The Crabman Up My Ass, or, The World Turns to Shit

I talk about shit a lot, I like to think because we live in such an excremental time, when anal erotism—also known as saving or thrift—has become more important than ever to the assholes who run this place called capitalism.

My friends have often remarked, with great disgust, on my capacity to index my metabolism by charting my bowel movements, as if I’m already 80 and in a nursing home. Their disgust is appropriate: the fascination with excrement is the fascination with death—because shit is the dead life of the body and, from the infant’s standpoint, the first detachable part of that body. From either end of your life, beginning or end, the world looks like shit. Nobody wants to be reminded of that.

Long ago my reply to my disgusted friends was, “I’m the return of the repressed! I’m the Yahoo of your dreams.” In more scholarly moods, I’d cite Sandor Ferenczi, an early disciple of psychoanalysis, whose “Ontogenesis of the Interest in Money,” an essay from 1914, is clearly the origin of my book on the Federal Reserve System. These days, my lazy retort is: “South Park.”

II

I learned this manner, shall we call it, of de-sublimation, from Norman O. Brown, whose Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (1958), virtually concludes with Part V, “Studies in Anality,” which contains the most brilliant readings of Luther and Swift ever published. There’s a Part VI, but it’s elegiac, kind of lame. “More eros, less strife,” that’s about it.

But I won’t bore you with an exegesis of Brown, I’ve done that before at this blog. Instead, I’ll quote these exquisite sentences, and then tell the story of how the Crabman got up my ass.

“Hence the assimilation of money with excrement does not render money valueless; on the contrary, it is the path whereby extraneous things acquire significance for the human body, and hence value. If money were not excrement, it would be valueless.

“But why particularly excrement? Possession, according to psychoanalysis, gratifies bodily Eros concentrated in the anal zone. But the concentration of libido in the anal zone reflects the attachment to the anal zone of the infantile narcissistic project of becoming father of oneself.” (p. 293)

III

All right then, as you surely know, last week I discovered Mike the Crabman on 125th, first in The Wild Olive grabbing handfuls of habaneros, then on the street selling whole crabs, shrimp, and corn on the cob, all boiled in a pot teeming with celery, onions, and those very hot peppers.

I ate all of the above on the street, it was 90 degrees, then bought ten shrimp, four crabs, and took them home, just another moment in the exploratory expedition that is my new life as a tenant of Harlem. I put the purchased items on the counter, grabbed a Natural Light to soothe my burnt palate, and sat down to write up the experience.

Later, I munched some shrimp. I never ate any of the crab. I put them in the refrigerator about an hour after coming home and composing my tribute to Mike the Crabman.

36 hours later, I couldn’t leave the house for fear of an untoward event (my girlfriend suggested that “shitting myself” was probably too extreme a designation of that impending event). Ever feel like that? Here’s the real thing, hold your nose and cover your eyes—my bowels moved every half hour or so.  Might as well have been Guatemala, 2007, when a spider bite (I found the little fucker in my underwear) plus four beers made me the permanent resident of the shared bathroom in my hostel, much to the chagrin of my roommates.

That was Friday. Today is Tuesday. Yesterday we—my bowels and I—got back together.

IV

“The lower stratum of the body’s topography.” That is the terrain Mikhail Bakhtin explores in Rabelais and His World, the place where the medieval notion of the grotesque provokes and prevails against the humorless assholes who run the world, then as now. And yeah, I’m trying to provoke you, because shit is funny in the age of anality. Much as I hate “South Park,” it may be the only way to bring us back from the dead.

But shit is funny only if you’re talking about the real thing. The sublimated version doesn’t get it. Here’s Brown again.

“Possessions are worthless to the body unless animated by the fantasy that they are excrement which is also aliment. Wealth brings so little happiness, said Freud, because money is not an infantile wish; the infantile wish which sustains the money complex is for a narcissistically self-contained and self-replenishing body. Therefore only if excrement were aliment could the infantile wish sustaining the money complex be gratified.” (p. 293)

And yet property is the “first embodiment of freedom,” isn’t it? That’s Hegel from The Philosophy of Right, par. 45.

When you know the world has turned to shit, you can come clean.

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Crabman Up My Ass, or, The World Turns to Shit

  1. Very glad to hear the digestive problems have eased up!

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