TUESDAY 10AM: First They Took Rome: How the Populist Right Conquered Italy | David Broder
Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week

Moment of Truth: No One Can Afford to Live

Welcome to the moment of truth: the thirst that is the drink.

President Dump finally did it: he triggered the nuclear trade wars, a chain reaction of mutually prohibitive tariffs, a global web of protectionist punishments.

Now, no one can afford to live. I'm going to pretend this is not an exaggeration. Let's see how that goes.

No one can afford a place to live. Apartments and houses stand vacant because the rents and mortgages are too damn high. Landlords receive nothing for their properties, so they themselves must vacate their homes. What's propping up the price if not demand? Some artificial thing, a principle or an attitude no one understands. Even the banks receive no income from properties. The streets are lined with shanties made of reclaimed garbage.

No one can afford to buy food. Food rots in the supermarket because no one has the money to buy it. The cashiers and stock boys and baggers and managers haven’t worked in months, because the grocery stores aren't taking in any revenue.

The food gets thrown out, but some loyal employee takes it upon himself, without pay, to pour bleach all over it to make sure it can't be eaten by the scavenging homeless, which is all of us. That loyal employee is a jerk, but we understand his desire to please his now non-existent boss: he has Stock Boy Syndrome.

The farmers are out of business because no one can afford what they grow, and pretty soon the farmers themselves can't afford to grow it.

Artists are still making art, because artists are used to working for nothing. Teachers are teaching, because they're used to working without resources. They're teaching the homeless kids, which is all the kids. Firemen are still putting out fires with whatever tools they can get their hands on, out of a sense of duty, just to keep abandoned burning buildings from injuring anyone.

The prisoners are freed. The state can't afford to keep them in prison. The guards, even the crazy super-loyal ones, walk off the job, because everyone has something better to do, even if it's nothing. When the computers turn off the prison electricity, the generator power kicks in, and some kind or foolish soul opens everything before that auxiliary juice runs out.

Cops are preventing theft and committing it themselves, as usual. But nothing they steal is worth anything anymore. Gangs are protecting people for free. For loyalty. For whatever humans have that makes it worthwhile for a strong person to protect a weak one from another strong one.

Factories all over the world grind to a halt. Even the billionaires go broke. The Sultan of Brunei has to vacate his palaces because computers keep track of when the palace payments come in, and that bell hasn't pinged for a long time. The Sultan and all his retinue join the rest of us on the streets. By his third week among us he's just as filthy and ratty as the rest of the Homo sapiens.

Even the financial people finally run out of imaginary money with which to pay their mortgages or yacht payments or immortality bills. Yachts are moored but nobody's paid the mooring fees. Some try floating at sea but you can imagine the ship of foolish cannibals that turns into.

Eventually the robots come and polish the empty houses. All of humanity staggers through the streets, looking enviously at the shiny houses that are closed to them. Some of the prisoners move back to the empty prison, because there's something about a solid space for living that pleases some people.

That was many years ago. At last Donald Dump and his despicable legion are dead, purged from the species like the generation that wandered for forty years in the desert.

Life is better. Sure, there's violence and chaos. So there always has been. But there are a lot more decent people involved in defusing conflict than were ever available before. Turns out most people are pretty nosy, given the leisure time to be so.

Farmers started growing seed they rescued from whatever source there was. Gardeners grew stuff. A whole lot of people pitched in, even the Sultan of Brunei, although I think he's always waiting for his chance to take up residence in his palace again.

The Sultan gets that look in his eye, that wistful look, or Elon Musk, who is a perfectly good hoer – not whore, not prostitute, but rather "person who operates a garden hoe." Oh, hell, let's face it, the word "hoe" has been mangled beyond recognition. But it is healing now that there's no money. Soon it will mean a garden implement again, if we can get those skateboard punks to stop using it.

The death of money has changed a lot of things. There's no mediating substance, it seems, between one person and another. A-holes are a-holes for the pure a- holishness of it. And people are kind for the pure pleasure of being kind. Yes, it's true, people did these things for pure reasons before, but there was always a question: what do they really want? That question isn't there, or at least not in the same unpleasant way.

There's a directness to life now that wasn't there before. Perhaps some felt it in the days of money, but many of us remark about the clean absence of a sticky vapor, a spider in our ears, a pall over our days, lint in our mouths, chains on our wrists and ankles, all gone up in bubbles like an Alka-Seltzer tablet or a packet of Emergen-C powder in a glass of water.

Anyway, Elon Musk is pretty good in the garden, but even he gets that look in his eye, like he's got this great idea of stealing all the food and holding it for some kind of ransom, such a the labor of others, which is the only crass currency theses days. He and the Sultan are lovers. I wish they'd each found different partners, partners with more humble backgrounds, less liable to enable the other's crapulous yearning for yesteryear.

But they found each other. There is surely a reason. It's like two ex-smokers falling in love, each hoping the other will break and take a puff first, so both can finally give in to their fondest desire.

It falls to us to keep them in line, since they won't do it for each other. Whenever one of them gets that glazy, unsavory, dull glisten in his eye, as if staring with lust and hunger at a large jewel one has just taken possession of, one of us relatively normal people has to smack him in the face with wet slab of Ethiopian injera.

It doesn't hurt, but it's humiliating. And now and then, a little humility is just what some people need.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth

 

Share Tweet Send