The idea today was to do a Best of Hell World 2019 post where I would go through and pick out like ten or twenty of my favorite pieces from the past year and then the fucking thing started to get so long I thought uh I better cut this off at some point so I did. Instead this is the Best of Hell World 2019 up through June and I’ll do another post later on that gets to the rest of the year. Not sure if you guys know this but I tend to have problems with impulse control and restraining myself whether that is in terms of editorial decisions or literally everything else in my life.
Some of these will be familiar to you if you are a longtime subscriber but thousands of you weren’t around at the time so it’s all going to be new to you nice people. Some of them appeared in the Hell World book. Some of them are paid-subscriber only so as always if you’d like to be able to read all of my shit you can pay me a reasonable amount of money to do so which seems like a fair deal imo or if you don’t want to I can just go and fuck myself.
Maybe you want to share this newsletter with a friend and this will be a good way to give them an overview I don’t know what to tell you.
In the meantime if you’d like to hear me talking about Hell World and some other matters on this nice podcast you can do so here.
One quick thing I wanted to say before we get to the clip-show is that the conservative media hate Corbyn and Sanders because they are conservatives and the liberal media hate them because they are also conservatives. The fact that almost the entirety of our most prominent so called liberal media are closet conservatives really bothers me and I was trying to figure out why that is and I guess it's part power and money that makes ostensible progressives in media move right (without ever admitting it to themselves) but I also think a lot of them believe that they worked uniquely hard to get to where they are and that type of thinking is anathema to generosity and empathy. If you believe you made it to where you are by hard work alone it necessarily implies that other people aren't working hard enough. There’s a direct line from boot-strap pulling to pulling up ladders behind you.
Another thing I was thinking about is how a trope in addiction thinking and therapy is that addiction doesn't discriminate meaning it can get anyone pauper or prince and that's fine framing for an individual working through their own shit but it's not true systemically at all. Addiction may ultimately ruin a rich person's life too but not in the same way it does the poor. There are so many rungs on the ladder a rich person has to slip down before they get to the exact same place the poor are starting from.
Ok bye that’s all here’s like five billion words of Hell World to choose from for your reading pleasure.
Our slavish devotion to and unwillingness to question American civic religion isn’t just ambient political culture war shit to be clear. It’s actually one of if not the singular reasons why we live in Hell World. When no one including the left can ever be seen questioning our commitment to eternal war lest they be accused of Troop Disrespect then of course vast amounts of wealth will be allocated to them. Not once they come home and need health care of course due to that would be socialism but as long as they’re fighting there is no amount of money we cannot spend on the fighting.
Sometimes I feel like on the day America was founded a single bullet was fired and it’s been circling the country ever since visiting each of us in our homes one by one like a bloodthirsty Santa Claus and it’s hard to outrun it because it moves very fast but not so fast that we don’t see it coming and couldn’t stop it if we all tried.
If we ever end up redesigning the American flag it should probably be a third grader with a bullet hole in her face and then you could have an eagle or something in the background so everyone still thinks we’re tough.
You might as well try to get the average person to care about the wellbeing of elves and fairies because they are as real and tangible as prisoners are to most of us except at least people give magical creatures the benefit of the doubt as to their motives.
When one of your family members is taken from you it is very common to want to see someone punished for it and a lot of times you will take anyone you can get. Sometimes when your life is ruined you want to see another life ruined.
How often for example have you seen the image of a bullet-strewn body in newspapers or on cable news following one of our near weekly mass shootings? What does a schoolchild with a bullet in her head look like? I don’t know do you? Not a white American child in any case I am sure I have seen dead children from elsewhere around the world but that is elsewhere and so there is an additional level of distance both the one installed by the photograph itself and also the chasm of geography and culture that desensitizes my reaction.
How often do you see the coffins of American soldiers coming home from being killed never mind their actual bodies? It wasn’t until 2009 that an eighteen year ban on photographing military coffins was lifted do you remember that? Remember how we were literally not allowed to see the coffins what the fuck.
An important condition of Hell World is for the suffering of others at the hands of the predatory and powerful to become pedestrian and boring in our eyes and then for the same thing to happen in turn to our own struggles. This is just how it is we say.
