Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
Dateline: Los Angeles, Friday the Thirteenth, March 2020. Corona virus empties all the stores of their toilet paper. The beginning of the end. But let’s not dwell on that, shall we not? Shall we? Shan’t we? Let’s shan’t, shan’t we?
I’m taking the cutest little pills for high blood pressure. They’re called “Chlorthalidone.” They’re about as big as those little... I don’t know if you remember these, I know not a lot of you aren’t old enough ...little saccharine tablets. My Grandma had a tiny serving vessel, with a tiny spoon. I think it was silver, or at least silver-plated. It was the shape of a cake pedestal with a lid, hinged at the back. It was about the diameter of a Kennedy half-dollar, and at most two-inches high with the lid closed. Oh, it had a tiny tongs, too.
And they work, these little chlorthalidones! Well, in tandem with Losartan. No one knows why. My BP ranges from normal to mildly high after only a week of taking these. I have my own personal blood pressure cuff and electronic sphygmomanometer! I get to take my blood pressure twice every day! So much fun!
So, what is the value of a human life, as a society that has shrugged off the burden of Enlightenment humanism collapses around us? Whoa! That’s an abrupt transition!
Okay, here’s another one: no one knows where blood pressure comes from. Some say it was created by space aliens to prop up the pharmaceutical industry, which provides said aliens with safe and effective baby formula, with which they turn their unfertilized polyhedrons into babies. Some say it’s the curse of King Tutankhamun for the violation of his tomb and theft of artifacts therefrom. He especially misses his coffee table. He’s got to spend eternity holding a “World’s Greatest Pharaoh” mug full of Trader Joe’s Breakfast Blend because some Englishman wanted a fancy piece on which to show off his magazines. Still others call blood pressure “the silent killer” because it’s not a particularly noisy form of hypertension, except when it causes fits of yelling, and then it’s called “Mr. Furious’s Revenge,” after a character Ben Stiller played.
My blood pressure was very high last summer. No one knows why. It’s been high, probably, for the past 16 years. I’m sure I’ve done a lot of damage to my body by not getting it diagnosed and treated. Let that be a lesson to me.
So, what is the value of a human life, as a society that has shrugged off the burden of Enlightenment humanism collapses around us? Depends. Depends what mood we’re in. You can’t legislate morality! You have to have morality as an unspoken basis for your governance from the get-go. You either value human beings over profit, or you don’t. Guess which way our governing philosophy leans? Do not ask, it leans on thee. No one knows why.
Did everyone receive their census notices? Very important you fill that out. They need to get an accurate count of everyone in the USA. That number will decide the minimum amount of UBI they’ll need to dole out to keep us from rioting, how many cops they’ll need to hire to control us if we do riot, how much teargas they’ll need to deploy, how many rubber bullets to issue.
I wonder if eating a couple of bananas during the day would lower my blood pressure. I think I read that it would, although no one knows why. I’m not going to look it up, I’m going to assume it’s true.
I want to inject the name Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch in here before I forget. He was an Austrian Jew who died in 1905, the same year Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity and his Extra-Special Theory of Relativity, as well as several very unpopular graphic novels about anthropomorphic bats who got into sword fights. That’s a little-known fact, and a subject for another time.
Right now, I’m concerned with Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch, the Austrian Jew. He invented the sphygmomanometer, a device for measuring blood pressure without penetrating the skin. Up until then, you had to stick a hollow needle in an artery and watch how far the blood pushed a column of mercury up a tube. I am so glad I don’t have to do that to myself, two times a day for three weeks. That would not be entertaining.
1881, that’s the year Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch invented the sphygmomanometer. “Ritter” was his title. It was the second-lowest rank of Austrian nobility, just above Scraper, just below Crouton. He was given this title years after escaping from Mexico with his life, no one knows why.
How did he end up in Mexico, you ask? You might as well ask how he became the personal physician to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, because that’s what he was just before being run out of town by Benito Juárez, who chopped off Maximilian’s head, which decapitation put Samuel Siegfried Karl on notice to flee. Perhaps Señor Juárez resented the claim of an Austrian to imperial reign over Mexico, as was a common feeling among other Mexicans. But, you know, around then, the Austrians were pretty hot shit. They were about to mate with Hungary and become such an empire that the simple assassination of the heir to their throne could ignite the Great War. I don’t think it was worth it, myself.
After the Battle of Puebla, the first one, the one Mexico won against the French, which is celebrated on Cinco de Mayo by frat boys and which eventually led to the French sending more troops the following year and this time winning another Battle of Puebla, Napoleon III made Maximilian the Emperor of Mexico, as part of the settlement of an old cribbage debt. So you can see why Maximilian might have been a bone in the throat of the Mexicans.
Benito Juárez and Samuel Siegfried Karl might have been friends, under other circumstances – although under vastly different circumstances they might not have had any more effect on each other than a butterfly does on a hurricane. But as it was, Samuel and Benito had a few things in common: they both rose from obscure origins from a minority population within larger empires ruled by descendants of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. They might have bonded, the Yiddish- speaking Jew from the ghetto of Prague and the Zoogocho-speaking Zapotec from Oaxaca. But, in the end, Benito identified Samuel as one of the oppressors, and Samuel saw Benito as one of the unruly rabble. So Samuel fled back to Austria, to invent the sphygmomanometer and become Ritterized.
And so, the death of Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch in the same Miracle Year as Einstein’s four cosmos-changing papers, and 30-or-so graphic novels of no great impact, was the clarion call that the Enlightenment, and the Euclidian universe, had come to an end. Since that time, we’ve been living in an unresolved dialectic, a smoothie which refuses to become smooth, the clunky barbarism of oppression and war rattling around in a Scrabble-tile bag together with genius and compassion personified. We have capitalism at its peak right now, helping destroy everything for the short-term pleasure of the few, the few cocaine addicts, snorting cocaine like there’s no tomorrow, no one knows why, cavalier about destroying their marriages and their futures, no one knows why, cracking in the rattle bag against the tender arts, the noble sciences, the care work, education, and other hoi polloi, as we settle in to watch it all clatter and smash from our isolated panopticons.
What will win? Will anything win? Will anything worth living for synthesize out of this Chex- mix dialectic, where the Chex represent the stuff you’d rather wasn’t in the mix because it’s made of aluminum? I heard China, where the virus was first identified, has just reported zero new infections. How about that? Should we celebrate prematurely and go right back to full throttle, burning up the world, wiping our asses on every precious thing the Einsteinian cosmos has bestowed? You realize that this is the perfect opportunity for the ruling class to decide either to let us die, or that every human is worthy of life. Which way do you think they’re leaning? Do not ask, for they lean on thee.
Can’t we keep growth and progress on pause for a little longer? The fact that our isolation has somehow happened concurrently with a drop in greenhouse gas emissions and a drop in my blood pressure, no one knows why – but it can’t be mere coincidence. I’m sure there’s causation in there, somewhere.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!