Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rough Drafts

I made three false starts on my July 05 Grassroots Press column. I became weary of my usual perspective, accurate though it may be. But I'm sure my usual readers will appreciate this stuff:


I like Arizona. Friendly saguaros wave as you drive by. Gila monsters lurk under every rock. The mountains silhouetted on the horizon look like they were drawn by a cartoonist on psilocybin. The ghosts of Cochise, Geronimo, and Barry Goldwater play poker together in the dry desert heat. And a 112° Phoenix afternoon makes you realize how cool Las Cruces really is. They say you need to drink a gallon of water an hour when it gets that hot; otherwise you will die.

Despite the lethal climate, the Phoenix metropolitan area has twice as many people as the entire state of New Mexico. Along with Las Vegas, Phoenix is the Los Angeles of the desert. Las Cruces will never compare, yet it’s instructive to look at Phoenix to see what’s in store for us unless the economy crashes first.

I ended up driving a 50 mile loop around the southeastern part of the metroplex, between Chandler and Tempe. This was originally an agricultal area, much bigger than the Mesilla Valley. What a farming paradise it must have been back in the day. There are still hundreds of fields growing the same crops found in our area – cotton, alfalfa, corn – with the occasional dairy. Most of the fields have "For Sale" signs. And popping up all over are housing developments – mile upon mile of new houses. You can tell they’re new houses because they’re only 10 feet apart and they all have tile roofs.

We think we have a housing boom in Las Cruces, but we are a mere pip compared to Phoenix. Maricopa County (of which Phoenix is the county seat) has grown over 10% in the past three years. That’s over 100,000 new people a year. That’s a lot of new houses. That’s a lot of new schools, grocery stores, toilets, refrigerated air conditioners, and black asphalt pavement.

What summed it up for me was an intersection out there surrounded by endless rows of new houses. On one side of the street is a brand new shopping mall. On the other side of the street, they are building another shopping mall. There’s a lot of new shopping to be done in Phoenix.

Phoenicians, as they are called, like water. Since the desert is so dry, they like to flaunt their water wealth. They like ponds, fountains, lakes, waterfalls, and lots of green grass. Their lakes probably evaporate 6" of water a day. The streets are lined with splendid public landscaping. Flowers are everywhere. There must be millions of flowering shrubs – oleanders, birds of paradise and tropical plants of obscure description – watered with underground drip irrigation. All this beautiful vegetation would live no more than a couple of days without water. In fact, I saw what would happen if the water supply so much as hiccups – I drove past an abandoned golf course. What a location for a post-apocalypse movie it would make. It’s what you would expect a dead golf course to look like. Instead of green, the grass was brown, and all the trees and shrubs were dead skeletons. Evidently the owner ran out of money. I imagine the Hanging Gardens of Babylon looked like that when they ran out of water.


George W. Bush is known in some circles as "Bubble Boy," because he lives in his own private reality bubble. He hears only what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. He has found perfection. There is no need for Plan B because Plan A is always perfect. Since neocons are all-knowing and all-wise, there is no need to learn anything, since they already know everything there is to know. Unfortunately for those of us suffering under neocon rule, the ability to learn is a key characteristic of what it means to be fully human. So by our definition, neocons are less than fully human. But we already knew that – just look at Limbaugh, Coulter, Rumsfeld, George W. Bush and all the rest.

Since the neocons already know it all, there is no longer any need for "objective" facts; in fact, the very concepts of "objectivity" and "factuality" are now superfluous. This is bad news for those of us who believe in the possibility of civilization. Last fall, liberals got their kickers in a twist when a Bush aide, in a surprisingly unguarded moment, said in short, "We, the neocons, have the power to shape reality at will; all you can do is observe and comment upon what we are doing." According to the neocons, our objectivity counts for nothing. They are as gods; we are mere spectators. Or so they think.

Bush, of course, is nothing but a figurehead. His regime can more accurately be called the Cheney Administration or the Neocon Regime. But he is perfect for his role, because so many Americans are Bubble People, too. People feel comfortable with a "leader" who is just like they are – clueless, yet projecting a smug air of confidence. Bubble Boy Bush couldn’t exist if America wasn’t already Bubbleland.

I recently spent a couple of days in a hotbed of Bubble People – Phoenix, Arizona. There are plenty of Bubble People right here in Las Cruces, of course, but Phoenix is the closest example we have of the bubble syndrome on steroids. We think we’ve got a building boom in Las Cruces, but we are a mere pip compared to Phoenix. To put things in perspective, the Phoenix metroplex contains twice as many people as the entire state of New Mexico. The Phoenixplex is adding over 100,000 people a year. That’s a lot of new houses, highways, schools, shopping malls, freeways, sewers... and it’s all predicated on unlimited energy and unlimited water, forever.

In the Chandler area southeast of Phoenix where I spent most of my time, there are mile upon mile of new housing developments, new freeways, new shopping malls... beautifully landscaped with green lawns, flowering shrubs and artificial lakes and waterfalls, all of it mortgaged to the max, squandering water and energy like there’s no tomorrow... and there’s no end in sight. This particular cancer (not just Phoenix, but nationwide) will continue to grow until something crashes. Either the global economy crashes hard, or Earth’s life support system with be destroyed. Or, most likely, both. We like to think our talk counts for something, but it doesn’t. Like the jumbo jet accelerating into the skyscraper, events are totally out of control.


I recently spent a couple of days in the Phoenix metro area, which has twice the population of the entire state of New Mexico. Their building boom is enormous by Las Cruces standards. I spent some time driving between Chandler and Tempe, which used to be an agricultural area much larger than the Mesilla Valley. There is still a lot of irrigated farming going on, but most fields now sprout "For Sale" signs. The amount of new development is mind-boggling – mile after mile of new subdivisions, shopping centers, schools – all of it beautifully landscaped with flowering shrubs, lush green lawns, lakes and waterfalls. Considering that this is the hottest, driest desert in America, this is an act of defiance if I ever saw one.

The philosophy at work here is the All-American credo – THERE ARE NO LIMITS. Limitless energy, limitless water, limitless money, whee! Get yours today, if not sooner. No money down; an infinite number of easy payments, and paradise can be yours. However, sooner or later, Americans will discover that there are too limits.

This is not new information to those of us with a shred of intelligence, who realize that we are, all of us, captive on a hijacked jumbo jet which is accelerating into the skyscraper. That’s an ugly thing to have to say, but it’s true. Ecological catastrophe is inevitable; we’ve already squandered whatever chance at redemption we might have had. You can take this as a definitive statement.

It’s a drag writing like this. Sure, it’s great to still have the freedom to speak out against the madness, but I don’t see much percentage in mere talk, and I don’t plan to continue in this vein. I’ll probably write an overview article once a year or so... saying, most likely, "Yep, the idiot criminals are still running the show." But these constant updates of our constant decline are getting ridiculous.

My Better Half encourages me to write about what I want rather than what I don’t want. I understand the psychological and spiritual advantages of doing this, yet it is difficult for me to write about a positive future I doubt will ever happen. I can’t insult my own shred of intelligence by playing make-believe.

Since I see no point in confronting the madness head-on any longer, I plan to shift gears and change my focus. If you want to know what the idiot criminals are up to, the internet will keep you informed in agonizing detail. There are many other topics to write about, and I hope to entice a new Muse my way and see what kind of interesting articles we can come up with.


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