Tabs Open #22: The Streets Look So Empty In The Morning

Scrolling through Twitter the other day, as I do far too often, I came across the following:

Despite the quick mental referent I have for the year 2000, which is that it was 10 years ago, math tells me it was actually almost 20; were I to disbelieve that, I could certainly look at this poster and see that Sean William Scott, Tom Green, and a guy who looks like Jeremy Renner but isn’t were three of the biggest stars in America at the time. That usually makes it feel more appropriately distant.

As the tweet says, the past is never dead, it’s not even past. Another way of thinking about this is Sturgill Simpson’s way, courtesy of a song he just released for a Jim Jarmusch movie of the same name:

No, the dead don’t die. And while that’s somewhat comforting when it comes to holding onto the treasured memories of our loved ones, the very real presence some of them still bring to the world even after their passing, it’s less so when the dead in question is someone uniquely rich and terrible.

Hey did you see, prostate cancer finally got David Koch, about 40 years too late.

I say this not because I’m typically in the business of wishing cancer on people but because Koch and his brother used their wealth to usher in a world-historic epoch of destruction: a mass extinction that is ravaging the planet more quickly with each passing week. What previously took a happenstance collision with an asteroid the size of a city traveling 20 times faster than a bullet was accomplished in our lifetimes by a far less cosmic, sublime force: capitalism’s ravenous maw and the greedheads feeding it with our future.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch had this to say upon the occasion of Koch’s passing:

David Koch — like his entire generation of greedy oil and coal barons and all the shortsighted politicians who grabbed for their white envelopes of cash at gin-soaked fund-raisers — almost certainly knew he would die before his three late-in-life kids, as well as my children and yours, would have to face the flooding, the rising seas, the droughts and all the mass migrations and violence that come with that, as well as a great extinction of species. Instead of using their billions to fix it, they purchased the gaslight of denial to convince the masses it wasn’t happening.

Koch bankrolled the decimation of environmental protections at the expense of animals and people alike. He was not financially involved with Jacobs Engineering, from what I can tell, but his fingerprints are nonetheless all over this story of a coal ash cleanup crew all dying choking on their own blood, faces melting beneath their lesions. Capitalism—all of it, not just Koch’s brand though it’s a pretty stark example—is incompatible with human health and flourishing and the sooner we realize it the sooner we can start repairing the damage that has been done.

40 men from the coal cleanup crew died slow and painful with particles from the ash filling their bloodstreams, their lungs, their brains. Their wives and kids got sick and developmentally disabled just from being around them, breathing in what came off of their clothes. None were so lucky as Ishmael, even the ones who lived:

It’s an evil that screams out for cosmic punishment although I’m not hopeful that any is forthcoming. David Koch and his ilk spread these lesions to every corner of the world in the name of eking out just a little more profit, a little more influence. To call it greed is to belie the point: it is capitalism’s death drive, plain and simple.

This is all getting very grim, so by way of apology here’s a song that always makes me feel a little more calm, sad though it may be.

Having previously lived an ocean and a few continents apart from the person I love best, I get it, the flailing helplessness of knowing you have to leave and that nothing you might offer by way of a gift or substitute for your presence will suffice.

Tomorrow I’m off to see my 4-month-old niece, whose big eyes are a cause for hope in this bleak world. Maybe it’s selfish to spoil someone rotten who won’t even remember it in order to make myself feel better, but will that stop me? Absolutely not.

That’s all for this week. I’ll see you next time. And try to remember—as the glass my aunt drank a gin and tonic from the other night said—never fear the wind if your haystacks are tied down.

-Chuck