Is this our future?:
Dubai has been built very fast. The plan was money. The architect was money. The designer was money and the builder was money. And if you ever wondered what money would look like if it were left to its own devices, it’s Dubai.
My driver gets lost more than once. He’s lived here all his life. He says he always gets lost. The roads keep changing. It’s a confusion of orange traffic cones and interlocking barriers; access roads peter out into long drops to rubble and dust. Nothing actually goes anywhere. The wide lanes loop around endlessly, and then there’s no place to go. No plaza or square, no center. Nowhere to hang out, nowhere to walk. Why would you walk? In this heat? You pull over and throw your keys to a valet, and get indoors as quickly as possible, generally in one of the countless shopping centers that look like the airports of lesser nations or Egyptian tombs. They echo with the slow footfalls of the security guards. In the boutiques, the glossy assistants stare at mannequins with a mutual mime of cashmere-folding despair. Dubai has been mugged by its own greed. Its consumer economy is being maintained by oil-rich families to whom depressions, booms, lottery wins, and recessions mean little. Riches and wealth are relative terms. But not ones we’re related to. There is an indoor ski mountain, probably the biggest indoor ski mountain in a desert, where the Arab boys queue for suits and boots and skis. The smarter locals arrive in their own designer après-ski gear, with fur and moon boots. You walk through the doors and it’s like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—the land of permanent winter. The fat boys push past carrying their snowboards toward the Tyrolean chocolate shop and Swiss fir trees and slide down the hill with a practiced arrogance. The girls slither, splay-legged, hijabs fluttering, in the manufactured snow.
When the Republican greed-heads finally knock down the unions and kill the New Deal with a thousand paper cuts, is this what America will become? I sometimes think so. What’s the end game of unregulated greed? There’s only so much money/wealth./capitol/stuff to go around. When you have all of it, built around you in a giant tower of nothing, sinking into the sand, what then?
I blame Republicans but that’s just a convenient handle, a metaphor for the empty, soulless gnawing nihilism that has replaced the heart of America. Like Dick Cheney’s pulse-less body, still walking around like Frankenstein’s monster, this is what we’ve become. We’d like to think we’ll be the villagers with pitchforks, the victim’s who have finally gotten angry enough to act but really, we’re all Igor. We helped build this monster. We let them do it, thinking that if we capitulate to their sociopathic desires, the table scraps they fed us would be enough to build a future on, without having to do the hard work of working hard.
Reading about Dubai is like reading a Ballard novel.* You recognize yourself in that warped mirror world and you’re shocked and titillated. Because there’s something sexy about the destruction. To be precise, there’s something seductive about the slow heat-death destruction represented by Dubai and the crumbling American dream. The quick and nasty destruction that hit Japan last week is something else. It’s the brutish act of animal fucking magnified to a global scale. But Dubai? America? That’s the slow hand, baby. That shit takes finesse. Wine and sweet nothings and violin music. Sure, it’s Nero’s fiddle, but you can’t see that in the dark. Or from the top of the Burj Khalifa. From up there, it looks like a long way down and anyway, it won’t be you who does the falling. Some poor sucker not cunning like you. You’ll find away to that penthouse in the sky, that’s why you threw in with the devils in their expensive suits and billion dollar grins.You fluff them up, vote for them, give them power and glory and maybe when the world ends, they’ll think kindly about you as they slip off into the void in their luxury space yacht. It could happen.
* “The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.” — J. G. Ballard