teenage wasteland

Hunter S. Thompson's post-American century hasn't given us much to be proud of, has it? Dwindling biodiversity, more ethnic cleansing, crippling paranoia and a war that has us at odds with everything, a loss of the sense of self. A staggering budget deficit that ten years ago was but a dense zero written in permanent marker on stark drawing paper. the death of the sitcom-an american television staple for half a century. the former United States only barely saving itself from the throes of the ills of a Neo-Con (i can't really bring myself to call Bush and the boys Republicans) hegemony, but only by electing marginally better Democrats.

In light of all this, I have but one question: Where's our ethos? Or should i say where is the new and improved version of our old ethos, idealized and ambitious though it may have been? With the shitstorm that is the middle east, we're seeing (whether we'd like to or not) exactly where we stand in a post-rational age. Arabs vs. Jews, Sunnis vs. Shiites. Brothers and sisters, I say. There's a less than one percent of genetic variation among the DNA of all 7 billion of us, so what's the fucking problem? Too big a question, I know.

Those on their way out, the greatest generation, our fastest growing population segment, say things weren't so bad when they were young. In the good old days, people weren't as violent or as sadistic and all was in equilibrium. But I assume that this is just a way for each generation to reconcile its past, to make all they've done, either personally or by proxy, viable. Because without much consideration, strange fruit comes to mind, a world at war maybe (and the Holocaust that defined it), four little girls, internment of the Japanese in the west, Jim Crow, the cold war and our nebbish fear of Communism (a threadbare system that posed so little actual threat to our way of life it's ridiculous) that ruined thousands of our most brilliant lives.

No one wants to have died in vain, and no one wants to have lived as such either. So why acknowledge the horror? There's no fun in that, and we're all about fun. Always have been.

Promises of milk and honey in the land of opportunity are all but dead. Stop risking your lives to get here; the show has left town, indefinitely. The Horatio Alger myth is just that. Poor children are more likely to become wealthy adults in Germany, Finland, France or Sweden than in America, and our middle class is fading fast, with the working poor sliding in to replace a dying American establishment. A particular point read in the past week particularly troubled me. A tale of the death of equality of opportunity in this country.

In the '60s, GM was the largest employer in the nation, and adjusted for inflation, its CEO pulled in about 4 million a year, with workers averaging 45k a year (not to mention cushy benefit/pension packages and strong union presence). Now Wal-Mart is our largest employer and CEO H. Lee Scott pulls in 23 million dollars yearly. And apparently, we're OK with that. And apparently, we're also OK with the fact that Mr. Scott and his VPs don't feel that workers with a mean income of 18,000 a year (poverty line stuff) deserve even the most basic health benefits. Hell, in Maryland, they refused to take part in the Fair Share Health Care Plan, which would have required (had it not been vetoed) the state's four largest employers to pay out health benefits to their employees. Fuck. Even Northrop Grumman agreed, and they're in the business of dealing death. What's going on?

In the business of death, certainly not unique to our time, there must be an allegiance, a valiant force to stand up against the killing factory, the suffering, the loss. A foil to brutish militarism, postmodern western (read: American) inventions like the RED campaign and Live 8 seek to eradicate crippling social and economic problems that are entrenched in the bedrock of entire countries, entire continents. Maybe a few RAZR phones, some GAP ads with Mary J. Blige and Bono, and some Coldplay songs will feed millions, cure even more of the worst disease in human history. Maybe reverse the effects of centuries of Euro-Imperialism and the tribalism that resulted from divide and rule policies implemented by Old World Belgians and Britons and Portuguese and Germans. Perhaps the most troubling thing about this is that we have our best minds on all of it, and no one has an answer--Yet (he writes hopefully).

But maybe none of this will last long enough for it to grate at our dwindling collective awareness/conscience. Among other things (say nuclear tensions, say global deterioration of resources), significant climate change threatens our way of life and indeed, our future. In his controversial (but highly successful) doc "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore points out that in the scientific community, there is absolutely no doubt that global warming exists and is indeed accelerating due to human interactions with the environment. Total desertification of the lower 48 in the next century, deadly record temperatures for 2006 worldwide, a global ecosystem in the midst of the next big extinction event. Yet somehow, within the complex channels of the media, there is a 50/50 split as to whether this shit is going down or not. This can be attributed to the persistent dumbness of mainstream media of course, but also to a few lobbyists shilling for Exxon, maybe some fuckheads on Capitol Hill with no proof and loud filibustering diatribes.

Here, in all this, boys and girls, we see our new found gift, our new ethos, borne of our past: The Culture of Fuck. Fuck that. Fuck you. Fuck off. That can't be true. You are out of your goddamn mind. Fuck Off Hippie, it's about me, my time to shine, no worries. But the preexisting, unaltered ethos is kinda biting us in the ass for all to see. In the '80s, all this shit was cute, but now the stakes are far too high for glamour. Adaptation is a must, lest tomorrow swallow us whole.

On the cynical side of things, we'll be greatly riven by domestic and foreign policy issues, and thanks to the devastating wealth transfer to those with dividends and trust funds and the destabilizing economy that results, the government will lose legitimacy and rule of law will become the butt of our jokes. you know, injustice and inequality on par with latin america, that kind of thing.

On the optimistic side of 41st street, we're looking at an America that can't function as a superpower because the whole world is fucked up, knee deep. A severe and undeniable thing is bound to come, a cultural shift and a demand for More among the world's despairing majority. It is of course, the nature of an empire to end, and were we to pull our heads out of our asses sometime soon, maybe we could end up like Britain, always hearkening back, with a twinkle in our eye, to the days when we were the shit, but still holding on to our say at the roundtable. But regardless, it's gone, they're all gone. Michael Jackson, The Bulls and MJ, Coca Cola, McDonald's (before the whole health kick, like non-biodegradable containers), Ninja Turtles, Desert Storm/Shield, Metallica, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and the all important age of innocence. Whenever that was (I don't see it on the timeline).

I suspect that many feel that they can continue to live out these times (and the cave-dwelling blindness that came with them). I mean sure, there's a shitload in the here and now that requires immediate and direct attention. Things and people to love and laugh with, stuff to learn then forget, then learn again. A consciousness to enrich and enjoy. Capital to build, family to start and grow, grades to get, power to grab.

But, i will say this: without some kind of change, no matter how gradual or seemingly insignificant, the ashes and civil war II and the noxious steam and the misted blood and dense smog and the uv rays and the mass graves and the breakdown of rightness and the suffocating humidity and the hydrocarbons and the undrinkable water won't leave much of a world to look forward to once you're done. Just wish i could warn those future in uteros how fucked up we've made things for them, maybe convince them of considering another option. No one's asking you to believe, the evidence is right outside.

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