I’ve been coy about my relationship with Tim Barrus, not because I’m embarrassed about it, but because the Maenads of political correctness descend on him every time his name comes up. Leftovers of the NA flame wars of the Nineties are now dwindled down to a few low-quantum nail-biters who live on their apartment couches in a bad part of town. As for sex -- well, stand back. Evidently there’s no such thing as knowing too much.
Maybe there a few people out there who still think that being published is a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval but all you need to do is scrump together yettanother set of Napi stories. (I count half-a-dozen sets on my shelves -- because they are the only thing most people can identify as Native American books, though most of them were written by white men.) Then you’re on your way to a glamorous career. NOT. Not Linderman, not Schultz, not Grinnell, or even McClintock. They made a little money, not much. These days even the people who have been successful career writers of pop genres must sweat it out, no matter how many books they’ve got on the shelf.
Anyway, publishing in the form of posting work on the Internet is free to anyone -- "quality" (whatever that is) determined by the authors and readers with no umpiring by professors, publishing or critics. That might not last much longer. Too many people are trying to wring profit out of the last few free-spirits left in the world. I have an example of the fun right here: “Just Before the Cure,” composed and posted by Tim Barrus and the Smash Street Boys. I didn’t ask them whether I could post about it on prairiemary.
I like it because I’m in it and so are my cats. I didn’t have to worry about wardrobe because I am only a voice. But one cat, Crackers, was portrayed as a master criminal which made the other one, Squibbie, jealous. My own role varied from “favorite aunt” to straight white person with dubious interests.
There is a big serious message: WHERE IS THE CURE FOR AIDS? The “chattering classes” who have the contacts, education, money, and connections think that after thirty years of research, HIV is now “over.” They are quite wrong. It’s true enough that the virus is detectable and treatable enough that it can be controlled IF you have the money, the self-discipline, the emotional support, the transportation, and the medicine source. Of course, the meds will still make you nauseous and maybe hallucinating -- no one knows what else.
So, like many other things in our society, HIV has become pretty much pushed off onto groups about whom no one gives a damn: underaged boys living on the streets and doing survival sexwork that is entwined with drugs; the internal Third World of Appalachia and the once-Confederate South; Native Americans; illegal immigrants; prison inmates. They have become invisible reservoirs that constantly reseed the virus through the USA. So much potential for control and med extortion!
I thought I was sophisticated, knowing a lot about the conventional society’s relationship with the underclasses, but I was only at the level of television series based on Crime Scene Investigation. The writers for those series take a close interest in raw sources. Smash Street Boys IS that raw source. This is not polite porn with rubbers and pee or blood checks. This is boys thrown onto the street by broken families, maybe fueled by meth, beaten nearly to death, raped in every orifice, shamed, guilted, and owned.
You wouldn’t want to sit next to them on the subway, much less live with them. But this “dozen,” called "Smash Street Boys," has been kept busy making art, photography, and story until they’ve forgotten all about “self-esteem” and just want to get the location shots done so they can begin to edit their project.
Ironically, a few of these boys -- hand-wringingly handsome, sociopathically flattering, fashion plates and epicures -- make rock-star money. Giving up the street means giving all that up for living with a bunch of regular guys. But if they CAN give it up, they will live past their twenties and possibly find someone who can truly love them. Also having the great adventure of creating something like “Just Before the Cure.”
This time it was a unhinged saga of American culture venturing into the underworld of Mexican trafficking. In other words, it was about themselves. Like that other plague anthology, Boccaccio’s Decameron, stories are from various points of view. The print is mixed with art and vids. The poetry is voice-over in a plummy but crisp English donated by a sharp-tongued professional. For a production by adolescent boys outside the rules it is remarkably restrained. Even so the material is scabrous and scandalous, picking up on the decayed underside of places whose boom was long ago.
It has been slow dawning on us all that our world is shifting from idealistic and flag-waving nations -- that secretly based themselves on genocides and empires -- to a far more subtle synergy of corporation profit at the expense of everything else, including the planet. In fact, we now know that by plasticizing the oceans, heating the climate, exhausting the resources, and snuffing species, these profit-driven forces will probably be ended only by the end of the world as we know it. But it’s silly to predict that, because it’s already happened.
Deleuze and Guattari -- or maybe G and D.
Aad keeps telling me that I sound like Foucault. (Foucault sounds scary to me, even on Wikipedia.) I’ve never gotten much farther into French post-modern thought than a little Derrida, but I did buy some Deleuze-Guattari books which were very helpful as I re-framed my thoughts. But when I wrote an article for a journal called “Rhizomes” about this group of boys, I discovered that the radical feminist editors were afraid, AFRAID, AFRAID to publish it. In fact, one was afraid to rent an apartment in the Portland, OR, neighborhood where I grew up because there were black gangs there. These women were academics, non-participants that others use as authorities. It is more accurate and helpful to depend on CSI television shows.
The “defiant” women were frank about their fears, but also demanded to know the names, addresses, DOB, photos, etc. of the boys in the group. They had no idea that the boys’ tricks, pimps and families would try to track them down to kill them. I suppose you thought that only happened to women in the Middle Eastern Countries. They did. They were willing to take on African tribes who performed clitoridectomies but not gullible young women who have their labia surgically removed to make themselves more enticingly like children. And it never occurred to them that boys could be wanted by the police. It SCARED them.
So much of what we do is driven by fads, misapprehensions, and blaming the already stigmatized. The world operates as a big ad agency, only partly recognized as political. And here’s the bottom line: it’s not even about stigma. It’s about profit. There is more money in a cure for AIDS than there is in Viagra. (which, paired with meth, is a very effective terrorizing drug.) An AIDS cure would be the predator drone of meds: withholding AIDS meds strategically could mean the depopulation of troublesome countries with minimal risk to ourselves.