(Items found and collated by Doctor Sysyphus Escalopolos)
Hello. I’m a monster.
It’s not something I regularly, readily admit, but it’s a fact I can’t really avoid. I’m a monstrosity. A brutal, violent, ugly force for pain in the world. At least, that’s how - if they had words to express it - the ants, pigs, cows, worms, chickens, trees, bacteria and fish whose misery, torture and death have been my responsibility would refer to me. Heck, it’s how I refer to myself often enough.
Monster. Sickness. Cancer. Moron.
Well, that’s not very nice. I mean, that’s positively awful. So vulgar. So violent.
WELL YEAH DUH
I don’t think we generally understand how innately cruel humanity is. As in, not just humans, but humanity itself. Just think of it: the cruelty that leads artfully to exquisite power; the cruelty that defines the agility and force of our intelligence; the cruelty that precipitates vast gelatinous swathes of kindness.
Mark Rowlands - academic philosopher, alcoholic and wolf-lover - posited that what defines simian nature (and the intelligence which develops therefrom is 1) our deceitfulness and 2) our ability to scheme. The empathic mind of a chimp that can see from the perspective of another chimp, can also manipulate that perspective… and in the rigid patriarchy of chimp-harems, such manipulation can be an escape from the tyranny of oppression. It can also end up with bashed in monkey brains.
So I’m not arguing against empathy; on the contrary, cruelty exists arguably at the behest and as an extension of empathy. Think about it: you love your family, so you go out and bring home the bread. Except that the bread is a battery-farmed chicken with zero exposure to sunlight, with a side of green beans coated in insect repellent flown in from Mozambique. On the way home you pass how many beggars? You mutter how many silent expletives to the pricks on the tube that day? After dinner, you silently manipulate how many family members into expressing gratitude and genuflecting to your grace? How many spiders or mice do you kill to protect the squeamishness of your loved ones? How many unfertilised chicken eggs do you throw away, rotting and uneaten? How much cow-milk do you let go sour?
Cruelty is humanity.
Maggie Nelson contests this in her book, the Art of Cruelty. I mean, she takes issue with a particular brand of brutality espoused by the likes of Francis Bacon; a kind of intensely masculine, violent ‘art’, sugarless and therefore not fully self aware. Not ironic enough. Nihilistic in its way. She’s not altogether wrong. But in a moronic world, perhaps some moronism is due? In an insensitive world, perhaps some insensitivity is required? To show us just how far down the slide runs…?
Perhaps it is a narrative issue. Disney thrives because we want to see the story of hope, optimism and goodness triumph. All transformation must be positive. Startlingly little popular performance is without a base line of redemption: that everyone is, if not totally good, then at least deserving of pity. We do not want to see ourselves as massacrers, as beneficiaries as much as subjects of tremendous violence. But we are. In order for us to be alive today, millions have had to suffer, struggle and ultimately die.
Beatrice Gunta Mortgage - stage manager of the last theatre on earth (Hell) - deserves our pity. Like a grotesque, wheezing snowflake, broken and abandoned in a hopeless patriarchy (COUGH, COUGH) she requires total transformative healing.
Unfortunately, that healing comes in the form of cruelty.
At the hands of two drag doctors.
Who are idiots.
Mortgage, in her failure and suffering as a woman, sister and stage manager, has to undergo a monstrous transformation from victim to master - from pain to strength - in a Jesusy way. Yes, Mortgage is like Jesus; but offensive, stupid and ultimately far more heroic. Her madness is moronic, shamanistic.
Why are we doing this? Why make a piece of art that attempts to beautify the horrific and vulgar, make farcical the most terrible experiences a woman can experience? Why are the two doctors one doctor? Why are they in drag? I don’t know. I just don’t know. It is beyond my capacity for reason.
Artaud tells the story of a woman standing crying by the side of a road. A man walks past her and asks her why she crying. She says, my baby just died. The man slaps her hard across the face. Shocked and through tears she looks up to him. Now you have a reason to cry, he says.
Unnecessarily cruel. Unreasonable. Pain on top of pain. With anguish in the middle, like a cruel sandwich.
FOUND: Letter from Monster to Humanity
169 BC SODOM
FOUND: Mortgage diary extract
VWANKE-DE-DWARF 8000 BC
I'm a plaything. It's not for you. I AM MORTGAGE.
MORTGAGE eats the soup out of the Doctors’ cupped hands. Their drool falls upon her forehead as she licks, licks, licks. Today is dog food soup day. Better than fish food soup day. That’s Thursday. Dog food soup day is Sunday, and MORTGAGE prays as she licks.
She doesn’t know to whom she prays.
It is to someone bright as the sun.
Wherever she chases the numb glif around her eyeballs she cannot land her gaze upon them.
It doesn’t matter.
She thinks of a nothing thinking about thinking about nothing.
Once she was a plaything. They gnawed upon her like a stick of rock in the sticky grip of a toddler. They sliced her open with one long claw and pointed and laughed at the webs of blood inside her. They shined her skin with shoe polish till it gleamed under their sliding fingers.
tickled and poked.
They kissed each others assholes*, tenderly. It reminded Mortgage of Hope.
They collected her sweat in crystal vials. They used it to baste a chicken. They all made love to that chicken in the washroom* at midnight that night, made love to it with their minds as they devoured it with their hands and the sun came up in the orchard where they’d buried the others and bathed in orange light through the frosted glass they knew they’d gone too far.
*Americanisms. Very strange. Very, very strange. Let us think on it.