Friday, July 29, 2005

"If We're Gonna Be Messed Up Anyway, It May As Well Be About The Right Stuff."

I mean seriously, I've had a few odd queries from people I've met about this whole new "terror" paradigm we're shifting towards, and it's annoying the crap outta me.

I was discussing with my consigliori the other day shortly after the first London Bombings, and he was suggesting that there's no way they'd search everybody on the subways and buses and slow everything down for us busy people - we just wouldn't take it.

I countered with some simple actuarial gymnastics, and came up with just a few minutes to a maximum of a half-hour per-person delay during rush hour even if every bag was quickly checked. When there are middle-class people in the suburbs driving an hour or two to work, not to mention the often unmentioned lower-class (ugh... I feel like a heel just writing that damnable phrase) traveling an hour or two on public transit to crappy jobs, what's an extra half-hour? Not to mention people staying longer to avoid delays and pump up pay or profit, surveillance cameras, infra-red cameras, bomb-sniffing dogs, undercover cops, hidden microphones...

Even freestyling the possibilities are endless, after all we've seen a lot of movies...

He didn't concede fully at the time, but he did after New York subway searches started with little or no protest from the people.

(Though it's hard to really know what people are thinking these days with most articles are copied from the same initial AP source and the quoted person usually spinning a 4th Amendment abrogation positively. Heck, even most of the articles on the Sikh tourists snitched-on, racial-profiled and searched on their knees at gunpoint in New York ended with a guy named "Jas" saying basically: "Hey - shit happens!" :)

Still, it's just random searches for now, and a nice sensible "liberal" argument like "you can't racial profile" just ends up making all of us part of the process, and therefore all incrementally accustomed to it.

That's right: to be "fair", they even searched 9-year olds... who will grow up to be adults raised on random searches.


I really and truly believe that "ignorance is bliss", I even argued with my consigliori about it for years and finally won when he conceded: it really is bliss.

However: "knowledge is power".

And: "half-knowledge is a dangerous thing".

The latter is where most of us are stuck these days (give or take), aware that we're scared but unsure as to exactly why or what steps are being taken to restore normalcy to the world. We know stuff is happening, but with the situation deteriorating for the last 5 years we can't have any honest faith in it's effectiveness.

We also can't be ignorant in a world of information overload: it's just impossible.

Even if one studiously avoids any deliberate consumption of "the news", unless they're in a sensory-deprivation tank they'll still get bits of "the war on terror". (Now: "The struggle against extremism!" Hey... that does sound better!) Or, "the war in iraq", "war on drugs", "war on poverty", and other maladies of our maladjusted era. It may briefly interrupt a sitcom or reality TV reverie, come up in conversation, or simply be a social obligation to at least be aware of the most basic fact in our "post 9/11 world": a substantial and growing portion of a billion muslims want to kill us, and with pretty good reasons whether they be "they hate our freedomes" or "they hate us torturing them".


Even Pa Dukes asked me: "Do you think it's safe to go to London?"

To which I responded: (...)


I mean... if you "know", what do you say?

Do you parrot the official line? Do you err on the side of terror or the infinitesmal possibility of being harmed by it? Do you see an end to that anxiety in sight? A progressive escalation of it? A debilitating effect on mental and physical health caused by perpetual stress on everybody?

It's one thing to be blissfull in ones ignorance, it's another to tortured by it. With the newspaper "rack" stretching their credibility and your nerves simultaneously to the limit, it only makes sense to recognize the problematic parallel. Fear sells, and there's only 5 1/2 major corporations that own the American mass-media (there were 50 in 1980), so it's a race for profits by prophets of doom proselytizing to the world.

In the absence of any news as narrative that follows a story's logical progression, we're stuck with so-called "hard news" and "infotainment" delivered to us the same way: in bursts of unrelated titillation. The biggest scandals of our day are interchangeable, and from Britany's pregnancy to Iraqi elections it's all the same thing: what's "hot" right NOW.

We're absent any true sense of "closure" on a given large issue, and yet receive it bizarrely quickly on various others. I mean, they just said "the space shuttle is busted!" and covered the headlines of today's papers, and then later they said "no it's not!" and we all breathed a sigh of relief (if we caught the correction).

What the hell was that?

Is Karl Rove on the space shuttle trying to jump the bail he should have paid for the arrest that should have been made for his outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame?

Did we forget THAT already?

It's all a little too crazy, and since no one theorem can define the media's magnificent manipulation of us, we have to assume all editorial decisions fall under a simple logical conclusion: "Them thar folks think real' hard before they put on their fancy-pants multi-million dollar broadcasts!"

It's what they are thinking or trying to accomplish that is of concern. After all, overall we're not feeling "better", and a recent poll even showed 6 out of 10 Americans believe World War III is "likely".

Not possible: likely.

So, as I said today to the dood in Bohemia rockin' a slick pinstripe suit and munchin' on a slice of pizza when he queried about what I'd just scribbled in my notebook:

"If We're Gonna Be Messed Up Anyway, It May As Well Be About The Right Stuff."