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  Aug. 31, 2015






This may seem a strange place to add this next but then, I don't need to account for my placement of information and insight--we just put it where we have space.

This is going to be Chapter 3 of Gerry Spence's book FROM FREEDOM TO SLAVERY.



The sides of the grave are lined with blankets of that stiff artificial green, green grass undertakers use to hide the sight of hard earth, of grass roots and tree roots chopped through by the gravedigger's shovel. The green grass blankets distract the mourners from the cold fact that the body will be lowered into six feet of dirt and gravel, that it would be buried--buried and at last forgotten.

Inside the coffin the smell of the undertaker's cheap perfume covers the acerbic odor of formaldehyde. Although the corpse does not breathe, although its heart is still and stiff, the blood coagulated in its veins, the arteries collapsed and sunken, although the long, stainless-steel trocar has been inserted into the stomach and the contents sucked out and replaced with chemicals, still the corpse does not know that it is dead.

At the funeral parlor the corpse had put on quite a show. Shortly after the organist had begun playing "The Requiem", the corpse suddenly rose up from the satin and opened its eyes. What it saw cannot be known, for the corneas were wrinkled and the eyes dull and empty. Although the jaws had been wired shut so as not to permit the mouth to sag open, the corpse then began to emit long, flat sobs through its clenched teeth.

"Do not shut the lid," the corpse cried. "I do not want to die".

"But you are already dead", the attendant replied politely.

"How can I be dead"? the corpse cried back. "I have never lived".

"Of course you have lived. And your time has come. Now be nice. Don't cause trouble. Let us shut the lid".

Then the corpse began to ululate (howl)--an endless, breathless wail as if a thief had entered its body and the alarm had sounded. And to stop the horrid noise, the attendants rushed up and slammed down the lid. Even then, the muffled screams escaped through the pores of the coffin. The lead attendant turned to the mourners and smiled a sad but reassuring smile.

"Don't be concerned," he said. "We often encounter deceaseds who are unwilling to accept the fact that they are dead. It happens all the time. We apologize for the disturbance. But once we get them buried, it will be all right. In fact, that is why the dead are buried". He gave another tiny, mirthless smile and then quickly joined the attendants, who lost no time in rolling the coffin out of the room and into the waiting hearse.

More chilling is the scene we observe every day--the breathing dead who believe they are alive. Year after year these breathing dead get up at the same time every morning on the same side of bed, trudge to the same kitchen, swallow the same brand of bacon and style of eggs for breakfast, drive the same route to work, and wearily enter the same door of employment where automatically they punch the same time clock and perform, like machines, the same mindless task until the same bell goes off at five o'clock. Then by rote they return home in order to open the same brand of beer, and to watch the news on television that informs them of the same murders and violence, which are balanced against the same insipid sitcoms evoking the same canned laughter. Ha. Ha.

The breathing dead emulate machines. Their work is mechanical. They relate more to the simulated life on television than to their own species. It's safer to love the electronic image, safer to engage a nonbeing. Moreover, the control of their television sets provides a power they do not possess in life, the power of the thumb that clicks from electronic life to electronic life and the power to extinguish such life at will. The bargain seems fair. By relinquishing their own lives, which can be petty, puny, and powerless, they acquire a nonlife over which they can exercise complete and final power.

I would rather visit with the corpse than exist with the breathing dead, with those who have never considered a new idea, who worship the same God and vote the same party of their fathers, whose friends believe the same, act the same, look the same, and say the same things that they say. I would find a conversation with a corpse more engaging than one with the breathing dead, whose next words are as predictable as the liturgy of the priest and who, on pain of death, cannot recall the last book they read. All creativity is dead. All discovery is dead. Feeling is dead. Yet, as we observe, they breathe.

Mankind strikes an unholy bargain at birth. The contract reads: "Give me life and I will agree to death." The first freedom, therefore, is the freedom to live in the face of the fear of living and the terror of dying. But such freedom extracts a severe price. The price is pain, the pain of fear--fear of failure, of rejection, fear of abandonment, of loss and of sorrow, and the terror of death. We awaken to find ourselves trapped on a boat floating down an unchartered river with its horrible falls at the end. We possess no map to tell us where we shall face the falls. But we know the falls are there. We know no one ever survives the trip. We are afraid. Yet we cannot get off the river. We can only, moment by moment, attempt to avoid its treacherous rapids, its hazardous back currents, and despite the river's exquisite beauty and its placid bends, often we fail to enjoy the trip, for we know, just ahead, perhaps around the next bend, we shall face the falls, the horrible falls.

