What follows is a social and political comment paid for entirely by my monthly Social Security Check. Thanks, Uncle Sam! Direct deposits and an international ATM card are my true friends; they keep me wandering and wondering.
Sung to the tune of “Red Sails in the Sunset,” the title of this post refers to a disturbing “religion” I’ve been encountering with far too much frequency: the idea that somehow we are being subjected to heinous yet ill-defined chemicals sprayed atop us from on high. Therefore, and in defense of my own sanity, I chose exercising my only authentic strength: pure, seat-of-the-pants speculation. Spend enough time alone with just your own thoughts (rather than mired in Facebook/Status updates) and you too can conjure.
So this is a rant. It is a break from my travels. It is an unabashed diatribe roiling against what I see as yet another unsettling development in the continuation of dumbing down in the US. That it has primarily found a home in our newest generation, The Millennials is of little comfort. These folks are our future and I am deeply concerned about it and them. However somewhere along the way the current election process insinuated itself and I have woven the two into a single post.
You may travel through my musing by your own choice. If I offend, do not forget that I respect our differences. I only hope that your opinions came from your own considered reasoning and not from some pretty face broadcast around and about the ether. These times demand personal critical thinking rather than subscription to emotional jingoes.
In the beginning there was Spiro
From my personal recollections the slide into an embrace of national ignorance began with my then favorite political punching bag, the ex-Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. Picked by Richard Nixon as his first running mate, Agnew did indeed hit the ground running. He wasted little time initiating a full frontal attack against anyone questioning the folly of our war in Viet Nam.
Firing off his infamous barb claiming “effete intellectual snobs” as his nemesis, Agnew set a new low for using sarcasm to belittle opposing views; almost 50 years before the Donald shot to center stage. This particular brand of attack was actually the only weapon in Agnew’s arsenal against logic and reason. He couldn’t rely on facts, there were none.
And who among us back then could forget his change order to the dress code for the hapless Secret Service men assigned to patrol the White House? As a reminder for those who were alive then, and as an introduction for those not yet born, the leading image above is a photo of Agnew’s directive for the guards. Which operetta did he steal those costumes from?
Mercifully, that particular outrage endured a mere 2 weeks of wholesale national media scorn. Before their next paychecks those employees of the US Treasury were thankfully back wearing somber suits and ties. If Agnew hadn’t had to resign in disgrace over blatant charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy what else might we have endured? That’s a fun thought to play with.
The Administration’s (and Kennedy’s and Eisenhower’s before Nixon’s) believed that the nation was somehow going to “Stop the Spread of Communism.” And we were going to do this by relying on tactics and strategies held over from a peaceful Philippines regime change; a decision that was less than astute. Thus the only way to sell the fear of Commies was by convincing The Silent Majority that critical thinking was suspect. So intellectuals became silly women, protests were treasonous, and anyone who thought otherwise was clearly “un-Amurrican.” Love IT or Leave IT you scummy hippies, college professors, and worst of all: scientists.
Thus the slide to Bubba-hood took off. The glorification of redneck chic, previously recognized as barely literate and anti-everything not itself, was now something to be celebrated; “I’m dumb and I’m proud!” Its corollary: that being informed and educated was somehow a thing of suspect and must be rejected became a national pursuit.
And as it has moved forward through the decades this rejection of knowledge and research and overwhelming peer-reviewed clinical evidence stymies any progress toward healing the planet. We’re told that treasonous talk like climate change comes from over-educated limp-wristed geeks.
Thankfully Lush Rimbaugh and Hawn Shannity comfort us, singing the lullaby that those bad things just ain’t so. Facts are just an effeminate excuse, a sublimation from people who can’t afford a Hummer or whatever has taken its place these days. Let’s have another beer. Our “authentic” media heroes will bring us the truth so we don’t have to think. What a relief.
Let’s get back to Chemtrails, shall we? Trump and Roger Ailes and the rest of the pushers of simplistic nirvana are big boys and can take care of themselves. And make us all great again. Donald said so.
There’s an Illuminati hiding under my bed
Ever since I landed in Ecuador more than a year ago I have encountered a surprisingly large subset of wanderers, both there along the Equator and now here in Perú. Not surprisingly, most folks on the move and traveling the world are pretty young compared to myself. Most are 2 generations younger and if I had had children, these people would be their children.
