By David Sherman
I need a new brain. Perhaps several. The scarred one I’m using has flattened like a balloon hammered to a wall with a three-inch nail. Synapses have gone on strike and neurons don’t want anything to do with each other. And it’s my fault. I think. Can’t be sure because, as I said, my brain has surrendered.
But, during this small window created by a 24-valve injection of thick, black coffee, I can parse together why. And like the use of the word parse and the phrase, “Let’s unpack this situation,” I blame it mostly on my new addiction to CNN and the news apps on my tablet.
My feeble brain, never a model of reasoned thinking, has been done in, not by bloody police administration of clubs, shields and rubber bullets but news of endless catastrophe and catastrophic delusion in the big white house in Washington.
Logically, one needs an entire brain to deal with You Know Who. As Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times soon after the Man Whose Name Gives Me Gas was elected, “Don’t listen to him. He will eat your brain.” I didn’t listen to Friedman. I listened to the guy I shouldn’t listen to. I’m still listening to him and what’s left of the grey matter of many has withered on the vine of their spinal cord.
I will not list the transgressions of the so-called “Leader of the Free World,” especially since leader is, well, give me a break, and free world is an oxymoron. But, unless you’ve been in a grateful coma for the last three-and-a-half years, you know all too well.
Your brain might also be AWOL or buried in the trunk under the winter tires you have yet to store cause you’re too busy watching news, which for a change, lives up to its name.
Alas, it’s not just the Toxic One that has burrowed into my cranium like a tape worm, it’s the pandemic, of course, its victims and coverage of same.
The last voracious pandemic was about 100 years ago and many tens of millions died. The only saving grace of that massacre is they didn’t see it live every hour of every day. Nor warned of it with the same alacrity.
Wonders of technology now mean one or two clicks brings you into emergency rooms, funeral homes, portable morgues, living rooms of grieving families, graphs of infected and interred and endless talking heads reiterating that we’re all going to die and it’s mostly the fault of The Idiot Without a Soul who spends his life watching TV, eating well-done beef, playing golf and lying. We’ll put the misogynist antics aside for now, cause that’s yesterday’s news, like fencing with Korea and stabbing NATO and WHO in the back.
Harkening back to “normal times,” as comic Lewis Black told a Montreal audience a few years back, there was usually an “Oh my God” story on every page of the Times. Enough, he said, to give him colitis daily. By now, he must be in intensive care, babbling “I don’t talk about him. I don’t talk about him. …”
Now, the tsunami of daily insanity and attendant commercials for miracle concoctions that promise to cure anything, if they don’t kill you first, can make you seize. But, the brain is exhausted not just by the pandemic or CNN’s corpse-by-corpse coverage of it. There’s fear.
Let’s go back to Friedman for an instant, who, in a Skype close up on CNN, looked me in the eye and said, “This virus is coming for you or someone you love.”
I immediately nailed the doors shut, locked myself in the bathroom and sat in the tub behind the shower curtains.
But the world has not stopped falling apart just because a pandemic is knocking off its inhabitants and their jobs. The environment is being destroyed at a heated pace under coverage of pandemic-imposed chaos. As Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine explains, there’s nothing like a crisis to profit the powerful and unscrupulous.
If your bruised cranial cavity was already on life support, fold in protesters stomping and singing through the streets of cities and towns across the world as police gas, shoot and run them over. Statues topple along with depraved ways of thinking, we hope, and the over-matched brain struggles to comprehend it’s watching history in real time. I know because CNN tells me so, along with the Times and Post and Guardian and New Yorker and Google News.
Some of us are still trying to process opiate addiction, Brexit, never-ending wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, drug wars and mass murder in Mexico, disappeared Aboriginal women almost everywhere and the murderers and rapists “infesting” the U.S. Shit, I’m still absorbing how asking a colleague to lunch constitutes sexual harassment and proposing a sexual encounter is grounds for decapitation.
And so the beleaguered brain, helpless to avoid the accounts, swallows them up, wears itself out and begs for fresh cells as it looks for ways to destroy same. Triple vodka over ice with lemon, please.
Now, The Dark One in the White House, the pandemic and protests against racial inequality can tax the best brains, but throw in massive bailouts to wealthy corporations puts many on the ropes. Air Canada’s decision to stave off bankruptcy by holding onto your money for flights that never flew with the government’s approbation, is only one example.
Next, you’ll go to Walmart or The Bay, pay for whatever and the cashier will tell you, “Sorry, you can’t have your whatever. We need your money to stay solvent. The security guard will show your sorry ass out.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, just like you and I, only more important, so they received trillions while real humans, if they were lucky, got a few hundred. Food banks are overrun by people who didn’t get bailed out and
if you add in families being evicted, foreclosed and forced into bankruptcy, some notably by Plastic Man, the son-in-law of the Carnivore-in-Chief and stories about Americans who can’t pay water bills and have had their water cut off – “Stay dirty and go thirsty” – even the most callused of brains will boil.
And, while our overburdened thought processes are screaming, “Uncle!” our God-fearing southern neighbour is arguing again to destroy the meagre health care people have. Somewhere, somehow, Jesus must’ve have proselytized, “Thou shall not have health care.”
And, lest we forget, thanks to Beelzebub in the Oval Office, our brain pans are poisoned anew minute by minute by the Twitterverse and its allies like Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, spewing birthday greetings, revenge porn, racist bile, videos of police murders and “Karens,” white women who wet themselves when a black man comes within 10 metres.
After the U.S. Civil War, it took the people of Texas two years to find out enslaved people had been supposedly freed. Today, we are buried instantaneously by dire revelations, none as welcoming as an end to owning humans.
No, those of us who have been fortunate enough to be spared Covid, financial ruin and bruises and battering from rabid law enforcement, are lost in calamity, brains begging for injections of disinfectant. Or heroin.
Among the cascade of commercials, CNN advertises a product that promises improved memory, increased brain power and jacked-up cognitive function. But, who the hell would want that?