Wander down the road with me aways. You will be breathing exhaust, mostly invisible and indetectible except for the drying of your lungs and throat. This road was once smaller, but now it's needed to carry people out of the cheap apartments into the major arteries of the city. Occasional diesel trucks you can smell; that exhaust is the most carcinogenic. So you walk past a convenience store, a donut shop, a hair care salon, a record store. Now you wait at the intersection - so many cars! They pass.
You walk across the rubble of two curbs and into the parking lot. Cars are here, poised, and there's some guy sitting in his with the engine running and loud violent music playing. Pass him by and go into the store. A woman in an employee's uniform is exiting, carrying with her a case of Miller Lite. If you drink that stuff, it'll give you cancer for sure; it's tapwater with beerishness injected, to keep it as cheap as possible. She paid $10 for it, but it cost $0.40 to make. Good beer might cost $4.00 to make, so the guy who came up with Miller Lite - and the $0.20 per case of advertising required to get generic people to buy it - must be a genius.
Inside you look for bread. No, there is no bread. What do you mean? There's a shelf of bread. I mean there's no bread with the ingredients in healthy bread: flour, water, eggs, milk, yeast, sugar, salt. All the bread has ingredients lists longer than this article. So no bread, unless you want that to give you cancer as well. Of course, there's plenty of stuff here that will kill you. The catfish fillets are on sale, but catfish sop up industrial fertilizer and pesticides like sponges; do you really want to eat that? The ocean-caught fish is full of mercury, dioxin and who knows what else.
So you go to get something simple, like maybe, onions. There is no price marked on them. They are, for the most part, small. You can pay twice as much for the organic onions, but there are fewer of them. So you'll be coming back, soon, unless you're cooking a small amount. Pass rows and rows of food in boxes. Note that even the tortillas have extra ingredients you remember from a high school science class. What happened to flour, lard and lime? They're low-fat now, but you have to ingest three preservatives and several artificial flavor agents to get that low-fat buzz. Cancer, while thin. Progress.
There's a lack of any good looking tomatoes. Only the $3/lb "organic" ones look at all appetizing. You either buy those, or lump it with the rest, and who knows what's been sprayed on them? By the time the tumors carve you up, it'll be too late to blame anyone, least of all the poor guy who's just trying to make a buck selling cheap tomatoes. On to meat, for the same situation. There's cheap red meat everywhere, just above $2/lb, but you don't know what's in that. Do you trust these people and their judgment of what hormones will kill you, and which won't? Well really, they're not thinking about it; it's not their job. Their job is to sell meat.
They're playing sad love songs again. Some chick who got paid handsomely is droning on about how she believes in love. Repeat it another time, maybe you'll believe it. Angry minorities walk past, wearing ethnic gear like do-rags and Pancho Villa tshirts. Not all of them feel this way, of course; there are ethnic minorities doing their best to act like the balding white manager. Their friends back home see them as sell-outs. Do you? Well, no matter - you couldn't bring that topic up in conversation without alienating people, and if it got back to your employer - well, good luck finding a new job, because gossip travels between jobs.
In aisle five, there's a device for sale - $20 - that's shaped like a plastic onion. The idea is that you put a special type of onion in it, and you can cook it in your microwave really easily. You know you'll get one at Christmas, and like everyone else, throw it out in June. But there they are, next to essentials like fruit and vegetables, so the guy who invented it must be making some real money. Important invention. He must be a genius.
Wander out the checkout. The guy putting stuff in bags is stoned. Give him a friendly grin, because he has another six hours on shift, at which point he can take the $40 he earns after taxes and put it toward - something. The guy doesn't have the brains to invest it, doesn't have the education to understand it, and will probably spend it on pot and beer anyway. His kids will also be stuffing bags in supermarkets, but that's better than people of that level of intelligence having more complicated jobs, as in the case of the manager, who clearly should be doing nothing more than picking turnips. His name is O'Shannon or Yablonski. Take your pick.
You'd have to be an idiot to buy most of the stuff in that store. Then again, people keep buying it, and there are far more of them than you, so who cares what you think. Workers are smoking cigarettes near the door as more angry minorities wander in from the project-apartments to the south. They think they're moving up, shopping at the white folks store. But all the white folks who could moved out of here two years ago. In fact, you'll have to reconsider that decision to take the less stressful job over the one that makes more money. You're going to need it to rise above this shit. In the future, it's only the proles and the ultra-rich, and if you're not the latter, well, get used to cancer, crime, ignorance and a future stuffing grocery bags.
