prep for: office intel direct homeland sec-i&a ernesto zoloya
vivian wizda coker address georgetown univ
school foreign service post-grad
abridged transcript [autogen]
autodecrypt: “kill group a-2”
Let’s quickly discuss why I’m not disappeared or murdered, since I’m sure you’ve all heard rumors. About half are true. I’m one of a very few non-government individuals allowed to speak publicly on the topic of Paul Sweezy with any degree of criticism or candor. To be perfectly clear, they let me say whatever I want. Some of you will be surprised to learn this is a directive that comes from the very top. There’s a faction of leadership totally opposed to this policy (I could even say who and I wouldn’t get in trouble, just to give you an idea), but I try not to waste time worrying about them, especially at my age. I figure by the time power matches ego I’ll be either too old or stone cold. Hopefully this dispels any whispers that I’m some cunning dissident somehow capable of evading the government net. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m actually government approved. I am, however, roundly vilified by the remaining silenced intelligentsia of the former regime as an unwitting stooge of power, and that may well be the truth.
The fact of the matter is, under our present circumstances, the study of Paul Sweezy has become in many ways the study of the self. Perhaps that’s perverted logic, as I have let’s just say loudly heard from certain sectors, but I’m no longer so politically intractable as some of my former colleagues. I have no choice but to admit to myself who I am, no matter how much I sometimes don’t wish to. I was Paul Sweezy’s psychoanalyst, friend, and—briefly—political surrogate. I’m now a spiritual guru. So there you have it, you came out tonight thinking you were going to hear a political lecture and managed to stumble your way into a group therapy session.
Part of understanding Paul Sweezy as a historical figure is having some idea of the general psychological mood at the turn of the century. When I first met him in 2018, everyone was worrying themselves to death over the coming surge of authoritarianism. First the how and why, followed by the when and how much. Concerning the how and why, that seemed a complicated matter to people, one requiring not a small amount of mulling, pacing and arguing. We were fortunate to be well-prepared for the task as a society because all you had to do in those days was shoot a quick grin or knowing little wink at your coffeemaker and it’d analyze your face-rec data quick as you like (biometrics was the settled nomenclature at that point, followed by the more proprietary Look-Tek, then finally later on migrating all the way back to face-rec or even the full Facial Recognition Technology with the capitals and everything once it was just your standard product feature) and in minutes you’d have the toasty aroma of high-quality fair trade blend beans picked and packed by slaves. My apologies, by the way, for using all this outdated terminology here, but for the sake of my own sanity I’m not going to stop and contextualize everything. I’d rather you just absorb through pathos. In any case, despite all the mulling, pacing, arguing, and urgently caffeinated heartrates, a cultural consensus couldn’t be arrived at. That’s one of those things I’m talking about, cultural consensus, it was— well, anyway. Soon the how and why became a bit less du jour, a bit beside the point, because the much fretted-over flood of authoritarianism began to arrive in trickles. Loud trickles, yes, like drops booming at the bottom of a deep steel sink, but nothing perfectly measurable, perfectly notable. Was it authoritarianism now? How about now? Or was it more accurate to pronounce the arrival of “an entrenched plutocracy with some popular electoral features and an unconstrained head executive”? Was it really being fair to everyone’s feelings to say plutocrats weren’t normal citizens endowed with the inalienable human right of a single sacred vote just as the rest of us, no matter how outsized and—eventually—actually separate their votes were from ours? There were a lot of people who, believe it or not, considered it of the utmost importance not to jump the gun, call a system by the wrong name and all that. Maybe they were just in denial. Somehow it seemed forgivable at the time. After all, we were just the small voiceless people, and it was by then time to start acting like it. Nothing irks like a bunch of powerless drunks sitting around a bar in the middle of the afternoon telling each other how it all ought to have been handled. The fact was, freedom was becoming a lost lover—not a spouse or partner, but someone encountered briefly, essence and bodies met in a spiral of passion, and whose grip was then lost to the indomitable pull of a divergent lifepath. The arrival of the new political order was like receiving word many years later that that lover had passed away, silently, mysteriously, in some obscure corner of the world, and now the small thing you had once shared, burningly alive even if only in memory, was lost forever. We ached every time we encountered its vapor, the odd nostalgic smell or feeling of déjà vu unwelcome reminders that the existence we carried on with was a forsaken one.
