Joe Bageant, 1946-2011
After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.
According to Joe's wishes, he will be cremated. His family will hold a private memorial service.
I'm going to miss you, Joe. When I read on your website that you had cancer, and had come back from Mexico to get treatment at the VA, I had a bad feeling. I don't think you put much stock in the treatment, but knew it was time to go through those boxes of family photos and memorabilia you sometimes mentioned ...
... All through the agonizing misery of the Bush years, through the insanity of political posturing and wars and waste and mindlessness, you were a voice of pure sanity unadulterated by the quest for a spot on TV, some cheap typically American fame. I clicked on your blog daily, sometimes hourly, in hopes of words that would help me understand I wasn't the only one reeling from the ridiculousness of most of what I saw and just about everything I heard.
I bought my son Michael your book "Deer Hunting with Jesus" as a Christmas present. Damn near jobless, on borrowed money, I gathered my three college age children at my oldest son's New Orleans apartment. We celebrated with a makeshift tree with a doorknob for a topper, drank Budweiser, ate po' boys, and tried hard not to cry. Everything is a struggle these days. You got that. Yes, Mr. Bageant, you got that.
The hologram has taken you home. Rest in peace, old friend I never met. Rest well, and know you remain in so many hearts. I sure am gonna miss you.
The system has just begun its crash, and already we are seeing an armed infantilized nation wail, hurl blame and do horrific things, the worst of which we do to one another (excluding sending predator drones after Middle Eastern school kids). Surveillance, witch hunts, destruction of civil liberties, and the government inching toward star chamber trials for those who do not display correct traits. Citizens embracing totalitarianism as stability in the face of the ultimate instability -- the death of the planet.
The political regime or philosophy does not exist which can turn this scenario around. Slow it down, maybe, but put things in reverse, nope. Not when six billion mouths are munching at one end of the last noodle, and at the other end a fraction of a billion well armed technological people want the entire noodle. Not when life is already so damned cheap you can buy a girl slave in Haiti for twelve bucks, or 50 child slaves for your Asian sweatshop for less than the cost of a new car. Or an American working man for half of what it takes to support a family, then throw his ass over the company fence when he's no longer needed. Or bury him in mines as he cries out in Jesus' name, blow him up in Iraq, and Stelazine his kids minds and souls under the hot lights of the hologram, readying them for "the labor market." Schenectady or Soweto, life is dirt-cheap and getting cheaper everywhere on the planet.
Meanwhile, gangster capitalism needs that hologram to maintain the illusion that life is not cheap, and that Jennifer Anniston's ass can be yours in mind and dream (Personally, I'm a Julianna Margulies fan -- The Good Wife"). And most of all, "The Gram" is required to keep its captives deluded and sated enough to remain productive and consuming -- not to mention hating the right people -- right up to the last moment before total collapse, and they are no longer needed. The higher owning/investing class is safe, no matter what happens. Oh sure, as Edward Bellamy wrote, a few of them topple from their high perch on humanity's coach during the hell bent journey, but their class remains.
What happens to the rest of us in that great, sweating, moaning throng who have drawn the coach these centuries? What will remain for us on ruined plains of collapse?
Here is what I believe will remain. Reality and the truth, and the opportunity for spiritual evolution, which, in the end, I think will include most people. And much suffering. The reality of the world has always involved suffering. Despite the ballyhoo of modern science and technology, just as much suffering remains, more actually, given our increased numbers on the planet. Suffering happens to individual human beings and there are far more of those now. Of course, fat cat NGOs and governments deal in percentages and rates, so they will not have to account for the increased millions of miserable beings. We have more humans suffering -- and not just from poverty either, think of depleted uranium, toxic waste, sweatshop slavery -- than we had humans on earth a couple hundred years ago.
Even thinking seems ultimately to lead to the value of non-thinking, which is to say, pure human existence and consciousness. Pure unadulterated duration. This is the most fearless plain, the one on which all things are manifest as they really are, in their purest form, before social and personal hallucinations settle over them like a shroud.
In such times as these, that hard bright plain is bitch to find, much less travel. For sure it starts with the moment called now.
And right now, good god, it's two AM! Time for the nightly Law and Order rerun on Mexican TV.
Hologram take me home.