A Codrescu Christmas
God bless us, every one

Here are a couple of thoughts for Christmas: Contributions to charity in this "age of prosperity" are down, and 22 percent of all Americans have a diagnosable mental disorder. I know that if you are both mentally ill and stingy, it might be hard to hold on to these two facts at the same time, so I'll help you out.

See also...
... by Andrei Codrescu
... in the Scope section
... from December 21, 1999

"Booming" and "soaring" are two of the adjectives used to describe our current condition. There is the "booming economy" and the "soaring stock market." All this booming and soaring leads to mental disorientation and to the appearance of new types of neurotic beings. Among these we find -- in no particular order: crazed developers who have sexual fetishes about bricks, market gamblers rich on paper and short on time, professionals who must retrain every minute or they will be downsized, frantic health nuts who spend their disposable income on shoring up bodies unhinged by speculation fever, addicts of every stripe who cope with booming and soaring by drinking, gambling, and the ingestion of vast quantities of legal and illegal drugs. [Steady on! -- eds.]

Prescription drugs of varieties and potencies higher than anything still illegal are keeping the drones on an even keel. Prozac, the universal mind-flattener of the '90s, is shoveled out for anything from PMS to canine petulance. Children are dosed with Ritalin to keep them from killing their overworked parents, and then they do it anyway. The mal-du-jour is ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which is being encouraged -- even as it is being diagnosed -- by television, popular culture, and the new digital economy. ADD may, in fact, be an evolutionary mechanism for coping with the speed of information. Having an attention span the size of a commercial is not sick, it is an advantage. [That's more like it. -- eds.]

A great portion of the new prosperity consists of products needed to keep the deranged from derailing it. The brave new economy has it both ways: It labels the compulsions it induces as illnesses and then it produces "cures" that are hugely profitable. The only problem with "curing" diseases created in order to be "cured," is that human beings are caught in a terrible bind. They need their "diseases" to compete in the new economy, but they feel terrible about having them. Of course, the "cures" are not really "cures," but just palliatives to keep the drones from freaking out.

So where would charity fit in the schedules of deranged and highly deficient workaholics using their insanity to fuel the highly efficient new economy? In order to feel even mildly charitable, one needs to have some compassion for the poor. Compassion is in short supply when most people don't even have mercy on their own selves. Then there is some doubt, encouraged by the media, as to whether the poor exist at all. There are rarely any mentions of them amid the booming and soaring press of the '90s. In the absence of the poor, handing over your money to charitable institutions involves a huge leap of faith.

This Christmas we have everything, except faith.

Andrei Codrescu is the editor of Exquisite Corpse: A Journal of Letters & Life, now online at www.corpse.org.