Sunday, January 11, 2004


When I think about my crash, when I think that, for example, if my transaction at the veterinarian's had been ever so slightly longer or shorter, or if cell-phone-dude-from-hell's pal had waited a few minutes before ringing him up, or if any number of other miniscule variables in my life, his life, or the lives of the folks in the third car had been ever so slightly different, then the unpleasant intersection would never have occurred -- when I think about this I feel a mild Hitchcockian vertigo, and realize my basic trust in the world has been ratcheted down a few notches.

I was huddling in the bus shelter last week after physical therapy, watching the traffic. It was windy, and snowing. A woman in a minivan, stopped for a red light, placed a manila folder full of papers on her wheel and began to read them. Then, as the light turned green, with the papers still splayed on her wheel/workdesk, she simultaneously began to drive on and dial her cell phone.

I would have enjoyed going ballistic.

There was a terrible accident widely reported on the local news and in the papers a few days ago. A drunk driver, a man who had done time for DUI in 2000 and who, prior to that, had been convicted of reckless driving, was traveling in the wrong direction on the interstate, hit a car and killed a 16 and 17 year old. And himself. Horrible.

I was walking home from the pharmacy today. The cold had moderated a bit, and a prescription refill was a good excuse for a jaunt. On my way home, I was noticing the sidewalk. It was littered with cigarette butts, and I thought about smoking and all the pain and death and suffering it causes, and about the profits reaped by corporations that traffic in tobacco. Then I thought about alcohol, and how it's also responsible for so much death and misery, and how it's promoted as an agent of fun and glamor, and how enormous profits, again, are reaped. And how, for corporations, humans' propensity for addiction is an opportunity for profit. And I'm thinking now about the softer addictions, eating and gambling, and, again, the ceaseless ambient commercial messages regarding the desirability of these activities, about soda pop vending in public schools, booze ads plastered to the sides of public buses, state lotteries, TV ads for casinos that represent glamorously dressed, wildly happy young gamblers, ads for things like pizza covered in "every type of meat" or where even the crust is "stuffed" with cheese --

There are too many of these messages.

"It is our right of free speech," bray the corporations. Upon whom courts have long ago conferred "personhood."

Meanwhile Emory University engages in medical research in the field of neuromarketing, using MRI on human subjects to try to find "the buy button inside the skull" and using the skills of neurologists who have studied issues such as cocaine addiction.

That's shameful. Evil.

Walking home, thinking of these things, I felt an enormous, hopeless sadness.

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