Life is the invisible trap. And the invisible tyrant is fear. To many, escape is death. Living death. The trap of the breathing dead is worse than the trap of the coyote whose foot is caught in steel jaws, for the coyote can escape. He need only chew off his foot. But the trap that ensnares the breathing dead tortures beyond endurance, because the trap cannot be seen or touched or even understood. Such traps have no measurable dimensions. When the breathing dead cry out that they are trapped, they are assured that all they need do is work harder, be smarter, compete harder, make more money, and they will, at last, be freed. [H: And, as with John Schroepfer (and there are billions of "John Schroepfers") there is FORCE to keep you DEAD and confined within the coffin of another's choosing--of another--even more DEAD!]

Who are these breathing dead? The farmer can be trapped on the farm, trapped by the mortgage that renders him the slave of the banks. The housewife can be trapped behind lifeless, monotonous walls, reduced to slavery to husband and offspring and repressive community mores.

The poet, trapped by anonymity, the small-town artist trapped in obscurity, the parent trapped in mindless labor, the child trapped in ignorance and stifled in the great negative mind mill--all can die in their traps before they have lived.

For all creatures who are caught in traps, a sense of hopelessness prevails. At the workplace the breathing dead are not heard, not acknowledged. They are digits on the balance sheet, and digits are dead. Despite what they think, what they say, what they do, or how hard they work, they remain digits. Their protests are like screaming into the void. At the polls they are digits as well, for no matter whom they vote for, nothing changes. They cannot be freed. At last the trap becomes synonymous with life.

But the state of nonbeing in being becomes the supreme pain, for eventually it embodies the realization that one has been cheated of his bargain. The breathing dead witness the murder of themselves. The breathing dead live within their own corpses, a horror beyond description, a horror that bears the agony of both murderer and victim and suffers the indescribable pain of the last rejection, of the self against the self.

Alcohol becomes the palliative of choice for the breathing dead. Beer is associated with happiness and is subliminally marketed in place of friendship, as a substitute for love, for sex, especially sex, so that those who thereby escape life through the brown-bottled bubbles are delivered a replacement for genuine joy, and by dulling the senses are delivered a certain quantum of pseudo death. It provides an escape from what appear to be the inescapable traps of life. But the escape is not into the experience of life but the experience of nonlife. So, too, with drugs.

The deadly consequences of food, the most widely abused substance of the breathing dead, are visible in the bloated bodies of the masses and reflect a nation of the entrapped. For centuries we have herded geese into tight pens, held them immobile, and by use of specially devised rods, stuffed rich grains down their helpless gullets until their bellies bloated and their livers swelled, after which we pulverized the livers to produce a delicacy called pâté. In the same way we force-feed geese, the breathing dead force-feed themselves and their children until their guts are distended and their limbs made heavy and stiff like the dead.

Yet many do not so easily succumb. Many strike out in desperate fury. Many strike at anything and everything. They abuse those closest to them, their wives, their children, their subordinates. If they are employers they abuse their workers. If they are police officers they abuse the weaker citizens. If they are judges they exercise their power not in furtherance of justice, but in response to anger, abusing the lawyers who practice before them and the accuseds who plead for mercy.

Hawking substitutions for living has become a massively profitable megabusiness in America. We are provided a love affair with Murphy Brown in order that the sponsor's goods may be subliminally sold in the process. At the same time, we are sold sports cars for sexual potency, shaving lotion for sexual appeal, and shampoo for beauty. Spectator sports provide a substitute for our involvement with our own bodies. Pornography provides an alternative for living relationships, and the pornographic experience mimics necrophilia, since the coupling is with nonliving images in nonliving pages on nonliving screens.

Any commodity that separates people from their lives is in great demand. Television removes the audience from reality. There the mind is redesigned by the electronic god that teaches false wisdoms--that human worth is measured by the amount of money each possesses, that human fulfillment is measured by the numbers of dead objects, gadgets, and things money can buy, most of which are manufactured by the breathing dead themselves in hideous places, called factories, where the breathing dead labor with the same low groans and monotonous motions of the machinery. At last, the breathing dead sell their lives an hour at a time to acquire the means by which to buy the stuff of their living death, and when the breathing dead are worn out, like the machinery they mimic, they are written off, cast out, and replaced.