Of course, this analogy mostly applies to those of us who experienced the societal transition directly. For those of you who appeared on the other side of the change, I realize freedom has always meant something fundamentally different, as seemingly satisfactory to you and as it is unrecognizable to us.
But my goal in saying that isn’t to criticize. I’m well-aware there were likely many more hypocrisies embedded into this concept—our nation’s most primary fetish—under the old paradigm than currently exist. Nor do I say it to introduce the idea of some pale, insufficient relativism. No, that would be inexcusable. Truth is, the psychic plexus of our ill-fated era was one of overwhelming sickness, despondency, disengagement and frenetic fatalism. As a self-hating, Zürich-trained Jungian analyst, I’m in an authoritative position to say so. Back then, the human creature was being faced with a new and horrifying prospect: assured and utter discontinuation. Nature had constructed for us its own medieval torture contraption: let these sad, doomed beings trudge about their fashioned utopia of pinnacles and treasures, and all the while they shall be made to watch the whole creation fall, annihilated in an awesome display of agonizing slow-motion.
Which isn’t to suggest this fate was bereft of enjoyments. Let’s not kid ourselves that there isn’t some degree of abject fascination, even outright pleasure, to be extracted from the grotesque. I think of a fragment I ran across in a review of Turkic history, discomfiting if not nauseating but altogether true, penned by William Davies while held captive by the Ottomans during the 16th century, on the topic of death by gaunching. I quote, “Their ganshing is after this manner: he sitteth upon a wall, being five fathoms high, within two fathoms of the top of the wall; right under the place where he sits, is a strong iron hook fastened, being very sharp; then he is thrust off the wall upon this hook, with some part of his body, and there he hangeth in the most exquisite torments, sometimes two or three days, before he dieth; such a death is very seldom, owing to its cruelty, even when set against other such practises of these Barbary States, but does always draweth a great portion of the publick.”
Torture produces a hypnotizing effect, and I’ll admit to you I was no exception. Over the course of my career I’ve been privy to every type of psychological distress—rare and abstract neuroses, the most disturbing psychotic episodes, you name it. In the past I always refrained from conceiving of myself, or indeed calling myself, a therapist. I had some fairly labored reasons for this. Therapy, as such, didn’t become my calling until much later in life. My former approach to psychology, which I considered harsher to the ear but gentler to the touch, was that the words healing and treatment were misnomers of the field, pop-mantras which inaccurately reflected the promise of what analysis actually had to offer. Understanding was a colder, more honest advertisement in my estimation, and perhaps it’s even an opinion I’m still unwilling to disown. Sometimes, in the process of coming to understand, one finds pathways to healing suddenly illuminated, yet it is by no means a guarantee.
Healing a mind is not the same as healing a body, though I always considered there to be more parallels than it was acceptable to admit at the time. Then, as now, we are allowed to treat bodies with much less sensitivity. Should it be in the interest of the body to be opened up, scraped, sliced and sutured, well, this is allowed, because there is an implicit understanding that the body, at some point, no matter how free of flaws, will be left to its own natural state of degradation. To put it another way, there is a demand implicit to the medical profession for the patient to accept certain parameters of reality. That same realism isn’t practiced by many in the psychological field, and as such there’s a tendency—rightly so—on the part of patients to cry bullshit. Therapy, not analysis, was the dominant method of my day, and the logical conclusion was that any amount of imperfect social cohesion or psychic distress left over in the patient at the end of the day should naturally be the consequence of a failed healer.
