Let me offer just a taste of the events and actions that have me ready to don my black garb, shove a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle in my back pocket and blow shit up. No logic, no compassion, no common sense.
Last week, the U.S. Congress voted to repeal a regulation meant to stop coal companies from dumping potentially toxic mining debris in streams. The rule was complicated, but suffice it to say that coal companies in the business of mountain-top removal mining (absurd enough in itself) will no longer be required to determine if their dumping policies will damage the ecosystem of the stream where they’re tossing their foul, cancerous crap. They will no longer be required to restore streams to their former state after they’ve blown the top off a fucking mountain to make some money. Read the story by Brad Plumer for Vox here:
And get a load of this. Trump also directed his administration to stop implementation of a rule that says financial advisors have to act in the best interest of their clients when recommending retirement products. So, beware grandma. That nice young man in the suit and tie may be selling you a risky product that is more designed to net him nice fat fees than to safeguard your golden years. Yep. Let’s make America great again! Charles P. Pierce captures the absurdity quite nicely in this Esquire piece:
Now our corrupt oligarchy can spread some cash around the corrupt oligarchy of a developing country. And they're off! It's drill-baby-drill, with no environmental or labor protections, therefore heaping more misery on the backs of people who already shoulder too much of the burden of this darkening world. Read the details here:
I’ll confess to being at a loss. Oh, I won’t remain passive. I will listen to wise people. I’ll call my Senators, for all the good it will do. I’ll give money to environmental organizations for their court battles. Occasionally, I will march. I will also turn to books, not only for escapism but for cathartic experiences that tell me, “You see, these writers, these characters, have felt what you are feeling. Through this story, you know you are not alone.”
I don’t know about you, but this always makes me feel less hopeless, less helpless.
Now, there’s been talk about how George Orwell’s 1984 has become a best seller. I’ve also heard many a person—including myself—whisper about Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale becoming reality as Mike Pence salivates over rolling back women’s reproductive freedoms. But my impulse is to turn not to novels about authoritarian regimes, but to absurdist stories. ‘Cause ain’t none of this shit make sense.
According to Wikipedia, absurdist fiction calls into question the "certainty of existential concepts such as truth or value.”
So, when the my country has been poisoned by misinformation, here are a few books I’ve read that capture the brew of dread and black humor bubbling in my head right now. Naturally, each of these has a lot more going on than is conveyed by my impressionistic blurbs.
One fine morning in the month of May an elegant young horsewoman might have been riding a handsome sorrel mare along the flowery avenues of the Bois de Boulogne.
The whole thing reminds me of the way we’re destroying our own environment.
I'll share a famous quote:
There wasn't a single item of importance [in the newspaper]. A tower of illusion, all of it, made of illusory bricks and full of holes. If life were made up only of important things, it really would be a dangerous house of glass, scarcely to be handled carelessly. But everyday life was exactly like the headlines. And so everybody, knowing the meaninglessness of existence, sets the center of his compass at his own home.
The story also involves a farcical religion that the leaders of the poorest country on Earth have foisted on its citizens as a tool of control. The religion preaches the inevitability of all that occurs and the leaders go so far as to ban its practice so the people will feel like they’re doing something meaningful and brave just to follow it.
Back when George W. Bush started a war for no fucking reason I started thinking about this book again. The Trump nightmare has put me in mind of one of my favorite quotes:
“No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s . . .”
“No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”