Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Freak's Manifesto.

Sometimes, when Arthur's mind was quite addled, he wrote a lot of rubbish, to attempt to get his thoughts clarified, about who he was and what he wanted, and to simply practice the craft of writing, something he felt he had to do every day to keep his wits sharp. And that's what writing this "freak's manifesto" is all about, trying to figure out his place in the world.

What creature was Arthur going to identify with which would describe his life story perfectly? A poof, cat, punk, vagabond, outsider, outlaw, misfit? “How I Got (the) Beat and Became a Beatnik” kind of fit as a great title for his book, considering how many tales involved him getting beaten up or fucked-over on his thorny path to “freak-realization” but it lacked the big, universal heart that he hankered for.

His text was more like “The Freak’s Manifesto” or “The Deviant’s In Your Face Excuse”, but he worried they smacked of the soapbox and the whining confessional, and were perhaps not catchy enough for the hip, blurb-scanning crew of book junkies that he imagined devoured text all around the world. Yet he still had that unsettling brain-wave, that being killed off like a ‘cat in a bag’ was not his through-line, but survival as a ‘freak’ was.

 A viable definition of ‘freak’, which might describe him, could include the zoomorphic and fantasist, the sexually aberrant and emotionally crippled, the socially alienated and politically misshapen, the existentially challenged and schizoid bipolar, one who had gut-dropping swings between manic, creative elation and narcoleptic, suicidal despondency.

He contemplated the kind of space he’d always been attracted to, known in the underground as a “freakzone”, where reposed misfits and outlaws, rebels and mavericks, reprobates and punks, anarchists and libertarians, fringe-dwellers and one-per-centers, bohemians and artists, lay-abouts and larrikins, (there are innumerable tags for these alienated types), a place where all could find refuge and a free-wheeling lifestyle in the company of their fellow-travelers who would not judge or restrict them.

Like William Burroughs’ “Interzone”, “Freakzones” had no international borders, they had perennially sprung up all over the globe and attracted diverse drifters to dwell awhile therein; such wild spaces helped mold Arthur’s character throughout his artist’s quest, sojourning from the urban wastes of Melbourne and Ruby’s black plastic fuck room to the stupendous subcontinent of India and the soul-seekers’ roadside doss-houses where he freaked out irrevocably, then returning to the Underworld of Sydney’s squats, cafes and brothels, where he shone like a fallen angel.

In Artie’s mind, ‘freaks’ were wanderers of the modern wilderness, enlightened barbarians who were open to everything and believed in nothing, and gave allegiance to nobody, but were interested in anybody who came along, if they had a good story. Agnostic-gnostics, anarcho-capitalists, peacenik warriors, mystic rationalists, they were paradoxes made flesh.

As freaks they did not fully belong to “straight” society; somewhat twisted and bent, they did not fit in, were not so welcome, on the edge, not at one with the herd, uncomfortable and on the outer, they held some essential part of themselves back, as if living a secret life. Though often called ‘lefties’ they tended to opt off the political spectrum, believing in the old adage that much of politics tended towards a tyranny run by a committee.

Like Arthur, ‘freaks’ were true fuck-ups, they couldn’t cope with the world as it was, a rat-race world that worshiped power, money and celebrity; freaks longed for compassion, love and cleverness. They lived in their own irresponsible version of reality, hoping to keep cool, get wise, drop out, and if they had to commit, they preferred to be mediators, then they wouldn’t have to toe any one party line or take sides in a cock-fight.

As smart information-junkies, freaks collected knowledge and cultivated enlightenment, they loved to swap brain-teasing stories, yet hated bullshit; cutting the crap, they were for real, out front, naked, their flawed humanity and ‘difference’ for the world to see, as if they had two heads. This was how Arthur saw his ‘freakiness’, anyway.

Though freaks toyed with various gurus and philosophies, no religion could claim them and, in a beautiful, cruel world, God was considered a megalomaniac monster which had been killed off by Science and the Enlightenment; Heaven and Hell were entwined myths that fed off each other, and the Universe was non-committal, Good and Evil merely projected from a flawed humanity. Arthur suffered a kind of divine madness erupting from a life of painful experience: he took in all concepts, of religion, politics, philosophy and science, and blew them through the white-hot worm-hole of his critical consciousness, and tried not to get conned by anyone.