You know how teenagers and college kids are rip shit and red assed all the time about injustice and people mock them for not knowing how the real world works and not yet having had the submission beaten into them? That is one of the cruelest things we conspire to do to people I think. Rage is unbecoming and immature we teach them and we say grow up and then we saddle them with so much debt that they usually have no other choice but to shut the fuck up and get to work.
Sometimes when you mildly criticize the bloodthirsty American empire people will say shit to you like they’ll go Why don’t you leave if it’s so bad and I dream about that a lot. Everyone probably has a country or two they think about moving to their whole lives maybe starting over or at least being able to see different parts of the world but the vast majority of us don’t and then someday it’s too late.
Sometimes I think maybe staying here is the penance we all deserve. Or maybe America died a long time ago and we’re all living in Hell suffering for the totality of our collective sins?
I read something recently about a guy who had become an atheist but one of the hardest parts about it wasn’t relinquishing the idea of Heaven he said it was coming to grips with the idea that there is no Hell and therefore there will never be any punishment for the powerful. The war profiteers and the war criminals and the rapaciously wealthy who set into motion tragedies like Amiri’s and then conspire to deny people like him any sort of help after they’re done with him will never get what is coming to them and that is hard to grasp.
I used to think when I was a little boy being taught about the lake of fire that the existence of eternal punishment was the scariest thing imaginable but now that I think it doesn’t exist it’s its own kind of existential nightmare.
The problem is that the conditions that led those people to need to become the recipients of charity are not random bad luck they are the baseline reality for vast swaths of Americans living under capitalism and the lack of clothing or medical equipment or sufficient insurance or funds to be able to miss a day or two of work have nothing to do with their individual choices in life or anything like that they are solely because people like the owners of the corporations in question like Home Depot to name one or Amazon to name another have hoarded all of the wealth that we created for them and belongs to us.
I have vague memories of camping out under the stars and it feeling magical and digging holes of various sizes with no particular purpose and rowing boats and shooting arrows and shit like that but the one memory that has stuck with me the most from my entire time as a Boy Scout was my first night ever away at camp. I would have been about twelve or thirteen I guess and I was getting set up in my tent and I was nervous and scared to be away from home and I had to go to the bathroom and so I went out behind my tent and pulled down my dark green cargo shorts and squatted next to a tree and emptied fifteen pounds of turds directly back into my shorts. A marksman archer couldn’t have hit a more direct bullseye. I didn’t even know how to shit in the woods which is literally the first thing our ancient ancestors learned how to do and then once I cleaned up someone told me there was an actual bathroom we could use right over there.
When pain enters the room you have to respect it and hope you don’t catch its eye like it’s a bear you spot just off in the distance in the woods. Don’t make too much noise or any sudden movements or else it will stop what it’s doing and come running at you and maybe if it gets its way it will steal the years from your life and there is nothing you can do about it because who can stop the bear when its comes for you.
The flags look beautiful I have to admit but I don’t know why we make war memorials look good they should look terrible. Each of those flags is supposed to represent a noble spirit ascending to Valhalla or whatever but it’s really 37,000 individual deaths in the wet, wet mud. A war memorial should be a guy with his guts hanging out crying for his mother or a guy without a leg getting denied mental health services at the VA.
Of course of course this story has become just another battleground in the interminable and terminally stupid culture wars where we must all now fall into formation on our predictable sides. No matter what he’s been accused of Gallagher is a troop and one must defend the troops at all costs from the scourge of the cowardly libs who want nothing more than to see our borders overrun by terrorists and such. And so the heinous acts of an alleged war criminal are smoothed over to fit into the context of any other dumb fight we have to go through on social media and cable news. This may as well be about plastic straws. You will find the exact same people taking the exact same sides in either case due to the game is the game but also as an added layer of slime in this one it is true that many if not most Americans simply do not value the lives of the people in the countries we invade. A Muslim life in Iraq does not count and is not real at least when weighed in the balance against an American one and so killing them can’t be murder. Going to jail for killing an Iraqi hardly seems fair.
