Rites of Passage being our new theme on the playa this year – I’m left to ponder how all rites of passage would become one single passing, if the Earth’s physical systems’ deterioration continues to accelerate. Here’s a musing on the ultimate passing (for us, anyway) and the USA’s role in it.
There were hundreds of millions of Kindles and Nooks frozen in death, stuck on one page – “Why America Slept.” You can say one thing about us, we were a species that scribbled, texted, hologrammed and burst a blood vessel of pixels in the final years. Every last atrocity was broadcast virally. By 2015, every consumer could make a major feature film with a gadget fitted to the hand. We could dial in our imaginary laughing audience for the sound track. If the revolution wasn’t televised, the end of the world was. Millions of movies would be found on mounds of corpses, still flickering in fingers and suitcases. Of the five known mass extinctions in the history of the earth, this was the only one where the dying species seemed to know what it was doing.
It was not a pretty sight, as so much of homo sapiens went down. By 2020, there was a bitter suspicion that a privileged few would survive with secret technologies in the higher elevations. It was a planet racing with high budget rumors as it died. The bitterness was even directed at the coyotes and cockroaches that poured through the front-doors of suburban palaces as families packed their SUV’s for the final drive. Yes, these millions of corpses had sour expressions on their faces – and still the question floated among us. Why did America sleep? The United States of America was supposed to be the hero. “Saving the world” was the plot for most of the movies in theatres in those last years. In fact, at the end, most Americans still believed that their habitual heroism was in full force. But by then, we were stumbling back and forth between virtual and actual worlds. It was a struggle to the death by competing dreams.
America was sleeping deeply, in a dream whose creators were hiding inside skyscrapers with smoked glass. One wonders – could we ever have looked critically at the heavily financed dream-state that became adopted as “normal living.” Normal living became horrific apocalyptic screaming media, cosmetic heroism, and left-over fundamentalist religions. This media was often produced by self-identified liberal environmentalists, while off-screen the air and water was utterly poisoned, with tsunamis coming in like big, consciously directed erasers. If only we had found a way to examine the waking dream by riding into it on the back of a strong counter-dream, like some artists did back in the 20th century…
The American dream turned out to be deadly because it sold tickets to a long series of apocalypses – they are the epitome of good (funny-scary) entertainment. Then, something went terribly wrong when dying spectacularly made good media – a diverting nightmare shall we say – but we could not go forward with ordinary living, where death has a natural place. The leaders of the dream, the captains of consumption and militarism – culturally silenced those who thought that death was a natural part of living. The special effects of mass death continued, while individual death was pushed into endless assisted living, and Americans slept on and on. We took our imperial eternity for granted. We shopped and bombed to push back the emptiness. We swiped the plastic for yet another amazing funny apocalypse. And then one of them, in mid-joke —-
[Editor’s Note: OK, Burners … as on the playa, there are no spectators in life. So this is your call to action … what can YOU do to make your day-to-day world a better place? What ARE you doing? Share your ideas in the comments.]