There is no bottom to the well that is the Dimformation Age. Homo erectus asphaltus, in our many guises, has yet to create anything approaching the sheer foolishness that is our current state of affairs: culture masquerading as a fully clothed Emperor en route to the Ball of Naked Freaks and Sycophantic Holograms. Go ahead, make disgruntled protestations; assert that the Mad Scribe of Zephyric Musings is off on another tangential neuro-infarction; but, the page is mine, and I plan to make good use of the ink while the presses still run.
Let's get empirical, at least for a few fonts.
I recently received an e-mail that, for practical purposes (what other purposes are there in the exchange of Information, truth, and cyber-justice?) appeared to be a genuine and well-intentioned call for social action in the name of American Do-Goodism. The fact that the sender of said "letter" was an old acquaintance simply sweetens the narrative.
The plea concerned a call to boycott specific oil companies in the name of everything green and globally correct. The gist of the e-mail, whose provenance was clearly mass spam bedevilment, goes like this: In America's struggle to free itself from the evils of Middle Eastern oil, we should band together in a mass boycott various major oil conglomerates who procure a majority of their dinosaur juice from such sunny locales as the nefarious Saudi Arabia. Think Shell, Mobil, and Exxon ("Remember the Valdez!") and you're at the right pump.
Further, it is claimed that other household names, such as Citgo, Hess, and Sunoco, and I quote, "do not import Middle Eastern oil." Doesn't it warm the heart to know that at least a few members of the Big Oil Klub are doing the right thing? I know I felt measurably better after finding that out – and all from an unsolicited flock of cyber-bits!
The progenitor of said alert claimed that, with the effortless power of e-mail, 300 million folks could get in on the action in a mere eight days. Imagine that – push a button and we're freed from the ravages of geopolitical meltdown in just over a week. Egads!
Cyber sleuths know not to trust random data. The e-mail is a well known chain letter dating from 2001 that currently enjoys "junk" status for both efficacy, and accuracy. You'd be better off watching "All My Children" reruns than investing in this hokum. But, hey – it's your time to waste!
Trillions of jiggly bits of data have belched forth in the name of Election 2008. Much of it from the mainstream media, which from all accounts is, in fact, something of a sinking ship. So why not lie, cheat, steal, and be stupid in a last ditch effort to save the stockholders?
It's doubtful that any election coverage in U.S. history has been mangled as badly as the one featuring Messieurs McCain and Obama. Even insiders are grousing over the shameless lack of objectivity in Election 08's coverage: "The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling." So sayeth Michael Malone, over yonder at ABC News. According to sources, Malone is one of the nation's best-known technology writers, lately of the "New York Times," and other erudite news rags.
But who needs objectivity in the Land of the Free? Better yet, who's actually paying attention to the media these days? Besides a hundred million couch potatoes with the transfat blues. Did I say that? Did I just toss a subjective turd into the punchbowl of the blog-o-sphere? Of course I did.
It's a safe bet that Americans have simply lost the ability to make sense of their own reality. And while this situation inevitably leads to the singularity at the bottom of the cultural black hole in which we now find ourselves, the karma of our implosion is so obvious as to be painfully embarrassing. The idea that the world's most imitated nation (yup – that's us) could morph into a miasmic jungle of banality would have seemed unthinkable a mere generation ago. Imagine our young soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy in the name of Wal-Mart and a Big Mac with double cheese.
Then again, the Founders of our great experiment in democracy knew full well that the game is inherently fraught with peril, namely in the form of human nature. But, little did they guess to what depths a culture that revolves around consumerism could sink. Or did they?
"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."
Is there any moment in our country's long march towards being a sitcom that trumps the day we all learned that the financial sector is up to its ass in bogus loans, worthless mortgages, and those confusing little bargains called "credit default swaps"? Think about it.
Who could have predicted that globalization could be so incredibly dumbass? Butt-headed, wrong footed, power hungry, lopsided, eco-debased, and dangerously structured, sure. But stupid to the point of inadvertent suicide? (Oxymoron that it is, inadvertent suicide, used in this context, applies to the un-artful act of knowing that one's course of action will likely result in some form of self-inflicted fatality, but deciding to do it anyway. On the other hand – the term comes close to summing up the basic human condition. Remember carrying capacity!)
But here we are, huddling in our own shadows wondering if that stock we stashed in our 401-K is now little more useful than a roll of Charmin. And for those of you who decided to jump on the gravy train and flip condominiums for a little extra cashola, let me say this: The law of cause and effect is both ineffable and inevitable. Play with fire, burn your fingers. Just be sure you don't blame somebody else when your Fruit of the Looms ignite.
