Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unto Disorder, 2012

Fuck it, let's review 2011.

Today, Time Magazine chose its person of the year, and for the fifth time in a decade they chose a group rather than an individual. In 2002, they chose "The Whistleblowers", followed in 2003 by "the American soldier," "the Good Samaritans" in 2005 and "You" in 2006. In many ways, "the Protester," the 2011 choice, feels like a distillation of all four and the consummation of the one thing relating all of them: the need to step forward.

I went to an Occupy rally. The organizers kicked things off by having us sing, except they made nowhere near enough copies of the song and it was nothing I was familiar. The halting, miserable progression of the tune suggested that nobody else was either. Then we marched and shouted that we were the 99 percent. I don't even know what we were protesting, except that I was mad that this was what America looked like and this felt like a good venue for complaint. I think everyone else there felt the same way.

Osama bin Laden was killed a few months before the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and when the day came I reflected on the last decade and stuck with my feeling, formed in 2006, that that was the day America went wrong. In our efforts to fight terror we destroyed what it meant to be American. I might still have been an Occupy participant in the fall if 9/11 hadn't happened, but at least I wouldn't have to feel like the government was looking at all air travelers through their clothes because they didn't know what else to do. It's a long, sad road from missing your intel about upcoming threats to full-body image scanners.

The world that unfolded from September 11, 2001 onward in this country was defined by the US and not by the agents of terror who set the ball rolling. It wasn't 9/11 that brought our country to its knees - and we are on our knees - but our reaction. People die from bee stings not because of the venom but because of the immune system's response. It's called anaphylaxis.

Doomsaying is always going to be trendy, because you get to be the guy who knows something nobody else does. That said, I want to clarify a distinction between that and this, because I can point to definitive indices of trouble and malaise. Food and energy costs are up. Income is down. Everything old people hate about young people is becoming a little more pronounced. It's hard to point to specifics because the general trend, macro and microscopically, is that of entropy - order to disorder.

Oh, but Zack Parsons at Something Awful did a pretty good job of summing things up, probably by limiting his focus to car commercials.

Referring back to the Protester: where do I stand in that? Is the Occupy movement simply another kind of anaphylaxis? It's different than 9/11 because the catalyst is harder to define, but on the other hand it's equally hard to read definite meaning into a protest held by people who had the chance to have us sing "This Land Is Your Land" and blew it. They didn't know me a lot better than an investment banker would, honestly.

Does a societal convulsion represent the progress of order or disorder? In itself, it is both - united rebellion manifest as disruption - but in resolution it can be either, depending on how things work out. Tunisia, where things all started a year ago, has since had free elections remarkable for their order. Egypt, which also shed a regime, has since undergone a second intrarevolutionary revolution against the military, which took placeholder power after the ouster of Mubarak.

What you put in is related to what you get out, but only by alchemy. Everything is in flux. This trend is only growing stronger. Shit.

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