Breaking news: I have made a last-minute decision to participate in NaNoWriMo.
What is this NaNoWriMo you speak of, you ask? Why, November is National Novel Writing Month. Beginning at midnight, as soon as I’m off work and stepping through my front door, I will embark on a grand and lonely quest to write 50,000 words within the next 30 days. Do the math, and that means I should pump out 1,667 words a day if I wish to stay on top of things.
But it need not be lonely. Like a magician opening his coat and doves flying from his sleeves, I send out my invitation to the great cloud of witnesses that is the internet, to join me in this noble endeavor.
NaNoWriMo, I find, is overwhelmingly attended by novice writers more than professionals. It strikes me more as amateurs patting each other on the back and fueling their delusions of talent and self-grandeur, while the end product is meant for its own end of satisfaction. I hear they’ll publish your book free, so you can put it on your shelf, and gaze at it every night before bed and pretend you’re a writer for the rest of your small, sad life.
Risk. The only board game I could play instead of eat or sleep.
The object of the game is world domination. The board is a map of the world, albeit skewed to a Napoleonic-era perception. Players command armies, occupy territories and wage war against the other players. Alliances are made and betrayed. Manipulation is the name of the game. In terms of imbuing values, it’s worse than Monopoly.
Among my friends, I am notorious for being the “puppet master.” I prefer to wage proxy wars. Why start a fight when someone else can fight for you? If my army in Brazil is locked in a stalemate by an army in North Africa, I’ll flatter and kiss the toes of the player controlling Europe, until she realizes (seemingly without my suggestion) that the player next door in Africa is her direst threat.
War begins — did Europe start it? Or did Africa? Too late. The Mediterranean fills with corpses. The Sahara is washed in blood. When the dust settles, both players are ruined. Meanwhile, I am unharmed. Like a carrion bird, I swoop down and pick off the aftermath.
“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4
President Obama has, as usual, fallen short on one of the seminal promises of his candidacy — the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and an end to the 14-year war — when he announced his order to leave 9,800 troops stationed through 2016. The president whose campaign vowed to end the War in Afghanistan actually doubled the number of troops in 2009. It is a project that has cost the U.S. over $85 billion and over 2,300 casualties, and there is still no end in sight to our occupation.
Now for a digression.
Bernie Sanders has some wild plans for his candidacy. Free college for all. Free healthcare. But the biggest bone conservative skeptics wave at Sanders is this — nothing in this world is free. So how does a government, which has over $16 trillion in debt, pay for these programs? It is a disillusioning reality, and shouldn’t be ignored if this “New New Deal” is to be successful.
Here’s an idea — re-allocate military spending.
Ever since I encountered the feminist movement, I lamented that it was destroying the very concept of a romantic relationship. Feminism, by way of bringing women up to the same level of men, implies that women can — and should — have the freedom to be just as promiscuous as men — and I don’t suggest that the male philanderer is an acceptable figure, any more than the female. Now I see that my blame is unfounded and absurd.
For me, a hopeless romantic former-Protestant boy, I gazed at a world of dwindling virtue, where not a single woman would ever want to fall in love with me, for she now has infinite access to the handful of physically attractive and resourceful alpha males and virtually no reasonable incentive to restrain her passions. I saw an apocalyptic world in which feminism raised her high-heeled boot and stomped on the sacred face of sex forever. My singeldom was sure to be eternal. My life was filled with despair.
Casual sex. Oh, what a paradox.
“The people are only anxious for two things: bread and circuses.” — Juvenal, Roman poet
When the Roman Empire began to collapse, elaborate public spectacle in the Colosseum became an overwhelming part of the citizen’s life. The Plebs took part in watching the grand gladiator matches, were enraptured by the spilling of blood and innards at the sword, and through these performances were fed grand delusions of Rome’s history. By these means, the emperors kept the people ignorant and entertained while their nation crumbled around them.
American life is saturated by elaborate spectacle such as Nero could never have dreamed. Our lives are filled with brainless tasks, repetitive routines, and mindless drudgery — then, after scraping the grimy bottom of the fiscal barrel, we retreat to our homes, where for hours we sit alone in front of screens. Slack-jawed and drooling we watch the television, channel-flipping from sights of brilliant violence, to maudlin ‘reality’ shows, to soap operas, to grand sporting events, to dressed-up heads spouting cliches, ridicule and lies. Or we are hooked to the Internet, scrolling through meme-plastered Facebook walls, playing video games, watching cat videos on Youtube, or glutting the eyes on an endless supply of pornography. Perhaps we are nursing a can of beer at our side, a glass of whiskey, or another illicit substance that will steep us deeper into sedation. In these virtual worlds, we participate in a massive and powerful community, and yet remain anonymous and isolated. Meanwhile, our bodies take root into the couch, vegetate, and rot away.