« Encanto Park in old Phoenix | Main | The rule of holes »

November 29, 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Kinect? Aren't we on top of things! :)

"Unlike previous generations of Americans, we are largely an easily commanded people, rather like the Germans or Russians of old."

That is so depressing. But, you know, it's only the archaic part of my mind that was raised on American Exceptionalism and that good ol' Yankee know-how and frontier spirit that's depressed. I guess it's stupid to be depressed over disillusionment.

Of course, it's also alarming. As you ask, Which way will the lever snap?

I know I've been going through a re-appraisal of my mores, proscriptions, and acceptable behaviours in light of these "modern" times.

Did you know that, the words "race car" spelled backwards still spells "race car"?

And that "eat" is the only word that, if you take the first letter and move it to the last, spells its own past tense, "ate"?

And if you rearrange the letters in "Tea Party Republicans," and add just a few more letters, it spells: "Shut the fuck up you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, violent hypocrites, and deal with the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush and that our president is black, so try and get over it."

Isn't that interesting?

It would have been fun if people got "mad as hell" and decided they weren't "going to take it anymore". I don't mean this as a reward to the right-wing slimeballs who cooked up the "opt-out" agitprop but just as some statement about our collective unhappiness. American civilization is deeply distressed, shallow, and - truth be told - destructive. We all know it - tree-huggers, tea-baggers, and the the genteel folks who follow all the rules, myself included. We're paralyzed by this dream of security and material well-being. As much as anything, it causes us untold pain and anger. And we swallow it all, meekly.

The upward arc of progress now seems perilously close to a system-wide collapse. Every new bit of security theater reminds us how ultimately futile our efforts have been at control. We buy houses as instructed only to see their value wiped out in a epic crash benefitting only the crooks who caused it. We invest in 401Ks only to see them shrivel instead of grow. We shop because that's what normal people do and within a year our latest new gizmo is a piece of junk.

American Exceptionalism is now less an article of faith than the screechy rant of Sarah Palin on Fox News. It's gotten so bad that Palin's bovine daughter has become a symbol of everything decent by forging a career as a talentless dancer but still unwed mother. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

@soleri, I think you should tell us how you really feel.

Seriously, that is the best rant I've seen you put out there, er, here... and I'm smokin' what yer rollin'.

Couldn't agree with you more here Soleri; however, I take a much more simple approach to the issues that our plaguing out nation. It is not some paradigmatic shift but rather the simple consequence of lower voter participation by those who showed up in 2008: the young, liberal, moderate, etc. etc.

There still exists the "Yankee know-how" spirit in America it just isn't given a chance to once again flourish due to the Republican and Tea Party (to steal a word from Soleri I now love) Apparatchik. The otherwise efficient machine that is paralyzed and bottle-necked by this apparatchik is the American workforce.

How is it that a person like Russell Pearce can threaten stability in the entire state of Arizona when he was voted in by only a few more than 18,000 people? Well since no one cares, or cares to vote, against him and the Republican Apparatchik (told you I love that word) then what else is to be expected...not even that many Latinos or youths cared to weigh in on this; sad.

Furthermore, after calming down from the horrible loss by the Cardinals, I can continue by saying that we need to get back to fundamentals of a productive society. Just like in football, fancy trick plays hardly wins games. You need a solid defense (education), and a solid offense (highly skilled workforce) to remain competitive and lets not forget about special teams (voting/a participatory and strong middle class).

Bottom-line, if Americans voted and participated in elections we'd have a chance at a government capable of creating an atmosphere that is conducive to economic development and high educational attainment and success. Fundamentals people, fundamentals...

phxSUNSfan, I used to think that mandatory voting, as they do in Australia, might rescue social democracy in the US. Now, I'm not so sure. I know a guy (let's call him Larry) who lost his job a year ago along with his own fragile psychological security. Who does Larry blame? Not the Republicans for destroying the economy but the Democrats for not protecting him. I understand his anger in this respect: Democrats are now so ineffectual that the crucial bond they forged with working-class voters has broken. Yes, lifestyle liberals, cosmopolitans, and various minority factions still feel bound to the party. Are they enough? No.

