Friday, November 16, 2012

A Tragic Confluence: Charles Manson and the Danse Macabre

It was a terrible, tragic confluence of illness, character, and chronology. And Charles Manson's mental state prospered.


We all began as kids...

His messengers were much like him – outsiders, dispossessed, the psychotic, the poor and desperate. Yet under the shambling guise of California hippies, replete with guitars-by-the-bonfire, no-money, communal living and free love, they murdered with glee.

Manson knew the end of the world was nigh, that African-Americans were plotting to subsume white culture, that he was the only guy who recognized this and the only way to get control was to ignite a race war – to kind of get the jump. Hence, ‘Helter Skelter’, a term he borrowed from his very own personal prophets, the Beatles, a term that, for Manson, implied a significant military strategy.

So he'd sent out his Zombie-Hippies at night, and they would return to the compound/commune fresh from successful sprees of premeditated, debauched murder. One of his victims was over eight months pregnant. Manson became a proud, energetic leader. He had plans to expand.

All of this happened just a few months before Woodstock. Flower Power had grown a malignant, creeping vine yet no one noticed. Manson demonstrated how fragile the whole leaderless, youth-based, drug-oriented subculture really was.

Mental illness in full flight

Whereas Bonnie and Clyde wouldn’t have had much of a career in our retina-ID, DNA, chopper-patrol, insta-cash, WiFi world, so Manson, without the off-the-grid, tie-dyed infrastructure of late 60s California, would have been just another sick hipster, hustling street corners, knocking off dime stores, to be killed in a knife fight at the back of a pool hall at 3 a.m. and forgotten forever.

The times don’t always make the man. And the man doesn’t necessarily make the times. (When it goes wrong, they embrace and whirl each other across the floor in a danse macabre while the rest of us line the walls, Easter Island-like, to witness a timeless, terrible harmony.)

Sometimes they make each other.