The offspring of the breathing dead are also trapped. Taught by the dead, they learn to say no, not just to life, to say no, not yes, to self-expression and exploration. At school, "good" becomes synonymous with "dead". At school most children are not permitted to laugh out loud or cry or make a commotion because, too often, dead teachers despise any expression of life.

The children's primary experiences, those experiences by which they will make their life's choices and establish their life's values, are not related to clear fishing streams meandering through pristine woods, but to the blood and death and emptiness of life they experience on television. Mindless encounters on the screen waste their lives and dribble away their opportunity for growth. They are forbidden to explore their feelings, for feelings are too dangerous. Their language is not the language of poets but the lexicon of computers. Their heroes are machines and robots and those who emulate the same. They relate more to machines than to peers--to video contraptions that suck in quarters and simulate killing, to driving machines that suck in vast quantities of fuel and carry them endlessly up and down the same streets in a compulsive search for Lord knows what, and to sound machines that in quadruple stereo and exploding subwoofers destroy the ears and deaden the senses.

As are their parents, the offspring of the breathing dead are trapped in the decaying concrete bowels of the cities. The species is not genetically engineered to live where metal machines belch and blow in concrete canyons and fill the air with gases that smart in the lungs, and where the eyes are hurt by the sight of buildings protruding upward like angry stakes. There these concrete children, like rats stacked three deep in a concrete shoe box, begin to strike out. They hurl themselves against the walls, but they cannot escape. At last, desperate to escape, the concrete children can only break out through their fragile selves. Like the coyote in the trap they begin to gnaw on themselves. Crack! Cocaine! Violence! Escape is everything. Freedom is everything. In their madness the concrete children attack their neighbors. The regime calls it crime. But it is only the concrete children searching for freedom.

In a vicious, ever-widening cycle that will surely destroy us, the regime punishes the children by imprisoning them in even smaller, viler boxes of concrete called penitentiaries. We witness a true revolution. It is a revolution against the dead, the living dead. It is a revolution being waged against a dead regime--dead, for its core is composed of a conglomerate of dead corporate and governmental bureaucracies. Included in the regime are those who have become attached to the core, its obsequious functionaries, its glazed-eyed human cogs, it mobs of nodding minions, the endless captured hordes who suck their sustenance from the back of the nonliving beast.

Worse than the living dead, the regime has never taken a breath, never taken a first step or felt a fly on its nose. These bureaucracies are symbiotic and are so similarly structured that if one were to petition the board of directors of General Motors and the governing authority of the Department of Transportation, the responses would be disturbingly similar. What is lacking is the sense that anyone or anything alive--with intelligence--abides within, that there are any living responses buried in any of the vast machinery. The decisions made by the regime could as well have been made by the attendant at the corner Exxon gas station as by the chief executive officer of the same corporation, for the decisions are made by "the book", and the book, of course, is dead. But if "the book" is followed, no one can criticize the decision maker, who in the end makes no decisions at all. Machinery, of course, does not care. Machinery does not think. It does not create. Like an enormous malignant glacier, the regime blankets the Earth, consumes the landscape, and leaves its ugly, fatal debris as evidence of its irresistible force.

A dead regime fears its living subjects, for the dead cannot control the living. Only religions have such power. But when the living become the living dead, the equation is placed in balance, for, indeed, the dead can control the dead. Thus freed, the regime may pursue its purpose, namely, to convert all that is living to the dead, to convert clear skies to poisonous dead skies, pristine forests to dead clear-cuts, sparkling rivers and emerald oceans to deadly ooze and toxic silt. When the equation is in balance, the regime can tear down mountains and cut down forest and rip up prairies, transform that which was once of bud and bloom into trainloads of cement, shiploads of lumber, megatons of plutonium, and endless horizons of automobiles and trinkets and junk. The regime characterizes its action as "progress". But the regime's progress is its malignant magic--to transform all that breathes, all that grows, all that is green into dead green--dead green money.

