On the Poz

But first, some housekeeping:

Thanks everyone for their sympathy on the loss of my dog. A few among the 14 Regular Readers went so far as to email me their condolences personally, for which I am truly grateful.*

In the post below, some folks are sharing where they first heard of Rotten Chestnuts. It’s humbling and frightening at the same time. Humbling, because every author, no matter how deservedly obscure, wants his work read, and it’s crazy to think people have been discussing this stuff elsewhere, even overseas, if only in a “check out this silly lunatic” way. Frightening, in that it scares me shitless that any but the most idiosyncratic stuff — the stuff that’s obviously just me going off on my pet obsessions, like Conan the Barbarian — is anything other than obvious. What I mean is, there’s value in someone finally saying what we’re all thinking, and I sincerely hope this is that for everyone, but I’m such a weirdo that if these are new thoughts for people, they’re much likelier to be offput by the expression (and the expressor (it’s a word)) than converted.

Now, on to today’s weirdness…

Ever seen an addict up close? Ever seen someone become an addict? There’s an interesting progression that can be extrapolated to other things, including political behavior.

I had a buddy in grad school, let’s call him Todd, who became a drunk. When we started the program, he didn’t drink at all. By the time I finished, Todd had racked up a string of citations for public intox; he was actually looking at some jail time. He wasn’t homeless, but he was damn close. He was an utter wreck of a person.

Now, as everyone knows, there’s a heavy genetic component to addiction. Yes, anyone can become an addict — a mad scientist could create a drunk in the lab by forcing alcohol down someone’s throat every two hours for months on end — but some of us have an inherited propensity for addictive behavior. Todd was definitely in the latter category, and knew it — he didn’t drink when we started, at least in part, because he had lots of family members who struggled with alcoholism.

Then epigenetics took over. Grad school is the ground floor of the ivory tower; the in-processing center for Never-Never-Land. As such, regular use of behavior-altering substances is pretty much required — I don’t know of a single person in academia (in the Humanities at least) of whom I can say with complete confidence, “xyzrhm doesn’t have at least a Xanax prescription.” Booze, pot, the endless cornucopia of Big Pharma’s little happy pills… everyone uses one or all of them. Myself most certainly included — there’s a reason I know so much about what Todd got up to while his behavior was becoming “problematic,” as the kids say.

I could easily have been Todd. Lots of drunks in my family, too, and of course we shared the same environment. But I didn’t, and thereby hangs a tale… which shall bring us, at long last, to the point.

I’d always been a heavy drinker. Not in the crazy Drew Barrymore, chugging-a-fifth-as-a-sixth-grader way, but in the normal way of most college kids. I discovered this fascinating thing called “beer” my freshman year of college. It was great, it made me so much funnier and more attractive to the opposite sex — and they, of course, to me — and whiskey and whatnot worked even better, so party on, dude.

Then I went to work in an industry in which, at that time and place, the ability to hold your liquor was an unstated but crucial job qualification. If you’ve ever been asked to rush a frat, they’ll give you the spiel about how once a Delta, always a Delta, and it’ll help you in your career. In that field, at that time and place, it was actually true — nothing but not-so-ex frat boys as far as the eye could see. And if you can’t join ’em, you’ve got to beat ’em, the one and only universally valid method of which involved drinking them under the table.

I soon became an honorary member.

Then grad school, where I met Todd, and soon enough we were famous drinking buddies. I use the word famous advisedly, because that’s the point I’m trying to reach. You see, at some point — long before anyone uses the word “alcoholic” — you get this rep. Oh, that Severian, he’s a fucking wild man. I heard “Hey, betcha don’t remember that thing you did last night” almost as much as Todd did… and Todd heard it pretty much every Monday morning (and then, of course, pretty much every morning). What happens next is one of two things: You either get awful damn tired of having that “holy shit, what the fuck did I do last night?” feeling… or you kinda get to like it.

Long before he gets to the point where he can’t clean up, I’m suggesting, the potential drunk makes a decision — I think it’s really, truly, actually an all-but-conscious decision — that he doesn’t want to clean up.

Both Todd and I suffered from identity crises. There’s no other way to put it, as fruity as that sounds. Trust me on this: “impostor syndrome” is very real. It is, in fact — and obviously — the source of the benzo bottle in every egghead’s medicine cabinet. And the reason all eggheads feel like frauds is equally obvious: Nothing you do can possibly justify your paycheck.

There are no Dead Poets Society teachers in real life in any case, and even if there were, and even if you were one of them, well… congrats, buddy, you’ve managed to reach one student, one time, out of the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands you taught before reaching tenure, the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands more who will drift through your classroom, fish-eyed and phone-addled, for the rest of your academic career. One kid, one time, and meanwhile you live a life that 90% of Americans would be ecstatic to have. (As for your “research,” knee-grow please. Unless your book revolutionizes a field — good luck with that — maybe twenty people will read it, and fifteen of them will hate it). You’re a fucking fraud, pal, that’s all there is to it….

