The Ego has Landed

There are few sections of any society or culture more susceptible to the siren call of monstrous egotism and delusional self belief than that of the artist. Primarily (but not exclusively) a lone calling, the artist interprets and remakes the world in music, dance, writing, sculpting, film, or other materials present. At the highest levels of achievement, the artist breaks the bonds of ego and culture and history and sheds new light on the human condition, providing a direction and an understanding on who we are in the world that has never been hitherto available. The fact that a few have done this sometimes leads to delusions of grandeur, and the reputation of having an artistic temperament, of being self-centred, moody, narcissistic, extremely rude, aggressive, secretive, gossiping, bitterly jealous, demanding to a level of infantile neediness, mercurial and subject to irrational changes of mind, all seems to add to an artist’s mystique of being caught up in a process of near mystical congress with the inner workings of the universe that mortals of lesser genius could never truly grasp. With great gifts, after all, cometh great burdens. In reality what is needed in instances like the foregoing is an intervention.

But how do people get like that? Family? Perhaps compensating for feeling a failure in more culturally approved careers? I mean becoming an artist is neither a popular or profitable venture. Few go to their parents at eighteen and announce their intentions to become novelists or sculptors for instance. Perhaps the negative characteristics described in the previous paragraph attributed to the artist come from all or a couple of the above origins. They are probably made worse by years and years of failure to get a single thing of worth into print. People find ways to compensate for feeling they just haven’t measured up to expectations when others seem to succeed.

The thing about being an artist is it isn’t about the money or the fame. Its a horribly difficult thing to be. And if you don’t succeed (and sometimes when you do) sometimes ego takes the place of true self confidence and after that the rot sets in. More than anything the key indicator for the artist who has drunk the Kool-Aid is whether or not s/he has any real friendships. If ones ego has grown to such astral proportions and ones belief in ones glittering artistic destiny so absolute, it takes up any and all personal space within and around the artist’s psyche. No one gets in and no one is allowed in to see the real self. All supposed friends are replaced by forgeries that the artist has created to serve the needs of his art. By ‘needs of his art, s/he means the needs of the ego. Family, sex, marriage, business relationships, even a passing drink in a bar on the way home from an exhibition or a reading all serve the Kool-Aid drinking genius. It is truly a horribly lonely empty pseudo existence.

Allied to the aforementioned burdens of genius is the romantic myth of the self destructive artist. According to this theory, to be a really creative person, one has to, somehow, have a rather partial grasp of the basics of self maintenance. One must eat badly, drink excessively, copulate with anything that exhibits a pulse, and finally become addicted to various substances not readily available in a licensed pharmacist (I am not in any way anti-drug by the way). But such freedom from inhibition,such refusal to live life except in excess is, within the myth of the self destructive artist, for the sake of, or perhaps because of one’s muse. This approach is rather dubious in itself as it depicts the creative life as rather like being slowly consumed by a very sadistic cannibal. As one works away creatively, one is being slowly ruined. Ones body and mind and loved ones are all being eaten away as a consequence of the very thing one is creating. Being creative is supposedly destructive, which is a very odd thing. I mean there are so many novels and paintings and poems and movies on this subject and one certainly has material to work with because of the sturm und drang of an excessive lifestyle. The problem with this is its a death sentence. And of course its really stupid. If life will kill you, so why waste the time one has? Ones body crashes or one goes insane, or both, and, according to, or in accordance with the aforementioned romantic blueprint, one winds up dying in one glorious act of self annihilation leaving behind a legacy of a short but supernova-esque career of brilliant output.

Well, not exactly. Brilliant writers (for instance) write like that not because they took a lot of drugs (including alcohol) but because they are really good. The addict does not make the artist, nor vice versa. In the end its putting sugar in the fuel tank, to use a metaphor. Addiction or self destructive excess will not improve ones work a jot, invariably its the opposite. This palpable nonsense has its origins in movies and novels and biographies of artists who happened to be self destructive because of issues they had, and made for interesting and poignant subject matters for drama. The myth of the self destructive artist itself goes back to a time when artists, like most folks centuries ago, were not properly inoculated and venereal diseases and TB and other diseases were rampant. The side effects of these illnesses led artists to acts of excess in all areas of their lives, to really live life to the full before it was all over so quickly, not to mention a race against time before they succumbed to an inevitable youthful, less than beautiful, death that was deeply unromantic in its awfulness when experienced in the first person. Their lives were tragic and their lifestyles a symptom of a malaise not a sign of giftedness that was there anyway in abundance.

