FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

More Jive Than Jazz

by LINH DINH

Living up to its name, Yahoo News is more jive than jazz. Recently, it featured a “human interest” story of an American who had traveled to every country on earth but three. At each, he tended to stay no more than three days, eating strictly American food at the hotel or McDonald’s. This lawyer from Minnesota is not the most well traveled on earth, however. Not by far. That honor belongs to another American, Charles Veley, who has been to 821 countries, states, regions and territories, including nearly impossible to reach atolls and reefs with no human population.

Veley also maintains a website, Most Traveled People. Among the top ten, only three are not American. What we have here is not just wanderlust but the need to tick off one’s conquests, a trait that is most pronounced in the American character. In sports, we are the most obsessive of statisticians. No one else even comes close. Compare the bare bone box scores of soccer, for example, to the labyrinthine tallies and measurements that accompany our baseball, basketball and football. Foreigners only care who scored. We keep track of anything that could be counted. When it comes to trivia, we know all the numbers. Your average American has memorized the height, weight and years played of many sport stars. Concerning issues that truly matter, like the corporate looting of our treasury, the real unemployment rate or the federal deficit, projected to go over 1.6 trillion this year, we don’t give a puck. What’s a trillion, anyway? The Flyers came back from a 3-0 deficit. Now, that’s impressive. Drowned in inconsequential digits, we are oblivious to figures that could illuminate how up the septic creek we really are. Our deceivers do have a sick sense of humor, though. For their core inflation index, food and fuel costs don’t factor in, but what are those if not “core” expenditures?

In football, the one American sport to which the rest of the world except Canada is completely indifferent, many players are given credit for “yards gained.” This is only too appropriate for a highly mobile people inhabiting a near continent size, still sparsely populated country that was frontier not that long ago. Many of us, if not our fairly recent forebears, have also traversed great distances to get here, so yards gained indeed. For Native Americans, it’s yards lost, however, as it is for Hawaiians, Samoans and other miscellaneous beneficiaries of big box shopping, Jerry Springer and SPAM musubis. But stop moping already. Better luck next century. Think Cubs!

The open road is a metaphor for endless possibilities. In the American context, this elation was first and best articulated through Walt Whitman: “Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, / Healthy, free, the world before me.”  Whitman’s entire oeuvre is one sustained song of the open road. Life is defined and renewed through intercourse with the multitude, just out there. Born in Brooklyn, Whitman got as far as New Orleans, then as now the most exotic of American cities, but for his last two decades, he was confined to Camden, New Jersey. For amusement, he rode the ferry back and forth between it and Philadelphia, enjoying the crowd and not getting off. It was sort of a bargain cruise for our aging bard. Unlike more affluent contemporaries, Whitman never made it to Europe. The poet may have sung of India and China, but he never left this country.

Eighty percent of Americans don’t own passports, so most of us haven’t gotten very far either. For many, the easiest way to escape Quiet Desperation Township or the inner city is to join an Army of One, or the Few, the Proud! Este e mi Pais! With 737 military bases in 130 countries, that’s a lot of exciting destinations. Adventure galore! While the rich gargle chianti in Florence, you can immerse in the richness of Helmand or Fallujah. There’s nothing like depleted uranium in your coffee, Ma, Cynthia McKinney be damned!

When Whitman did travel, at least he didn’t do so in a private steel box hurling past the same corporate signs from sea to shining sea, with their huge letters, designed for speeding motorists, blighting the landscape. To encourage recreational driving, car companies made films promoting the Sunday drive. To sex up their products, they sponsored races. The open road became circular and led nowhere, yet millions continue to pay to stare at vehicles going round and round, wasting fuel and befouling the atmosphere, for hours.

Acceleration has become its own religion. Faster!  Faster!

Leaving Whitman, I present to you the Black Eyed Peas:

“We are the now generation
We are the generation now
This is the now generation
This is the generation now
I want money

I want it, want it, want it
Fast internet,
Stay connected hit eject
Wi-fi, Podcast
Blastin’ out a SMS
Text me and I text you back.”

Enough, shoot me already.

As the oil age winds down, the road movie fantasy, starring each one of us, no longer has much traction. There will be no economic recovery, no more growth, because the cheap and most versatile fuel for it, oil, has reached peak supply. As the oil pump looses pressure, money itself sputters. There is also peak water, peak minerals, peak fish, peak top soil and just about anything else you can think of. On a finite planet, there can’t be infinite economic or population growth. At some point, resources will start to run out, and that moment happens to be now.

There are those who still think that technology will save the day, but technology is only the means to use what you already have, not replenish what’s being depleted. Again, we don’t need to run out of oil, only to have demand outstrip supply to cause a chaotic and violent global plunge. For many, this has been a thrilling roller coaster ride. For others, only degradation and death. For a century now, oil has been the unspoken subtext behind too many wars to list.

Since 51% of Americans don’t believe in evolution, they apparently cannot comprehend that we are squandering millions of years of carbohydrate in one bloody speed orgy. Having a telescoped notion of the past, they also cannot project into the distant future. Hankering for the world to end, obsessed with end time, they are counting the days and don’t care that this earth is being destroyed. Drill, baby, drill and climate change is merely a hoax. We’re leaving soon, anyway. In the 1940’s, the Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet, wrote:

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet—
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space …
You must grieve for this right now
—you have to feel this sorrow now—
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived”

[translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk]

LINH DINH is the author of two books of stories and five of poems, with a novel, Love Like Hate, scheduled for July. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

WORDS THAT STICK

 

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail