the Great Detachment

I found myself sitting in a waiting room, acting as a driver for someone for a medical appointment. I sat there in this room, which had no sign of any natural light from the sun, the space completely walled in somewhere in the core of the building. The air was the usual same kind of stagnant stale you can find in indoor spaces in buildings of all kinds of purposes all over America, giving the vague impression that the air inside the space is the same air that has been there for the past decade, complete with a faint aroma of some assortment of cleaning chemical fumes.

High up on the wall in a corner of the room was a flatscreen TV droning away with some soap opera on it, eventually replaced by afternoon talk show yap. That droned away, with the audio at a volume level such that it wasn’t really possible to hear and comprehend anything, but was just present enough to provide a constant irritating noise tickling away at whatever consciousness might be present among anybody in the room.

The entire time I was there, all through the place was the constant presence of this fairly loud, low frequency, rumbling, droning, pulsating and throbbing equipment noise of some sort, which, I found upon wandering around a bit, was overwhelming anywhere I went on that floor. It was not subtle, it just permeated the place.

It was like the soundtrack of the film Eraserhead, with the difference, of course, being the sheer presence of it being right there in the building enveloped by this constant sound and very low frequency energy.

This was in a doctor’s office in a medical office building.

Sunlight? Fresh air? Quiet? Sorry, pal!

Add to this the kind of plastic programmed robotic faux pleasantry you find from many of the people involved in places like these in some position. Feeling healthy yet?

In another recent experience of a different medical office, I found a setting where things were much the same as the place I mentioned, minus the low rumbling industrial Eraserhead soundtrack, and with the addition of different waiting room furnishings. That turned out to be an assortment of what appeared, at first, to be large plants, but, upon a closer look, turned out to be plastic fakes. Not actual plant life, that could be absorbing the carbon dioxide exhaled from humans in this closed (albeit at least theoretically ventilated) box and emitting oxygen.

The punchline? That particular space was the waiting room of a pulmonologist.

All this is likely to strike some people as silly and petty. There is something very serious to be found in this kind of thing, in this example of how places that are supposed to be places of health and healing could be so profoundly unhealthy, places that are so unpleasant and life sapping that they induce feelings of disease, literally, dis-ease, in people who might otherwise feel healthy before entering them, never mind what it does to the ill, there hoping to be healed.

 

This isn’t a critique of the realm of “healthcare” in America in the early 21st century. There’s plenty of reason for that, but that’s not what this is about.

Would they actually even notice them; the stale air of a closed box, the bank of sickly fluorescent lights and no natural sunlight, the low level idiot noise pollution and the rumbling, throbbing, drone of machinery permeating the building like an industrial facility?

How many people might even notice the things I just mentioned? Would it even get their attention? Then, if they did, how many people would think there was nothing wrong with this?

 

What I’m looking at is pondering, how it can be, that what I’ve just described can be considered normal.

I’m looking at that as just one aspect of an epidemic in early 21st century America, of people so completely enmeshed in sheer unreality that they don’t seem to be able to tell the difference, between reality, and something else. I’m thinking, based on accumulating overwhelming observations and evidence, that more and more people have abandoned even having a sense of the importance of making such distinctions.

You can find this in virtually any subject area involving human activity in early 21st century America. Even in items of daily practical life, that might seem trivial and mundane, you can find the indicators of people just unhinged from sense and reality.

 

It appears in things like what people buy and what you can actually find in terms of things you might need. Look for something simple, and effective, at being and doing what things are supposed to be, and do, in basic functionality, and you might be on a frustrating quest; but you can find loads and loads of all kinds of variety of crap. How many people in America now would look at this and say “but, it’s so wonderful, The Market, it provides such a large variety of consumer choices!”, without stopping and asking, what good is it to have such a large variety of crap, when it’s often so hard to find things that are simply good?

I would argue that in more cases than not, people in America today seem to have been so thoroughly programmed by assorted marketing/PR/advertising noise, so bedazzled by bullshit, that they can’t even look at things in terms of simple function and quality, whether anything is actually any fucking good, of whether something actually works.

This kind of thing isn’t limited only to physical things meant to do something functional. Turn to areas of human activity and business involving providing some sort of service, and things are often just as absurd.

You can find endless examples of increasing layers of dysfunction and sheer incompetence where things don’t actually work, but you might very likely encounter all kinds of programmed robotic behavior and scripted spiels. You know the stuff, telling you “we care a lot about you as a customer, thank you for choosing us..“, even as you’re finding it nearly impossible to get somebody to get something done right, something to actually work right.

The almost obscene twist to this is that there are still many people who care about what’s good, what’s quality, what functions and works well, about doing good work, but they’re fighting an uphill battle. Many of them find themselves with no work or income.

 

Writing about this, it occurs to me that quite a few people could take all this in and completely miss the point, which is, itself, the point here today.

