The Corrective -- a six day journey
(Please forgive a few systemic issues, such as spacing and font glitches -- it's not like that in the book. Also, the "system" changed a few capital letters into lower case -- I'm working on it! PF)
Day one: Thursday
“Well, here it is,” said Rees, certain that they were too inexperienced to pull it off. He indicated as much with a sarcastic tone. “Why did we come here at all?” he thought.
“You better put a lid on your attitude,” said Mathias, staring at the great city, almost stunned by the lights, and allowing his mind to get sidetracked with a metaphysical query: are the lights just lights, or a single entity? Fuck it. Lights are lights.
They were all scared.
Now, after so much planning, practice and deliberation, they were looking right into the abyss—or at least that was how it felt. How could such small, insignificant creatures take down a vast and seemingly infinite reality?
“Reality, it will always surprise you,” Rees was thinking. After all, had he not been full of confidence only a week prior to this day? Then something snapped, and he lost his nerve.
But now, looking at it, even Mathias had to wonder. “Reality is like that,” he thought. “It becomes more and more real the closer you get to it.”
Rah-nee, the so-called “witch,” also had to wonder. Were they on a fool’s errand?
Sheila, the addiction specialist, professor and stunningly beautiful egghead, couldn’t get her thoughts to stay still—an uncharacteristically humbling experience.
Sure, reality could mystify. “Just how real is the scenario right here?” Sheila thought to herself.
“Maybe,” thought rees, “reality is bewitching when it messes with your conception of reality. Hmmm ... Good thing we have a ‘witch’ on our side.” Despite misgivings and an ardently secular skepticism, Rees knew that Rah-nee’s Wiccan skills could sometimes function like ... magic. Maybe the Wicca-witch could fuck with reality. Maybe ... Whose reality, anyway?
On what might be a fool’s errand and at the same time hunted by the Stalkers who, on an errand of their own, were sworn to destroy them, the four unlikely allies would have to move— and think—both quickly and with deliberation. “That’s not a contradiction,” thought Rah-nee, “just tough reality.”
Real challenges involve such tensions, don’t they?
What was real, anyway? They were here, united, precisely because each of them—despite their different values, personalities, stories and aspirations—had one thing in common: they had been drug-addicted misfits, all of whom, supposedly, had relied on drugs because of an inability to handle “reality.”
“Let’s do a toke,” said Rees to Rah-nee. She nodded in agreement and took out a long, cylindrical glass tube with metal mesh inside one end.
He took one out as well, along with a small plastic bag filled with little white chunks.
So they were both smoking crack.
Mathias, who was addicted to cocaine and opiates but preferred to inject rather than smoke, shook his head. “You crackheads light up every half hour. It’s inefficient, and you slow us down.”
“Screw you,” said Rah-nee. “I’d rather smoke than poke.”
Rees was onside. “At least we don’t nod—talk about slowing things down!”
Sheila, like Mathias, was also a poker, a needle-freak. But unlike many addicts, she had little use for the upmanship—or downmanship—in which these social misfits often engaged: it was normal to disparage another’s vice in order to make one’s own seem less troublesome. So quite a few alcoholics took pride in not using “drugs,” just as many druggies looked down at stupid, violent drunks. Crack smokers took pride in not using needles, and injection drug users often bragged about how, unlike crack smokers, they didn’t have to indulge every twenty minutes. Gamblers looked down at all substance abusers, and substance addicts felt good about wasting less money than gamblers. And on it went, ad nauseum. Sheila understood that perfectly, and refused to engage.
Funny thing, but neither Rees nor Rah-nee lit up every half hour—they once had, but now their use was sporadic. And neither Sheila nor Mathias was in danger of nodding as they had been when their habits were completely out of control. All four of them had managed to taper their addictions, but that didn’t prevent three of them from engaging in another old habit, possibly harder to break: putting down another’s vice in order to vindicate one’s own.
“I am Spam. Spam I am! I do not like my pussy with jam!” A Dr. Seuss fan with a taste for Spam, Rees was babbling, as he often did after a blast.
No one seemed to pay attention.
