Coming home for the holidays carries several pitfalls for the rusty suburbanite. Some surprises arise as well, which always helps alleviate the monotony that continues to creep into this strip-malled future. The perfect metaphor for this fell in my lap Saturday when I was flipping channels during breakfast.
CNN Headline News ran a piece on the “Year’s Best Implosions,” playing a reel (this isn’t the clip I saw, but the only one CNN posted) of about a dozen structures being systematically blown up to make way for newer, bigger structures. I had the sound on “MUDO” (for some reason, none of my parent’s remotes work well. The one for their main TV speaks Spanish, while the one for their cable box doesn’t speak to the TV.) and munched on granola in rice milk as humankind’s follies fell down one after another.
Each clip had a city listed on it. Las Vegas had at least three buildings go down, most of which had extra Vegas flourishes. One had fireworks flash off the roof. Another had its explosions flash like red strobes before the building came down. A third had Hollywood air-raid lights hitting it. All this spectacle caused many questions to bubble up for me:
Why is this on a “News” network? Is this really news? Why does this bring up unsettled memories of the WTC catastrophe, and how am I supposed to relate to this fake news with that other TV experience? Why am I easily sucked back into TV land, while there are many things that need to be done to bring justice to the world? What the hell is going to be built to replace these structures? Is this really progress in the world? Has something that isn’t a building or structure imploded in 2007?
When I leave the Bay Bubble, I am shocked at the excess that still exists in the world. Buildings fall, land gets cleared, and something new gets built in its place. Land gets sold, clear cut, and buildings get built to store and sell crap that no one really needs. This crap, made on the backs of poor people who live somewhere we’ll never visit, replaces other crap, which gets thrown away with the plastic packaging of the newer crap. This excess leaves a well-known trail of slime and filth, the feces of capitalism.
I am shocked at how easy it is to fall back into the comfort of this crap, of the things that TV tells me I should own. Here in South Carolina, TV tells me to buy cars, get prescription drugs, and vote in the upcoming primaries. Mit appears on TV to tell me how pro-life he has always been, and how family comes first. John Edwards reminds me that he’ll never forget the fact that he was born in SC, and that he is here to fight the final, great battle against the US middle class. Mike lets me know that his kind-hearted Christian beliefs are the foundation of his life and that he’ll never forget those values when he is president.
As condos go up, trees come down out here in the Southeast. Just like everywhere else, everything sadly looks the same (wow, my hometown just got a Dunkin Donuts! One more nail in the diversified coffin). Driving 200 miles from the Low Country to the Upstate, green areas along the Interstate continue to get cleared for more stores and warehouses. I tell myself, again, that this is the reason why I left and changed my lifestyle to end this useless drive towards “progress.”
But the world isn’t completely ending out here in suburb-land. My mom is sucking up the dent on her purse and buying organic products for me while I’m visiting. She came back from Publix tonight and proudly showed me all the organic items that she had tucked away in her plastic bags (I gifted her a reusable one but she needs to get into the habit of using it). The Charleston area appears to be creating cracks in the move to green, promoting among other things South Carolina’s first Platinum-LEED approved building. My Alma Mater, Wofford College, just published an article in its Alumni bulletin about social justice. They are also hoping to establish an environmental studies program, utilizing their liberal arts expertise to mix kayaking with poetry and science.
A nature trail is being developed in my small hometown, and one of the people who is working on this project is coming to my Mom’s garden club to speak about it. I hope to attend and ask him some hard ball questions about it. Wonder if he’ll appreciate the fact that a critical thinker from San Francisco took the time to hear about his old home place getting a bit greener.
Up in Asheville, a growing network of people take the extra steps to make the best change for the world. Radicals have begun to organize and represent the utopian ideals that I like to dream about. While the cracks appear all around the area, folks like the ones up in NC are taking bold actions to end the needless crap, create more sustainability, breaking the law when they need to be noticed by the corporate press. Knowing that folks walk the green walk here in the Carolinas keep my spirits lifted.
I enjoy seeing the growing paradox of constant development that is touted as being sustainably built. Cheeseball features in touristy magazines make for good green propaganda, where you can continue to live like you want to and feel good about it. Condos rise from the swamps to the foothills, taking out the old cow fields and wooded areas, but the cracks that I have cherished for over ten years get bigger here outside the Bubble.
People are becoming sick of the greed and the overconsumption. People are beginning to think twice about that new car purchase, or about what they call healthy food. Meanwhile, you still need batteries to run your toys, coal and nuclear to power your gadgets, and the beautiful politicians on TV to sell you cars, drugs, and cleaning products.
A shift is happening, and normal folks are beginning to consider the consequences of their actions. I wonder if things go too slow to make a difference. I fret about the fact that my sister just quit drinking FIVE Diet Cokes a day and now drinks bottled water. I worry about the fact that my niece cares more about the next designer fashion item she’ll buy, rather than realize that her annual day of beach litter clean up needs to become a lifestyle. I continue to recontextualize my father’s belief that it is all the government’s fault, even going so far as to share quotes from “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” to help him understand that it’s all about the Benjamin$ going to the U.S. corporatocracy.
I’m worrying, but staying optimistic. What have I got to lose? As the Church of SubGenius has steadfastly taught me: “The World Could End Tomorrow and YOU MAY DIE!” That tomorrow gets nearer as more crap gets shipped in from overseas. Exploiting the world’s poor. Eating the ozone as it gets shipped and trucked around the planet. Sitting in new buildings that house it, sell it, and suck electricity to run it.
I’m ready to die, but I will die fighting to be the person that I think we all need to be. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to make sense out of all of this. As the green cracks grow, I wonder what exactly imploded in 2007. Or, what IS imploding as this unsustainable system continues to roll along into the future. Are we passively watching the buildings go down on TV, or are we taking down the symbolic buildings that keep this system of excess in high gear?
Are you holding the hammer, or the remote control that doesn’t work? My answer is simple: “Pass the sledge!”