Living Like We’re Renegades. More Injury vs. Illness?

When I first arrived in my new home state to start treating my Crohn’s disease with medical cannabis, this song was becoming popular and it spoke to me.  I felt like I had made my escape from a medicalized torture chamber, that I was going to succeed against all odds to heal myself of an incurable and untreatable disease and that I had “right” on my side — my natural right as a thinking feeling being to follow my own intuition, beliefs and to live my life as I saw fit within the bounds of natural law and discarding male-made laws which were oppressive and above all, unsustainable.  Under natural law, the only consequences to any action are natural consequences — meaning cause and effect.  There are no punishments for poor choices only logical outcomes, nor are there rewards in a value-laden judgey sort of way.  I felt, in a word, free.

As sick as I was, and even if I died from my illness and I may yet, I felt for the first time not just since I had gotten sick but for the first time in my life that I was acting and living as a free person as much as I could.  I had enough money to do what I wanted for a couple of years without having to compromise or explain myself to anyone.  Honestly I felt like a badass renegade and as a female living in capitalism and patriarchy I had indeed taken an unthinkable and unutterable leap — I said “fuck you” to the capitalistic patriarchal medical machine and jumped off into the abyss.  I figured that no matter what was down there it couldn’t possibly be any worse than living with the relentless agony of un- and undertreated Crohn’s disease including my new role as pincushion, guinea pig and torture victim under the oppressive boot of Big Pharma and its dickless lapdogs that were my Western medical doctors.

What they all collectively knew, and which I very shortly found out when I began treating is that the conventional standard of care for Crohn’s doesn’t work to alleviate the complicated array of symptoms and excruciating pain.  My doctors, although I think they were good doctors and even conscientious people who spoke to me in code-words and clues practically begging me to figure it out on my own because they couldn’t tell me, were nonetheless tethered by their own professional ambition, greed and at base their very survival instincts to perpetuate on me the wholly ineffective and yet accepted medical standard of care which would protect them professionally from accusations that they had done something wrong when things inevitably went sideways.  Well, things were going sideways and the only one who was going to face the consequences of that was me.  Having lost my quality of life completely I felt I had nothing left to lose except my sanity which was beginning to buckle under these fantastically oppressive conditions including relentless chronic pain.  In that moment, I had my sanity, I had a plan, I had enough money to give it a good shot and I was off.  I was absolutely fucking fearless.

I didn’t ask for or want help from anyone in the first year or so, not that I even had the energy to ask and certainly not to beg.  I thought and still think that anyone who has much of anything “extra” to offer me only had it in the first place because they were some variation of corporate stooge or patriarchal enforcer and they could keep their patriarchal blood money anyway — I didn’t want it.  I was honestly prepared to die from my illness but I was not going to be tortured to death by the medical machine and I wasn’t going to beg corporate stooges and patriarchal enforcers to rescue me from a more or less natural death.  Why would I?  As a free person, freer than I had literally ever been in my life, devastating disabling illness notwithstanding, a more or less natural death was fine by me and it still is.  I had hoped, however, that at some point I would find a like-minded “kid” to run away with me but I never did because that’s just not how it works is it?  This renegade business is a particularly solitary affair.  I know that now.

Now that you have read the lyrics to this song “Renegades” by X Ambassadors, and seen 2 covers of it, and heard some of my story and why the song spoke to me, you want to hear something funny?  This song isn’t about renegades at all — the references to Spielberg and Kubrick kinda gave that one away but I just thought meh, their songwriter just got lazy, or they are just really young and still admire the creators who came before them, it’s kind of cute in a wide-eyed innocent sort of a way.  But just wait until you see the “official” video.

Official music videos are interesting because they erase all ambiguity and the possibility of multiple readings of the same piece.  Here, the creators make their original intentions known, including the meaning of the words and just what and who they were talking about in the first place.  As a music lover, content creator and artist myself, I kind of hate music videos for that reason as I do not think artists should generally explain what they mean and that it steals a potentially universal meaning from artistic work that does not necessarily originate with the creators themselves.  Sometimes I think artists channel this shit and that it comes from somewhere else.