The idea that the globe's financial markets now resemble three day old spaghetti leftovers is cause for alarm (check your brains), and profoundly risible at the same time. In the final analysis, there will be much suffering due to our collective ineptitude. But greed has no boundaries. At least not until the shit hits the fan. Then it's time for good-ole dog cussing, blame games, and deep seated mojo guilt trips. Right about now is when many of us are kicking ourselves for not having the prescience to go into psychiatry when the getting was good. Carl Jung or bust!
Sooner or later, the chickens return home to roost. A good farmer knows that those are vulnerable times for his boisterous rooster and the harem of hens. Foxes never sleep. Neither do politicians. This year's new crop of Guardians of the Republic is sorting through the embers, in search of life after insanity. Pass the Prozac.
Liberty without responsibility is little more than what Fielding Mellish (aka: Woody Allen) called a "Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham of a Mockery of a Travesty." You can't have true freedom without a commensurate degree of personal responsibility. This was glaringly apparent to our Pleistocene forerunners, who understood what it meant to live on the edge 24/7. They were also the most egalitarian humanoids to trudge the Darwin Trail, forerunners of the social animal we call Homo erectus asphaltus.
Yet, somewhere down the long and winding freeway, our species opted to veer from the Tao of Nature, becoming wards of one feudal landlord or another. For sheer idiocy, this is hard to top. At least we ended up with 300 TV channels, soccer, and lovely Ms. Madonna! Warms the heart.
But all is not lost, we still have old Clint Eastwood movies!
Mudd's Mondo Theory of Celluloid Westerns goes like this: The reason westerns are one of the most beloved genres in movie history is that they remind us of what freedom feels like. Grit under the nails, holes in the boots, blood in the saddle, bad whisky kind of freedom. (Blood in the Saddle – wasn't that a band from the 1970's?) We tolerate the predictable consequences of a good western because the damn things make us feel alive; remind us that the Wild West portrayed on the silver screen isn't as far flung as it might appear to be.
I remember walking in a saloon in a small mining town in New Mexico, circa 1987. When my pupils adjusted to the light, it was apparent that most of the hirsute gents at the bar were packing what looked to be very large side arms. The drunk on the piano didn't seem to notice, but I sure as hell did. And it was at that point that I became very aware of my exact location in the Universe. It pays to understand the rules; no point in swallowing lead over a wise-ass spate of gum flapping. Freedom and responsibility, hand in hand in the American West. As it should be. Jose Cuervo to the rescue!
With that in mind, it should be repeated that no nation is free until its citizens possess and are competent to use those tools and skills necessary to take care of them selves. No government should be entrusted with our personal welfare. The result of that path is serfdom, a path well trod throughout the pages of human history and bearing poor results.
To quote Ed Abbey for the umpteenth time: "New dynasties will arise, new tyrants will appear—no doubt. But we must and we can resist such recurrent aberrations by keeping true to the earth and remaining loyal to our basic animal nature. Humans were free before the word freedom became necessary. Slavery is a cultural invention. Liberty is life."
This only needs saying once, with no explanation: Any society that must destroy Nature in order to sustain itself isn't worth the DNA it's made of.
From time to time, assorted readers drop in to remind me how "in the weeds" I tend to be. Knee deep and proud, amigos. We now appear to be entering a twisted New Dark Ages that portends ill tidings for those of us still interested in thinking for ourselves. There is no limit to the amount of data available to those with a case of cyberitis and too much time on their hands. Information flows like treated sewage, free for the picking, much of it unintelligible but gratis nonetheless. So what? Data in, data out.
Accessing relevancy is the problem, sorting through the detritus in hopes of discovering something of genuine value. Better to turn the bullshit off, at least long enough to recoup your inner navigational system, the gyroscope inside the primate neurons we all inherited by virtue of being mudball dwellers. If we're going to act like primates, at least let it be the Bonobos!
As the Zephyr winds blow to a close, at least in its hardcopy persona, bringing us "all the news that causes fits," it's important to recall that this particular rag was, and is, one of the West's singular expressions of creativity and down-home integrity. You don't have to agree with the views splashed across its pages, or the slanted ideology that propelled the paper through some of the most deranged times in America's strange evolutionary saga.
But, regardless of your stance on the issues of mining, ranching, bulldozing, dam building, 4 wheeling, jet skiing, off-roading, land scraping, tourist bating, billboarding, McMansion erecting, greenwashing malarkey – the fact that the Canyon Country Zephyr could exist, survive, and sustain itself against all odds for almost 20 years, is proof that we were there during what will surely be looked back on as the god-damned good ole days!