They grow hopeless from the misery of their present existence and give up
Because some have everything others nothing
I hate it when I return to the small isolated place I grew up in after a failure or misadventure in the big city just as the first murder in years happens but I love it when my familiarity with the town and its people informs my ability to see things everyone else can't.
Hello. How are you? I’d like to hear from you nice people on the best and worst things that happened this year. It could be something personal and small or it could be something systemic and horrific. It could also just be something really fucking stupid and delightful you remember like this.
I don’t know I guess the idea is 2020 The Year That Definitely Happened. You can reply to this email with a few words about your picks or leave it in the comments below. Or don’t do it I guess who cares.
If you can’t afford to chip in for a subscription to this newsletter which is of course understandable maybe forward it to a friend who might like it or share it on your socials if you like what you read. Every little bit is appreciated. Thank you as always for being here and for being anywhere for that matter. The world is better with you in it.
The seven day average of deaths in the United States this past week — including a new record of 3,000 in one day — was 2,249 per day. That amounts to 15,743 people dead from this virus within a single week. By comparison let us look to our neighbors to the north in Canada where they’ve suffered the loss of 13,350 of their people. Not in one week to be clear that’s over the entire course of the pandemic. We are lapping other countries almost weekly now we are the sickest dumbest fucks on earth.
On top of that that almost 26 million Americans said they did not have enough food to eat in November according to Census Bureau data which is a record high.
“We’re supposed to be the greatest, richest country in the world, and we don’t have safety nets for when something like this happens?” Danielle Nierenberg of the nonprofit Food Tank told the Washington Post in this piece about shoplifting increasing around the country since the pandemic began. “People are being forced to steal when they shouldn’t have to, and that’s a great American tragedy.”
It’s not “luxury items” that people are taking this year they say but staples they literally require to survive.
“We’re seeing an increase in low-impact crimes,” Jeff Zisner of workplace security firm Aegis told the Post. “It’s not a whole lot of people going in, grabbing TVs and running out the front door. It’s a very different kind of crime — it’s people stealing consumables and items associated with children and babies.”
Items associated with children and babies? Like Marvel movies? lol I’m just kidding please do not yell at me about comic book movies I think they are basically fine I just hope we continue to have other types of movies going forward.
During the Panic of 1893 a severe economic depression that put millions out of work Emma Goldman the famed Anarchist gave a speech in Union Square in New York City after which she was arrested and charged with inciting a riot and then imprisoned when she refused to inform on her fellow radicals.
“The industrial crisis of that year had thrown thousands out of employment, and their condition now reached an appalling state,” Goldman wrote years later in her book Living My Life. “Worst of all was the situation in New York. Jobless workers were being evicted; suffering was growing and suicides multiplying. Nothing was being done to alleviate their misery.”
Speaking of mental health:
How’s your mental health by the way? I think I mentioned in here a couple months ago that I had managed to finally find a new remote therapist after like a dozen said they couldn’t take me on but after a couple weeks I ended up ghosting on her. In part because she didn’t seem to give much of a shit but also because her Massachusetts accent was just way too much for even me sounding like I sound it like ruined my ability to suspend my disbelief if that makes sense. It was like the opposite of when you watch a movie and the fake accents they’re doing are so shitty it throws you off. Instead the accent was too authentic and it caused this whole metaphysical collapse in my mind about what is real or not.
Oh right here’s what I said when we first started:
There’s certainly something comforting about hearing the voice you grew up with reflected back to you in a way that engenders instinctual trust and fellowship but it’s also always the same voice you’ve heard people be shitty with your entire life too so who fucking knows.
“The meeting at Union Square was preceded by a demonstration, the marching columns counting many thousands,” Goldman went on:
The girls and women were in front, I at their head carrying a red banner. Its crimson waved proudly in the air and could be seen for blocks. My soul, too, vibrated with the intensity of the moment.
I had prepared my speech in writing and it seemed to me inspiring, but when I reached Union Square and saw the huge mass of humanity, my notes appeared cold and meaningless.
The atmosphere in the ranks had become very tense, owing to the events of that week. Labour politicians had appealed to the New York legislature for relief of the great distress, but their pleas met with evasions. Meanwhile the unemployed went on starving. The people were outraged by this callous indifference to the suffering of men, women, and children. As a result the air at Union Square was charged with bitterness and indignation, its spirit quickly communicating itself to me. I was scheduled as the last speaker and I could barely endure the long wait. Finally the apologetic oratory was over and my turn came. I heard my name shouted from a thousand throats as I stepped forward. I saw a dense mass before me, their pale, pinched faces upturned to me. My heart beat, my temples throbbed, and my knees shook.
Vomit on her sweater already in other words.
“Men and women”, I began amidst sudden silence, “do you not realize that the State is the worst enemy you have? It is a machine that crushes you in order to sustain the ruling class, your masters. Like naïve children you put your trust in your political leaders. You make it possible for them to creep into your confidence, only to have them betray you to the first bidder. But even where there is no direct betrayal, the labour politicians make common cause with your enemies to keep you in leash, to prevent your direct action. The State is the pillar of capitalism, and it is ridiculous to expect any redress from it. Do you not see the stupidity of asking relief from Albany with immense wealth within a stone’s throw from here? Fifth Avenue is laid in gold, every mansion is a citadel of money and power. Yet there you stand, a giant, starved and fettered, shorn of his strength. Cardinal Manning long ago proclaimed that ‘necessity knows no law’ and that ‘the starving man has a right to a share of his neighbour’s bread.’ Cardinal Manning was an ecclesiastic steeped in the traditions of the Church, which has always been on the side of the rich against the poor. But he had some humanity, and he knew that hunger is a compelling force. You, too, will have to learn that you have a right to share your neighbours bread. Your neighbours — they have not only stolen your bread, but they are sapping your blood. They will go on robbing you, your children, and your children’s children, unless you wake up, unless you become daring enough to demand your rights.
