Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The A-word

David Sirota on what to call the State Of The Nation.

Recently, I've been groping for the precise word to characterize the zeitgeist of this (unfortunately) historic moment. I know it's not merely "demoralized." It's something far more dread-laden -- a word I finally found during a visit last week to central Mexico.

Sitting atop the famed Pyramid of the Sun, I took in Teotihuacan -- the ancient metropolis outside Mexico City. Its weathered bricks and mortar look like many great archaeological wonders, except its annals include a harrowing asterisk: When the Aztecs discovered the site, it was abandoned, and nobody knows what happened to its inhabitants. The ruins thus feel like monuments to an apocalypse.

Mighta been the 'shrooms, dude...

That's the term that popped into my mind as I baked in the Mexican sun -- "apocalypse": a phenomenon whose signs are everywhere these days.

As wages stagnate in a nation whose median household income is $50,000 a year, one financial executive tells reporters that bankers "can't live on $150,000 to $180,000." Another bemoans efforts to restrict CEO pay by saying that "$500,000 is not a lot of money" -- and the New York Times chimes in by insisting that it’s true: "Half a million a year can go very fast."

Around here, it takes about ten years, and, yes, though the last decade went by in the seeming blink of an eye, the last eight seemed like they took forever. Hear that dripping sound? That's my ass bleeding for anybody that can't make it on a half a mil a year. I got a coupla alliterative 'A-words' for them, too. One of them is 'arrogant' and the other is a compound word with 'holes' as the last syllable.

As I sit here comfortably with all my stuff paid for, on a pretty much fixed income, with my consuming and borrowing days behind me and a total of outstanding debt that I could pay off with the money in my nightstand, I think about the folks in financial trouble, the real folks, not the richies facing living like only slightly rich people for the first time - oh, the horror! I feel like the paratroopers about to jump into Normandy on D-Day. Told that they were projected to take 90% casualties, each and every one of 'em thought to himself, "Man, I feel sorry for all those other guys".

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