Sunday, August 25, 2019

Just Desserts

Just Desserts
by Alfred Lehmberg

The sad old man lay supine on a moldy cot in the allotted cold-water walk-up to which he'd been summarily, even rudely, assigned. He was lucky to get even that, he realized. Still, he was harboring an aggrieved misery not understood in an age where the majority can still pay its bills. 

The reader discovers that the old man's possessions had been recently confiscated and his property seized. His savings were liquidated to cover inflated, largely felonious, medical costs. He thought he had provided for all this.  "All this" was... just to start.

He was the last one left.  His family and friends were all dead in the dread triad's trifecta of disease, euthanasia, and homicide. Human Existence had gone, and decidedly, south. 

His children were murdered noncombatants in the "Rain Forest Wars" of 2028. ...A brother, tragically, by his own hand in a final resignation of all futility when his family passed in a similar contention. Friends and acquaintances... some in ways defying description. Real blaze of "glory" acts of pathetic desperation and angry despair... patheticism on parade. 

His own wholly unheralded and totally unmourned death loomed as a preferable event to that which he'd witnessed with his own eyes, remembering the terrible loss of his own children... he was glad, now, they were gone... 

His "last grand act" would have saddled any survivors anywayincreasing their burden and eroding their own futures... as he had been burdened and eroded... Social Security and Medicare are well missed where employers were loathe to pay living wages in the first place... but that was for persons with futures... if they'd had any futures. ...No one did. No one had. No one would.  

The care of his own parents had taken a sizable chunk of a dire discretionary income, and they had been "prepared," too. His wife was recently fallen, expensively, to the latest airborne Ebola variant released from a violated Amazon, or she'd likely be with him now sharing the mandated and official Retirement Experience. She'd still had a year to go at 70, but the old man bet she would have elected to go out with him. He would if she'd been the first...

The Retirement Experience was a Government program of forced termination. Sugarcoating is always disingenuous.

It was rumored to be something similar to what Edward G. Robinson experienced in Soylent Green... A drugged reverie regarding a glorious remembrance of what colorfully "was"... flowers, VR mountainous blue skies, blue seas filled with fish and splashing dolphins... the forgotten odors of lilac and sandalwood... only, Robinson's was voluntary

...If you turned yourself in they were more gentle. If they had to come for you it would go hard...  

In a few days, to be clear, he was slated for termination in that mandated program of "Geriatric Renewal." That was the program's "people-friendly" think-tank designation. At 71 He would dutifully surrender himselfwould then be summarily plowed back into the expiring soil... after being squeezed of every asset. The now significantly well-dwindled 1% could still pay to be kept alive in whatever comfort there was remaining... Life was still precious for the few behind the gates... 

...There was talk of lowering the "Geriatric Renewal" age to 65...
It was late in a soiled and sordid year of 2042, and the weight of those years bore down with a crushing inevitability on the lonely old man.  The weight of that burden (which may be a future) is unendurable, insidious, and tragic in its avoidability.  ...And it was, he thought to himself, so avoidable.  "Stupid" usually is.

The life that afflicted him now was a condition that he, and others like him, had thoughtlessly created themselves, he'd slowly come to realize. He'd helped, astonishingly, to engineer a crisis of biblical proportion in his last quarter-century... was his dawning new thought. 

Subsequently? His "activity" or lack of same would help to inaudibly pop the hubristic bubble that was an arrogant humankind like it was an oily sandwich bag crushed heavily under-wheel at the ever-growing toxic land-fill. Humankind would be equally inaudible.

Overpopulation and its hard-case relatives Economic Collapse and Environmental Catastrophe... ...these would deliver a knockout blow to the weak chin of a consummately disappointing, underperforming, and slack-jawed humankind.  Finally, life had become too much to bear because the old man, he realized in the cruel winter of his winter, had helped make it too much to be borne. There's one for the stomach's pit! 

Early in the twentieth-century humankind began to profligate itself into all corners of the available existential planetary environment like hordes of clever, if self-loathing, locusts. It couldn't be told from space by your conjectured garden-variety ET as anything apart from a fungal infection or crass viral infestation. Such was humanity.

Heedless and insentient expansion. Mindlessness. Glutonies and overindulgences.  No thought about the consequences. Zero. Zip. Nada. Bupkis. One would think self-aware sentience would know better. We didn't.

The old man was reminded of dated television documentaries featuring breeding pairs of mice allowed to reproduce without limit into a large cage... food, water, and sewage not an issue.   The mice reacted to its overcrowdedness in what was ultimately a disturbing and unnatural manic indifference to their squalidly packed existences. Inexplicable and horrific physical outbreaks of violence were perpetrated on one another. Rat psychotics and rat psychopaths abounded doing rat psychopathic and rat psychotic things... Unconscionable acts upon one another, then readily expressed without explanation or logic, so unreservedly! That's overpopulation.  

So went humankind. Respect for privacy and public safety was an early casualty.  Vicious strangers dragged he and his wife from their home, on a couple of occasions. They were beaten savagely and made then to watch as their possessions were passed around to grasping dirty hands or destroyed out of cussedness. One almost got used to this.

Calling "police" was an exercise in futility. Their hands were full guarding the gates at the gated communities. The Gangs controlled huge sections of major cities, now, splattering the countryside with blood and neon ultra-violence, countries unto themselves.  Food was rationed in lines seemingly unending. At least the rats had food and water...

Rolling electrical brownout was a twenty-four-hour occurrence, but the straight-up outage of grid-death was more likely.  Speaking of the dead, they would lay stacked in forlorn piles covered with a few inches of septic earth until "processing." Maybe Soylent Green was real...

There was more than a dalliance into cannibalism by people he knew (the details are difficult to dwell on); more than once he had been tempted to try it himself...  He'd been able to refrain...

