Thursday, December 12, 2013

If I Really

If I really knew what changed me... I don't know.  I've thought about it and thought about it. You don't go anywhere, because you always see yourself as something you're not. As long as you can say I'm better than they are, then there's somebody below you can kick. But once you get over that, you see that you're not any better off than they are. In fact, you're worse off 'cause you're believin' a lie.

- Peggy Terry as documented by Studs Terkel in Hard Times.

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I'll say this: Studs Terkel is a giant.

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What lies have you been believing about yourself, about others? What comfort have you found in refusing the reality in front of you? Peggy Terry was speaking about the easy hatred of blacks she never thought twice about until a black family fed her and her husband during the Depression, until she came North and poor southern whites were treated the same as she'd treated others. The lie cracked open in her. She continued: "And it was right there, in front of us. In the cotton field, chopping cotton, and right over in the next field there's these black people–Alabama, Texas, Kentucky. Never did it occur to me that we had anything in common."

The easy lie, the self-soothing lie is always the unconsidered impulse, the unexamined habit. It sits and fills your life with its delusion because you never challenge it, never demand proof of its assumptions. Racism is the obvious one, and maybe you're so fucked you're still stuck there. If that's the case grow the fuck up. Take a minute and consider all those truths you believe to be self-evident about life, about your life. Line them up. Demand answers. It is right there, in front of you.


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The other thing about these lies, these comfortable delusions is you never get past them. You go nowhere. As long as you feed the lie, the lie keeps you stuck and fucked and going nowhere. Your lies tell you that you have no control over your life, but that others, circumstances, the way your mom and dad raised you, the woman who left you, the job you got fired from, the traffic cop who wrote you a ticket that day, the line at Starbucks making you late, your damn boss, your damn teacher, your damn car, the fucking niggers and kikes and spics and chinks, and the goddamned quarterback tossing that interception, the Republicans, the Democrats, the fat cats and the  International Monetary Fund and only needing 4 more credits to graduate, the price of gasoline, the price of milk and the shitty brakes on your car, and the cough you can't shake, the emptiness of your bed, the holes in your socks, the winter, the spring, the summer and fall and time moving either too slow or too fast all keep you from breaking out, from the life you thought you'd have. All those excuses ready made for your bullshit self-pity.

You don't get to pity yourself. Ever.

You don't get to use the externals and your meager perception of them as an excuse to not wrestle with the facts of your life and wring something worth being out of it.

You don't get to blame others.

You are always free to be responsible for your life. Always. In every circumstance. Even the unjust ones.

Ask the family who fed Peggy Terry.

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William Blake tells me wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none can come to buy. And in the withered field where the farmer plows for bread in vain. Hard times - either on a macro-economic scale, or just inside your head, have a way of changing you, of challenging the easy beliefs that have held you and limited you for so long. No one wishes for difficulties, but they crop up and you might as well use them to your advantage. This is the challenge life is tossing your way: are you willing to use what is hard and difficult to break free of what has fucked you for so long?

Are you?

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