The Moment of Truth — April 3, 1998

The Optimistic View

Hi. I’m mejeffdorchen. Welcome to the moment of truth. You know what the moment of truth is. It’s the moment — the one moment and the only moment — when the truth thunders through our lives like a monstrous locomotive, causing the weasely propaganda of the commercial broadcasting monolith to scatter like shreds of a paper tiger in the wind.

I’ve been getting a little whimsical lately. I’ve been sitting back in a metaphorical hammock, sipping a virgin colada, looking out at the vast expanse of possible futures that lie beyond the horizon of the human present. And I see a win/win situation for the world. I really do. I know, people hear a glib intellectual spouting brilliant, eloquent anticapitalist rhetoric and they immediately think, “That fellow sees the world with such clarity. He must be very unhappy. He is incapable of being lulled into complacency by the weasely propaganda of the commercial broadcasting monolith and all its attendant bread and circuses.”

But that’s not true. I am quite a happy-go-lucky chap. Sure, I’m depressed, but that’s chemical. Regarding scenarios of human destiny I’m about as optimistic as I can be.

Oh, sure, I sometimes toy with the notion that the Fortune 500 companies will one day succeed in their avowed mission of turning the Earth into a desert slave planet. But I don’t really believe that there’s more than a slim chance of that actually happening. Although once the thought enters a thoughtful person’s mind for even an instant a thousand persuasive arguments as to why such a thing is inevitable spring to mind spontaneously and in a multitude like baby spiders hatching from an arachnid egg-sack.

But the truth is more complex than the plethora of scenarios suggested by the image of ultimate corporate conquest. There’s an ecology of forces at work in our world, and some of them are at work in the interest of niceness. First of all, it seems a lot more like capitalism wants to pave the world and put up a big strip mall than that they want to make a desert slave planet. So let’s say capitalism succeeds in turning the world into the giant homogenous strip mall it seems to envision. There’s a trade-off that will come with that. They simply won’t be able to butcher people the way the US military likes to help the Suharto regime butcher labor unionists in Indonesia. No. Because while people will stand for that happening in a far-flung third-world dictatorship, they will not stand for it happening in a mall. Who’s gonna go to a mall where people are being castrated and having their genitals crammed down their throats? Who’s gonna go shopping in a mall where their kid might get kidnapped by the army and taken away and never heard from again?

It simply doesn’t make good business sense.

Now I know this all sounds like I’m just saying a lot of silly things in a certain order that makes them sound like there might be some significance to them, but really I think there is something to this. I think the Extreme Capitalism of the USA arises from the same set of rules and values as those from which arise the notion of the popular will, and the greedy, infantile desire of the individual for freedom from being smushed by the ruling class and its client states. So there are two contradictory forces at work. It’s been interesting watching their conflict being played out in these recent years of Extreme Extreme Capitalism. There was a lot of popular support for the UPS strike. There really was. Just cuz people seemed to be starting to feel like big fat corporations were reaping a lot more than their fair share from this economic tide that was supposed to float all boats.

Also, I think people really want to see what happens once everyone in the world can communicate with everyone else. Because they’ve heard stories about massacres and oppression, and while they don’t like to believe their government capable of such atrocities, I think they really would like to know for themselves. They’d like to peek. They’d like to be informed. And as more and more people become better and better informed, if such a thing is allowed to happen, the more the world will seem like a great big place in which starvation and brutality and poverty are as unthinkable in the far-flung third world as they would seem at the mall.

In spite of how nasty people seem, and how impossible communication seems, and how insoluble conflicts between peoples may seem, I think there are enough people who refuse to be weasels, and enough people who refuse to refrain from complaining about human rights abuses, and enough people who simply consider violence and destruction and pollution and manipulation to be in poor taste, and enough strength in the desire for a civil and free society, that in spite of the inertia of the stupid and greed of the nasty and the heartlessness of the greedy and the dogmas of the self-righteous, human society will one day find its way to peace.

Either that, or we’ll all be herded into concentration camps and subjected to brain surgery that will turn us into docile drones with no will to resist, toiling until death at the caprice of the privileged few.

That’s the Moment of Truth. I’m mejeffdorchen. We’ll be exploring every facet of verity in the weeks to come. Join me hear every Saturday on National Beer Presents This Is Hell with your host Chuck Mertz, right here on WNUR 89.3 Chicago’s sound experiment.