Tuesday, 21 February 2006

In my day, they wouldn't even give us a handbasket; we had to carry the world to Hell in our hands.

I was talking with Mom on the phone. She's been worked up over the state of the world. "Everything's getting worse," she says. "Things that are good seem evil and things that are evil seem good." She's either been at church or watching the news.

"Oh, really?" I ask. "What makes you think so?"

"Well, there's all kinds of evil these days that there didn't used to be, like people living together. Now it's an accepted thing."

And here I thought someone had been eroding fundamental human rights or arguing for torture or something. But it's all about cohabitation. Yeah, people living together is a really big problem. Probably strikes right at the heart of The Family, which is still under attack, by the way. I decided not to tell her that I'd joined a gay commune where we make crystal meth. It wasn't the time.

I hate that old 'hell in a handbasket' routine. When crime rates fall, fear stays up. Pretty soon, you're on some sort of psycho millennial thing, lamenting that we're in the last days, and won't please somebody save us from the eeevil to come. But there's nothing you can do about it because you bought into a death spiral narrative that will only get worse until Jeebus comes again, which is happening precisely when? so you're hosed.

And yet, aren't some things getting worse? I watched "Good Night and Good Luck" recently. It feels like we're a million miles from the time where our world story-tellers had that kind of integrity, and a zillion miles from where people cared if they did. Look at voting behaviour in the USA. Look at the worldwide rise in fundamentalism. We can go backward as well as forward. Are people getting suicidally dumber?

But now it's time to assuage. I tell Mom, "My take is that people are no better or worse than they used to be. There are some evils that people accept now, but there are other kinds of evils that people will no longer accept."

I keep thinking of a scene from 'Even Cowgirls Get the Blues' by Tom Robbins. It's the one where the wise man called the Chink gets wounded in an explosion.

Sissy sobbed on his bedside. "Is everything getting worse?" she cried. "Yes," answered the Chink, "everything is getting worse. But everything is also getting better."

1 comment:

  1. This is far from your current topic, but one of your previous posts about Bush's "strategy" of planned incompetence reminded me of this:

    http://www.newyorker.com/shouts/content/?040607sh_shouts

    ReplyDelete

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