Fat men get drunk
Behind closed doors
They are called heroes.
Like most of Moss’ poetry, this ‘prophecy’ is rather depressing.
I think this poem highlights psychological ills (that is to say, individual proclivity) that hide in or make home in society. That major problem, that sickness of the mind is the glorification of the “heroes” of our society, the legislators, the producers (ln. 4). Far too often in the news, we see quite familiar faces streaming along the screen, their names spoken across the radio and suddenly an arousal perks us all from daydreaming: they said what? They’re doing what? They didn’t do what? Etc. etc.
(Please note: I am deliberately refraining from saying any specific names; if you by chance have a face or name come across your mind, all the more evidence to support my argument)
The problem isn’t necessarily that these familiar faces are who they are or what they represent. But the fact we can know these people without ever having met them suggests their person is much greater than the person itself (meaning, that what that person represents precedes who they are, their being). This is a heroic state—a state of possessing perception of greatness without the actual possession of greatness. Fabricated heroism.
This perceived heroism is, to my mind and also to Moss’, is the element of fascism which can exist in even the most democratic of mentalities. As a nation in the west, the United States loves its heroes, its great people that set in motion the cogs of society. The perception of any social mechanism is that it cannot be touched or influenced without the nudging of more powerful people rather than the collective action of people (some with more publicity plus those with no publicity). Publicity, the marketing of person, is what separates the average from the heroic without providing any actual differentiation.
Now, this statement may seem a little naïve since publicity necessarily implies that the publicized person (the ‘hero’) has done something to achieve or deserve enhanced recognition; after all, no one gets noticed for doing nothing. Yet, the process by which someone achieves enhanced recognition can be manipulated to appear as though the action done is deserving of greater recognition. Here, to make this point legitimate, we have to differentiate necessarily the action from its effect which heroes are exceptional at pulling off. The effect of an action, whether that be attributed to the person—which makes the person seem larger than life in order to pull off the sovereign action—or attributed to the positive (or negative) effects of that action—which makes the person seem as the arbitrator of positive or negative morals. In either instance, the person-hero is much greater than the person-perceiver for his/her ability to supercharge change in any direction. The greatness of the person-hero, in either case however, is always some kind of supernatural force—more than human.
This is a false attribution. Action taken by any person could, in theory, be publicized enough to attain hero status if the publicity is in their proximity. The hero creates the publicity when the publicity is present to publicize. So fascists, by training the public eye onto specific sections of our society, can maintain their fascism by being where the eye is and by telling it where to go. Even if the action taken has no resonating effect, the actions are still seen as heroic (attributable to the person, who outright is seen as heroic) effectively cementing the person-hero as a hero regardless of action.
However, I do not believe that the heroism applies directly to the person but rather to the position they hold—President, CEO, Chairman, etc.—for to attain such a position, it is believed the person must be a person-hero since their actions led to the achievement of the hero-position. Moreover, the fact a hero-position exists means any average person could achieve this hero-position and ascend to the person-hero. All that really exists are positions. However impotent the hero-positions are (for they cannot be acted without an actor) they hold power and influence for their ability to divine the heroes in our society which they did not have before.
The power of the hero-position is enticing to many (think politicians and fucking cops) and the power and authority that comes along with the hero-position allows those (now-) person-heroes to seal off the hero-position to other potential person-heroes (think gerrymandering). This is fascist thinking—the kind where the person-hero, by right, attained the position and all other contemporaries are verifiably less than that person-hero, if even the hero-position is arbitrarily sealed off from others (again, gerrymandering). This position, as it exists separated though contingent upon the person-hero, enables the person-hero to build a society which favors the person-hero and those of his kind (i.e. the ones who achieve the hero-position) and stops the natural exchange of power (in the context of the hero-position in a democracy).
In this poem, Moss uses the “fat men” as the person-heroes in hero-positions (ln. 1). These fat men are fat because they are glutted on the power and publicity of the hero-position they hold, not because of who they are. They are separated from the hero-position but are allowed to glut by the hero-position. Were total power theirs to possess and manipulated, they would make strident remarks of their ability to rule (as heroes or fascists can). But, Moss’ fat men do not scream, they “whisper” (ln. 3) “behind closed doors” (ln. 2). In a democracy, the hero-position (the fascist position inherent in all governments) is contingent—at best nominally, at worst ostensibly—upon the frail will of the people. This ‘will’ is not the needs or wants of the governed, but rather the publicity given to the hero-position. Though publicity, the people can (ostensibly) shift power from defective hero-positions. The solution would be to match one’s actions to the will of the people (through publicity) to ensure lasting power in the hero-position. This, however, is too much work and runs counter to the desires of the individual people assuming the hero-position—for they are not actually higher than any human ruled under them, they are terribly similar simply possessing more publicity. The hero-position does not dissuade the desires of ordinary people, it merely amplifies and codifies those desires since the desires of the person-hero are what, ostensibly, are good for the people not in the hero-position. After all, the hero-person is beyond the human; that is why they achieved the hero-position: they are naturally inclined to be as such. The more realistic solution to maintain the power of the hero-position is to avoid publicity.
But, you may be asking: but, I thought the power of the hero-position derives from publicity? Wouldn’t invisibility make the hero-position impotent?
Not exactly. The hero-position has power because it has a human face; it is occupied by a person-hero. The hero-position always precedes the person-hero though the person-hero sits in the spot where the hero-position needs a driver. One is contingent upon the other. The person-hero who sits in the hero-position does not have to be always present since his power is assumed (and kept secure for, say, four years). The person in the hero-position is not given his power through publicity, but rather (falsely) suggests that power is in the hands of the public (through publicity) giving publicity the suggestion of power. Therefore, the hero-position enables the person to exact his will, to flex power, even outside of the public gaze and beyond the power of the people. Therefore, laws can be passed and power determined without any publicity.
If there are heroes in our society, they are false heroes—they are hero-positions. And our fatal attraction to heroes (and the requisite devaluing of average life) enables these fat men to continue to whisper as their position allows them extrajudicial right, extraperspectival action, if you will.