Too, insult on top of injury, the old man reflected that his horror was shockingly unnecessary.  The smallest amount of educational effort could have reversed this trend to insentient overpopulation, and he might more likely be living in a comparative Eden he mused forlornly. All was lost when Ronald Reagan made it possible to knowingly lie on public airwaves without consequence. 

Fascist Authoritarianism had certainly had its run and here he was!  There could have been at least an attempt to do the sensical. What was bad about "Democratic Socialism," again? Sanity, always within reach, somehow evaded grasp. 

Overpopulation hastened an economic collapse that would have occurred anyway.  The later part of the twentieth century was witness to seeing successive generations of undereducated people who redefined slothful detachment to a less than constructive art form.  The old man lived to see fidelity, service, and commitment to excellence as outdated virtues outliving usefulness. That's never been a good scene. 

At the last, he cursed bitterly the short-sighted and suicidal situation he selfishly made for himself and his doomed heirs. The fruits of it were, oh, so apparent.  Society devolved to a new predatory business ethic of ethicless corpocracy selling dangerous types of equipment blowing up on the road or bathing consumers with lethal radiations in the home.  

Rat tails and fingernails were tolerated in what "passed" for hamburger. Bank frauds and contractual abuses of all kinds wasted the innocence and increased the criminal guile of a humankind ready to ride a devil's shirttail into and reawoken racism and sexual bigotry

Attractive rumor was preferred outright to the more productive if less attractive but cited factual reality. Truth was no longer said to have beauty.   

He and the rest of his slothful generation betrayed the efficacy of "doing your own thing," as members of the self-involved "me generation," in mendacious "laid back" decades seeing neither point nor requitement in "unrewarded" exercise. Steadily, instead, it squandered the fiscal and emotional savings of the aggrieved aggregate planet to satisfy what would prove to be only mendacious "me" moments on the subject of personal futility and social meaninglessness. Prufrock in regretful expiration.

...Our spaceship Earth was disintegrating to a dying slum-ship officiated by psychopathic swine. ...And then climate science was proved spot on.

The procrastinating spend-borrow-spend mentality, borrowing against an unknown future, was facilitated by psychopathic profiteers running the world debt up to a point where it just-could-not be paid. One is reminded why there were prohibitions on all loansharking et al, anyway! The collapse created a smoking landscape of psychotics and suicides leaving the more sane and courageous persons only holding the indebted bags of their fellows' rotten and inconsequent bones.  

Overnight, the United States had become a third rate pseudo-power, a laughing stock, and a liability to be cashiered before all value was lost. Banks were overrun and trampled. Remains, this fiscal hell could have been avoided for pennies a day if humans had started soon enoughas late as 2020. Only, they'd let that be their last failure.

Overpopulation hastened the final ecological crisis to an inevitable conclusion. Environmental abuse turned major slashes of the fragile planet into steaming, virulent, and open cisterns of disease-releasing ice melts and tundra thaws. Toxic waste and micro-plastic eventually killed the oceans outright, so it was only a matter of time until the rest of the planet began to falter in a faster and more agonizing fashion.  

Babies of all kinds (human and animal) were born misshapen and grotesque, or dead where they were born at all.  Barely potable water was more precious than an equal volume of substandard foodstuffs, it would come to pass. He was always thirsty. Urine drinking was common.  

The myriad colors green disappeared with other examples of natural color; all that remained were washed out browns and diseased dirty grays.  

Humankind had been injecting agro-poisons deeply into the ecosystems of the planet for decades, rendering them now sterile and uninhabitable.  There would be no breath of life on the planet going forward. There would only be a pervading odor of the last forced breath of a long-dead corpse.  

There was no question about it.  Proud humankind spent its last decades defecating in bed and pushing it down with its feet.  It was almost laughable that the world had had obvious proof of the avoidable consequences of environmental inaction, early on, for a century even, but that complacent humanity could not make the smallest sacrifice to a future in the correction of these current existential horrors... for themselves or their children.    

The old man lay on a dirty cot, waited to go die, and wished fervently for a chance to live his broken life over.  Though, the solutions that he knew might have precluded this disaster were lost to an uncaring past. Ifs were like spilled milk... 

Spilling the inevitable "Ifs"... 

If he had at least voted with a sane if complacent majority to elect men and women to Government more worried about doing the job than getting elected to do it, the misery could have been avoided.  If he had voted to tax more of wages of the moderately affluent (and up) for Social Security, or if he had campaigned against the concept of prevaricating "right to work" laws, then perhaps there would have been some money to pay off the huge debts that he had helped to incur.  If he had supported measures to reform the Health Care System or encouraged Corporate America to end fascistic and predatory discrimination practices, the situation would be more bearable. If we had held that bastard tool of psychotic corpocracy, TЯUMP (that beginning of the end), to his empty promises as the Education President et al (Chosen of God and loved by Israel!), or supported other measures to enliven the educational infrastructure (much less the physical National one!), we might not be in this sorriest of sorry, sorry states.  If we had taken better care of ourselves physically, or exercised, or eaten more intelligently, perhaps we could have evaded the liabilities of poor health or had a system addressing them... preferring disease cure to disease management... If. If. If.

If ifs and buts were cake and nuts... 

One more. If he had not been one of the self-serving, short-term-solution sycophants... a cretinous consumer-monster no better than any when it's dealt out... he could have contributed to a living World.  Instead, he was a symbol of its failure and on the blame line for its demise.  

Imagine knowing at the end, then, like the old man above, that yours was not a symbiotic relationship you had had with your Nation, or with your planet. ...Not remotely.

No... There was only one word that would describe that brand of contribution.  That word was... parasite, and their desserts are just.


regan lee said...

DAMN!!!! Alfred, a great piece of writing.! Truly!