All posts by rexmerritt

Disenchantment USA

The title of the movie escapes me. Or maybe several comprise memory. The remembered scenes issue from Nazi propaganda reels.

In any case, the rudely sinuous voice of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, narrates the black & white images. They were issued early during the Nazi reign. During the ascent.

The most vivid scene recalled? Mobs of agitated people scurrying this way and that across an unusually broad street. Or with the action occurring in Europe, likely a square.

In reality the crowd wasn’t whipsawing across a concrete plain. Only through movie magic were they to-ing and fro-ing. Likely to escape some police reaction confronting them. Let’s say a manifestation that had started and proceeded peacefully until the anarchists crossed the fascists. Yet to a captive audience in a darkened theater, already weakened by incessant lying from authority, made suspicious of foreign influences through deceptive native leaders, they were readily susceptible.

The Great War, a self-inflicted disastrous course of error manufactured their fright. Collective dispiritedness made them eagerly receptive to shunt blame.

Goebbels tells viewers people like them are confused. That they’ve been cruelly criminally misled. (Talk about projecting!) He insinuates unfocused, weak, liberal movements antithetical to their true character are the cause of the citizen’s distress. Oh. Right. This is Goebbels speaking. The lumpen would never have been “citizens.” They only would’ve been “people.” Das Volk! And barely that as the world would discover.

Pretty sure the imagery had been repurposed from a particularly contentious time in France, when the Popular Front dealt with French reactionaries and industrialists dedicated to sabotaging the expansion of any citizens’ rights. Then, as currently in the United States, reactionaries stood at the forefront of curtailing justice, fairness, and liberties. At least during the 1930s black & brown shirts weren’t as brazen as today’s similarly disposed Americans. Our fervid reactionaries will claim with straight reddened faces that ideological impositions – theirs upon us – will produce greater freedom.

Ours is a young country still. Americans aren’t deep thinkers. And as too many originalists will chime in, contemplation isn’t in the Constitution.

Americans don’t have a Goebbels goading us to the societal precipice as 1930s Germany had. We have worse. Fox News. Right-wing radio barking heads. Skewed presentations of our society and ceaseless screaming about the decline of the majority against the ascension of the formerly marginalized cram bandwidth and ether. Their audiences? Eyeballs and ears of people who didn’t need much convincing of somehow being besieged, although this never the case.

More like they didn’t keep up with the modern. Or were too lazy to make the effort or scared by the new. Either way they became inadequate. Their own lack of initiative rendered them infirm.

Say this for Fox Kennel and the nation’s battalion of right-wing radio rabblerousers, they’ve done an excellent job of further enflaming the mindless, baseless fears of less dynamic America.

After planting the seeds of invented grievance in empty minds, the aforementioned sowers nurture self-pitying dissent. This crop yields poisonous resentment hour after hour, day by day. It’s the worst kind of factory farming.

Unsurprisingly, most Americans aren’t naïve, gullible, vacant vessels being filled with contrary notions about the nation as well as their neighbors. However, the reasonableness of most of us makes the furor of the “stigmatized” outsized.

Goebbels would love Fox Kennel, as well as the haranguers who pollute AM radio. For any who suggest tweaking the First Amendment, forget it. That mechanism works fine. It’s less than discerning Americans who imperil the nation’s freedoms. Our real freedoms not those the right seeks to limn for its own selfishness. Those audiences of crap consumers are inattentive. They’re gullible, ripe for manipulation.

Such willing clay.

At least interwar Germans had a rationale. Present-day Americans merely feeling put-upon don’t.

On social media, I follow a site whose basis is German Expressionist Films. A short-lived and specific genre which flourished between the end of the Kaiser’s reign and the rise of National Socialism. If Germany had won the Great War, these movies, their stories, the impressions left behind, never would’ve been birthed. Had those Germans suffered the same sort of catastrophe as did a later generation in the Second World War, again, these stories never would’ve emerged through light and shadow.

The Armistice, and the jittery decade of peace until the Depression emitted a strange twilight that brought the subconscious to the surface of waking awareness. That was Weimar Germany. So accustomed to order, to discipline, the lack of rigor afterwards set Germans adrift. Having been directed throughout their lifetimes, they became directionless. Disorderly.

Searching for mooring, exploring facets of life the old order would’ve decried as “deviance,” those displaced and disordered Germans stumbled across once hidden landscapes and interiors the war’s aftermath brought into clarity. These had always been part and parcel of their existence. Only defeat, the old order rent asunder, and the schisms created loosened the leaden blinkers of “thus as it ever was.”

Doubtlessly an indecent many Anglo males in less dynamic America feel the same absence of sure-footedness after lifetimes of believing they knew exactly where they stood.

There’s an uncomfortable amount of Weimar Germany speeding Americans to an abyss on this July Fourth.

