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Faction by David Arthur Walters 

 

How Dry I Am I 

How dry I am since I stopped drinking martinis. I grew fond of martinis hanging out with Bob, a psychoanalyst who said he drank martinis only when he was so mad at his mother that he wished her dead, which must have been often because he drank martinis almost every day. He especially enjoyed a Manhattan lounge that specialized in martinis. Mind you, I already had a rather dry sense of humor long before I met Bob. I listened to Jack Benny on the radio when I was a kid, and I learned much from my dad. His humor was so dry after the Depression and World War II that he never smiled when he told a joke. His face was so serious when he was amused that it would break a camera if a picture was taken of it. Sometimes it was impossible to tell if he was joking or not. I believed for a long time that he was actually invited to another planet by aliens who parked their flying saucer in a corn field outside of town, provided that he give up all his rights as a human being, including the right to drink coffee. Now since I swore off martinis I have been cursed with an extra-dry sense of humor. So parched has my Death Valley become that Richard, who turned me on to Columbian joints and THC extract in the Sixties, questioned my sanity with the old saw, "He who has lost his sense of humor is insane." And my dear Helga, after reading my absurd essay, 'My Vain Philosophy', expressed serious reservations about my mental health because of my joking reference therein to a ninety-day observation period Upstate, where the positivists shocked the metaphysical daylight out of me and injected me with facts. The fact of the matter is that I am, unfortunately, one of the sanest persons around, perhaps the only completely sane person in my town. The Sixties were the Sixties, and this is today. A young pothead asked me why I was so against pot. “Because it is illegal, that’s why. When it is legalized, I think I will buy a few keys for my retirement. I have no doubts about the meaning of my humor – it certainly is not an indication of madness. In fact, I was laughing up my sleeve over the friendly concern with my mental health. Yet I must confess that sometimes I have my doubts: I wonder whether I am the only one who laughs at my jokes, and, if that is the case, whether that might be a definition of insanity – but never mind that. In any event, I rushed to assure Helga that I am of sound mind. After all, I did not want her to get an unfavorable impression of a United States citizen. You see, Helga is a Canadian. She is so fond of Americans that her compatriots call her Miss America. She is a Civil War buff who apparently sides with the rebels. She likes to dress up as a Southern belle and have mint juleps on her veranda when the Canadian weather is just right; her favorite pastime on vacations is to drive down to the States, and visit the battlegrounds. I informed Helga that my reference to the ninety-day observation period Upstate was a joke, and that I double up with hysterics every time I read it to myself, but I don’t think she took my denial seriously. I’m afraid that my explanation helped convinced her that I am at least a little bit off my rocker. On second thought, maybe I am just that; maybe that’s why I have to laugh at myself even though laughing at nutty people is politically incorrect nowadays.

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How Dry I Am I 

Jim and I used to sneak onto the mental hospital grounds when we were boys, make faces and laugh at the patients caged in the porches; they were happy to make faces back and act crazy for us. We got into trouble for trespassing, but nobody told us it was wrong to laugh at crazy people or call them crazy for that matter. Jim had what people call a perverse sense of humor; people must be perverts themselves given the crude jokes they privately laugh at, the ones I usually don’t get but pretend that I do. It was Jim’s idea to pee in the finger paint pots in third grade. Clifford, the only black kid in school, joined in, but when the teacher asked why he was laughing hysterically as the other kids went about their finger painting, he blew the whistle. Clifford was sent home directly, but Jim and I got whacked by the heavy paddle with the hole in it, after waiting what seemed like forever in the foyer of the principal’s office, listening to the big pendulum clock go tick-tock, counting down our sentence of three resounding whacks each – that would be child abuse today, especially if it took place in a Christian school. The memory of the innocent kids spreading urine-based paint with their fingers is not funny at all today, and I would be loath to dwell on it for long if the interpretation were not edifying. The head positivist at the Upstate facility theorized that boys who get into trouble for wetting their beds tend to be preoccupied with the micturation phenomenon, and may wreak revenge on society by secretly urinating in or on things people use; in our case, the finger paint pots – Jim also liked to micturate in orange-soda bottles at the bowling alley when the drinkers were up bowling, then laugh when they sat down and took a swig, not noticing the change in taste. That reminds me of the fellow at the bottling plant who was taking regular leaks into the soda; not only was he fired but he was arrested too. I hope the judge has mercy; the poor man was compelled to do No. 1 in the soda containers because he had been victimized by his caretaker for frequent bedwetting. The analyst was probably right: I recall that I was afraid to ask to go wee-wee after I got into trouble for wetting my bed at the foster home, so I would sprinkle the thick carpet in the front room with urine, spreading it all around so finely that nobody noticed anything different except for an odor that eventually pervaded the room, especially detectible to us kids when we played marbles or war or traded comic books on the carpet. If only a boy were not criticized for bedwetting, observed the Upstate analyst in a professional paper, and were amply rewarded with praise for his liquidity, he might develop a productive-excretive personality quite suitable for our excremental culture; in fact, some major construction company executives confessed in an anonymous questionnaire that they had used their urine in their sandboxes to wet down the sand and build sand castles. Anyway, there must be some truth to my joke about being shipped Upstate for shock therapy, at least as far as I’m concerned; otherwise, it would not be funny to me. Suffice it to say that I like my jokes extra dry; indeed, life has become a dry joke to me, a dry run to Nothing, and that calls for some gallows humor, don’t you think? And there is nothing dirty about Nothing because Nothing is perfectly pure. I think my joke has some truth to it because the truth, however tragic it might be, that we are all a little crazy if not plainly fools, makes my joke funny, at least to me, although I am not wont to laugh out loud at it because I am the sanest person around therefore it is not that funny. Page | 3

