What’s So Bad About Doing Good?
In the last chapter it appeared that politics might be sort of a good thing to pay attention to if one cares and wants to make a real difference in our world. But I notice in what I see around me that we need also to address the issue of whether to care is even a good idea. I am being serious about this.
Let me tell you what I mean. “The Rainmaker” is a 1997 movie based upon the blockbuster novel of the same name by John Grisham. It is directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars Matt Damon and Danny DeVito among others. It is no B-list movie.
And while “The Rainmaker” is an extremely well-produced, acted, and directed movie, I vividly remember the first time I saw it. I did not feel good when I left the theater afterward.
Uncovering the layers of feelings that were in me then, I realized I was not satisfied at all with the ending. The movie had a triumphal and climactic courtroom scene, a delightfully sweet love story, and was totally engaging throughout—so much so that I was surprised, upon checking in with my body, occasionally, at how tense and “in suspense” I was because of my involvement with the movie: I found myself caring and pulling for the events to turn one way as opposed to another—just as if these were real events in people’s lives instead of mere fictional events played out by actors with lives totally unlike the characters they portrayed.
Nevertheless, I noticed my body being in suspense, as well as my wet cheeks, replenished continuously by tears flowing freely during love scenes of caring and compassion, and scenes of tragedy and sadness. [Footnote 1]
So why did I leave the theater feeling so dissatisfied? Beneath the more superficial layers of feelings—the disappointment that the “victory” was only a pyrrhic one—that is, it did not reap the expected benefits and was almost as good as a loss; and the fact that the romantic element was left undetermined—you weren’t sure there was going to be a “happily ever after” for this couple—I realized there was the larger disappointment that the “heroic” main character, after this first and only case as a lawyer, and despite his huge though prryhic victory, was considering quitting the legal profession. This, because of the corruption and injustice in it.
I realized this part was disappointing because it fit with a pattern of numerous stories of the Nineties—especially, but in the decades since, as well—whose message was largely that corruption and injustice…or downright evil…was everywhere and that it is hopeless to resist…and that heroic responses, by contrast, were stupid, or naïve, or—worst of all—too…well, “Sixty-ish.” So I was beginning here to notice the generational tie-in –> deeper depressing feelings still!
Among those images of BPM II hopelessness and despair in the face of an overwhelming, insensitive, unjust–and monstrously huge and randomly acting–social system, I remembered “The X Files.” Will Scully and Mulder ever find out the truth? Will any episode ever end with the truth concerning the events portrayed actually being spelled out and affirmed in their “FBI Final Reports” . . . rather than left as “Status: Unexplained” or “Reason-” or “Cause Unknown” . . . when in fact the TV viewer, as well as of course Mulder and Scully, know full well what happened and why. The truth is left always hidden and covered up.
Why? Well, because Scully, especially, cannot put out explanations that do not fit the prevailing paradigm—that do not fit traditional “scientistic” explanations—for fear of ridicule. Hence, she covers up the truth and denies that she’s observed, learned, and experienced what in fact she has. In this way she demonstrates the hallmark of neurosis—denial of one’s own experience, one’s own reality.
I remembered also how popular “The English Patient” was. Talk about a bummer movie!! No hero here either—just random events, tragedy, meaninglessness. Yet a huge box office success it was! What the hell’s going on here?
Used to be that the “good guys” would win in the end and that a promise of real love was gifted, by movie’s end, to everyone in the theater. While not always realistic, what’s so wrong about hope and ideals? What’s so wrong, or stupid, about trying for the best in one’s life . . . or to be the best one can be in one’s life?
There are many other media stories that fit the pattern of hopelessness against overpowering forces, of course. The TV series “Millennium” is a good example. But I think I’ve made my point.
Lest I be misunderstood, however, you should know that I’d be the first to decry a sappy plot that glosses over reality and sugar coats, rationalizing everything as wonderful, happy, and good. Yet, is the truth then that life is always so hopeless? Is reality truly so grim, horrific, tragic…? Is the effort to make a better world or to be a better person really so stupid and naïve because so impossible—with everything stacked against one? Or, instead, can it be true that this hopeless view is actually a paranoid one—”the whole world against me”—a manifestation of BPM II birth pain?
