Friday, January 05, 2007

read it and find out

This is an excerpt from a great piece I just read on Counterpunch. Here's the original link. This guy Joe Bageant writes like Gore Vidal would have had he been born a decade or so later and become a hippie:

The couch is a reasonable place to be these days, given that there is no real work left in America for sane functioning human beings. There is just survival (although the upper 20% of Americans safely isolated from the perspiring classes seem to think they are thriving because they more resemble the people pictured in slick lifestyle advertisements than most people*). But it is still just a more elaborate form of survival amid the pointless and thin joy of consumerism, and the inherent material and spiritual wastefulness of life in here in the designated global landfill of that next rising empire, China. We are nowhere near rich, we are just conditioned to buy and throw away more expensive stuff. Not that we are entirely alone; Western Europeans are about a gnat's ass behind us in our wretched consumer excesses. But not being alongside or leading the pack, they are quick to point up our gluttony. When America's population drops dead from morbid obesity, Europeans will scale the mountain of our fallen porcine ranks, then jump into their newly inherited SUVs and drive off in search of a mall. But until then, they are left with a relatively equitable, sane society as a consolation prize, for a while longer at least.

Here in China's global landfill, tens of millions of Americans are prisoners -- including me. And that is not counting the quarter of the world's incarcerated population who are America citizens physically held in US prison system. The rest of us serve a life sentence, released on personal recognizance to pull our time in our own homes, processing goods for the Great Asian Goods Landfill Culture, here at the end of their new globalized Silk Route of Confucian capitalism. At this end of the electronics Silk Road we are prisoners of consumption, rather like those caged French geese that are force fed corn so as to produce fatty livers for pate. But in a marvelous marriage of psychology, psychometric marketing and the gulag, our system imprisons its people from the inside out. We even punish ourselves without supervision -- to doubt the system is its own punishment, purely for the social and personal anxiety it causes. Given enough insight, a thoughtful person can nearly question himself or herself to death. ...

On the whole though, our infantilized citizenry is having too much fun to question itself. In the drive for a harder hard-on, faster everything, and round the clock stimulation, we have created an artificial and frivolous citizenry, one that is incapable of serious thought or deeper humor -- a nation of children completely happy to stay that way. America's childish material gratification is so grotesquely satisfying that it smothers the most basic sort of reason, much less philosophical thinking. Fuck it all. Nietzsche and Rimbaud are too goddamned hard to read anyway.

Beyond that, western philosophical tradition is based on grief and suffering. So is most great literature. I've never been a fan of the Van Gogh's ear school of creativity, but I have to admit that the few truly great American writers I've met wrote with at least one foot planted in pain. Who wants to read that, when entertainment of every imaginable sort, sparkles in the great hologram of our national illusion-delusion, right there for the plucking? For that matter, who can pull themselves away from such brilliant distraction? Not me. The only way to beat it is to leave it. Get outside the hologram.

* Here's the same thought, put another way. From The Coup's "Pimps," (sung by David Rockefeller, directed at the professional classes):
"Let you flash a little cash
make you think you got class
but you really selling ass
and hoe keep off the grass
'less you cutting it
Trick, I'm running shit!"

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