Shiny Happy Sheeple

“Meet me in the crowd,” Mr. REM said oh so many years ago.  Check it; the song is 25 years old.  But, what crowd did he mean?  One filled with young kids just coming out of a plaid and grunge stupor?  Did he mean the crowd in Cairo rioting for democracy, the crowd in Tunis overthrowing their unelected leaders, the bread line, or the food court at the mall?  But, something these days doesn’t seem quite so shiny nor happy.  Dennis Leery said of this song, “I want the shiny people over here and the happy people over here! I represent angry, gun-toting, meat-eating fu_king people!”  And… on cue, it seems the angry gun-toting people are here, except with the price of food, they may not be doing as much meat eating in the future as they believe they are entitled to.
Things are changing at a pace that is challenging our concept of an everlasting assent into the heaven of iEverygoddamnthing and hamburger meat grown in swimming pools heated by solar farms and cyber controls.  The world of 1991 – Shiny Happy People” release – seems so far away.  The Gulf War had just been won (Iraq War I/ IWI?).  The SOVIET Union had vanished into the night, flushed down the sink like all that alcohol and pills your roommate Dan said he’d never touch again.  Our nation was poised to rule the world as the “Last Remaining Super Power” (LRSP?).  China still was still a peasant nation of rustic people making pigs into delicious chunks of oddly red-on-one-side dim sum bits or harmless factories making plastic dog shit for the Archy McFee company.  It was easy to tune out the synthetic drum beat of bad news and blame this small thumping noise on a machine we forgot to turn off before we left for the weekend but which we knew the batteries would die long before the neighbors could identify that noise as coming from our room.   We looked like we were to all rise to meet our dreams and that Reagan-Bush-Clinton had brought us into the Promised Land.


Back in the 1990s, global warming (ahem… Climate Change) was still a theory. Peak oil a myth printed in Friendship booklets.  The military-industrial complex turned out to be a job-creating winning anti-communist strategy (remember… we still had Anti-Communists then, even Sovietologists and a discipline called Sovietology that collapsed in 1991).  “No New Taxes” was the call of the age as Demopublicans claimed that we needed to shrink government as we needed to transition away from the industrial economy as we had agriculture so many decades before into the future of Service and Knowledge (S&K).  There was no high water mark for that time, as the rallying cry was the nebulous Prozac-induced chant of “people… people… people are holding hands….” as we counted down to the millennium and the Y2K problem that was supposed to kill us all least technocrats and geeks were able to code in order to fix a glitch that would have certainly either killed us all or destroyed all record of our credit card debt in one Fight Club moment of zen.

Today, we have to work extra hard just to block out all the troubling news.  It’s more than little computer glitches; it’s an increasing awareness of large systemic failure.  Mud and blood still exist and rule the air, despite dangerous visions to the contrary, and nature is still with us regardless of how many plastic tools we invent or how high we can turn up the thermostat.  The world is grumbling about us, and there appear to be fewer shiny happy people at a time when there are more people and that along with rats and cockroaches, humans are plentiful and in every corner of the world.  We have laid to rest the bugbear of the SOVIET Union and replaced him with the myth of Islamofascism and the person of Bin Ladin… an apparently immortal evil genius who can get better healthcare in the mountains or caves of certain tribal regions that can be provided in the United States.  His healthcare is better than either under our current capitalist-fascist healthcare system or the socialist Obamacare we are being instructed to fear is coming.

Twenty years since Shiny Happy People, the new decade starts with troubles in the same places we learned were troubled when we were children – the Mid-east, board rooms, and banks.  The trouble in the Mideast seems to be about freedom; we are told.  The spread of global democracy.  The security of Israel.  However, some dare says that this involvement in the eastern lands is also about the price of food and energy and that this push by “the people” is a symptom of the rise of social unrest related to stress on our environment.  The MSM crowd says that the riots can happen here, but they said these riots will be because we are threatened with healthcare, with taxes, with longer lines at the DMV.  They speak about Socialism, yet don’t understand that our problems are quickly maturing, growing up to be adult-sized problems, issues shared by much of the rest of the world.  Food instability, political corruption, economic slavery.  The idiotic economy we have built ourselves forces us to worry not just about how our soil, air, water, and fertility are for the farms of our own country, but of the many regions of the world that we pluck our produce.  As much as we like to imagine our technology had made us biobots or droids or ipeople, we are still made of the same shit and stuffing as otters, polar bears, and kudzu.

The threat to the environment is no longer the fiction of hippies or Love Children.  It is our food supply, spread thin like supply lines of any overextended empire or failed military campaign.   These supply chains of empire are being threatened.  Not by Vis/Van/Visi/ Goths or Teutonic tribes, but microbes, insects, and the slot machine that had become our weather system.

Millions of fish are found dead in rivers for no reason.  Huge fish kills normally happen we are told.  Birds die from the sky without warning.  It’s natural for die-offs to occur, we are told.  We are told fairy tales about thunder and fireworks frightening flocks and making them run into trees or one another.   Bison wander out of their state park due to high snow covering and search for food, but our state parks are no more than large open air pens for wildlife samples.  These beasts are culled, or put down, or euthanized, or some other make-shift term for “killed.”   This is needed to control the population and disease that may spread to our hamburgers; we are told.  The Amazon jungle is experiencing a drought that is killing trees before we have the chance to clear-cut the forest, burn the ground and salt the earth.  This drought occurs once every five hundred years, the Knowing Ones tell us.  It has happened twice in five years.  Russia is consumed with drought, then fires.  Floods cover the wheat crop in Australia and then like a bad disaster film, a cyclone comes in to finish off what was left.  China sees drought and loss of crops, but keeps a cap on the story.  Oyster beds are dying around the world.  So are the frogs.  So are the Bees.  The sky is turning against us.  This is normal, we are told.  It’s normal to mix up diseases and insects as we ship our plastic toy parts all over the world.  It’s a fall out from globalization.  Normal and natural.  The invasion of killer Chinese carp, zebra mussels, Chinese Chestnuts (actually spiny uneatable blankets of green that cover lakes and rivers), Japanese Bamboo, and long or short, horned or winged, spores and fungus invaders is good for the environment.  This competition with our native species will make them innovate.  No longer should our American species be content to think they have an environmental niche for life.  They have to be able to move, retrain, keep learning new skills to say competitive with species that have been spending thousands of years adapting to make themselves uneatable to the Chinese – bugs the like as seen in Starship Troopers pouring into our ecosystem.

The social unrest in Egypt we are told threaten the stability of the region.  It threatens Israel.  It may threaten some oil, but not much, since we don’t rely that greatly on the Suez, so no need to worry there.  We do need to worry about Israel; we are told.  Will the new Egypt elect a government that will respect such-and-such treaty or so-and-so boundaries and prevent tunnels and boats from bringing aid and munitions to the Palestinians?  We are distracted.    What about the oil?  Will we see five dollars a gallon prices this summer?  Will we see a new pest from the Orient imported to our shores and will this pest cause our native Bison to innovate, use less fossil fuel and more solar?

The sheeple are holding hands.  They are still forcing themselves to be ignorant, shiny, and happy.  Yet, as summer 2011 approaches… more people are holding their breath.  Waiting to see if some sign will come.  Some assurance that we can return to our lives of happy motoring –  or some idea as to which kind of change we are in for or what world we need to start planning for.  Those who claim they know, are either lying to others or lying to themselves.  The next few years can only be forecast and only in hindsight will we know who made the right preparations.


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