 

I suspect that quite a lot of people might look at what I’ve just been saying and think, what’s the problem? You have so many choices as a consumer, look at all the stuff available to us, isn’t it wonderful? What are you, some spoiled child? Is nothing good enough for you? How much do you want?

That’s not it.

If anything, it’s more a matter of a problem with what one blog writer frequently calls Spoiled Rotten Nation, where people have so completely sunk into notions of existing as consumers, performing their roles of consumers consuming, that basic conscious sense of value and function has been lost amid the endless swirl of stuff, stuff, and more stuff, and wanting even more stuff (even if it’s pointless and useless shit)..

Too many people can’t get it in proper perspective.

There’s something broad here, anything from considering an epidemic of people who manage to be grossly obese and malnourished at the same time, to being able to go into stores all across America and find an array of 150 different kinds of shampoo, yet having difficulty in finding one that actually just gets your hair clean.

 

You could distill down quite a bit of subject matter here in an image of some knucklehead shrugging off everything mumbling “eh, whatever, quantity, quality, style, substance, facts, opinions, same difference!“.

 

We’ve got about a thousand channels of noise available to the American public now, or whatever the actual count is, and it’s remarkable how much there is to just fill people’s minds with, well, empty noise, vacuous nonsense, narcissistic idiocy, and even plain deception.

I noted with some interest a note from somebody online recently pointing out that there was once a TV network called The Learning Channel. We know it now, of course, as the meaningless acronym of “TLC”. It was originally founded as an actual public service educational channel by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, later privatized, and it went through assorted changes on its way to what it is now; mostly random garbage, including one fairly new program that has apparently gained a bit of notoriety, plumbing depths of idiocy that challenge belief, that I cannot even bring myself to name, and unintentionally give it more attention.

This is a microcosm of something.

Undoubtedly the worst brain damage to the American public comes from exposure to Fox News Channel. At this point, it hardly seems possible for sane people to regard that medium seriously as anything more than a brainwashing operation, depending on when you watch it.

Turn on that particular television network at certain times of the day, and reality is so thoroughly warped that it’s into the realm of some form of severe mental illness.

I’ve had too much personal experience at this point trying to deal with Fox News victims and bring them back to a grasp of reality, with things like, you know, facts and reason, and finally concluding that it isn’t possible. They’re locked in.

You can’t snap them out of it.

Even trying is, to them, a clear sign that you’re one of those enemy Others they’ve been warned about. Bringing matters of fact to their attention and attempting to bring them back into reality-based humanity is like spraying a vampire with holy water or something.

That whole cult of determined unreality is a serious problem, to put it in mildest form.

 

I put up a short and concise little note about comparison of the first term of Ronald Reagan as president, and Obama’s term, on the matter of annual federal budget deficits.

It’s pretty simple and straighforward stuff. Each new president has their first year in office under an annual budget that came from the year before, from the previous president in their last year in office. There are a pair of numbers to compare, for each case of two presidents, Reagan and Obama. [In the case of these two, all the fiscal year accounting involves deficits.]

You can look at each president’s first term, and compare their first year, the budget they inherited and the bottom line, and the bottom line of the fiscal year of the year of the next election, last year of the term.

Over the same kind of timeframe of first term as president, the summary bottom line is that Reagan increased the federal budget deficit comparing the first year to last year of his first term in office, and compared to what he inherited from the previous president, Obama decreased the budget deficit.

But what are we hearing? The American public is hearing the same lie repeated relentlessly, “Obama doubled the deficit!”, and they’re hearing this from candidate Willard Romney repeatedly,directly, and in campaign ads.

It’s false. Period. There’s nothing ambiguous or subtle or complex about it. It’s comparing pairs of numbers taken directly from government accounting.

Even worse, if you raise the subject of governance and presidential politics, you’ll find incredible numbers of people who will absolutely insist that “Obama’s out of control Big Government spending massively increased the deficit!”, and deliver the tragicomic punchline, that says that this would be better with a hero of “fiscally conservative government” or “fiscal responsibility” like Ronald Reagan, when none of that has any basis in reality.

It’s people operating under the combined delusions and confusion of some image of cartoon villain fictional Obama, combined with a fictional mythical version of Reagan replacing actual historical facts.

Added to all this absurdity, we have Willard Romney’s constant pathological lying, and now I find an interesting note on the Jesse’s Café Americain blog, referring to something interesting about Romney economic advisor Glenn Hubbard, including a mention of an editorial piece Hubbard wrote in the August 22, 2001 Wall Street Journal titled “Tax Cuts Won’t Hurt the Surplus“. So, how did that work out?

Yes, Glenn Hubbard really is a prime economic advisor to Willard Romney, the man who wants to become president. This stuff would be pure comedy if all of this were not so serious.

 

If people are so completely detached from reality in something so simple and straightforward as comparisons of pairs of budget summary numbers, with quick bits of simple arithmetic, what happens in the realm of public cognition in a pretty damned complex and multifaceted subject such as energy resources and use?

