BY PHIL ROCKSTROH
A sprawling Mcmansion under construction. The styles increasingly resemble “bourgeois castles,” the compulsion to “ape one’s betters” so typical of those who need to flaunt their wealth to reassure their own sense of self-worth. Cost to the environment is also much larger than in normal construction.
In microcosmic mimicry of the plight of the besieged middle and laboring classes, my parent’s Atlanta neighborhood, as is the case with many others in the vicinity, is being destroyed, in reality — disappeared — by a blight of upper-class arrogance. The modest, post-war homes of the area are being “scraped” from the landscape as an infestation of bloated mcmansions rises from the tortured soil. These particleboard and Tyvek-choked monstrosities loom over the remaining smaller houses of the area, as oversized and ugly as mindless bullies, as banal as the dreams of petty tyrants.
In the surrounding suburbs, in a similar manner as mcmansions eclipse sunlight, throwing the adjacent houses into half-light, mega-churches eclipse the light of reason, leaving their congregations in an ignorant half-light of dogma and superstition. Of course, these true believer lunatics are wrong about everything, except, perhaps, for their elliptical apprehension regarding the arrival of proliferate cataclysms in the years to come. Oddly: Although they promulgate dire warnings on the subject, they seem gleeful at the prospect of widespread suffering.
How could they not be? They’ve seized upon a fantasy that allows them to escape from the tyranny of their own life-suffocating belief system. Attempting to subdue the suffocating dread of their corporately circumscribed lives, they wish for the destruction of the entire planet. Hence, their escapist fantasy, by the necessity of narrative, is huge, outrageous — apocalyptic. The progenitor of their End Time tale is this: The believer’s emotional inflexibility begets a form of ontological giantism — a phenomenon that arises when one’s worldview is too small to explain the larger world. Therefore, a story must be created that contains violence and terror on such a massive scale that its unfolding would kill off the entire, problematic world. “That’s right world, there’s not enough room on this planet for both you and my beliefs. One of us has to go.”
Upon the nation’s roadways and interstate highways, the overgrown clown cars of the apocalypse, SUVs, Humvees, and oversized pickup trucks also evince hugeness to compensate for the feelings of those folks inside the grotesque vehicles of being crushed down by alienation and isolation — not only while on the road — but by the realities of an existence within a hapless, oil-dependent empire which is itself powerless against the changing realities of the larger world.
In the ranks of the exploiter class, the fat salaries of CEOs separate them further from the general population of the consumer state (that they take every opportunity to bamboozle) as the American public itself grows fatter and fatter in body mass, vainly attempting to sate an inner emptiness borne of their perceived helplessness before the predation of corporate culture.
Concurrently, in Baghdad, the U.S. embassy, which, when completed, will be the largest “diplomatic” compound on the planet is, in fact, an inadvertent monument to the mindless colossus the U.S.A. has become. The structure is as accurate as the art of architecture can be in its depiction of the spirit of a nation’s people. As big and bloated as our national sense of exceptionalism, it stands in the so-called Green Zone of Baghdad, shielding those who will be bunkered down within it — not only from the murderous madness unfolding outside its highly fortified walls — but from reality itself. A massive emblem of the arrogance of power, the embassy is a testament to how the noxious vapors of cultural self-deception can be made manifest in reenforced concrete, armed watchtowers and razor wire.
Through it all, like some eternally slumbering Hindu deity, we Americans dream these things into existence. Far from blameless, we continue to allow the elites to exploit us; therefore, we enable and sustain their titanic sense of entitlement. In turn, we accept their paltry bribes and, as a result, our banal, selfish dreams have conjured forth George Bush from the zeitgeist. Ergo, Bush is a man whose impenetrable narcissism is so grotesque and ringed with fortifications, that all on his own he constitutes a walking analog of the American embassy in Baghdad.
Construction cranes loom above the site of the new U.S. Embassy being built in Baghdad. The embassy will sit on 104 acres, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York and two-thirds the acreage of Washington’s National Mall.
In addition, we Americans continue to believe our fables of righteous power: Big is good, goes our John Wayne jack-off fantasy. Our leaders must be large: Only Macmansion-like men, such as Mitt Romney, are acceptable. We believe: Dennis Kucinich is too diminutive in physical stature to be president — with the length of his body being roughly the size of Romney’s head.
In turn, our national landscape is stretched to the breaking point: Cluttered upon it, gigantic islands of garish light torment the night, scouring away the stars, estranging us from imagination, empathy, and eros, and leaving us only with the insatiable appetites of consumerism. Thus, around the clock, inside enormous, under-inspected, industrial slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, underpaid, benefit-bereft workers ply their gruesome, monstrously cruel trade, then the butchered wares are transported by way of brutal, double and triple-axle trailer, diesel trucks over stygian interstate highways to sepulchral supermarkets and charnel house restaurant chains. Insuring, we flesh-eating zombies are provided with all the water-bloated, steroid-ridden meat and industrially farmed, pesticide-laquered vegetables and starches — The Cuisines Of The Living Dead — we could ever crave … uum, uum, it’s the Thanatotic yumminess of empire’s end. Try our convenient drive through window. Would you like us to super-size your order of commodified death?
Hyperbolic ravings, you say. America is not a culture in love with death.
Let’s see. Drawing upon just one example: The corpses of well over half a million dead Iraqis testify otherwise. Moreover, the continuing Iraqi resistance to our occupation speaks volumes as well. Yet still, most of us cannot hear their elegy of outrage over the din created by the parade of killer clowns that we have mistaken for the pageantry of nationhood.
