Monday, February 23, 2009

What Mama Said

There's much to be said for optimism in times like these; end times? So some believe. Others, well, other folk think "things" will be better sometime tomorrow or further on a-piece. Make that many, if not, most folks. Optimistic types. The keep smilin' for not cryin' crowd. You know the type (Happy-Assed Americanus): Donut-larded, fed-fat-cheeked fiends of fetish consumerism or, judging by the size of 'em, are we talkin' cannibalism? eatin' poor bastards whole? Special dunkin' sauce with every slab of meat? 'Twould explain America's obesity problem. But, that's a subject best left to those whom contemplate such non-newsworthy drivel.

Which nudges me in the direction of topic for the day: Survival.

Who hasn't heard of those people assembled in their make-shift fortresses, having taken to hoarding, stock-piling water, canned goods and jerky, waiting out the End Days? Those people think the troubled times we live in warrant creating warehouses of foodstuffs to survive the coming [Fill in the blank_______________). Some think God is gonna smite the unholy lot of us. (Well, the nonbelievers for sure. Followed by the "other" believers. You know, the kinds with those weirdly named gods and goddesses. Yeah, that kind, them, those whom believe there are more than one God. Heathens from the one perspective. Saints from another. Demons from a third and on and on.) Others believe the Rapture is imminent; the Anti-Christ walks among us. Still others believe this economic downturn is the Be-All-And-End-All, one from which we do not recover. Others decry the nihilistic youth and their violent solutions to any/all perceived slights and what that forebodes for the future of our nation; nay, the world. No doubt there are racists among us that believe the End is nigh by virtue of having a black man in the White House. And, lest we forget the ubiquitous Jones' whom everyone in America hates for their one-upmanship even as Americans asymptotically vie to be one better than; a never-ending mission of futility (hence 70 percent of the American economy).

The obvious problem (aside from the delusional righteousness such adherents—in the first instance –possess) is that with such stockpiling, once the end comes, the first wave of ejectamenta (those humans laid off, slipped through the shredded safety net, the economic outcasts, the hungry dispossessed) will know where food's available. You may have loaded up on ammo and guns to safeguard your stockpile but once a hungry hoard seeks nourishment—a primary survival force –nothing will stop the scavenging. That's why the true survivor mode will entail keeping hidden, eyeing the herd, especially the fringes and when the infirm, the too-slow-of-foot, the down-and-outer goes down they'll be quickly devoured. Yes, cannibalism as survival tool. Get used to it and you'll thrive. Human meat? You are what you eat? Hmmm, something to ponder.

If conditions get so bad as that, deciding to survive via cannibalism is surely an example of unbounded optimism, wouldn't you say? I mean, who would want to live in such a world? To actually eat your neighbors to survive is to say, for the eater at least, tomorrow will dawn.

Of course, many people around the world believe "things" are getting worse even as they continue to express optimism. No mystery, really. If one can convince him/herself that "things" will in fact be better tomorrow, then happy days are a-foot. No need to worry as "things" are going to be better tomorrow. At least they'll get out of bed and prod themselves once again to run the rat race; to stay safe midst the herd. The fear in the air flares nostrils, pumps adrenaline, erases logic and empathy. The herd runs from everything (after all, terrorism is everywhere) so it runs in frenzied circles until it can run no more. And that, my friends, is a meat-eater's dream (not to mention an extremely optimistic mindset/scenario to find oneself in IF fattening up is your raison d'ĂȘtre).

Even President Clinton chimed in with the advice that Obama should be more upbeat in order to rally the people to get behind America's push for solvency.

"The sun will come out tomorrow…tomorrow…Bet your bottom dollar…" from Annie.

So, that's how we arrive dead-on topic for this entry. My mother being in her 80s, living in South Carolina, and being of a certain generation completely and utterly devoid of adaptability to modern electronic gadgetry yet recently getting hooked up for email, prompted me to send my brave mom copies of this blog. When we talked 10 or so days later she mentioned how she was so happy to receive the blogs and wanted me to know that she read them right away, proceeded into her bedroom, climbed under the covers and just now climbed back out again. "Jesus H., Steven…I understand you need to write the truth but, Christ Almighty, it's so depressing."

What mama said.

Not enough of us concentrate on the hard numbers of this economic crisis, the lost jobs, the stock market tumble, the financial meltdown. Instead we fear everything in general. Rah-rah optimism isn't what's needed at all. We need to calibrate the bubble's bursting impacts. We need to arm ourselves with data of the most convincing nature. We need to flood the marketplace of ideas with this fact—that America is being divvied up among a few elite –in the hope of creating a sea-change of evolutionary growth in people eager to make this world a better place for our children and their children's children. In other words, enough of the optimism. Unbridled optimism is what America has fueled itself on certainly since Reagan; and who can forget "W" telling us the best thing to do after 9/11 was to go out and shop. Blind optimism led to a financial frenzy whose downside is utterly evident and upon us. Now is not the time for more optimism. It is time for the hard work to begin, to address reality, analyze and devise solutions that will serve humanity as opposed to shareholders. How else could such a phenomenon be described but as pure optimism at work? Born of unending hope that lives in each and every human being on this planet. Why slime of ancestral tracks leading from one puddle of mere survival to another thriving pool finally leads to the beneficiaries of such evolution, us, as we are today.

Hope delivered us from the slime in the beginning. But can hope alone deliver us from the slime once again? Who said Walt Disney's dead? Every princess will find her prince? Every evil witch shall find her match in a Miss Goodness N. Light? We all should whistle while we work? Fairy Bells and Tinker Dust? Goofy the Tao to Pluto's Zen?

The treacle drips from such optimism—dare we call it American Can-doism –like sweet thick amber syrup, warmed by momma's breast milk, the teat that satisfies, suckle and "it all" melts away.

But, does it? Or does it keep requiring you to cull up those depleted reserves of optimism each and every time it is further depleted by breakdown in trust between government and the people, between employers and employees, between neighbors, between husband and wife, parent and children, a believer and his/her G(g)od(s). Every time Disneyland wavers, ripples, blinking from strain of maintaining illusions so we do not witness the Beagle Boys' with their Captains of Industry personas (unadulterated thuggery to extort untold wealth), we reach for our drug of choice: Optimism (right there on the shelf next to the Fuhgeddabouddit pills).

Worth noting is the fact that, while optimism is great for getting something started, reality is what measures success or failure. Sorry, Mama, but the reality currently applicable is clear: The big cats are out of sight, watching the herd, licking their chops with every new straggler losing pace. As more and more drift from the herd and are devoured whole, the herd will become thinned, leaner, meaner, more afraid.

The cats will get fatter. And it will be "morning in America" once again. Reagan will regain Patron Saint status and Milton Friedman will live in granite monuments to his genius. History will tell us how great a President George W. Bush had been.

Gone will be the stories of deprivation and humiliation; replaced as they will be, with fairy tales of optimism. The end days. Not with a whimper but with an all-consuming lie based upon blind optimism. For when the herd runs blind, the fatcats drool in anticipation of a steady diet.

And, for them, at least, there is nothing to fear.