“I’m a boobie girl in a boobie world!” Rah-nee was pleased, singing a variation on an old jingle to herself as though she had just found an elusive spiritual center.
Rees was hyper, and he added a verse: “Doobie be doo wop, di doo di doo.”
“Will you two shut the fuck up?” Mathias was not amused.
Rees replied: “I know you are, but what am I?” He knew he wasn’t making sense and that this would annoy Mathias.
Rather than take the bait, Mathias took his own advice and shut the fuck up.
A few feet to his right, Mathias spotted a crevice—possibly the designated point of entry. It wasn’t too dark out, but he still used a flashlight to home in on it. Yes, it was the right spot. Graffiti, including a swastika, a communist hammer and cycle, fellatio jokes, and homophobic and racist anecdotes, as well as other tidbits—it was hard to mistake if you had ever looked at it before. All the words and symbols—representing love, hate, sex, hope, violence, fear, resentment, and even gratitude—spoke to the mishmash of elements that made up the human condition.
Since he had found the point of entry, Mathias was more concerned with that than with anything the graffiti might invoke—save for one line: Death to Druggies!
“Yeah, a needle-freak knows about hatred and prejudice,” he thought. “It’s like being gay, Jewish, black and in a wheelchair all rolled into one.” Off-colored himself, perhaps halfway between european and African descent, and being kinky enough to make most gays look vanilla, Mathias contemplated those words: Death to Druggies! “Maybe I’d support such a movement,” he mused, “but only if they had enough sense to kill me first.”
Life could be such a chore.
Mathias sat down, and took out his rigs. If he really was to enter that crazy place behind the crevice, he would shoot up first. Shit, this fix might be his last. “So I better do a good one!” he thought.
After, Mathias felt much better. He thought about how Rees and Sheila, partnered up, made such a quaint couple. He walked over to Sheila, who was sitting beside her man, sat down beside her, and put one hand on her shoulder: “So your old man’s a criminal, a drug addict. He’s got no job and he’s got no home. But at least he’s white!”
Rees laughed. Sheila didn’t: “Fuckoff Mathias. And at least he can spell his own name.”
Mathias had never finished secondary school and, though quite bright, was self-conscious about his lack of education. But he was feeling too good to care. “Sure, but his name only has one syllable.”
“Fuckoff Mathias,” she said again, though this time with a grin.
2. Despotic Nerds
Rah-nee recalled a late twentieth century movie called Demolition Man. In a futuristic world—ruled by a figure who was like an evil version of a few goody-goody kid-show hosts—there was no swearing or dirty talk allowed, no smoking, no drinking, no eating meat, no sexually explicit pictures or paintings, no violent sports (Wesley Snipes even referred to the leader as an “evil Mr. rogers”). Oh, and forget about crack, heroin, or S & M—that stuff wasn’t even on the film’s radar. But it was on her radar. After all, she and her team were out to humiliate, and then maybe take down, a group of rulers similar to the uptight wiener-ruler in that long forgotten film. Imagine some of the most extreme goody-two-shoes characters you can recall from television, and now imagine them with political ambition, and then imagine a conglomerate of them running a nation. In a now united north America, ascetics of all stripes had put their differences aside and had decided to work in tandem. They included, but were not limited to, the following: Christians, Marxists (mostly Maoists), political Platonists, animal rights advocates bent on converting
humanity to veganism, staunch environmentalists (often dubbed “eco-fascists”), hardcore pro-censorship feminists, drug and alcohol prohibitionists, and even a disparate collection of new Agers and other visionaries who wanted humanity to rise “above” the body and its functions. nietzsche would have understood—to him, they were all the same kind of people. Moraline was a term he had used: no coffee, for example ... ascetic purity.
Funny, Rah-nee considered herself a feminist, but had little use for the strict dress code and anti-makeup variety of feminism that had been popular in the second half of the twentieth century and which had made a seemingly miraculous comeback.
And she had no use for any of the moraline—moralistic— asceticism of the ruling order in all its facets.
