Friday, October 19, 2007

Walkin' to New Orleans

Back in the fifties, Fats Domino sang "I'm walkin' to New Orleans." And now in the zeroes, we're all having to walk there 'cause we can't afford to drive.

The economic disaster Republicans and other mentally challenged individuals such as economists said would never happen is suddenly here, with the price of crude oil about to hit $90 a barrel, and $100 a barrel on the horizon, mainly because of the weakening dollar.

Your cost at the pump is just now beginning to reflect the most recent run-up in oil prices. And of course the effects of record levels of foreclosures are already with us, with worse yet to come. The wave of home foreclosures will become a tsunami in January, February, and March of 2008 due to the record number of adjustable rate mortgages that will reset during that 90-day window.

To all those who have been trumpeting how robust and unsinkable the American economy is for the past five years, I'm here to tell you I told you this was going to happen. I'm sure that'll make me a real popular guy, but not as popular as Jim Kunstler, who for a decade has not only predicted the disasters now upon us with unerring accuracy, but has located the causes of what is now unfolding in the frivolous and immature mentality of the American public, its leadership's capacity for denial, and its media information sources' proclivity for choosing the soothing lie over the difficult truth.

Kunstler says the current crisis "could only happen in a culture that has come off the rails mentally, so to speak, as ours has in the sense that nobody has any sense of consequence, neither the leaders nor those who affect to follow the leaders. The leading religion in America is not evangelical Christianity, it is the worship of unearned riches, and its golden rule is the belief that is is possible to get something for nothing. Its holy shrines are Las Vegas and Wall Street. (And, by the way, has anybody heard the evangelical Christians complain about Las Vegas? They complain about a lot of things, but are themselves among the greatest believers in unearned riches -- given their preference for prayer over earnest effort in the service of solving life's problems.)"

The immaturity and atmosphere of unreality that pervades America's dreamlike descent into economic collapse also characterizes its political process, and the two reinforce one another. In a brilliant column in which he asserts that in its national elections, America shows "the collective maturity of 3-year olds," the New York Times's Bob Herbert reviews the election of 2000 as he analyzes why the current election cycle cannot a produce a candidate of Al Gore's quality, and why a campaign based on sound bites, hot button issues, slogans, and name calling is incapable of producing anything other than shallow and narrow-minded candidates, unfitted for anything even remotely resembling real leadership. Most of all, he zeroes in on the corporate media's tendency to evaluate the personalities rather than the positions of presidential contenders.

Recalling that "Mr. Gore was taken to task (by network news anchors) for his taste in clothing and for such grievous offenses as sighing or, allegedly, rolling his eyes," Herbert reminds us that among these same talking heads, "It was a given that at a barbecue everyone would rush to be with his opponent.

"We’ve paid a heavy price," he then reminds us, although he didn't really need to. "The president who got such high marks as a barbecue companion doesn’t seem to know up from down. He’s hurled the nation into a ruinous war that has cost countless lives and spawned a whole new generation of terrorists. He continues to sit idly by as a historic American city, New Orleans, remains wounded and on its knees. He’s blithely steered the nation into a bottomless pit of debt.

"I could go on."

Indeed he could, since besides presiding over a criminal invasion of the Middle East which coincidentally turned out a colossal failure, that candidate you'd most like to have a beer with is now going to see the country descend into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, thanks to his incompetence and ineptitude, and with an assist from our frivolity and immaturity.

What will the result of this crisis be? If it doesn't kill us, it'll make us stronger. We might have to grow up in hurry, and start thinking about how we're going to deal with the end of the age of oil and the automobile, rather than assuming that a cluster of shallow and ignorant leaders whose ineptitude reflects the shallowness and ignorance of the electorate will solve our problems for us.

We might have to stop being shallow and ignorant and talkiing about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and judge for ourselves whether we're actually in danger of being bombed by the Iranians, rather than listening breathlessly and credulously to "a tale told by an idiot, full of the sound and the fury, signifying nothing."

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