I realize that I always think in catastrophic terms. Whether I am thinking about my health, my marriage, the environment or my job- I think about these things in terms of catastrophe. But recently I have learned something very strange. Where once I thought that I was one of the most catastrophic thinkers around- I know can not keep up with the catastrophe that is taking place all around me. My mind is not agile enough to register the current political, economic and personal crisis that seems to be becoming more malignant with each passing day. I am trying hard, using all my might- to keep up intellectually with this growing nightmare but I am afraid to say that I do not think that even my pessimistic and catastrophic mind could of conjured up the current prevailing reality.
I have tried to learn about why the current economic crisis is taking place. I have listened to pod-casts, read a book and listened to numerous radio shows. I have gone and listened to various political theorists speak and even had a conversation with the radical cultural and feminist theorist Naomi Wolf. But still I do not get it. It is almost like finding out that you have a disease in a certain part of your body that you have never heard of or thought about before. The reality of the current economic collapse is that it is a result of microcosmic events that ordinary people have never heard of before. Things like corporate papers, which are the cause of this crisis have never before took residence in my mind. The only way that I can understand this current catastrophe is in terms of one word- greed. A small amount of people made much more money than they should have and everybody else turned their head. Whether this is a planned catastrophe on the part of the Republican party so that they can maintain control of the government and nationalize all the banks and citizens or it is just a coincidence that this catastrophe is taking place right around the time of an election, is for each individual to decide. But what I know for certain is that I am currently witnessing and experiencing one of the largest breakdowns or deconstructions of the American society, in which I live.
It is true that I have always been worried about my health, wealth and material situation. I would not be a true American if this was not the case. Is not that what America is all about- the freedom to have the time (leisure) and lifestyle that allows you to worry about things that have nothing to do with necessity and survival? Is not this the psychology behind the massive force that keeps all Americans moving towards this unattainable dream of prosperity? America produces and exports catastrophe thinkers like myself because capitalism has given us the time to worry, to see psychologists and pick apart all our self centered failures. Is this not the American way? Am I so unusual? Granted, in certain other countries where the focus is simply upon survival- there is not enough leisure time to worry and I am willing to bet that psychologists do not make a very good living in these societies. But in America, survival has always been something that can be purchased as long as you have a job. Now the catastrophe that most Americans are still unable to fathom is taking place. Leisure is crashing down, imploding upon itself and the lifestyle that so many Americans have indulged is being pulled out from under their feet so that a few greedy juggernauts can control the world. This is what happens in a democracy that has been privatized.
I am contemplating taking my wife to Arkansas and living in a trailer in the woods with two friends of ours. They were a successful young couple who lived in Washington D.C. As a result of this economic crash they lost almost everything and had to move out to a trailer in Arkansas that is owned by one of their fathers. What once was the fulfillment of the American dream (they lived in a beautiful condo and she taught Yoga while he worked as an Architect) has become the epitome of an Aristotelian tragedy. I get emails from them that are filled with laments but they are also filled with frightening warnings. My wife and I are now thinking that before the soldiers occupy the streets- surround and lock down the working class neighborhood in which we live (to prevent mass riots)- that we should make a run for it before it is to late.
Now, maybe I am being to much of a catastrophe thinker. But, everyone I talk to tells me that something huge is just out beyond the horizon. My father has lost millions in the stock market crash, several of my students at the high school where I teach have had to leave school because their homes have been foreclosed, my friend’s mother has had to move in with him because she has lost all her money, there is not as much food on the shelves at the market and businesses seem to be shutting down all around. Granted I am a pessimist and seem to be the first person to loose hope- but I would have to be blind to delude myself into thinking that there is not a very large monsoon heading right towards me. I seem to believe that it is now time to board up the windows, sand bag the cracks in the doors, buy stock piles of food and head to a land that is higher up and less populated.
I wish that I could be more positive. I always think of the words of Henry Miller who said “I am poor, homeless and hungry, but I am the happiest man alive.” I try to tell myself this when I am overwhelmed with the catastrophe that is occurring all around me. Despite the fact that martial law, government takeover, nationalization, depression, and economic collapse seem to be manifesting itself into an American nightmare- I am still waging a vigilant effort to tame my demons and quiet the catastrophe thinker within my head. This catastrophe thinker wants to panic, he wants to scream out, get people to awaken out of their sleep and start a revolution- do something to stop the massive amounts of injustice, corruption and greed. But I am still capable of hushing him, keeping him quiet by drinking beer, watching movies, going to museums, reading novels, writing this blog and working on some unfinished paintings. I try to keep myself busy, pacify myself- so that I do not focus too much on this horrifying collapse and end up getting myself stuck in a Detention Center (which are being set up all over America). I take myself and my wife out to dinner, I work long hours, I go to bed earlier, I do yoga and I try to glue back together pieces of that American dream that once seemed so true. I even try and tell myself every minute of every day “I am poor, homeless and hungry, but I am the happiest man alive,” even though it might not be true.