There are of course gradations of delusion that flow from the
desire for fame and artistic greatness. The ‘lone’ Kool-Aid drinking genius nowadays is usually rarely alone, accepting college and teaching positions, positions on government art discussion groups and various influential boards as well as grant aid packages, all of which can give them seniority to other artists, and of course time to work in a comfortable existence. If they write (as I do), they are also editing various journals and attending the right meetings and readings, giving keynote speeches, attending conferences and get-togethers, making appointments for casual cups of coffee with people they have targeted who will help them to get on, always worrying and working desperately hard to get on, without of course giving the appearance of effort, and to forge long lasting close personal friendships with the right long-established artists who will, by association, give the necessary affirmations and recommendations in their chosen field of excellence, and ensure they rise to the top of the line. These people are players with a capital ‘P’. Power has replaced love as the meaning of things, and it has changed them.

The fact that few, if any, artists of world historical significance mentioned obliquely in the last paragraph ever achieve the kind of well deserved fame and notoriety in the relatively short lifetime of a human being does not seem to strike these aspiring Kool-Aid drinking people as in any way significant. The fact that most of these aspiring greats will very probably be forgotten soon after their demise is not at issue, nor would it cross their minds. For them life is good. Their egotism is their Kool-Aid. Instead of concentrating on their work, on getting better at their art, thus having a real shot at greatness, they have suffered a kind of mission drift – moving away from artistic output to a kind of intense lifelong act of self aggrandising propaganda. What they want is to be seen to be great, not to be the real deal. They have done what’s necessary to appear great. They have officially excelled. They have ticked the right boxes. They have produced a few good pieces of work. They have moved to where it’s happening- a big city or university campus. They go to the right parties. They have changed their identities so that the real person, the vulnerable self, the part where the talent comes from, is hidden under a hard self assured outer persona. They believe money means success. They believe attention is success. They believe fame means giftedness. They believe being interviewed means they have something to say. They think if they are not succeeding and getting attention they are in agony, and they believe their agony is that of the misunderstood genius. But they know the truth about themselves, and in more distracted moments it comes to the fore, the self doubt, the sense of betrayal, the anger and the overriding ambition and jealousies that can never fill the sense of not having achieved, really achieved. They know to some extent this is something that has been foisted upon them, but also it is something that the artist themselves have chosen, a type of Faustian bargain made with oneself to identify the apparent trappings of success with success itself.

On one level or another something dies, and after a certain point a talent squandered is a talent that is gone.
Much nonsense has been written about art and the status of the artist in society, when it, like human nature or the thing in itself, it is an unknown. The artist is primarily a person in the world, neither a saviour nor a cut above the rest. S/he is not a commodity to be bought or sold, nor should artist be left in the kind of penury which has defined the lives of so many artists that make them sell out. We need the real thing, something born from the raw individuality of earned experience without the input of grant-aid or boardroom discussion. Because society cannot survive without the mirror of self-reflection that is art, hopefully somewhere along the line we will toss the Kool-Aid. We will let artists be artists and give them what they need most: real self determination. This is something not easily given. The right conditions need to exist for it to happen. Most of all the artist has to choose it as their right.

Eliot Roger’s Last Video

The Mass Shootings at UC Santa Barbara campus in California on Friday night, 9.30 pm the 23rd May 2014

Elliot Oliver Robertson Rodger (born 24th July 1991) was a 22 year old socially maladjusted youth who subscribed to a number of pick up artist and ‘men’s rights’ accounts. A deeply lonely person who was born in the UK and grew up in Calabasas and the Woodland  Hills in California, he wound up living in the San Fernando Valley in his twenties. He was bullied in school and had an obsession with Dungeons and Dragons. He began a long agonizing teenage years with little social contact and no relations with the opposite sex which grew to the level of a profound misogynistic obsession. Later on he acquired a BMW car a  Sig Sauer P225 P6 9mm German Semi-Auto Carry Pistol, and three Glock 34 hand guns, all legally purchased. He had some contact with the police. Once when his family called the police when increasingly worried about his behaviour and the videos, and one memorable occasion he called the police, having performed a citizens arrest on a roommate for stealing candles. The room mate was later charged with petty theft. If this was any indicator as to his personality and social skills, it is little wonder why Eliot Roger was without friends.

There is also some indication that suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition which if not properly treated can inhibit ones ability to function in society, depending on the severity of the condition. His videos about his lonely life have all but disappeared off the web, why he feels women hate him so much, how being alone on spring break is an unspeakable agony, and why he would drive around and avoid areas where he would see couples together kissing or embracing, which would arouse intense feelings of anger and jealously. Despite saying this he also videoed couples kissing. So disturbing were his posted videos to his family  that they went to the police fearing he might act out his rage and sense of personal injustice.

