The Fear And Necessity of Breaking the Political Fourth Wall
By Cypress Butane
In art, especially in stageplays, the convention of the ‘Fourth Wall’ is the imaginary barrier separating the audience and the action of the play. The fourth wall is ‘broken’ when the art becomes self-referential, perhaps yielding to vocalizations that it is all a fictional display, or when a character refers to the audience, acknowledging the lie. A good example is the film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ where he talks to the camera while in the shower, telling us all we need to ‘stop and look around once in a while’.
I would like to speak here of the idea of the fourth wall, and extending the metaphor to encompass three previous walls, which have been broken under the Trump administration. Citing the fact that congress and the office of the President, breaking from the show as usual, where they may go about their business as usual with a detached air to the audience, the citizens which they have grown increasingly out of touch with, are thrown into awareness of each other due to the fact that the fires raging in the theater are threatening to engulf the stage, forcing the actors to directly address the fact that everything they have been saying and doing is fabricated on a poorly orchestrated lie, that of their being actors of representation for the people, being strained to the point of incredulity. When this occurs in a nominally Democratic country, especially one founded on rebellion against lack of representation in government, people are naturally inclined to walk out of the theater, and often, in the direction of the author of the illusion’s dissolution. If the people have, for three years, been trapped in the theater with a mad projectionist who gets his jollies shouting ‘Fire!’, the protesters may even appear remarkably rational and focused.
To outline the four walls in brief to begin, I first want to let out there that I’m both anticipating with glee, and dreading existentially what I predict will take place in the upcoming Trump rallies, that being THE BREAKING OF THE FOURTH WALL. Which I will detail when the time comes not just what I hope and believe we will see, but also the meanings of what is potentially on the horizon for the prospects of democracy and its future preservation, if we are lucky enough to keep such a possibility.
1. THINGS WE THOUGHT WE COULD COUNT ON
The First Wall was that between the poor, possibly the mostly rural communities who felt alienated from the elite for any reason other than racist bullshit ones, and anyone with a legitimate beef with representation in Washington. The wall arrogant politicians built up, refusing to recognize, or even fully aware of the growing inequalities in the world, but still refusing to do anything to make things better. Refusing to raise the minimum wage, bailing out Wall Street after the financial crisis and then soon after rolling out any marginal regulations they did put in place, the wimpy efforts made to stop the exploitation of main street and consolidation of wealth in a toppling 1%. Tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, ignorance of the pleas of the Occupy protests, refusal to do thing one about the dangerous exposure of their crimes with the release of the Panama Papers. All the more reason, by their logic, to shore up faux News outlets to pump the public full of a steady diet of horseshit, anger, and lies, divisive and frustrating to any healthful chance at self- improvement or an increase of welfare. That old lie they sell of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, smashed in the face by the boot of uncaring nonsense of their own stumbling antics tap dancing on the corpse of civility and rational governance. This First Wall, I do believe old guard Grand Old Party clowns were so foolish they were genuinely shocked when Jeb Bush was pushed into the mud on the playground as millions of angry, fed up Americans clambered over this barricade desperately, when they thought for some dumbass reason that Trump would represent them. The savior reached out the hand to pull them over this First Wall, and we were on our way.
2. HOME SHOPPING NETWORK’S BUILD-IT-YOURSELF PRISON
The Second Wall was the promise that Trump would save their country by doing so at the cost of ‘the other’ – The Border Wall. The big mouthed used car salesman with the smile that spelled his own name in ten foot tall gold letters had to offer something to distract from the fact that he was honestly offering nothing, and so he had to pull the —
‘Look over there’! Some made up enemy. Which isn’t even a new trick. Xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, even shame-your-own- Mother misogyny. This fucker spit blood and bile at any decent person in the room and no one even tossed him a well-deserved punch!? Generally anyone non-male, non-white, he made straight-up obvious that he was going to war against you. Never mind, he thought, in his own white male mind, he may have been talking to the only ones who would hear it, the white males. Because everyone heard him, loud and clear. It was quite clarifying, even to this white man, that he was dangerous, not just because he was looking for a fight nobody either wanted to see come to fruit, or could actually win, but because, he was making me a target, simply because I am white. He was trying to give me a cloak, of white, that would make me immune if I’d just join the team and try the uniform out. But I had no stock with this man, would never countenance breaking bread with such a monstrous asshole. And so, I could only suffer the blowback for being of the race he wanted to turn against anything human in this world. The fact that Trump was out to make his bones on his racist-based dividing powers and never actually planned to help anyone, this was the second Wall. And if I didn’t put my back into tearing it down, I, along with anyone else sane and healthy-souled, knew we would end up buried under it.