It had started off as remedial, a reaction of sorts. Rhe Uber-rulers had been cruel and grandiose. They put their power on display: public torture and (mass) executions on live TV. they advocated genetic purity and physical superiority. Like the Romans and Greeks of old, they valued physical beauty and despised sickness, ugliness, deformity and weakness. Their overthrow was reminiscent of the Christian overthrowing of older Roman and Egyptian aristocracies: it wasn’t enough to displace the rulers; there was also an imperative to stamp out the many blatant and lewd symbols of aristocratic power. The time had come for the average to shine and, failing that, to smother any bright light that reminded the average that he never could.
In this post-revolutionary climate, Marxists, Christians, and other moralistic ascetics had found plenty of followers.
Now, the entire north American continent was as sanitary as the leaders could make it. Public health—physical and mental “hygiene”—was the order of the day. There was (officially) no more capital punishment and (officially) no state-sanctioned torture—quite a change from the prior regime. Poverty was
rampant, but those in need received a lot more aid than the Uber-rulers would have even thought of providing. This, on its own, was not a great achievement in social justice, as the Uber-rulers had a “Darwinian” view of the many unfortunates and social outcasts: rather than help them proliferate, they would allow them to die off—and even encourage them to do so by means of deprivation, sporadic genocidal initiatives, and sterilization (preferably voluntary, though the Uber-rulers weren’t too fussy about such things).
Compared to what had been, the current regime would strike many observers as heavenly. Why fight it? And of all people, why would the drug-addicted turn against a system that accepted them and tried to help them, rather than simply shut them out or exterminate them as the prior regime had done?
The first answer an outsider might venture is partly right: the new regime was preachy, moralistic, ridiculously sanitized, strict, repressive—downright uptight.
But there was more. The Uber-rulers had cared about their own power, their own interests. Despite paying lip service to a neo- Darwinian genetic agenda, and despite considering the unwashed and unfed to be subhuman, they paid little attention to anything that did not affect them or their immediate interests. So pockets of illegal, semi-legal, or extralegal subcultures abounded. The Uber-rulers were pragmatic, and made that clear in deed if not always in word: don’t mess with us, don’t piss us off, and we’ll leave you alone.
It was different now. The ruling body, known as “the Collective,” seemed to care about everyone. No one would be shut out. No one would be excluded. No thought was too minor to warrant analysis, no impulse too trivial to warrant scrutiny, no stone too small to remain unturned and, as these four characters would learn, no ragtag group too insignificant to warrant attention,
intervention, mothering and smothering. Rah-nee, Mathias, Rees and Sheila had more in common than drug addiction: they longed for the freedom they enjoyed during the old regime. The unthinkable had become an ironic reality: many actually missed the freedom they had had under the Uber-rulers.
The current regime certainly had its good points. Operating in a Platonic tradition, and with a sincere desire to shelter people from the many horrors of this world, the Collective did its best to ensure a safe and happy life for all. What the Collective could never accept was transgression—and in the case of these four companions the transgression was extreme: unrepentant substance users with little or no desire to reform. It really was an impasse: moral, spiritual, ideological. A joke often heard on the streets— “Big Wiener is watching you!”—said a great deal. Pretty well everyone had a job, and officially there was no unemployment. And everyone had to exercise at work together, oh so sweet, but never too intensely.
Moderation, health, balance, serenity, humility, safety, community, cleanliness, honesty, rationality, brotherhood, sisterhood, longevity, morality ...
Some were fine with it all, but many were not. Many felt smothered, many were bored, and some—like our four protagonists—were opting out and even making trouble.
3. The Stalkers
There were many theories about how the Stalkers originated. The most popular and feasible account was that disgruntled, renegade Uber-rulers had banded together after their regime collapsed. If nothing else, the timing was right. Either way, the Stalkers were killers—and they killed pretty well anyone who had been anathema under the old regime: the infirm, the mentally unsound,
the lost, the frightened, the neurotic and, of course, addicts like rees, Mathias, rah-nee and Sheila. They knew that Stalkers were on their trail, and they were ready.