The Germans eventually voted out their first stab at democracy after the collapse of empire. Can’t discount that. The certainty of being astride the world stage brought a serenity. A surety. The kind that fueled bombast. The same sort of security today’s disaffected Americans felt when “the others” in our nation were marginalized. Then, even the most downtrodden Anglo man knew he stood atop “the other tribes” – blacks, Latinos, gays, women.

And believing his position assured in this respect, that same Anglo did nothing to improve his circumstances. His complacency let “the others” rise and pass him. Unfortunately for that fellow as well as the apparent tens of millions of Anglo men finding themselves strangely adrift in his similar straits, those thought inferiors actually took to heart the promise of America. Until recent political devolutions on the right and abysmal, no, regressive, Supreme Court decisions, the old American notions of hard work, determination, diligence, the ingredients which propel ambition and may reward with success, worked for those who’d discovered then exploited them.

Sometimes rather than seeing them as disaffected, I look at susceptible American Anglo men as dislocated. Each of them knows he should occupy a particular place other than some low spot on the totem. How he got there, why he’s peering up rather than looking down is his mystery.

The right has suitable soothing answers. Even if untrue, especially if untrue, these simply please through the anger provoked. Without any friction they shunt away Anglo males’ culpability in their own decline.

In the Nazi propaganda, harangues always insisted something was stolen. Intangibles more than the material were emphasized. Pride. Honor. Esteem. Attributes we build within ourselves. Despite their honest results producing efforts, then as now, “the other tribes” achievements were dismissed, disregarded, or downgraded.

Then as now, such fit less-dynamic men’s insecurities.

Reemergence Maybe

Perhaps this last weekend of May 2022 is the one that finally returns the visiting hordes who once flooded Las Vegas. After all, Memorial Day, or as it should’ve remained, Decoration Day, is seen as the unofficial start of summer.

According to hopeful leisure industry analysts, Americans are busting with all sorts of pent-up desire to getaway. Two years of Covid conditions have made us stir crazy. Where better to let everything hang out and fly the freakiest freak flags than Las Vegas? A city where even if strangers knew your name, they’d be too involved in their own personal deviances to notice others.

Anyone working directly in the hospitality industry or its adjuncts is counting on such participants who contribute to Las Vegas’ “What happens here, stays here” tall tales.

No matter what sort of happy faces the tourist bureau sketches, the numbers just haven’t been there. It’s fine that conventions and spectacles have returned to the city, yet post-Covid attendance has been generally woeful. Continue reading Reemergence Maybe

Let Us Broil

In the Mojave Desert, residents are on the cusp of our least wonderful time of year. Indeed, if Andy Williams had to sing about this season those lyrics would get stuck in his throat.

Summer. Already in mid-May Las Vegans can expect triple digit temperatures. As the month elides into June it becomes hotter with July and August turning everyday into a constant blow torch of torrid.

Throughout summer, I thank American breweries for 30 packs! Continue reading Let Us Broil

Elsewhere May Day Is Labor Day

This Covid period among our older populace proves that after a time minds become less pliant. In them views narrow then solidify.

When I hear people, say, at least 14 years my senior, opine, they often remind me of an Allen Ginsberg quote. The poet said: “Our heads are round so thought can change direction.”

Life has squared their noggins.

There must come a period in life when our ability to juggle contrary positions against – or even adapt to – what our minds hold as irrevocable erodes. At one point each of us must’ve been mentally nimble. But as many of us age, our ability to modify or rearrange perception and understanding loses fluidity.

It’s not that those hewing tenaciously to fixed positions are simply stubborn. More like their mental processes have congealed. They just can’t budge.

No need to provoke such people. They’ll erupt without cause. The mantra they spew? “Nobody wants to work anymore.”

Popularly known as “the Silent Generation,” they huddle wedged between former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” and “Baby Boomers.” Arriving just before the Depression then shoved onto the periphery of American memory with the first birth of 1946, too few members of this cohort left an impression on our national scene. Also, the calamities that occurred between the years 1929-1945 made prospective parents wary about bringing or being able to afford having children. Their aggregate was lower than the two generations sandwiching them.

Though the Depression and World War II were nowhere near as formative to them as it was upon the participants and combatants, both events nevertheless left imprints. Here in the economically poleaxed America of the1930s and wartime’s Fortress of Democracy, daily life must’ve been maintained at some levels of precariousness.

Each era embedded its own worries upon the still forming.

Unless one’s background affluent during the Depression, want was a constant threat. A job which sustained home and hearth week after week was no certainty. And unlike today, the safety net, if one existed, consisted of savings, family, and perhaps friends. Compared to now, government programs that helped citizens tide over rough patches were meager as well as sparse.

