June 16, 2018

The Horror Show


I’ve been thinking recently about how Americans need to be punished for the way of life they have led, encouraged, and sought to spread around the world. The problem is that the punishment is more or less wasted, since Americans are clueless regarding that way of life—defined by “What’s In It For Me?” They haven’t the faintest notion that they may have done something wrong, let alone inhuman.

Here’s a real-life example; you may be able to find the tape of this on YouTube. It was roughly fifteen years ago; I remember the date was July 1st . What was recorded by the security camera in some hospital in Brooklyn, in a small waiting room, were two women sitting on opposite sides of the room. What we see is one of the women sliding off of her chair and onto the floor, unconscious. The other woman dully looks on at this; she has no visible emotional reaction. Occasionally, a nurse or hospital staff member looks in, sees the woman on the floor, does nothing, and moves on. It took the woman thirty minutes to die; literally no one gave a damn. Later, there was some sort of internal investigation into staff negligence; I assume it came to nothing.

I often thought of wanting to interview the other woman in the room, ask her: “What were you thinking, when you saw this woman collapse onto the floor?” I suspect the answer would be “Nothing. Nothing at all.” But here is where the punishment comes in. When this woman herself kicks the bucket, who will be observing her, and also thinking of nothing? If you treat people like zeroes, eventually you’ll be treated like one yourself. This is a pretty good description of social interaction in the US today. Since the American philosophy of life can be captured in phrases such as “Not my problem,” or “There is no free lunch,” a large fraction of the American public is miserable and lonely. The stats of opioid use, alcoholism, TV and cell phone addiction, workaholism, suicide, prescription drug use, obesity—anything to sedate the pain of loneliness, anxiety, and depression—are through the roof. But Americans are not very bright, so they don’t connect the dots. They simply don’t get it, that if you treat others like shit, others will treat you in the same manner, and you’ll feel like shit most of the time, as a result. You think this is coming from the outside? Think again.

James Baldwin once wrote that the problem with nasty people getting their karma is that they don’t really recognize it, so the message is basically wasted on them. Consider, he says, a man who is emotionally dead. His karma is that there is no love in his life; not much of anything, really. But because he is emotionally dead, he can’t be made to see that very fact. So he lives out this awful karma in an ignorant fog. This describes a huge segment of the American population, maybe most.​

I remember once, many years ago, getting a massage, and for some reason saying to the masseuse: “I’ll probably die surrounded by my books.” Horrible fate, and had I stayed in the US, it would have been mine. I had very few real friends in the US, very few people I could really trust or talk to. My situation now is the complete opposite ofthat. Of course, I never expected to float out into the Great Beyond speakingSpanish, but life is funny that way. The more important point is that I’ll be surrounded by close friends, by people who love me, not by a pile of books. And this is the reality for most Mexicans as well, I’m quite sure: it’s the nature of this society. What a horror show the United States is; what an absolute, unconscious, horror show.