Ranchero Sky

I broke a window in my truck and decided to drive the Prelude to San Francisco. It’s a 92, restored and with a sparkly paint job. It’s fast, handles beautifully, and looks like its on the way to parade down a ramblas. Linda’s son did the paint and he got plenty of sparkle in the pearly white. But I forgot to get the iPod’s car charger out of the truck, and ended up listening to staticy talk radio punctuated by ranchero music.

I always like ranchero, which is Mexican country music. Bianca assured me that if I learned to understand Spanish I wouldn’t enjoy it so much, because the lyrics betray a climate of fear and distrust. “You left me and now all I do is go to the bar and drink, and pretty soon I expect I’ll just shoot myself.”

“I’m sucking my pistol over you.”

“I'll change the sheets if you'll change your ways.”

“My self respect is the last thing you’re gonna get from me.”

“You stir fried my heart with poisonous mushrooms.”

Sometimes you have to listen to what’s on the radio because the only other signal you’re picking up is over on the AM side, and it’s a man explaining what Senator Harry Reid was thinking. This was just too scary. This cowboy understood Reid so well he was describing the thoughts going through the man’s head, and I have to say I was put off by the Senator. For one thing, he should pull his skin around his innerds and stop taking over that cowboy’s mind. It's unnatural.

One station comes in on the scan out there on the Mohave Desert and five miles later it turns back to ranchero music. It’s cool because you pick up pieces of things, like cutups, and they are a kind of art form. For example, at one point I heard a psychiatrist assuring the interviewer that sociopaths have emotions. They have hate for example. The problem, he said, is that they do not feel guilt and remorse.

As the ranchero music took over it was an interesting transition from the elevation of guilt and remorse to the status of redemptive features, to Mexican peasants singing about how much guilt and remorse they have. In fact, their guilt and remorse often stands in stark contrast to another’s absence of guilt and remorse. The absence of guilt and remorse appears to be not innocence and freedom, but a devious and selfish nature.

The reason it resonated in my thinking was the piece on the Nabataean religion, in my links, which discusses how cultures are held together by fear, guilt, or shame. Our culture is based more on guilt and fear than on shame. Oriental and Arab cultures are more shame based. I have started to look at this idea of guilt and remorse and how it manifests all around me.

It almost shocks me now when I realize how close to the surface the sense of guilt is in people, and consider that it came down from Roman law, where being guilty was death and being innocent was being spared. So the biggest problem people had was the need to have somebody else take on the consequences of their breaking of the law and die in their place. “This really does mean a lot to me.”

“I told you, sin is like mother’s milk to me. Who are these people?”

“Roman soldiers. And again, my entire family is eternally grateful.”

My dog feels guilt. He knows he’s not supposed to get on the bed but he does, and then he comes up the stairs walking like, “I love you boss. I’m nothing but you are the magic bullets from god’s gun, boss.”

If he just acted normal I wouldn’t know he had been on the bed. “Was that dog hair already on the cover? I don’t recall. I guess I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.” All he would have to do is stop feelling all that guilt and remorse.

So guilt and remorse are a kind of finger of god that points you out to the authorities. You may not do anything worse than other people, but they have learned to behave as if they are innocent and you, well, you behave like a cur dog.

“Excuse me. Could you wipe you butt with his cloth so the dog her can sniff it? We want to determine whether or not your sweat has stress indicators suggesting you are the guilty one.”

“Why are you hounding me?"

If you haven’t seen, “The Lives of Others,” you missed one of the best movies of all time, in my estimation. One of the most repulsive things was the information that the secret police in East Germany would collect sweat from your ass to test whether you were stressing. Good lord. That certainly argues against giving one person too much power over another.

Sometimes guilt and remorse are weapons people use on each other. They may be the top layer over something else, that we’d rather not look at, like people who think that whoever Harry Reid is, he doesn’t extend any further into the world than the limits of their imagination. That's egoism.

What we imagine is that somebody commits a crime of passion and afterwards feels terrible about it and wishes he or she hadn’t commited the offense. Because of the guilt, the person accepts the blame and seeks the punishment as a way of return to innocence. I think that's the idea, and it reflects a belief in redemption through atonement, such as punishment, confinement, public flogging, anal rape, horsewhipping, or being locked in the cellar with an insurance salesman.

"Do you feel any better yet."

"Yes, thank you."

In reality, guilt is more like a hot potato everybody catches but tosses to somebody else almost instantly. And then what? I think it’s often like a business deal, in which one person is arguing for damages. “Look at how I have suffered, you piece of shit.” It also helps if you're about to take something from somebody by force to make them guilty of something. "This piece of shit threw a rock at me."

"Well, you did take over the family property and set the dogs on his grandma."

"That was perfectly legal. If he objects let him pursue this through official channels."

"Of course, your excellency."

Most people do what they've learned how to do, and what is described as guilt is more accurately cognitive dissonance. If there are no imposed values to conflict with chosen behaviors there is no external guidance system, and one must depend on behaving toward others as one wishes to be treated by them. Some people will take advantage of that, but as Don Juan said, "What other people do isn't important. What you do is important."

Here comes the ranchero station, cutting back in through the electronic fog out on the Mohave, where the next services are 55 miles.

Posted: Thu - September 6, 2007 at 12:45 PM