1/18/2011 – Seattle
1. Social Animal by David Brooks, January 17, 2011, The New Yorker
1. The Rise of the New Global Elite by Chrystia Freeland, January/February, The Atlantic
I haven’t written anything substantive in so long that I can’t even type very well, and I’m a goddamn computer geek. I’m sitting in a quasi-hipster café near 2nd Avenue and Bell in Seattle, it’s an overcast and chilly day, and my mind is wandering between various and sundry thoughts as I sip a really good Americano prepared by a kid who apparently stole his fashion sense from a 1977 photograph of Punk legend Stiv Bators, but I’m guessing the kid, if queried, has no idea who that is—nor would he care.
Call it post-modern-post-whatever culture, equal parts boredom and worshipful kitsch, nihilism for ninnies, anarchy for anhedonics who don’t really give a fuck about anything enough to truly care about anything. But they love to dress like, and affect the manners of, people from the past who actually did give a fuck. It’s strange and disconcerting for a former ultra-leftwing Punk rebel like me to bear witness to this generation of feckless and effete drama queens trying too hard to pass themselves off as anti-heroes and rebels. It’s not much of a rebellion—or even shocking—when the only controversy you generate is your old man thinks you’re a goofy little fag.
It’s got to be tough to be a kid today, especially if kids aren’t jacked into the meritocratic elite culture of posh suburban enclaves, elite schools, and familial connections in the working world. If you’re a fringe kid from the poor and working classes, you’re pretty much fucked unless you’re the next Picasso or Kurt Cobain. Or you can hit a curveball like Joe Maurer. Hope in 2011 has taken an extended vacation. Or was handed a pink slip. I’m not sure which just yet.
The utterly depressing culture into which America dug itself the last decade cannot but fuel this disaffected and dispassionate attitude in kids. Perfumed metrosexual gangsters from Ivy League universities manage our economy with so much Social Darwinistic gusto that I imagine Herbert Spencer is popping a woodie in his grave. Our political culture is completely lorded by corporate corruption and abject moral depravity that would make Machiavelli vomit with disgust. We’re fighting two wars with no end in sight while having very sketchy ideas about what constitutes victory in either of them. The media is run by a few powerful moguls who pervert the national dialogue with every sort of self-serving bullshit sophistry imaginable, all with the intent of keeping people scared, stupid, and apathetic about their role in a democratic nation. Nothing defeats egalitarianism quite like feeling frightened, unworthy, powerless, and insignificant.
Our meritocratic elite have become the worst scumbags since the Nazis. These weasels with Ayn Rand fixations and eight-figure incomes were not raised to give a flying fuck about concepts like shared sacrifice, egalitarianism, and civic virtue. Since they were in diapers they’ve been told how wonderful and special they are, and they treat every aspect of life like a competition where, not only do they have to win, but they have to skull fuck everyone they vanquish. Remember the story of Pericles weeping after he defeated the Persians? Our elite would rape the dead Persians.
The gulf between rich and poor is so appalling today in America that it’s as if we’ve returned to the Gilded Age. Go visit places like Camden, North Philly, West Baltimore, or Washington, DC just a few blocks from our Capitol; what you’ll see are American citizens who are way beyond being merely skull fucked. No, they were skull fucked back when Ronald Reagan took over. Now they’re just plain fucked all over their bodies. Right-wing blowhards whine about Obama making America a European socialist country, but please, if you can, find a European city as hellish and poverty-ridden as the ones I cited above. Imagine what America will be like in a few years if our economy doesn’t fully recover. Poor kids will start reading The Grapes of Wrath to feel nostalgic about when people had it good in America. Or at least had hope for a better future.
Is it possible to dig ourselves out of this hole? What kind of future are we handing our kids today?
According to David Brooks, the dippy New York Times columnist, things are just hunky dory for our young elite. Raised by power yuppie parents in some gated rich enclave far out in the suburbs, and educated at Yale, or Duke, or Stanford, our young elite are masters of the universe and, like that girl said in the film Jerry McGuire about people in first class not only having better seats, they have better lives, that’s pretty much the truth if you’re some poor or working class kid with few very good prospects for the future; no matter how hard you work. it’s impossible, especially in America, to compete with the elite when the playing field is totally in their favor by virtue of a vast inequality of wealth, privilege, and opportunity.
Welcome to the future.
[UPDATE] The great American philosopher and linguist, Leftbanker, writes a scathing essay called Welcome to the Crisis: Year Three, which pretty much echoes my own feelings. Now that federal stimulus money is running out, most states and local governments are going to start cutting most substantive social services because they are bankrupt. Since no one wants to pay taxes, and Republicans want limited or no government, most of the country will look like Camden, New Jersey, which looks a lot like Somalia nowadays. Or Mexico.