And then winding to her close she said what has become something of an oft-quoted line but one that I think bears repeating especially during this moment of ours.
“Well, then, demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. If they deny you both, take bread. It is your sacred right!”
“Uproarious applause, wild and deafening, broke from the stillness like a sudden storm,” she wrote. “The sea of hands eagerly stretching out towards me seemed like the wings of white birds fluttering.”
Everything else good about her aside that’s just some really lovely writing isn’t it?
Not long after she was interviewed in the New York World. Why did you become an Anarchist? she was asked.
“We are all egotists,” she said. “There are some that, if asked why they are Anarchists, will say, ‘for the good of the people.’ It is not true, and I do not say it. I am an Anarchist because I am a egotist. It pains me to see others suffer. I cannot bear it. I never hurt a man in my life, and I don't think I could. So, because what others suffer makes me suffer, I am an Anarchist and give my life for the cause, for only through it can be ended all suffering and want and unhappiness.”
“Everything wrong, crime and sickness and all that, is the result of the system under which we live,” she told the reporter. “Were there no money, and as a result, no capitalists, people would not be over-worked, starved and illy-housed, all of which makes them old before their time, diseases them and makes them criminals.”
I’ll quote a bit more from it because these are the exact same questions you hear from people today about the dangers of “socialism” and “defunding the police.”
“If you do away with money and employers, who will work upon your railroads?” I asked.
“Those that care for that kind of work. Then every one shall do that which he likes best, not merely a thing he is compelled to do to earn his daily bread.”
“What will you do with the lazy ones, who would not work?”
“No one is lazy. They grow hopeless from the misery of their present existence, and give up. Under our order of things, every man would do the work he liked, and would have as much as his neighbor, so he could not be unhappy and discouraged.”
“What will you do with your criminals if everyone is free and prisons unheard of?”
She smiles, sadly.
“The subject takes a lifetime of study,” she answered, “but we believe that we would not have a criminal. Why are there criminals today. Because some have everything, others nothing. Under our system it would be every man equal. The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ Now, to steal, it is granted, there must be something to steal. We do not grant that there is anything to steal, for everything should be free.
I used to have poems memorized. You can read that in the voice someone’s grandfather might use surveying a dead industrial town if you want to. A Doves song. An e-minor chord played with the capo on the 3rd fret. We used to build things here he says about the place with no jobs anymore but that condo developers nonetheless have designs on improving in their way. How a chef sizes up a hog suspended from meathooks. Good bones they say about those places like in the Maggie Smith poem everyone knows now but that I do not have memorized.
Since then I came across another poem of hers that I think is just delightful.
The only thing I would differ with from the above is when I see the moon I am compelled to say “See the moon? It hates us.” And I would add you also simply have to say bunny! whenever you see a bunny.
Long time Hell World readers will know I had a sort of forced and unrequited symbolic relationship with the bunnies in my old yard for a long time like in this piece.
I was just outside on the porch and there was my bunny outside in the grass below and it occurred to me for the first time in a while that maybe the bunny isn’t a metaphor it’s just evidence that rabbits do a lot of fucking in my particular town and maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all. That can happen you can invest all sorts of effort into erecting a symbol in your mind and then it collapses and you’re like man am I a dumbass.
When I came back out later there was a cat prowling around that I’ve never seen before and it was poking its cat snout into the place where the bunny lives under the hedge and I thought about going to chase it away because it seemed to be a threat to my bunny which I now think is a metaphor again. I’ve changed my way of thinking since the last paragraph. I am no longer a dumbass at this point I am a sensitive soul.
Or this one.
Another person I see when I sit on my porch is a bunny and I think it’s always the same one because although my town is overrun with them this particular little one sits in the same spot under the hedge and stares up at me sometimes and sometimes even lays itself out on the dying winter grass in this languorous pose like it’s trying to seduce me. Is this rabbit trying to fuck me lol I think but it’s not because that would be weird.
Sometimes my bunny is not there for a while and I wonder what she’s doing and if she’s staying safe. Sometimes I throw vegetables out there into the yard because I worry she’s not eating well enough. She never says anything back to me when I say hello.
I never gave the bunny a name because it seems crazy to name something that you’re not sure is going to be around that long.
Now in my new yard there are a lot fewer bunnies and way more squirrels but almost every time that one bounds along into my line of vision I will say hello to the little creature even if it’s just silently in my mind. Hello bunny. Hello squirrel. They still don’t respond but I do not take it personally.
Birds can generally fuck off though. Fuck off bird I say.
Anyway please consider buying one of Smith’s books here if you like.
I believe this is the original tweet she’s referencing.
Ok that’s all for today. Rest in peace to Charley Pride who died from complications related to Covid. He didn’t have to but he did.