A Child of a Freer Time
A Child of a Freer Time by Holly O – The Burning Platform
I was born in the last of the best days of a mighty empire.
My people made at one time a great society, and I was a part of it. I have been privileged to walk under the sun untroubled by the colour of my skin. To move about at will after dark unafraid. To smile at strangers and have that smile returned. To perform a kindness without fear of misunderstanding, or being perceived as weak or a fool.
My people envisioned, built and successfully maintained most everything the world covets. Now we are shamed and persecuted; in most parts of the world we are raped, beheaded, crucified, taken into slavery and ethnically cleansed, then fined or imprisoned for complaining about it.
Everyone here gets it; that their lives and industry once enhanced their nations and now they have been betrayed by their governments (via the corporations that dictate to those governments aided by controlled media and publishing, the medical, pharmaceutical, food, entertainment and communication cartels, by the systematic eradication of a celebration of The Divine in the human heart and by Socialist Marxist indoctrination in schools and universities.) But how did it unfold to be this way? Complacency? Wilful ignorance? The way of all flesh in history?
I think about it all the time, and it’s the main reason I come to this site. On bad days TBP is a primal comfort, like blind puppies in a clump seeking warmth and an unclaimed nipple. On better days it’s educational, occasionally uplifting, often exhilarating. Sometimes it makes me cry in a good way.
About me: my favourite age was ten; I was green and glossy as a new blade of grass. School and I happily parted ways at the earliest opportunity; I was warned leaving would hobble my chances of a good life but it never has—quite the opposite. As I learned more about myself and the world I determined that if I could design a life without an alarm clock in it I would count myself successful.
I do not own a mobile phone, television, or ebook reading device. Nor do I travel by air, upload my work to a cloud service or use credit or loyalty cards. I had at one time a first generation iPad but found it was destroying my attention span for books, and when it got too old for Apple to find it worthwhile to support the software—implicitly strong-arming me into buying new hardware that I did not explicitly need—I swore I would never have another.
I’ve been determined to remain free and to this end I carry no debt, earn below the poverty level so pay no taxes, yet take no welfare or dole. I am registered to vote but want as little to do with government as possible. I suspect many people live this way – cultivating the quiet life, talking to themselves in battered and well-thumbed journals or in unregarded nooks on the Internet—getting by. Getting along.
It’s nice to think we might be keepers of the secret flame and the holy fire, and though we may grieve for what could have been in the world we once knew, perhaps we also see the bigger picture; we know that eventually every earthly empire falls to dust and that maybe, just maybe, the epoch we are presently enduring is precisely how any great culture fails.
At first, the edge begins to fray, yet it’s still just an annoyance and so we dismiss it. This is followed by an ever-increasing succession of daily outrages, small at first, then increasing in intensity until we feel like beef being tenderised for consumption. There’s the growing realisation that maybe we are living in the midst of a new serfdom where the feudal overlords are now corporations, for all this has happened before and it will all happen again. Then something happens to you and it’s no longer an abstraction, no longer dismissible. It’s tangible and visceral, scary and real.
The first stage of mourning is an obsession with who is to blame. Was it us? Did our vigilance slip? Were we enjoying ourselves too much? Did we get too big for our britches? Were we deliberately distracted by those who live to control others? Do we hunt them down? Hang them high?
In the midst of this we find we are still expected to maintain an even strain, to carry on, pay our taxes, sacrifice our children, contribute and obey, produce and consume. When the price of non-compliance is living out of your car, begging on the street, separation from your children, imprisonment or death, many opt to stay quiet, stay small, stay medicated, complain privately. But that was then. Nowadays, even the right to complain with impunity is prohibited.
Look up—we have assented to a panopticon. The majority have phones that record and upload everything. Government has no need to compile dossiers—we happily do the work for them on social media, and with a level of detail the Stasi could only dream of. The name of one world government will be Google. Something vital and joyous and free is fled from the world and all that’s left of the bitter draught we hold is the orts and lees of fear and despair.
The Germans have a great term, Mut der Verzweiflung—courage out of desperation—the realisation that when victory is impossible perhaps death is preferable to surrender. It happened at Appomattox and Gettysburg. It happens with every stone age tribe of the Amazon basin or Papua New Guinea when they are discovered and exposed to the modern world. It nearly happened in 1983 when The US was pushing Pershings hither and yon during Able Archer. The Soviets stared into the nuclear abyss, baulked, stepped back and collapsed in on themselves.