We all have friends or people we love who exist in all three tenses: past present and future. And we all have friends and loved ones who exist only in the past. You can’t have a friend who exists exclusively in the past and the present however it doesn’t work that way, although I guess you can now that I think of it you just can’t be aware of it at the time. Maybe they’re going to die or leave you in an hour or two and then the future them you had always assumed would be around is taken out of the equation for you. People can do that. They can disappear. They don’t even have to consult with you although it’s generally considered a courtesy to do so.
“My mother had enough. Out of the blue, she filed for divorce. He was crushed, couldn’t understand why, and took comfort in drinking while watching his friends on TV. She is happier than I have ever seen her and he is sad and angry living in the basement of a rented house, still watching “The Five”, Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, etc.”
“Rupert Murdoch ruined my family and my country. If a genie gave me wishes I would hope his private plane crashes into the sea and every single person that works for Fox News gets trapped in the building and burns alive.”
We read and see stories on TV about what it’s like to be at one of these regularly scheduled killing ceremonies but we can’t really understand it because we haven’t been to our own specific mass shooting event yet although I’m sure that time will come for a lot of us at this rate and maybe by then once every single person living in the country has been shot at we might start to make some headway on confronting the American death cult of gun worship. Probably not but maybe!
Sometimes people say shit like I can’t wait for this generation of racist old hateful right wingers to die off and they’ll give an example of some young kids doing something kind and inclusionary and they’ll say those kids will live in a better world but I’m not sure I would bet on that. This shooter was nineteen years old and the one at the church in Charleston was twenty one and the shooter in Parkland was nineteen so I don’t know it seems like they already have their own freshman class of terrible people coming up and they’ll probably be worse than the older ones because they also know how to use the internet.
Sometimes people you know will say they have nothing against immigrants they just don’t like how they broke the law and sometimes people you know will say they don’t deserve any rights anyway because they’re here illegally in the first place. They like to call them illegals for short because it transforms a human being into the literal embodiment of the breakdown of white order. Their very presence among us is a violation.
From the very beginning of this country we’ve tried to do that same sleight of hand. First we convinced ourselves indigenous people didn’t count and we could destroy them at will due to their existence was a threat to white order then we imported hundreds of thousands of black people and convinced ourselves that they weren’t people they were property and then when we couldn’t do that anymore we wrote as many laws as we could that ensured that they could never catch up. Creating a subclass of people is not immoral if it’s the law you see. You have to follow the law. What are we without our laws after all? What kind of country would we be if people went around doing whatever they wanted all the time? What kind of society would we end up like a couple hundred years from now if people started ignoring the law?
I was reminded of another quote from Whitehead’s book.
“This nation shouldn't exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft and cruelty. Yet here we are,” he writes.
“This is my bag of medication and I’m not letting them look through it,” Sousley says.
“It has my final day things in there,” he says and his voice is cracking now like he wants to cry. “And nobody’s gonna dig in it. It’s my stuff. It’s my final hour stuff in that bag and that is my right. And I’m not taking it out for anybody.”
People like that think fairness is a synonym for justice but it’s not fairness is an impediment to justice a lot of the time. Fairness might be applying the law as it’s written about where and when people can drive onto a wildlife refuge to leave water behind but it’s not justice. Fairness might be treating people of different races equally in our personal interactions while ignoring systemic racism but it’s not justice. Fairness might be letting people who’ve amassed large fortunes keep their money because they worked for it after all but it’s not justice. Justice isn’t fair it’s just.
I was thinking this morning when I woke up way too early from too vivid dreams that when someone dies which is to say when they begin their journey back to ash that we can still look at them for a while typically. Their body is still there and after some hard work by a mortician remember that show Six Feet Under that was really good wasn’t it you can see them and remember them how they were. Maybe they have their favorite dress or a necklace they loved on maybe it was one you gave them many years ago. But they can’t speak and they can’t smile anymore and so the process has begun of stripping away the parts of them that made the person real to you and isn’t that also what happens when someone who is still alive is removed from your life. You can remember how they looked but after a while you start to forget what their laugh sounded like or what it looked like when they walked across a room and so piece by piece it’s stripped from you and then someday it’s all gone and it’s dirt now.