We have a nation where the rich plunder and pillage at their pleasure, whose interests millions of drones vote for instead of their own. It seems like an amazing con job, something almost Runyonesque in its audacity. How are people so easily gulled? Well, the right tells more compelling stories than we do. We want to think people are rational but they're not. It's why Sarah Palin is such a riveting figure. She tells a story so basic that you might well believe it if your IQ is below 100 or your age is over 65.

Our empire is falling apart and the rubes feel it in their bones. They know things are getting worse not because Paul Krugman tells them so but because they see it all around them. They "want their country back" because nostalgia is a better cognitive touchstone than the arcane political formulas of liberals. We gave up storytelling and we lost the country.

If the falsehoods in our national narrative had been more aggressively challenged by our media and historians over the years we might have been spared the absurdly reactionary but very, very dangerous "Tea Party" mentality. I know that Mr. Talton sometimes uses Barry Goldwater as an example of a right-winger who was at least a man of principle, or at least relatively sane, but if a man has a well-documented history of "palling" around with mobsters, it's a safe bet that his Libertarian bent came from a desire to avoid scrutiny by government. Ditto for the whole John Wayne as super patriot nonsense. He was a draft dodger. And the whole rugged individualism myth about the old west was allowed to go on for so long that any attempt by responsible historians to present it honestly is derided as "revisionist." So, here we are. Cartwrights with no ranch.

I fly all the time! I love those female agents!!

Jon's theme:

"Not my job to think about that," the average American says.

Yep. And the Obama-Republican scythes are coming for Joe the Plumber's social security. Will Americans protest in earnest like the French and the British and the Turks?


You won't see any teabaggers waving guns. That I can promise. You'll hear instead the silence of lambs. Which is to say: Moos and baas during the week and rahs on Football Sunday.

Well what about the America's vibrant youth?
According to this brilliant post by Ezra Klein they stand to lose the most:

"Under current law, an average-income worker (that's someone making about $43,000 a year) is projected to get the inflation-adjusted equivalent of about $15,000 a year in Social Security benefits in 2050. Under the Simpson-Bowles plan, that would drop to about $12,700. That's not nothing, but it's not much. In fact, neither amount is very much. Social Security is not a generous program. It's actually among the least-generous of any developed nation, and in making it less so, we raise the question of what, exactly, seniors with insufficient retirement savings are supposed to do."

So again: What about our youth?
Will they protest these cuts to an already thin safety net?
Can we expect them to march in the street regarding global warming too?


They are too busy learning to type fast with their opposable thumbs.

It is said the best way to measure a culture's worth is by the way it treats its elderly. How true. But also I think one can measure a culture's vivacity by the vim and valor of its youth...

Enough said.


"It's difficult to imagine the World War II generation submitting to pat-downs, much less those that tamed/stole the frontier."

Isn't this the same generation that welcomed Japanese internment camps, government rationing, war bond patriotism, military takeover of industry, and McCarthyism?


Boo-yah! Well said!

Jacob, let's not forget racial segregation, open lynching of black men for merely loving a white women, gay bar "crackdowns," and large scale deportations/"repatriations" of "Mexicans" regardless if they were American citizens or not!

Although I have written of past goods of the older generation I still left open the criticisms of what was very wrong. Soleri, again I have to disagree with you especially with your diagnoses of a failing "empire" or nation. We are in a slump, a time of rebirth from the ashes (like a Phoenix if you will :-)...). While I agree that the old folk are enraged and "want their country back," it is not because it is failing apart into chaotic disillusionment but because it is evolving into something they are uncomfortable with. Gays in the military, SERVING OPENLY with 70% of those in uniform viewing the change favorably, interracial couples, gays adopting children, Mexicans becoming Americans, etc scares the hell out of the Sun City type that "built this country" and was the "Greatest Generation."

