The Problems of a Wealthy Society

Life is so boring.

As an avowed card-carrying curmudgeon, it is occasionally my duty to piss off everyone, in whatever part of the social-political spectrum they reside. The following essay is a serious attempt at serving that goal.

In a poor society, social activism tends to center about problems of economic inequality  In a wealthy society, other things like outrage/grievance mongering and victim-identity politics come to the fore. The older flavors of protest are despised by the sophomoric bigotry of the well-off Young Turks.

Now, to be sure, large segments of current American society are mired in joblessness, hopelessness, and apathy alternating with rageaholic behavior.  But over all, as a society, we are wealthy, as even our poorest have amenities denied to literally billions of other people around the globe.

One example is in the devolution of feminism. Begun as a suffrage issue, it became the legitimate drive for jobs, then equal pay and workplace security (no sexual harassment). Having (mostly) achieved those goals, activists and leaders of activists need something more to justify their position in society.  And, so we have the spectacle of silly people trying to arouse rage over the responses of SIRI or ALEXI to sexual advances.  I shall not here comment on the perverted worldview of a person, allegedly adult and sane, who talks dirty to a smart phone, and merely express a hope they will get professional help and/or recover.

So it goes on other fronts.  Where once overt discrimination and physical violence were the concern, now it is become one of not wanting to hear anything unpleasant, demands for enthusiastic support for mental disturbances, and complaints of lack of complimentary remarks, and denial of the admittedly legitimate rights of other to think as they will.  This is endemic to modern culture and not limited to one political division or the other.

This last several national elections showed sore winners and hysterical losers, and whining, childish incivility become the norm for adults.

Poor whites living in a collapsed culture are chided for “privilege”, celebrities lament not having had opportunity for an abortion, and homosexuals are derided for insufficient sensitivity to trans issues.  That is only on one side.

On the other side, maggoty little supremacists with “manhood issues”, feckless and unprincipled politicians and pundits have revealed their only principles are money, power, and snobbery, and self-proclaimed experts on government who have never before held public office combine with  well-heeled ignoramus to inflict their ideology on the general population, in the name of freedom.

Christians are assaulted, by both feckless ideologues and other Christians for daring to suggest Jesus meant what he said about loving your neighbor.   Opponents to the rage and hate are told (from both sides) they should shut up and die and get out of the way of the activists who will fix everything with one blow of the iron fist.

Essential concerns have been lost or abandoned.  Nothing about real poverty (lack of access to the internet or smart phones is not a definition, sorry), or hunger, or diseases is mentioned. Those concerned with such are attacked by both sides.  The burning issues are about ephemera and chimera.  They are the result of having too much wealth, too much time, and minds conditioned to the incessant distraction of social media and constant entertainment.

Not to worry.  Such will collapse and the flakes will blow away in time.  But what brought this on us?  Too much wealth, sure, but wealth that was not spent in pursuit of necessary goals.  And what caused the evaporation of goals?  We do not have an enemy of sufficient weight to distract us from navel-gazing.

The Cold War era was one in which the forces of Communism were perceived (rightly or wrongly) was existential threats, and were treated seriously.  Today’s thereat, terrorism, is not seen as such.  Terrorists are like sand fleas, irritating, but hardly life-threatening.   They can damage individuals, and artifacts, but not endanger the whole of society. (Except in inducing a panic which overrides and destroys the social structures of centuries.) 

Without something worthwhile to fight, we end up fighting each other over trifles. Or descent into the squalor of hedonistic consumerism and pornographic fantasies.

So much for the End of History.

There is, lamentably, not much hope for redress with the Former Occupant of the Oval Office. Donald Trump is everything his (hysterical) critics say he is, a vulgar, gauche, vindictive, narcissistic bully with an attention span shorter than … uhh…his fingers.  He is also everything his (near fanatical) supporters claim he is, a bomb-throwing nihilist who will blow things up. (That is, after all, why they hired him .)  But there is also this.  He is the first post-Cold War President in that he has no ideology, nor any convictions anyone can discern (beyond his own magnificence, that is).  He neither comprehends nor cares about political theory nor the pragmatics of government action.  (This essential ignorance is causing much concern among the Culture Warriors of Left and Right, since they don’t have a clue where to strike or to stroke, and all their previous strategies are laid waste.  Ordinary citizens who do not occupy one of the fringe extremist blocs do have  great many other  concerns, but that is another tale.)

The Current Occupant, Biden, was saddled with an impossible task, of cleaning up the mess left behind, and is receiving all the blame which a thankless occupation deserves.  Being literally a man in the political middle (sorry, Overton Window), he is assailed by Progressivists for being in thrall to Wall Street, and by the Rabid Right for being a “socialist”. (Not that anyone on the right knows what a “socialist” is these days.) He is fit and alert, not at all the doddering wreck imaged by the Right Noise Machine, but his ideas were set in another time and place.  That he is the best  the Democratic Party has these days speaks volumes.  (Both major Parties have no top-rank leaders, only fourth and fifth raters at best, which is dangerous.)

Nobody is so silly as to suggest an economic collapse would be a good thing.  With the current structure of the American economy, it might not recover for a century.  Here is the thing.  The US “won” the Cold War by virtue of the Russians collapsing, and at the same time, past policies and investments came due fueling an economic rush (which went, alas, mostly to the top super-duper rich ) which gave more luxury time than ever before.  Social media and Internet-driven dynamics meant any jackass with an opinion could bray it around the world and find favorable responses.  People also self-sorted into niche virtualities where the hive-mind replaced the echo chamber as an enforcer of collective unconsciousness.  This led to a very lot of people who cannot stand contrary opinions, or contrary facts, and who think “dialogue” and “discussion” consist of several interlocutors repeating, “You are right, you are so right”, ad nauseum.

In the past, our national energies were diverted into building a working economy, taming a Frontier, fighting a civil war, and dealing with the XXth Century, where we faced the problems of world economic chaos, the Axis, and the Communists.  Perhaps we need another good project we can take seriously enough to engage our national energies. 

Space Travel is too expensive to absorb more than a tiny few people, and the real estate in the solar system is limited.  Reclaiming the World would be good, but – let’s face reality – most people are just too selfish to get enthused about drilling wells in Northern Ghana. Maybe a dangerous external enemy would do the trick.  Terrorism isn’t it.  How about Aliens?  Real Aliens, not just illegal immigrants?  How about ravening Space Pirates or (even better) Space Cannibals who want humans to come up for lunch? To Serve Man

But I was invited for lunch, and what…!!!

Not a bad idea.  Howard Fast suggested it in his short story The Martian Shop (which I urge everyone to read, it is on the Internet “The Martian Shop” and Howard Fast -The Martian Shop.  – the World Wide Web has some good uses, after all.)

Silly?  Perhaps.  But what would YOU suggest? The most likely alternative is not pretty.

Life is so boring.