Which leaves you with two options, if you want to avoid the kind of crushing cognitive dissonance that turns a guy like Todd into a gutter drunk: You embrace the make-believe, or you quit. Todd quit. Becoming a gutter drunk was a spectacularly gaudy, self-destructive way of quitting, but it was quitting nonetheless. I quit too, as y’all know… but the funny thing was, I didn’t quit drinking until I did. I didn’t go out and get wrecked every night like I used to do with Todd, but I was still a drinker, often quite a heavy one. I just did it in private. It was only when I quit the ivory tower for good that I stopped drinking.**

This, I suggest, is the ultimate source of the Poz: The crushing impostor syndrome that all Americans feel, who haven’t built their lives up from scratch. Unless your day-to-day is a struggle, a real one — a “need to choose between buying food and making rent” one — you can’t help but feel, at some level, that you’re a fraud, a sham. You don’t deserve this, because no one deserves this who didn’t earn it, didn’t hew it out of the wilderness himself. And the more “white collar” you are, the stronger your latent impostor syndrome. Is it any surprise that Karen, who has never earned anything in her entire life, is the most pozzed? That “Human Resources” is just the Poz Gestapo?

That’s why I’m urging my Sis to get the fuck out of America, y’all. I acknowledge that there’s no escaping the Poz. We have been living in rat utopia since at least 1950; the Poz is the displacement activity for the impostor syndrome that afflicts us mindless, purposeless, overfed, pointless fucking rats. There will be no end to the Poz until rat utopia collapses. It will be far, far better for the human race in the long run when the collapse happens….

…but we don’t live in the long run. We live in the now, and this now, in this place, is the most Pozzed of all. Everyplace is less “socialist” than the best part of America, but no place is more Pozzed than the worst part of America. And the worst parts are growing exponentially. One has a duty to posterity in both runs, the long and the short. Long run, I’m going to preach to whoever will listen about the inevitable collapse of rat utopia. I will pass on to my nieces and nephews all the wisdom I have, such as it is, so that they can preserve it, add to it, so that when they, or their children, or their children’s children, or (please God) their children’s children’s children are digging out from under the rubble, they can build back better.

But short run, I’m going to do my level best to get them the fuck out from under the collapse before it happens. If New Zealand or Poland or Chile or Diego Garcia are even 10 years behind the leading edge of the Poz, then that’s where I’m going to send them, if it’s at all within my power. Because America’s frauds, our terminal impostor syndrome cases, are in the ascendant….

… and they have a huge military, chock full of really nasty weapons. It’s time to get the fuck gone before they decide they’re going to burn rat utopia to the ground. Better in the long run for rat utopia to burn, but I’m not going to consign my actual people to the flames for the benefit of possible future people.





*The link on the homepage takes you to a “page not found,” I realize, but the address can be located in the URL. Since this seems to be opsec enough to put off trawling bots and Nigerian princes, I think I’ll just leave it that way. Y’all feel free to use it though. It’s like that cheesy old 80s tv show — If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can email… Severian.

**Not germane to this post, but it raises the fascinating question of “social drinking.” Stephen King — yeah, him again — said somewhere that he knew he was an alcoholic when someone asked him how much he drank, and he replied, as if it were the most commonsense thing in the world: “All of it.” I get that, y’all. I really don’t understand “social drinking.” Never did. I can, and quite often do, have A glass of wine at a party, A beer with an old bud. But it always seems pointless to me — if we’re not going to get comprehensively fucked up, why are we bothering? Let’s go, man! I don’t get alcohol cravings, I can’t even remember the last time I had a drink, but if I do drink, man, I want to drink all of it. What could possibly be the point otherwise?


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20 thoughts on “On the Poz

  1. DeaconBlues

    “That “Human Resources” is just the Poz Gestapo?” I think you’ve nailed it. I work for government (one of the few not totally pozzed), and all the HR people do is repeat and enforce the narrative that says everyone is equal and worthy and ‘chant this mantra or you’re fired’.

    As for the drinking to get drunk thing, I suspect that might be genetic too (or maybe cultural). I, my son, and most my family can abstain for months, but then when it comes time to celebrate or get together, we get smashed, because otherwise what could possibly be the damn point of drinking a substance which drops your inhibitions?

    I read an article about the Faroese people a while back which said the same thing about their entire archipelago. When they drink, they drink to get drunk, and otherwise, they leave it alone. This is what makes me think it might be genetic.

    1. Codex

      Because it is tasty? And better for you than pop. Though one has to pace oneself, or getting drunk spoils it.

      Sitting under the dappled light of the late afternoon sun, under the oak tree I planted two decades ago, book, or tablet on my lap, mint julep in my paw… It’s nice.

