Great American Machine

I have been slowly drifting out of tune in the profound ways. Like most Americans, I have been working too much. I haven’t taken a real vacation in years. It is something of a sickness we have here. Even the “Holiday Season” falls well short of what most cultures consider a “holiday”. For most of us, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are the entirety of the “holiday”.

Compare that to the several weeks of holiday most Europeans are guaranteed. Some might think, well that is just those fancy Europeans spoiled by their “socialist” governments but it isn’t. Having a job dealing with international trade, I have to deal with other country’s holidays because business all but shuts down for weeks at a time. China mostly shuts down for two weeks for their New Year Holiday and has a week long national holiday in October. Vietnam completely shutters business for Tet. India has a weeks long Diwali Festival in the fall.

My company, which is typical for American businesses, recognizes seven individual days as “holidays” every year. In short, getting fucked out of our enjoyment of life is business as usual here, and, like so many things, no one thinks about it…

because they’re too fucking busy.

Americans have been spoonfed the notion that if we work harder we will get more done. This is not always the case. For all our extra hours at work, we are not getting more done. Worse, paying too much attention to our jobs causes us to avoid thinking about what we are doing.

Even the virtue signaling executive that logs long hours at the office and remains “on call” through his mandatory vacation is not doing his company a great service. When you are too heavily invested in the status quo of operating a company, you can fail to notice the larger trends outside your “sphere of interest” that can threaten survival of a business. Human brains too conditioned to routine tasks become conned into thinking the entire world will operate predictably around those routines.

It won’t.

This extends to the bottom of the ladder as well. Americans in precarious positions are conditioned to “keep their heads down”. This is in spite of the fact what happens above their heads has dire consequences. Mismanagement can lead to plant closures and the loss of jobs. Perhaps it is just “learned helplessness”. Even though the plant you are working at is failing, it is best just to ride it out because there are no other good jobs.

An overworked and exhausted America plays out in the worst ways for our society at large. After eight hours or more fighting for economic survival there is little left to read anything beyond a meme on a newsfeed. We turn to the television so someone else can read the news for us and listen to someone yell about how awful everything is. He knows what he is doing. He knows that feeding your anxiety is the surest way to keep you awake for the ads. Is it any wonder that we are making such poor political decisions?

It is as if we are all putting our backs into this Great American Machine and pushing with all our might. We push because we fear what is behind us. We fear being left behind. We can see the deep chasm emerging just behind us. There is a reminder at every off ramp:

Some poor sucker with all his possessions in a shopping cart.

Push! Go! Go!

We never stop to raise our heads. We never ask where it is going. We never ask what this Great Machine is doing. We are in the beginning of another election cycle and almost none of the candidates question the fundamentals of our economy. They either don’t know to question these things or they know we don’t want to hear about it.

Push! Go! Work!

No one thinks to climb into the cockpit of this Great American Machine.

If they did, they would find a corpse of a man who died long ago. His skeleton hands still clutched at the wheel. His hallow eye sockets fixed on an every darkening horizon. They would realize that the Great American Machine had been running on dead ideas for a century or more. They could see through the driver’s window that the Machine was no longer building as much as it was destroying.

And they would see that dark chasm that is just behind us is in front of us as well. And they would finally realize that it was the Great American Machine that dug it.

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