How Dry I Am I 

The laughable position I took in 'My Vain Philosophy' was an anti-positivist or anti-scientific stance. Positivism wants just the sensational facts, ma'am, without metaphysical i.e. mystical speculation. Facts are sensed; whatever is said about them must be observed to be true, must be verified with the senses. Positivism got complicated when it was observed that the truth about facts are not the sensations themselves but are ideas about them, ideas that can only be understood logically with lots of words strung out in the right way in interminable tomes such as the ones read and written by the doctors Upstate who shock illogical people to their senses. As scholiasts know so well, positivism gathered steam with the Industrial-Scientific revolution, after the father of modern positivism, Comte, went crazy and made a religion out of his love of woman. I understand how a man can be mad about a woman and obsess over getting back together with her when she is no longer around; as factually explained in the Symposium, man and wo-man used to be one person rolling along with four arms and four legs and two heads until severed into twain, with faces turned outward and private parts put in the front of each so they can get together. Still, I happen to be a subjectivist of the glittering generality sort, one who says, on occasion, “To hell with the facts, for whatever I think is so because I exist!” Hence my antipathy to positivism, for it rejects the authority of vague metaphysical obscurities in favor of useful facts available to everyone, especially commoners. It is in that context that I quote the Philosophic Radical Jeremy Bentham, framer of British Utilitarianism - the Utilitarians were fraternal twins of the French Positivists and French Ideologues: "Let it be true that the bread (which is set before me)...does not exist. If I make no practical inference from this fine philosophy, I am never the better for it. If I make any from it, I starve," quoth Bentham, who ate well. Well, man does not live by bread alone, so let him fast if he wants to go to Heaven! Metaphysicians like everyone else were naturally influenced by the sensible economic facts resulting from the scientific and technological innovations funded by the capitalists. They hoped and believed the scientific method could be applied to society in order to manipulate people for their own good, hence they forswore metaphysics, hung up their flowing effeminate robes and donned the drab hunting suits and phallic ties of the social science cult of the ruling positivist order: Sociologist, Psychologist, Economist, & Co. Nevertheless, metaphysics, in the abhorred sense of a mystical predilection for absolute presuppositions, was not entirely gotten rid of, nor will it ever be entirely deposed. Social scientists, in their search for universal laws whose validity may be empirically demonstrated, were still aware of the non-disprovable nature of their premises, and were in fact closet-metaphysicians and occluded magicians – for example, my friend Bob the psychoanalyst read Jung avidly and believed in the magic power of crystals; he sometimes secreted them under the couch for good effect on his analysands. Ah, it is the hypocrisy, the fundamental crisis of our becoming, that the ideal can never fully become real, that I find so pathetic and amusing as well, so much so that I chuckle at the tragic comedy of hypocrites such as myself scurrying around, putting each other down with a contemptuous laugh at the inner truth, the basic conflict that drives us madly about the globe, not wanting to know that we are running in vicious circles. That being said, I think I need a martini