Well, as ready as could be expected. How to prepare for an enemy more concerned with your destruction than his own survival? Stalkers were known to attack with casual abandon. Not that they were out of control. Deliberate and strategic, their attacks were often disciplined and well thought out. It was just that, quite often, they seemed not to care about dying. History had seen many examples of soldiers, warriors, or just plain killers willing to die for their cause. Call them heroes or fanatics, warriors or maniacs, brave or mad—one thing, though, had long been certain: people like that are hard to fight.
Not that Rees and company were helpless. Well-armed and trained to kill, they made for a nasty crew themselves. Besides, these four had one thing in common with the “Uber-Stalkers”: a cavalier disregard for survival. Each of them—Rah-nee, Sheila, Rees and Mathias—had been diagnosed and certified as “disordered” one way or another. And they each had at least a hint of a death wish.
After all, life could be such a chore. Think of the hassle of having to wipe your nose, tie your shoes, or reach around your back to scratch an itch—things like that are enough to trigger suicidal impulses among a certain breed. And this crew was of that breed.
Maybe this way, too, they had something in common with the Stalkers. Presuming that the disgruntled Uber-ruler theory was right, then the Stalkers were also of a certain breed: aristocratic overlords who had long taken it for granted that others should tie their shoes, and even scratch their asses, on demand. Lowlife scum-buckets, frustrated aristocrats—maybe it’s all one. They possessed similar virtues—intelligence, courage, loyalty, and an uncanny ability to focus upon certain tasks—and many of
the same shortcomings: impatience, impulsivity, and a stubborn refusal (or inability) to focus on anything that did not stimulate their endorphins.
The Stalkers were even juvenile, to the point of being comical in appearance. Dressed in black tights, which covered them from head to toe, they often looked like nefarious ninjas from an adolescent comic strip. This made for an even better chuckle whenever a Stalker was overweight or somehow unshapely. Of course, they became a lot less funny when they happened to be killing you.
Though, even here, you might have gotten a rebuttal from Rees and his crew: they all saw humor in the prospect of getting killed by Stalkers; and, no, this wasn’t false bravado. These were honest reactions from a highly intelligent—and mentally unstable— group of crackheads and junkies.
So, who were the Stalkers? Highly trained homicidal “ninjas,” out to rid humanity of weakness and deformity. Oh, and they did enjoy their sing-alongs. This one was a favorite:
To rid the world of scum and filth
To cleanse creation of scrum and illth
To kill the blind
A genetic quest is what we follow
For a purity that is not hollow
We kill to live
Our many struggles an act of will
More than a few observers would have considered Sheila and company quite sane and stable compared to the Stalkers. Still, a counterpoint could be made: some would consider anything— seriously, anything—an improvement on the Collective. In fact, Rees, Sheila, Mathias and Rah-nee were not independent rogues or anything like that. They were part of a larger group opposed to the Collective: The Corrective. Despite going by a name that amounted to a jocular rebuttal, and despite their antics, the Corrective was a sophisticated oppositional organization.
4. The Corrective
So what was—and who were—the Corrective? Members tended to be young, though the organization was certainly not exclusive. The Corrective was dedicated to undermining and, whenever possible, humiliating the Collective. This could be done in many ways, and the organization did not want for creativity. Cyber-crime, or cyber-mischief, was one approach. For example, exposing school children to texts and images the Collective would deny them. Drugs, tobacco, profanity, pornography—anything to infuriate the do-gooder brain police. Interrupting TV broadcasts was another favored tactic, for example with footage of a naked Collective member doing something naughty. Burning over a hundred pounds of tobacco, and channeling the fumes through the vents of a “smoke-free” facility, was also good for a chuckle. Interrupting speeches, talks and “seminars” with lewd heavy metal or rap music was yet another tactic. Still, running alongside the seemingly juvenile mischief was a serious agenda. Members perceived themselves as freedom fighters out to overthrow a regime they considered preachy, moralistic, smothering, overly sanitized and, in effect, totalitarian. “Big Wiener is watching you” was a joke, but also a call to arms.
We, dedicated members of The Corrective, united in our contempt for The Collective, shall use every means at our disposal to undermine, humiliate, infuriate and, eventually, overthrow that pathetic regime.