The darker issue? It wasn’t just the people who had put this ol’ boy into power. There was the media to consider. Those who had given him ten times the air cover in the war for narration supremacy than anyone talking sense. He was brash and disgusting, which meant prime ratings. So they couldn’t help themselves, but in this, perhaps, with Trump’s war on anything truthful and honest, was the seed of potential birth for a better world. Perhaps. Because, to survive, to not fall beneath the wall rolling out across the land. People needed to grow smarter. People would need to look for those seeds, and gather them unto themselves.
The combination of Trump’s calling anything disfavorable to his fragile ego ‘Fake News’, coupled with the nature of corporate interests invested in the media machine in America to begin with, has met with the perfect storm that is the Millennial rebel contingent. Those post-90’s ironist Nirvana-slack-god-children, left to their devices in the perfect underground of the ‘tubes’ of the internet, to fend for themselves. In the concrete jungle of a soul blowing economic disaster capitalism, all we had was what we could forage in the undergrowth. Yes, some of that time long-struggling has not been wasted. We are still here. What am I trying to say? About my beautiful, perpetual-crisis forged wunderkinds?
In short, fascists are doomed.
3. THING WE CAN’T COUNT ON
The Third Wall, that was most recent, when those who Trump declared war on from the first day of his campaign down the escalator, everyone non-male, non-white, had had enough of his war and showed up at the gates of the White House, which he had to fortify with fencing. That’s the Third Wall. The one that, honest to God I thought was going to fall to flame and livestreamed riot punks. And I’d be lying if I didn’t have a half hope, or even more, that they didn’t make it through. I spent those days lending my support to the rebellion, because that’s what it is, not just protests, not just riots, but an active revolt against a system of Government, steeped in a weak sauce fascism. An incompetent autocrat who has every poor impulse and no sense, enough to make him just as bad, in my mind, as Hitler, only less socially aware, older, less able to make his vision reality due to lack of will, and history shored up in defense and armament in his opposing forces.
And for all we know, since he’s not gone yet, the Third Wall may yet need to fall. I for one believe in the U.S. Constitution. Think it’s a brilliant document. The founding fathers were Enlightenment philosophers who knew the weakness and corrupt tendencies of human nature, and wanted to build a machine that would not easily break down. Checks and balances, even the fact that this nation was built on rebellion is important to its worth as something that should live on. Because, the founders were very explicit on what, when the means of redress for citizens are cut off, is permissible. A society, its government, is for the people. If it is not justifiable, if it becomes too unbalanced and serves a few at the expense of the many, then it needs course correcting.
That Thomas Jefferson quote is profound and harsh in its necessity, because that is the nature of truth. “The tree of liberty from time to time must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” When politicians become so distant from reality, when a culture reaches a point where men can walk the halls of a so-called justice or congress, so deftly carefree in their machinations as to seem utterly forgetful not just of the fact that blood at times needs spilling for the ideals we aun to uphold, but in all honestly HAVE FORGOTTEN THAT THEY THEMSELVES EVEN POSSESS BLOOD!… These fools, have placed themselves so far above the lowly common men that have them surrounded, they have forgotten they once used to be one. Human. It’s the point. At once one hears the spectre of heavy footsteps overdue, from some dark corner of these halls. To push over the engine gone moldy, dust-choked and seized with empty rust…
The Fourth Wall beckons.
4. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE
The Fourth Wall is to come in the days ahead, when I am expecting to hear some vocal hecklers at Trump’s rallies begin to cry out, “Where is what you have promised us?” When, as Trump tries to navigate his failures and frustration as a velvet gloved tyrant, the bloodthirst he has created is no longer satisfied with what his own supply has to offer. When it will turn on him, and come back through the screen. When dull appetite overrides the powers of sophistical rhetoric. When one realizes one cannot eat empty words. THE FOURTH WALL BROKEN.
This is the most dangerous time. Because, the salesman has sold a dream of satisfaction on the throbs of irrational emotions. On fear, on vengeance, on eternal bliss sold at basement-bargain- lowest-common-denominator prices. This is often the scene in the movie where the news man sputters with an ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ just before the zombies break through the door to the studio and the signal conks out, and our heroes say…
Any safety we have at this junction, is the safety we have made ourselves. The control is lost, as the control ever was a dream. We may survive as those practiced in sanity and self-sufficiency. Of preparation and schooled in practice of care. But those who suckled the teat of the monster who they just slaughtered in the peak of dissatisfaction, what hope for them? For now, they are the enemy of all hopers, all system, all return to satisfaction. They have fallen over the edge of possibility.
The reality TV shows will not be aired, instead, the Fake News adherents, those who call anything inconvenient some impossible lie out to destroy them, will wander the streets without any skills to even measure the passage of pain. The Suicide King simply ran out of clouds to walk on.
And the politicians who made their careers on selling the blood of the people back and forth, their addiction, they run panicked to appear as though they are what they said they were way back behind the FIRST WALL. Because they will be seeking desperately to remount the barricades. So they will desperately strive to appear representative, decent, honest, palliative to justice and peace. Not monsters committing crimes with pen and documents. Not mobsters in suits.
But the audience, for the moment, understands the play. Because the marchers, the good old boys out protecting our freedom from tyranny are not in some distant land. They are on our front stoop. Yelling at us to ‘stay the fuck inside’, shooting rubber bullets in our face if we interfere. Something, ah.. Something has gone serious – on the disconnect here. These wall were to make me safe. How did the innocuous hate and inhumanity I shrugged off like so much sand in my shoes in order to build the grand scheme… lead to this? How has my architecture of sublime wishing not managed to tame the human in me? What wolf did I dream I was feeding, now come alive and rollicking down these avenue? That wall I wanted to build, and push out, farther, in the desert, for the enemy to be pushed away, what excuse was it? Some excuse I needed to make myself a larger monster without any checks and balances upon my own hate? Nevermind can it happen here, how can we stop it going further? Every day the flames grow higher. I wanted to forget I too am a monster. Of course. In this moment of clarity, where decorum is outed as simply the devil in drag… Where the people look at the government-labeled terrorist next to them and realize, everything you told me to fear is my ally… The shadow puppets on the wall are nonsense and I am locked inside a cave! What shall we do with this world of intense possibility?
Because this is the same stage where everyone knows… this level of disarray cannot last. People, most people, need some standard of day to day threat-level of possibility. But what, you ask, if the comfort of order is not to be restored? AH! “Mankind cannot bear very much reality”! Things must settle. But see to it. I would ask… That things do not settle back. Do not give the reins to another monster. Do not even get comfortable. But settle forward, as if in clear sight and sound of this rushing river we have discovered, collectively.
Yes, settle on the raging river, and hear its voice always.
“Power belongs to those who take it.” Don’t think it’s true? A man in a suit told it to me. It was in one of those best-sellers on business and staying on the cutting edge and keeping your office future proof. “Power belongs to the people that take it. Nothing to do with their hard work, strong ambitions, or rightful qualifications, no. The actual will to take is often the only thing that’s necessary.”
It is time, now. I know you realize it too.
DANCE BEFORE YOU CALCIFY.
P.S. – my advice for the rally in Tulsa?
Stand back, don’t protest, if you do, do so peacefully. Let the man talk. What’s he gonna do, mock George Floyd’s death cries to appease his bases increasing bloodlust? He’s not a speaker, he’s a fascist.
These rallies, are nothing more than reruns of Joker’s Social Experiment, in the film ‘The Dark Knight.’ The greatest thing he could hope for is to attack the arena.