It still astounds me to find one particular problem that keeps popping up. It takes many different forms, in different instances. I’ve talked about this before. It just keeps coming.

The problem I’m talking about is split into two facets; the frequency of instances of finding somebody writing something somewhere where they toss out the term “peak oil” and get the basic idea of its meaning completely wrong, and then, the variety of ways people get it completely wrong.

While I was in the waiting room of today’s story, I looked down at a table and found sections of the day’s edition of the local newspaper. There, right on the front page, top, left column, was an Associated Press story that, no doubt, got all kinds of people excited, suggesting that the United States was in the midst of a great new boom in petroleum that has us on the verge of overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer.

There’s one big problem with that. It was complete bullshit.

I’ll try to save myself some typing here by referring you to some other people who have already dissected this damned AP article. One comes from blogger and somewhat grumpy fellow Dave Cohen, and another in the Washington Post.

The main huge fundamental problem is simple to state. This AP article conflates “crude oil” and a common accounting trick that’s problematic, counting all liquid fuels as “crude oil”.

Add together all of the above and you have what we have, a population of very misinformed and confused people when it comes to the subject of petroleum.

Toss on to the pile the completely deluded “plan for energy independence” of Willard Romney, pandering to people who don’t know any better, and things become much worse.

The situation of petroleum is complicated.

How do you get this through to the people who can’t even grasp basic actual fact regarding something as simple and concise as the federal government budget deficit bottom line summary?

More to the point, the obvious question. How many people don’t want to know?

 

As we enter the last days of “the race” of a national election, according to the noisy babble of pseudo sports coverage, polls indicate that shocking numbers of American citizens are willing to vote for a pathological liar who has demonstrated endlessly, for months, for years now, that he’s a pathological liar and shape-shifting panderer.

How can this even be possible?

Presenting facts to some people meets with outright rejection, even indignation, from people whose “views” are probably disturbed or completely upended by facts of reality that might make them face the thought that they’ve been bedazzled by bullshit and played for fools.

What’s really bizarre is finding people who evidently can’t, or just won’t, even get their heads around the difference between fact and opinion. I’m not just talking about people failing to distinguish the difference between the two, I encounter people who can’t even seem to grasp that there is a difference.

As I write, Hurricane Sandy, or tropical storm Sandy, or whatever it’s officially called right this moment, is swarming up the east coast of the United States. It doesn’t care what we call it, or what we think about it, or what anybody’s opinion of it might be.

Check that. They’re now calling it “Superstorm Sandy”. This is a first, as well as I can recall.

As the political circus nears the big finale of this segment of it, and people yammer about “political opinions” in place of actual facts of reality, part of what has been missing from the proceedings is any mention of changes to the climate of the planet from the warming of greenhouse effect, what we’re doing, and not doing, and all the repercussions. Part of the repercussions we’ve been warned about, for decades, by people studying reality and doing their best to deal with facts of reality, rather than vague opinions, is the likelihood of destabilized weather patterns and rather extreme weather, compared to what we’ve been familiar with.

Now, the big storm working its way up the eastern seaboard, swarming over vast areas of the eastern US, is being described as not just massive, but as very strange, as unprecedented. Well, that might be the precedent. We might be getting used to this kind of thing over the coming years.

So, as all that hell breaks loose and keeps building, some news reports talk about the possible effects on the big election, now about a week away.

The same general bunch of people who would believe lying fiction like “Obama doubled the deficit!” are likely to also buy all the assorted deception painting fictional images of Cartoon Villain Obama, which among other problems completely distorts people’s grasp of reality so that actual real reasons to criticize Obama as president are lost.

Those would be things like, continuing the process of hubris of bankrupting the nation by squandering the wealth and resources of the nation by trying to cover the planet and dominate it with the US military. There’s avoiding the subject of squandering the finite physical natural resources of the nation, and what we need to change. There’s the problem of the insane farce and swindles of banking and finance, and trying to maintain the notion that infinite and perpetual “economic growth” is possible, with the world of banking and finance having become, to a large degree, entirely about maintaining illusions of “creating wealth” by illusions of magic tricks, to make money magically seem to become more money.

The twisted irony is that many people believe that he has failed by virtue of not working miracles, in some cases attempting to do the impossible and sustain the unsustainable, and are therefore willing to suspend reality entirely and cast their vote for president for Willard Romney, the pandering stereotypical shifty salesman who will say anything to “make the sale”, abandoning reality completely to put on a show.

It’s enough to prompt a lad to ponder the thought of Superstorm Sandy being God getting finally fed up and clubbing us upside the head to bring us back to reality.

Maybe it will snap people out of a variety of hypnotic trances.

In any case, let’s hope for the best, because this is looking rough any way we look at it.

May everybody in the zone of the storm stay safe and keep their lives intact.

 

“Our country is not being destroyed by bad politics. It is being destroyed by a bad way of life. Bad politics is merely another result.” -Wendell Berry

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