  2. BadThinker

    I would make the case that the Commonwealth countries are actually 10-20 years *ahead* of the USA.

    Britain in the *80s* was more culturally pozzed already among the middle and upper classes, (the conquest of Britain by India is going to be quite the historical narrative someday),. Australia is locking people up because of COVID, here in Western PA, at least, there are states where everything is still open. My church is open and mask-less, and has been defying the local dictator for several months now. The US is *big*. Even over the thousand years of collapse in the East, the Empire still had many places where people lived mostly peaceful lives.

    1. BadThinker

      Sorry my sentences got mangled.

      “Australia is locking people up because of COVID, here in Western PA, at least, there are states where everything is still open.”

      should be

      “Australia is locking people up because of COVID. Here in the USA, at least, there are states where everything is still open. In Western PA, My church…”

    2. Severian Post author

      That might be true — probably is true — but I’m looking at the direction and velocity of the vectors over the next 2-10 years. Americans do everything half-assed… until we decide to go all-in, and then it’s world class, cranked well past eleven, pick your overworked cliche. As folks have been saying here since the late 1920s, if America ever does decide to go Fascist, we’ll make Himmler’s boys look like a pack of church ladies.

      It takes considerable effort for the dirt world to get to any of the places I’m talking about. They can get here easily once the Bidenreich opens the borders (meaning, removes the small three foot plywood section of the so-called Wall that was Orange Man’s only legacy). And the Bidenreich, of course, will be paying for the plane tickets of every dipshit 70 IQ agitator they can catch… and guess where they’ll be dumping them?

  3. Brit in London

    You lager drinkers always drink to get drunk. Here in Blighty Real Ales taste good so people drink for pleasure.

    1. Recusant

      Speaking as a fellow Londoner, you are absolutely right on the beer front, but the Septics did invent The Martini and for that alone they deserve superpowerdom.

      The Public Health Nazis (cousins to the HR Nazis, but have an “I Fucking Love Science” tag somewhere on their social media) would consider my drinking ‘problematic’, but I don’t feel the need to get sozzled every time – four times a year is enough for me – I do, however, like the civilising effects of mixing a cocktail at 6pm and drinking wine with my supper.

      Originaly came to you through Tim Newman.

      And now it’s 6pm……..

      1. Severian Post author

        I’m exaggerating for effect, a bit, and I love a good ale… but here in America, the mass-produced beer is all crap and the hipsters have ruined “microbrews” the way they ruined everything else.

        If I had to sum up The America That Was from my youth, it’d be drinking a beer in the stands at a ball game, not much caring that there’s a ball game happening, or what the score is, or who’s playing. Or at a barbecue in someone’s backyard doing something similar — who cares what’s on the radio, the kids splashing around in the pool or running through the lawn sprinkler, everyone catching a nice glow themselves as the fireflies come out…

        If I had to summarize The America That Is, land of the Pozzed, home of the cowardly, it’d be driving past the empty stadium, where ridiculously overpaid Mystery Meatballs “play” for the cameras and no one’s allowed in the stands because of the Flu hysteria.* Or trying to organize a backyard barbecue, but everyone has a “gluten” allergy and the Karens won’t let kids anywhere near a lawn sprinkler, let alone a pool, because they might trip and skin a knee and sue everyone.

        *There should be a post about modern sports fandom in there somewhere. There once was a minor league baseball team near where I lived. I enjoyed watching the games. But… that was it. I didn’t know who any of the players were, or cared to know; I was just in the stands, enjoying the evening. There was once a time where that attitude was understood, indeed common. But then I noticed friends and colleagues and coworkers becoming first puzzled, then aghast. My God, man, don’t you know that the shortstop was a first round draft pick? He’s going to be a superstar, why didn’t you wait in line outside the clubhouse for hours to get his autograph? Do you have his rookie card? And don’t you know that the other team’s left fielder is….?

        Who. The fuck. Cares?
        Why are you people treating this like it’s your fucking JOB?

        Americans have always taken their pastimes way too seriously, but nowadays it’s just plain exhausting. And it costs $100, because the beer tent only serves microbrews and all the hot dogs cost $10 because they’re made from tofu and you can’t have peanuts because every Karen’s numbnuts kid is allergic.

      1. Severian Post author

        Reminds me of Marlowe’ s dismissal of the rest of Europe in Heart of Darkness, something about the benighted lands where the pilgrims drink the jolly lager-beer… ah, here it is, the internet is the tits:

        Deal table in the middle, plain chairs all round the walls, on one end a large shining map, marked with all the colours of a rainbow. There was a vast amount of red—good to see at any time, because one knows that some real work is done in there, a deuce of a lot of blue, a little green, smears of orange, and, on the East Coast, a purple patch, to show where the jolly pioneers of progress drink the jolly lager-beer. However, I wasn’t going into any of these. I was going into the yellow. Dead in the centre. And the river was there—fascinating—deadly—like a snake.

