Our Disease 6

 The sheep

”Not my president!”
”He will not divide us!”
”Lock him up!”
”Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here!”
”Love! Not hate! Makes America great!”
They had heard their familiar chants. These were cries for sanity or perhaps for a return of their preferred brand of madness. Madness will always rule this world. This is not the problem. As long as you can handle the narrative of the madness. As long as you can play by the rules or find a way to break them without the madness breaking you. As long as you are able to laugh about the absurdity, you will be okay.
Harry and Stone were among the crowds of people watching the protesters marching in circle in front of city hall. The mayor was an avid supporter of the President and despite the majority absolutely loathing him, the magic of Gerrymandering kept him in power. Some protestors were holding apocalyptic signs and one of them struck a nerve with Harry: ”All of this used to mean something.”
It was an early saturday afternoon, the sun was beaming on all of us, as if encouraging the political unrest. A militarized police force was watching, some even through sniper scoops. They were dressed in body armor, holding massive assault weaponry, as if it was a warzone. That’s the thing about America: it isn’t a warzone but people act like it is and sooner or later, you can’t be surprised if the streets become to look like one.
A few months ago they decided to break up a march which erupted into violence. This has also become a fairly common occurrence in America, from all parts of the world. In fact, the violence was rather mild. Only three people died, all of them were protesters. One was shot dead on the street, another died in the hospital, another in custody (in rather unsurprising peculiar circumstances). A police officer stomped someone’s head and the victim became paralyzed. There were mass protests about this but the president had their back. According to him, they did ”nothing wrong,” and the protesters were just a bunch of thugs.
It was a small march, barely a hundred people. Such protests happens at least once every two weeks, depending on what ridiculous statement the president makes to bolster the fury of identity politics. Despite Harry mostly agreeing with the politics of these protesters, it saddened that none of them realized that this wasn’t going to do any good. As long as the party remains as disorganized and fractured, none of this was going to do any good. A strong leader was needed. Someone that could appeal to the more popular and lucrative anti-establishment sentiment but also someone incorruptible, a true believer. But true believers are in short supply and most of them are too disgusted or disillusioned to even consider politics.
”This must be how God feels,” grinned Stone with a giant blunt in his mouth, ”watching his creations pray to him as if he was ever going to intervene. I’m sure he gets a kick out of every time people thank him for something he didn’t even do.”
”It saddens me,” said a melancholic Harry gulping from a beer bottle.
”That’s because you’re a true believer. If you’re a true believer this hurts, because this used to mean something, this used to be the ultimate form of political dissent and now it has become the complete opposite: it’s engineered so that people aren’t seeing what’s really going on behind the scenes. While they are doing this charade, protesting whatever stupid fucked-up thing the president said, he’s sneaking another through the senate that will diminish the already fleeting democracy.”
He passes the blunt to Harry who takes it mindlessly.
”And let’s be honest here, most of them are also hipster liberals with only a passing interest in the lives of the real people that are suffering in this country- and around the world. They worry more about their colleges remaining as hostile to right-wingers than about the desperation and loss of meaning in the lives of millions of Americans.”
Harry passes the blunt, blows big smoke from his mouth and then takes another chug of beer.
””The consistent losses of elections has also made them more extreme, to the point that the average Joe is looking at two whacked out groups, not knowing who to join. People splintered from both these groups, engineering more political brands of extremism, disrupting whatever unity could be had and in the end, giving more power to the current and glorious president of America.”
Stone passes the blunt and after Harry pulled a big drag, he states: ”I need to get some sleep.”
”You hope to dream of a better world but you know very well, that you will always wake up in this one.”
”Maybe I was thinking of the big sleep.”
Stone looked at him and laughed, ”you think the soul is at peace there? You have no idea what’s waiting for you there old friend.
Suddenly the roar of of different chants could be heard in the distance:
”Hail our America! Hail our people! Hail our victory!”
”They will not divide us!”
”Lock them up!”
”Let’s keep America great!”
then their signature chant: trollollollintrolllllling….
”Oh god, not them,” said Harry while Stone kept smiling.
In the distance they could see a large mass of people dressed in white with black bowler hats with huge white cup supporters.
”Not the fucking droogs.”
There were less of them, though they matched their opponents fury. Many of them were carrying sheeps on a leash who were bleating desperately and wanted to stop walking. They would hit them and kick them and many of them were bleeding badly. The cops were smiling when the Droogs came. Harry suspected that they knew about their arrival.
When they came close enough, an encore of senseless screaming would commence. Both sides screaming their favorite obscenities. The droogs seem to be having the most fun. Many were throwing bananas at them- a racist reference to a previous American president of African-American descent-, putting their trousers, mooning them. Some made loud farting noises. It was a cacophony of madness and Stone was loving every minute of it.
”This could get ugly,” said Harry.
”We could only be so lucky.”
Many people were already leaving, feeling the oncoming of violence. The police seemed pumped but nobody tried to stop them. Perhaps, for many of them, it was more fun to let it escalate.
Harry then turned to Stone, realizing something, ”did you engineer this?”
Stone didn’t say anything but gave him a serious look, if only for a few seconds: ”does it matter?”
As if on cue, the two groups began to charge at each other. Harry turned and walked away. Stone stood there for a while, watching the spectacle. Harry could hear the manic bleating of sheep alongside the screaming of man, the loud screech of microphones and finally bullets. Harry began to ran away.

