RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Tuesday, August 22

[2k=0] Alone In The Crowd (Trying Not To Be A Glass Shard Person)

(say "word")

Broken people, likely out of learned survival skill, are very good at pretending nothing is happening. It’s that ironic “It’s all good!” or “It is what it is…” after they just told you about some horrible, wretched hardship or trauma they’ve endured, and are still standing, at least physically. The psychic (metaphysical, psychological, perhaps even neurological once science catches up – if it ever does) realm they perhaps are not standing so straight in though. But generally if you are from broken people, you know the edges are sharp, and we rub each other in ugly and painful ways, pretty consistently, and nobody ever really wants to take responsibility for their ugliness and the pain they’ve caused. A lot of broken people (think of them as sigils made of glass shards) tend to think of themselves as victims themselves, from a previous generation’s ugliness and pain, and the shit just compounds, both in unseen genetics as well as physical environment – a one-two double psychic dropkick that gives the next generation a pretty good traumatic shot to the soul, either in large horrible events, or the slow accumulation of instability and chaos.
When you come from broken glass shard people, there is a likelihood to some extent you will also become a broken glass shard person. It’s not set in stone (it’s glass, remember?) but that path is certainly laid out for you. Not becoming that type of person is really a crap shoot, to be honest. Self-medication, self-hatred, or that hatred being channeled outward to others are all fairly easy redirects of this negative energy that occur regularly in our late capitalist American culture. Two of the prominent news trends of the past few weeks have directly related to broken glass shard people, seen as white by racial constructs: opioid epidemics, and white supremacy/nationalism/neo-Nazis.
(As an aside, being this is the internet, which seems to be a medium for manufacturing hate at all levels, I want to clarify that by saying “seen as white by racial constructs”, I’m not denying the reality of those constructs. In fact, I have benefitted from them greatly in life. Even though I’m very much a broken person from broken people, I can put a $4 button down shirt over top my shitty tattoos, cut my hair, say “yes sir” and “no ma’am” enough to appear to be as safe a white as possible. I would not have the job I have now if I wasn’t white, not coming from the background I came from, nor with the internal jaggedness that I’ve always possessed. Though our racial structure in America is very much a created structure, it is also very much a real and oppressive creation. It’s important for me to acknowledge that, and also do what I can in my life to not perpetuate that.)
I’m not entirely sure why the opioid epidemic is now an epidemic as compared to previous decades when self-medication leading to addiction decimated so many urban minority communities as well as many rural lower socio-economic ones. When you click the map of Appalachian counties suffering the most overdoses in the currently defined epidemic, these are mostly places that have always been known to be homelands of hopelessness, long before greedy pharmaceutical companies starting pushing oxycodone through doctors in these areas. Certainly having a sort of legal way to self-medicate helped make that problem worse, but it was always there.
But as someone who has been blessed enough to sit in on jail writing workshop classes before can attest, or anyone who has been part of a similar recovery groups in the public sphere, these addictions travel back generations, and become learned behaviors, or at the very least acceptable behaviors. You don’t know any better. But you still grow up, become an adult, and then are saddled with the legal responsibilities as part of civilized society to know better. I think of it a lot of times like being asleep in the numbing fog, to avoid all the glass shards of others as well as yourself, and then needing to wake up at some point, and be like, “Oh fuck, I’ve got to stop cutting everybody else up with my glass shards!” There’s no real definitive point that happens but you see it a lot in the prison system, as well as recovery programs from substance abuse. For a lot of folks, that’s when they hit a personal low point where they can’t ignore it anymore, but also they’re often forced by the legal system to detox long enough to actually feel for a minute.
I’m almost seven years sober, so I understand that part. I have family who has battled addiction, both hard as well as legal (alcohol). Liver failures and disappearances happen. Suicides and early deaths. One of the scariest sights I saw before my 18th birthday was my dad attempting to quit drinking in the trailer we shared at the time, and watching him suffer withdrawals. But even my quitting had less to do with me than it did with the fact I had my own children, who I did not want to recreate this pattern with. It’s easier for us to love someone else than to love ourselves, easier to use that motivation for someone else to try and break these broken people glass shard cycles than it is for ourselves.
I will also clarify that I would never have been successful for seven years if I hadn’t practiced learning to love myself more. I still struggle with it, too, wanting to sink into the blinding, numbing fog of medication, legal or not, and disappear from this bullshit world. It’s very literally a daily battle.