        Better by far that the pioneers of progress, whatever their color on the map, had all died there… but it is what it is. These days the whole world is turning blue.

    2. MBlanc46

      I could do serious crime for a pint of Fuller’s ESB. Not right this moment; I’ve just finished breakfast. But later today….

  4. Maus

    1. Belated condolences on the loss of your dog. There are very few bonds as real as that between a man and his dog. The only time I feel true envy is when I visit a buddy whose dogs clearly adore him.
    2. That was a powerful allegory about understanding Poz through man’s appreciation of ethanol. Z says Haldane says our greatest invention is fanatacism. I humbly disagree. It’s fermentation and distillation.
    I pay $50 a year as a portion of my Bar dues for the lawyers’ assistance program. Like academics in humanities, apparently, the Other Bar is a huge problem for many attorneys. But we don’t drink because of imposter syndrome. The competative nature of the profession means every guy knows his win vs. loss ratio and those of practically everyone else. Competition is stressful; and it can be exhilarating or brutal. When you win, you drink to celebrate; when you lose, you drink to forget. Now, I rest on my laurels and only take an occasional client to keep from rusting up entirely.
    Any way, it seems many of the Twenty are kindred spirits (pun intended). I, too, learned to drink heavily as a frat boy in college. Last April, after years of paying homage to Dionysius, the doctor diagnosed me with, ironically, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is, I have been informed, one of the scourges of modernity, a clear consequence of our rat utopia. He strictly advised me to restrict myself to one drink per evening. I laughed; said “What would be the point of that;” and haven’t touched a drop in 200 days. We’ll see how long I continue to choose the reversible lobotomy instead of the bottle in front of me. God knows that 2020 has ginned up a powerful thirst.
    3. So, in conclusion, thanks for creating this little oasis of sanity underneath the chestnut tree. May it be of some consolation that what you have sewn in pain and suffering has been reaped in inspiration and a kind of stoic calm that provides respite from the battle.

  5. Codex

    My condolences on the loss of your friend Mr. Severian. May his memory be ever green until you are reunited in the New Heaven & Earth.


    I made this for my family last year. If you would like a copy, I will send you one.

    It may be as well that the professional class has the Poz’ster syndrome as well because they have few or no children. Even if the job itself isn’t worth the candle, the next generations are.

  6. MBlanc46

    You younger guys are in for a very rough ride, I’m afraid. My out is an appointment with the Reaper. Those under 70, however, are going to have to deal with it, one way or another. Good luck in finding a bolthole for your sis. May it buy her and hers some time.

    1. Severian Post author

      That’s what I’m trying to tell Sis.

      One of her main worries is very reasonable — our parents are old, her kids are young, they may well only see them once or twice more in their lives if they move. Perfectly reasonable, and I can’t find a way to say this without sounding like an utterly heartless bastard (they are, after all, MY parents too), but…

      … they had their time. They fought the good fight, and they won, if “raising happy, well-adjusted, successful kids who are themselves raising ditto” means anything (they also got me, but two out of three ain’t bad). If the choice is between “sacrificing their last ten years” vs. “sacrificing the kids’ next fifty years,” I know which one I’m picking. I think they would volunteer, if that were the choice. I sincerely hope they would…

      …and yeah, I know, I sound like a rotten heartless bastard, and anyway maybe it won’t be that bad. But I’m quite sure it will be that bad — anything in the ballpark of “that bad” will be horrible — and if that makes me a coldhearted sonofabitch, well, that’s the price I’m willing to pay.

      I’m sure y’all understand, kameraden.

      1. BadThinker

        How involved are the grandparents in the kids’ lives? Because there’s a *huge* benefit to the kids to have Grandparents deeply involved. Can grandma and grandpa go too?

        1. Severian Post author

          Grandparents have been deeply involved in early childhood. They can’t go too — meaning, “they won’t, because that generation is too stubborn” — but there are extended visitor visas for family members a lot of places, so they can at least come for long stays.

  7. Clown World

    I know little of american history, I once read a Lincoln speech, this bit stuck around in my head

    “Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said f[our] three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether””

    For any westerner, non american obviously, this is…. weird, and for some, terrifying. If there’s still any of that kind of spirit there, then I might be worried too.

    1. Severian Post author

      How one feels about Lincoln determines what kind of American you are. To Liberals he’s the meme of the moment – Obama was Lincoln, Hillary was Lincoln, Kamala soon will be Lincoln, in the same way Bill Clinton was JFK. It’s just an ooga booga chant.

      Civic nationalists love Lincoln for “restoring the Union.”

      Dissident types think the wrong side won the war, and as for me, I think John Wilkes Booth should be canonized, and I only wish he’d managed to get a lot more of them.

      Like the song says, I will not be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.

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