American Death Cult Part III: Pavlov Speaks*

A  creepy house in backwoods Wisconsin funded by bloodmoney, built by a minion of  the Aztec Night Lord Tezcatlipoca and a talking Chihuahua seeking redemption and to end the millenia-old feud with the Ho-Chunk culture hero Red Horn.  Must be Thursday.

Pavlov The first and most cardinal rule of any heavy drug habit is to hold fast to your center, not allow yourself to panic at the inevitable bad trip. Assenine braggarts are likely to tell you that it’s an inborn character trait that you simply either have or do not have, and that it is not possible to cultivate a tolerance.

Utter and complete bullshit.  Dangerous bullshit.  Because it denies the essential primacy of DISCIPLINE in the process and is a telltale sign of the feckless self-indulgent irresponsibility that means imminent death or at least a lengthy sanatorium stay.  No, what is required is a steely willfulness and intense focus.

There are several techniques to achieve this focus and they all work, even under the most insane sensory assaults–provided you employ them with an iron discipline.  One method is to always remain in the company of a responsible, experienced user whenever you take a new drug for the first time.  But even more important is the technique of listening to your heartbeat.  It alerts you to any potential medical problems early enough to seek professional care should that be necessary and it grounds you, reminds you that you are still John or Jane Q. Ordinary living in Normalsville, Planet Earth, complete with all the standard plumbing.  You know that you have a living, breathing material avatar to take care of here, even if you can see and count the quarks vibrating through your hands.  Or, as in this particular case, if you haven’t taken any illicit substances (that you know of), but find yourself engaged a in a twelve hour conversation with a Chihuahua dog1 claiming to be the exiled ruach2 of the Paul Ryan, the Republican chair of the House Budget Committee.

Continued at Dystopia Diaries

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  • Jordan

    Wow, what a ‘professional’ drug user.

  • Jordan

    Wow, what a ‘professional’ drug user.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      If you’re getting at the lack of verisimilitude or the non-transgressive character of the accompanying photo, well, “Duh”.

      Clearly you did not read the article.

      Big shock there. Wow.

      • justagirl

        wow liam. that was… are you ok?!?

      • justagirl

        sorry, that was a vague comment. i think i don’t have a ruach. what i meant is that article is really out there and you may be a political madman.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          Thanks, Girl. Your comment is proof that, against all my expectations, someone actually read this piece. I love that you actually considered the existence of the (or at least YOUR) ruach.

          I’d say that most of the high weirdness was stratetigically intentional–a gambit to shift consciousness of the debate in a vibrant moral dimension, rather than the dry and strictly factual approach I’d previously taken. More and more I’m convinced that people already know the facts–what they REALLY want to hear about is how the seemingly monsterous ignorami of the other side could possibly be committed to such savage courses of action.

          And some of the weirdness is tactically necessary in light of the limitations of the internet blog format. Yeah, I kinda painted myself into a corner to some extent by my practice of never creating more than a three bullet-point outline more than one installment ahead of publication. But even more than that, the brutal fact of the matter is that the ideas I’m trying to convey are so huge and out-sized compared to the attention span of the typical internet reader that I would in any case be forced to take some pretty radical leaps of logic.

          As these comments come in I’m taking notes for an eventual revision of this thing into a more cohesive, unified narrative. Yet I fully intend to leave a lot of the weirdness intact.

          Any bit of this strike you as particularly undigestable or weirder than the rest?

          • justagirl

            i clarified a lot of my own questions when i looked back to tell you what i didn’t understand (lol).
            “if you haven’t taken any illicit substances (that you know of), but find yourself engaged in a…” i liked that. that caught my attention.
            things i still don’t get are:
            how can the neshma be in the “empty shell of a soul”?
            “i was ejected by the force of pure moral disgust when that eejit proposed the ‘roadmap to america’s future’” where was his (the ruach) “sin” – why was he the “scumbag”? did he help plan the “roadmap?”. if so, why is he blaming it all on the neshma? i don’t trust it.
            what is the “house on maiden lane”?
            “so what i intend the story arc to do going forward is to try to take the most sympathetic view of the many and horrible failings of our leaders as possible, while still forcibly decrying their stupidity and innately immoral character.” the truth is (in my opinion, of course) the “ruach” of such politicians is probably still in tact and unable to be “ejeted”. i don’t think their ruach wants sympathy anyway. it is in it’s nature to “stomp” and please itself and others of its kind even though it is tired and unable to be pleased. so, it consumes. i don’t see how this article will help unless you are secretly a famous actor who can sway the opinions of those who idolize you (which is a completely different ruach). even then, there aren’t many political ruach(es?) that would put your purpose ahead of their own. you would have to have their nefesh by the bollocks.
            “the ideas i’m trying to convey are so huge and out-sized compared to the attention span of the typical internet reader that i would in any case be forced to take some pretty radical leaps of logic.” no way! REALLY?? (lol).

