Somewhere between Nixon’s Christmas bombing of Hanoi and the Alzheimer’s-tinged valedictory speeches of Ronald Reagan, somewhere between TV screens showing the helicopter evacuation of the Saigon embassy and newer, bigger, squarer, flatter screens showing the video-game destruction of Iraqi bridges in the first Gulf War, somewhere between the Bretton Woods economic summit and George H. W. Bush’s refusal to eat broccoli, America made a fatal-for-sanity choice, and succumbed to the reality it wanted to have rather than the reality it had. Surface came to be valued over depth, the conceptual over the perceptual.
In more familiar terms, Americans chose not to believe their lying eyes, especially when those lying eyes told them they had lost a war, had become a nation of obese slugs, and had hocked their grandchildren for oil. Getting ready for the final break, Americans had rejected Jimmy Carter, who told them their dependence on oil imports would by definition end their independence, and embraced Reagan, who told them that it was morning in America…
Anyone who has watched the debates during the presidential election season without realizing that the reptiles onstage are all sweating inside Goofy suits hasn’t been paying attention.
The whole long piece – “The Uncertainty Principle” is just brilliant.
Commodify a forest of oak trees or a herd of buffalo or an African tribe, and you have moved that oak forest and buffalo herd and tribe into a vast system of ledger sheets and tax receipts and market futures. What remains of the real is a stump farm or piles of bloody hides or the graves of slaves.
You’ve also done collateral damage to yourself when you use your imagination in this way. When, for example, you identify the foul stench of a giant dairy operation as the smell of money, you’ve destroyed your ability to experience reality through your nose and probably your other four senses. You also may find that your ability to convert sensory data into dollars increases with the distance you live upwind from the dairy, as reality can still show up in a world where even an ideally sealed window now and then springs a real leak.