We think there’s another part that’s coming later still though don’t we. We don’t believe it but we think it. Maybe it’s heaven or just later on down the road years from now and we get to pet the crocodiles together.
People get confused sometimes about why the left is always so much more critical of centrists Democrats than the right. We need to stay together we can’t be divided while Trump is in office! they say and it’s always an attempt to forestall progress actually being made. We can’t do this now it’s not the right time they say by which they mean I don’t want to do this ever and I just want you to shut up for now.
It’s right and good and just that Democrats be made to eat plate after plate of shit from the left because for one thing look how quickly the Overton window has shifted with the emergence of a mere handful of leftist politicians now. Turns out we could've been trying this whole time!
Or think of criticizing Democrats this way: When you’re playing basketball and the other team scores a basket you don’t get pissed off at the guy do you he’s just doing what he’s supposed to do. You don’t say what the fuck are you doing man? But if a guy on your own team took the basketball and shoved it up his shirt and pulled down his shorts and started doing cartwheels with his dick and balls out toward your own goal you might rightfully feel justified in screaming at him to get his shit together or he’s off the team. You might take that guy aside and say buddy are you sure you understand what you’re supposed to be doing here?
Every time I go swimming which as we know is a whole fucking thing for me I get in the hot tub they have there next to the pool like some kind of fucking asshole and I just sit there breathing through my mouth with my big dumb fucking head poking out of the water like a carrot bobbing in a roiling stew. There are kids everywhere bombing around and screaming and their screams reverberate off the tile of the giant room. There’s a window above the hot tub which doesn’t even feel good I don’t know why I go in there I get nothing out of it and the window looks out onto a flagpole they have out back behind the YMCA and the American flag flaps in the wind and all the elderly men and women come and sit there next to me and everyone is silent and we pretend we don’t see each other we pretend we aren’t sitting there in the same bathtub soaking in each other’s piss as it leaks out of our bodies and eventually it gets too lonely for me to be in there so I get up and jump into the pool where I can pretend like I’m going somewhere.
You write a lot about ecological stuff and weird things that are probably going to happen in the future. Are you pessimistic or optimistic? Are we gong to be around in 100 years or not?
Jeff VanderMeer: I think the real question is should you stop caring no matter what your answer is to that question. Should you stop fighting? And the answer I have to that is no. We can’t really know what all the consequences are going to be. There are so many variables about things that could go wrong or things that could be unexpected about how climate change will play out. Yes it probably will be catastrophic, and we need to be on a war time footing so to speak to fight climate change. People need to be asked to sacrifice. I think if they’re asked the right way and understand the urgency they’ll respond to that because I do think it builds a sense of community too. But for my part the answer is I’m going down fighting no matter what. Apathy is really not an answer, especially because there are people who are on the frontlines of climate change experiencing devastation right now. It feels very privileged to just opt out and say, well, it’s all going to go down the tubes so why should I care? But to answer your question there’s a good possibility if we don’t right the course we’re going to be in huge trouble.
Sometimes I talk to my friends who are sober the same way you would when someone has just gotten back from a vacation to somewhere cool you’ve always wanted to go. Oh wow what was Japan like? And they tell you how great it is and you say you definitely are going to go someday but you know you probably won’t but you say it anyway.