Isn't it the direct offspring of the greatest whom raised lazy, video playing, spoiled brats (like me) that take things for granted and don't vote? Pretty much. My generation (those under 30 today) had to rediscover physical activity, handwork, competition, and the meaning of "no" and disappointment on our own. I believe I was among the luckiest whose parents still had the tenacity to make me play outside and said no to a new BMW just because I graduated high school/college.

Maybe it is because my parents had fresh memories of their elders coming home from the fields, something I did not see, that gave them this foresight? I'm not sure but I thank them for raising me a little less spoiled then some of my friends who give much on things much more easily.

Not to pick on you Soleri, and excuse my presumptions here, but you sounds like many of my friends parents who whine about the country falling apart but never punished your children more than by taking away the Nintendo for a day or two. It is in this atmosphere that civic responsibility fell to the wayside, where voting didn't seem so important because someone else will do it, hopefully the parents. I mean they bought us everything we wanted as soon as we threw a tantrum and now they call us lazy! LOL

We watch as the old folk, greatest generation, seclude themselves in no property tax (no school district to support, no taxes to help raise the next generation, keep them away) "special zones" all while demanding their meds and social security. It doesn't seem to get through to this generation that their participation is still necessary. Even if they paid a small amount into a general school fund it would help tremendously. Better schools, more funds for programs like P.E., civics and art classes help make a healthier, smarter, and less criminally prone youth culture.

Aside from that I also disagree in that if more of the youth, liberal, etc voted in the Midterms then the outcome would have been different and less (maybe no) Tea Party Apparatchiks would have landed in D.C. While watching Nightline not long ago, it was pointed out that the youth, Latino, and liberal voters that turned out to elect President Obama stayed home en masse (someone else will vote for us). My recommendation is that we begin teaching out young, minority, and historically disenfranchised populations the importance of voting not only during the Primaries, and General Elections but in the Midterms as well; that they are just as important.

Bring back civics classes to energize these groups. Being a member of many of these all at once (younger, Hispanic, gay) I can tell you that once we're inspired we are just as tenacious and hardworking as any prior generation!

And with the transportation issue Jon brings up I believe that if high speed rail were in high demand and developed better in this country we'd have just as "tight" security concerns as with air travel. Putting aside "Unstoppable" parallels here, imaging a hijacked train speeding into a busy city center loaded with many times the amount of passengers as one commercial jetliner at capacity.

This doesn't mean we should be afraid all the time; living in constant fear would tend to lead to paranoia even greater than seems to afflict many Americans today. But those in power (many of whom are not my age) cannot seem to come up with smart security protocols. Maybe they should give us a go at it sooner than later. Let's start with Brewer...can we buy her a nice little ranch (style of home) in Sun City?

I'll end my ranting here, for now...

phxSUNSfan, your complaint about my complaints illustrate a kind of ongoing tension in this blog (at least in its comments). There's this pessimism that seems so overwhelming that it calls into question the reasons for even having a conversation. And then there's unjaded youth more than willing to save the day with bromides, political action, and can-do Americanism.

I admire your spunk but spunk has not analyzed the real issues. There are probably at least four or five huge reasons why optimism cannot save us. Let me list a few.

Global warming. It's worse than you think. We're at or perilously close to a tipping point where even pathetic mitigation efforts will be utterly useless in preventing an all-out catastrophe. Maybe this catastrophe is still a few decades off. What does that mean? Only that we have a few decades to keep denying the obvious. And we will.

Peak oil. Industrial civilization runs on cheap oil. There is disagreement whether we've already passed the high point of oil production or whether it's still a few years off. Again, the argument here becomes whether collapse is imminent or perhaps, right around the corner. Regardless, you must necessarily connect our epic oil production to:

Overpopulation. Industrial civilization has permitted spectacular and unprecedented growth in the human population. This house of cards is founded on cheap oil. It's running out. What's replacing it? You can't grow food with solar panels and windmills. You need huge energy inputs to feed a planet of nearly seven billion hungry souls. The gas gauge is on E and we've got our collective foot on the accelerator.

