Monday, August 30, 2010

Mr. Status Quo

Uh-oh, here he comes, Mr. Status Quo, smiling like a boll weevil got an acre of cotton all to himself. Smacking his lips. Like a tabby just swallowed the canary. More smirk than smile. Like Dick Cheney, that ersatz cowboy with the mechanical heart. Effin Frankenstein likes his eggs well done, doesn't he, poot? In the evening you run up Highway 61 from Vicksburg to Clarksdale to Memphis, floating casinos glimmering in the dark off to your left, a white boy desiring a soul blacker than Elvis’s, the open windows letting in the heavy smell of field fires, fertilizer, swamp. Out here, too much Faulknerian history for its own good. You've got a good imagination, poot, believing the spirits of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash are gonna make an appearance and endorse your effin dreams. They lived this here life, you're just a visitor. You don't count.

The insects kept splattering into the windshield the whole time and you had to stop every five, ten minutes to wipe off the sticky mess. It was okay, you knew about the delta, you knew who your heroes were, the authentic ones, unlike the dipshits back home in Plasticville. You knew there was something wrong with your country, but you were too privileged and ignorant to piece it together, the racism, the greed, the pride, all the original sins reenacted yet again, for whose benefit? Mr. Status Quo and his cronies, that well-dressed coterie of old perverts sitting around diddling themselves in the boardrooms and bathroom stalls of corporate America. It's always been a matter of elephants and ants, darlin.

Mr. Status Quo -- you think he gives a good goddamn about future generations? No sir. You think he cares about the people living in these shacks, ain't got no water, ain't got no juice? Hell no. He's here to make sure they stay in line. Doggin 'em around wherever they go. He likes it when they get hooked on drugs, when they eat that sugary crap. He sees 'em staring at the TV and laughs. He watches 'em congregate in front of the liquor stores and pawnshops, the betting parlors and church kitchens. He loves it, the purse-lipped sentimentalist. He follows the traffic reports religiously -- nothing makes him happier than seeing everybody driving around aimlessly, burning gas. He sees a body lying on the side of the road, he goes out and buys a teddy bear and plastic flowers to plant on the spot, the purveyor of kind gestures.

Just like his buddy Dr. Debt. Debt's the cool operator who made a killing in the funeral service business, preying on survivors. You'll see him in the casket showroom, showing off the polished bronze boxes to those who can least afford them, telling ‘em how the worms won't get in. Go on and touch the lining. It’s real satin. Soft, eh? You can hear the fat prick whistling through his teeth, even as he reaches around to pick their pockets. A specialist in fake bonhomie, he's got nothing in common with his customers except mortality. He'd let them eat dirt, if Mr. Status Quo didn't object. For Mr. Status Quo is much more pragmatic -- he knows you’ve got to feed your marks, otherwise they won't be worth hitting on. If they get too skinny, they tire too easily, they make too many mistakes, and the whole line goes down.

You’ve got to convince 'em that the brass ring belongs to them too. That they only have to reach up and grab it, just like a piece of fruit. You’ve got to keep feeding them images of the Good Life, you know, big houses, palm trees, supermodels in the swimming pool, effin caviar and top shelf booze. Real champagne, not that tasteless stuff you buy in the supermarket. Mr. Status Quo, he's big on stoking their covetousness with brochures, catalogs, coupons, come-ons. He's the master of the lottery -- he knows that if one poor schmuck wins big every so often, everyone else’ll stand in line waiting for their turn, believing that their ticket’s got the magic numbers printed on it.

He's got it all figured out. When fossil fuels run out, you think he's gonna be scrambling around like the working stiffs who drive to work? No way. When the sea levels rise and the Maldives disappear, you think he's gonna mourn? Not Mr. Status Quo. He's gonna be ensconced on higher ground, chiding the drowning bastards for waiting too long to make preparations. He’ll watch images of destruction on TV and tear up, just like he did when the tsunami hit Indonesia and the earthquake hit Haiti. He may even write a check to assuage his conscience, just a little something to tide the poor wogs over.

He’s got the goods, Mr. Status Quo. Idealists keep talking about the transformative power of human love. Techno-savants keep trumpeting the transformative power of technology. Religious people keep proselytizing about the transformative power of god’s love. They’re all ignoring Mr. Status Quo, the brute who wields the truly transformative ax, chopping down any green initiative he finds before it can mature. If you’re gonna deviate from the norm he imposes, watch your arse. Mr. Status Quo has been around a long time and he means to be here well after you’re gone.

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