Back down the street. Wait at the stoplight: most of the cars around you are SUVs with giant engines, mainly because people fel safe behind all that steel. How can you not? And it's good to be locked inside one, because the people wandering around here vary a lot. There's some like you who won't cause any problems. Then there's that guy rambling to himself; maybe he has a knife, or will simply reach out and take what he will never have. And a lot of these guys coming home from those boring jobs are drunk as ass, and they might plough into you at fifty, so you better have a big vehicle to take the hit. And who's that crazy fuckup walking down the street? Doesn't he know...? -- they mean you.
Speaking of jobs, you've about had it with those. There's a task, but then there's the additional task of not pissing off your bosses, who tend to be unstable people because, who wouldn't be, given the paradoxical goals they have before them. You have to do your job well, but not so well that you minimize profit, so everything's a rush. Your coworkers have more personal problems than you can count, so you're always stepping in to fill the gap where someone is hung over, strung out, depressed or simply delusional. About half of your bosses have some grasp of the task, but the rest are in their jobs because they're friendly and play by the rules, so who can fire them? Oh, and then there are the affirmative action appointees, and women; they can't be fired, either.
Whores above, and whores left and right. You were late last week and someone - no one knows who, of course - let the higherups know and you got called on carpet. You can just about hear the snicker when you cross the workfloor. Gotcha! They probably feel better about it, and if you asked them at a bar, they'd shrug it off. It happens to everyone, and higherups promote snitches, so... wouldn't you? Your job also requires a lot of busy work. It's there to make everyone think what you're doing is important. Keep the bosses thinking you're working hard, and keep coworkers thinking the field is open for them. Who are they kidding? Most of them go up three pay grades during their career, and the divorce, medical, psychological, and car payments eat up most of that. They'll end up with a modest retirement. Hope they spent their money on catastrophic insurance.
You drove home down another street. It's lined with plastic, glowing signs. Every single building on this street is a business. Not all of them do obvious things, either. There are many places to buy entertainment, or go out to eat; you know that your coworkers spend most of their money at such places, if they don't outright run to titty bars for the promise of a quick fuck that never materializes, to the point that they owe on their credit cards. Oh well - can't squirrel out of that with a personal bankruptcy anymore. Five percent will avoid that trap, and the rest will be in debt until they die, at which point the debt will be sold to a collection agency that will pass it along to their "heirs," whether they inherited anything or not.
After work is done, you can go out with the girlfriend on Saturday night. Buy, buy, buy. Either you go to a bar, or a coffeeshop, or a restaurant, or a movie, or some combination thereof. You will buy things for her, and she will consider herself taken care of. You would be buying sex, but she's a feminist now, so she knows that she is not required to give you sex for money, unless she chooses to, at which point she should liberate herself from sexual fear and simply be a prostitute, because it pays better and dowdy academic feminists everywhere will cheer her. Jews are like women, retards, minorities and gays because all of them are assumed to be on the bottom. Strike out against one, and you're the problem. They can strike you, though, and they should.
So your date, or night out with the wife or girlfriend, doesn't end in sex but that's okay because most of your male coworkers spend 2% of their income on porn, anyway. That's about a grand per year for most people, since you wouldn't socialize with anyone earning less than that; if people at the office found out, they'd think you were leading a sleazy double life or possibly a Communist, or even worse, a Nazi. Those are the only people stupid enough to care about those who've failed in this world. Your girlfriend, of course, will hold it against you if you earn more or less than she does, and she will suspect you of manipulating her like all goddamn males do. There's some truth to what she says, but it will motivate her to get some of her own on the side, like the guy from the finance office she's screwing, and if you're smart, you'll do the same with an attractive girl of your own. By the time you die, you'll have slept with 171 different women, and the only memorable experience will be the first one. After that, most people are too cynical to put energy into sex, either going about it like dead fish or being so professional and adept at it that any authenticity or nuance is dead. Might as well get out the Vaseline and www.blacksonblondes.com.
When you're done with the date, you can go home and watch television. You probably spend about twice what you do on porn on cable, the physical TV, and renting movies, alone. More for video games. If you buy books - weirdo - that's even more. It's better to watch something than try to tolerate conversation about jobs and friends, both of whom exhibit painfully bad judgment that is depressing to hear about, or to try to decide on music. Hah! You told her you liked Beethoven once, and with scorn, she said, "Classical music is for rich people." That leaves you with anything below that level as your options, and nothing too angry, please, because it's antisocial and might damage your job prospects. How about some relaxing hip-hop, the music of the oppressed working classes?