In its insatiable quest for dead green, the regime has punctured the ozone and left the outer layer limp and gaping like a blown-out tire. On a typical day the power regime will destroy 116 square miles of rain forest, about an acre a second. Another 72 square miles will be lost to encroaching deserts. Every day the regime will witness the loss of 40 to 100 species, each of which has been "a pilgrim of four billion years of evolution", and no one seems to know whether it is 40 or 100. Every day the human population will increase by 250,000. Every day the regime will burden the Earth's atmosphere with an additional 2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons and 15 million tons of carbon. Tonight the Earth will have become a little hotter, its waters a bit more acid. By the end of the year the total loss of rain forest will be equal to an area the size of the state of Washington and the expanding deserts will equal an area the size of the state of West Virginia. The Earth's human pollution will have risen by more than 90 million. By the year 2000 as many as 20 percent of the life-forms on the planet that were in existence in 1900 will have become extinct.

Fearing the living, the dead regime seeks to confine the concrete children in concrete. But the regime cannot build enough prisons. In the great cities, cities too bombed and broken to fix, the masses swarm. There a bursting discontent, a swelling anxiety, maddens the alienated hordes. Anger is as thick in the air as the heavy, noxious gases. The people breathe in angers and spew it out. They no longer kill each other out of hate. They kill each other because life has been reduced, life is nothing--theirs or their neighbors'--and therefore killing is nothing. Killing has become a non-act.

The concrete boxes in which the children are imprisoned will explode. Already the explosions have begun in Detroit and Los Angeles and in murderous prison riots across the land. They will explode again and again until those trapped within are freed. Nothing can stop the revolution. It is not driven by ideas about good or evil. It does not bow to political axioms, to economic religions, to Marx, or Christ, or money. It is a revolution at the nucleus of being that seeks to free mankind. The genes, in their irrepressible search for life, control. Like a weed chopped down and then chopped again, life continues to force its way upward. Yet for weed and man alike life is painful.

In the cities, where the concrete children terrorize us and themselves, we observe the species now reverted to its raw state of predator and prey. But it is a living predator against a living prey. The dead regime cannot say as much. Under its power the dead consume the living. In the cities the concrete children are both the hunters and the hunted. Despite their envelopment in this desperate meaninglessness, only the living can eventually care for the living. Once more the dead regime cannot say as much, for under its power the living are and always will be but lifeless expendables. In the concrete jungle life is vibrant, pulsing, grimy, painful and dangerous. FEAR is the predominant human experience, but the concrete children experience a life that denounces living death even more than death itself.

As the great cities collapse, the children, without choice, without plan, without direction or purpose, will flee. In the same way that an antebellum population migrated from the cotton fields and the plantations of the South to the northern cities in search of freedom, so too the species will return to the countryside still in search of freedom. Small villages will again prosper. Once more families will know each other. Neighbors will become as tribal members and will again care for each other. There, as with primitive man, the issue will not be death, but life.

Already the inevitable drift from the cities has begun. Millions wishing to escape the war zones have retreated to smaller towns and to the beckoning countryside. The affluent have led the way. It is easier for them. A New York investment banker moves his office to Jackson, Wyoming, and stays attached to the urban body by the umbilical cords of telephone, fax, and modem. A builder abandons his business in Los Angeles and begins anew as a carpenter in Missoula, Montana. A teacher retreats from the rat race and crime in New Jersey and opens an eight-stool diner in Orem, Utah.

The bridge from death to life is built on two tracks. One is the awareness that life is there to live. That life is. The other is the courage to live it--to feel fear, to accept pain, to set the fear of dying against the joy of living. Once life has been slightly perceived, once vaguely experienced, all the boxes, all the concrete, cannot extinguish man's quest for it. That critical, irrepressible yearning, the longing to be free, to be, is at the heart of all that live. The late-blooming bluebell hugs the ground. It grasps the Earth's warmth in order to bloom and seed before the winter's freeze sets in. We are touched by the courage of the tender flower. But freedom is born of courage.

In the end, life demands the same courage for living as it does for dying. Every soul who has occupied space upon the face of the Earth, no matter how fearful of death, at last musters the courage to die. The courage to live and the courage to die are opposite sides of the same hand. Fear and joy are the opposite sides of the same hand. The hand is life and the hand is death. It is the hand of freedom. It is our hand, the hand that at last can spring the invisible trap.

* * *

Where are YOU among the breathing dead?