Don’t Get Your Panties in a Knot
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the death of things, what ideas and conditions, corporations and institutions have lost all hope of surviving, have somehow been so weakened by greedy attrition or cumulative neglect that they cannot be lifted up by even those that truly wish and will them to continue. Old people are always talking about these things, about what ain’t there no more, but they speak of things being corrupted, abandoned, or traded. Bitterness stimulated by a lessening of purchasing power or energy. That’s never been enough, though, to bring us all down. What’s compounded their negativity in the great congress of What’s Going On is that we have hit upon one of those historical cycles where the young are offering their own analysis of a world that, if all are to believed, is drowning in its own offal. They don’t need any long-range view to confirm their wisdom or even a small quorum of facts before they agree with each other. They just need to be loud.
I blame the media, of course. Not that they intended (or could even be trusted to intend anything so grand in scope) to sour the subconscious of two whole generations. Though they continue to caress the minds of the majority, stories with happy endings, on TV, in movies, in songs, even in our myriad methods of “documentation” are, at best, merely dismissed by even those who love them as unnecessary yet amusing and, at worst, flogged and abused by intellectuals for being vapid wastes of human energy. Unworthy of conscious viewing much less admiration. I’m not strictly speaking of the sentimental or gaudy…even the sad sacrifice of a few heroes balances finite worlds in a way we can all accept and put aside before bedtime. But the things that stick in our minds, the stories that impress cerebral culture vultures and deeply disturb the casual consumer are the ones that hold up life as an inscrutable game, one where the losers lose horribly and graphically in emotional upsets and the winners arrive at their end more by coincidence or a scrap of luck than anything else. There are still morals, still satisfying reversals of fortune, but these resolutions are suspended in gravity, not sources of it.
So you grow up licking butter off your fingers, entranced and educated by all these stories of violence, cruel tricks of fortune, or even the especially popular trope of “any stranger can drastically impact your life if the mouse trap is set correctly” that blossomed in the early nineties and were eventually celebrated with awards in this current decade, a long silver thread winding from Last Night to Crash. And the equation has come to find as its solution the meta idea that human civilization is about to reach its limit. That we have somehow, through a mix of intuition and diligence outsmarted the world and overachieved, then replaced all our foundations with conveniences light as matchsticks, a framework that will either snap under the weight or just strike the right honest surface and set fire to us all. We have embraced the idea that our fragility is evolving faster than our passion.
So here it comes, the unsustainable weight of human creation caving in on itself. There it goes, all our capital: newspapers, democracy, family trust, patriotism, true literature, the dollar, on and on. All it took was a small financial crisis to cue the Great Awakening 2.0, the telepathic realization that what we took for vibrant establishments were merely sarcophagi, testaments of a past glory preserved for an afterlife that does not exist.
First of all, this is an extremely ethnocentric view to take, by which I mean Americans have always been the first to confuse their country with the world and whatever plague hangs over their camp must be affecting the rest of humanity as well. A kind of reverse empathy. Unfortunately for the screaming heads, this isn’t so.
Granted, things are looking dire, if you consider an inevitable forced reckoning that leaves behind few of the comfortable forms and protocols we’ve grown accustomed to “dire.” There have always been an uncategorized sect of people who believe that it is our species’ destiny to destroy the world, or at least ourselves. The defenders of this position have been with us ever since our brains divided into right and left hemispheres, people so overwhelmed by the enormity of human potential that they can’t believe we can keep our self-destructive tendencies confined to small outbursts. In times before ours these types worried about rampant vice or political tyranny—not in the way we see them today, but as weapons as equally as catastrophic as the atomic bomb. And even now that we’ve had the bomb for over half a century and its dangers have become slightly antiquated, they’ve had to shake their fists in other directions. Acid rain, the ozone layer, global warming, poverty and hunger spreading like a rampant virus, resisting any cure. These are issues that need to be addressed, but none of them will kill us overnight and none of them are strong enough to kill us all.
So it becomes necessary for the less paranoid among us to remind the others that human misery is not the only measuring stick: it just always seems closer at hand.
But no matter how many companies fall, how devalued a currency becomes, or how much negligence gets brought to light, this is not the end. The end never comes. The end never begins. The end is merely inherent in us all, shot through our cells like rays of benign radiation, the awareness of our own inevitable deaths extrapolated, almost comically, to the cessation of all human history.
Can’t you just calm down a little? Can’t you rest a little easier knowing that even if you lose your job tomorrow you’ll still have your future, and that time is so forgiving in the long run? Or even if you lose your life tomorrow, you leave behind six billion of us to continue to fight the Big Darkness?
Even if there are no newspapers, there will still be facts. Even if there are no Big Three, there will still be invention. Even if the market breaks, we will still need trade. All that is falling apart are the outdated instruments of delivery and description. But even if it all fails and somehow eradicates this clap-trap modern world we’ve put together, humans will still exist and still tell stories and still evade meaninglessness through endeavor. Our adaptability has gotten us this far. Our inheritance comes from the first men to strive for more than day to day sustenance. When our prey moved too fast for us to catch and eat it, we developed endurance. We learned to outpace the animal. Pursue it until it collapsed or got cornered, then tear it apart into portable pieces. You think that little instinct isn’t still within us all?