in his own field of expertise; so why the fuck should we trust this guy?
Oh, because he’s on TV and he says academics are liars, that’s why.
This particular fear of The Other plays very specifically to The Other being “anyone who could afford to go to college and was successful in obtaining multiple stages of degrees in their field”. To the audience of under-educated and ill-informed individuals who did not go to college for any number of reasons or perhaps simply lack the resources and skills necessary to discern what is credible information and what is the mad raving of an idiot trying to feel important, the educated and well-informed are an Other of such exceeding strangeness that they must, in fact, be hideous monsters perverting the truth in layers of technical language and a vocabulary that expands beyond two-syllable words.
Witness, too, the case of one Michael Cremo. Cremo has made his living selling the notion that one does not have to go to college at all to be an expert in archeology. In fact, if you listen to a Cremo interview and aren’t entirely put off by the fact the man can’t even get through a sentence in an intelligible manner and has the delivery cadence of a four-year-old pushing a wagon full of rocks uphill you’ll soon learn that he actually claims dropping out of college and choosing instead to blindly accept “wisdom traditions” (in Cremo’s case, Hindu mythology) as an equal path to higher education was a GOOD thing!
Sure, we can argue all day about the accessibility of higher learning institutions to the common man, or we could argue about how woefully unprepared the average high school student really is for such higher learning, or we could go on at length about the rising cost of tuition, but those would be actual arguments about education and educational reform that might have some fucking substance. These bottom-feeders running rampant through the pool are arguing nothing more than “academics are wrong, and professors are protecting the party-line of history for the sake of maintaining their tenure in a world run by the NWO”.
Sometimes I wish the NWO really were in charge. Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash would book themselves more airtime than these morons, and at least the “it’s just entertainment” argument would hold water.
“But Clint,” you ask, “what the fuck does this have to do with the article in question?!”
Probably nothing. But I’m a writer. I see a good prompt and I run with it and fear happens to be on of my favorite subjects.
So! Happy Halloween!
I was going to strap a playing card under my sleeve in my usual stand-by “degenerate gambler” costume, but I think this year I’ll just terrify the masses with a stunning intellect and informed opinions. It seems so much more effective, and doesn’t take near as much preparation as the chainsaw-murderer-with-real-chainsaw costume I did in junior high.