Consciousness, however, is indeed a circuit, and the revelation of too much sublimated material is liable—proven, even—to cause a short. But again, I refer to what I said of the body. As a general rule, the body is only healed intermittently when necessary, almost always with a preference to do as much as possible all at once, seemingly regardless of whatever pain the recovery process may involve. I had found through experience that drawing out a subject’s diagnosis, especially in those days, was liable to lead to frustration, and could cause them to give up on analysis before being provided a full picture. To me, analysis was a human right, yes, but also somewhat of a boutique experience. A bit like politics, if you will. In the absence of set chemical standards, analysts are closer to philosophers or theoreticians than to scientists, and it always made me uncomfortable to hide this opinion from my clients. Ironically, these convictions were what drew Paul Sweezy to me in the first place.
Despite its misanthropy, my apparently subject-unfriendly approach led me to become an unusually successful analyst. Financially successful. This use of the word successful I will contextualize. Though I do believe, if I’m to be the judge, that I’ve been reasonably successful in the more rounded sense of the word as well.
I tended to attract a particular type of subject, one more intelligent or self-assured, moderately distanced from their own phobias or complexes or psychoses, who had managed to integrate imperfections into a functional whole or turn abnormalities into monstrous strengths. Although Paul Sweezy fit this type (or came to fit it over time, at least), he differed from my usual subjects in one big way. Namely, he was a white male, aged 38.
Up to that point in my young career I had worked with exceptionally few white male clients, at least outside of my doctoral work in Switzerland. My original practice was located in my hometown of Watts, and the foundation of my clientele were black females, usually young adults to middle-aged, in positions of professional authority. I caught a break early on, just a little more than a year after opening my offices, when the El Segundo-based CFO of Aerojet Rocketdyne, the great Ann-Marie Williams, was referred to my office through a former subject who contracted as a DSP algorithms engineer. After my work with Williams, I enjoyed a steady stream of women who held high-up positions in the corporate world, as well as a few public officials, who viewed making the pilgrimage to Watts as a pleasant excursion to a discreet part of LA where they were inconspicuous in comparison to the cities where they lived and worked. I was accustomed to meeting with these powerful women when out of their professional personas. Expensive track suits and flashy jewelry, headwraps instead of wigs, minimal makeup, comfy shoes. The majority of my sessions at that time, even the intense ones, didn’t often veer from an atmosphere of sororal solidarity, so I felt a bit defensive, even intruded upon, by this white man without a referral who, apparently, according to my secretary, had been so insistent to book an introductory session with me he had waited a full month for an open appointment slot.
I’ll provide a sketch of the man I found before me on that first encounter. He stood at 5’10”, hardly much taller than myself, and though he was thoroughly mongrelized I could nonetheless discern him to be of Nordic extraction. He flouted a sharp, straight nose, pert lips, narrow shaven jaw, and dolichocephalic cranial structure. He was not exceptionally depigmented and had a skin tone I’ve heard some caucasians classify as “olive.” Hair was blonde but not fine, eyes brown and nearly without lashes, his least flattering feature. Hands were unimpressive in size but nicely shaped and not quite delicate, and he was lean without being underweight. I don’t doubt some of this will be difficult for most of you to visualize given how tightly-controlled the image you have of him is, but he walked, sat and stood with the slouching posture of a defeated man. His face registered concentration, concern. Basically, there was nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary about him. His shirt was a dark shade of viridian green which he accented with a black tie, black pants and gold belt buckle. Had I crossed paths with him on the street I would’ve likely confused him for someone headed to a job interview rather than a working professional. He had none of the authoritative, or, simply to conjure up an image, entitled manner of a white-collar worker. Instead he slouched low on my sofa like a high school kid in math class, occasionally putting both hands behind his head.
He’d already tried working with other therapists before hearing about my classical training and “straightforward” psychoanalytic style (a diplomatic way of saying I had the reputation for being cold and unnecessarily brutal in my evaluations). This piqued his interest because he was yet to find a therapist who he felt could understand his problem.
He described himself as a former political advisor-turned-interpreter/translator-turned-waiter-turned-warehouse worker-turned-“carwash technician”. He had most recently lived in Fresno, prior to his wife passing away. Through a confusing turn of events, her death had resulted in him landing a position as a professor of political science at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, a tiny but regionally significant college. He’d been left as the sole guardian of his 19-year-old stepson, Vincent, and had been living in San Pedro just over a year and a half.
