George W. Bush is my hero. He’s putting out a memoir a week after the election. He’s totally staying out of politics. The closest he’s come is boosting his Haiti relief fund long after everyone else has forgotten about Haiti like the douchebags they are. What a smart way to go. Sure, it’s pretty much what every president has done immediately after presidency. But it’s so nice in the face of ridiculous billboards stating “miss me yet” and all sorts of “please come back and be our president again” talk. Then again he did start 2 (two) major wars and helped contribute to the inevitable economic slide (one thing you’ll learn when you live as long as I have, the president actually doesn’t have much control over the economy, but the president does have responsibility for it all the same. It’s like a rebellious teenager or something) and he did more or less steal an election. Plus he reacted to the whole 9/11 dealio (9 years ago almost) in possibly the most backwards and warmongering way. He fostered an America that was warlike and hostile about anything that deviated from America, from freedom fries to buying made in America products. He fostered nationalism, in that sense. Pride in our country for being the best damn country in the world. That’s what everyone who lives here thinks. Every last one. Even the people who are adamantly against everything this country stands for still think this country is better than anywhere else. Some even profess their desire to destroy the country as being because they love it so much, moved to tears on national television by their passion.
Tim Rogers, still basically my favorite writer ever, wrote an article a few months ago complaining about how much he disliked living in Japan. He enumerated the precise things he disliked and explicated his reasons. I thought it was a great article, especially in the sense that it highlighted a lot of differences in culture between the two countries. Many of his complaints were from a very American perspective of Japanese culture. The comments on his article were overwhelmingly negative, as most comments on his column (whiny little fuckers who complain about being “forced” to read a 15,000 word article. Pussies), but they were negative in a weird sense. Lots of people leapt to Japan’s defense. Lots of people demanded to know why he lived there if he hated it so much. Lots of people told him to sit down and shut up. I feel like the audience largely missed the point of the article, and Tim did too, so he published in the following month things he liked about Japan, which really didn’t inspire much more understanding in the audience but again did an excellent job of describing American culture as it approaches Japanese culture.
Inevitably, I live here, and I like to think that America is pretty neat inasmuch as people are capable of doing weird and crazy things and often do. I’m a huge fan of people who do whatever takes up residence in their head for no reason than it feels like a right and good thing to do. Gay culture bores me insofar that it has run its course and is understood as reasonably acceptable. Internet culture enthralls me because it is considered so shameful and taboo to belong to, yet people live much of their lives there. You might tell your family that you are gay, but would you admit to them that you browse a website where the word nigger is as common as the word fag and neither of them have much meaning anymore? Would you tell them you visit a website where all manner of sexual perversion are not only discussed but proliferated? Would you tell them you visit a website that finds the most offensive things funny, almost solely based upon their offensiveness? It’s the ultimate form of irreverence, a denial of the standards of sociability. It’s standing up and saying “This shit doesn’t even matter, why does it offend you?” But of course it offends. So no one admits it. I do feel like that only in this country could such a complete divorce from traditionalism occur. Perhaps other societies are more publicly free, perhaps France has more lenient standards for sexual behavior onscreen or at home but the societies themselves are fairly conservative and restrictive. Perhaps Japan has a more successful and popular paraphilia market, with more divergent concepts of sexuality than other nations, but the society itself is extremely narrow and uncreative. I feel like, if anywhere in the world would be able to achieve sexual and social enlightenment; it would have to be the U.S. The people here are simply more willing and more capable of acting out social deviance in public.
We’re in a country where we have developed and instituted the concept of the people having a right to privacy, despite there never having been such a right in any other country. We’re entitled to do what we want by virtue of de facto belief. So we do. There are all sorts of nuts all over the place, and we leave them alone. It’s not our problem. Even the most conservative prudes of us simply avoid the people they find distasteful, and mostly wave signs at them. It’s very cool, especially when you consider that not 100 years ago they might have formed up a posse and killed people who didn’t fit in.
The thing is, when will the pure irreverence of the internet become public? It comes in drips and drabs and terrible phrases but has yet to crack the shell of the world at large. As America becomes increasingly internet dependent, will people begin saying what they do on the net in real life? Will the words “nigger” and “fag” ever be understood as meaningless in reality? Maybe. It might not happen in my lifetime, and it might never happen. I feel like, though, if it were to happen it would happen here in this country. I believe in the power of expression and I believe that all expression is necessary and important. I understand that many people feel that there is a standard, a sort of speech that ought to be silenced because it ostensibly does harm to those who hear it. Insults and hate speech and the like. I reject this simple censoring of what is truly still there under the surface. Denying them the ability to express their hatred does not remove their hatred and does not help anyone comprehend the reason and purpose of their hatred. We must understand. Only through understanding why a thing is can we hope to change it. Simply smothering an emotion with society is about as effective as putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.