At any rate, then it dawned on me how these attitudes are physicalizing themselves in the furniture of our social reality: adolescents and young adults wearing black, painting their faces to be deathly masks, sticking pins in themselves everywhere—from tongue to genitalia…and the ongoing vampirism craze…simply the name itself, “Generation X”—indicating a generation with no overriding ideals, purpose, meaning, or even profile! So ambiguous and lacking in shape as to merit only an X as a name!
Alongside the above: the scapegoating of the Sixties generation and its ideals. “How Sixties!” “Too Sixty-ish,” and “Old-fashioned”—I’ve already discussed “kumbaya” and “bleeding heart”—have become putdowns for expressions and examples of idealism, hope, visions, efforts to make a better world or to fight injustice.
I realized then why my spiritual teacher, Sathya Sai Baba, often exhorted his audiences to be “heroes not zeroes.” He is not saying people should emulate John-Wayne-ish egotistical machismo and unfeelingness. To the contrary, he exhorts his followers to strive to be as fully human, caring, sensitive, courageous in the service of truth and justice; to be feeling people, caring people and as actualizing of the best in them as they can possibly be. He says it is better to fail at aspiring after high ideals than to succeed stupendously at lower aims.
It’s not that there are no heroes anymore. We still have the movies and stories where good triumphs in the end, against even hopeless odds. Sure we have them. And we even have uplifting and inspiring TV shows like “Touched By an Angel” to watch. It’s just that, when teen suicides are occurring in record numbers, drug addiction is ever rising, and an epidemic of “depression disease” has swallowed our society whole and doctors are scattering antidepressants over the masses like holy water…well, maybe, we should not be reinforcing this depressive attitude.
Writers and producers will choose to write and produce what they will, and they will make the ending whatever they want it to be. But I, for one, have got the point, already, that the Fifties-shlock-pollyanna view was a sham that needed overturning and unraveling because it hid so many social problems that needed to be looked at, addressed, attended to—that is, the Government, and Eisenhower, is not always right; parents do not always love their children, in fact sometimes they beat and even kill them; a newborn’s screaming entrance into the world is not a joyous occasion indicating healthy lungs; women, African-Americans, and minorities are not happily oblivious in their subservient or submissive roles; and on and on.
Yea, I got it. A whole generation got it…in that oh-so-much-maligned Sixties. And because we got it, we exposed it. We fought it. We sought justice; we sacrificed; we strove to start from scratch and build a world on high and glorious ideals. Euphoric in our growing numbers, we grew optimistic…hell, even certain that we could/would change the world. And we would do it “NOW!” You know the story.
OK, so, yes, we did get put down by the moneyed elite who commanded and manipulated the media into stopping its coverage of the revolution and “the greening of America” that was actually occurring and instead instructed and coerced the media into announcing the “big lie” of a “conservative backlash”…which didn’t really exist at first…any backlash occurring only in the minds of the few but powerful moneyed elite, with the actual trend of the masses in the country being toward more demonstrations, more change, more liberalism, and so on. But…eventually, with enough of the repetition in the media that money can buy, enough accompanying discussion of such a “conservative backlash” and other treatment of this fictitious reality in the lackey press…well, sure enough, people began to accept it as the consensus reality—a reality bought and paid for.
And this supposed reality was hammered home by TV shows, funded by corporate and moneyed interests that would benefit by such a view being promulgated. Shows such as “Family Ties”—showing a conservative son rebelling against Sixties-generation parents. A total farce in that, predominantly, children grow up owning not rebelling against, the values of their parents. If they rebel, it is in the direction of being more extreme than their parents in pursuing those values; studies have proven this.
The reality at that time was that the conservative youth of that time were the children of a Presley-Eisenhower generation—late World War Two through early baby-boomer generation—who had their adolescent and formative years during the “Monk-ish” and conformist Fifties. Nevertheless, the show served the powered interests in scapegoating Sixties values by belittling and trivializing them. A generation’s serious ideals and efforts to completely re-create the world on a more humane, just, right, and true foundation became a laughing matter and its proponents a laughing stock, scapegoated. The attitude being put out then about Sixties revolution and values became: “It was all only about youth wanting not to have to go to war, after all, wasn’t it?”
And the conservative forces succeeded. For all of this media reconstruction of reality certainly discouraged the efforts of my generation of youth, as well as all youth since then—including and especially today’s—toward even thinking they could affect the world for the positive. A contract had been put out on optimism; idealism was dead and its scattered forces were ridiculed and scoffed at.