There are problems associated with the notion of future crime, as in one cant arrest someone because of an intent to break the law. However you can sit them down and interview them and see what their intentions and their state of mind is based on years of experience and investigative skills. You can also keep an eye on them. Rodgers’ family were terrifyingly correct in their predictions, despite the fact that seven police did turn up at their son’s apartment, took him outside and gently questioned his intentions – asking if he had suicidal thoughts. He was quiet and rational and convincing and assured them he was not suicidal, despite the fact that in the apartment carefully hidden were several guns, two of which he intended to kill himself with, machetes to hack people with, and hammers to smash in their brains with, along with a 144 page manifesto detailing his murderous and torturous intentions.

The flatmate Cheng Yuan Hong, 20 years old, whom Rogers previously arrested for stealing three candles worth $15, was later hacked to death with a machete, along with Weihan Wang, 20, of Fremont, George Chen, 19, of San Jose, in the apartment Rogers intended, as he wrote in his 144 page manifesto or autobiography to turn into his killing room cum torture chamber.  I think he succeeded to some extent in his intention.

Generally speaking the autobiographies/manifestos of lonely psychotics are usually incredibly tedious inflated nonsense, and Rogers’ efforts do not disappoint this expectation. One would truly wish they would take a few classes in creative writing before they embark on writing lengthy monomaniacal tracts they are going to post mortem inflict on the police investigators and court systems. I say this especially because Roger, on his Google+ page, modestly describes himself not only as a philosopher but as a writer as well. “I consider myself a sophisticated, polite gentleman, unlike most boys my age. My father is of British descent, and my mother is of Asian descent, so that makes me Eurasian.”

Actually the only really well written manifesto that got wide publicity and made me think was the Unabomber’s manifesto. (I believe he has come out with another book since) . Rogers tended towards a slightly bombastic epic style, depicting himself as the lonely hero planning a day of retribution against a world that had wronged him horribly,  that day of Retribution being May 24th 2014 wherein he would kill as many people as he could around Isla Vista, having first of all dispatched his housemates.

“After that, I will start luring people into my apartment, knock them out with a hammer, and slit their throats. I will torture some of the good looking people before I kill them, assuming that the good looking ones had the best sex lives.” 

Not very polite nor gentlemanly. This he did not do, mercifully.

So Eliot Roger, having hacked and tortured and murdered his housemates, leaves his apartment and drives around and makes one last video.

“Hi, Elliot Rodger here. Well this is my last video. It all has to come
to this. Tomorrow is the day of retribution, the day in which I will
have my revenge against humanity. Against all of you. For the last
eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to
endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires.
All because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their
affection and sex and love to other men, but never to me. I’m
22-years-old and still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve
been through college, for two and a half years, more than that
actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous.”

Eliot Roger then goes on to say the following:

“I will take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male. Yes, after I have annihilated every single girl in the sorority house, I’ll take to the streets of Isla Vista and slay every single person I see there. All those popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasure while I’ve had to rot in loneliness all these years. They all look down upon me every time I tried to join them, they’ve all treated me like a mouse.”

Rogers, displays all the symptoms of paranoia, self aggrandizement, blaming the world for his ills, blinding himself mentally to any sense of personal responsibility. This worldview extended to thinking that the world and women in particular are ‘out to get him’ by denying him sex. There is never a moment when his delusional narrative slips, when he might for a moment think there is something in himself that is stopping him achieving a healthy life and a healthy sex life. His illness is fed more than anything by a misogynistic ideology, a view of women as ‘sluts’ and an object of sexual seduction and manipulation, which in turn demand from him that he be an ‘Alpha Male’ in order to be attractive to these creatures, hence the use of pickup artist websites and the filming of couples which in turn fed his revulsion and jealousy of happy couples.

As reported on countless channels and news sites , a deadly shooting happened near the UC Santa Barbara campus in California on Friday night, 9.30 pm the 23rd May 2014. The police confirmed the mass murder’s identity as 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, son of Hollywood producer Peter Rodger, assistant director on The Hunger Games movie franchise. Just before going out to embark on his mass shooting Eliot Roger emailed his 144 page manifesto to around 30 people, including his parents. They heard about the shootings on the radio.

Occupying the ground floor flat of the Capri apartment building about 500 metres from the Alpha Phi sorority building, Rogers left the flat at about 9.15. At about 9.27 the shootings began. Eliot Rogers attempted to get access to the Alph Phi building but failed. He intended to kill everyone in there. Instead he killed Katie Cooper, 22, Chino Hills, Veronika Weiss, 19, Westlake Village, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20, San Luis Obispo, and then he killed himself. As well as the dead, he wounded 13 people, all of whom remain unidentified as yet.