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What Has This Got to Do With Iraq?

Oh… it's all part of the whole… history… thing.

Not to sound too much like a New-Age Hippy Loveburger Dipshit, but we're all connected, man. Any documentation of the failings of one group of people is just another entry in the overall record of failure logged by all humankind. Needless to say, those of us who have an interest in documenting this record have a pretty hopeless task. The catalogue of depressing human history is expanding faster than anyone could possibly capture it. Some predicted that the widespread availability of video cameras would produce a corresponding increase in the quantity of valuable documentation, but so far, it's just managed to embarass the LAPD with such regularity, it's now part of the Fall TV schedule.

Anyway, these essays aren't any more or less about Iraq than anything that's happened in 2003. Iraq is a collection of people that are inconveniently located between Anglo-American oil interests and a bunch of what they're interested in. All this crap I'm writing is about the nature of the inconvenience, and that covers a lot of ground, topically speaking. If you want to get an idea of the scope, it's pretty much anything that's not likely to be the subject of a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" booklet.

People: Generally Worthless

The kind of vacant, perky, attractive, yet sexually void, Prozac® testimonials who invariably become Assistant Managers of Human Resources at mid-size high-tech companies, reliably spout chipper poster wisdom like "Everyone has a special talent, if they just let it express itself."

Most people who receive such heartfelt aphorisms are, at the time, sitting in a conference room being laid off. Consequently, the only talent that's ever evoked is resumé padding. I can't speak from personal experience, however, as I never make it this far. At this point in the corporate lifecycle, I have already been fired by a self-righteous executive for having a bad attitude about the way he's running the company into insolvency. I've never experienced the spectacle of a roomful of professional men and women holding back tears while corporate flunkies gently assert, "You're expendable."

The fact is that once the company grew past six or seven employees, there was always someone worthless on the payroll, and some of those people are in that conference room — at least in the first couple of rounds. There are always a few worthless employees left out, though. During the layoff, those guys can be found in the corner offices cursing Fate for forcing them to make such grim decisions. In case you were wondering, "Fate" can almost always be replaced with "executive ineptitude" in the previous sentence.

All of this is just part of the overabundant evidence proving that humans have only one ubiquitous talent. That talent is an astonishing ability to miss even the most ineluctable of points. Don't let anyone ever tell you there's no such thing as "perfect record" because no human being who has ever lived has ever failed to display a mastery of this talent.

Many people would take issue with me describing this as a "talent," but that's because most people have the analytical skills of a sedated hamster. They see the "missing of points" as a deficit or failure. If this were the case then people would periodically stumble upon enlightenment by accident.

In such a world, one might arrive in Utah to find people crowding coffee shops conducting animated discussions about "what we were thinking" and explaining that despite everything, they "hope the choir sticks together anyway — I like the music."

Rave casualties who go by their "goth name" might suddenly cease describing themselves as "politically active" just because they participate in poetry slams and drum circles.

Random elements of American Bourgeoisié would wean themselves off unsecured debt after being struck by the realization that no one with any actual claim to wealth, status or power ever attributes such privilege to "living in a free country."

I'm not exempting myself from possession — or indulgence — of this talent, either, by the way. For example, I know there's a reason why Ann Coulter publishes smug books full of outrageous lies. She's too unpleasant in person to make money in the sex industry. Still, every time I see her pontificating on a T.V. talkshow, rather than sitting topless in a picture window bathed in red light, I asked, rhetorically, "Why, God, why?!"

None of these things will ever happen. There will always be Mormons. There will always be feckless goth kids. There will always be people who think owning a Ford Excursion is some kind of personal victory. I will never understand why fascist apologetics are considered democratic wisdom just because they're uttered by a bitter, anorexic, blond skank. The fact remains that humans tend to stick with what they're best at, and — as a species — we're best at being fucking clueless.

Good Effort, China!

It follows that when a human does anything interesting or remarkable, the feat required deliberately cultivating a talent other than the one with which we're all blessed. This effort certainly merits recognition — and sometimes even a film deal.

The Chinese deserve credit for an early and prolific display of talent. Chinese culture distinguished itself as the first civilization in recorded history to do anything cool. I'm not saying that earlier people didn't do interesting things, but to qualify as cool, an activity has to be equally interesting whether it's conducted in a cave dwelling or in your living room.

Someone complained that my definition of cool excludes the Burning Man festival. That person is a dipshit. Burning Man in my living room would be interesting as all hell.

Obviously, someone else might have been cool before the Chinese. I still think the Chinese should keep the accolade, just for remembering to invent writing before the other stuff, so they could document it. Their genius undid them to some degree, though. Having also invented paper to write on, much of their early work has been lost to the intervening millennia.

The Sumerians wrote on clay, which is a really poor mass media technology, but did result in one of the very first written documents produced in the Western Hemisphere surviving until modern times.

It was a tax receipt.

Alas, the story of greatness often plays out like the biography of musician Kurt Cobain. Great achievement, and chronic heroin use, is often followed by passing out on stage, then later doing something unnecessary and self-destructive. Chinese culture scaled to great heights, and then leaped off a cliff — without even yelling out the customary "Hey! Watch this!"

It was more like, "Fuck you guys, we're outta here — and you're not invited!" As the rest of us watched Chinese Culture fling itself off the precipice, we just waved and said, "OK! Hope that works out for ya, there, China!"

But just as Cobain's death ultimately lead to us seeing a lot of Courtney Love's tits, China's great fuckup paved the way for others to achieve their own greatness.

Not the Arabs, though. They got shafted.

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