… and other observations about 2018.
“Dude looks like a lady!” he screamed at the top of his lungs at my shift manager, though with the slurring it may have well been “dude lookth like a shlady!” It was eleven in the morning, not long after we opened for brunch at the Applebees in Athens, Georgia. This guy was a regular, though if you’d pressed me to remember his name, I wouldn’t have an answer besides “Sir Osis of Deliver,” as I’m fairly sure if he’s still alive, that would be what’s tattooed across his forehead. However, the prognosis at that time was grim. The dude who looked like a lady was actually a lady – although she was not one may consider to be conventionally attractive. However, I think the drunk’s rant eleven years ago seems oddly applicable to this, the end of the first month of 2018.
Why? Well, let’s be frank with the facts of the matter. Gen X and the Boomers have managed to drive the federal government to shutdown for the second time in 5 years and the youngest of the millennial clade and the successive generation are cooking and eating laundry detergent pods for clicks and upvotes.
What the hell is going on with people? Is life so miserable that:
1) You have to seriously and literally shut the government down because you’re incapable of actually being leaders and having a spine to make just, fair, and right decisions? and
2) You literally and seriously eat toxic soap pods so that your YouTube channel gets subscribers, your Reddit posts get upvotes, and your tweets get those ❤ things that Twitter does – oh, and retweets?
I wanna tackle the second thing first. What’s going on with this subset of the youth? The internet and neoliberal worldview have combined and create a monstrosity. People generally have a desire to feel validated, accepted, and liked. The spirit of competit
ion fostered by neoliberalism, the laissez-faire, each-one-for-oneself-and-only-oneself is on the one hand inherently selfish, set to benefit the fewest number of people, and on the other hand, totally designed to annihilate communities and the self that it would appear to benefit. Of course, this Tide Pod Challenge phenomenon is just another in a long line of bizarre forms that this self-annihilation takes. Before there were kids recording themselves cooking, eating, and yacking up Tide Pods, there were kids recording themselves on VHS injuring themselves – like Jackass. The difference being this time anyone can easily monetize misery – just as long as it’s getting likes, upvotes, and RTs. Each of those likes on YouTube means that this person is generating content where advertisers can start pumping money. With each increasingly poorly conceived decision that the content creator uploads, they get money: the moral blindness of the market operating by virtue of algorithm. I don’t necessarily want a moral arbiter in the market, that’s treading on some odd territory, but I’d like to see just a little bit of common sense restored and, with it, a feather’s touch of my faith in humanity.
Meanwhile, of course, the circus in Washington, DC, continues unabated. The federal government briefly closed, ostensibly because Democrats wouldn’t stomach any continuing funding for the federal government without action on the people affected by 45’s rescinding funding and support for those in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by the Obama administration. Let’s overlook, for a moment, that 45’s party holds literally every branch of government on the federal level: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial – somehow something conditioned on a majority vote falls to the minority party to receive the blame. Every bit of narrative that the GOP has pushed places the blame squarely at Democrats’ feet. Just a cursory look at the actual facts on the ground gives up the lie: Republicans continue to be thoroughly uninterested in actual governance and now that they have a President* in place who is thoroughly uninterested in anything outside himself, they can do as they please, taking sledges to all of the remaining functioning pieces of government and then hiding their sledges and proclaim loudly:
LOOK, THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T WORK!
Of course the government doesn’t work, for the same reason you don’t leave a patient in the care of a blood-thirsty butcher.
Has the world always made such little sense? Have lies always been so easy to get away with? Or was I just so naïve to the true workings of the world? I remember thinking in the 1990s: at least Clinton had the desire to lie to us artfully enough to conceive of a plausible deniability and keep us blind to the workings of the world. In the 2000s, I remember being angry that the Bush administration had the audacity to lie poorly. Now I wonder about the incessant lying that comes from the doors of the White House, so easily disproved by a cursory search on the Google, but readily consumed and disseminated by the complicit. How easily is it that the tools of an open society can be used by those with malice within them to manipulate data and overwhelm us with the sheer volume of bull? Pardon the word repetition here, but the non-stop data, the non-stop non-data, and the non-stop effluence that passes as news is, quite simply, overwhelming.
So pardon me while I yell at the clouds for a little bit. It’ll be better for all of us.