Mike Antipathy

EcoPunk #60

    I should be sound asleep right now. Fatigue is tugging on my eyelids, incoherent thoughts race through my mind and my whole body aches from the 14 miles of hiking through the mountains it was forced into earlier. The complaints of my body notwithstanding, I tossed and writhed and kicked and grunted for the better part of two hours before relegating all hope of sound slumber to the slight chance that throwing the infectious irritants in my hyperactive brain onto paper might grant me a few hours of rest.
    What spurred my mind and emotions into this frenzied state? At first glance, the obvious culprit would be the battered ego and sense of hurt that followed me around this entire evening, after a loved one misinterpreted one of my cutsey kitshes for a derogatory proposition and dealt me a dis that very well might end our friendship. Yeah yeah, my feelings are hurt. Yeah yeah, I regret every syllable of that sentence and every ounce of enunciation that went into it and would take it all back in a second if I could... but I can’t. What has been said has been said, and the rest remains in the well scarred hands of fate. Of course, deep down, on the other side of my emotional globe from my resentments and emotionally charged hatreds, a soft voice reminds me that I will call tomorrow and see if a bit of clarification interspersed with an apology will help make amends. If not, fuck it. I’ve lost friends before and have far too much to worry about here on this planet to let one little fucking shitty-ass relationship cost me any more hair off my forehead.
    But alas, even after realizing that things will either return to normal with my estranged one or I will learn to forget them soon enough, I am still too charged with adrenaline and hyperactive neurotransmissions to hit the ol’ downbag. Something else is inciting my stomach acids to assault the remnants of my stomach lining and taunting my brow into deep furrows. Something much more substantial than a silly soap opera, something very real, yet something that I only occasionally, at moments like this, recognize. Something that screams to my subconscious “Run away!!! Flee!!! Get the fuck out of Portland!!! Go back to your loved ones in Eugene!!! Run to the Hills!!! Abandon your home and life and start somewhere anew where everything around you would be a tabla rasa!!!” Something that has me vigorously doubting everything in my life and wishing for a quick death or divine intervention... Something that scares the shit out of me. Something that frustrates me to the point of tears.
    It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology or a new age tarot card reader to see through my late night geyser of emotion. It is clearly one of the periodic disintegrations of my usually well built defense mechanisms that keep me sane and relatively safe from the realities which bombard me every day. Yup, the dams of sarcasm and bitter, ironic wisecracks that generally keep my emotions nice and stable like the tepid water of Lake Powell, have burst, and no amount of sardonic wit can save my ass from the torrent. For example, earlier today a dear friend and I were driving back from a few days in the Umpqua National Forest, arguably one of the most beautiful places in all the Americas, when we passed an all too common sight in the Northwest, a massive, triple digit acreage clearcut on a slope far too steep for comfort. Of course, when one clearcuts on such a slope in a region that receives 70+ inches of rain a year, every particle of topsoil washes away and nothing but invasive species like Scotch Broome and scrub will ever grow in a place that once supported the towering hulks of 200’ tall Douglas Firs. In concealing the true amount of devastation and pillage represented in that cut, in concealing the 2000 years of evolution cut under an enormously wasteful corporate welfare scam, in concealing the fact that there lies 300 fewer acres where wolves and owls and other endangered species might roam, in concealing the fact that the Middle Fork of the Umpqua river will have another few thousand square feet of topsoil dumped into its bloodstream choking off vital spawning habitat, lowering oxygen levels and signifying death and inevitable extinction for the few species of native trout left, in concealing the fact that THEY are all going to get away with this, I looked across the dirty Subaru and said in my finest Bubba Backwoods voice, “Well, they shore done a good job on that ‘un... Ain’t a single friggin’ tree left on them whole slopes.” Following it up with my Freddie the Flaming Forester lispy voice “Well there, looky at that. What a wonderful job of tree styling. They shaved that entire mountain bare as a baby’s butt without a single flyaway.... good job boys.”
    Yeah well, so sue me. It is a fuck of a lot easier to laugh off pain and trouble in the world than it is to take all the evil to heart where it ferments and festers. A wise person once said that sarcasm is always half true, and well, that was half true. They did a great fucking job making sure that not a single tree remained to catch even a dollip of topsoil as it slid downwards into the once crystalline depths of the Umpqua. A great job making sure that not a single tree would be left to reseed the area with its own special genetic brand of offspring. A great job ensuring that the replanting would be canceled or postponed to ensure that the damage would be culminated to its fullest extent. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fucking, fuck. I know damn well what clearcuts do and how many millions of acres of our public lands the Forest Service and Bureau of Land management throw into the corporate feeding trough. I know damn well that short of industrial collapse, there will be no salvation or future for wolves, bears, cougars, lynx, wild trout, spotted owls, hillybillies or any other critter that needs space and habitat. I know damn well that there won’t be a fucking shred of wilderness left by the time I am a bitter old, white haired geezer. I know damn well that the generations that follow will never have the opportunity to hike for a week straight through the Wild without seeing a fucking road or RV full of fat shitheads just out of Branson. I know damn well that humanity, which doesn’t give a fuck about its own species, much less any others, can never be expected to see the inherent worth in an ancient tree or borderline extinct species. And although in my old age I tend to put more of my energy and time into issues affecting the environment than those affecting people alone, my despair is hardly confined to mourning timber sales and the “civilization” of the last of our wilderness. I know beyond a doubt that the United States is doomed to endure either an increasingly repressive authoritarian police state or a horribly mundane, but equally repressive social democracy. I know that the criminal justice system, already the most pervasive in history, will only swell with time, quite possibly dragging me into its dank metal bowels. I know that I will lose another dozen or so friends to the needle and oxygenated black death from the poppy. I know that my rights to say and believe as I want will be whitewashed and chipped away to the point of meaninglessness. I know that the global economy will swallow my country and my family into the same gullet of destruction that currently is dissolving most of the “developing world” into starvation and ethnic conflict. I know we are fucked all around and that nothing short of accelerated plate tectonics or a heaven sent electromagnetic pulse will ever save us from ensuring our own personal demise.
    It is times like this when the futility of it all dawns on me and I realize that there is no chance in hell of a few noble people with big minds and even bigger hearts saving the world and all its inhabitants.  Lots of people like to toss around a Margaret Mead quote as a way of justifying their mediocre political agendas. She writes, “Never underestimate the power of a few dedicated people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Unfortunately, she is wrong. Dead wrong. A quote based more on fact than pseudo-Marxist hallucination would read “Never underestimate the power of a massive population of ignorant people to wreck everything. Indeed, it is exactly what has happened.”
    Thirty years ago, the hippies were waiting for a revolution in human consciousness to help fulfill all their political dreams. A decade ago, activists were waiting for a similar revelation. Today, like so many naive Christians with arms raised to the sky, we are still waiting. And guess what folks, short of this Y2k thing amounting to anything close to the expectations of its technologically illiterate followers, there sure as hell ain’t no messiah coming down to save humanity and the Earth from itself. We are all on a well lubricated slide to hell with six billion assholes pushing.
    So why bother with anything, if all is in vain? So why not throw up our hands and regress back to the fantasy world of our drunk punk pasts or put the barrel into our mouth and finish the noble act even faster? Why bother resisting at all when resistance is markedly futile by all but the most delusionary accounts? Because. Just as any four year old will tell you when you ask them why they just poured a 5 lb bag of flour into the toilet, Because. Because it is fun to fuck with the way things are going, no matter how small your wrenches might be.  Because an infantile disrespect for things stronger, and more powerful than you is a natural part of the human experience (ask that four year old, they know).  Because disobedience, no matter how trivial or contrived, is more exciting than unconditional submission. Because what else can we do?

