01 January 2010

The Decade Gone By: Dark Side

I'm happy to see it go. I'd be ecstatic, except that it means another 10 years of my life are over, and I'm that much closer to decrepitude and the grave. Here's what sucked the most:

The dot com bust
Yes, it's hard to work up much sympathy for a group of cosseted employees who received too much money and far too many perks. I understand. But a big fat paycheck and a free chair massage every Friday were both delicious, and I miss them.
I also miss the quixotic, illogical and entirely grandiose projects we worked on. Everyone had an idea that would Revolutionize (fill in the industry here) As We Know It. Staid-looking fellows in khakis would reveal themselves to be dreamers on a grand scale. Charming.
None of it made any business sense, but who cared?

The first recession
In the depths of the Great Recession, it's easy to forget how much the first one sucked.

It almost goes without saying -- such a large event, and now so trivialized as to be almost banal. But watching the savage horror of it, and the large dread that followed, marked me forever.

While it is more complex than any one wants to believe, it ultimately signals defeat for the country I though I knew. It allowed the security apparatus to take even larger steps to destroying any privacy and freedom we had left. Seemingly many of my fellow citizens turned into babies afraid of their own farts. I mourn the victims. I despise the cowardice of my government and my country. Now, we seem to be embarked on an entirely psychotic effort to duplicate the fall of the Spanish empire. Too many wars. Too many lives. Too much treasure. All for follies.

Two wars
I suppose what I hate most about the wars -- beyond their failures -- is that war has subtly become normal. The tributes to fallen heros from towns you've never heard of blends in the background, media wallpaper.

Afghanistan? Back in 2001, if you'd handed me a pitchfork and a map, I would have been glad to find Bin Laden. Iraq never made sense.  Now neither of them do.

Man, I hated that hick.

America's answer to Dzerzhinsky, without the charisma. Introduced torture, officially, into the state's bag of tricks, overturning more than 200 years of American tradition. Cunning and cowardly. And the criminal still walks among us.

Male fashion
In 1999, it was hard to imagine how men could be more poorly dressed. Now, we don't have to imagine. Visiting the mall is just a fucking nightmare of  waddling oafs draped in Audigier crap on the high end and snot covered t-shirts on the low end. It seems like a good 80 percent of the country is out to look like syphilictic carnies, but with better teeth.

The complete and utter collapse of the leadership class
Now, I've never had much respect for the so-called betters of society. The "leaders." In some cases, you can offer up some grudging props for the sheer artistry of their cons. Their gall. Audacity.
But by even my cynical, low standards, every significant institution has failed. It takes all the fun out of being a snotty little rebel when your worst charaterizations fall far short of the actual villany being committed.
Clueless, syncophantic generals? Check.
Stealing, rapacious CEOs? Check.
Capitalism as flimflam? Madoff and Goldman Sachs alone boggle the imagination. Even some hard core Bolshevik couldn't make up that stuff.
A craven political class with thier noses buried deep in the ass of their contributors? Yep. Looking at the parade of  pink-cheeked men in rep ties and ladies in power suits parading by would be a feast of comedy, a unending source of fun, really, but. They have work to do, here and there, and don't seem to be able to manage anything serious at all.
Media ever more trivial and reduced to baby-like monosyllabic coverage of such important issues as how many waitresses Tiger scored a, ahem, hole in one with? Hoo, boy.
And the Catholic Church. You know, I read history here and there, and those Renaissance popes weren't exactly saints. And I'll admit that some priest or nun has probably helped out someone.
But to sanction raping boys and then cover it up? Despite my reflexive anti-clericism, I was . . .taken aback. It sounds like some demented Jean Genet play come to life.

The utter nihilism of the ruling class is kind of shocking. If you have a goose, for example, and it's laying eggs, I can see stealing the goose. That, in a crude way, what good con artists and political leaders have done forever. But killing the goose, or driving the poor fowl to near suicidal collapse, now that's special. And that's what the barbarians who have clawed their feckless way up to the top have been doing. Stupid, unless you have some hideout no one can find, complete with a few decade's supply of Dom chilling the basement.

Screen slavery
Once upon a time, a screen belonged to a TV, and you kept it in a corner of the living room or the den. Or you paid some money and watched a silvery one in a movie theatre. People felt shame about spending time in front of it. Now, the screen has conquered, invading cars (GPS), palms (cell phones, iPods), and public spaces (try to find a bar without one). Ubiquity. Surrounded. They've even sucked books into them. I'd like to feel good about all these alternative platforms for delivering . . . what? Oh, yeah, "content." But the sheer weight of the screens' presence, their inevitability, is crushing, depressing, oppressive beyond any good that watching a movie on a tiny palm device can outweigh.

Well, you get the picture.

On the large scale, I don't see much hope for improvement. But you have to go on, take steps. When you have children involved, you have to cross your fingers make wishes.

And take steps.

On the small scale, I'll fall back on Voltaire, cultivate my garden as best I can and get ready for the show.

Because it hasn't stopped yet.

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