-- - Surprisingly moving
Barack Obama music videos? The potential end of the writer's
young deer being saved by helicopters? No no no no no. Here
are your most deeply inspiring news stories of the month:
flurry of pink slips fluttered over the job sector as
corporate payrolls were sliced like sour pie.
Foreclosures are skyrocketing and new home sales across the
nation are plummeting faster than Britney Spears' serotonin
levels. A nasty recession is either
creeping or flooding in, depending on your perspective and
how recently you purchased your home and/or tried to dump your
Meanwhile, the largest corporation in the world, the one
which has consistently raked in the largest and most appalling
profits of any organization on Earth, a company so powerful and
deeply influential to the machinations of our own nation, our
government, the globe, so ingrained and unstoppable that no
president, no administration, no nuclear warhead to its CEO's
home planet stands a chance of slowing it down or altering its
behavior in any significant way because there is simply far, far
too much money involved in its nefarious endeavors, has recently
the largest profit of any company in American history.
Yes, the Exxon Mobil corporation sucked in a staggering $11.7
billion in a single quarter (more than
$40 billion for the year, a new record for an American
company) thanks largely to record-breaking prices for a barrel
of oil, which are of course only record-breaking because, well,
the Bush administration has essentially engineered the economy
and launched a bogus war and desiccated the American idea
exactly so they would be.
Oh yes, two more trifling stories, buried beneath the
nauseating Exxon headlines and the tales of looming economic
struggle: More U.S. soldiers are dead in Iraq as a result of
Bush's failed war, U.S. military spending in 2009 will reach its
highest levels since WWII ($515 billion), insurgents have
taken to strapping suicide bombs to
mentally retarded women and nearly 100 more civilians are
dead in another bombing in Baghdad because the U.S. troop surge
is working so well. Oh wait.
Do you feel the righteousness? The inspiration? Can you sense
the deep connection between these stories? Because the truth is,
they merely add up to the heartwarming conclusion that, without
a doubt, American capitalism is still firing on all cylinders.
Yes, the system is working just exactly as those in control
of the nation right now wish it to be working, with the most
dominant, ruthless corporations in the world (Exxon joined by
Chevron, BP, ConocoPhilips et al) still making the most
money in the most destabilizing and environmentally devastating
manner possible, while poor uneducated kids die like chattel in
unwinnable wars trying to secure a tiny bit more of the source
of their profit.
And somewhere in between, the nation's overall health and
well-being are sacrificed like dazed lambs to an ignorant god,
with our government offering up only the most meager, desultory
efforts to keep it functional so as to not induce all-out
Is that too simplistic? Too reductive? Not even close. Hell,
you can distill it down even further. For if you understand, as
most sentient creatures on the planet now do, that this "war" is
merely a particularly bloody chunk of a particularly brutal,
fraudulent national energy policy spearheaded by Dick Cheney and
beloved by Saudi Arabia and Halliburton and most of Texas, then
it is no stretch at all to say that we are sending American kids
to their deaths exactly so Exxon can continue to make $3 billion
in a single month (or: $100 million per day, $4 million per
hour, or more than $1,000 every. Single. Second).
Or how about this for dark math: $40 billion for the year,
4,000 dead U.S. soldiers ... that's a cool $10 million in pure
profit for every American soldier BushCo has thrown to the
wolves of petroleum, just for 2007 alone. Even if you factor in
the 20,000 wounded, paralyzed and brain damaged U.S. soldiers —
not to mention the record number of military suicides — on a
body-by-body basis, you've still got yourself one hell of a
sweet profit margin. See Dick Cheney's vile, crooked little
grin? Now you know where it comes from.
This, you might argue, is perhaps the bleakest way to look at
American capitalism, as an instrument of war and death and
gluttony that serves only the most cretinous corporate masters
at the expense of, well, everyone else. This is the capitalism
of the hard right, a particularly ruthless type that happily
sacrifices quite literally everything — the environment, health,
human life, God, national identity, the stability of future
generations — for the sake of immediate and unchecked profit.
It is the kind of system, furthermore, that brings with it a
huge, nauseating sense of shame for how we have approached the
world, pouring a vague disgust over the nation like a cancerous
sludge. This is perhaps BushCo's cruelest gift of all:
tragically convincing us that this strain of capitalism, a
furious weapon of greed and disgrace, inviting all manner of
corruption and destruction as it brings out the absolute worst
in the human animal, is the only flavor there really is.
But then again, no. Maybe there's something else, a flipside
we've forgotten amid the insane oil profits and dead bodies and
global mistrust. It's the awkward truism that American
capitalism is potentially capable, despite its dark core of
profit, despite its frequently poisoned heart, of tremendous
creative opportunity and ingenuity. Like porn, like God, like
wisdom and plutonium and very, very dark rum, it's all in how
you use it.
Here, then, is perhaps the most dominant question surrounding
the upcoming big transition, as the nation prepares over the
next year to finally rid itself of the cancer of Bush: Are we
still capable of reshaping the capitalist demon, injecting it,
on a national scale, with something like conscience and
compassion and responsibility, sans the need to sell your
mother, rape Alaska, or bomb ancient cities and kill pathetic
foreign dictators in a pitiable attempt to vindicate your dad?
Is such a turnaround even possible anymore?
Because this nasty truth remains: Bush or no, Exxon and its
nefarious, insanely powerful ilk are ramming full speed ahead,
undertaking more incredibly brutal, land-raping techniques as
you read these very words to get at the Earth's remaining supply
of oil, sucking up tar sand and coal and anything else possible
to maintain profit and power. They are, and will continue to be,
utterly relentless and, at least for a number of years to come,
There is no eliminating the dark side of capitalism, the
gluttony and the greed and the violent underbelly. There is only
minimizing, shifting the emphasis, changing the pitch and angle
of approach, trying to take what is, at its very heart, a flawed
and self-destructive system, and making it into something proud
and interesting and vibrant, something actually worth defending.
Can it be done? Is it still possible? No matter how many
poetic Barack Obama speeches, no matter how many pragmatic
Hillary Clinton promises, it's a question that seems far bigger
than both of them. And the truth is, it's really the only
question that matters.