Forty people were arrested, five people died. None of the sheep made it.

Art by Norman Rockwell



Our Disease 3

    Modern Men

An old friend called Harry around 2 in the morning. Harry only made a sound when he picked up the phone, he was too tired to anything resembling a word.
”It’s me, the enemy of the people.”
”Ah fuck, is that you Stone?”
”Meet me in the Interzone. We have lots to talk about.
”I was living a different live in my dreams. I prefer it than the one I’m actually living. Could we have lunch there at twelve?”
”I’m all wired. There’s no sleep for me and I’m in town. See ya soon old buddy.”
He hung up. At first Harry just closed his eyes again. Soon enough he realized that he would never return to his dream anyway.
”Goddammit. Fine,” mumbled Harry, ”I’ll go.”

It’s hard, maybe impossible, to describe to what kind of clientèle The Interzone markets itself too. At first glance it’s your typical American diner with a nostalgia for the fifties. There’s even a jukebox filled with American songs. But if you would take a closer look you see it is a place in search of an identity. There’s African, Chinese, English, even Russian art on the walls. A Catholic cross hangs on the walls as well as a Jewish star. A confederate flag but it’s painted in the colors of the rainbow. A Gadsen Flag but it’s rattlesnake seems to have a pleading smile and the words below say: ‘Tread on me, but don’t squash me please!’
Sometimes you catch people looking absently minded at the architecture. They stare at a piece of foreign art. Most of the time nobody is paying attention. They are wearing their glasses and the glasses take them to different worlds.
There’s a hint that its fractured dressing is intentional, maybe ironic. But then again, there are more places like this. This place used to mean something, now it doesn’t know what it wants to mean. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything now and maybe that’s the point.
Miguel Stone loves it here. Harry doesn’t.

”You find yourself in the weirdest places and discover that you’re finally home,” said Miguel Stone, smiling, gazing through window to the night illuminated by pink-lights. ”I met so many people that rejected the weirdness of life. Everything has to be plain. By the books. The life they know. The life their parents lived. People like me, however wicked in the eyes of the unimaginative, we accept ourselves and are rewarded by God himself.”
It wasn’t the first time they would meet like this. Stone is all over the world sometimes. You have to make time for him, he won’t make time for you. They haven’t seen each other in almost a year now. Stone always drifts in and out of Harry’s life
Harry doesn’t really understand why he wants to meet him and why Harry always agrees too. They are both completely the opposites. Stone doesn’t have any morals and therefore became a very wealthy man. Harry does alright, there’s still enough money coming in from book sales that Harry can live the rest of his life, doing his podcast. Stone, a lobbyist who runs his own firm, goes all around the world, working for mostly Kremlin backed candidates and doing a helluva job- they don’t even have to falsify the election as much because of his help.
From outward appearance, you could already digest that these two come from very different worlds. Stone was twenty years older, with pearly white hair and teeth and immaculately tailored and colorful suites. Stone doesn’t give a fuck what you think. He knows that most people hate him. Perhaps this even gives him strength. Maybe he even thrives on soft-hearted liberals or morally righteous republicans.
Harry doesn’t care about his appearance. It’s a crummy T-shirt, some faded logo with a checkered shirt to cover it. Stone’s face is bald from his thorough shave in the morning with the straight razor. Harry hasn’t shaved in months. Stone, even at his ripe old age of fifty-five still works out and is in great muscular shape. Harry is sagging all over the place. Harry tries to do the right thing, Stone prides himself of being the villain.
Perhaps it’s Harry’s genuine nature that Stone respects so much. Perhaps it keeps Stone in touch with the common man. Perhaps it’s just Harry’s humanity.

