The Hood, the Had, and the Fugly

All human systems are enormous trash fires. Every single one, no matter how pretty it looked from the outside, or how enchanting those first gossamer months were, will eventually prove to be a goddamn disasterpants clusterfuck. Your company, your organization, your church, your campaign, your band, your political movement, your city, your dinner party, your revolution: At some point, you’ll look up, notice everything around you has been torched, and say to yourself, “Holy shit, this place is an enormous fucking trash fire.”

~ Lane Becker


It seems that every blog old enough eventually titles a post after the spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood. This blog is approaching the age of 10 years. I’m a tad too creative to directly steal the film’s title. Sadly, you’re left with this poor rendition.

Becker’s rant certainly applies to every institution I’ve known. From U.S. public schools to the academy, from the non-profit industrial complex to the commentariat in this space, Becker nailed it. Becker blames human systems, although I suspect blaming human systems within civilization is more accurate. It is within the latter systems that sociopathy rises to the fore and rots to the core.

My neighborhood — the ‘hood — ranged from public indoctrination facilities to the academy, with a dose of the non-profit industrial complex in the form of a brief stint with The Nature Conservancy. It was a stunningly privileged life. To call it good would be an understatement of epic proportions.

We’ve all experienced the Had. We’ve all been had. As Mark Twain never wrote, “it’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled” (the line is frequently, and apparently incorrectly, attributed to Twain). We’ve been had by every trash fire on Earth, from the public schools to the governments. Most people prefer to be kept in the dark, opting for willful ignorance after a lifetime of well-crafted dumbing down.

I’m no exception. I’ve been had repeatedly. I’m considerably more guarded now. Call me a cynic, in the spirit of George Carlin’s disappointed idealist, and I’ll be honored. It’s certainly better than being had even further.

There is an exception. Paradoxically, I appreciate being had by the United States government. Whereas I was perceived as a threat when I promoted and modeled classroom anarchism, apparently I’m now viewed as a resource to be tapped by relevant intelligence agencies. The pay is terrible, but it’s nice to be wanted. Validation is ironically satisfying.

Of course the ongoing trash fire is bad. It’s part of industrial civilization, so it’s necessarily a “goddamn disasterpants clusterfuck.” But as bad goes, the inferno could be worse. And soon it will be. At that point, I’ll wish it were bad.

It’s really fucking ugly. With this brief essay I can only scratch the surface of the horrors I’ve encountered. And I’ve led a privileged life. I can’t even imagine how terrible the situation is for billions of people on Earth. I suspect the typical reader shares this experiential ignorance with me.

I’m often told I wouldn’t reach the conclusions I’ve reached were I still in Tucson. I disagree. I’ve pursued radicalism a long time, and I was punished for the pursuit throughout my tenure on campus. I was surveilled by the U.S. police state no later than 1996, long before I left active service from university life. And contrary to the hopes and wishful dreams of the typical privileged person who’s come across my work, I’m not an insane fool.

There’s a reason I was surveilled by the Deep State: I knew how utterly fugly the situation had become. In pointing out the obvious, irrefutable horrors of imperialism, I was revealing the enormous trashfire for the inferno it was. And, for that matter, still is.

Few mention the unspeakable because the relevant topics are taboo. Despite the culture in which you’re embedded, you know. You know because you can’t look away. And once you’ve seen it, to quote Arundhati Roy, you can’t unsee it. That’s why you’re here. You might be haunted, as I trust you are, but you still know.