In the Pixar film WALL-E, humans have taken to space after trashing the earth so thoroughly as to make it unlivable.
Up in space, these voracious, obese consumers travel about their giant spaceships in hovering lounge chairs, sipping on giant sodas that put the Big Gulp to shame, all the while lost in their own worlds.
Though they all move around the spaceship in large crowds, each one is totally oblivious to the other in the mass of humanity as the television screen in front of them blinds them to the larger reality around them.
I am witnessing Pixar’s satire invade my own reality here during my Texas Hill Country vacation. Once a relatively lonely and remote river winding through Texas hills and canyons, it is now a non-stop party platoon of drunken goons immersed in alcohol and urine who float their way downriver to the soundtrack of their lives.
Unfortunately, what may be the most heinous invention by the human species means I must share the life soundtracks of these tubing buffoons in full stereophonic surround sound.
Boom! Boom! Boom! and Twang! Twang! Twang! echo off the canyon walls and blast directly in my face.
The invention, if you haven’t already guessed, is a beer cooler with speakers.
The tubes in which the drunken throngs float are eerily similar to the hovering chairs depicted in WALL-E, complete with head and foot rests. Moreover, the people in these floating lounge chairs eerily resemble the super-fat people portrayed in the movie.
While lost in their personal bubbles of oblivion they have also lost any sense of manners and common decency. At least the humans in WALL-E never intruded on each other’s personal space.
What the film makers missed in their satire was the devolution of American consumerist society into one big reality television show, with each “show” competing with the other for viewers in the public square. The louder and more obnoxious the show, the better.
But what do you expect from generations of Americans since the Baby Boom raised in a noxious mélange of narcissism, relativism and entitlement? That they would be civil, and at least turn their music down below 90 decibels as they pass by? No. That would be too much to ask of children, even children in adult bodies.
The bigger issue here is not incivility, but how postmodern America and Western civilization in general infantilizes its citizens. There are myriad means and methods whereby adult American citizens are turned back into children, and how children are taught to remain children for as long as they live.
Purveyors of mass media, educators and politicians all collude to infantilize Americans. It’s not a vast conspiracy, but the simple exploitation of human nature. It’s a means to an end for those who benefit from a society that refuses to grow up and face reality.
Thus any attempt to reform entitlements – Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare – is tantamount to throwing granny off the cliff. Likewise, when a state spirals toward insolvency and the only answer is to ask its public sector employees to accept remuneration that’s more in line with their private sector counterparts, the babies throw a massive tantrum.
Adults look for rational solutions that don’t turn the whole system upside down. Children, on the other hand, want what they want regardless of the objective evidence or the impact it will have on future generations.
Children tend not to think of others; they are internally focused. Next time you happen upon an infant, note their behavior. Even as adults, we still have the same instincts. Those instincts have simply been refined over the maturation process, unless we’ve been treated like babies from day one.
Manners are the outward manifestation of this maturation process. Babies don’t have manners. Instead, they think nothing of filling a stereo cooler with beer, cranking it up to 10, damning everyone around them to the horrific strains of LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and Goon Rock and then voting for people who promise them they don’t have to work if they don’t want to. I suppose serfdom will be easier to accept when we can retreat into our virtual cocooned cribs.