Summer of the Apocalypse

September 11, 2020

What is it we’re feeling during this summer of the apocalypse? Pandemic, politics, heat wave, fire storm: we have it all! The pandemic has kept us cooped up and isolated for months, feeling desperate for travel and socialization and a change of scenery from the inside of our house. We started to get out a bit for hikes and bike rides, and then the heat wave rolled in and we hid from it in any cooler darkness we could find, and suffered through the steaming nights. The heat spawned a thousand fires, some of which sputtered out but others grew and raged and devoured our favorite preserves, destroyed our friends’ homes, and spewed great gouts of unbreathable smoke. The best air was inside the car, filtered and cooled thanks to burning dino-juice and adding to the planet’s global warming but not even noticeable in comparison to the conflagration in our back yard. “Let’s run errands!” became the welcomed excuse to simultaneously get out of the smoke, heat, and confines of the house, pretending that we’re “going somewhere” as if REI was a foreign country.

The chaos and suffering here serves as a distraction from the more consequential issues afflicting the country. Yes, our trails have been burned and homes and even a few lives have been lost to the fires, but COVID-19 rages across the US with no end in sight, fascists and racists are making their presence felt with impunity. Those forces have the potential for much greater impact, much greater destruction, than do the naturally-occuring flames.

We talk about the root cause of the white, fascist upsurge. Our hypothesis is that it is rooted in fear. The structures and expectations of a large part of the US population grew up with are, like California, going up in smoke and they are scared. Blue-collar middle-class jobs have been in decline for a couple decades; people with brown and black and yellow skins are arriving, hungry and eager for hard work; and the thought that you and your children might not see the same standard of living as your parents is a deeply troubling fear that gnaws at your soul. Combine that with the self-reinforcing media information silos and forever-war glorification of “warriors” that has pervaded the same groups of people, and you have a witches’ brew of toxic culture ready to boil over. How do you turn down the heat?

The Trumpublicans aren’t; they’re fanning the flames, knowing that any outcome leads to profit at the top of the 1%.

But curiously, the Democrats aren’t really addressing these root causes either. Decrying racism, systemic or individual, doesn’t make the racsists any less vitriolic, or less fearful; even if it is the morally correct position, beating that drum pushes the conservative whites further away – even those who legitimately aren’t racists per se, but have been enveloped in the us-vs-them mentality of the right-wing media silo. They view the moralizing of the left as an attack, and absent a plan that addresses their concerns and fears and daily-lived reality of sliding backwards inch by inch, it is.

What, then, would Democrats offer? There needs to be meaningful work, that pays a living wage, that doesn’t require “book learning” and a college education.

Is there a viscious, self-inflicted cycle that sends blue-collar jobs overseas? Those in the lower end of the wage scale, but who still have some disposable income, became victims of materialism; they wanted more goods, but couldn’t afford their aspirations and bought cheap goods. When there’s a powerful market for cheap, there’s always someone willing to oblige and provide ever-cheaper products; inevitably the work goes to the lowest-cost labor market. Now we have a society that has an expectation of improbably-cheap goods. “Buy American!” is the popular slogan, but they won’t buy less to do so.

Simultaneously with the culture of cheap goods, we have built the culture of the free. Very little is truly free, of course; but beginning approximately with Google we developed the expectation of free services. No one wants to look beneath the surface of free, even when we know that there’s a price, and so we walk on, willfully oblivious.

Summer of the Apocalypse - September 11, 2020 - chad r. frost