So far, this flame is focused on people from the US. It’s not to say that young people from other lands don’t share these commonalities, but I have yet to meet any that do. I refer to the Millennials, born and bred Stateside. However I will say that when it comes to middle-age, I meet other nationals of other countries who have bought into this incredulous mindset. Which tells me that though it’s not a theory exclusive to Millennials, the dense numbers of subscribers are more localized with them.
Enough (too much? probably not) has been written of, explained about, blamed on the fact that this particular generation can expect a world with less goodwill than the world we had available to us as we ventured forth, establishing ourselves and our futures. Wholesale battalions of Millennials, with admirable educations often going well beyond 4-year Baccalaureate degrees find themselves, when lucky enough to have a job, pulling lattes and mochaccinos for those of us with mythologically disposable incomes. I’d be resentful if it were me behind the counter as well. Thanks again, Social Security!
With all the talking heads forecasting more decidedly dismal futures for Millennials than either their Gen-X parents or Boomer grandparents had, it’s no wonder that they’ve taken so completely to social media. Only by constantly checking in with others facing the same bleak existence can they remind themselves of the promised entitlement to a wonderful life. Growing up with a distorted message like that one needs constant reassurance that it really is all right and we really are having loads of fun. Let’s take another selfie so we don’t forget how it should be.
Were I fed the same creation myth I might hide behind a 3-inch (or 6-inch, sorry iPhone junkies) reality too, if only I could remember to turn on my smartphone in some regular fashion. It’s almost enough to make one think that the world conspires against them. Well, surprise! That belief does live a vigorous life.
I am constantly stunned to learn this is exactly what a disturbingly large segment of Millennials do believe. And they are more than willing to bleat this revelation to any and all with a chilling stridency. Recently I blundered into just such an encounter, the outcome of which I can only blame on myself.
In February, after the final ayahuasca ceremony at a retreat near Iquitos, I was having a heartfelt conversation with one of the volunteers. He had been a fantastic source of strength (I usually cannot walk unassisted during a ceremony) and protocol during the retreat and we were discussing our separate and possibly similar futures at other venues.
We seemed to resonate over any number of shared views, and he was somehow fascinated with a few of my life experiences and sincerely wanted to cement our friendship. This prompted an invitation to visit some of his compatriots in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. I replied that I had heard about the natural beauty of the area and might someday visit. But I cautioned him that through several accounts I learned that the place was awash with conspiracy theorists. Should that last bit be capitalized?
Well, from that point onward: DEAD AIR! By his silence I immediately knew that our budding buddy-hood had died a miserable death. Theorists indeed. It’s not theory (at least to this young man and his cohorts), it’s the TRUTH! Imagine my surprise to learn that the Illuminati, or is it the US Air Force (or is it even more widespread than that?) were out to get him. And me. And everyone else too blind to notice.
For those of you still ignorant enough to be wallowing in the pig-trough of ignorance, and I too was for a time one of you, let me tell you now that we are all doomed. I’m learning that since the mid-90’s at least, the Air Force, or is it the Illuminati, or is the Air Force following Illuminati orders most secretly; well it’s somebody, and they have been seeding the atmosphere with brain disease. Or is it GMO/Monoculture-Crop-Catalysts? Or is it anti-matter resonant frequency generators? No, really! Just look up!
And if I had been silly enough to counter that I knew otherwise, I would have been identified as ONE OF THEM! An Illuminati! But in honesty, I cannot excise that part of my brain infected by social contact with physicists and engineers; folks who do in fact know how the universe is put together. How foolish could I be not to realize that professionals who spend their lives understanding such things are mere dupes of the Illuminati? And that any resistance I might have to the Chemtrails existence validates my identity as one of the enemy?
Oh my goodness gracious sakes alive! Talking to these folks made me feel as though I was floundering in a vat of circular reasoning with no way out and the waters were rising. If this were indeed true and tens of thousands of jet pilots were conniving to poison our air, why were they willingly poisoning their own families as well? That question is not acceptable to these defenders of the conspiracy. Or perhaps (I haven’t kept up on the finer nuances of the absurd) the families of the pilots are secretly given anti-Chemtrails antidotes.
Maybe I need to dumb down too. In the 50’s Kevin McCarthy starred in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” that scared me no end. Art begets life. Donald Sutherland’s remake was no slouch either. Check ’em out…if you dare.
How can one be so educated and still not know anything?
In spite of the bulk of Millennials growing up getting gold stars at school and everyone winning while no one loses and everyone being special and everyone entitled to high-paying jobs as soon as the ink on their diplomas dries, the world really is a pretty shitty place these days. Just look at the Republican Party if you have any doubts. Somehow reality bears little semblance to what Millennials were led to believe it was going to be. Well, certainly we are all unique, that much is true. However simple mathematics tells us that we can’t all be special.
