I recently read the post entitled “A Requiem for the Disillusioned” and I find myself troubled and confused. I am troubled and confused because I cannot understand how this raving indictment of “the culpable and their children”, which is nothing more than directionless angst, is the highest rated post on this “thought collective”. I would like to bring “thought” back to this discussion. Apart from its melancholy rhetorical flourishes, this article attempts to address no specific issue or audience in any coherent fashion, but instead makes vast, sweeping, and uninformed generalizations about “education”, “complicity”, and “fear” that are just as offensive as the instances of cruelty and derision it decries. Your veiled threats and appeals to mass power are offensive. You speak for everyone as no one. I simply will not allow these threats to stand without an informed response. Whoever this moniker refers to, let me say this at the beginning – I understand where you are coming from and empathize with your assumed plight. However, this article is simply not helping anyone go anywhere that is better than the status quo that you, very clearly, reject outright. I don’t really know where to begin, except, of course, with the beginning of this vapid article:
“To the culpable and their children, You fled, brothers and sisters. You fled from dark faces, dirty places. You fled for safety. You fled for the hope of a separate, improved education. You fled diversity. You sought the white picket fence. You felt derision so you sought division. Now you find yourself in a quandary. The very same isolation you required will be your death.”
As for the pleasant introduction to your intended audience, I’m going to pretend you were talking to me – something we in the writing biz like to call a “real audience.” It must be very nice to know exactly who is to blame for the world’s problems. Is there a list you have? Does George Bush have it? Like Santa Claus? No list? Oh, I see – you must be the Decider. Please let me apologize for everyone who is “culpable”, we did not know you wrote for questionablesource.com. While we were busy fleeing from “dark places” and “dirty faces” for “safety”, what precisely were you doing? I, for one, went to college, after going to high school, after being forcefully enrolled in a state education system, after I was born, after my father inseminated my mother. From what I’ve heard, that is how it went for my parents too. And their parents! It is almost like we are all born into a world with problems that require fixing. Apparently, this “separate, improved eduation” fulfilled in a sincere attempt to better the world, while living in a house with a nice fence, is complicit with denying “diversity”. Are you seriously contending that there is a direct link between my private education and racism on my part? No, of course not. But your statements are unquestionable, because you are talking to no one. No one is really easy to pin crimes on, because no one cannot respond. No one is also quite easy to lay violent rhetoric upon (re: “your isolation will be your death”), because the faceless don’t scream back. With that said, have We the Culpable failed on some accounts to improve the standard of living for everyone? Sure. Have “we” waged horrible wars, have “we” been racist, have “we” been exclusionary? Yes, yes, and yes. Are you a part of we? Last time I checked the dictionary, yes. Shall we continue on this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride down the dark tunnel you narrate?
“Our dollar is down but commodities are up. Your fifty-mile commute will drain your precious money like a sieve. Corporations will bleed you dry, making record highs while you endure unprecedented lows. Welcome to the new America. Buy your ticket at the front gate and watch the tragedy unfold! For the first time in the history of this nation, our quality of life threatens to dip below that of our parents. The middle-class chokes as our global power declines. American society stratifies as we calmly abide, hoping the flood doesn’t claim us like it did our neighbors.”
OH GOD, NO!!! NOT OUR QUALITY OF LIFE!!! Is it possible that perhaps we are doing the right things for a change and our fat bloated lifestyles that you so inherently criticize are receding? Is it possible that the “unprecedented lows” you speak of only exist on the old normative scale you so despise? You are clearly an economist because you used the word “commodities”; so try this pancho on for size. If there is a fixed amount of physical resources that determine and hold the stored value for all of humanity (in addition to labor, which is population determined), then where there is a reduction in the standard of living, there is a net gain for the rest of humanity. The Dutch know all about high gas prices. It’s $10 a gallon there – and they somehow don’t need gasoline anymore – because they innovated and knocked off their foreign oil dependency in the 25 years since the gas crisis of the 1970’s. Maybe the $500 dollars you lost paying for gasoline should motivate you to ride a bicycle instead of threatening the college-educated’s children on some blog. But… perhaps we are not doing the right things. Perhaps the “market” (also known as “what society/humanity values”) knows this and may be adjusting our Google-like price to something more sustainable. I don’t know about you, but I don’t measure my net worth against the price of gasoline. As for my “precious money”, the falling “dollar”, and our “global power”, I think these statements make the picture of what you are talking about become a little clearer. You’re not just a crusader for the little guy – you’ve got the Man’s back, because po’ old ‘Merica ain’t such hot shit anymore. More people are getting voices in the high school dance that we like to call international politics. That sounds fine to me, and it’s certainly consistent with your critique of destructive power. As for the corporations acting all corporation-y, what exactly is your beef? I have a lot of problems with Corporate America, but I’m not sure you know what yours are. You claim it is stratifying America just like our racist schools – but We the Culpable “calmly abide”. Do we? Last time I checked we nominated a black presidential candidate for the first time in history. Ah, but he is an “elite” a.k.a. “educated”. Heaven forbid someone educated at a private university like Barack Obama become president; is it possible to re-elect Dubya again? He wasn’t very educated and he did a fucking bang-up job. As for “our neighbors”, are you referring to those ambigious “dirty faces” of paragraph’s past? Just who are they again? Oh right, you never tell us.