America (or, for sticklers and pedants, the United States of) is at an interesting sort of point in time here. We’ve been the largest and richest nation for some time now, and we’re getting used to our job as global police. The economic crisis, though, really was the result of the weaknesses in the system. Our country has relied on other nations for its prosperity for an incredibly long time, despite our constant refutations of the fact. We’re only the biggest nation because most other nations decided that we ought to be. China is one of our biggest supporters, as our companies love to set up factories over there and reap the benefits of what is essentially slave labor. The higher ups of china are perfectly okay with this, as they make plenty of money and for years they’ve been garnering influence as a nation that’s totally down with corporate greed and willing to shit all over its own land for the sake of profit. We literally can’t compete. There will be a war with China, but that war will be far too late and far too little to change anything. It’s not evil, really. It’s just a fact of life. It’s a fact of capitalism. None of capitalism’s huge proponents here in the U.S. will even dare to mention it, but China has been kicking our butts for years, because they play dirty.
That’s the thing about slavery, it doesn’t end. It never really ended. Slavery is necessary for the kind of lives that we live. There has to be some caste of people who do all the work in order for there to be another caste of people who don’t. After industrialization, we foolishly believed that technological advances allowing just a few people to produce food for hundreds would lead to an end to slavery. We believed that through our technology we would be able to minimize the work done so that the people may all enjoy leisure and hedony. It was around this time (1921) that the play Rossum’s Universal Robots was produced, further emphasizing this concept of existence. So the future was bright! Device, machines, automatons would be introduced for our use and all would be made by them and no one would have to work again. Of course that turned out to be too expensive and unfeasible. No technology for that sort of thing. Factory workers were used instead. But they kept demanding higher wages and rebelling and forming unions and cutting into the profit margins. Can’t have that. So we found an alternative. Build that factories somewhere where no one will form a union, no one will rebel, and you can pay them as little as you like because no one has money anyway. So Nixon went to China and here we are today, enjoy the finest quality of goods all of which traveled by huge boats to get here and be consumed by you. We live on the backs of the Chinese proletariat.
And it’s okay! You’ve never met one of them, have you? In fact I doubt you’ve even been to china. It doesn’t matter what happens in a country that far away. In fact, we’re angry! Angry that those faceless Chinese have taken all the good American jobs away from us. We’re angry that all of the technology jobs have been shipped to India. We’re angry that other people aren’t simply recognizing our inherent superiority. Keep those Mexicans out of here, They’re going to take what American jobs are left!
As is the case with most anger, not a whole lot of thought has gone into the problem causing the anger. We’re angry because of the results, the symptoms, but we do not recognize the disease itself. Rich people have money to buy things, poor people don’t: there is no mobility. We live in a country of consumers. We import everything because we can, and stunningly, we don’t even need to pay our people to do it, they’ll gladly go into debt to keep buying things. There’s no need to pay people reasonable amounts, just pay them shitty amounts and watch them shoulder a huge amount of debt. Hell, that’s what we do to the government, why shouldn’t we do it to the people? The people are the government, after all.
Tim Rogers said a thing a while back: “All around the world, people like myself and Bob are finding ourselves in a state where legitimately earning money is about as complicated as downloading pirated music.” Bob trades stocks online. He makes money doing this through some sort of voodoo magic and a willingness to stay on top of these things. Tim started a small business here in the U.S. that he’s very mum about. He moved to Japan to take various jobs there, but still collects the proceeds from that business, affording him a great deal of flexibility when it comes to the jobs he does there. The statement is true in a sense, but not true for the vast majority of people. Perhaps he has the knowledge and fortuitousness to succeed, but this isn’t a common trait in the populace. Being able to swindle people out of their money only works if there are people with money that are swindle-able.
That’s what America is made of. Swindle-able people with money. They believe in the system, but totally don’t realize that the system will never get them what they want. It’s the system that keeps them where they are, in fact. In a roundabout and horrible way, the people are the arbiters of their own poverty, forever trapped in a concept of living that encompasses their entire universe. Grow up, go to school, go to college, get a job, have kids, retire, all of it a series of expected events. Perhaps you’ll get a really nice job and come away with lots of money and be one of the many rich people in America. Far more likely, though, you’ll waste your time trying to follow an ideal you can’t afford and can’t handle until you find yourself trapped in the same pattern of behavior, unable to escape your own personal bonds, much less the bonds you owe others. C’est la vie, or at least c’est la American vie. So much sorrow, so much heartbreak, so many problems are caused by this, but the dream is there and the dream is real if nothing else is. America is a land of dreams hampered by reality. Or perhaps it’s a land of reality, supported by dreams. Either way, I’m glad I live here and not in china as a wage slave. Sucks to be them.