As a political thinker though, I appreciate official music videos for reminding me that most creators are, at base, politically both pro-capitalism and pro-patriarchy, and that any alternative meaning I give artistic work is about and because of my own politics and is almost never about that of the creators.  In this case, the official video for “Renegades” highlights the struggles not of political renegades, not of some universal spirit to be free of political oppression and to live within the bounds of natural law, no, this song is about perhaps the ultimate corporate stooges and patriarchal enforcers getting more than they bargained for — military amputees.  (X Ambassadors are also involved with the Wounded Warrior Project.  So there’s that.)

Military amputees, a class of people who, judging by the serious nature of their injuries wouldn’t even be alive today if it weren’t for “heroic” resource-intensive Western medical goods and services, and being essentially government property they likely weren’t given the option to refuse this “care” even if they wanted to.  These people became injured and disabled after they allowed themselves to be used as cannon fodder for global corporate and military interests and got paid to enforce patriarchal and capitalistic values on less patriarchal and less capitalistic cultures around the world with violence.  Compared to the political plight of women generally, and of the chronically ill abandoning the Western medical machine, military amputees are just not that interesting and are in fact not renegades at all being the very definition of mindless followers.  And it kind of gets even worse.  X Ambassadors sold this song to Jeep to be used in an ad campaign for the 2015 Jeep Renegade:

I do kind of like this band and the singer is clearly talented and has a falsetto that will knock your socks off.  And to be fair, more than most bands probably this band has a decent reason for making milquetoast pseudo-political statements and literally selling out — the singer’s brother who also plays keyboards for the X Ambassadors has been blind since birth.  Whenever I see a popular actor, band or artist making it big I always hope they are saving their money and this one seems more interested in financial security than most and they have a good reason for that — a disabled brother and bandmate who needs to be taken care of into the future, perhaps well after the others of them are dead and gone.  I can’t really blame them for that.

But where is the cheering section for the real renegades, the pioneers of alternative political thought and action, the mutineers of capitalism and patriarchy?  For that matter, where are the others like myself who are chronically ill and who have abandoned Western medicine because they were not going down like that, but who are now going down nonetheless.  Where the hell are they?  Where are my people?  Honestly, I think “my people,” the political refugees of the capitalistic patriarchal medical machine are largely homeless, destitute and dead.  That is where the true renegades end up under capitalism and patriarchy isn’t it?  They aren’t buying Jeeps, they aren’t Weekend Warriors overcoming fake obstacles and playing in the mud, they aren’t making music videos, they probably aren’t sitting in their living rooms reading blogs, and as far as I can tell, they aren’t talking about their experiences on the internet or anywhere I can access it.  I was a fool to think that a cheering section for the real renegades existed anywhere except in my own mind, but to be fair there does seem to be some confusion about that.  There are cultural messages everywhere that it’s rather unambiguously positive to be a renegade, for example “Renegades” by X Ambassadors.  And this:

Wow ok, that’s not quite what I remembered!  I was watching Sesame Street in the late 70s and I was paying attention, or so I thought.  Maybe if I were reading or playing football instead of fundamentally undermining the central tenets of my own culture things would’ve turned out differently?  Note to self: there has probably never been a positive or even a real representation of a renegade in popular culture and there never will be.

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8 thoughts on “Living Like We’re Renegades. More Injury vs. Illness?

  1. I’ve read every post now and will continue reading as long as you write. I don’t believe I’m “your people”, I don’t have your strength, but I HEAR YOU. I struggle to respond, because you say it all.

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  2. Nat, thank you for reading and for commenting. Please feel free to comment however many times you wish, you are very welcome here and I appreciate your comments very much. I really needed to hear this today actually so thank you for taking the time to respond. I understand not wanting or needing to waste your time if you feel it would only be repetitive but I too am hungry for the truth and it is very hard to find online or anywhere. If you can add additional truth it may not be a waste of time. Thank you for reading. Writers need readers don’t they? And vice versa I suppose. We need each other. So thank you again.