Courage out of desperation is happening now throughout the entire West. Some throw themselves upon the sword by entering the military or sticking a needle in their vein. Others join vicious totalitarian death cults commanding them to demand that the rest of the world either convert, be enslaved, pay protection money or die. Others kill themselves quietly and by degrees; first comes a fashion for dystopia in popular entertainment, followed by licentiousness and gross indecency, by self-medicating, by conniption fit, by cancer, by a slow drift towards insanity. There’s nothing more dangerous, sad or intemperate than a society that realises it is dying and therefore has nothing to lose.
So, say you are in charge—how do you circumvent the threat to your powerbase from the suicidal aggression of the people you aim to subdue and destroy? How do you get people to give up and stand aside while you replace them with more malleable slaves? The final stage takes some time—almost exactly the span of my lifetime as a matter of fact—but it’s really quite simple: just humiliate them to the degree that they have no more pride to defend.
Refer to The Psychopath Playbook, Article 1: Make people trust you, then love you, then become completely convinced they cannot live without you and you will have laid the foundation to support the world’s most elaborate structure of lies. You then gaslight the population by making them dependent upon a media you control. You show them one thing, then insist it’s entirely the opposite, again and again. You get them to doubt their own discernment. You bombard them relentlessly with blinding and deafening input so that they can no longer hear the pure silver tone of their own sovereign souls.
Populations who realise they have been played for chumps may lash out, but they no longer have the stamina to win a war or even survive a siege. They have been humiliated into believing they are worthless so they may as well take off their clothes in Walmart and have their stunt uploaded for the world to laugh at. Who cares—at least they won’t go down unnoticed.
But this time, you may say, it’s different; for the first time in history our conquerors must also surmount, co-opt and control the Internet by making the cost not worth the benefit. It is a formidable challenge. Since the late 80s, we can speak freely with each other, exchange and debate information, and express our passions in numerous media, though we are being increasingly squeezed like the garbage masher on the Death Star by corporate interests directing the gatekeepers of the ISPs. Places like this site bring me hope, though we must increasingly communicate in non-prosecute-able language. English is a tongue rich in euphemism, we have that in our favour, though in the long run the Internet and our access to its remaining freedoms may only be buying us a little extra time to observe and rant about the inevitable decline.
And that is how you destroy one society before replacing it with another.
Here is how I came to this place where I am now addressing you.
In 1990 I was working the night shift in Dallas doing graphics for a local television station when I got a look at the daily newsfeed footage from ABC of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
Like the first kettledrum in the William Tell Overture it presaged a storm. It was profoundly disturbing seeing something broadcast that had been edited in a way to support an official narrative, but I dismissed it at the time. Yes, I did that thing—I did not dwell on it.
I lived my life. I moved on from that job. I learned new skills. I enjoyed the 90s with all my heart. I had a front row seat at the birth of an entirely new media, no less revolutionary than the advent of the Gutenberg Press, but that is a story for another time.
It was a decade when I thought government mostly worked okay as long as you made enough money to keep them out of your hair, when I was convinced journalists were mainly trustworthy and not universally corporately biased, back when synthetic laugh tracks and sweetened applause were still under my annoyance radar, and back when I really believed that citizenship was a sacred contract between a human and the nation they most desired to contribute to.
I was simpler then, and more naive, and I mistakenly interpreted this cognitive dissonance as a problem specific to the States, and so I said, goodbye, America, have a nice day, and moved to England. Specifically, to the navel of my known universe at that time, London.
I am an Aberystwythian hayseed who can claim direct descent from redneck royalty via Texan relatives and after twenty years I finally called it quits on that hellish climate and crossed the Styx at Gatwick in December of 1998.
All my worldly doodads were packed into a rucksack, a portfolio, a rolling luggage thing and a money belt stuffed with more travellers cheques than I could legally admit to carrying. I had sold my pickup truck, given away clothes and computer, dispersed everything I owned like dandelion fluff and landed up on a new shore silently thrilled to never again have to dash from one air-conditioned oasis to the next. I felt like travelling light; like light, travelling. Like lightning. Like an aurora. I felt like I was lit from within, I was that happy.
That Christmas, spring and summer I made the city mine. The dominant theme was freedom from needing a car, from maintaining paperwork to prove I was insured or registered or paid up or worthy to move between Point A and any destination I liked. I recall a day I was leafing through a book and came across a painting of a dying Icarus, then saw where the painting was permanently housed, then realised all I had to do was stand up, lock the door behind me and travel a mile on The Tube to see that painting in person.