    I eventually went to sleep that night. After a night of restless slumber with visions of white blazers and men in uniform dancing through my head, I awoke to a gorgeous sunrise that set even the grim streets of North Portland alive with an animated glow. As I joined our funny little cat on the porch for some early morning philosophical contemplation, the frustration and cynicism of the previous night began to dissolve and the heavy feeling in my stomach began to subside. Things aren’t completely shrouded in a black veil of death and destruction. There are still things of beauty and wonder and magnificence out there in the wild and our own backyards. It is our right, our duty, and our obligation to search out these things of beauty and draw inspiration from them so that we can turn from the sunny side of the street and confront the evils of the world which are threatening our very existence. It is up to us to take the feeling of walking in an old growth forest and apply it to the doldrumous labor of filing timber sale appeals and sitting in cold, wet treesits. It is up to us to take the magnificent sound of children playing and mold it into an effective motivator in lobbying against nuclear testing, genocide, or toxic industry. It is up to us to keep a balance between beauty and inspiration and reality and struggle. For if we do not, we will end up like so many thousands of our ideological ancestors, beaten, depressed, burned out and eventually, apathetic. And for every one of us that allows ourselves to become terminally jaded and drops out, we have one less brain and two less hands in the struggles to keep the few things of beauty left on this Earth in existence.
    So keep up the struggle, don’t get bogged down in bullshit, and of course, please move out here to Cascadia and help us prepare for Secession ’00. It’s time for us to cut our losses and regroup in one area where we can have a realistic chance at actualizing our goals. Eugene, Ashland, and any number of towns on the gorgeous coast or in the rugged desert are just waiting to be filled with young people ready to make a change. ¡Up the Ecopunks!
 Mike Antipathy
PO Box 11703 * Eugene, or 97440