Ridiculous, outrageous, intolerable… there are a host of adjectives – some much more colorful than the mere Chinese curse of “Interesting Times” – that could be used to describe the current state of affairs in the United States as well as the rest of the world. But the best description I’ve ever heard about the general situation came to me by way of a now-retired foreign service officer who at the time was Deputy Undersecretary of State for Peacekeeping (ha!) during the Balkan ugliness, not long after the demise of the old USSR.
I asked, at my father’s funeral, which was the first time I’d seen him in years, “How’s the world situation?” He answered immediately and without hesitation or even a trace of irony:
“Desperate, as usual.”
No, it wasn’t just incurable barbarians in Bosnia or Croatia or Whateverstan or deepest, darkest Africa that he was talking about, as incurable barbarians waging pointless genocidal wars against their one-time friends, neighbors and countrymen in obscure corners of the globe is something that has been endemic throughout the entirety of history and will probably keep right on going as far into the future as human beings dare to look. It was a very pointed indictment of the craft this man practiced – as a certifiable ‘expert’ functionary in the wider world – for We Who Rule The World. And cause, fix or maintain the situations. The world situation is desperate, as usual, because it’s kept that way on purpose.
…the better to control you with, my dear.
Starvation, disease, mass death and destruction, blatant oppression and the environmental degradation that comes with are the very things that allow for some countries, concerns and people to be more powerful than others. And for a species that lives and dies to exert raw power over others, a world without vast inequalities, limited resources and constant warfare would be a world where raw power doesn’t mean very much.
In looking around at just how much has NOT changed here in the US since the citizens first began rising up against the abuses of the Neocon cabal and its henchmen – changing the party affiliation of Congress in 2006 and in the Senate and Executive in 2008 – it’s hard to know just what we should do now to make things right, since power changing party hands has given us precisely zip.
• We wanted an end to the illegal wars of resource conquest and religious bullshit in Afghanistan and Iraq that have cost us at least 50,000 of our children’s lives, limbs and abilities plus a trillion dollars we didn’t have so far, and look to be ongoing for at least another generation. The wars have not ended, things are still the same. Desperate, as usual.
• We wanted to reinstate some reasonable regulation of the financial machinery in this country so they’d stop taking us to the cleaners, and an immediate halt to the insane stupidity of covering the gambling bets of the rich and bored who wagered money that never existed on valuations of whole cloth. Instead, we keep on paying them off and they keep right on screwing us at the craps table.
• We wanted them to spend the money they were printing day and night for those bad debts to go toward universal health care to free up our business interests from that responsibility and allow them to compete in a global market. We wanted everyone to be able to see a doctor and get treatments for disease and injuries without having to go bankrupt to do so. We wanted crooks disguised as insurance companies O-U-T of the game entirely, so neither we nor our doctors would have to do major battle just to get our cuts stitched and our bones set. We got less than nothing – not even a seat at the table.
• We wanted to invest in our badly neglected infrastructure, including our energy sources, so we could switch to clean, renewable sources and build something for the future by changing the way we do things. Without ‘liquidation’ of whole swaths of our business and economic base, throwing tens of millions out of work. We got nothing but more hopeless poverty and needless death due to lack of health care, homelessness, depression, suicide and the sort of senseless violence that arises from desperation, as usual.
There’s not a thing on the table, under the table or even hiding in the closet that can promise to alleviate our desperation any time in the foreseeable future. Our erstwhile ‘leadership’ struggles to consolidate their newfound power by once again propping the status quo and letting us die unacknowledged, as if we’d never existed at all. F*ck ’em.
Protesting and demonstrating doesn’t work. Nobody’s paying attention, and if they were, it’s only to make fun of us over cigars and cocktails or on teevee’s Propaganda, Inc. Writing and calling our erstwhile ‘leaders’ means precisely zip as well, since they simply don’t care what we want. I learned that by living in a state and region where almost all the representation is hard-right Repuglican or Dems who are worse. I’ve written. I’ve called. I’ve pleaded and begged and reasoned until I was blue in the face and got nothing at all. Not even a “thanks for your opinion, but NO.”
It doesn’t help to primary bad reps by fielding new contenders, since even if we manage to get the new ones elected they immediately become as bad or worse than the ones we just kicked out. Things are designed to be thus. Thus are we are kept entirely powerless.
Nor can we reasonably mount an armed insurrection of any sort. First because there aren’t enough of us to be more than a mosquito bite on the body politic, and second because nobody out here in the hinterland stands a prayer against the vastly over-armed military machinery of the Powers That Be who kill on command. Robots programmed not to care about ‘who’ they’re killing or why.
We can’t just all decide to stop giving them our money either. Again, first because there aren’t enough of us to make a difference, and second because they don’t even have to have enough prison space for those of us who do because they’ve already turned the entire country into one huge slave labor camp and debtor’s prison. We were convicted without ever being charged or tried (or even doing anything wrong). We all live in the gulag now.
