On ambient musician The Caretaker, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the West
On June 30th, World War Two veteran Carl Dekel sat down and gave an interview to mark his 100th birthday. Tears in his eyes, he lamented that Americans don’t have the same opportunities that he had growing up, and said he was worried about what America has become.
Having witnessed many of his fellow countrymen die for their nation during the war, Dekel is now a living memory of bygone days that will soon be forgotten. Watching him recalled to my mind something that I had seen before. The teary eyes of my Great Aunt, knowing she knew those around her, but didn’t know why. She was in the first stage of losing her mind to Alzheimer’s.
I have no way to understand the experience of losing cognitive function and memory, but Everywhere At The End of Time by The Caretaker, an alias that Leyland Kirby has now been using for two decades, has tried to capture it. Over six hours long, the album deconstructs Alzheimer’s into an auditory form. If you’ve listened to it or his other works on neurological and other mental conditions, you already have an idea of what’s to come.
Since the death of my Great Aunt, who was one of the few people I was close to growing up, I always return to that album and its terrifying entirety. It was easy to sit down and listen to it in one sitting. I remember one Saturday from the time I woke up to the time I got ready for Vespers listening to the horror reverberating in my room. Yet this time coming around to listen to the album, the algorithm on YouTube had offered something I didn’t expect. The album, together with other works by The Caretaker, has a massive cult following, with hundreds of other channels putting together their own unique spins on the subject matter, and some even going longer than the original album length.
So like any curious individual going down a rabbit hole, I listened. I listened to countless hours of albums, parts, samples, and titles about what it would mean to lose one’s mind and memories. Objectively, it was a horrifying experience, yet I wanted more. Each album, spin off, experiment in mixing, all of them had a distinct and similar feel.
The other thing was the comments section. On both the original album of Everywhere at the End of Time, as well as other works there was the same kind of comments over and over and over again. Here’s an example:
“I can’t help but think of how alone my Nana must’ve been, how betrayed she must’ve felt that we never went to see her in her worst state of all, and even after being told that she was doing bad we didn’t go to see her. She died like a week after and I attended her service 2 days before my birthday. I miss you so much Nana please forgive me for being so neglectful. I never even tried to understand what you could have been going through. I can’t forgive myself for not caring more than I did. Now you’re gone and it’s far too late to just apologize. I’ll more than likely never see you again. I’m sobbing like there’s no tomorrow light headed and all. But you went through worse didn’t you Nana.”
Along with the “this is so horrifying” a “I’m scared” was “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Tens of thousands of comments apologizing across dozens of all begging for forgiveness, but too late. Being exposed to an artwork that for a split second, or for six hours, made you understand just what people were experiencing, from glory days to terminal lucidity, was grieving and crying over not being there for someone that they couldn’t save. After all, there is no cure, and we can only watch as the light goes out in someone’s eyes, but they remain trapped in their body for years.
Like Mr. Dekel, many of us are realizing what the future holds if we continue on our current course. Yet the living memories of those who could tell us what the West was like are dying out. Americans especially can barely remember a world before 1965, let alone 1945. The body of the nation, and by extension the West, has already undergone significant mental decline in its loss of ability to remember. Our higher mental faculties no longer function. Culture, art and literature, are all disappearing in the haze of an uncertain recollection.
We are fumbling in the dark recesses of our minds for what is supposed to be “Western” or “Traditional” or, to use the internet parlance, “Based.” But it goes without saying that our ability to recollect the time before the (eternal) present to any meaningful degree is fading. From this perspective, Everywhere At The End Of Time and the horrors of Alzheimer’s can be used as a hermeneutical tool to view the West. The album and its numerous fan projects should be viewed not just as long conceptual works to detail the loss of one individual’s mind, but as a civilizational meta-narrative that reflects on what we’ve lost in the memories that themselves become ever harder to recall. The men and women who existed in a more traditional and orderly time than our own have been dying out, and our connection to a world that was more Western than our own is fraying.
I will paint no picture of the West with rose-colored glasses on, there are plenty of things to critique, especially from the Right. But the central fact is that it is becoming harder and harder to recall the past at all.
Many reactionaries, social traditionalists, and those who wish to simply oppose the various works of the evil one have nostalgia for the past. And who can blame them? After all, it is our history, part of what made the West, the West. To look back at times of old and to be transported to the heroes of Rome, of the Crusades, or even the brave men and women who gave birth to a new nation in the New World. However, our memories of those times have become diluted, distorted by the waves of historical revisionism and voices of strange origins telling us to be ashamed of who were and who we are. As if our own brains, hijacked by this disease, have clouded our memory and the ability to marshal the strength of who we were. As we look back on the memories of the West, what can we recall? Even our own ability to recognize ourselves in the mirror is weakening.
Everywhere At The End of Time highlights the deterioration of the brain, a very physical erasure and deterritorialization of the self from one’s own mind. And while we forget what we were, in the midst of a great replacement, the mind is reterritorialized with quiet internal rebellions of varying factions and identities, all jockeying for what’s left of the West. And while we thrash internally at the road forward the past becomes hazier and hazier. What do we go back to? Who are we to become?
These debates of course are repetitions of debates prior. Just as the “New Right” takes on its own style and tone, I find myself thinking we’re just doing what the “Old Right” did in the 20th Century. Read Murray Rothbard in A Strategy for the Right:
“Within the overall consensus, then, on the Old Right, there were many differences within the framework, but differences that remained remarkably friendly and harmonious. Oddly enough, these are precisely the friendly differences within the current paleo movement: free trade or protective tariff; immigration policy; and within the policy of “isolationism,” whether it should be “doctrinaire” isolationism, such as my own, or whether the United States should regularly intervene in the Western Hemisphere or in neighboring countries of Latin America, or whether this nationalist policy should be flexible among these various alternatives.
Other differences, which also still exist, are more philosophical: should we be Lockians, Hobbesians, or Burkeans: natural rightsers, or traditionalists, or utilitarians? On political frameworks, should we be monarchists, check-and-balance federalists, or radical decentralists? Hamiltonians or Jeffersonians?”
Does that sound familiar? In the midst of our lost cultural and national memories of the West, we find ourselves looking to the past, and past greatness, even New Deal public works projects like the Hoover Dam, and feel a connection to it but can’t tell why. Even now our political memories of what made the West are on a feedback loop of rebellion about what the West should be, going back into their memories and pulling out the same figures over and over again, sometimes misremembering and falling for the trap of simulacra. Just as Gen Z rediscovers Pat Buchanan and the New Right rediscovers the debates of the Old, and self-proclaimed trads repost images cooked out of Madison Avenue, a connection to anything before the 20th century feels misplaced in time.
It’s part of the nature of the perpetually evolving West to forget the past. As we’re now told by our leaders, what was once Western is now no longer diverse, inclusive, or equitable to people who are in the West now. Just as The Caretaker shows us the loss of our minds as a space in the head of someone, a cavern without lucidity, our memories of the past present a pathway without agency. Caretakers these days have been found to abuse the elderly residents, and we’re left helpless under the anarcho-tyranny that plagues our minds. Cognitive dissonance makes many want to scream, but they watch helplessly. Just as Alzheimer’s patients feel their minds slip away, our connection to what the West was is left alone in homes to face abuse or are left there so we can purposefully forget them.
The West stands at a point of declining mental acuity. Just as Mr. Dekel cries as he watches his country being ravaged by poverty, bad governance, and weak opportunities for families to be raised and carry on the West in its posterity, will you take the time to remember the West? Or will you be like the thousands of other commenters, apologizing after the fact to just a burning memory?