Blow'd Up Real Good (Part One)
The atrocities over there, the interior paralysis over here -
Pleased with the better deal?
You are clamped down.
You are being bred for pain. - Leonard Cohen, "S.O.S. 1995"
Situation Serious, But Not Too Serious
"That's not the way the world really works anymore," so goes one of the signature quotes of our time, which doesn't much seem like our time. "We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality." But I don't know anymore what is meant by that way, and if the world ever worked like it.
Of course it was shocking, and shockingly true (and shockingly relevant, given the current pre-war show with Iran), but empires aren't alone in reality creation. We do it all the time, or we should, if we take ownership over the life of our minds. If we don't, then we're as good as "owned" in the Fortean sense of property, and pwn'd in the cyber slang of having our asses hacked and handed to us in an attachment.
Sometimes - perhaps most of the time in America and its decadent outposts - our reality is little more than a lifestyle choice. Opposition to empire amounts to which news network you watch, taking conspiratainment in a nightclub routine, and couch-dissenting with court jesters like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
In last week's interview with Bolivia's Evo Morales, Stewart wisecracked that in America elections were "a little rigged," to laughter, as if the joking acknowledgment of an historic tragedy were a revolutionary act. Morales' reality isn't satisfied by a punchline, and so he replied, though most guests likely wouldn't have imagined to thoughtfully follow-up on the quip. "So, if it's rigged," he said, to cheers and applause and Stewart's dumbfoundedness, "something needs to be done to change that."
Jeremy Thorpe, then leader of Britain's Liberal Party, was on trial in 1979 for conspiracy to murder his former gay lover, whose allegations of their affair was tarnishing Thorpe's career. The presiding justice was roundly castigated for his Old Boy bias, and was almost instantly immortalized in Peter Cook's satire "Entirely a Matter for You," which ends with the instruction to the jury, "you are now to retire, carefully to consider your verdict of 'Not Guilty.'" In this documentary clip, Terry Jones says of the Thorpe sketch "it still seems relevant, in the wake of the Hutton Report."
Yes it does. But here's the problem: jokes notwithstanding, Jeremy Thorpe was still found innocent, David Kelly is still dead, and presidential elections are still rigged. So maybe laughter isn't the best medicine to cure our world of empire.
In other places, the realities people choose can save them, kill them or free them, and sometimes all of the above. If you're a Buddhist monk, your excommunication of the "pitiless soldier kings" of Burma and their families may be a deadlier weapon than the one which may end your incarnation.
Freelance author Paulette Cooper was born into one hell of a reality, in Auschwitz, to parents who didn't survive the camp. In 1971 her first book was published, entitled The Scandal of Scientology, and included an interview with the disaffected L Ron Hubbard Jr, which revealed for the first time to a general readership the relation of Hubbard Sr to Aleister Crowley, and of Scientology to the occult. The Church had already sued Cooper for an article she'd written that appeared in London's Queen Magazine in December, 1969, which was also the month she received her first death threat, so of course they sued again. And neither did it end there.
Cooper found herself frequently followed, and multiple attempts were made to break into her apartment. Her phone was found to be tapped, and calls were often obscene and menacing. Anonymous hate mail piled up. She soon felt compelled to move to a residence with higher security, and her cousin Joy took over her apartment. Soon after, Joy opened the door to an unexpected delivery of flowers, and the deliveryman "unwrapped the flowers and there was a gun in it," Paulette told a Clearwater City Council hearing on Scientology in 1981:
And he took out the gun and he put it at Joy's temple and he cocked the gun, and we don't know whether it misfired, whether it was empty and it was a scare technique, what happened, but somehow, the gun did not go off. And he started choking her, and she was able to break away and she started to scream. And the person ran away.
And so she called a detective and he said, "It's a very wild attack because there doesn't seem to be any motive for it." There was no attempted rape, there was no attempted robbery, and why should somebody just suddenly try to kill her....
Then things got crazy.
About a week or two later at my apartment, I received a visit from the FBI. And they informed me that the public relations person from Scientology had claimed that she had received a couple of bomb threats and asked -- and had named me as somebody likely to send bomb threats.
Cooper didn't take the accusation very seriously, and consented to be fingerprinted. On May 19, 1973, she was indicted on three counts of sending bomb threats through the mail. (This is one of the letters.) And it came to that because, although she testified before a grand jury she had never before seen the letters, somehow, her fingerprints were found on them. ("I felt like a grand piano had just hit me on the head. I -- I fainted sitting up; the whole room just turned upside down and I didn't know what to do. And the, of course, the lawyers wanted more money.")
It wasn't until 1977 that the FBI, by its seizure of Scientology documents, learned that the Church had entirely forged the bomb threats to discredit its critic, and had crafted a project called "Operation Freakout" to either drive Cooper to suicide or a mental institution. Part of the plan consisted of a Scientology volunteer impersonating Cooper and making verbal threats towards the President and Henry Kissinger, and a second volunteer reporting them. Another named Jerry Levin moved into Cooper's building and befriended her during her darkest months, and reported back to the Church such things as "She can't sleep again...she's talking suicide. Wouldn't this be great for Scientology!"
Cooper very nearly lost her reality, because Scientology's reach was not exceeded by its means and intent to destroy it. And if we indwell our philosophies and make them our life rather than our lifestyle, we may evoke the same order of determined forces and find similar life and death consequence. If not, then we're more likely to merely freak ourselves out by paranoid invocation and commend ourselves as "info guerrillas."
A hard choice. But property doesn't have to choose.