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Terrific observations. Very thought provoking. Better than I could have hoped for. Here are my off-the-cuff responses:

            1. The neshama is only one shallow dimension of the total person. The dry, intellectual element. All the world’s major spiritual traditions recognize that the only truly valid spiritual goal is a more refined and complete experience of life–the emotional/moral ruach and the conceptual sophistication of the neshama as well as the earthy appetites of the nefesh. For a person to go through life with a starved, under-developed sense of emotional or moral experience would lead them to become a convictionless whore, however clever they may be. This could explain, I think, the shallow, opportunistic behaviour of douchebags like Paul Ryan.

            2. Why “Pavlov” put all the blame on the neshama: In metaphorical language, I’m outlining a theory that Paul Ryan, who put his name on and promoted that totally ineffectual and regressive “Roadmap” even if he didn’t compose it himself, is not a being of pure evil or stupidity. Yeah, he’s plenty stupid and the results of his actions are pretty evil, but he is a human being–just a horribly, horribly underdeveloped one. That’s why I present his ruach or moral/emotional avatar as being under-developed, feeble and passive, and fundamentally in the back seat vis-a-vis the retrograde policies Ryan is advocating.

            I guess I don’t believe in a total or permanent hell. Eternity is a thing far out of scale to our puny little egos, so let’s not flatter ourselves with the idea of a literal for-ever pit of sulfur. And in that context, an aspect of Ryan has to be understood as weak rather than unredeemably evil.

            3. I really feel that the true motivation of these shitbag politicians is a desperate craving for love and attention. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s when they take shortcuts, get morally and intellectually lazy that it leads to the callous and reckless disregard for the needs of others that the real trouble begins.

            You and I both see Ryan’s actions as horrible and unloveable–but that’s only because you’re sophisticated enough to see beyond the tired conventional tropes of our culture. Believe it or not, there are just as many, maybe more people that can’t. They don’t actively desire evil, they’re just so unsophisticated that they mistake simpicity for virtue–to a shocking extent.

            And of course the flip side of calling out a shitstain like Ryan is dehumanizing him–which would ironically force me into the very same type of callous recklessness that is his major sin. How do you avoid that? How do you offer an adequate corrective without getting drekk all over yourself? It’s a tough question, but I think the answer is twofold:

            a. Humorous belittlement of the target. Clearly nothing I’ve written here can be taken as a compliment to Ryan. But at the same time the tension that would otherwise lock me into a hate spiral is released by humour. I’ve employed paradox to create room for both moral accountability and dialogue. That dialogue is unlikely to happen any time in the near future, but I think the intelligent person will understand that I HAVE left an opening.

            b. By explicitly taking a structured approach to my evaluations. I’m not some blind angry bomb-thrower (though that type of reaction is understandable). I pretty much lay out a framework and hierarchy of criteria for evaluating moral success or failure. We’d never be able to have a meaningful conversation without that. Even if we don’t totally buy into each others’ points of view, at least we can understand them and discuss them intelligently.

          • justagirl

            i think you should let go of that three bullet point thing. you didn’t answer all my quetions. that’s ok.
            i was seeing pavlov and the neshma as two seprate entities (after pavlov bailed from ryan). i actually felt sorry for palov (could be because of the accompanying picture though. i used to have a toy poodle who would shake like that – it’s just too cute).
            last question. and i hate to sound presumptuous, but, that might be how it is going to sound (and maybe a little like a news reporter lol). how is this article going to dehumanize him if you don’t have the favor of “the people”?

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Sorry if I don’t answer every question. It’s a work in progress–and an artistic undertaking at that. So very clear, acceptable answers may not always be readily available. The glue that binds an any work of art to its audience is ambiguity–your right as a reader to interpret the work to meet your own needs. Soon as a piece is published, a certain amount of interpretation authority is up to the reader.

            I intended Pavlov, however, to be only a symbolic representation of the ruach construct–not to be taken too literally as a truly separate individual identity. Your comment is pretty useful in this context because it shows how I took my own interpretation for granted, and that I didn’t give super-deep consideration to alternate ways of looking at it.