Species extinction/environmental degradation. We live on s spherical planet with limited resources, ecosystems, energy production, land and seas. Plankton, the bottom of the food chain, and necessary for absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen is now 40% of what it was in 1950. This ought to be a screaming siren that keeps us awake at night. 200 other species are expiring every day, a rate not seen in millions of years. We live in a planet where other life affords us life. We're killing that life. If there's a techno-fix for this holocaust, we have yet to discover it. But if you think techno-fixes can do that, chances are you'll deny it's even a problem.

What does all this mean? To reconnect to this comment thread, the American Empire is spending $190 million a day to prop up a fantasy in Afghanistan while running record deficits at home, where civil society is now so frayed that secession and revolution are openly discussed. Former optimist Tom Friedman has an interesting column in today's Times. When the Empire loses Friedman, a line has been crossed. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/opinion/01friedman.html?ref=opinion

Jared Diamond in his book Collapse writes about the paradox of success becoming failure this way:

"The values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity."

In other words, our raw animal spirits that claimed this continent and built great cities, that tamed the wilderness and constructed the most prosperous society in the history of mankind cannot retrofit for humility. We're hardwired to think technology, capitalism, nationalism, consumerism, and individualism are core values that shall not be abridged under any circumstances. That's the trap of American exceptionalism.

Denial is one of the prices we pay for having pleasant personalities, political credibility, and social status. Put another way, we are trapped by the very success that has brought us to this brink. You will not read this and think this could be so. It is not possible at this time. At some future point you might but I doubt it will even matter then.

Spot on, Soleri.

It is a source of constant amazement that people who call themselves "conservative" consistently violate a fundamental law of conservatism: 'better to be safe, than sorry."

If only there were six billion (give or take a billion) cautious souls . . .

phxSUNSfan, I agree with you assessment of the so-called "greatest generation". Given what they had to play with, history will judge them/us to be mediocre, at best. Can any generation be judged other than by the success of following generations?

While we're at it, shouldn't we too pass some judgment on those who provide support to what is perhaps the most egregious symptom of our society's imbalance: professional sports? :)

You nailed it soleri. ( I don't say "spot on" cause it sounds British)

I like to think of Earth as Mother Nature's very own big Etch-a-Sketch. She is capable of turning the planet upside down, shaking it and starting over with a clean slate. She's done it several times and she will do it again. I hope I'm not around when it happens. As a species, we've perfected the art of side-stepping the law of the jungle. We allow the weak, the ignorant, the slow to survive and reproduce. Look at the result, Idiocracy. The filter in the gene pool is broken. Visit any Walmart and you see the results walking in and out of the store. Me, I'm trying to enjoy as much of this beautiful world as I can, while I still can.

Soleri you sound like the spoiled brats whom I've written about before. Woe is me who cannot see past self-pity and old world definitions.

Do I believe that technology can fix many of our problems, of course. But not technology (in the sense alone) that your old world thinking is fathoming. Technological discovery doesn't only mean advancements of iPad technology or all electric cars, but the rediscovery/discovery of natural phenomena that is new to us.

In order to care about and to care to make discoveries that can better our world (and not just America alone)we must continue to mind our environment and how we use this planet's resources.

In my mind, and unlike your strange analysis, you cannot develop nor discover new technologies, ways of living, etc. without caring about problems that are occurring today. My generation is concerned and understands the causes of global warming especially compared to older generations of Americans.

We younger Americans haven't heard of American Exceptionalism until Sarah Palin because from my observations, we are the most worldy of Americans in a long time. We have friends in other countries, date people who aren't 1th generation American, communicate and accept others' cultures with much more ease than any past American generation.

