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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Broken News
The Naked Lunch 2001
by Art Hilgart
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In the year before his death, 1945, H. G. Wells wrote his last book, "Mind At The End of Its Tether". He said this: "Here am I at the age of sixty-five still seeking peace. I can't adjust myself to find any peace in this world. The end of everything we call life is close at hand and we cannot avoid it. The world is moving into impenetrable darkness."
     I sometimes wonder if my chronic irritation with the press and its contents is a variation of the fantasies of religious cults and mountain survivalists. Perhaps things are pretty good after all. When I test this hypothesis against the events of the past half century, however, I find it lacking.
     Every day in the last fifty years presidents of the United States have used the Pentagon, the CIA, and sanctions to kill people somewhere on the planet, and the funding of such activities is beyond criticism.
     The expectation that the enormous contributions of technology would raise global living standards has been countered by the high prices conferred by intellectual property protection which deny the benefits to most people. Our crackpot foreign policy coupled with official support of our arms merchants has provoked dozens of civil conflicts that kill and destroy while sucking up obscene shares of economies that can barely afford fundamental public services. The result has been falling modal living standards, not the reverse. The probably permanent impoverishment of eastern Europe is still regarded as an American triumph.
     In the U. S., savings from World War Two and price controls generated a quantum jump in living standards. Since the 1960's, however, growing corporate power and weakened unions have led to permanent stagnation in modal standards and growing poverty. Reduced availability of jobs offering long term security and the common need for two incomes rather than one have created strains on families and children, exacerbated by frequent residential relocations.
     Urban sprawl has crippled the viability of central cities and raised the costs of transportation, which has become an increasing source of air pollution.
     Widespread deregulation and privatization of public utilities here and abroad have led to higher prices and reduced availability and reliability.
     The civil rights movement of the 1960's was to bring true equality to the land of the free, but after thirty years, many blacks are still denied the right to vote and prisons cannot be built fast enough to hold them. The bodies of Holocaust victims were still warm when Israelis began to treat the Palestinians as the Germans had treated the Jews.
     Many more countries have nominally democratic governments, but well-funded campaigns and lobbying, sophisticated public relations techniques, and privately owned media produce oligarchies at all levels of government under the cover of apparent legitimacy. The recent Bush coup was unusual for occurring in the open, but the press meekly averted its gaze.
     Pampered elites in law, government, academia, medicine, banking, and corporate management have used their power to enrich themselves and thwart any constructive action to improve the conditions of the masses.
     And no one seems to have a sense of shame.

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