How does one slow this juggernaut of psychosis and curb these acts of murder/suicide being perpetrated on a global scale? Truth is, we might not be able to stop it, because this is what lies beneath our unlimited sense of entitlement and self-defeating arrogance: a death-wish that manifests itself as exceptionalism and may well destroy the nation by means of imperial overreach — which is, of course, the time-established method by which empires dispose of themselves.
Further, this state of affairs is exacerbated by the narcissistic insularity of our media elite. At the end of the day, it’s their tumescent egos that are distorting our societal discourse; their vanities and attendant self-serving pronouncements are little more than steaming cargos of horseshit, carried and delivered by one-trick-jackasses — jackasses endowed with the singular skill of being able to read a teleprompter … Fred Thompson, your agent is calling: You have an important call from Washington, DC.
Notice this: The more permeating the rot becomes within the system’s structure the more huge and pervasive the edifice of media imagery will grow – and the more trivial its content will become. The closer we come to systemic collapse the more we will hear about celebrity contretemps. Cretinous heiresses and shit-wit starlets, with shoddy mechanisms of self-restraint, people the public imagination, because they carry our infantilism, embody our collective carelessness, and, in turn, suffer public humiliation, as we desperately attempt to displace, upon them, the humiliation of our own daily existence within the oppressive authoritarianism of the corporate state.
Correspondingly, there is a well-known (by those who care to look) link between fascism and corporatism. To Mussolini, the two terms were interchangeable. According to rumor, we defeated fascism, during the first half of the 20th century. Yet, at present, we spend our days sustaining a liberty-loathing, soul-enervating corpocracy. To live under corporatism is, in ways large and small, to be a fascist-in-training. Everyday, hour by hour, the exploitive, neo-liberal concept of work devours more and more of our lives. As a consequence, the true self within is crushed to dust and what remains rises as cultural squalls of low-level fear, with its concomitant need for constant distraction. As all the while, the psyches of the well-off (financially, that is) become inflated, gaudy and ugly; in short, internally, they become human versions of mcmansions.
Freedom is a microcosm of the forces of evolution engendered by living in the midst of life — a mode of being that apprehends and is transformed by the beauty, sorrow, and wit of the world. Conversely, authoritarian societies are collectives of accomplished liars and lickspittle ciphers, where one must conceal one’s essential self at all costs and the soul falls into atrophy.
To what extent does authoritarian rule diminish both the individual and a nation? Simply, take a look around you and witness the keening wasteland our nation has become. Furthermore, our emptiness cannot be filled by any amount of wealth or power. This is the reason the obscene amounts of mammon acquired by the privileged classes is never — can never be — enough to satisfy them, for their inner abyss is boundless. In a similar vein, no amount of killing can sate a psychopath’s emptiness. Dick Cheney will scowl all the way to the boneyard, hoping he can ascend to heaven by scaling the mountainous pile of corpses he’s responsible for placing there.
In folk stories, when giants are about, drought and famine withers the land and starvation stalks its people. Accordingly, the ruthless giantism inherent to the Corporate/Military/Mass Media state has withered our inner lives, blighted our landscape, and left us powerless before a huge, demeaning system that devours our time, health and humanity.
The bone-grinding giants of the American corporate and political classes have shot the Golden Goose full of growth hormones, enclosed her in an industrial coop, and hoarded her voluminous output of eggs. Yet, nothing satisfies them.
Meanwhile, online, we struggle in a Jack in the Beanstalk Insurgency, hoping that from things as tiny and seemingly trivial as mere beans — our postings, exchanges and periodic meet-ups — the fall of tyrannical giants might begin.
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described, auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com
Do McMansions hurt the property values of nearby homes?
NOTE How this thread of replies to an article on the topic discussed above sticks closely and myopically to the “sacred right to property” arrogantly proclaimed by these corporate arrivistes, which, not accidentally, personify the “small-world syndrome” that’s killing the planet.
The disease is near-universal, but the Anglo-American strain is especially virulent. Still, the flat, perversely narrow angle of the discussion is so typically…American?
Intown ‘McMansions’ ||| The readers opine
By Richard Matthews | Monday, January 30, 2006, 06:35 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
January 31, 2006 09:05 AM | Link to this
MacMansions are being built because that is what the customer wants. If we want Atlanta to continue to grow and attract new families the housing industry must provide the type of housing the customer wants.
MacMansions will not be built if they do not sell. It’s just that simple.
Perhaps there is the perception that MacMansions reduce the value of the smaller houses in the neighborhood. But in the long run the value will only increase of all the houses in the neighborhood. Check out a neighborhood where there is no new construction going on. These neighborhoods are not appreciating and in some cases are crime ridden.
The Atlanta City Council has the authority to call a halt to the building of the larger homes but when it does this, the Council must accept the consequences of those actions and they must be accountable to those who elected them. When growth here slows to a crawl watch how quickly the Council lays the blame somewhere else.
MacMansions are what the customer wants.
January 31, 2006 09:08 AM | Link to this
There are at least two sides to every story. We built an infill house, went through a neighborhood approval process and the neighborhood welcomed and thanked us, and as a result others took an opportunity to build and property values continue to rise. Please provide true examples of where infill causes property values to fall. Infill guidelines should require infill structures to meet or exceed all applicable building codes as well as infill compatibility. The two can coexist. Be careful what you wish for and remember you can always live in a gated community. There you will find covenants to specifically instruct you on what to do with the property you own!
January 31, 2006 09:35 AM | Link to this
While infill housing does cause some problems, we have to respect the rights of folks to build a house, that meets all applicable building and zoning codes, to the specifications they want. After all, it is their land and money involved.