            I’m gonna chew on that for a while and see if I can come up with some better way of introducing the notion of “an exiled ruach” in the next draft of this thing. It’s a pretty f*’in’ weird concept, so I probably shouldn’t have too many high hopes of making it 100% clear to the whole audience, but the idea of simultaneously maintaining a conceptual focus on the nefesh/ruach/neshama paradigm AND creating a sympathetic literary character in Pavlov is sort of central to this whole piece.

            And you’re right. It’s not reasonable to expect this thing to have any great effect on Ryan’s reputation. It’s just some shitty blog after all.

            But it clearly is the product of someone with a working imagination. Maybe not a world class imagination, but a working imagination none the less. Sometimes, on rare occassion even an ordinary duffer like me can come up with an idea that will inspire some more capable person who gains a wider prominence in the national stage, and that person knocks it out of the park and makes a real difference. JFK, RFK, MLK, etc., etc. etc.

            Which all sounds a little grandiose, and but really it’s not. I don’t claim that I’m the one individual who’s gonna change anything, but that I still have significance as one link in a chain of continuity or consciousness that will eventually do great things. The fruit of those things may only be seen years or decades after my bones have crumbled to dust, but that’s par for the course.

            In my mind it’s about imagination, sparking ideas in people. Not achieving instant gratification.

          • justagirl

            best of luck to you, liam.
            liam mcGonagle ladies and gentlemen. you heard it here first. back to you chuck.

    • justagirl

      stuffyou jacob.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    If you’re getting at the lack of verisimilitude or the non-transgressive character of the accompanying photo, well, “Duh”.

    Clearly you did not read the article.

    Big shock there. Wow.

  • justagirl

    stuffyou jacob.

  • justagirl

    wow liam. that was… are you ok?!?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    William S Burroughs mates with Hunter S Thompson… unbeknown-st to many, the child of the forbidden, substance fueled passion still lives…and apparently…writes :-)

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Thanks, Vox. You are too kind. I am not worthy to shine their shoes, though the point would has been moot since their deaths anyway.

      You totally called me out on my influences and got me to thinking a bit more about the implications of using their models.

      As I mentioned to Justagirl in an earlier comment, the intentional high weirdness of this bit served both polemical and tactical purposes. To that end I found the drug references pretty useful in introducing some of the more esoteric ideas in a coherent (if not completely credible) format.

      Burroughs and Thompson came at a unique point in American history when the culture was especially receptive to idealistic reinterpretations of what society and public life could actually be. Drugs, as media for consciousness expansion, are a perfect metaphor.

      Problem is, the 2010’s are clearly NOT the 1960’s. America has “moved on” as Steven King’s gunslinger Roland of Gilead might say. We’re graying, becoming less adventurous, more fearful and relying to a depressing extent on hidebound conventionality. So apart from the perhaps anachronistic appeal to a faded drug culture, in the back of my mind is a real concern about America’s terrible imagination deficit. It’s a real question: “How do you teach an old dog like Yankee Doodle a new trick?”

      So I still kinda have some reservations about using the drug trope too freely. But honestly, I don’t think I’ve encountered a more apt one for introducing some of the more way-out ideas I want to explore here. At least within the constraints of internet blog format, where readers typically fatigue-out after 1,000 words or so.

      I may edit and revise these posts for off-line publication at some point in the future. Mostly for continuity and to move a bit more of the footnote driven exposition into the narrative, to improve flow and coherence.

      Going forward in the blogposts, however (whether or not I publish them here), I plan to take the pedal with a lighter foot, regarding the drug thing.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    William S Burroughs mates with Hunter S Thompson… unbeknown-st to many, the child of the forbidden, substance fueled passion still lives…and apparently…writes :-)

  • justagirl

    sorry, that was a vague comment. i think i don’t have a ruach. what i meant is that article is really out there and you may be a political madman.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Girl. Your comment is proof that, against all my expectations, someone actually read this piece. I love that you actually considered the existence of the (or at least YOUR) ruach.

    I’d say that most of the high weirdness was stratetigically intentional–a gambit to shift consciousness of the debate in a vibrant moral dimension, rather than the dry and strictly factual approach I’d previously taken. More and more I’m convinced that people already know the facts–what they REALLY want to hear about is how the seemingly monsterous ignorami of the other side could possibly be committed to such savage courses of action.

    And some of the weirdness is tactically necessary in light of the limitations of the internet blog format. Yeah, I kinda painted myself into a corner to some extent by my practice of never creating more than a three bullet-point outline more than one installment ahead of publication. But even more than that, the brutal fact of the matter is that the ideas I’m trying to convey are so huge and out-sized compared to the attention span of the typical internet reader that I would in any case be forced to take some pretty radical leaps of logic.

