Tough times bring out the best in us, as people like to say. People say a lot of things. From my personal experience, mankind responds to catastrophe very unevenly. That can-do, community spirit that brings folks together to roll up their sleeves and solve a problem can yield a hardy band of men to raise a barn”or form an extremist political party. In the first stages of a disaster, most people (apart from looters) draw on their reserves of good will and hope, and behave with surprising decency”as New Yorkers did on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s the subsequent weeks and months, when those reserves are all used up, and the camaraderie of crisis yields to the weariness of perpetual scarcity, that things turn ugly. Last night there was an ice storm up here in New Hampshire, and along with some half a million other Yankees, I’m living with neither electricity nor heat. (I found a functioning Internet cafe to post this column. My readers always come first!)
Everybody’s pulling together”everyone except the store owner who’s charging $80 per flashlight, but let’s not focus on him. (No sense in attracting an angry mob.) I suspect that our good and helpful spirits will last for a few more days. But if we enter a second week of freezing in the dark, I await the emergence of more elemental aspects of fallen human nature”the kind that are likely to dominate our country if it continues its economic collapse. Then we’ll see what species of “community spirit” emerges from the rubble. I’ve no power to make predictions, but I’m stocking up on holy water.
Below are some of my other favorite happy-clappy mantras, unpacked for your convenience this holiday season. Think of them as gifts, the kind of gifts whose value can’t be measured in money, since they didn’t cost me anything. I suspect that millions of Americans this year will be giving their children such presents: Reams of Xerox paper, shiny staplers, rubber stamps your kids can use to slam the word “Void” on everything in sight, happy pink memo paper and tasty little cups of half and half. We’ll explain all this with creative little tales told by the televised Christmas hearth, of how “Santa is in rehab” or “the Baby Jesus is angry with us this year. Unless we amend our ways, He will return with fire and vengeance to destroy us.”
Hence this year’s Meditations for Santaclaustide (hat tip to Evelyn Waugh’s exquisite Love Among the Ruins):
What you can conceive, you can achieve. But of course! When I’m done with this column I shall head off alone, think really hard, and conceive a child, all by myself.
Our diversity is our strength. Which is why public schools in California are just so much better than those in Idaho, and the Belgians dominate Europe. The next time somebody says this in my presence I’ll answer: “Tell it to the Tutsis.”
The Market will pick up again. We’ve stopped making things in this country”except for big shiny weapons to use on the “enemies” that neocons pick by randomly throwing darts at a Risk board pinned to the wall. The “financial services” we performed boiled down, in the end, to carting money from China, skimming several billion off the top to pay for Vassar tuition and sex-change procedures, then returning it to China in the form of IOUs. Somehow, this industry turned out not to be sustainable. Then again, we might find the raw materials to manage another financial bubble. Having already blown through technology and real estate”that is, everything we know how to do, and all the land we’ve got”what’s left over is only our human capital. By which I mean the market in organs exported for transplant. In five years, Alan Greenspan will announce from his suite in a clinic in Gstaad that “liver futures” have never looked better.
In Chinese, the word “crisis” also means “opportunity.” I have no idea if this is true or not. Any readers fluent in Mandarin are asked for their input. While we’re at it, I’ve one more question for Chinese readers: Exactly what kind of meat is used in Chicken Miao No Mo?
Immigrants only do the jobs Americans won’t. Yes, it’s hard to find Americans to fly planes into skyscrapers, start rabidly anti-white political cults like La Raza, form gangs and drive all the black Americans out of major cities, and use ambulances as taxicabs to emergency rooms when they stub their toes”but that’s only because the wages we’re offering for such jobs aren’t high enough to attract native-born workers. If you cut off the supply of low-cost labor from Mexico and the Middle East, I am confident that millions of Americans who left the work force will emerge from the shadows and fill these positions. For instance, all those guys down at the pool hall, who think that Lynryd Skynrd’s plane was shot down by the Israelis. Don’t they need jobs, too?
Trust me. If someone feels the need to actually say this to you, it’s time to grab your pockets, close your knees, and tighten your buttocks. Once the person’s out of sight, interview all your prepubescent children and check the fillings in your teeth.
I’ll pray for you. This is Christian-ese for “Go BLEEP yourself.”
The check is in the mail. Yeah, but they used Confederate stamps. Pretend that any such promised money simply doesn’t exist. That way if it does turn up, it’s a happy surprise. In fact, that’s the key to daily happiness, in my experience: Low expectations.
Every child has infinite potential. Theoretically, this comes close to being true, given the interchangeability of mass and energy, but physicists funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy have determined that the energy residing in most of the mass of which each child is composed is, with present technology, inaccessible. So scratch those plans for a new source of “biofuel.”
We in management regret these layoffs and cutbacks, and are tightening our own belts and sharing in the sacrifice. Translation: We’re finally getting rid of all the deadwood down on the shop-floor, and replacing them with robots made by Christian slaves in China.
Thing globally, act locally. If you see this on a new neighbor’s Prius, what it really means is: “My very presence here will raise your rent/property taxes. Instead of flowers, I’ll probably plant hemp. I’ll have parties with my academic colleagues, and the same sex couples will kiss and fondle each other in plain sight of your adolescent children. I’ll be cloyingly friendly at first, but will soon start barraging you with passive-aggressive complaints: When you barbecue, I’ll point out that my “life-partner” is a vegan. When your dog barks, I’ll call the police. When you smoke cigars on your deck, I’ll contact the local environmental authority. When your son beats up my honor student, I will sue you in civil court. When you finally use Round-Up to carve the the word ‘faggot’ into my lawn, I will get all whiney, like I didn’t even deserve it.”
As you can see, I’m already cracking under the strain. With no light by which to read, no PC and no radio, and my only source of heat two quivering dogs, I’m beginning to think that my mother might have been right. She told me long, long ago: “Never leave New York City. It isn’t safe out there.”