Saturday, November 29, 2008

Did It Stop the Pain?

This morning, I'm sitting in front of my laptop, near a large window, through which I can see the gray-shrouded Saturday after a Black Friday. And I'm thinking again about the death of one Jdimytai Damour, whom, as you are likely aware by now, was trampled to death. Desperate shoppers literally busted the doors of a Wal-Mart and, in a rashness born of their sheer consumer panic, they trod a man to death under their feet. The recriminations have begun. The police have begun to analyze the security camera footage, searching for guilty shoppers, while those selfsame people likely go about their business, confident either in the incompetence of the authorities to find them or secure in their feeling that so many people (other than themselves, natch) are responsible that none are. And many people that were nowhere near the scene wrap themselves in sanctimony, decrying the savagery of unreasoning cupidity, relying on distance to hide from the decisions that they (and I, too) have made, and for which others have quite probably paid with their lives.

"How could anyone be so desperate for a cheap digital video disc player, a widescreen television set or a substandard - but yet must-have - toy from a sweatshop in some Godforsaken East Asian factory town that they'd fatally overrun an innocent, hardworking, man?" The moralists ask - waiting until they're sure we're watching before they allow themselves to wring their hands piteously.

But, as we all know, intense pain can make one do what one otherwise wouldn't. For those of us who can't attest to this from personal experience, no less an authority than the Bush Administration tells us so. Left to my own devices, I wouldn't have thought that the pain of thinking oneself deprived of affordable consumer goods would have ranked high enough to allow one to justify killing a man, but we all have our breaking points. Just as we all have our own tolerance for pretense. :) (And, yes, I am grateful that yours is high.) And isn't the whole reason for Wal-Mart (and the others, for that matter) to exist to salve the existential suffering that comes from realizing that you cannot claim your dignity or legitimacy unless you can demonstrate that you have enough of the right things?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Populism and Pretense

Congress and the media have been making a big deal out of the fact that the chief executives of the Big 3 automakers flew to Washington, hat in hand, to ask for bailouts in their private corporate jets. Bully for them.

But this is really little more than an exercise in populist hypocrisy. Were I a banker, and a family came to me to have their mortgage renegotiated, and I turned them down, because they had driven to the bank in their own car, rather than taking the bus, whose side would the press and the politicians be on?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Great Bit of Snark...

Courtesy of The Economist.

"And Barack Obama, committed to uniting America, could defuse the nation's culture wars by purchasing an alternative homeland for those of his countrymen who want more use of the death penalty, less gun control and no gay marriage. A slice of Saudi Arabia's empty quarter would do nicely; there's plenty of space and the new occupants would have lots in common with the locals."

"O give me a home..." The Economist. November 15th, 2008