Doubtlessly parents one pay envelope away from being up against it discussed finances in the most sotto tones. Nonetheless careful as they must have been, that sort of constant stress must’ve also reached then affected young minds.

And while the war that broke out among the Europeans in September 1939 was a topic that could be bandied at intellectual remove, Pearl Harbor two years later became a realer than real matter of survival. The Depression’s threat of possible imminent destitution might be diverted through a head down, no boat rocking posture coupled with an “it could be worse” attitude which made them grateful to possess what they had.

The December 7th, 1941, attack became a life and death matter.

Two oceans aside, wolves threatened Americans’ doors. The vast watery expanses which had kept America remote from most global conflicts were by 1941 capable of being crossed by all sorts of weapons. What had been viewed while watching movie theaters’ newsreels – cities obliterated from the air, columns of grim jackbooted troops intent on carnage – now offered foretastes of what America might’ve shared with Europe or Asia.

Easy to imagine that after Pearl Harbor no American regarded fates similar to Rotterdam or Shanghai visiting these shores as “improbable.” At least initially, conversation based on war topics were undoubtedly debated between disbelief and hysteria.

Although dementia and death have substantially reduced those then present as WWII adults, that there was possibly an undercurrent of defeatism during the global conflict’s first disastrous months is difficult to deny. It’s just the sort of thing children can absorb though can’t properly articulate sufficiently in order to have parents explain. Or dispel.

Maybe it becomes a thing that weighs adolescents who enter their teens before becoming adults; that inexplicable thing they unconsciously drag with them through life.

A benefit from Covid is it’s loosened the shackles of American workers. That’s given them leverage against bosses. Terrific!

On one hand, the worker shortage, created from retirements, deaths, and searches for better, stems directly from the disease.

The first a realization by long-time employees they’d gotten to points of simply living to work rather than working to live. Why drop dead at one’s place of employment or linger a few post-retirement years in pain and regret? If the necessary years had accrued – even if the total short – why not abandon that toil and enjoy what remained of life while it still possible?

The second, a factor way too few Americans grasp or want to, is a good number of working people succumbed to Covid. To them, their families, friends, it wasn’t a hoax. Covid wasn’t just jumped-up flu.

Despite the best efforts of right-wing barking heads and jackleg screamers to slander every patient overwhelming ICUs and hospital staffs, sufferers filling wards and providing care in them weren’t crisis actors. For awhile rumors circulated that at my own job Covid claimed one co-worker a week. Of course confidentiality rules and HR doing its utmost to protect the company blunted ascertaining whether this fact or not.

Third, the first two Covid conditions created mobility. Countless current workers are exploiting this last opening. A circumstance anyone constitutionally timid finds adverse.

A worker shortage meant dead-end, low-wage positions, and peonage treatment could be dumped for perhaps more satisfying, higher paying labor where supervisors aware the worm has turned keep their tyrant conduct in check.

That’s what “the Silent Generation” means when it erroneously states “Nobody wants to work anymore.” They’re angered that it appears nobody wants to work as they once did.

Fearful of losing jobs they were grateful to have even if it meant being humiliated throughout a career. For far too many laboring Americans that was the take-it-or-leave-it pact until Covid.

Current attitudes spreading regarding how one’s daily bread is earned reflects badly on “the Silent Generation.” They put up with shit because in return for a comfortable living standard made possible through a decent salary, benefits, and pensions, the boss could release his inner Attila the Hun on them at will. Rotten management will never hide its contempt for the cogs. Before Covid, underlings could be replaced as easily as getting a fresh tissue after soiling the previous sheet.

Then, even getting raises could’ve grown into ordeals. Despite workplace performances justifying the bump how often had the process transformed productive employees into nearly on their knees supplicants?

We may suppose “the Silent Generation” invented some nobility about enduring these trials. We may also suppose them seeing a new generation come along and blithely chucking the old nature for new measures somehow tarnishes whatever glory had shined jobs offering two-weeks-a year vacation.

This Is Not a Pipe

What haven’t the overwhelming majority of Russians been conditioned to swallow?

Watching the misery that’s playing out in Ukraine from the secure safety of the soft West, we shouldn’t be astounded that some high percentile of Russians, oh, probably about 97% of them, have wholeheartedly ingested obvious lies that would’ve convinced American TV viewers that Tommy Flanagan and Joe Isuzu were the most honest characters in sketch comedy and advertising, respectively. Continue reading This Is Not a Pipe

No Rainbow. No Pot of Gold.

California is not sending it best people across the Mojave Desert into Nevada. Not visitors, necessarily, but those hopefuls intending to relocate.

For the most part, Californians flocking from the Golden State to settle in the Mojave aren’t the most sterling. Once here a sad portion of them tarnish the Silver State. Continue reading No Rainbow. No Pot of Gold.