Which brings me to the white supremacy/neo-Nazi part of this. When the Ku Klux Klan rally last month and the white nationalist/supremacist rally this month happened in Charlottesville, I felt it necessary to be present, as a rural-born, rural-raised, Southern white male, or as I prefer to think of it if I am forced to identify myself racially, as a country ass whiteboy, to say to these fuckers, “yo, I might look like you and be from where you are from, but fuck you, I’m not with you.” Those fuckers know people of color and marginalized groups are not like them, and they have a perverted pride in that. I feel it’s important for people they think might be down with their demographics as they wage their bullshit memetic wars for western culture, stand up and say, “nah, fuck you.” In fact, it’s necessary. It’s not enough to claim you’re not one of the bad white people; you have to go out and stand up to those who are bad, and prove you’re better than them. (If you wonder why that’s not enough, or think that’s bullshit, think about putting on the shirt and cleaning up for a job interview or court appearance, and wonder why that’s possible. If you can use your whiteness as an inside lane to then cooperate and navigate obstacles, you’re benefitting from the shit. I’m not saying it’s your fault, or you created the fucked up bureaucratic somewhat amoral mess that is America today, but if you can smooth your way through it and others cannot, then that’s a benefit. And thus when assholes are out being Nazis with confederate flags and the white polo shirt/khaki combo of every construction site foreman in America, instead of sitting back in the safety of your own circle and saying “heritage not hate”, you need to get your ass out there and confront those fuckers; not leave it for others to do for you.)
Charlottesville the weekend of August 12th was a horrible community trauma. It happened in the days before, punctuated by a fucking torch march on Friday night (caught the after effects of that in person by chance, with my daughter driving me), through the coordinated attack that happened at the rally itself, all while police did nothing (personally witnessed a truck almost run over 3 people a few hours before Heather Heyer’s death, and personally yelled the license plate out to a nearby police officer, who ain’t do shit but shrug her shoulders and say “the National Guard is back there”), through Sunday’s attempted press conference by the rally organizer, and is ongoing. There are a couple of scenes I saw that weekend that continue to haunt me, continue to make me wish I had done this or that differently. And I wasn’t even at the front lines of this shit! People are hurting everywhere.
On the Sunday of the press conference, I felt like I had to go. I wasn’t aware of any organized plan for people to be there, so I didn’t know what to expect. I texted my boy D and asked him to meet me up there, saying I needed him to because I didn’t know what I’d be walking into. Luckily, there were many people, seemingly disorganized other than by their own indignant morality, who also showed up, and we all yelled that asshole down. Apparently, a couple hundred freedom of speeches ring louder than one asshole’s freedom of speech.
After that weekend, I got texts, calls, and emails from friends all over, asking if we were okay, saying they saw me or my wife on this clip or that, making sure everybody was doing well. But a strange compounding to the post-traumatic stress of the weekend was the fact no one from my birth family checked in. I’m not sure they even knew. But because of the fractured relationships, the glass shards refusing to stop being glass shards, only unless we all just pretend we’re not cutting each other up inside, nobody checked in. Not once.
I’ve heard of multiple other people who had this same effect after that weekend – no family support. It’s a weird feeling, to feel completely unsafe in the face of an overwhelming threat to your community’s security, while to also feel like you got no family there to help. There’s such a strong sense of being unmoored, lost at civilization’s sea. But it’s also something many others have felt, and from many segments of our community’s they’ve felt this for decades themselves.
My glass shards are still there, but I try my best to not psychically cut up my children. Am I perfect? Fuck no. I need improvement, always. I am not the best father all the time, but I am trying to be aware of when I’m faltering or failing. That too is a daily battle.
Just as importantly though, I’m trying to wear down my glass shards for myself, so I’m not wracked with that psychic pain where hatred and self-medication feels so necessary. That process is far more difficult, and when I’ve been most successful with it, that’s usually been direct result of being in group of people attempting the same work. This culture we all live under has manufactured no short supply of broken people; they are everywhere. That’s why there’s an opioid epidemic (which always existed) and a rise in hate groups (which never went away). The traditional notion of family is built on a concept of unconditional support, which is not a reality for everyone in these modern times. But there are those around us all, in our communities, who need that same sense of family, outside of the traditional form (which has failed them). There is no shortage of broken people who need at least a little chunk of unconditional support somewhere in the week to try and dull those internal psychic glass shards just a little bit, to help make it easier to navigate the days.

At societal level, I’m not sure I believe there’s any fixing of the underlying issues that caused the August 12th attacks in Charlottesville, or outright end the current (and ongoing) growth of overdoses, but at that local level – our In Real Life communities – we can start to support each other more like a traditional family would, actively, getting ourselves emotionally dirty with each other, to try and lessen those sharp edges. And actually that might be the weakness of traditional family – that you just pretend everything is okay and ignore the actual issues, and come together at holidays and funerals and act like nothing’s wrong. But in our little pieces of the larger world, at that localized level, we can quit pretending everything just fine, quit saying “It’s all good!” or “It is what it is…” and get the fuck down to doing the painful work of helping ourselves heal, and take care of each other, unconditionally.

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