Came the day in August I walked down Queensway to the park along with throngs of other people eager to witness a rare event. As we filed through the gates it was quiet, like church is quiet, almost reverent. As the light began to lower it put one in mind of the moment before the curtain goes up and the performance begins.
At one point I turned to look back and saw a remarkable sight: hundreds and hundreds of people all looking up in the same direction. To this day I wish I’d had a camera to capture it.
It wasn’t all reverence, though. Some kid with nunchaku was running through his routine, flashing the weapon with real brio and Enter-the-Bruce-panache when he klonked himself right between the eyes and dropped like a sack of potatoes. This was England so the thousand or so witnesses felt embarrassed on his behalf and decided to pretend he was suddenly napping in the park.
Nevertheless, we were present for a 99% solar eclipse and every person still conscious witnessed the dreamlike experience of rising dark in the midst of a sunny summer afternoon.
There was a quality present that day, one difficult to put my finger on even now, though many years afterwards I attempted to capture it in a story about Robin Hood:
“Tuck had been working one afternoon in the hazel coppice with Brother Gilbert and Brother Hugh. It had been a bright day, and the fresh breeze and liquid trill of birdsong made being outdoors a joy, when a cloud passed in front of the sun, the wind dropped to a dead calm and the birds fell silent.
Both brothers stopped pruning, straightened, looked at one another, then at Tuck, then at the sky. It was as if some unseen leviathan had glided past trailing a primal unease in its wake.”
Then, before we knew it, it was done. Bruce was beginning to stir—he’d napped through the whole thing—and one by one, thousands of people gathered their belongings and left the park, changed forever.
Everything seemed altered on the walk back. The city I had loved now smelled like blood and metal and stone, of ten thousand years of cold, grey bones underfoot. There seemed to be something stranger and older than London at large once again, released to roam when the moon ate the sun in Kensington Gardens. Now it loomed in doorways and closes and yards, a shadow at my shoulder, a flicker at the periphery of vision, then contracted to something small and furtive and furious, slouching towards Bayswater to be born.
I never felt the same way about the place again.
Twenty-five months later to the day, two large planes hit two large buildings and three large buildings fell down in another world capital across the sea. The monster had been born, all at once and all over the world, and the hundreds of millions of words written about it since can never fully compass the horror. We were shown one thing and told another, lied to and humiliated on a worldwide scale and, like any abused child, we may never get over it.
I am once again a hayseed in the Land of my Fathers. It’s still safe here for the time being, though the darkness is lapping at the shore and we stand poised for another battle in what amounts to the oldest war in the world.
Here is a bitter comfort—I just thought of this—there was a strange film a long time ago with Matthew Broderick, Marlon Brando and a komodo dragon, I think, and there was some quote in it like, “There’s a kind of freedom in being completely screwed.”
There’s happiness in that if you have the courage to look. For myself, I am glad to have known what it is to ride my bike barefoot to the library. To spend a summer afternoon with a stack of books, two or three ripe apples and good cheese. To not fear police, to respect my teachers, to worship or not as I please in a land where I did not have to fear bombing, beheading or slavery because of the choices I made with my heart.
I remember a time when my culture’s birthright was the glittering promise of creating so much more, forever, and even though we are presently hounded from pillar to post by those who do not create, only conquer and enslave, I had those freedoms, and they are mine still because they made me who I am. The tragedy is that the children of today see the ghost of these freedoms in old films and television shows and dismiss them as fiction.
Like every human, every republic is born in blood and shit, then patiently nurtured into a shining entity on a hill, the light of the world, coveted by all who desire a place within its walls and cherishing a dream of administering their own share of its brightness, but no one can return lost savour to salt or restore a republic that has died—it can only be born in blood and shit once more after a long and costly war.
Perhaps we might take some comfort that we are present to chronicle the end. Perhaps we might only be here to huddle together against the cold; blind, hungry, yet not alone. Only I can say. Only you can say.
I have been privileged to witness three total eclipses of the sun, two transits of Venus, two comets and a blood moon, and it’s no less awe-inspiring contemplating the final years of my culture. It’s been a good ride and I still plan to stay on till the wheels come off.
I got it a long time ago that what was truly holding me down was the idea that if I argued a point long enough I’d actually change someone else. Save someone else. Convince someone else to see it my way, the right way, the only way. To hear someone say, “My God! You are right and I was wrong! Thank you!” Not gonna happen, ever. Letting go of needing it to happen changed everything for me.
Maybe the path from the narrow gate isn’t arduous so much as lonely, and only wide enough to permit the passage of one soul at a time.
You have my love. Thanks for listening.