Good ole American-style overeating might just prove the most effective mode of home-foreclosure resistance; because it’s one thing to throw someone out of his house, but to have to cut him out is another thing entirely.
I hope they have fun in Washington D. C. on National Train Day, with its toy models and prime-time television cheerleaders. If anything, it will be a collective effort in the most perverse form of make-believe. While other nations go ahead with their plans for national high-speed trains that can shuttle large amounts of people for very little cost (to both the individual and the environment) across wide swathes of land, we Americans get to sit and suck stones while pretending the clever marketing ploys depicting a first-world America have magically supplanted the shattered, Wall-Street-ravaged hulk we currently inhabit.
I’ve read enough H.P. Lovecraft to know that New England during earlier centuries wasn’t much fun, but the absolute blight and violence of the present condition of late-capitalistic disintegration makes anything that occurred in centuries past look … well … like a tea party in comparison. For the barbaric disintegration of the contemporary New England city doesn’t leave room for hope. It is final, and it’s hard not to think these cities have breathed their last — cultural treasures and all.
We already have our Prozac and Paxil to make us forgot about contemporary American life’s sorrows, not to mention the mind-addling influence of television. Adding marijuana to the mix would only ensure that the American people would never up in revolt. They’d barely be able to rise from their La-Z-boys.
How do we develop necessary fortitude in the face of casual immorality and greed whose taproot President Ronald Reagan planted, and which drew sustenance from the very glue that bound families and institutions? The seven-year itch gave way to the such prodigies as key parties and the “zipperless f*ck,” the midlife crisis, which in turn engendered the marvels we see today — “sexting,” “booty calls,” “cougars,” “MILFs,” “friends with benefits” — the wreckage of population whipped into depressingly predictable ecstasy by thousands of hours of advertising and equally predictable television programming. The American people found outsourcing solutions for their imaginations, and in so doing surrendered the only thing that distinguishes them from the beasts. Then, as the tide of real production went slack, these hapless sybarites were seduced into taking on thousands of dollars of debt by money-hungry universities only to be excreted four or so years later into the postindustrial dung heap the United States has been since the 1980s. I’m afraid Nietzsche was correct far more than he realized. Humans (at least those residing in the U.S.) from the point of view of other creatures had lost their “animal common sense” in a very fundamental way. They had lost the instinct of self-preservation.
You’ll count heap big coup with your tent-city neighbors when they see you packin’ pelts and poles instead of tarps and old hoardings. Whatever the campsite equivalent of curb appeal is, you’ll have it with your very own teepee.
I think we begin to see why the Federal Reserve has devoted itself to propping up the financial sector at the taxpayers’ expense. And I think that it has to do at least in part with the ideology behind the “ownership society,” which to my mind is simply a permutation of the ideology of consumer society in general. This ideology imposes greater conditions on full participation in society than simply having been born or naturalized in the United States, paying taxes, and avoiding brushes with the Law. It’s similar to when President Bush exhorted citizens shortly after 9/11 to express their patriotism by shopping: participation in civic life has been conflated with participation in the economy. This is an exceedingly foreboding development from political point of view, because it implies that citizenship is something you must purchase, not something that belongs to you by natural right. Certainly a homeless person sleeping in the park theoretically enjoys the same rights as a McMansion owning middle manager, but the elimination of welfare benefits since the Reagan years betrays a collective political attitude far different than the one we publicly pay lip service to. Anything impeding one’s attainment of middle-class status is seen as somehow undemocratic, un-American, and believing this plays right into politicians’ hands. Republican supply-siders, for instance, believe that high marginal tax rates somehow limits the average persons’ success. And out goes the baby with the bath water in the form of disintegrating infrastructure, budget-starved entitlements, and, most importantly, regulations meant to curb excesses and thus mitigate risk. So, as less risk is spread broadly across society, more of it falls on the individual, which in turn affects the premium attached to middle-class security.
We have since demystified history, carefully taking if from the hands of god or the proletariat to rest it safely in the bosom of religio-scientific “market forces.” But in the process history began to seem not more rational, but less so. The market is somehow larger and more mysterious than God, the Proletariat, or even progress. And what are we, or any individual, compared to the market? Subsumed into it greater will, we are individual data points. Occasionally, through stock ownership or consumer purchases, we get to take part in its mysteries, but never too great a part.
One would suppose these institutions held nothing but reliable, blue-chip stock on their portfolios, stock that, while certainly not generating spectacular returns, at least produced reliable ones. No, these nonprofits were after sexier stuff — all gamine gyrations of puts, calls, strikes and options. And I begin to speculate myself. I wonder if these nonprofits weren’t up to something altogether venal, exploiting their tax exempt status as a way of increasing their profit margin.
Such Olympian rifts among the super-rich seem like they’ll become the new normal, giving the lie to the incredible esprit de coeur and sense of shared purpose writer David Rothkopf credits them with in his depressing, dispiriting paean to plutocracy, Superclass. Yes, it appears that those “differently sheltered” populating tent cities and Hoovervilles across this great nation who are otherwise occupied with stirring watery pots of squirrel soup over fires fueled by shredded 401K-earnings and Social Security statements can look forward to a little old-fashioned skullduggery among the sheikhs of Araby.