Crisis! Crisis! All The Time!

It’s a life or death situation!

News headlines, whether in print, online or on some form of TV, choose the crisis mode to deliver their message. Humans are conditioned to respond with high alert to situations which could possibly threaten their existence. And so if you want people to pay attention, make the message contain a crisis. This has been true since that famous shepherd boy cried “Wolf!” and since Chicken Little announced that “The sky is falling!”

But with me crisis fatigue has already kicked in.

Back during the days of the First World War, soldiers suffered from battle fatigue, which today has been transformed into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). If you are a George Carlin fan, then you know his bit about how that transformation took place. Nevertheless, the operative word here is fatigue. I’m tired of living in crisis mode all day, all night – all the time. I sometimes dream of running outside maskless and hugging random strangers. That’s like standing on a bridge over the Mississippi and staring down at the muddy water and thinking: “I could dive in and swim all the way to the Gulf.” Those are suicidal thoughts. And that’s what battle fatigue and crisis fatigue induce; they induce suicidal thoughts. And many soldiers who suffer from battle fatigue (PTSD) actually carry those thoughts to their illogical conclusion – well, illogical as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been paying my dues for this shitty existence since I was born; I’m invested. I’m not going to cancel that investment now after all these years. Who knows? It might turn out to be worthwhile living after all. I’m curious.

I’m certainly not curious about an afterlife. Anybody with a small grain of logic knows that myth will not pan out. So as long as I’m conscious, let me see what happens next.

I’m just tired of the continual crisis. Some people want to use the plural, crises. But it has been just one long crisis since the dawn of people. Find food, fight off predators, move to another stretch of land because it has become untenable here… it never ends. Although, I must admit that there have been periods when I have been oblivious to the crisis that was constantly continuing in the background. It was real for adults and it was affecting my mother. Mostly, when I was growing up, until I was about 11 or so, I didn’t feel the pressure of crisis. But then my mother got married to a guy who turned out to be from the dark side of life. I guess that’s why I was sent to military school for a year; and boy did I learn about crisis while I was there! A permanent reign of crisis was all that made that place function. It was one year of horror for me – although I did have one bright moment in which I caused a crisis for someone else.

I loved baseball but was obviously too young to play for the school team (comprised of 16-18 year-olds). But for some reason, late in a losing game, the coach put me in as a pinch hitter against the pitcher who had been overwhelming everybody. I was so jacked up by the opportunity that I was first-ball hitting and hit a fastball right up the middle, on the ground, through the pitcher’s legs, over second base and into center field. The look on the pitcher’s face was one of complete astonishment that was instantly replaced by anger, the “if looks could kill” kind of anger. Yeah, crisis for him, no doubt, as I stood on first base in my gray school trousers and a long-sleeved baseball undershirt and my no-spike school shoes, grinning from ear-to-ear.

Moments like that were rare. Soon afterwards the crisis of military school was over and the crisis began of who that man was that my mother had married. She separated from him. He went to jail. He died in jail soon after. My mother was a happy widow. I had no idea what had happened or how it had happened nor why it had happened. It was obviously none of my business, and it didn’t seem to be a crisis anymore for my mother. She was pleased by how it had gone down.

Then one night we were awoken by jets breaking the sound barrier over our house and we were soon all sitting around the black and white television listening to President Kennedy announce what measures the United States would take if the Soviets didn’t get their missiles out of Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis had broken into my consciousness.

That was it. Crisis became a permanent part of my conscious life. Of course when I got older I was able to wipe crisis away temporarily with alcohol or marijuana. But hangovers were always a crisis and moments of paranoia under weed were even more of a crisis. No, I never tried LSD or any of the addictive shit that was floating around. I would never have survived any crisis involving that stuff.

Leaving the United States helped a lot to lower the crisis level. It’s amazing how being no longer exposed to the news media and to Americans helped me get a fresh perspective. In Africa I found out that people actually lived life on a daily basis, mostly happy. Africans smile a lot. At least they used to in the 60s before multinationals brought crisis, gutted their economies and displaced farmers into cities and made crime a worthy profession.

Recently, Boris the Bozo Prime Minister of Britain recited the creed in front of his ministers in a Zoom meeting: “greed” and “capitalism” helped UK’s vaccine success. That’s Straight-Outta-Wall-Street. [Gordon Gekko is named after the gecko: it has no eyelids, sheds its skin regularly and is a polyphyodont, like a crocodile.] Greed is not good.

Hieronymus Bosch should know. He depicted it perfectly in his painting of the Seven Deadly Sins. It’s right there between Envy and Gluttony. And if you are praising one of those sins as something beneficial and accepting it as an important component of capitalism, then perhaps you have just exposed your dark side to the world.

The dark side of capitalism (and of Bozo Boris) has been evident from the very beginning. In fact, capitalism feeds on crisis and greed. It needs crisis in order to “grow” and greed to keep its acolytes busy accumulating more and more and more. In other words, it encourages greed because that is the driving force behind its existence. Temperance, equality and justice are anathema to capitalism. A person dominated by greed (aka: avarice) is in a constant state of crisis. No matter how much that person has, it is never enough. It can never be enough. It’s the quintessential need with a bottomless cup. The classic old diners and American cafes knew how to push that greed button that is in each one of us. Seems though, that with the current price of coffee, the bottomless cup of coffee is disappearing. Not so the bottomless cola cup. Many fast food outlets rush you toward diabetes with offers of endless cola refills. Basically the bottomless cup syndrome, but with deadly sugar-based junk.

OK, so if crisis is at the heart of capitalist greed, does that mean I have to get greedy, just greedy enough to cross into the realm of being set up for life, so that one day I will emerge without any more need for greed and crisis? Those are two really powerful drugs. Much stronger than alcohol and weed. It’s really no wonder that Wall Street has so many cocaine and speed and even crack addicts. Greed feeds on need. Greed addicts are so needy they are never allowed to go to rehab. Greed becomes such an essential part of the personality and lifestyle that if it is eradicated or the flame somehow gets extinguished, the addict shrivels up like a prune and wastes away.

Without torturing logic too much, I can come to the conclusion that if capitalism is eliminated, then greed will for the most part go with it. It might prove to be more difficult to eliminate greed before capitalism is eliminated, but the result would be the same: temperance, equality and justice. Reasonableness and equanimity. That’s what I need in my life. Especially equanimity. Being constantly under the pressure of crisis only pushes me toward suicidal thoughts and physical illness, like the proverbial stomach ulcer brought on by constant worry. Who needs that shit? Not me.

Unfortunately we are all wedged into the capitalist world empire which is dominated by greed and crisis that seems to function like a perpetual motion machine. Does the second Law of Thermodynamics apply to greed and crisis? Of course. The kinetic energy for crisis diminishes over time and so the machine must be fueled with an even greater sense of crisis (thus increasing the fuel used). Eventually the fuel needed is so great that it is no longer obtainable. Then, either this human machine self-destructs (atomic war to end all human life) or fatigue (aka: entropy) enters to such a degree that greed is conquered by temperance, equality and justice so that reasonableness and equanimity can take over. Once that happens, we are in a state of equilibrium. And equilibrium can last a long, long time because entropy is minimal in a system that has attained equilibrium.

I’m suffering from crisis fatigue. So that is where I want to be. In a world that has attained equilibrium, full of people who have attained equilibrium.*

Jean Hélion • Equilibrium (Equilibre)

*No, not like the 2002 Sci-Fi film with Christian Bale and Emily Watson!

Danny Antonelli lives in Hamburg, Germany

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