“But you did this to us. Can’t you see? Does your heart burn with at least a tinge of guilt?”
No. It does not. I have done nothing to exclude anyone. Why not indict someone real, instead of everyone fake?
“We live in a world where ambivalence is complicity. You are all complicit. We are all complicit. You followed Nixon and Reagan into a new model of segregation. I let you go. You traded Jim Crowe for unofficial bias in homeowners associations and the same socioeconomic divides that have and continue to cut deeper and deeper into America’s flesh. I let you do it. I still let you do it. Beware the flood that will soon cross the hedge and drown your nitrated lawn just like it did your neighbor’s.”
I concur that ambivalence is complicity, but who is “you” and who is “we”? Who exactly do you speak for, oh great 80’s talking alien-bear? The good guys? Of course you do. That’s such a coincedence, so does everyone who makes rampant generalizations like this. And then the hammer falls. Nixon and Reagan are to blame and so are “we” for following them! There’s this great thing. It’s called progress. I use it to measure how society is doing. One hundred and fifty years ago, African-Americans were slaves. Forty ago, they were (for the most part) horribly discriminated against, but they were free. Now they are exlcluded from Homeowner’s Associations, as you claim. I would swap slavery and Jim Crow anyday for discrimination in Homeowner’s Associations. That’s called improvement. That’s called progress. Is it right? Fuck no. Should it continue? Abolutely not. What needs to stop first is the apocalypse waving loonies who keep telling me the world is going to end because something is a problem. “Beware the flood”? What does that even mean? Are you coming to kill me? Problems get fixed by people who know and take a stand. Your article is not a stand; it is a crutch for you to lean on in the face of not knowing.
“Know that despite your hate, your resentment, your revulsion, we will be there to break your fall. This broken fabric is not to be re-sown. It will be discarded. We will start anew as a collective whole. We will embrace you as vigorously as you fled us. We will celebrate together in victory. We will suffer together in defeat. We will live together. Our kids will go to school together. We will fight together. We will cry together. We will die together.”
Thank you, oh merciful one. Please don’t hurt me what with your flourish of collective pronouns! Your “we” is meaningless, for you never identify with anyone or anything. Moreover, I am sick of people saying that we have to start over and abandon the framework. You’re counting on slam-poetry contests to cure the world, I’m going to become a lawyer and prevent conflict through contract arbitration. That’s called bettering the system. Claiming that throwing it away is the only option is just lazy and egocentric.
“The foundations we construct are not as sturdy as they may seem. We are often fortunate enough to patch up our problems with minor, short-term solutions. The Dutch boy’s finger cannot hold the dam together forever. Sometimes we must deconstruct entirely lest we find ourselves flooded and without recourse. Soon you will knock on our doors. Soon you will seek our help. Soon you will realize that you need us just as we need you.
But first, you will atone. You will repent for running when you should have fought by our side. You will seek forgiveness for your dereliction, and you will decry our abandonment. You will atone for turning our great American wilderness into a sprawling golf course. The few will repent for growing fat on what should have been our collective plenty. But do not fear us. We may harbor resentment, but our grudge will not endure long. In our hearts, we miss you. We want you to return. We need you to return. You are as much a part of our life’s blood as the currency that oxygenates yours.”
Now I’m actually a little afraid of you. What is with the flood imagery? Are you a terrorist planning to blow up the Hoover Dam? Tell me you’re going to drown me once, shame on me. Tell me you’re going to drown me four times, shame on you. As for the American Wilderness, yeah, that’s a problem. Agreed. What is your solution? More forced drownings? Just checking. There is this thing called the Yale School of Forestry. Check it out. Atonement? Repentance? Mercy? Is it just me or do you have a seriously messed up God complex? Is this death threat almost done? Oh good, the last paragraph.
“Know that we await your compassion. We await your contribution. Most of all, we patiently await your return—and make no mistake, your return is coming. So come down from your towers. They are merely fortified vestiges of the feudalism your predecessors overthrew. Open your hearts and walk away from your closed cul-de-sacs. They represent exclusion. You will represent inclusion. Leave your mega churches. They seek to profit from your ignorance and fear. Your body is your church. Your good book lies in your enduring spirit. Let your mouth be the pulpit and let your words contain soul. In death, you will find the wisdom you ignored in life. You cannot flee the mistakes of our forefathers. Foundations must be rebuilt lest your houses of cards collapse entirely.”
Our return is coming? Towers? Church? Feudalism? Closed cul-de-sacs? This is like the Lord of the Rings and Revelations got mashed up by Girl Talk to form some unclear narrative in suburbia. As for “profiting from…ignorance and fear”, I would say this article did a pretty good job of that.
Peace in the Middle East,