But since it’s virtually impossible to accurately assign blame for this mess we’re in, in spite of a knee-jerk resonance with jingos like making the country great again, then it stands to reason(?) that sinister forces are at play. You just have to open your eyes and look up at the skies. How could I have been so blind?
Now, how did this happen? How did seemingly rational, stable, intelligent young people ascribe to a world where someone or something has devised a most sinister plan to rob them of their birthrights? I believe that I have an idea.
As each of us progressed from infancy into childhood The Boogie Man played an ever critical role in our lives. His (am I being sexist here?) existence predicated unexplained evil, predicated a world that was not fair, predicated a life where long, hard and often boring work (if one could find it) was the only guaranteed path to success. Once we dropped our final diapers and realized that not only were we not each of us the centers of all known things, we quickly discovered that life can, at least on occasion, have some very sharp edges. Why, Daddy? The Boogie Man, of course.
With the reversal of economic progress and the upcoming generation facing a very sad future with lessening opportunity for growth and betterment, our friend The Boogie Man has now morphed into Chemtrails. You can see them everywhere in the skies these days. Just look up.
These stratospheric evils, far from the innocuous vapor trails we knew and loved when the country was still great, are designed to infect the populace with something bad. Not quite sure what, but it’s got to be bad. Late night radio boobs tell us so, and if you’re sleep deprived enough (or just getting off of your brain-eating shift at the coffee bar) it all makes perfect sense. Kind of. To some.
Chemtrails are symptomatic of a larger loss of critical thinking
Spiro Agnew was the midwife for the birth of my understanding. His attack against critical thinking, sadly well received by a large segment of the population, was just the beginning of my dis-ease with cultural “values.” Fortunately I had other teachers as well.
Perhaps the most important was Neil Postman. Having published Amusing Ourselves to Death just after we elected a “movie star” as President, Postman argued that we are not threatened by Orwell’s 1984, where the State has stolen our rights, but in fact we have, along the lines of Huxley’s Brave New World, voluntarily traded those rights for the narcotic of entertainment; movie star President to be sure. But really, that was nothing compared to today as we are herding ourselves behind a real estate billionaire. After all, Trump did have his own “reality” TV show. And if reality, even TV’s version, is not entertainment, what is?
Still and yet, please don’t misinterpret my point. I welcome Donald J. Trump. He’s exactly what we need. And exactly what we deserve. Every 4 years the talking heads remind us just how broken the US electoral system is. The dysfunctional Electoral College, the delegates and those true, real Boogie Men: the super delegates, all chosen during the previous election process 4 years earlier, when today’s hot issues were inconceivable; it really is broken.
The GOP old guard have it completely wrong. The Trumpster is not a Democrats’ plant, put on center stage by Hillary to subvert a party already in serious decline. Our Man of the Hour is quite probably the disguised Hindu god Shiva: both The Destroyer and the creator.
Raised by Socialists and named after Karl Marx and Frederick Engles, I have long believed that this country will only survive by building a viable election process that includes, encourages, demands strong 3rd parties. With the current, winner-take-all, 2 party system we are saddled with, every 4 years we trade off the baton to either of 2 sides of the same coin. And the True Change that both sides swear they will bring, if we’re only foolish enough to believe them, somehow never comes.
Should then, Trump’s extremists be denied a voice? Certainly and most assuredly not. Not any more than Bernie’s fervent acolytes on the left should be denied. We need a system of inclusion not exclusion if we are to move forward into a world we barely understand. The rise of Trumpism was a given that only took the unaware by surprise. The world and especially this country are far too complex to think there can be an either/or, Democrat/Republican solution.
And should you question the sanity of 3rd parties, just tune in to some of the deeper, frantic discussions taking place right now at the upper levels of the GOP. Either they swallow a bitter pill and endorse a Tea Party ideologue who himself has vowed to destroy the party, or they fund a breakaway candidate carrying a splinter banner. Something, anything but the Donald. If they see a need for 3rd parties, why don’t you?
Alas, I fear you have joined the ranks of those so perceptively and alliteratively identified by Spiro as the nattering nabobs of negativity. Of course the chemtrail conspiracy is real. If you don’t believe me just google it. However, your Iquitos acquaintance needs to get his facts straight. Its not brain disease but soil infertility that is caused by the jet exhaust. Microscopic aluminum nanopellets fall to the earth rendering it incapable of germinating any seeds other than those that have been gmo’d, patented and stockpiled by Dow and Monsanto.