    As these comments come in I’m taking notes for an eventual revision of this thing into a more cohesive, unified narrative. Yet I fully intend to leave a lot of the weirdness intact.

    Any bit of this strike you as particularly undigestable or weirder than the rest?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Vox. You are too kind. I am not worthy to shine their shoes, though the point would has been moot since their deaths anyway.

    You totally called me out on my influences and got me to thinking a bit more about the implications of using their models.

    As I mentioned to Justagirl in an earlier comment, the intentional high weirdness of this bit served both polemical and tactical purposes. To that end I found the drug references pretty useful in introducing some of the more esoteric ideas in a coherent (if not completely credible) format.

    Burroughs and Thompson came at a unique point in American history when the culture was especially receptive to idealistic reinterpretations of what society and public life could actually be. Drugs, as media for consciousness expansion, are a perfect metaphor.

    Problem is, the 2010’s are clearly NOT the 1960’s. America has “moved on” as Steven King’s gunslinger Roland of Gilead might say. We’re graying, becoming less adventurous, more fearful and relying to a depressing extent on hidebound conventionality. So apart from the perhaps anachronistic appeal to a faded drug culture, in the back of my mind is a real concern about America’s terrible imagination deficit. It’s a real question: “How do you teach an old dog like Yankee Doodle a new trick?”

    So I still kinda have some reservations about using the drug trope too freely. But honestly, I don’t think I’ve encountered a more apt one for introducing some of the more way-out ideas I want to explore here. At least within the constraints of internet blog format, where readers typically fatigue-out after 1,000 words or so.

    I may edit and revise these posts for off-line publication at some point in the future. Mostly for continuity and to move a bit more of the footnote driven exposition into the narrative, to improve flow and coherence.

    Going forward in the blogposts, however (whether or not I publish them here), I plan to take the pedal with a lighter foot, regarding the drug thing.

  • justagirl

    i clarified a lot of my own questions when i looked back to tell you what i didn’t understand (lol).
    “if you haven’t taken any illicit substances (that you know of), but find yourself engaged in a…” i liked that. that caught my attention.
    things i still don’t get are:
    how can the neshma be in the “empty shell of a soul”?
    “i was ejected by the force of pure moral disgust when that eejit proposed the ‘roadmap to america’s future’” where was his (the ruach) “sin” – why was he the “scumbag”? did he help plan the “roadmap?”. if so, why is he blaming it all on the neshma? i don’t trust it.
    what is the “house on maiden lane”?
    “so what i intend the story arc to do going forward is to try to take the most sympathetic view of the many and horrible failings of our leaders as possible, while still forcibly decrying their stupidity and innately immoral character.” the truth is (in my opinion, of course) the “ruach” of such politicians is probably still in tact and unable to be “ejeted”. i don’t think their ruach wants sympathy anyway. it is in it’s nature to “stomp” and please itself and others of its kind even though it is tired and unable to be pleased. so, it consumes. i don’t see how this article will help unless you are secretly a famous actor who can sway the opinions of those who idolize you (which is a completely different ruach). even then, there aren’t many political ruach(es?) that would put your purpose ahead of their own. you would have to have their nefesh by the bollocks.
    “the ideas i’m trying to convey are so huge and out-sized compared to the attention span of the typical internet reader that i would in any case be forced to take some pretty radical leaps of logic.” no way! REALLY?? (lol).

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Terrific observations. Very thought provoking. Better than I could have hoped for. Here are my off-the-cuff responses:

    1. The neshama is only one shallow dimension of the total person. The dry, intellectual element. All the world’s major spiritual traditions recognize that the only truly valid spiritual goal is a more refined and complete experience of life–the emotional/moral ruach and the conceptual sophistication of the neshama as well as the earthy appetites of the nefesh. For a person to go through life with a starved, under-developed sense of emotional or moral experience would lead them to become a convictionless whore, however clever they may be. This could explain, I think, the shallow, opportunistic behaviour of douchebags like Paul Ryan.

    2. Why “Pavlov” put all the blame on the neshama: In metaphorical language, I’m outlining a theory that Paul Ryan, who put his name on and promoted that totally ineffectual and regressive “Roadmap” even if he didn’t compose it himself, is not a being of pure evil or stupidity. Yeah, he’s plenty stupid and the results of his actions are pretty evil, but he is a human being–just a horribly, horribly underdeveloped one. That’s why I present his ruach or moral/emotional avatar as being under-developed, feeble and passive, and fundamentally in the back seat vis-a-vis the retrograde policies Ryan is advocating.

