Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Postcards of Decline

Linh Dinh is one of the smartest, most eloquent and most perceptive chroniclers of America's ongoing decay, in large part because he's not afraid to cross the invisible barbed wire seperating us into warring zones of socioeconomic  status. Here's his latest dispatch from America's alternate reality of Manhattan. Do read the whole thing. My favorite parts:
Like central libraries, bus stations are daytime havens for America’s homeless, but the man described above is a throw back of sort, for his number has dwindled considerably ever since Giuliani decided to hose most of them away. Los Angeles has its Skid Row, San Francisco the Tenderloin, and you can find hundreds of roofless Americans sprawling all over Northwest DC, the showcase quarter, but much of Manhattan has become quite sanitized, purged of not just the homeless but any other kind of poorer Americans, as well as the artsy, Bohemian types, who have mostly migrated to Brooklyn. Pumped up by Wall Street, much of Manhattan has become off limits to all but the super affluent. You can work there, sure, after taking two trains and a bus, but don’t think of moving in, not even into a closet, or curtained off corner of a roach motel-sized, shared apartment. As the rest of the country sinks, this island is buoyed by bailouts and quantitative easing directly deposited into its too-big-to-fail swindling houses, but hey, the Bangladeshi cab drivers and CUNY-graduated waiters and bellhops also get their short stacks of nickels and dimes, so don’t bitch, OK? Dwelling in this Green Zone, it would be easy to think that this country’s near collapse is but a ridiculous rumor. 
Speaking of Gotham cabbies, only 8% are native-born these days, and pointing to this fact, Pat Buchanan blames the liberal welfare state for the decline of the American work ethics. What he ignores is that the terms for driving a cab in New York are so bad, even many Pakistani immigrants have stopped driving. Instead of pocketing a share of each fare, most drivers must rent their vehicle at a fixed rate, so that they may even lose money at the end of a 12-hour shift. Thanks to an increasingly superfluous supply of labor, however, you can always get someone to do anything, and this is the direct result of having a porous border in a sinking economy. Globalism is not just about exporting decent jobs, but also importing cheap labor until everyone everywhere makes just about nothing. That’s the master plan, dude, so although ningún ser humano es ilegal is self-evidently true, it’s also a smoke screen to make slaves out of us all.
And this:
So Liza and Harvey are basically professional beggars, but before you scream, “Get a job, losers,” consider that less than 59% of working age Americans are actually employed, and 47% of the population are on some forms of government assistance, a record high, so nearly half of us are already de facto beggars, although most are not sitting on concrete in heat or cold, looking sorry, at least not yet. Simply put, many Americans have become redundant in an economy rigged to serve the biggest banks and corporations. With no one hiring us and our small businesses bankrupted by the behemoths, many of us are forced to beg, peddle, push or steal, though on a scale that’s miniscule compared to what’s practiced by our ruling thugs. As we shove dented cans of irradiated sardine into our Dollar Store underwear, they rob us of our past, present and future.
In this sick order, even the best among us are reduced to being outcasts, if not criminals to be locked up, tortured or killed. In this sinister arrangement, you’re lucky if you’re merely ignored, like the fiercely astute Paul Craig Roberts. Although countless Americans depend on him to understand more clearly the dangers and rot afflicting their unraveling society, he’s not paid for his articles, but must depend on readers’ contributions to keep writing. In this evil mad house, even Paul Craig Roberts is a beggar. Meanwhile, morons are paid handsomely to waterboard the masses with septic sludge.
Dinh's description of the Dominican neighborhood is interesting. I find the Southeast Asian and Hispanic neighborhoods here much more full of life too.

It looks like he's fundraising for a postcards from America project - well worth a few shekels:

http://www.hatchfund.org/project/northwest_passage_postcards_from_the_end_of_america

and

Postcards from the End of America

And I found this older article from the Guardian about our driving obsession: America's automobile mania
Encircled by a vast, nearly always packed parking lot, your typical American mall is of a scale seldom seen in Europe. One doesn't just stumble into this shopping emporium; one has to make a decision get there, which often requires at least half an hour of sitting in an automobile. After several more minutes circling around to find a parking spot, a kind of competitive endeavour requiring alertness, good eyesight, cunning and sometimes outright thuggery, one might as well spend several hours inside the air-conditioning, marching back and forth to sniff out a totally unnecessary bargain. 
Spousal disagreements over parking tactics are common, often resulting in full-blown arguments. "You're an idiot!" "You're a control freak!" Divorce proceedings can begin even before a desirable parking spot can be pounced upon. 
Americans often wish they were handicapped, so they could be saved from the torments of parking at a distance. Men have shot themselves in the foot so they could be a tad closer to JC Penney. 
Shops inside shopping malls are remarkable homogeneous, from sea to shining sea. It hardly matters if one is in San Diego or Portland, Maine, the same clothing stores and fast food joints appear. On a regular commercial street, the quirks of each store owner give his business a degree of uniqueness, but inside a mall, every little detail is regulated, from signage to decoration. Drinking establishments inside malls are like those at airports, cheerless, sterile and devoid of character. No matter how long they've been in business, they're without history.

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