Try to capture that with a poetic phrase. It’s a difficult thing to do. Trailer parks of discontent? And how could you describe the broader American landscape in which this dismal scenario transpires, the one that exists outside the confines of the trailer court? Soulless parking lots of despair? Strip malls of worn-out consumerism? The specific character of American poverty reflects the specific character, in a greatly exaggerated form, of the larger American culture that produced it. The trashier the culture, the trashier the slum.
There is a unique emptiness to the wreckage we’re leaving behind. Most of it won’t have any intrinsic beauty that posterity will be able to appreciate, as, for example, we can still appreciate a Byzantine mosaic or an Etruscan vase. It will just be a mass of cheap, disposable trash. Future archaeologists will sift through layers of sheet metal, plastic, automobile parts and broken DVDs, meticulously searching for some indication that American civilization — at least in its latter stages — had any sense of value. What were they really about, future scholars will wonder, until, at their wit’s end, they’ll be forced to bow to the truth and conclude that America, in it’s final decades, wasn’t about anything at all.
They invented plastic and never looked back!
They started out strong, producing such marvels as the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the Hoover Dam. But somewhere in the latter half of the twentieth century they inexplicably wore down. Their creativity petered out and their vigour drained away. They lost their purpose, turned inward, and proceeded to devour their own guts.
They bought and sold gadgets at a manic pace because they couldn’t think of anything better to do. Some of these gadgets were miraculous, and others were extremely useful. Most of them, however, were merely frivolous, and a few were downright dangerous. But that didn’t matter. The most important thing was that these gadgets were contantly being bought, sold and consumed; bought, sold and consumed; bought, sold and consumed in a briskly moving cycle that couldn’t be impeded in any serious way or the whole system might come crashing down. It was done for the sake of a deity called Growth.
The process itself was of paramount importance, everything else was secondary. To the people who controlled it, there weren’t any other considerations at all. It was the only thing. It was a God whose rules could never be questioned and whose belly could never be satisfactorily filled. If anyone got in the way of this divinely ordained system, criticized it, or otherwise prevented it from operating smoothly, they were run over or pushed aside. When they could no longer actively participate in it, they were thrown away as casually as burnt-out spark plugs or empty aluminum cans.
Buying, selling, consuming; buying, selling, consuming. On and on, world without end. There was no other glue that bound Americans together, nothing else they could think of to aspire to. It was, for all intents and purposes, their religion. It was so sacred to them, in fact, that in their zeal to keep it going they readily abandoned their one truly great contribution to the world: their political constitution.
When entropy set in and the system broke down, the people couldn’t figure out what to do. Signs of impending collapse proliferated like weeds, but the people ignored them. They hunkered down and continued to buy, sell and consume as compulsively as ever. Their leaders, who were as intractably corrupt as they were stupidly short-sighted, actively encouraged this behavior. They were unable to change due to a failure of will and imagination, and they gradually perished; a slow, inglorious death.
Put simply, they were stubborn fat people who ran out of money.