I just got out of a Wendy's fast-food restaraunt. I go to fast-food places a couple times a week. What I noticed at this particular Wendy's was an overiding sense of hostility, depression and resignation on the faces of all the workers there, from the cooks to cashiers to the manager, a pretty 30-something woman, who looks like she is ageing a year for every week she works there.
Now, you might say: 'Big fucking deal!...who wants to work in a fast-food joint?'. And you would be correct. But let me put my feelings into some perspective.
Behind me in line were three foreigners, well-dressed, one an Oriental, another looked like he was from Eastern Europe, and the third guy I didn't really focus on. They looked like they might be part of the foreign technocrat folks that corporations are bringing to America to take our jobs, because they work for less and won't cause problems. But they seemed to be nice guys.
So I said to the Oriental, 'You know, we ought to be happy that these people are just dishing out our food, and not really cooking it; do you see how hostile and surly they all are? Good they're not back in a kitchen somewhere really cooking, because then they might spit in your sandwich.' The Oriental guy gave me a funny look at first, then him and his buddies took a look at the cashiers and sandwich makers and go-fers and said, 'You know, you're right'.
So then I told them, 'You know it wasn't always like this. My dad used to take me to the first McDonald's that opened in Philadelphia, back in the middle 60's, and when you went there, McDonald's had a policy that you would always get your food within 60 seconds. The help were always friendly, they actually took some pride in what they were doing, even if it was only grilling burgers, the joint was clean, and, to top it off, a hamburger was 15 cents, french fries cost a dime, and a soda or a milk-shake was 20 cents. Now, the prices are 10 to 20 times what they were, the service stinks even though they have all these expensive computers to keep track of the orders. And the food even tasted better back then.'
This is a small snap-shot of how America has changed. Things have gotten too big, too impersonal, just too TOO! Now, I guess this to be expected: situations arise and evolve and devolve. Empires rise and fall, except events move at a very fast speed in 2008.
We are still the richest nation in the world, in a certain sense. But, somehow it has all become hollow. Consumer culture is one of the emptiest forms of 'civilization' that have come down the pike. The human race needs to do productive and meaningful work to prosper. Meaningful work has almost disappeared from the American landscape. The whole concept of the 'service economy' was a misconception from the git, this meaning of 'service' being akin to what a prostitute gives to a john.
What is real service? Real service is a human being giving a meaningful part of their time and themselves to worthwhile work, for the community and the greater good. This kind of service in turn rewards the individual who gives it by enriching him/her and enlarging their worldview. We do not value real service, although we expect and in fact demand to be 'serviced'
Of course, we must also talk about labour. The National Socialists had a famous sign outside one of their internment camps that said 'Work will set you free'. Of course, the work they demanded was slave labour. This kind of labour is not a source of freedom. But the saying was still true, in the sense that a man profits from a labour that he enjoys and loves, and profits when he can enjoy the fruits of that labour. But labour has been cheapened, and meaningful labour elimanted from modern society for a large mass of people. We now have 'virtual labour'. This builds nothing; it only serves to illustrate how alienated we have allowed ourselves to become from our basic need to build something real.
Those foreign guys I met at the Wendy's are new to Amerika. To them, it is an opportunity for a new start, hopefully a better life, maybe money they can send to a family back in Vietnam, India or Romania. What they don't realize is that they are now in a hollowed out shell of what was once a great nation. Most Americans don't even realize this, because they have become worshippers of a different god, one who specializes in the process of 'hollowing out'.