When speaking he was alert and coherent, not wont to ramble or digress, though he struck me as being of only moderate intelligence. Regardless, he drew me in like a magnet. He quickly showed himself to be a preternatural listener and reader of mood, able to seamlessly match his emotional energy to my own. He was masterfully self-contained, able to wield empathy like a weapon.
A person who’s certain of their individuation is also someone convinced they will continue to exist across time and space. This form of consciousness, just like all personality traits, can take on infinite forms and variations of form. In the case of Paul Sweezy, I had before me a subject whose nervous system was in miraculous balance. If you’ll permit me a bit of jargon, he could hold within him immense amounts of psychic energy, including that of others, able to contain the various fluctuating pressures generated by the strife of existence without losing perspectival integrity. This can be as much a weakness as a strength. The self-contained person has a double-edged talent for unburdening others. In one sense, they are generous, even all-consumed listeners. They effortlessly construct what psychotherapists call emotional containment, the interactive space between people that conveys safety or trust. Other people are always revealing personal secrets and pent-up feelings to the self-contained individual. Although this is usually an endearing and charitable gift, there can also be a deceptively sinister side to this personality. Hearing peoples’ stories and secrets may become addicting, and can be used toward exploitative ends. The self-contained individual has the habit of bottling others up, arranging them like butterfly specimens along the inner walls of their minds. Without being aware of it, they oftentimes gather up the data others divulge to them with the aim of being more effective manipulators, and, depending on the disposition and scope of the mind, their ultimate goal may be individual, group, or even mass domination.
He told me about his near-suicidal breakdown, which happened not long after his wife’s passing. To use his words, he’d emerged from the crisis feeling more mentally healthy than ever before in his life, which was how he knew he was actually very sick. I told him he had a Yossarian complex—the conviction that it’s the world which is insane rather than oneself. That’s how I used to operate, just blurting out a patient’s diagnosis before they’d even managed to utter ten sentences. As if being right had anything to do with effective psychoanalysis. To my surprise, he actually knew who the character Yossarian was—it’s a famous literary character, by the way—and acceded I was probably correct. I told him it was perfectly common to experience a major breakdown in the wake of losing a loved one, even a strange liberation, though it could stir up feelings of guilt. This irked him. His breakdown, he said, hadn’t been precipitated by his wife’s death, not even in any kind of delayed or displaced way. He’d already been over this with two or three other therapists, and rejected the theory as puerile. He knew precisely what had sparked the episode: his being fired from Executive Rides 100% Hand Car Wash.
This is usually a surprising discovery for people, but Paul Sweezy was fired from every single job he’d ever had. For his entire life up to the point of his breakdown, he’d been a complete failure. Again, I suppose I’d better clarify that what I mean is he was a failure in the financial sense. His upbringing was firmly rooted in the white middle-class suburban tradition of the late 20th century, a tradition marked by family values, euphemistic conservative politics, a commerce-centric education, and a deeply moralistic mindset. An important point of departure for him, however, was that the moralist upbringing in his household centered not so much around the values of Reformist Christianity, but rather societal and governmental. His father was a municipal technocrat, and his mother had worked as a paralegal before his birth. Not surprisingly, he became a fanatic believer in the reality of society. The type of person who, from a young age, not only listens to the rules carefully but internalizes them and obeys even when there’s no one around to enforce them. But pretty soon he came to the realization that the rules didn’t actually apply, or at least not to the privileged. For a young, naïve, and advantaged teenager, bulwarked within the top tier of the racial caste system, this way of thinking was not at all unprecedented, but certainly idiosyncratic. On a personal level, I was never the least bit impressed by his “discoveries” regarding the inequities of the socio-political system, but the question of how he had come to such conclusions during his childhood was key to his psychological profile. Incidentally, I was never able to supply him with an answer that satisfied him. I explained many times that the non-religious nature of his rearing likely made him sensitive to systemic biases, but he could never accept this. To him, the truth had to be something deeper, something unique to him as an individual. He wanted to believe—and whether this desire was connected to his growing egotism and borderline sociopathy or simply the most obvious evidence of Paul Sweezy’s own subtly racist tendencies it’s impossible to say—but he wanted to believe his soul was special, that he had seen through his own culture’s prejudiced doctrines on the strength of his purity alone. Which is of course a complete load of shit, but you don’t become Glorious Leader of this racist-ass country without a deluxe set of gleaming self-delusions.
