A middle-class white guy navigates the decline of the American Empire and industrial civilization.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

That Deep-Down Body Thirst

I've been walking the streets of Uptown, Loring Park and Downtown all day, trying to perpetuate the illusion of constructive activity in lieu of employment. That kind of self-delusion can work up a powerful thirst in a man. And I don't mean no tap water thirst. This ain't no Brita water thirst neither. Nor is it the kind of thirst that can be quenched by your Vitamin Water or your Sobe or any of those high-classed, namby-pamby, pantywaist beverages. No, this is the kind of deep-down body thirst that can only be quenched by a man's sports drink, the kind of liquid ya need after you play pickup basketball for 106 straight hours in the blazing sun, or you run 12 marathons in a row, or you build the Hoover Dam.

How I do love Gatorade, with its electrolytes and complex carbohydrates and flavors not found in nature, like Orange, Grape, Lemon Lime, Fruit Punch, Strawberry Kiwi, Tropical Mango, Citrus Cooler, Cool Blue, Cool Glacier Blast, Frost Glacier Freeze, Frost Cascade Crash, Frost Riptide Rush and Cold Fusion Reactor.

It smacks of summer scorchers, walking down the sidewalk with the sweat drippin' off ya, stopping at the convenience store and reaching into the cooler for a cold, plastic bottle of watered-down, Kool-Aid-for-diabetics sweetness. I had a few more blocks til home, but it didn't matter with those electrolytes replenishing my dangerously-low supply of electrolytes.

It also makes me feel athletic. When you drink Gatorade, you're showing a firm commitment to hydration. You're telling the world, "I refuse to let the elements stand between me and my appointed task. Even if my appointed task is to pick up some cheddar and sour cream potato chips, French Onion dip and maybe a pint of Ben & Jerry's, I will dedicate myself to its successful completion as if I were picking up Brett Favre at the airport or repelling Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg or driving my wife to the hospital to give birth to our first child. My current errand may seem trivial, but I refuse to shirk my duty. I will be bringing the full, hydrating, electrolyte-replenishing force of Gatorade to bear on this endeavor. God help the thirst that dares stand in my way."

And if you even imply that Powerade is remotely similar to Gatorade, I will Greco-Roman wrestle you to within an inch of your life, pretty boy. This is not open to discussion. Either you pledge allegiance to Gatorade, or you get the hell outta my country. How do I know Gatorade has been chosen by Jesus as the All-American elixir of champions for the greatest nation on Earth? Because Michael Jordan drinks it, and Michael Jordan is our Greatest Living American.

End of story.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Imperial Legacy

The model of Germania, the planned capital of Hitler's Thousand-Year Reich, sits under a sheet in the basement of the Western imagination, waiting to be unveiled again. We think we've immunized ourselves against this evil. We watch hour after hour of TV shows about the Nazis. We might even read a book or two about them. How could we ever be as wicked as they? But even as we maintain this blithe naivete, our ignorance grows, as does our potential for evil.

Let's walk the streets of the unconscious and trace the outline of this city. Surely we'll find many blind alleys and dead ends haunted by monsters. How many virgins have been sacrificed to this Minotaur? The streets are paved with their bones. Their ghosts fill every silence with moaning, crying, wailing. They deliver warnings. Don't repeat their mistakes. Don't succumb to hubris. Remember: thou art mortal. You are just as capable of evil as anyone else. You are just as vulnerable to pride and arrogance, more so because of the power of your technology.

Why does Germania feel so familiar to me? This is the capital of my dreams, the wellspring whence my imagination sprang. The smooth walls of the edifices. The rigid geometry of the streets. It calls to me. But this is only a dream, a figment of madmen's fancy, the gleaming facade of our murderous heritage, the handsome face of evil, the impossibly perfect skin stretched over the bottomless pit of savagery.

Living in this city, you'd never know the horrors of its construction, the brutal enslavement of its builders, the cruel fate of its citizens. But this is our home. Our empire is also built on death, destruction and oppression. We are shielded from these truths by our sanitized environment. The pollution and exploitation necessary to maintain our lifestyle have been mostly outsourced to factories and sweatshops beyond our borders. The media politely refrain from troubling us with the true causes and costs of the conflicts fought by our military and our proxies. But all empires fall. Let's hope we leave more than a model of evil when we go.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Endless Punishment

How do you punish a mass murderer, a Master of War, an architect of genocide? How could we have brought balance to our moral universe for the millions executed on the orders of Hitler, Stalin or Mao? Shall we rain down on Kissinger the sum total of all U.S. aerial bombardment in the Pacific theater during World War II, as was done to Cambodia at his command? How much pain should we inflict on George W. Bush for the million-plus deaths caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

The leaders of the guilty have few lives to sacrifice on the Scales of Justice, but there are millions of lives on the other end. The nooses of Nuremberg seem too humane for these crimes. They are too quick, too clean for the monsters who managed to keep the blood off of their hands. Shall we resurrect them to exact an execution for each life taken? Shall we pursue them through reincarnations, ensuring that each of their next million lives ends in misery?
This is why vengeance never ends. No punishment that fits the crime can be anything short of a new crime that reverses the roles of the victim and the criminal. I feel like a monster just for proposing these sentences and committing them to (digital) paper. But who of moral clarity and passionate temperament hasn’t entertained such thoughts?
When does justice become revenge? That could be measured by the level of emotion invested in the prosecution. But even justice requires emotion. Science has shown that emotion is needed in order to make the most basic decisions. Therefore, we must temper our passion with empathy and mercy. Each murder, be it state-sanctioned or not, is a wound that must be treated, not an offensive maneuver in a zero-sum game.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

A Lonely Boat

I think what may appeal to me most about Peak Oil is the idea that it will throw everyone into the same boat. No matter your current station, it's supposed to reduce everyone to a state of discombobulated poverty.