We could decide to just ignore them, stop giving them power over our lives. But that’s as big a dream as them throwing a war and nobody coming. It’s an “all-volunteer” deal now, there are always volunteers. There are more brainless automatons and cowardly wage-slaves in this country than there are humans with minds of their own and the courage to choose.
Helpless, hopeless, powerless – desperate, as usual. My generation is dying off quickly, those in and upcoming are inured to their fate. So I tend my garden and enjoy my retreat from the world, and waste time typing words on this keyboard wishing there were something – anything – that could be written that would wake people up and bring about the change we need. Knowing there is not. It’s designed this way on purpose, and it’s never going to change until and unless human beings change. Evolve. Become something more and better than we are. That’s not going to happen in my lifetime.
So I harbor a secret wish in the back of my mind that the whole edifice might fall apart all at once one day. Simply crash all the way down to rubble from which it’s not worth rebuilding the same old same, the very threat they’ve leveled against me all the days of all the years of my life (so far). No electricity, no internet, no money, no government, no tanks or bombs or RoboCops – nothing. All of it erased overnight or in a blaze of inconsequential glory or a whimper of utter defeat.
Yes, I know that means millions would die because they’ve simply no idea how to live, but in that secret corner of my mind I too am callous enough not to care. They’re all going to die eventually anyway (as am I), does it really matter so much how or when or why, since they were too frightened to live in the first place? We can die by inches or we can die all at once. Having been born under Damocles’ mighty nuclear sword, I’d rather go all at once, thanks.
I know how to live, and am not afraid to do so. If I grow excess tomatoes I can trade with my neighbor who grows excess beans. The flatland neighbor who grows corn can set up shop with his neighbor who grows wheat, we all trade what we’ve got in goods and services for what they have that we need.
Public works projects can be done by we the public. Build and install that waterwheel or windmill, we all share in the benefits. Park needs tending? Who’s not doing anything this week, we’ll pay in commodities from the community bin. Maybe starting over from scratch would give us something better. It probably wouldn’t be anything worse.
I know that’s unrealistic. I know it’s never going to happen. But I can indeed make it work on a small scale for myself and mine, right now. I can grow those tomatoes and onions, trade for beans and wheat. I can offer a friend or out-of-luck neighbor some food and camping space for work that needs doing around the place. I know how to make a hearty stew on the campfire. I know how to grind grain into flour, and bake bread in a pot buried in the ashes of that same campfire. I know how to milk a cow or goat, I know how to make cheese, and I know what’s edible out there in my abundant forest. I know how to stay warm in the winter and make tortillas from masa on top of that wood stove. I know how to stay dry when it’s raining, I know how to purify water and I know just the best way to smoke fresh native trout with green sassafras, hickory and wild cherry wood. I know how to tap the sap on my maples and balsams, and I can tend a cast iron kettle over the fire for days to turn it into sweet syrup.
I’ve built a solar dryer, can preserve the produce as it comes in. I can swim fast, tread water, hitch and team a wagon, sail a boat, drive a tractor, build a shelter, start a fire and make soap. I know how to leach acorns, process medicinal herbs and know how to use them. I can press the oil out of seeds, make a tree fall just where I want and turn it into split firewood. I’m good with gun, bow, spudzuka, knife, bank-scythe, hoe and pick-axe. I can tan leather, work iron, carve bone and wood, spin thread, weave cloth and sew clothes. I can stitch cuts, set bones, pull teeth, ease a fever and tend the dying, then I can bury ’em with all the proper words when life is done. I can fish without a rod and reel, I can harvest water from the air, I can field dress an elk, twist the head off a chicken, roast a snake, make a quiche from cattails, kudzu and bamboo, and ride a horse in rough terrain.
Heck, about the only things I can’t do are make a lot of money, live comfortably in a city, go to a doctor or dentist when I need to, or scare Mama Bear out of the garbage bin (she’s itchin’ to become a rug…).
So. So… let me formally introduce myself. I’m a professional Fool, my job in life is to make ‘them’ uncomfortable. They can’t scare me by threatening to take away from me anything I can provide for myself. Nor can they scare me with threats of death, since I don’t believe in annihilation of being (and I’m carrying my bauble-head on a stick). I’m their worst nightmare – a human they can’t control and who pokes fun at their pretensions – that all by itself makes my continued existence worthwhile. The rest of the humans I share this world with need me even if they don’t know it – they need constant reminding that they’re only as helpless and hopeless as they allow themselves to be. Had our ancestors been so useless we wouldn’t be here now.
As Ambrose Bierce wrote to describe my kind in his Devil’s Dictionary…
A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscient, omnipotent. He it was who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created patriotism and taught the nations war – he founded theology, philosophy, law, medicine, and Chicago [but not Cleveland]. He established monarchical and republican government. He is from everlasting to everlasting – such as creation’s dawn beheld, he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the procession of being. His grandmotherly hand warmly tucked-in the set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man’s evening meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal grave. After the rest of us shall have retired for the night of eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a History of Human Civilization.