Given the challenges ahead and the "I've lived mine, now we are doomed" scenario you live with I'd say we work hastily to depose those older than us that have already stopped working on resolutions. I already see some basic changes in lifestyles that separate some of us from the aged; we don't have as many cars (if any), we don't fear societal changes and don't live by American exceptionalism, we know how to plant gardens and raise chicken IN THE CITY, we know what a compost piles is and how to use it in a garden, how to chop wood and restore our great grandmother's antique table...all things our spoiled predecessors forgot how to do for themselves. These things seem trivial and insignificant but it changes the very core of communities in my opinion. Getting your hands dirty once in a while is good for you.

As for rate crimes, can you elaborate on professional sports as an indicate for some of societies ills? I'd say not so much unless you look at individual players in terms of greed, unnecessary violence on the field and off, etc etc. On the other hand, pro sports (sports for that matter) can teach us much about life in terms of disappointment, failure, and all those terms we should be learning at age 3.

One thing that unnerves me and most of my friends is the acceptance of players like Vick back into the NFL by our elders and those in power. Or the only $25,000 fines for a fist-fight during a game between a player for the Texans and one for the Titans.

"On the other hand, pro sports (sports for that matter) can teach us much about life in terms of disappointment, failure, and all those terms we should be learning at age 3." - phxSUNSfan

I make a clear distinction between professional sports and the practice of sports. The excesses of professional sports by the industry and its fans are rather obvious. I believe it is good personal and public policy to avoid professional sports. Wanna play/race/dance/fight?

phxSUNSfans, I won't tell you what you sound like since it's really not germane here or even relevant. I will say that happy talk is not a solution. It's not even a precursor to a solution since it tends to be utterly blind to the actual problems. Now, this might not be so bad for a Candide but it's terrible for us as a global community/species.

BTW, my generation pioneered this Age of Aquarius nonsense so you can't out-bullshit us in that arena. We thought we were going to levitate this leviathan with our chanting and yoga mats. We thought we would solve environmental problems with pie-in-the-skyscraper city-communes (hence my cyber-name). We even thought we could love our way to world peace, a notion so agonizingly muddled that all the incense, hemp, and lava lamps couldn't redeem it. That said, we tried. And some of us actually climbed out of our heads long enough to see what the core issues were of our distressed civilization. The more we learned, the more complicated it became. And finally we got to the point where we understood ourselves not as pixies sprinkling stardust but as primates with insatiable appetites.

We are not - and this includes your oh-so-hip cohort - are not going to solve anything. We are witnesses to a crash, its victims, and its cause. What a sad, sad thing to know. And yet, it's the little bit of freedom we can hold.

LOL, oh Soleri! Pixies, stardust, hemp, lava lamps, belly lint? What? I think we've taken this conversation as far as can go. There is a disconnect and as you have famously stated about other conversations, are talking past each other.

The only problem with your hippie proposals are that it wasn't very sustainable because it seemed impractical and still does. Baked out reefer dudes are hardly capable of spreading effective "free love," world peace, much less real solutions.

Rate Crimes, I understand your frustrations with pro sports but I think that the problems are more in terms of management and discipline. They are lacking in many organizations today. However, pro sports are a rallying point for many communities and if situations were handled correctly we'd have professionals playing and acting like gentlemen on and off the field.

It is not evil to reward individuals for their extraordinary athletic abilities, but we should teach that extraordinary civility and temperament is apropos to their extraordinary salaries and compensation. They should engage in community services and volunteerism which many do and actually excel but it should be ingrained in the pro sports world.

"And yet, it's the little bit of freedom we can hold.- soleri

Wouldn't you rather hold (tightly grip) an investment banker's throat? Oh!, sweet freedom! :)

Does anyone know of any statistics of mortgage brokers / RE agents that cashed out and left AZ before and during the crash?

Rate Crimes, I don't have any stats but the Scott Coles saga is probably the most poignant epitaph for that era.

Here's a link you to a great kill-all-the-investment-bankers piece: http://www.workinglife.org/imgbin/wlimgs/ItsNotRaining-JonathanTasini.pdf

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz