Hang The Pundits, Me Included / 24 September 2001
There was an atypical silence that was way too brief, and then, maybe feeling around for words that weren’t empty or inconsequential, came the: Everything has changed. And the: We must adjust to this new reality.
(And the too-quick shift from spectator to pedant, sharing the same information and instructions and categorical statements, a behavior we’ve all learned from television, each one of us creating our own newsanchor persona and broadcasting to our own nonexistent audience, a mask of concern and sharing still just a mask, really.)
Then came the response: I understand that everything has changed, but how? We still get up and have breakfast, still watch movies, still get calls from telemarketers, still check the weather to see what to wear. There’s that dim dread but it’s not concrete enough. This seems too similar to the old reality.It’s as if we we wanted a new reality, no matter what brought it about, no matter what the consequences would be. Didn’t matter what, exactly, as long as it was different from what we had before. Before was tiresome, dully aggravating, and we were unsavory and cold. Yes, this was horror, pure, exacting, but look at us, look at how good we are now, look at how we’re abandoning frivolity and embracing the things that truly matter. We won’t take things for granted anymore. We won’t get bogged down in insignificant details. Our lives are precious, our way of life is precious, we’ve learned that now, and in this new reality we will make eye contact and do things without demanding credit and build rather than destroy. We had to pay a pretty steep price, but at least it wasn’t an end, it was a turning point.
(I kept feeling like something would crack, somewhere soon, but I thought it’d be cultural, or economic. I thought maybe movie studios would start going bankrupt, or the stock market would collapse, or senators would start wearing logos on their suits like racecar drivers. A country can’t be a parody of itself indefinitely, something’s got to give. Communication built entirely out of euphemism and cliché can only go on for so long, multinational conglomerates can only merge so many times, elections can only get so close before they become meaningless, MCs and their bitches can only get so young, we can only expend so much emotional involvement on issues that are filed away 48 hours later.)
Were we really a nation of people waiting for something dramatic to come along and change everything? To shake us up, blow away the cobwebs? And was this it or are we trying to make this it, just to wring some kind of optimism out of it? And how authentic and lasting can an optimism based on violence be? And do we actually get some sort of satisfaction from this situation, because we’re finally feeling something, even if it is fear and anger and sorrow?
OK, back to Paper Mario, which is more how I hoped this new reality would operate.