I hear America bling-blinging:
Hyper-capitalism as Satanism
1. The unbearable hugeness of shopping
When I leave New York, I remember how fat Americans are. It's not that there aren't overweight people in New York, or that there aren't plenty of thin people elsewhere. But when I visit my mother in Tampa, I'm struck by how further along the bell curve most Americans are than than the people I see in my ordinary life. In Tampa at least, you see people at the mall who could only belong to the circus in most of Europe, Africa, or Asia: obscenely inflated buttocks on perfectly average frames, men whose bellies are larger than beer kegs, people who I look at and invariably wonder: just how do they have sex anyway? And it's not just the extremes. The average American, statistics tell us, is overweight, at least as measured by what percentage of body fat is healthy. Our diets are poor; we eat junk, and too much of it. And so the love handles, the jowly cheeks, the fat asses.
City-dwellers like me have no idea what's going on out there in the suburbs, particularly those in "red states," where hugely overblown new houses line deracinated streets prowled by gigantic SUVs en route to inhumanly vast warehouse stores. Visiting America is like entering a thesaurus for "big." By the time I finished shopping at Costco recently, I could barely budge my cart.
Tampa in particular has changed greatly in the fourteen years since I last lived there, in many ways for the better. There is now an artsy neighborhood. The Bucs won the Super Bowl. But its most significant change is in its unchecked growth: "New Tampa," a whole new city/exurb/zone in former swamps and citrus groves to the Northeast; entire new arteries of enormous shopping malls and hyperinflated homes along the new Northwest expressway corridor; tens of thousands of new middle-class families eating corporate food laced with chemicals, voting on the Right-wing side of the political duopoly, consuming media and "news" produced by the 'big five' media conglomerates, inhabiting the mainstream Western consumptive lifestyle so thoroughly that they are entirely unaware that it even exists.
Lefties like me usually snicker when politicians talk about the American "way of life." Bush says that al Qaeda and Islamists hate our "way of life," and we disagree because, like those who really are living the American Dream, we don't really get it. Some on the Left think Bush is referring to Right-wing moral values: that 'way of life' means living life the Ashcroft way. But the American way of life is not Ashcroft; it's Cheney. It is a morally valueless (that is, morally cruel) system of hyper-everything, especially hyper-consumption - almost violently large stores, food portions, cars, homes, and buttocks; malls that are larger than many towns, and yet which show only the same few Hollywood movies in the multiplexes (movies which celebrate the same lifestyle of surface, built on a foundation of violence, that is embedded in the malls themselves). This hugeness depends on waste; America produces 40% of the world's garbage, all the while denying any responsibility for the plastic in which it wraps everything.
Zeek in Print
Spring 03 issue available here
Simulacra and Science Fiction
I Hear America
I wish I was...
Josh Gets Contacts
When I Met Humility, I saw Letters
Zeek @ Low
June 26, 2003
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