He felt he had been born a freak, and made a freak by twentieth century pressures. He was a freak of nature, a freak accident, a circus freak in a freak of fancy constantly freaking out. From early childhood he thought he must’ve indeed had two heads, the way every tin-god’s eyeballs narrowed in a laser-scan when they zeroed in on him, inevitably giving him a hard time. To grow up a freak meant surviving isolation, handicaps, discrimination and torture and as such he deserved some kind of bravery medal like a “bleeding purple heart”, but instead was given further kicks in the arse.

In the mid nineteen-nineties he was vindicated in his delusions of difference by reaching the apotheosis of his artist’s non-career, winning an international competition in France; judged by his hard-arsed, freaky peers, he was voted best Trash-film artist of the world for 1996, and that radical conclave was called “Freakzone”.

Arthur was a big fan of that early progenitor of 'freak sensibility', Frank Zappa, whose 1966 album, "Freak-out", with its experimental sound-collage, captured the 'freak' sub-culture of Los Angeles. His lyrics praised non-conformity, disparaged authorities and had Dada-ist elements. Certain Hippies of the late 'Sixties, like Artie, evolved into 'freaks' in rejection of the norms of modern society. The Hippy flower-children seemed too cosmic, airy-fairy and wimpy-flaky; the straight world's exploitation and death-dealing were so nasty it needed a harder repudiation.

Freaks knew humanity got trashed throughout history; they refused to participate and so lived in a nether world, opting out of climbing high society or burrowing into a victim’s niche. They created and inhabited a “Second Reality”, as opposed to the “First Reality” projected from Government propaganda and the Media brainwash. Freaks founded sanctuaries for themselves in the most unlikely of places: cafes, mansions, nightclubs, schools, movie theatres, toilet blocks, bath-houses, dilapidated squats, towering housing estates, mountain retreats and bush farmhouses.

All such spaces were autistic attempts at Utopias, a no-place of individual rights and freedoms that could co-exist with other desiring bodies without iron-clad rules and over-arching authorities, nothing compulsory and few restrictions except for the basic “try not to hurt  others”, a hard life entailing lots of patience, compassion and co-operation. Of course freaks were pissing into the fractious wind, destroyed from within by their own idiosyncrasies as well as without by the reactionary powers that be, but everyone lives in hope, and freaks could only dream, of a better world.

This didn’t mean they were all flaky Snags, squabbling anarchists, self-indulgent artists or drug-fucked Punks. Some were inspired computer hacks or stressed-out nurses; to stay alive freaks resignedly contributed to Society while trying to make their way through the wilderness, they were in the world but not of the world. They avoided mob mentality, always attempting to think for themselves.

It was sometimes whispered that every family out there in suburbia had its own Freakzone, the bedroom, the toilet, the back-shed, where secret, ancestral rituals were enacted out compulsively. Everywhere freaks went they created zones wherein they could shake out their freaky blues. They’ve been around since the inception of civilization, often in the guise of “back to nature lifestyles” and “fertility cults”, wherein the ‘animal’ inside Homo sapiens is kept in contact with, and the science of the wonderful, chaotic universe gets illuminated. 

In the nineteen-forties Henry Miller wrote about such free-spaces in “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch”, referring to them as artist colonies and loner retreats, he agonized about their future as the wilds of nature got encroached upon by the cities. A controversial outsider named Hakim Bey dubbed them “Temporary Autonomous Zones”, for they don’t last long, always under attack by the reactionary powers that be, yet always springing up elsewhere. And Jack Kerouac called those freaks looking for alternative spaces "dharma bums".

In his existential fever, Arthur wrote endlessly about his theory of  ‘freaks’, like Luther with a nutty manifesto but no church to pin it on. Instead it became the through-line of his life-story to try and explain the devolution of his weird, disordered personality, as if he really was trying to make excuses for his deviant lifestyle. But it all seemed so much verbal diarrhea, nonsensical to any ordinary citizen “out there” in society who, on reading his text, got a look into his dirty cage and was shocked.

       Artie’s “freakiness” was in his own mind, to “normal” people he was simply a neurotic fuckwit; he realized the tag of ‘freak’ was a distraction to summing up his life-story, for he was just another dysfunctional, flawed human, a product of modernity, not a refugee. But, being paranoid, he still felt many of the ‘straight’ groups he tried to participate in treated him as ‘the other’, he was the eternal punk outsider. Oh yes, he could’ve written into infinity refining his “Freak’s Manifesto” but he was merely wanking his life away, the ‘freak’ who only wanted to be loved.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.