That may be wishful thinking, but it's certainly attractive to an alienated, isolated member of this atomized society. Chaotic, communal destitution sounds better to me than pointless, lonely comfort.

Granted, I had a chance to embrace a better version of the communal life 4 years ago when I visited an ecovillage, and I rejected it. The reality of that lifestyle caught me off-guard. Ironically, I wasn't ready for the constant social contact. I came to crave the same privacy and solitude I'd been trying to escape.

Surely there's a happy medium that provides both community and privacy, but it may require a long, arduous journey to find. I don't know if I have the strength to take that path. At this point, though, the shame of being too afraid to follow my bliss has become unbearable. Being true to myself may now be the only way for me to keep my sanity.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Grounded

I'm about to quit another corporate job. I've been through this cycle before, the one that climbs toward stability and then gets tilted over by the weight of stress, anxiety and guilt over my complicity in the corporate ruination of the world. Maybe my moral objections are just excuses for my inability to meet the jobs' demands. Whatever the reason, I'm back at the bottom, trying to find a way off this ride.

The worst part is that each time I get back on the corporate carousel (or Ferris wheel), I drift further from reality. The world becomes less real. People become harder to reach. I know they're there, but my heart won't let them in. I'm afraid to open myself to joy, because it lets the pain in too and, when I'm part of the corporate machine, the pain is too much to bear. I feel like a cog in the Machinery of Death.

On that corporate carousel/Ferris wheel/machine, the world was slipping away. Now the fear that I'll never find a healthy niche in the world is threatening to hurl me out of the earth's orbit into the black void of space. But I've been reaching out to people to keep from losing touch with the world. Only human contact will keep me grounded. Here's hoping I can establish a permanent base on this planet.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Winter's Turning

Still arching toward Christmas, the winter glows with warmth and radiant whiteness (as seen from my heated vantage point). The snow remains pure and the decorations fresh and clean. We're still weeks away from the post-Xmas-and-New-Year's hangover. After the expectation of the holidays has been fulfilled, we start down the far side of winter, the descent into mind-numbing cold, dirty snow and the stubborn death-grip of King Boreas that refuses to yield to Spring. He is a receding glacier whose fingers grudgingly give way to life, slowly shrinking until they end in skeletal points.

But winter won't make that turn for four weeks. It hasn't yet worn out its welcome. After New Year's though, winter loses its raison d'etre. Once the gifts have been exchanged and the New Year toasted, the season suffers a severe loss of focus and meaning. It devolves into a cruel cosmic endurance test, punishment handed down by the gods in their haughty caprice. Although, to be honest, my love of winter barely registers the change. I enjoy the frozen wastes of the early year, free of social obligations and fellow pedestrians. Solitude is abundant even in the heart of the city. The outdoors become the exclusive domain of the hearty and determined.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

A Chip on My Shoulder

I realize now that I've been living with a chip on my shoulder. Every situation has been entered with the baggage of past grievances for which the other people involved would have to atone. Or I would "graciously" forgive them for those trespasses, which they did not commit nor even had any knowledge of. It's amazing how much pain from old wounds I projected onto their words and deeds. Anytime their behavior fell short of my expectations, I would imagine it was motivated by antipathy of me or malevolence.

I've always considered myself the underdog. This sense was deeply imprinted by the bullying I experienced in elementary and (especially) middle schools. I absorbed the idea of myself as a fat nerd and am still trying to uproot that self-image from my psyche. One problem with this mindset is that I used it to justify my own antisocial behavior. Because I thought I'd been a doormat in most situations, I didn't feel the need to say "excuse me" when squeezing by someone at the grocery store. Any of those daily scenarios that call for courtesy often inspired resentment in me. "Why should I show others consideration when I've been shown so little?"

But this is clearly no way to live in society. Eventually, I had to deal with the true source of my resentment. For me, this was my parents. We've come a long way in repairing our relationship, and I've been able to shed much of my ancient anger. This isn't meant to imply that the kids who picked on me were innocent, but they were kids like me and therefore largely not responsible for their behavior.

In my opinion, the truly guilty party is Society. The bullies were created and allowed to bully because of socioeconomic conditions. I would say even the need to reconcile with my parents was motivated by societal factors. The fact that all my best post-college friends either moved away or stopped calling me back probably owes something to the economy and government social policy.

Of course, I can't sit down for a chat with Society to work out my issues with it. Nor can I depend on my local community to provide essential emotional support. That was a luxury of past eras, but it seems to have been lost. I have to count on my parents and friends to help me through the rough patches. Before reconnecting with my parents and finding friends I can rely on, I really struggled. My point is that we should work to rebuild community and social services to help people who don't have dependable family or friends. This would also improve the chances of having family and friends who are dependable.