Sunday, April 1, 2012

we live in the shadow of a dying world

This was my first time at the film festival for this flick, which was shot beautifully (though I am a sucker for neon signs, general urban wasteland, as it evokes melancholia of the cathartic and creative kind.It's familiar to me, I guess.

And I know I overthink everything, that the synapses in my brain are shooting off in a hundred incoherent directions, because honestly most of us don't see beyond ourselves and are often wrong. The policies of Bush and Reagan are blamed of course, and maybe for good reason, but NAFTA was a Clinton thing, and it's been four years since Dubya was in office. Reagan was 30 years ago. Union presidents are just as much profiting off the little guy's vulnerabilities as the bosses, which I see in my own place of employment and when my dad comes home with his blood angried up from Teamster meetings. Everyone boils everything down to the cost-benefit analysis to the detriment of all the people involved.

There is talk about the toxicity of capitalism but also longing for the glory days of big cars and of the glory days of the Cold War when things were good and we made war machines and everyone bought our crap instead of us buying our crap from China. If that isn't capitalism, I don't know what is, and is the answer to the destruction of our communities and souls really found in the making of fighter jets and Christmas garland? I find that hard to believe. There is talk that we lost our "exceptionalism" as a country but I don't know if that's such a bad thing. Now everyone's got the same standard of living as us and look at how great that's turned out.

China came up quite a bit, whether intentionally or not, and one of the people in the film wished that we peons had their same ability to take "collective action" but that kind of worked out badly for lots of peasants who starved, led to a lot of pollution and environmental havoc, heavy censorship and destruction of traditional and beautiful art forms, not to mention replacing one oligarchy with another. I don't know how much it benefits us to replace one kind of suckitude with another.
There's always someone bigger to blame, but as I gazed at a big screen full of crumbling towers and broken American dreams, I realize that we are all at fault here.It's no secret that the rich profit off the rest of us, but we are just as selfish. This lifestyle of fossil fuel consumption and urban sprawl was unsustainable. It was the town that Ford built (the film was financed in part by the Ford Foundation, so there won't be biting of feeding hands and there were quite a few digs at Chevy), and eventually the world changed. Technology made assembly line jobs obsolete, the cost-benefit analysis found ways to cut jobs and still maintain the same level of productivity while boosting profit margins.

So it gave me the sense of the waning days of empire. There were others that rose and fell before us, other cities that were once jewels of the world that are mere shadows now, due to war, environmental changes, or the shifts in commerce and power that led to eventual abandonment and disintegration. The list is endless... Samarkand, Timbuktu, Carthage, Cuzco, Mesa Verde, Axum, Thebes. It's hard for me not to look at these places and see our future.


  1. Once the jinn's out, he ain't going back in.

  2. from Archibald MacLeishs' The Sheep In The Ruins

    for Learned and Augustus Hand

    You, my friends, and you strangers, all of you,
    Stand with me a little by the walls
    Or where the walls once were.
    The bridge was here, the city further:
    Now there is neither bridge nor town—
    A doorway where the roof is down
    Opens on a foot-worn stair
    That climbs by three steps into empty air.
    (What foot went there?)
    Nothing in this town that had a thousand steeples
    Lives now but these flocks of sheep
    Grazing the yellow grasses where the bricks lie dead beneath:
    Dogs drive them with their brutal teeth.

    Can none but sheep live where the walls go under?
    Is man’s day over and the sheep’s begun?
    And shall we sit here like the mourners on a dunghill
    Shrilling with melodious tongue—
    Disfiguring our faces with the nails of our despair?
    (What dust is this we sift upon our hair?)
    Because a world is taken from us as the camels from the man of Uz
    Shall we sit weeping for the world that was
    And curse God and so perish?
    Shall monuments be grass and sheep inherit them?
    Shall dogs rule in the rubble of the arches?

    Consider, Oh consider what we are!
    Consider what it is to be a man—
    He who makes his journey by the glimmer of a candle;
    Who discovers in his mouth, between his teeth, a word;
    Whose heart can bear the silence of the stars— that burden;
    Who comes upon his meaning in the blindness of a stone—
    A girl’s shoulder, perfectly harmonious!

    Even the talk of it would take us days together.
    Marvels men have made, Oh marvels!—and our breath
    Brief as it is: our death waiting—
    Marvels upon marvels! Works of state—
    The imagination of the shape of order!
    Works of beauty—the cedar door
    Perfectly fitted to the sill of basalt!
    Works of grace—
    The ceremony at the entering of houses,
    At the entering of lives: the bride among the torches in the shrill carouse!


  4. Reagan was 30 years ago.

    When Obama is sworn in next January, we'll be getting our 9th consecutive term of Reaganism.

    Clinton and Obama have delivered us corporatism without the overt racism and misogyny.

  5. dmf,
    love this poem. I don't say that about many bits of verse, (most are nice but not always resonant enough for a second read, that's just me),

    per conversation, damn straight.

    The longer I live, the more I realize that while the cast may change, the plot is basically the same all the way around.