Tuesday, June 08, 2010

When you walk through the garden, you gotta watch your back.

Q. Why do I not write something about the oil spill?

A. Because there's nothing I could do but shake with rage and/or sob uncontrollably. I can't read something like this without crying. You might point out to me that, at the very least, the fact that there are so many people working tirelessly to help the pelicans has to be worth something in terms of one's faith in human nature. And you're right. You are absolutely right. There are good people out there.

But I'm not at all convinced it's enough. Because THIS IS WHAT CAPITALISM DOES. It's what it's fucking DESIGNED to do. Believe me, I don't feel any sympathy for BP executives. The probably-apocryphal story goes that the Parthians killed Crassus by pouring molten gold down his throat, symbolizing his endless hunger for money (oh, those Parthians. What irrepressible li'l scamps.) I'm feeling like a similar fate, only with petroleum, would be appropriate here (of course, instead, the only thing they'll suffer will be the mild social discomfort of knowing that millions of people like me wish they would die--god forbid there should be any meaningful penalty for destroying an entire ecosystem and thousands of people's lives).

But in a more abstract sense, you can't blame the fuckers. They are what the economic system MADE them. And when the system's only message is money money money money money--well fuck, why would they possibly care about anything else? Safety protocols? Pfft. There's nothing about THAT in the manual. As long as we live by this insane fucking system where material wealth is ALL THAT MATTERS, things like this are utterly predictable.

Of course, we could at least AMELIORATE the situation by making the penalties for things like this MEAN something. I got an email from Barack Obama. Maybe you did, too. He ASSURES me that BP is being fined sixty…nine…MILLION dollars! That's right: Million. Can I just say something here? Fuck you, Barack. What is this condescending horseshit? Just how stupid do you think we are? Stripping them of all their assets wouldn't begin to cover the damages--nothing could, really--but it would at least serve as a disincentive for other soulless corporate monsters. Charging them such a laughable drop in the ocean is almost WORSE than nothing, since all it does is rub it in: you can't touch us. We can fuck the shit out of your country, and there's nothing you can do about it. Ha-ha.

But, of course, it's not REALLY Obama's fault, is it? Well, I suppose it is in some abstract sense, but no President would do more (possible exception: Undead Teddy Roosevelt), because doing more would be a tacit admission that the free market is ineffectual, and that you need the government to come down HARD on a motherfucker in order for any real progress to come about. And we have been SO COMPLETELY PROGRAMMED by this insane death-cult of free-market capitalism that anything else isn't just undesirable; it's literally inconceivable. So instead, he has to do the impossible balancing act of trying to look like he's doing something while actually…not doing anything. I don't envy him, but my sympathy is extremely limited.

Look, I'm not an economist; I don't know what the best way to run the world is. Hell, I'm not necessarily convinced there IS an optimal way. Humanity is not like an Ikea dresser, where there's a set of instructions, you follow it, and maybe it doesn't QUITE work perfectly, but you know you've done what you're supposed to do, and it more or less works. We don't have anything like that in our programming. Why would we? Instead, we're like a whole bunch of different pieces from different dressers and bookcases and sofas and chairs and nightstands and endtables and MAYBE there's a way to jury-rig them all together in a more or less stable, harmonious way, but no guarantees.

But what I CAN do is open my eyes and look around me and see that whatever the best possible solution is--even if it doesn't turn out to be very good at all--this ain't it. More and more, The Wire is looking more and more grimly accurate as a microcosm of our society every day.


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