Sunday, March 20, 2011

About Three Reckonings

To suggest that there is a "reckoning" in the near future is to state the obvious but vaguely.

This society has a cultural reckoning demonstrated by the popularity of programming such as The Jersey Shore and other unscripted television. This week on the Bachelor, the bachelor faces a tough decision, and all relationships are "amazing." Comedy Central's South Park, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Tosh.0 are probably the best written shows on television. Ask yourself what they each have in common: they lampoon our bankrupt culture.

Popular music is mere imitation of what was uninspired twenty-five years ago. Lady Gaga's schtick was disingenuous and old when Madonna shocked us all by making out with black Jesus. The Jonas Brothers have run their course, so now it's time to squeeze every dollar of every microsecond of Justin Bieber's fifteen minutes of fame before it's on to the next teen pop idol.

Michael Bay is a fine example of what's happened to cinema. Screw plot. To hell with character development. Let's just blow up a bunch of shit. Alien robots that double as product placement revenues from General Motors is just icing on the cake (in the original Transformers, Bumblebee was a VW bug).

Social Networking consumes our time with trivial matters expressed in terrible grammar and "in-ovative $pelling" (4sh0). Nevertheless, it's too new--or perhaps I'm still too much of a novice--and its potential to bring people together in meaningful ways makes me reluctant to pass final judgment for the time being.

We also face a political reckoning. The two major parties are corrupt, morally and philosophically defunct instruments of theft and tyranny. While many will admit that we need a third party to come to the rescue, they also suggest that voting for third-party candidates is a waste of time. Our modern elections are the epitome of choosing between the lesser of two evils. Several seasons ago, a South Park episode brilliantly satirized the situation when the boys were expected to vote for a new school mascot. The choices were a turd sandwich and a giant douche. When one of the boys refused to vote because he hated both choices, the community insulted and ostracized him--as if he was the problem. We have a Nobel Peace Prize winning president who has just authorized the unconstitutional use of force to intervene in another sovereign country's internal affairs. Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" has proven to be an echo of the cynical proverb: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Perhaps the economic reckoning is the most pressing and fearsome of all. The federal government's spending is worse than insane and out of control. Considering the ultimate consequences of our fiscal and monetary policies, it is downright evil. The previous election saw a bunch of turd sandwiches replaced by a bunch of giant douches, especially when you consider that the amount of budget cuts suggested by (supposed) fiscal conservatives do not even match the increased spending. They suggest cutting in the billions while spending increases in the trillions. I'm neither a mathematician nor an economist, but I can see the the problem with that. Our debt is a threat to our livelihoods--I'm not even talking about prosperity; I'm talking about our ability to eke out a living of any kind--, and our very sovereignty. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, the second witch predicted: "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." In Macbeth, she referred to the protagonist himself. To us, that something wicked will take the form of unprecedented taxation or hyperinflation, followed by starvation, and quite possibly large-scale violence.

I'm not the first to point any of these reckonings out, and I'm not hoping to be lauded as insightful. What I've said has been better put by others, but this has been weighing on me for some time now. I'm also not the first to point out the similarities between our current situation and the period leading up to the decline of the Roman Empire. See Gibbon if you don't believe me (though I think that he exaggerated the role of Christianity in Rome's fall).

The world will not end in 2012, but we may be on the threshold of something too close for comfort.

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