Howling at the Machine

In his mid-twentieth century poem Howl, Allen Ginsberg penned his thoughts on the rise of modern industrial civlisation. I know of no better poetic rendering of what I refer to as the “Money and Machines Society.” Here Ginsberg metaphorically summons the dark spirit of the pagan god Moloch, one who demands human sacrifice as means to power and control.

In Ginsberg’s rendering of the Machine, our intrinsic joy or “Heaven” has been consumed by the ravenous Moloch, along with our innate spirituality and embodied presence. We have become “loveless,” chasing “unobtainable dollars” like dumb mules stumbling towards carrots on a stick, not seeing what lies beyond the desirous thing dangling immediately before us.

The poem reminds us of the demonic AI systems of much late twentieth-century science fiction classics like Snowcrash, The Matrix and Terminator. We have become “Consciousness without a body,” lost in a “Mind” of “pure machinery.” And where the “sphinx of cement and aluminum (has) bashed open (our) skulls” and consumed our “brains and imagination.”

The poem is dashed with references to an absent transcendent realm of mind and spirit that has been stolen from us, only to be substituted by concrete, steel and hard cash.

And now, as we spiral towards the mid-twenty-first century, and as the concrete and steel shape-shifts into the miasma of Metaverse, can we see any more clearly? Or perhaps better stated, can we feel any more truly?

This from Stanza 2, of Howl.

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What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money!

Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!

Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!

Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! Blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! Granitecocks! monstrous bombs!

They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!

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