Okay, okay, settle down. Like I said, my political immunity with regards to public speech is absolute, so sometimes I tend to go overboard. This is what I was talking about before, by the way, about the whole lost-lover thing. You know, it’s funny how when you get old you can go on for so long thinking to yourself, “Age is nothing, time is fluid,” until suddenly something like this happens that reminds me all at once of the bizarre segmentation of time. It’s like feeling a heavy cell door swing closed behind you, locking the past away from you and you from it. And yet sometimes it’s like everything were always as it were. That might be a lost point on a room full of young people, but anyhow, where was I?
Um, yes, inequities of the system. After his “discoveries,” it started to seem to Paul as if the rules had been made according to some impossibly tangled conspiratorial process to benefit those who knew how, or were simply allowed, as if by magic, to break them, while at the same time using them to stifle opponents and the rights of others. What emerged from this outrage and disillusionment was an archetype as old as time itself. He became an unbending ethical warrior, given over to crusading and lost causes.
This translated into a long pattern of seeing all authority as illegitimate. Backtalking superiors was a habit. For a long time, up until his mid-thirties, he was proud of himself for not being able to hold down a job. Every dismissal had come as a consequence of his outspokenness, sometimes to higher-ups, sometimes to customers, usually on behalf of the people he worked with and what he considered “the right thing to do.” His coworkers respected him and thought of him as brave, if not a leader of sorts. But the more he aged, the more the romance drained from his own intransigence. The wholeness of his mortality weighed down on him. He had visions of himself dissipating away to dust, certain he would be forgotten by history, perhaps not even able to die with dignity. For more than twenty years he’d been desperately trying to figure out the answer to a question he couldn’t define, always lying to himself that if only he had more time, or if only he could live in a different way, maybe he could realize some of his potential.
Meanwhile, his socioeconomic fortunes continued to rise due to his wife’s career. They’d married early in their professional lives, back when Paul still had decent prospects to become white-collar. But as he continually came up short in the working world, her affections waned and gave way to frustration. He was convinced that in the final years of her life he had been little more than a disappointment to her.
Given his father’s career and his personal obsession with injustice, Paul’s political identity was important to him as early as adolescence. Most of you are aware he earned a degree in political science. That part is true, though in reality he attended a small northern California university. Politically, his beliefs trended left of liberalism. He’d never been very active in the political field apart from his first job out of college. He’d served as campaign manager for the losing candidate of the 2006 mayoral race in Fontana. He badly mishandled media relations and found himself ill-suited to the kind of public manipulation required for even such a low-stakes contest. It was the first time he ever got fired, and it effectively closed every career door in his field.
This isn’t to say he wasn’t politically gifted. Over the course of his analysis he said to me many times that by his late-20s he viewed politics largely through a personal lens. He was opposed to the ongoing rightward drift of the country, but claimed he could never follow much news on account of his always-chaotic work situation. In my opinion, this speaks to just how political a creature Paul Sweezy always was. I doubt if I’ve ever encountered such a ravenous newshound before or since. And not just a passive consumer of information. Over time I recognized his uncommon aptitude for interpretation, for fitting any particular piece into a national or international whole.
But when it came to his own life he didn’t have the same coldly perceptive eye. The year before I met him, his wife underwent routine surgery to have her tonsils removed and contracted a drug-resistant bacterial infection, a “superbug” as it was known at that time, and passed away along with several other patients in the same hospital. This left Paul as the sole guardian of his 19-year-old stepson, Victor Sweezy—back then, Victor Mondshein—who, quote, “hated his fucking guts.” Then came his firing from Executive Rides.