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How Dry I Am I 

or some other sacred beverage to convince me that life is meaningful, that I am going somewhere with this asinine essay. Anti-metaphysical positivism is as hypocritical as the intellectual who writes a one-hundredthousand word rational treatise against rationality, both proving and disproving itself, making an absurd ass out of the anti-intellectual intellectual; the premise of the treatise is spurious or the author is a madman or both, and all the inferences demonstrate the hypocrisy. Positivism like all philosophies wants the wisdom it loves so much, although it may deny there is any such thing as wisdom. It seeks practical universal laws; it wants universals relative to definite experience. That is not to say that positivism is not disgusting as an ideology. I like to laugh out loud sometimes and say to hell with both the sense data and the observations of sense data that can be verified by more sense data – what kind of life is that? A life stuck in the mud. Positivism or scientism or whatever we might call it dominates our common way of thinking as we dedicate our lives to producing and consuming facts until the fatal fact finally overcomes each and every one of us. Stop and look at the facts and the fact about the facts becomes clear; we are fools; so may the ball spin more merrily, that’s what I say. It’s funny how positivism prevails over so-called postmodern thinking despite postmodernism's rhetoric about a plurality of perspectives, about multiculturalism, diversity, and the like, and despite the hysterical antics of positivists when their dysfunctional structures are threatened by the fact that there is something more than facts to be verified, something transcendent that cannot be proved or denied but that gives the lie and therefore the laugh to all the objective facts, the planks in the hull of the ship of fools. In truth, positivists are frustrated objectivists, and objectivists are phenomenologists without a real object, nor a subject for that matter. They try to be objective about phenomena, which are their perceptions and conceptions that compose the superficial relation between subject and object. With one foot on subject and the other on object, neither of which they believe is real in itself, the objectivist as well as the social positivist wind up doing the painful splits, the burden for which the white man was apparently made. Is not that amusing? The show is improved considerably when the Blues are sung. As a matter of fact, everything including religion and philosophy must be couched in scientific jargon to be respectable today. When a show is made of hating science and the high technology that lowers morality the higher it gets, the very rebellion becomes a product to be mass marketed according to scientific marketing techniques. Since the individual purportedly no longer exists as a subjective unity since God was assassinated, and since the person is a bundle of desires regulated by a mental field or structure or context laid out in textbooks, we must, above all, be objective. Indeed, we humans are construction companies operating in fields according to structural schemes that we can deconstruct and reconstruct. We must resist, nonetheless, the coalescence of our fields if we are to preserve our cultural identities. Yet we still need a unified theory of everything. Because language represents the field of the mental fields which we respectively are, Page | 5

How Dry I Am I 

we had better interpret our texts and talk about talk; we must chant a uniform hermeneutic jargon to ward off the irrational subjectivist demons that are, ironically, the ultimate plural rationalization of society: individuals without factions preventing promiscuous rational intercourse. Forgive me, for I must pause here for an extra-dry chuckle at my ridiculous reflections. As subjective as the so-called objectivists actually are despite their positivistic tendencies, idealism or subjectivism is condemned, just as metaphysics was condemned by the early positivists. Nay, even worse, the subject itself is denied existence, just as I mentioned in my essay touching on the ninety-day observation period Upstate. Subjects who willfully oppose objectivism are shocked Upstate, scorned as mystical, hysterical, narcissistic, and, of course, foolishly romantic. Male subjectivists are even said to have latent homosexual tendencies if they are not yet screaming queens; an association derived from the days before the rationalization of education, when many women had recourse to screaming hysterics to get their way rather than lose their lives in a direct frontal assault. The joke is on us, is it not? The subject today is not the unity of "I think therefore I am", nor is there anymore a sole projected unity called God whose real name is, reportedly, "I AM." In fact, there is no subject as such, not in Zombieworldè. It is said that man is not a machine, for if men were to act like machines, people would laugh at them. I am laughing, and my humor is getting dryer and dryer as I turn into a machine, having had the daylight shocked out of me Upstate. Anti-subjective objectivism is certainly laughable, but the laughing is a bitter and dry hacking. Subjectivist Descartes naturally paid some tribute to the deity; objective scientists should doubt objects and transcend particulars while ascending the mountain of facts to a unified scientific or theological theory. Such is always the hypocritical case with the diremption or violent divorce of spirit and matter; another case in point being the spiritual bias of positivism's great hero Newton: and he was not the only one; indeed, the motive behind positivism was the concept of the reality of one god who in his infinite wisdom wanted the greatest good for the greatest number of his flock regardless of their differences. What nonsense all the metaphysical theories are. I admit it and would laugh heartily if my humor were not so dry since I quit drinking. But serious silly stories must be told. How could you really believe any one of them? What a laugh! Funny, when I laugh at you, I am laughing at myself, because I got my theory from you. Who am I? Am I you? I love nonsense, yet sometimes the facts outrage me. Yesterday, I sent factual stories to a Wall Street editor, about a poor elderly woman who was pauperized by an abusive husband with the help of the judicial system of this great nation of ours. The stories were very well written and truthful; however, in his world, someone has to be somebody to have a story published, no matter how well written and true to the facts it may be. Someone who is not somebody in his book is nobody. “Who are you?” was his curt reply. I laughed drily at how business objectivity makes pompous asses out of its professionals. I am the Nobody who shall put out the Cyclops’ eye one night so we can roll the rock away from the front of his filthy cave, make off with his sheep, and laugh all Page | 6

How Dry I Am I 

the way to the bank. Please do not report this delusion of grandeur to the positivists Upstate, because it just might come true if I am not shocked out of my wits.

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