Thursday, April 9, 2015

Spectacle of Poverty, illusion of Choice

There is choice and there is freewill say the consumers of spectacle, directors of fate: Dirty ecstasy fed by pure misery. 

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. 
In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of 
― Confucius

It's all in good fun: the poverty, the degradation, the addiction, the insanity, the pain, the suffering and the sin punishable by eternal hell. They – the consumers of miserable spectacle and partakers of freewill – drive down the garbage strewn streets of the East Side, as if they are sauntering down the popcorn littered aisles of a movie theatre.

The shows are tragic, satirical, alluring, perverse, deserving of contempt and ridicule. But the choice is up to the spectator: a game and not someone's reality. The unwitting players are game pieces, the consequence of amusement. They dress in spandex and torn denim and have scabbed, ruddy complexions. They need money and compassion, but the spectators deal strictly in Monopoly funds.

The elite audience, the watchers, falsely proposition the indigent and stigmatized and then laugh with windblown freedom in the wake of so much despair. Their carefree Mustang low-profile wheels whiz by the prostitutes and beggars, the psychotic, mentally challenged and the physically disabled. Reckless dominance at the top of the hierarchy paralleled by the consequences of recklessness. Laughter echoed by exquisite madness.

"Hey Mister, ya need a hand?!"

More laughter – derisive laughter.

The veteran amputee wearily looks up in time to see the blur of gel-tipped streaks and tanned, steroid-pumped biceps — one man's lost limp a found treasure of conviviality for those with privilege.

A penny hits a woman in worn-out stilettos like a hard flick. They assume she’s a hooker and dispensable.

Penny for your thoughts? More laughter.

She trips and looks up angrily. The rich kids drive by celebrating as usual — a show for them, but for her the painful sting of an unanticipated projectile. But she is as habituated to the stigmata that clings to her as those kids are to their entitlement, so she carries on, limping down the street. What else can she do?

The woman passes George who caresses his brown paper bag, alcohol-stained along the edges. He doesn't care about anything and he too is accustomed to the stigmata of his skin. But he doesn't like to think about it, and stumbles along in drunken oblivion. He vaguely hears the celebration – the hoots and hollering of the "rebellious" young people who mistake conformity to the status quo for rebellion. George lets out a half-hearted, slurred "yahoo" in response. He still recalls, like a nagging at the darkest recesses of his mind, when life was fun.

He has financial restitution tucked into his boot from the government man and lawyer guy. He doesn't remember their names, but he recalls the memories they lured out of the deep crevices of his pillaged mind and quickly shakes his head. He clutches his paper bag and takes a big chug. This is why his cash is almost gone – he spends it chasing those unwanted recollections with whisky as if it’s his choice, as if he has any control over his tremulous hands or the relentless voice in his head demanding he drink.

He worries during rare lucid moments of what will happen when the blood money runs out. He knows as well as anyone that money is finite, but memories are until death do you part. Without the booze, those once repressed memories will no longer be biting at his heels – they’ll be eating him alive and wolfing him down in agonizing chunks.

Money might buy his poison, but it doesn't buy away the priests with their molesting hands or the nuns with their generous switches. He hears his great grandmother's language from the grave, and they tell him he’s schizophrenic. He doesn't understand his choices, but he is told he has some.

Sherry isn't even 16 yet and she doesn't understand her choices, either. She obediently injects another nearly collapsed vein. Her mother died yesterday — just another overdosed junkie. "Deado-Stinko," as Sherry’s barfly stepfather would say.

Sherry will miss her mother – she taught her every trick she knew.

Too bad for Sherry, the one trick her mother never knew and therefore could never teach her was the biggest trick of all: Freedom of choice. 

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