She gets on the phone. Go into the kitchen. The water coming out of your tap smells strongly of chlorine. Better buy a filter for that too. Buy a bus ticket home, or buy a car, or call a cab. Buy, buy, buy. Spend, spend, spend. You can see the grateful faces as you do, because their income is now assured. No more thoughts of you, or anyone else. Did they come this way, or did we make them this way? Possibly it's a bit of both. They're just as desperate as you. The rich climb there either because they need wealth to feel whole, or because they're just as afraid of the consequences as you are. Everyone is afraid of the ghetto, except the people who live there already, because they've given up hope. Ah-ha. That's why people refer to hip-hop as America's only authentic art movement.
Light up that forbidden cigarette - if there's anything in it but tobacco, you'll lose your job; if they catch you smoking too much tobacco, you'll just lose your health insurance - and think for a minute. It is a bleak existence, outside of the parts that would be good in any society, that is the parts that have nothing to do with the design or operation of that society: the personalities of other people, the joy of children, the beauty of nature (a small park near your house), or intoxication with learning, specifically those books - weirdo - you found at a garage sale, back from when books were supposed to do more than only amuse. In those books you learned many things, but one important thing: it wasn't always this bleak.
Pollution, poverty, violence, instability and boredom hover at your door. The radio blares encouraging commercial messages every six minutes, as does the television. After hearing them for more than a day, you start to believe, even to listen, because it's easier than resisting. When you wake up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, you sometimes think there is no light at the end of this tunnel, that only oblivion awaits and it will never change. It can't go on forever. Sooner or later, there will be no more land or oil, and the air pollution and cancers and wars will get so bad we're paralyzed. But only losers think of that. Winners get ahead.
Your thoughts drift to something you read long ago. Consumerism, it was said, was not motivated by the desires of the wealthy. They didn't need it, after all, as they already had everything they needed. And while consumerism created a boom in technologies, it's not clear that these technologies weren't going to be invented anyway, albeit not in such stimulating ways as plastic shells to cook onions. The rich don't need consumerism. It's those who want to be rich who do. In the past, one was rich because one owned land, which was granted to the family by the king, in recognition for great deeds. That must have been inefficient, because now to get rich, you must undertake a stroke of genius such as selling pornography, or making plastic shells in which to microwave onions. Now, we're all free to get rich, as long as we don't mind doing nothing but that for our lives. What kind of empty person needs only wealth to feel sufficient? It's enough to make you convert to a negativistic philosophy like Judaism, which states that physical comfort is all that matters, and all ideals and thinking of the whole and not the self come a distant second. That kind of belief system could be fine solace in this society!
No, you think, the rich didn't need consumerism. What has driven us into this mess and keeps it in place are those who couldn't get rich under the kings, and now want an equal share of the pie. Nevermind that the knights and kings built this; they see the spoils, and they want their parts. It reminds you of all the faces in those SUVs and cars that pass, endlessly, while you're walking down the road. They're all gunning for their share, and they won't give that up. No way can you snatch victory from their grasp like that! Of course, they will destroy the planet and all good things about humanity, and only 1/100th of 1% of them will get rich, but don't tell them that. It's the lottery of life, man, and they're going to have a go at it. The fact that they cannot think far ahead enough to exceed the next pay period - 14 days - and that they're oblivious to the indirect consequences of their actions, out of sight out of mind, might have a lot to do with this.
The crowd wants its piece of the spoils. It wants revenge, in this way, since it cannot be contented with a normal existence, but has to gun for the big score, being wealthy. They're not demanding that a wrong be righted, but that they get a chance at unmitigated greed. If others can, why can't they? And don't tell them any of this shit about the difference between individual humans, and how having the brains to see beyond the next period and into indirect consequences of one's actions is rare, and should be a trait of our leaders - you're trying to keep them down, you fucking Nazi!
They believe they deserve that lottery (and in a sense they do, since so few of them will win). According to their morality, everyone is equal, and therefore, they should get what the rich have. Well, maybe just a chance at it. Nevermind that no one gets to have a comfortable existence because we're all fighting each other. Nevermind that they will obliterate the helpful leaders and replace them with whorelike demagogues. Nevermind that, if we all get to live the high life or some cheesy Wal-Mart approximation of it, the mathematics are bad: we all breed, all of our children breed, and so on, with each generation taking up more resources than the last until we've exhausted the planet and left a pollution ruin to be fought over by the remaining humans. Nevermind all that. What matters, the crowd says, is when do I get mine and how do I keep anyone else from stopping me?