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  3. Also, the only reason I was able to get away from doctors is because I had money at the time. It takes strength yes, and ambition, motivation, vision and other things that many people and many women do not seem to possess. But in this case it also took money. And the only reason I had any is because I had the “good luck” to get hurt at work twice and get Worker’s Comp settlements for it. Those injuries paid for 3 years of trying to heal this one and it wasn’t nearly enough in the end. I am just completely and utterly screwed.

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  4. I’m sitting in (someone else’s) living room reading your blog. I remember almost exactly 3 years ago wishing desperately to leave this exact same place, and it’s 3 years later and I’m still stuck here, still chronically ill, still unable to find anywhere to go safely. Thanks for the writing–it’s really getting me thinking. Maybe we aren’t each other’s people but I’ve never seen anyone defend the chronically ill AND reject the medical machine–which is, unfortunately, run by women too.

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  5. Hi endlesssleeper, thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear that you are still in the same situation. I’ve been trying to get out of here for 2 years because I knew what was coming and I haven’t been able to leave. Fortunately I’ve had access to cannabis the whole time. But now ?? The women (and men obvs) who run, work in and defend the medical machine are frightening in the way completely brainwashed people are frightening. It is stunning to me that more people do not think critically about consuming medical goods and services. I was once prone to running to doctors and advising others to, but that was back when I was working and needed my body and those around me to run like machines in order to make money. I think that’s what’s behind women’s tendency to consume and over-consume medically, and to force their male partners to (for example) not necessarily some mysterious surveillance addiction or neurotic tendency to want approval from authority figures although that may be part of it, especially when they continue doing it when there’s nothing that can be done such as in the case of chronic illness. We need our bodies to run like machines, and if they don’t we end up where I am now — totally fucking screwed. Funny how no one ever really says it. Thanks for reading and I’m glad you found these posts thought provoking. Please feel free to share your thoughts if you want to. These discussions are so rare. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen one ever. Have you?

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  6. I’ve seen a few discussions this cathartic on a blog specifically for people with my condition (I can post the link privately if you’re interested), but not through a feminist lens–which can be freeing, as it means our problems really are universal, and it means not needing to use a certain framework for every discussion.
    Your point about needing ours and others’ bodies to function is frightening indeed. It’s so true how reliant we are on our faulty bodies and on other people, yet being openly needy is a death knell. It almost doesn’t seem to matter what label we give the system we’re stuck in–it just twists, changes, and perverts itself out of descriptive reach every time.
    Thanks for the kind words. I wish positive change, and not the blessing-in-disguise kind, for us both.

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  7. Also, I have seen the best most honest and (therefore) the most helpful discussions on the Crohn’s patient forums, although they do not have any political insight into the medical machine they know it’s not helping and/or making them worse. The things the Crohn’s patients talk about are how the treatments are ineffective or only work for a short time, how much they wish friends and family would be more understanding about Crohn’s and how disabling it can be, and that there is a high depression and suicide rate. Friends and family members of suicided Crohn’s patients show up from time to time asking questions and seeking answers for what happened to their loved ones. No one on the forums is trying to be funny or politically correct or anything, they are just sick, exhausted, traumatized, in pain and seeking relief that none of them are able to find, or for long. I appreciate those discussions so much. I have been invited to join a Facebook group for automimmune patients and I am considering joining even though I am not on FB and don’t want to be. I never imagined that being sick would be so hard for people to understand or relate to or that the only people who would really understand what it’s like are those who have experienced it, but that does seem to be the case. Being chronically ill is NOTHING like just being “sick” with the flu, minor surgery or whatever when you are physically healthy. It is something else entirely. I’ve had the flu once since I’ve had Crohn’s and I actually felt better when I had the flu because I couldn’t eat and I feel better when I don’t eat because all food makes me so sick. I FEEL BETTER WHEN I HAVE THE FLU THAN I DO ON A NORMAL DAY. Apparently for most people, this is not something they can imagine, and when you explain it to them it still does not compute. If I had the flu every day of my life, and didn’t eat at all, I would be better off, and less disabled, than I am right now.

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