By all accounts, this was the most significant event of his life. Getting fired from his car wash job at the age of 37 drove him to seriously contemplate ending it all. He suddenly understood how small and meaningless his life had turned out to be. According to almost every metric, he was a miserable failure. His wife was dead and his stepson thought of him as a “total goon.” He had no idea who might take a chance hiring him. He called his drug dealer hoping to get his hands on a great deal of heroin and instead got a pep talk and two free hits of high-quality ecstasy. The tabs were shaped like little bears. One would’ve been more than enough for an intense experience, but he took both. Somewhere in the middle of rolling his face off, he came to the conclusion his low status in life was his own fault. Every single person in any position of authority he had ever come into contact with was, without fail, a shameless careerist, an obvious charlatan, or both. His true failure had been in trying to live his life with even a modicum of personal integrity, and especially for trying to be decent to other people. What reason was there to care about the world? This was a hopeless place full of cruel idiots, craven masochists, and humans were a species not at all intrinsically valuable, most likely nothing more than a detriment and threat to the broader spectrum of life on the planet. In that moment he faced his fear of death and went the opposite way, reconceptualizing it as a romantic ideal. To put it simply, he came out of his psychic episode blissfully happy and not giving a shit about anything, which made him similar to most Americans for the first time in his life. According to him, this was how he knew he hadn’t actually shaken off his psychotic episode. Instead, it had metastasized.
My rejoinder at this point in the session was, okay, and what do you want me to do about it? His response was that he wanted me to restore his old faith in his principles. To, in effect, make him a loser again. He was sincere in this.
I’ll tell you I hated him. I think I still hate him. Paul Sweezy is the quintessential story of someone who spiraled into the sickness of the American character-pysche and came out as head honcho of the whole nasty business. Which I’m not perfectly okay with, but I’ve made my peace. A rose is a rose is a rose. He’s an autocrat. But I suppose I’ve become a bit like Paul in that nowadays I blame myself more than I blame him. When he made his comment about every person in any position of authority being a careerist or charlatan, I remember I said to him, “And is that what you think of me, as someone in a position of authority?” I’ll never forget he gave me this look. At the time, I allowed my ego to tell me it was the face of a privileged white boy who had just been called out on his bullshit. His response was very careful, very diplomatic, that of course he was only speaking in general terms. Well, three and a half decades later, after allowing myself to ride his coattails into immense power and harshly repressing my political enemies, it pains me to realize how he was already perfecting his skills for manipulation and politics. I guess if I have any regrets, I do wish I had taken him more seriously when he asked me for help. Maybe then he would’ve died impoverished, anonymous and alone, instead of how he will now meet his end, which will be loved, reviled and known by millions. The difference, unfortunately, will represent nothing less than my failure as a healer.
Jung believed everything eventually turns into its opposite, and that’s how I’ve always conceptualized the U.S.’s turning away from democracy in favor of absolutist authoritarianism. Oddly enough, however—and I don’t believe this is irrelevant—there was an equal and observable change in the nation’s culture. During democratic times, the collective psyche of the people was far more authoritarian in nature, whereas now that our authoritarian project is a reality, the new culture has allowed an ethic of meritocracy and collectivism to flourish. This assertion deeply offends some of my remaining colleagues. In all honesty, it offends me too, but I don’t pretend to understand it. The only thing I can say about it is this: it’s the last ray of hope I see in this country. In my hands, it’s a useless and bitter irony. I share it with you tonight out of a blind faith that you all will more fully grasp its meaning, and know what to do with it. Thank you for listening.
ernesto, happy tuesday. just the usual treasonous dreck here, so no need for a close read. i did highlight one brief passage that could be actionable. paragraph 27, lines 5-7: “he called his drug dealer hoping to get his hands on a great deal of heroin and instead got a pep talk and two free hits of high-quality ecstasy. the tabs were shaped like little bears.” haven’t heard her say this before. not entirely sure but i think this could be construed as group defamation based purely on specificity. maybe the president wouldn’t be able to control an initial inquiry if it were framed as worthy of consequential damages by breach of contract? dirty trick, but just a thought. congratulations on the pool, by the way.