The less competent have surged in, outnumbering the more competent, and formed a society based on revenge and greed. Why doesn't anything happen? Well, for starters, our leadership is divided into Left and Right. The Right fears the judgment capability of the crowd, recognizing quite properly that very few people have any wisdom at all, and the Left fears what the crowd has done. If Right and Left got together, they might see that the crowd revolt is the root of their problem, not whatever showboat issue they've been parading today (abortion, drugs, hackers, civil rights, school prayer). Because Right and Left are divided, rule by the crowd continues, and those who profit from the crowd keep getting rich. After all, like all of us competing against every other one of us, Right and Left are competing like businesses, trying to get their own people rich. There is no unity. There is only individual profit, and God Damn the costs to our environment and, less visibly, our selves.
Our morality is based upon not violating the space and "rights" of others. This started in Judaism, but really gained popularity with Christianity, because it wasn't just limited to people of Jewish ethnicity (smart marketing, Christ). No one can second guess their choices, because after all they are theirs, and it's their right to not be stopped - for example, show a crowd member this article, and they'll snap back, "It's my prerogative NOT to read it!" - and since the only way to stop them is force, they'll consider you amoral and dangerous and gang up on you. They outnumber you 1000 to 1. Good luck! In fact, anyone who tries to establish a plan other than rampant greed disguised as individualism is going to be seen as amoral, and even worse, trying to place themselves above others. One can only act on those below oneself, not try to rise above, because then - popular wisdom goes - you're trying to be better than others, as if you deserve more than the rest of us for having a right answer. The crowd together will chant for your blood.
Because you cannot stop someone else from doing something destructive, you become an outsider the instant you criticize their intent or its outcome. You can only judge their means of achieving what they do, not their goals. So if their goal is greed, you can only complain when that greed violates the rights of another; but that's hard to prove, and besides, there are plenty of unethical things that are not illegal (Goedel would assure you it's hard to list everything that's destructive, and even harder to get a vote taken on it). You cannot strike at those lesser than yourself. You cannot tell them what they are doing is insane. You would say "the ends justify the means," but they would be horrified by this. For them, there are only means, as they lack the intelligence to see that it is a question of "ends" that determines whether we live or die. It is beyond their conceptual understanding that a society might elect to not commit environmental and personal suicide through greed, pollution, boredom, etc.
This is why some people - usually Nazis and Communists - strike out against Christian morality. The idea of morality based on means, designed to protected the lesser from the stronger, prevents those who have better ideas (by definition: the stronger) from ever reigning in the illogical impulses of the lesser. The lesser are kings, and all of us must suffer for their judgment, because they are in control. Even many Christians have at this point figured the truth of this situation, and realize that Jesus came not in peace but with a sword, but what are they to do? 1000 to 1 odds means that unless every smart person on earth joins hands at once for a final battle, the lesser are going to win simply by numbers. Killing 999 of them each will not be enough to triumph.
Yet we either crush them, or continue this long sick march of death to oblivion. We will consume all of our resources. We will pollute all of our habitat. And we cannot stop it because to try that would be to violate someone's rights, probably those at the bottom, since the wealthy aren't the ones doing the violating; they're the ones providing the products, and demand for those products creates the violation. See, it's no one's fault. But no one is driving this vehicle hurtling out of control down a darkened road, and for those who are not lesser, it becomes a matter of concern. With these idiots in charge, we and our children and our culture (including Beethoven) are doomed. But by definition, to the lesser, this isn't a problem. The Christians call it a "holistic" view to look at the entire situation, including environment and humanity as a single entity, instead of the individual. Philosophers call it idealism, but it's 8 AM again and if you get caught reading that shit at work, you're fired and blacklisted. Welcome to the ghetto by 9:30.
We cannot move ahead until we fix this problem. We will forever be making "progress" - civil rights, women's rights, abortion, gay rights, drug rights - but this will not affect our ultimate destination. We will continue this march of death toward oblivion, and no amount of handing rights to gay black coprophagic pot-smoking women will stop that. The conservative businessman and the liberal activist alike agree that our current system is the way we must go, and they have only token changes. All they do is promote the same agenda that is the status quo, with modifications to deliver more profit to their camp, in the meantime ignoring the problem: our existence is bleak until we rise above this assumption ("Crowdism") and change it.
November 9, 2005