Sex, Drugs, and the Death of a Century
by Robert L. Seltman
This article originally appeared in the December 1999 issue of Kansai Time Out to herald the coming of 2000
Sorry if you were betting on Nostradamus to eliminate all your credit card payments. It looks like life, and your bills, will linger well into the next century. . . And what a bill laden life it will be!
Starting this century well after Nietzsche pronounced God dead, we proceeded to supplement our need for paternal authority with political ideology and our idolatry of a savior called science. Communism was a god idea, not unlike Christianity, whose time came and went in this century. Both Jesus and Marx had a plan to eliminate war and poverty by a people's collectivism, an honest sharing of resources and responsibility. But the bully lethargy of both bureaucracy and human nature proved too big a foe.
We watched as our new age dinosaur of Socialism stumbled and fell, like the mighty Catholic Church had years before. We now believe in the ambiguous truism of democracy under free flowing capitalism. Since few people actually bother to vote, everyone seems to agree, by default. Our new world order is measured in political dogma, that we meet in the media, with late night good news reports of how technology will save the day. Welcome to the next century Pax American Express. Buy high tech and save third world children.
We were ending autocracy and colonialism when we started this 100 year-old rat race, then we proceeded to gnaw on each other's legs with various wars, now politely called UN protective presence. Perhaps life has always been haphazard and cruel but we now have digital TV and Internet to feel our pulse, after each bleeding. We trust 'if we are well invested in a stock market that is hedged against inflation' then our kind will survive, black magic we don't exactly understand but believe anyway.
We don't actually support economic growth if it means others must suffer. We are, more often than not, still closet Samaritans. Most of us assume, at least theoretically, that we are all brothers. Unfortunately, after we analyze our accounts more closely, we just can't afford altruism, without giving up that which makes us happy. So we waffle like apologetic politicians caught by DNA stain samplings. We know, in all fairness, what we love most about our lives we should stop for the health and happiness of others. And that is our plight at the end of the nineties.
In 1899 we were not flying, nor even driving, and yet now we are told our beloved transports, planes, cars, and buses, are suicidal dioxide belching devils. We hardly ate meat when this century started, but quickly grew to love the blood on our platter. We admired our egalitarian distribution of man's right to 'eat meat with his potato', when we brought burgers and fries to the Orient. But now we know our appetite for beef accounts for the destruction of rain forest, loss of grain for the starving masses, fat in our hearts, and is no fun for the critters we must kill. So we squint a bit, when we gobble our Big Macs.
Air Conditioning has been our saving grace for many a summer since sweat became passé, yet Freon has poked our Ozone. We now run for cover cream at the thought of death by cancer. The dream is dimmer, as we learn the truth in our pleasures.
Wasn't it Freud who suggested that not only is sex OK but even essential? In Japan, free from the theological dualism of good and evil, sex had never been taboo, just not always affordable. This century's chemistry changed this. The 'pill' and other modern 'cures' on the shadowy side of gynecology enabled us to begin to play, with neither fear of divine retribution nor unwanted parenting. It was in this liberated century we invented penicillin, and then proceeded to breed, by abuse, resistant strains of our social diseases.
Our sampling of free love, the silly but fun sixties, sultry seventies, and cocaine-lined eighties, was cooled to a chill by AIDS. The very unromantic inevitability, of political correctness and litigation, against the assertive behavior of chauvinistic men, launched in the defense of emancipation and as a bit of Victorian backlash, has strangled the love child of promiscuity. Single mothers now sprinkle the corporate landscape and welfare roles, war monuments of our sexual revolution, while their male counterparts wrestle with new waves of inadequacy and social impotence.
The drugs we saw as hero against childhood diseases, as a psychedelic savior in the sixties, and now as our last hope against the pending germ warfare we see coming just over the horizon, a la Om Asahara, can only get better. But better at what, at altering our realities or helping us not to face them? Two thousand years of Christendom has us praying that our panacea of mood altering drugs, like Prozac consumed daily by millions, will keep us safe from despair.
Altering the genetic make up of hoof, fish, foul, and seed should render pesticides obsolete and assure the perfect apple. Not unlike the one bitten by Adam from his tree of wisdom. Radio active energy sources should serve to keep us well connected via pocket phone, computer, and tooth brush to the world's power grid. We are indeed living better by technology, but who will be here to pay when the bill comes due?
We, here in Japan, should give a prayer of thanks for the peace and prosperity we share, and then 'get real' about lifting our heads out of the sand. We have collectively written off the leadership potential of our present progeny, pointing at the failing of a centralized educational bureaucracy and the cushy life of babies brought up under the lucky star of an economic bubble. But the bubble has long been popped and no one knows where we are falling to, nor with what LDP hot air plan to resurrect the sleeping beauty. To create a future bubble in which to protect this island nation we will need the wisdom of Job and I don't mean the CEO of Apple Computer.
For Japan to have a life after the millennium, we will have to stop living in denial. The national anthem of "It can't be helped" and "It's impossible" will require a psychological re-articulation to "We the people are empowered and responsible in changing things for the better." We can no longer assume that government is the responsibility of others, that our racial superiority can some how insulate us from sins committed overseas, or protect us from the inherent wrongs of our economic system. As both Japanese citizens or guests sharing in her bounty, this will be the century of integrity. Civilized souls will need to pool resources and show our leaders where to go, or else pay the fiddler with our future.
The high tech miracle will be just a smoke screen, unless we wrestle control of the tools from our libido and move it up the Chakra to our higher self. We have to sublimate placebo and pocket-size techno-toys with a renewed pleasure in 'facing facts and finding solutions.' This coming century will be ours to have and to hold, or to lose to a doomsday divorce, an Armageddon of tyranny and destruction, or the paradise we've been promised. Episode 2000 is about to be released, the death dance of this century and the birth song of the new millennium. May she live to be a thousand.
Copyright©1999 Robert L. Seltman. All rights reserved.