Dear Dirty America


I Am Jack’s Inflated Credit Card Debt

April 17
13:30 2012

Credit: Brendan Mruk
Shamans believe that in order to rise from an ordinary human state into a higher realm, the spirit must essentially die, allowing a new essence to be born that is healthy and capable of healing.
Tyler Durden — Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club antihero and iconic revolutionary — would say that American society is a potential shaman-to-be. To ascend to a higher state, America in its current state must be abolished and supplanted with a soul that is unimpaired, unimpeded and free.
The Durdenian line of thought sounds good, but it faces one significant obstacle: America is just too big. A truly destructive crisis would have to be supernova-esque to even remotely disturb the foundation that humanity has spent millennia constructing. However, anyone who’s observed the headlines of the last decade will note that Tyler’s grand plan, which reaches its zenith at the film’s conclusion, targets America’s Achilles heel: credit cards.
Thirteen years after the Fight Club’s filmic debut, Tyler Durden’s plot seems more germane and less far-fetched than ever. Burgeoning credit debt in every corner of the country? Record unemployment percentages? A $14 trillion increase in the last 30 years to the federal debt ceiling? It’s kind of a wonder that this collective soufflé hasn’t collapsed yet, although each mention of the word “crisis” in the media feels like a creak of that ever-opening oven door.
The question stands, though: who is opening the door? Conservatives blame liberals, Democrats blame Republicans, country mice blame city mice, and the HOPE stickers once seen on so many bumpers are fading fast. So, who would Tyler Durden blame?
Basically, Tyler wouldn’t blame the easy scapegoats at the top – those known as the one percent. While undeniably corrupt and, well, blamable, he would say that such people are the inevitable product of a consumer-driven society. These people may use the pervading social paralysis of our era for personal and political gain, but such practices have been the nature of politics and government for as long as social power has existed.
The desperation is beginning to show itself more blatantly now. Although the methods of movements like Occupy Wall Street are immeasurably different from those of Project Mayhem, their stipulations are the same: no more exploitation of human rights, no more blind consumerism, no more corporations having more power than people. But while the (undeniably admirable) occupiers are willing to sit on government-owned property, demanding things of a system that can’t even comply with its own demands and expecting it to change any day now, the Durden plan – which merely entails the physical destruction of credit headquarters – seems fitting for other, more aggressive reasons. In blowing up the credit companies’ buildings, he seeks to obliterate the very root of modern society’s failure, and in 2012, his determination would likely be stronger yet.
“We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession…What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with five hundred channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.”
Particularly in the midst of today’s financial events, Durden’s words serve to remind Americans that the endless advertising and materialism that seems to grow a little every day is working towards a distinct end: to distract us from our ignorance of the processes occurring behind the bolted doors of the decision makers.
Durden would urge Americans to remember that humanity made this bed. If we don’t want to lie in it, we can’t wait for someone stronger to come along to change the sheets and fluff our pillows. There is an inherent beauty to the tabula rasa concept: hidden within every individual psyche is the longing for a clean slate, and the violent erasure of the wrong turns that have led us here is incredibly enticing. But, as Tyler Durden would agree, this country won’t just wake up perfect one day. The sentiment is even more significant today than it was in 1999:
“We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
As Tom Robbins says, “Somewhere in the archives of crudest instinct is recorded the truth that it is better to be endangered and free than captive and comfortable” (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues).

Maya Bornstein devotes most of her time to writing – professionally, creatively, and inevitably. Follow her on Twitter @mayabornstein


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