TimmyMac, Was’ da haps bro? If you’d only change your frequency (of what I’m not sure) you could see the conspiracy all around you. They really are out to get us. Sleep well. If you dare 😉 And BTW, I borrowed your borrowing of the Agnew “Nabobs” label. I did a rewrite to, one hopes, clarify some of my boiling points. He was such a wonderful source of material; Miss ya Spiro. Not really.
A bit disoriented reading the rewrite which as far as I can tell was not id’d as such so I thought I was reading the original draft which as far as I can tell has disappeared from the website. Don’t recall receiving the usual email alert when the rewrite was posted so it seems one would miss rewrites unless one decides to reread the originals. Do I have it right?
Found (while googling Postman) that there is a rock group called Amusing Ourselves to Death as is the title track of their eponymous cd? If you run out of amusements you can get it from ITunes.
Have you posted any other rewrites? Can one rewrite a reply after posting original?
As an expat you may not know that things are looking up careerwise for the mils as Uber and Lyft are now options they may pursue.
Don’t know if a third party or two with a real shot at electability is the remedy for our diseased politics but I will be voting Green in November after the Donkey endorses Billary’s return to power.
Maybe we’d be better off if Obama had Sanders imprisoned for sedition. Roosevelt and Wallace ended up adopting most of Eugene Debs’ policy initiatives.
Hope you are dodging the political and seismic upheaval down your way. Would be interested to hear your take on local reaction to current political situation in Brazil and Argentina.
Hey Tim, I just got back to Cusco earlier today. I’ve only had a cellphone with me and lousy reception, so I’ve missed more than a week’s worth of e-mail; catching up now.
I had a lot of problems with this last post: writing, re-writing, feeling a strong need to re-write the re-write. I stumbled in attempting to cram a lot of emotions into the post and am totally dis-pleased with the result. I’m not sure what it’s future is and now that I’ve returned from Machu Picchu, I have so much additional input balanced unsteadily on top of the crap I’ve already posted. Stay tuned, I guess.
I wrote to Roberta earlier today, explaining that I’m hundreds of miles south of where the Ecuadorian quake shook, no danger whatsoever here in Perú. I expect to be in Cusco for 10 more days or so, sifting through hundreds of photos and hoping to distill some of the incredible experiences of the past few weeks into a readable blog entry.
I refuse to say that this has been the highpoint of my journeys, but I’ve been exposed to some mind-boggling sights/events/people in just a short period of time. This country defies short, long, detailed, fleeting description. And being the 18th largest country in the world, it’s not like I’ve seen anywhere near most of it. Or even half of it. Nor will I when the visa expires in June.
At that time it’s on to Chile, heading down to Cape Horn for my birthday, staring south towards Antarctica and pissing into the sea…
Nobody here is talking much about either Brazil or Argentina. I’m watching both through BBC/Online, with particular interest in Argentina. Since I’ll be in the neighborhood soon, I’m very interested in their Peso, since it’s losing value against the Greenback. This might be the time to drop in and introduce myself.
C’est la Vie say the Old Folks: it goes to show you never can tell. Karl
Hey Karl, just finished (on your strong recommendation) Postman’s book and my how prescient he was (is?). As a teacher (ret.), life-long learner, and long-time science nerd and political junky, I too be-wail the absurdities of our country’s present political climate. But what are ya gonna do? Besides, Game of Thrones is about to start up again and Better Call Saul is got me hooked so pass the pop corn if you please….
Dave, Thanks for the input. As a teacher you’ve been on the front lines all these years. I salute your dedication and am so happy you have made it out through the other end into retirement. I hope the scars are healing well. Postman was so right on when he wrote the book, now more than 30 years ago. And, if anything, he is more accurate today than back then! He was a true visionary and I’m desperately searching for another deep thinker like he was. His ability to articulate my feelings that something was fundamentally wrong was a gift. I will be forever grateful.
Are you safe? Praying that you are safe.
Mahalo for the wishes. I am very safe and about 1,500 miles from “La Terremoto” but freezing! Ecuador’s earthquake struck in a part of that country I never got a chance to visit. The central and northern coast of Ecuador is a mix of high-end highrises and very poor indigenous villages. I’m in Cusco, Perú (elev. 11,300′) and hanging out in a coffee shop with fast wi-fi. I’ve been here about a month and will leave next week for Arequipa, Perú’s cultural capital. Take care