Granny was right: We are going to hell in a hand basket. Hillary Clinton is right, too: What's putting us in hell along the U.S.-Mexico border is not just the greedy, vicious Mexican drug lords, but the insatiable consumption habits of the American public.
Neither of these things is going to change; human greed is more constant than the North Star. We Americans don't even define ourselves as "citizens" anymore. We are consumers. We consume massive amounts of food, raw materials, manufactured goods and drugs of all kinds, ranging from caffeine to heroin. Some Buddhists have long since relegated us to the status of a nation of hungry ghosts. Hungry ghosts are what's left over when a sentient being has become so overwhelmed with the need to consume that it loses every other aspect of its being. A hungry ghost is represented in the literature as a gaping mouth supported on a stalk of flesh. Way scary.
What worries me is the inevitable legalization of drugs in the service of consuming, particularly marijuana. Ostensibly, this will be to stem the violence. Really, it will be to provide revenue. In case anybody has missed it, we need money. Loads of it is barking at the back door, and all we have to do is let it in.
My problem with legalizing marijuana has nothing to do with drugs destroying the fabric of society. Nor am I worried about cannabis being a gateway drug, though it often incidentally is. No, my problem with the gange is that potheads are irritating, and I dislike being around them. You ask one of them a simple question, like, what time is it?, and he goes on about time having no meaning because of some physics he heard about on Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which there are, like, zillions of dimensions and, like, given all that and the fact the dinosaurs died out 150 million years ago, who cares what time it is?
All you wanted to know was whether it was closer to 3 or 4, because you still had to go to the store and were worried about traffic on Speedway Boulevard.
And then there's the Shaun of the Dead factor. For those of you who shun cinéma vérité, Shaun is a much-better-than-average zombie movie, although my favorite will always be the original Night of the Living Dead. Man, those were some zombies. Those clawing, scraping, eternally insistent deadbeats were scarier than any of their descendents, but I digress.
One morning, Shaun awakens hung over and heads out of his apartment across the street to the neighborhood bodega. He fails to notice not just that the street is choked with dead bodies and wrecked cars; he fails to notice the bloody handprints on the refrigerator case in the store. Totally oblivious to his surroundings, he grabs his pint of orange juice, leaves some money on the counter and splits.
As far as I can tell, people these days are already half-zombie. Nobody is where they're supposed to be. They are wired up, plugged in, tuned out and voluntarily at the beck and call of so many electronic masters that they can hardly see straight. We have middle-age women jogging down the street iPod-ing Rod Stewart's latest-lounge lizard act at maximum volume to the degree that they fail to hear the fully loaded Wal-Mart semi as it bears down on them; the semi driver has become distracted while text-messaging his girlfriend for the third time because he's not getting the immediate response he's used to and assumes, therefore, that she must be fucking someone else. She, meanwhile, is in the bedroom screaming her lungs out, having failed, yet again, to download the latest Black Keys CD from her Mac into her own iPod, for free.
If only the middle-age woman had left Rod at home, electing instead to listen to the birds and actually hear large, fast-moving vehicles as they veer dramatically off course. If only the trucker had not felt entitled to an immediate response from his hissy-fitting girlfriend. If only the girlfriend had listened for the phone instead of pounding her computer monitor. Think of the mayhem that could have been avoided.
In the very near future, not only will we have to deal as a matter of course with all of this; nearly all of the people doing it will be stoned.
I have seen the enemy, and he is us. Dude.