But . . . hey now! We did stop the war. We did improve civil rights for African-Americans, women, and minorities…though it’s a never-ending effort and cause, of course. We did raise consciousness about the pollution of the environment. And, indeed, we did instill an awareness of spiritual reality and values into a heretofore thoroughly mechanical, materialistic, and religiously hypocritical paradigm of social reality and normal human behavior. As Abbie Hoffman, pounding the podium in frustration, bellowed in a speech he gave not too long before his unfortunate death, “Goddamit! The truth of it all is that WE WERE RIGHT!!!”
My point is that reinforcing despair and hopelessness—as in “The Rainmaker” and productions like it—can only serve to undermine the idealistic energy, hope, and enthusiasm necessary to continue the struggle on those, and so many other, fronts, which are necessary to be won if we are to bring in a new era…indeed, if our species is even to survive.
When our species’ survival is at stake, why reinforce hopelessness, which can only lead to apathy and paralysis in the face of injustice and suffering?
And yet, these media patterns and images are merely reflections of our society’s collective psyche. They are produced, and people go to see them, because people recognize their own feelings in them. So they are an expression of self-sabotaging, self-destructive behavior on a collective level…an expression of collective neurosis.
And the only thing that can be done about such things going on are to point them out…for whoever has ears to hear. I, for one, would like to point out that the glass is half full, not half empty…and I’d like to see some real heroes again. (See the movie “Strange Days” as an antidote to the hopelessness and anti-heroism I’ve discussed.)
For life is a game, and we can only lose by not playing it. Since we must act, and must decide—even apathy and indecision are actions and decisions—why not choose a “heroic” path or—to better avoid the negative connotations of the word hero—as Castaneda has enjoined us, why not choose “a path with a heart”? And I would like to see stories, TV shows, movies, and plots that sustain, support, and inspire us in that direction. What have we got to lose by being positive? Hell…what’s so bad about doing good?
As I bring this topic of culture/class war to a close a new one begins. I have been alluding in this and a few of the chapters just before this to the fact that the political and cultural problem we face in America and worldwide is the most dire because it distracts from attention to and ability to act on a problem of infinitely greater significance…as if that could be possible. But something bearing down on us, actually does have far greater consequence for our lives than a fascism that is no longer creeping, or even “jogging,” but is actually “sprinting” in its advance now.
This thing has far greater consequence for our lives and for future generations, but amazingly also, for all previous generations…indeed all life that exists or one-time existed on this planet…and possibly for any life beyond this planet. The more spiritually-inclined might also say that the divine is intimately involved and intently watching it.
Sound grandiose? I only wish I were exaggerating. I am only saying straight as it is about something that is desperately being downplayed and too often pathetically denied. You probably know what I am talking about.
So this discussion of what is wrong and what can be done about it turns now to the environment, to the rapidly approaching environmental collapse and unprecedented mass extinction of life on this planet. Turning, we face and peer into an even greater darkness about. We uncage our power and bring real hope into our predicament by letting ourselves know apocalypse. First, we must acknowledge our “Apocalypse Emergency.”
Continue on this site with
Culture War, Class War Interlude –
Chapter 32: Anatomy of Class Consciousness
1. I really should not have to mention this but considering the thing being addressed in this chapter I suppose I had better. For I have experienced our culture changing drastically over the last few decades in its valuing of feelings and emotion. If you are familiar with earlier chapters of this book, you know this is a theme that keeps coming up in our understanding of this culture war, class war—that is, American and Western culture increasingly, in brave-new-world fashion, instilling cynicism, apathy, mean-spiritedness—creating “zombies” and “trolls”—and suppressing, ridiculing, beating down our human qualities—softness, kindness, caring…all that “bleeding heart” “kumbaya” stuff.
So, yes, I am one of those people who feels things. I am not being facetious, for I did deep feeling experiential psychotherapy at one time in my life to be able to handle such capacity to be sensitive and empathetic. I also spent a good deal of my life as a helping professional facilitating others in several of the most powerful and profound methods of healing and consciousness expansion—specifically, primal therapy (that’s the one John and Yoko went through and expressed in their music), rebirthing/vivation, and holotropic breathwork. You can check my bio in “About” for more on that.
So, yes, I cry, and it is not a big f—ing deal or a “meltdown” when I do. I can’t write that last sentence without lmao. Anyway, you got the idea.
Continue on this site with
Culture War, Class War Interlude –
Chapter 32: Anatomy of Class Consciousness
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