”You look like hammered shit,” smiled Stone smugly, not a hint of concern.
”I was having this beautiful dream when you woke me up,” Harry said, rubbing his eyes.
”Maybe you should thank me for it. That’s the problem with America. People dream too much.”
”You don’t need to dream.”
”I don’t need to dream. I am the dream,” Stone smiled, grabbing cigar paper from his pocket and a cigarette case. ”That’s why I love Russia. People stopped dreaming there long ago. They know themselves. They know the limit of the freedom they can handle. Give them too much freedom and they’ll give it back. Americans are the same. Slowly they’ve been giving away freedoms. Yet they still act as if they are free.”
”And you represent what dream exactly?”
”I am the true face of America. I’m filthy rich and I act like it was due to my god-given talents. I don’t admit that I’m wrong to anybody even if its very obvious. I look beautiful and I sleep with beautiful women. Sometimes even men. I’m a perfectly contended Patrick Bateman but without the bodies in the closet- though who knows,” Stone winks and opens his cigarette case: showing thick green leaves of marijuana.
”It sounds like a nightmare to me.”
”That’s because you’re human.”
”And you’re not?”
”I’m enlightened. I’m a special case.”
”And what am I?”
”You’re a dinosaur. A beautiful dinosaur.”
”Schadenfreude. That’s why you are here.”
”Maybe it’s general affection.”
”Are you even capable of having genuine affection for anyone other than yourself?”
”I don’t know. I like to think so. Maybe I hang around you for nostalgia. Back when people knew who the fuck they were.”
”Before men like you took control of the world.”
”Men like me always did. We just want more this time. Your freedoms aren’t enough. We want your reality.”
Harry sighs and sips his coffee. A part of him enjoys this conversation, no matter how it infuriates him. Stone’s presence validated Harry’s view of the world. In a world where every view seems valid, this was a comforting thing.
”Answer me this, why do I agree to meet you?” Harry asked.
”You don’t have many friends. You lost most of them. You stopped appreciating them. You cling onto the asshole that’s left.”
Harry looks out the window, a man in a torn t-shirt, with faded letters stating ‘make America great again,’ walks by the window, mumbling to himself, waving his hands around. Stone sees him too, he smiles as he reads the rambling bum’s T-shirt.
”I remember Trump when I was a teenager. That’s when the fun started.”
”I just got born then. But I’ve read enough about him.”
”One day we will manage to clone him. Hope I’ll be alive to see that.”
”So how’s the world stage? How is managing democracies?”
Stone laughs and licks his joint shut.
”It’s beautiful chaos. Especially with Oblivion around. They can’t control them. Even the most powerful men are afraid of them. Many of their firewalls have been breached already. It’s great when powerful men are scared. It means they need people like me.”
”I heard you were targeted. You tweeted about it anyway.”
”Yes I was. Some asshole threatened to expose my sexual activities if I didn’t stop lobbying for those Ukrainians. I responded by just admitting it on Twitter. I don’t care if the world knows about it or not. There’s nothing they can blackmail me on. And if they find something, I’ve got enough of them in my employ to spin the story. I can spin everything. We make dictators look like bleeding heart liberals. There is nothing they can do to rattle me.”
”I talked about them on my podcast some time back.”
”I know, I never miss a show. I thought it was hilarious.”
”I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
”I know you weren’t baby. It’s still hilarious to me.”
Stone lights up the fat joint, inhales smoothly, passes it.
”I probably shouldn’t.”
”True, you probably shouldn’t.”
Harry takes the joint and inhales.
”Has the president been targeted to?” said Harry blowing smoke, ”he denies it but that doesn’t mean shit.”
”Tell you the truth I don’t know. I might be friends with him but he doesn’t divulge everything to me. I don’t have that kind of clearance. But I think he is. The way he’s cozying up to the Eastern bloc makes it seem that way.”
”Are you proud for having made him president?”
”It’s not just me. The people voted for him.”
”Did they?”
”Maybe. Does it really matter Harry? He’s president and he will be for another four years if the constitution doesn’t gets changed again.”
Harry passes the joint. Stone looks at the joint proudly.
”I made this shit legal again. I changed the presidents mind on the issue. My finest hour. Don’t ever say I never did anything good in my life.”
”You are a regular fucking saint.”
”How are you Harry?”
Harry sighs, looks out the window. The bum with the ‘Make America Great T-shirt’ is sitting on a bench, laughing heartily about something.
”I’m fine.”
”No you’re not. You’re still sulking.”
”I’m not sure I would call it that.”
”There are probably better words. But the word you should be looking at is ‘moving on.’ She is gone. She left you for someone more hansom and successful. The healthy thing to do is find someone more hansom and successful too. Even if its just to piss her off.”
”I don’t mind being alone.”
”We all mind being alone. Even people like me. Even people who don’t even like people mind being alone. You’re the kind of person that thrives in a relationship. Without one you’re lost. Like you are now.”
”Maybe it’s the world. Maybe it’s just getting to me.”
”That’s why you need a woman in your life. A woman that keeps you grounded. You need a deep connection. I don’t. I just need power. I don’t need to be connected with anyone. I just want to have a good time being around them. That’s enough for me.”
”I don’t know. I don’t feel like I could really connect with someone again. I’ve played the game long enough. Every time I think about it makes me tired.”
”You need to get out of your soundstage and into the world my friend. Write again. I know some connections. You could write some shitty horror movie. You will meet people, fuck around.”
”I don’t want to leave my soundstage. It’s all I have.”
”You know you lost nearly half your listeners after you vehemently opposed the president.”
”I know.”
”Those people don’t care about you. They will stop listening to you the moment you break their reality. Information is a vast market but you care too much. Most people don’t. Either start caring less or do something else. The work will otherwise destroy you.”
Stone passes the joint. Harry takes a deep puff.
”You don’t like my answers Harry,” smiles Stone, ”because you know I’m right.”
Harry doesn’t say anything, he just keeps puffing. He feels his mind going to weird and mysterious places.
”I don’t think I will be able to sleep anytime soon.”
”That’s okay, I’m here.”
Outside, the drunk man with the Trump T-shirt began to cry.
”But I was having a beautiful dream…” Harry came close to the beautiful dream but it kept slipping away.
”It’s better not to dream. Especially in this world…
In my dream I was almost there…

Art by Ralph Steadman