Thursday, November 4, 2010

The results are in

The results are in. I'm no longer mad. No sense in it. I've accepted my fate, to be living in a second-rate country, a decadent society, a waning superpower. Rub-a-dub-dub, we’re stuck in a tub. To be living in the Age of No. The Age of Can't, Won't, Don't. Closed borders and closed minds. Tear down the bridges, dig a moat. Man the barricades, call in the SWAT team. Sure, I’ll seethe in silent protest, hewing to the dictates of my inner self, that big effin crybaby. That’s my generation’s MO. Look at me. The results are in. This is The Age of Prisons. The Era of Idleness. The Epoch of Uniform Individuality. Nothin I can do about it. Boo-hoo.

M. comes over to fix my computer. She bikes around the city, her head full of tunes, a Mac specialist, someone who cares about the quality of her work, every job important, every customer a big deal. She says, "I just came from an office -- one of the big ad agencies -- and everyone was getting high, talking trash, throwing words around without even knowing what they mean. They make these two minute movies, they're not even ads. I don't know what they are. Snippets of caught behavior. They think Hitler was just a comical guy with a mustache." She is genuinely offended. "What happened to America? Once the army comes home, this place is gonna crash. It's a bunch of salesmen selling to salesmen." M. has an accent and a long braided ponytail, having traveled to New York City to pursue the dream, the one that seemed far more real at a distance, from across the ocean. She makes her living as a techie but she'd rather be making music. Hell, we'd all rather be making music. There’s that inner self again.

The results are in. I'm no longer mad. I accept that these are desperate times. That’s why so many of my fellow citizens cling to their corn-pone creeds. Just like me, they're trying to bend the world to their world-view. But it won't bend. At the end of the day, the best that will be said of them is that they existed for a while -- their bodies moved around in the physical world and acted to no avail. They prayed and prayed but it made no difference. Whoever was supposed to respond didn't. They let rich people rule them because they wanted to be rich themselves. In their minds they lived vicariously, following celebrities, violent games, hollow talk. They treaded water close to shore until a big wave broke over them and washed them out into the cold cold sea.

The Age of Disappointment. The Age of Potholes. Russian limo drivers, Pakistani newsstand operators, Korean dry cleaners -- they see it, the waste, the weakness, the overweight, underbred rich white nobodies doing bad imitations of the golden boys and girls of the Eisenhower Fifties. They're gonna make their pile and go back, buy a little land, and make it big in the home country. The Ukrainian maids, the Mexican kitchen help, the Filipino yard-workers. They don't want to stay here, cleaning up after all the crazy drunks have passed out and been carried upstairs to their beds. Why would they? Around here, you're either rich or a worker in the service industry. The Age of Cupcakes.

The results are in. It's been confirmed -- outside of the two coasts, my fellow citizens are nuts. Kentucky, Arkansas, the Dakotas, Ohio...those poor landlocked precincts given over to grazing. Living here in Sodom, working in the publishing industry, believing that there is a better measure of human life than piles of money and the shite that money can buy, I feel completely estranged from those other Americans, those benighted creatures. I ask myself, how is it possible for them to be so wrong, so angry, so dumb? How can they think so little of themselves? Silent questions. I accept my fate, poot -- to be alive at the tail-end of a great experiment, locked up in my private jail, listening to the voices in my head, gorging myself on ice-cream, playing with my turds, impervious to change, nothing but a big crybaby. Just like them, whoever they are.

1 comment:

  1. This past Friday was my wife's and my 21st wedding anniversary. We spent the day in Manhattan and saw "Jersey Boys." Just across the street, the Beatles tribute "Rain" is playing. My wife whispers "What do you notice about the audience?" It was obvious. The audience was white, affluent, and almost all vintage baby-boomer- apparently yearning for a vestige of what they remember as better days. We both observed that they have no problem plopping down a few hundred bucks for a nostalgic feeling but squirm at the prospect of sacrificing a little for their own future and their children’s future. How much money would they have to sacrifice for national renewal? to invest in the national infrastructure? to invest in public education? to invest in their children’s future? Would they need to sacrifice a Broadway show or two? Maybe but unlikely! So, I sympathize with your sentiments.

    In many ways, we are a waning superpower - but relative to who? Western Europe? Eastern Europe? Russia? China? India? Western Europe seems to have a demographics problem more onerous than our own. The bureaucracy of their governments and their business operating models are smothering them. Talk to an Algerian taxi driver in France educated as an engineer and he will tell you that the “Privileged White French” keep the best jobs for themselves and exclude the immigrants. Talk to a native “white” French taxi driver and he will tell that the North Africans are ruining the country.

    I might be mistaken but I sensed hopelessness in Eastern Europe and Russia when I was there. Those geographies are also riddled with the demographics of aging populations. As you observed, I sense they view us Americans as self indulgent crybabies. Yet, they vent in frustration at the lack of opportunity in their own countries.

    I see China as a “time bomb” that was set when China instituted the “one child per family” policy. I understand the motivation for that policy but the demographic impact of that decision is coming and irreversible as the population continues to age. When I visited India, my colleagues there complained about a corrupt (albeit democratic) government that seems incapable of fixing an infrastructure worse than our own despite growing wealth. One thing I found remarkable in India was the size of the Moslem population (about 100 million strong) living in abject poverty. No one seems to discuss the Moslems in India but I wonder if that is a potential powder keg.

    Do our election results of last week really reflect attitudes that much different than the results of the early 1930s when Congress passed the disastrously protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff and simultaneously immigration to the United States virtually halted. I don’t think so. Fundamentally people haven’t changed much and I question whether we are any worse than those who were in their prime 70-80 years ago. But then again, the country was not riddled with the level of debt that crushes us today.

    I don’t think it matters much which party is in office. The cold hard reality is that we have huge debt and an aging baby-boomer population. The government can stimulate as much as it wants or raise taxes or cut taxes for the rich or halt immigration or whatever! But the debt and changing economics due to demographics are unalterable.

    Like many, I feel forlorn by the status quo. It felt good to escape for a few hours in a nostalgic Broadway production. But, it would sure be helpful if more people came to grips with reality.