Everything is so bad all the time but one thing I like to think about is ol’ Donnie Deals going ah wait I don't feel so good and then he grabs onto the tablecloth at the roast beef carving station and the little dome they have for the roast beef clangs down onto the floor but it doesn’t make a sound because the dining room is wall to wall carpeted and he goes down on one knee and he looks around in panic unsure of what’s happening and everything is silent and the roast beef is getting cold and the bags of Lays potato chips and Heinz mustard packets sit untouched as the harried staff run but not that fast to find a doctor and Donnie slumps and slumps down further onto the floor and Don Jr. is there and he doesn't move for a full minute. The owner of something like Premier Volvo in Overland Park, Kansas jumps into action and tries to perform CPR but he doesn’t know what he’s doing so he’s humping away at his chest futilely. He’s a car dealer not a doctor what does he know and all the doctors that are there are plastic surgeons and they haven’t saved anyone’s life in thirty years and so he's trying to save Mr. Trump and Mr. Trump makes a stinky mud pie in his 75 inch waist pants and one of the turds falls out the leg of his pants and rolls under the table of the owner of a successful racist nail salon and Donnie can't hear the commotion in the room over his pulse it’s pounding so loud and it's so hot the room is so hot now and why is his tie so tight and he cries out with everything he has left inside of him to god or whoever is listening and he says I love the Bible very strongly and no one loves the Boblr more than me I can tell you that and he thinks I’m not ready to go and finally Don Jr. runs up to him unsure of what to do and all he can think of is to shake his father’s hand because that’s the only way they’ve ever touched and his hand is very cold.
One thing I do instead of going to look at where the president’s nice house is is I walk out into the water at the beach there and keep walking until I can’t walk anymore and then I have to start swimming. The water is warmer there than you would expect and I float out as far as I can and let the waves push me around and Michelle gets nervous and asks me not to go out so far where she can’t see me and I try to do that but it’s one of the only times I am ever really happy floating out there looking back to the shore where some people who love me are standing and talking and laughing and there they are hello everyone I’m here you can’t see me so well but I’m here and we’re here together and we’re still here floating along near where the famous dead president used to live.
Florida’s efforts to disenfranchise black people stretch back to Reconstruction when they were faced with the prospect of being forced to grant the right to vote to every man in the state. They instead came up with the genius idea to arrest as many of them as possible to prevent them from exercising the franchise which was crucial because so many white people had had their own voting rights taken away due to their role in things such as rebelling against and declaring war on the United States. The white people might have been outnumbered if they didn’t act fast which they of course did.
They tried to save Talathia Brooks after they shot her which is what the police often do and that seems so fucking weird to me firing bullets at someone then trying to bring them back to life. Sometimes they don’t try to save the people they shoot though and that is even worse.
It’s tricky to study the effects of isolation outside of prison settings because it’s not exactly ethical to torture people for science it’s only ethical to torture people for justice which is the name we give to revenge when we pay the state to do it and then don’t think about it while we watch Mrs. Maisel.
Did you watch the video? The smacks are so loud man and something about the way Casciano took both of them stoically then raised his arm up to his face to defend himself only after the beating stopped is just real hard to watch. It’s like when you’re indifferent to the concept of pain and you think fuck it nothing can hurt me and then the pain when it arrives is worse than you imagined it was going to be and all of a sudden you’re like ah shit I don’t want this anymore I change my mind I retract my previous position vis a vis suffering which is maybe what he thought going into the beginning of the night when he wanted to die and then didn’t anymore.
It’s very rare for a death sentence to be handed down for someone who hasn’t been accused of taking another life but Donald Trump would like to see that happen much more frequently. In March of 2018 he praised other countries who put drug dealers to death saying "Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do.” A few weeks later he told a crowd in New Hampshire "If we don't get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty."
By drug dealers he doesn’t mean people like the Sacklers the authors of the opioid epidemic of course he means poor people.
When I found out he had finally passed, I was driving, on my way from Boston to Foxwoods. We had been at his bedside all day, back and forth to the hospital all week. My siblings and I—a cabal of half-, step-, and adopted-then-re-found sisters that you'd need one of those charts in the back of a Russian novel to understand—had made the life-changing decision to kill him. At least, that's how it felt.
“You know I think the thing that stuck out to me about the stories was how different they were. If I wanted to relay anything about these women it’s that they came from so many walks of life, from fifteen to thirty four years old. From sex workers to women who sang at the church choir. I think that in itself is a story. What’s it mean that black women are disposable when you think about respectability and what does that mean? Who are the good people and the people that “deserve it”? They were so different and it didn’t matter what they had decided to do with their lives. Whatever the culture, the level of systemic oppression against black women made them ok to kill. By whoever. It could’ve been eleven different people. I think that’s really at the core of the story.”
