Saturday, March 12, 2011

Don't Look Down: A Rant

You know the drill. You roll out of bed and punch the buttons. A soundtrack assaults you with music played at full volume and speed by musicians who are wide awake and pumped up by caffeine, or TV newscasters -- made up, dressed up, wired up and fired up -- who pound you with the cudgel of the latest sex scandal, blockbuster movie, or natural disaster; they wow you with smiles, wit, fashion, celebrity, and cleavage. Between sets and stories the advertisers jump in: tighten up that butt; sculpt those abs; augment those boobs; enlarge that doohickey; you aint good enough the way you are, so step up and drop that crying towel. It is Big Brother reminding you that you better get moving, get with it, that you better hurry up.

You’re not there yet and are given no quarter in time needed to get up to speed. You’re expected to be there already and to stay there – all day and into the night. No, there is no time to rest, much less time to write, in either this day or the long span of years of your working life, no time to rest until you have made equity traders rich with your stock investments drawn from a lifetime of saving and personal sacrifice. Then, in those halcyon days of arthritis and gray hair, you will be free to have a life, get out the notebook, pen that novel, and look down your nose at the rest of us, who are still under the whip of necessity to be up, to be perky, to be optimistic, at the head of the pack, urging others to do and be the same, or else.

Or else no retirement cookie for you.

You know somewhere deep inside that it’s a form of tyranny, this corporate optimism, this unceasing compulsion to be up, on, bright, better, to be an example to the rest of the slackers, doubters, malcontents, carpers, foreigners, liberals, all those losers who have yet to get with the program.

If the terminal speed and the lifestyle that goes with it (bad fast food, high stress, lack of sleep and steroid-free exercise) get you down, don’t worry. Just take a drug: the Purple Pill Prilosec for your gastric acids, the red pill Paxil for your anxiety, the black Zoloft for your depression, ivory Ambien for sleep, blue Viagra to keep you up, large, and in charge. Pfizer’s got your back.

Your secret misery, poor health, and need to be more than you are make the pharmaceutical companies rich, Madison Avenue flush, and Rupert Murdoch dizzy with his galaxy of influence. They like your need to hurry up and get ahead of everyone else, your lack of time to take care of yourself, your family, your community, your planet.

The megaphonic voices keep chiming: don’t stop; don’t look; if you’ve got so much as a sliver of doubt that this is insane, get over it. Distract yourself. Here’s a movie, a video game, some porn. Look lively and make money. Be a success. Get it up.

And, if the trappings of success mean we kill the earth, so what? At least you’ll have a split-level bungalow overlooking an over-fished, poisoned ocean and a Hummer in the garage next to your family set of matching Bush buggies.

So suck it up America. Let’s get behind this need to get ahead. Take no prisoners. This new world is for the winners. We’re gonna win the war against limitations, against nattering nabobs, and against thinking, if just for a moment, even if it kills us.