1. They call themselves democratic, yet have placed such constitutional limits on democratic practice that meaningful opposition is de facto illegal.
2. They call themselves inclusive, yet exclude so many pleasures and behaviors—smoking, drinking, rough sports, (most forms of) sex, drugs, hard rock, hardcore rap, meat eating, ad nauseum—that in effect many are excluded (most people in fact).
3. They call themselves equitable, but their conception of equitable practice involves so many bureaucratic jumps and hoops—well, it’s enough to make us want to retch.
4. On that note: they claim to promote health, yet have so many of us wanting to puke but not succeeding for years on end that, well, it just can’t be healthy, can it?
5. They claim to care for the mentally unstable, yet treat them like children and take away their dignity (the proof is that so many persons with diagnosed mental illnesses have joined us).
6. They claim to care for persons with substance addictions yet betray that claim by forcing tobacco addicts to freeze outside of hospitals (and more proof for our point: substance addicts have joined us in droves—if you can’t get anything else right, then at least legalize tobacco).
7. They claim to care for everyone, yet in practice care more for policies and procedures than for living, breathing human beings.
8. They speak of liberation, but advocate liberation only on their own (narrow) terms—the hypocrisy of telling everyone what to do for the sake of liberation is lost only on fools (like The Collective).
9. They speak of “equity,” which in fact is code for rules, rules, red tape, and more rules (and yes, we know that this is a repetition of our third point).
10. They speak of longevity, when today most North Americans live far longer than they should—better to spend six months in a cancer ward than eight years in the Alzheimer’s section.
So we, members of The Corrective, say: fuck equity, fuck reciprocity, fuck longevity, fuck hygiene, fuck inclusion, fuck sobriety, fuck recovery, fuck due process, fuck “healthy living,” fuck clean living, fuck spirituality, fuck the righteous, fuck the preachy, fuck religion be it secular or mystical, fuck the left wing, fuck the right wing, fuck the monoto-theist rulers be they Platonist, Maoist, feminist, vegan or Christian—and, above all, fuck the politically correct thought and speech police!
For these and other reasons, we, dedicated members of The Corrective, pledge to fight, undermine and, ultimately, unseat The Collective. To this end, we have three major weapons at our disposal: sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
And, if the preachy do-gooders we oppose dismiss us as fly-by-night, trendy or juvenile, we counter that attitude by reference to one fact, and one prediction:
Fact: sex and drugs have been around a lot longer than The Bible.
Prediction: Rock & Roll will outlast it.
Time to wake up
Time to get busy
Time to step up
Make ’em go tizzy
5. Staring Into the Abyss
Nietzsche once said that if you stare into the Abyss, the Abyss also stares back into you. Rees thought about that while taking a drag of a cigarette. He knew his nietzsche. Most Corrective members did. The “Great Philosopher” offered what amounted to an anti-systematic system of thought. Oppositional yet disciplined, grounded yet lofty, hedonistic yet also offering meaning beyond happiness—the Great Philosopher provided a “corrective” to every tenet the Collective held dear: rarity in place of similarity, personal will in place of bureaucratic structure, passion in place of serenity, danger-lust in place of safety rules, power that overflows and spends itself freely in place of conservative conservation. Rees and his three companions each had, on their persons, copies of either The Genealogy of Morals or Beyond Good and Evil.
“So,” thought Rees, “am I staring into the abyss? If so, is it staring back into me?” He thought about that, and had to admit to not even understanding what it means. “How,” he thought, “could a seemingly meaningless statement pack such a wallop?” Much of nietzsche made sense to him, most of it in fact. Yet Rees pondered this idea, again and again, without resolution: The Abyss stares back into you.
Does it mean anything at all, or is it pretentious tripe? The Great Philosopher was not above playing games, so maybe he was just having fun. The first part of that ditty, coming right before the bit about the Abyss, made much more sense: When battling a monster, it is important that in the process one does not become a monster.
Yes, that rees could understand, and above all he could identify. But the abyss, what was it? If the Abyss can stare, is it a person, a god, a demon, or at least sentient?