You see a lot of people on the news all the time saying addressing climate change or the recently proposed Green New Deal for example are fantasies and unrealistic and unaffordable. I just watched an interview with Howard Schultz the billionaire with a humiliation fetish who will never be president and he said he was concerned about climate change but that the Green New Deal was immoral. I don’t know what he means by that or what anyone means when they talk about the price of reversing climate change. The idea of trying to address it through sensible economic policies and not huge and costly leaps of imagination and the expenditure of vast sums of money is hard for me to understand because what will money even mean once it’s over. It makes no sense it’s like a person with terminal cancer saying they’d rather not pay for risky surgery today because they still have to save up their frequent flier miles but what does flying even mean when you’re dead the concept of flight doesn’t even exist anymore.
Maybe we should try to put ourselves in the shoes of people like the racist old lady in the Whitehead novel or some of those Monday morning quarterback Nazis above or Kristjen Nielsen or Donald Trump. How does it feel to be that type of person? What does it look like inside a brain like that? Do you feel as if you should hang yourself in shame from a doorknob right now and if not why not?
There are all kinds of ways that addiction can destroy a person’s humanity and break them down into a hollow shell whose only goal each day is satiating the need for the substance be it alcohol or drugs or whatever else and that is not good we all know that but at least those sorts of addicts are actually using the thing they crave which you have to respect in a way. The drugs are not going to waste they are being consumed I can safely report that. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I went out and got drugs myself and then held onto them for safe keeping later. A money addict on the other hand just gets the money from their money dealer and sets it aside and after a while forgets it’s there because they don’t actually get high on possessing and having the money their real addiction is just taking it to make sure no one else can. No one could ever spend as much money as the Waltons have in a lifetime but to be able to prevent other people from having it? Now that is something you could really get off on.
If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal what humanity is left in the law of this country
“Certain groups of monkeys which are large in number and dominate that particular part may have scared away the smaller group of monkeys from the water bodies,” he said.
“It is shocking that this herbivorous species has developed the tendency of dominating a water source,” he said. “This is rare and strange as herbivores don't indulge in such conflicts,” he said.
When I read that this morning I was like oh man now that’s a metaphor I gotta open with that in my famous newsletter Hell World but it’s not a metaphor is it it’s just a direct 1:1 parallel to what’s already happening among humans. It may not be common for herbivores to engage in conflict like that over resources but it comes very naturally to us.
Both of his parents had started suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms around the same time about four years ago and it was time to start a new portion of all of their lives whether they were ready for it or knew it was even happening or not. That is what the disease does it changes a person and then it changes everyone else around them.
“For them it’s a full-blown, horrible tragedy that they also wake up in every single day,” he said. “They’re either being life detectives for themselves on a given day trying to figure out what’s going on…or not.”
I sometimes think about that happening like what I would do if we were being shot at and I imagine myself throwing my body on top of Michelle and hoping the bullets just hit me and not her but who knows what I would do or what anyone would do. In that situation you’re hoping it’s you who gets shot if someone must and not the person you’re trying to protect and finding out that they died anyway after you tried to hold them tight enough that the bullets can’t get through well I cannot think of anything worse than that.
We had to go to Brockton yesterday for some car repairs because Michelle’s aunt and uncle have a shop there and her aunt always gets worried another garage is going to rip us off which is nice of her but also makes me nervous about the ethics of other garages at large. Her uncle told me he’s sixty six and wants to retire soon. What will you do to stay busy I said and he said maybe he’d write a book or write for the Boston Globe and I laughed and said those aren’t real jobs and I stood there with my skinny legs and clean hands.
Brockton is the most affordable city in the Boston area now with the average home worth $290,000. Another thing about Brockton is it also has a very disproportionate number of foreclosures and evictions and I’m not very smart about money or the economy or anything else but those two things seem related.
Brockton is called the City of Champions because Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler were born there and also probably because they used to smash my head in real good whenever we would play them in sports growing up. I think they have statues of those two guys there but they also might consider erecting one of a teenage me laying on my ass in the dirt wanting to give up.
My grandmother grew up there and she’s dead now so I guess another thing I know about Brockton is if you grow up there you die someday.