I have to tell you, I have never been closer to utter despair. I fully realize my station as no more than the eyelash on the face of a microscopic dust mite resting on the head of a pin and all that. Unfair that I don't enjoy the blissful ignorance of the mite. As Voltaire rightly pointed out, "Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills."
I come here every day looking for the breaking news that will stop the horror and hideousness of ... well, everything. The war, the economy, the politicians, the primary, the environment, the housing slump, the cost of a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs and a college education. I come here, frankly, looking for a headline that tells me what to do and what to make of it all. But I'm getting tired, and more and more depressed. For the first time in my life, I am without optimism of any sort.
Jump off the head of the pin with me, my fellow mite, if you want to talk with me some more.
Maybe I would find the present situation amusing if I were a fatalist, or even older than I am, or if I were childless with no mite progeny to fret about. You have probably done the same as me, on occasion: taking the whole sweep of history, you realize that compared to the sorry souls from the Inquisition to Wounded Knee to Katrina, you haven't so much to lament. Hell, I'm no fool. Ever since I read The Diary of Anne Frank as a seventh grader, I've known that I should keep my mouth shut about suffering unless I'm being boarded on a train like cattle.
Perhaps this is the truth of history: every man lives in an age of fools.
We imagine we are on some trajectory of improvement -- at least in the West we like to think so -- but more and more it is looking like some huge ass meltdown is headed our way. The intellectual dissonance is killing me. I am so on edge waiting for the headline that confirms it, once and for all, that I can hardly drive the car some days, or remember what I need to get at the grocery store. I feel entirely alone in this, and though I have never minded solitude I do on occasion wonder if I'm going mad. Is it me, or is every single problem in the world being met by the most ridiculous responses I have ever seen?
To say that I would like to sue the government of my country -- for alienation of affection for starters, and severe mental anguish for good measure -- is putting it mildly. I don't say this glibly. I am serious when I say that what is happening, and my inability to do anything to ameliorate it, is ruining my health. It is also ruining my relationships with everyone in my life. My kids are tired of me running to the television to see what Olbermann will say or shushing them when an enticing news item comes across public radio. They're tired of explaining to their friends why we don't go to Wal-Mart and why their mother hates aspartame, bottled water, bovine growth hormone (oh, the list goes on and on). Neighbors and friends no longer try to engage me in small talk, which I can no longer do. I will ask them if they read this, or know that ... I exhaust them with my intensity (which I think seems more and more like a certifiable imbalance) when all they want is the proverbial cup of sugar.
A cup of sugar. I still have that much. I get tears in my eyes sometimes when I ponder the wonder of it: that for 50 years and counting, I have had the richness of education and travel, of enough heat and relatively inexpensive water, of endless cups of sugar.
Who knows what happens when bees and bats die, when the world gets hotter, when Halliburton owns the water beneath your lawn and the drops that fall from the sky. Who knows what happens when we so deregulate our economy that we all roll rocks uphill every day to ensure that Blackwater makes its quarterlies, and that no rich man be brought low even temporarily. Who knows what happens when so many foxes guard so many henhouses that eggs become obsolete.
I have thought that my problem is that I need an angle, my own particular groove to carve. I could take on Wal-Mart and picket daily. Or march against the war with the 12 other locals who sometimes slog around the county building with their makeshift signs. I could rail against the EPA, which is letting BP add to the air and water pollution where I live so they can blissfully go on stoking the idea that gasoline is forever. I can go to city council meetings to protest that millions for roads through wetlands is ass backwards in this day and age. I can write letters to the editor protesting the corporate farms sprouting up all over the region, or go international with complaints about Monsanto screwing the Iraqis and everyone else in the world with their seed monopolies and their poison production. I could lecture people at the meetings I sometimes attend (though I have less and less appetite for meetings) because we are being plied with cases of bottled water.
What I see day after day is a brand of recklessness and stupidity that saps my strength entirely. At a recent local Democrats meeting, I met the woman running against Mitch Daniels and listened to her stump speech. I heard "we have to grow the economy" and "let's improve education" and "ethanol is great." Platitudes, and many built on false premises. After her, a man running for some state position. His main axe to grind? "Our health care system can improve if we stop providing freebies to illegal immigrants." And these are the friendlies.
Tell me, who is the opposition? Just about everyone - the congenitally Republican and the supposedly enlightened. I have neighbors who may not like pollution, but they are anxious for us to "win" in Iraq. I know people who hate Wal-Mart, but think nothing of filling their tanks with corn-based ethanol to drive to the malls. I am surrounded by people who do not know who the current U.S. attorney general is, that the White House "lost" e-mail and documents, that Halliburton moved its headquarters to Dubai, though they are full of gossip from their cubicles at work. The height of their political knowledge might be that they know some politician in Idaho is gay. I know commodities brokers and realtors and so many others who ask not what they can do to help others and right this rock-bound ship, but lick their chops at the turn in events and say, "How can I personally profit most?"
That, my friends, is capitalism. Which has nothing to do with truth. Or decency. Or solving problems. Or feeding people. Or stopping global warming. Necessity has always been the mother of invention. Capitalism is the bastard husband who comes home drunk and knocks down the Christmas tree.
There are some truths I am tired of confronting. The great majority of people in politics are morons, brought into their positions of importance by dint of their dumb acquiescence to the powers that be. Americans are a greedy and stupid people, taken on the whole, who worship money and wouldn't recognize truth if it bit them on the collective ass. Bush is wrong, Cheney is wrong (and they have power); Chomsky is right, Naomi Klein is right, Howard Zinn is right, Michael Moore is right (but they have little). The world is wrestling with dwindling resources the way it always does -- with a cataclysmic cleansing. We are right now watching the world's power brokers tee up to grab what remains and it is going to get uglier and uglier. In the meantime, the American economy is teetering on the brink and we still see the media madly try to bury the news so we can't glimpse the decomposing body. My "local" (corporate owned chain, not really local) newspaper is still printing lies - we might be headed for a recession, but some experts say not; giving taxpayer money to entice chain stores is a great idea; and the proverbial: buy now! Interest rates are going down, down, down!!
Three days ago, there was a story about local religious types being upset that "faith is not playing a bigger part in the presidential election." For chrissakes, where do you start?
Like the quartet that played on as the Titanic went down, there are those among us who are seeing the inevitable amidst the hoopla. I am one of them, and I apologize, but there are so many holes. Today we are supposed to save the woman screwed and sued by Wal-Mart, put pressure on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, donate to Obama, start a Victory Garden, send a care package to Iraq, watch a video of an ice shield breaking off ... I have been doing these things for years now and nothing changes -- in fact, things grow worse. How long ago did I sign the petitions about White House shenanigans that led to Harriet Miers announcement of "ethics classes" for staffers -- one would be an idiot to ask how that turned out. That seems light years ago. Back when petitions seemed appropriate and pitchforks as yet unnecessary.
A cup of sugar. The wonder of it. I have poured you a glass of vinegar to drink, and all you want is sugar. But despair has become my daily bread, and no amount of sugar makes it palatable.