    I guess I don’t believe in a total or permanent hell. Eternity is a thing far out of scale to our puny little egos, so let’s not flatter ourselves with the idea of a literal for-ever pit of sulfur. And in that context, an aspect of Ryan has to be understood as weak rather than unredeemably evil.

    3. I really feel that the true motivation of these shitbag politicians is a desperate craving for love and attention. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s when they take shortcuts, get morally and intellectually lazy that it leads to the callous and reckless disregard for the needs of others that the real trouble begins.

    You and I both see Ryan’s actions as horrible and unloveable–but that’s only because you’re sophisticated enough to see beyond the tired conventional tropes of our culture. Believe it or not, there are just as many, maybe more people that can’t. They don’t actively desire evil, they’re just so unsophisticated that they mistake simpicity for virtue–to a shocking extent.

    And of course the flip side of calling out a shitstain like Ryan is dehumanizing him–which would ironically force me into the very same type of callous recklessness that is his major sin. How do you avoid that? How do you offer an adequate corrective without getting drekk all over yourself? It’s a tough question, but I think the answer is twofold:

    a. Humorous belittlement of the target. Clearly nothing I’ve written here can be taken as a compliment to Ryan. But at the same time the tension that would otherwise lock me into a hate spiral is released by humour. I’ve employed paradox to create room for both moral accountability and dialogue. That dialogue is unlikely to happen any time in the near future, but I think the intelligent person will understand that I HAVE left an opening.

    b. By explicitly taking a structured approach to my evaluations. I’m not some blind angry bomb-thrower (though that type of reaction is understandable). I pretty much lay out a framework and hierarchy of criteria for evaluating moral success or failure. We’d never be able to have a meaningful conversation without that. Even if we don’t totally buy into each others’ points of view, at least we can understand them and discuss them intelligently.

  • justagirl

    i think you should let go of that three bullet point thing. you didn’t answer all my quetions. that’s ok.
    i was seeing pavlov and the neshma as two seprate entities (after pavlov bailed from ryan). i actually felt sorry for palov (could be because of the accompanying picture though. i used to have a toy poodle who would shake like that – it’s just too cute).
    last question. and i hate to sound presumptuous, but, that might be how it is going to sound (and maybe a little like a news reporter lol). how is this article going to dehumanize him if you don’t have the favor of “the people”?

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Sorry if I don’t answer every question. It’s a work in progress–and an artistic undertaking at that. So very clear, acceptable answers may not always be readily available. The glue that binds an any work of art to its audience is ambiguity–your right as a reader to interpret the work to meet your own needs. Soon as a piece is published, a certain amount of interpretation authority is up to the reader.

    I intended Pavlov, however, to be only a symbolic representation of the ruach construct–not to be taken too literally as a truly separate individual identity. Your comment is pretty useful in this context because it shows how I took my own interpretation for granted, and that I didn’t give super-deep consideration to alternate ways of looking at it.

    I’m gonna chew on that for a while and see if I can come up with some better way of introducing the notion of “an exiled ruach” in the next draft of this thing. It’s a pretty f*’in’ weird concept, so I probably shouldn’t have too many high hopes of making it 100% clear to the whole audience, but the idea of simultaneously maintaining a conceptual focus on the nefesh/ruach/neshama paradigm AND creating a sympathetic literary character in Pavlov is sort of central to this whole piece.

    And you’re right. It’s not reasonable to expect this thing to have any great effect on Ryan’s reputation. It’s just some shitty blog after all.

    But it clearly is the product of someone with a working imagination. Maybe not a world class imagination, but a working imagination none the less. Sometimes, on rare occassion even an ordinary duffer like me can come up with an idea that will inspire some more capable person who gains a wider prominence in the national stage, and that person knocks it out of the park and makes a real difference. JFK, RFK, MLK, etc., etc. etc.

    Which all sounds a little grandiose, and but really it’s not. I don’t claim that I’m the one individual who’s gonna change anything, but that I still have significance as one link in a chain of continuity or consciousness that will eventually do great things. The fruit of those things may only be seen years or decades after my bones have crumbled to dust, but that’s par for the course.

    In my mind it’s about imagination, sparking ideas in people. Not achieving instant gratification.

  • justagirl

    best of luck to you, liam.
    liam mcGonagle ladies and gentlemen. you heard it here first. back to you chuck.

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