Metaphors in a Meta-Metaphor
George Packer's book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America is a gripping and intimate account of what has happened financially and politically in America over the past forty years, told through the eyes of a diverse group of people -- ruined entrepreneurs and liberal activists, Newt Gingrich and Jay Z, Wall Street Occupiers and white trash, Washington insiders and visionary technophiles -- and while most of the book subscribes to the titular metaphor: unless you are one of the lucky ones, the ones that stand with the political and financial establishment, unless you are someone who goes with the political "flow" then you are fine, but the rest of America is unraveling; I warn you, the book is painful to read and it will cause you to feel ire and depression and indignation and outright anger . . . but there's nothing much you can do, you are either in or you are out, and if you are in, then there's no incentive to change things that are bringing you money and power, and if you are out, then you don't have any power to speak of, and you can't muster the energy and the force to fight the lobbies and the banks and Washington politics and Wall Street and globalization and corruption and corporate union-busting . . . but at least along the way, there are a few tangential metaphors that are more fun the the overarching general unwinding of our society; Dean Price, a tobacco farmer's son who is trying to create sustainable agriculture and biofuel in the South, imagines the American factory farm poultry, those chickens so pumped full of chemicals that they are too big to walk on their own "served up and eaten by customers who would grow obese and eventually be seen in Walmart riding electric carts, because they were too heavy to walk the aisles of a Supercenter, just like the hormone fed chickens" and Packer explains how they brought judges out of retirement to go about the work of "clearing Florida's of half a million foreclosure cases. as earlier generations had cleared the mangrove swamps that made way for Tampa, and, finally, Peter Thiel -- founder of PayPal and and really rich dude -- uses a metaphor to show the general decline in attitude towards technology: he says that in the 1970's, best of the year sci-fi anthologies were full of stories where "me and my friend the robot walked on the moon" while now the trend in sci-fi is dystopian and fragmented (and The Hunger Games is the perfect analogy for what has happened . . . young folks, who will do everything their parents did, will not have access to the same economy and nation that privileged previous generations, and so they will be fighting each other to the death for the scraps) and Thiel calls this a "tech-slowdown" and he points out that most technological advances that have occurred recently have been in the imaginary binary world of 1s and 0s inside computers, not in the physical world; to summarize, this is an amazing depressing mess of a book without solutions, as it should be, but there are occasional bright spots: the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the perseverance of Dean Price in the face of a politically close-minded and corrupt world.