"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

Economic Growth: A Visual Translation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EconomicGrowth(final)

18″ x 24″ pencil on paper sketch, digitally colorized

 

This picture explores “Economic Growth”, an unsustainable, unnatural, and ultimately disastrous idea. As our society continues on this means, which in popular thought, has no real goal, we actively take more from our environment than it is capable of regenerating. There is no end in sight of our thirst for GDP. There is no final stage, no finish line. Our progress through time is as a lumberjack clearing a forest with no awareness that trees are finite. It is the same wisdom that, for example, in the 1800s, brought the leveling of the great forests of North America and the near-extinction of the American buffalo. In the 1900s, it brought the near extinction of the cod in Newfoundland and red-fin tuna the world over. In ancient times, it brought the extinction of the woolly mammoth and other mastodons and the end of society on Easter Island. There are many other occasions where humans have ruined their environment to detriment, were unable to see further than their own noses, and were incapable of comprehending regeneration.

 

Everything in this drawing is a specific metaphor. The main figure, a woman, referred to as “the Body”, is tortured and ripped to pieces. She represents our general welfare, our environment, our shared present, our common dreams, in the style of Lady Liberty. She is distended in the stomach and thin in the chest from malnutrition. Each “Lilliputian” represents their own part in this charade. A list would be most proper here, starting with the bottom left, moving right, then up to the next row, then to the left, etc.:

 

EconomicGrowth(legend)1

 

1. A butcher slices through her right forearm, spilling blood and ‘people’ about. A piggy bank laps up the fallen bits. The piggy bank is essentially the banking industry, continually eating off the labor of people and the resources of the planet, getting fat and rich off others’ efforts, by then often dead or dying. Loans and debts, brought especially upon young people these days, continually feed the pig. The butcher is the pig’s lackey, doing his bidding. The butcher’s real-world counterpart: the media and all of the demagogues and apologists that it employs.

 

2. A child stands before a snowman of his own creation. [The inserts are scenes of normal life.]

 

3. An earth-machine removes a section from the right hip. This represents general unnecessary construction or “destruction” [a common theme throughout this piece], exemplified by suburban sprawl, leveling of forests, excessive mining and all that is represented by “paving paradise”.

 

4. Green zombies pour from a wound in the Body’s right thigh. Radioactive materials are capable of causing tremendous damage to animals, plants, and human life. These zombies also represent some of the more brain-dead of our own living species [for similar analogy, see George Romero's "Day of the Dead"], created from the very vacuous and unhealthy nature of society to which this piece is dedicated. Another zombie, similarly, crawls from a wound on the left thigh.

 

5. The Body’s right leg is severed at the knee.

 

6. A doctor harangues an engineer, indicating the damage. The doctor ordered the road and the engineer delivered. He raises his hands in innocence, unaware that he was even causing damage. The doctor represents the decision-makers of both industry and infrastructure, who often care not to the Body’s destruction. In this case, he does nonetheless recognize the damage, and consequentially interrogates the engineer. The engineer represents, well, engineers. Who are quite good at their work, almost too good, that they often do not calculate the full extent of the damage that they may do, both in creation (such as weapons) and in demolition, a precursor to infrastructure-building.

 

7. An oilman attempts to extract from the buried remains of the Body’s foot. Nothing comes out. It will be millions of years before the earth can pressurize the molecules into something energy-dense. This is both literal and figurative, as technologies to regain energy from our waste continue to develop, as with entropy, the returns always progressively diminish.

 

8. A monument is erected to a sleeping Christ-like figure watching a television. This represents the insufferable tendency of much media to glorify the “common” person (the television is his greatest fan), ingesting vacuous entertainment as the world is tortured and burned.

 

9. A red-tailed hawk flees the horrendous scene above a field of wheat. A local metaphor: the best and brightest of the state of Kansas leave as soon as able. “Fly you fools!”

 

10. The Body’s output feeds a box store through a conveyor belt, filling it with cattle, poultry, furniture, cell phones, toys, consumer electronics, machinery, media, vehicles, fighter jets, weapons, and the whole cornucopia of the fruits of “Economic Growth”. This is quite literal, as it represents the entirety of private productive capacity, beyond necessity, available to modern consumers. This conveyor belt is the “endgame” of the entire charade. Is it worth it?

 

11. The Body’s direct waste pools up into a stagnant pond. Without access to any other fresh water, a man carries buckets away for general usage. There is little fresh water in this drawing, representing the reality to come, much of which were are experiencing at present. Droughts will worsen, and industry will poison the fewer and fewer fresh sources as we continue on this course.

 

12. Another slice of life. A man draws on a sheet on a table. It is the 11th hour.

 

13. A fat man rides a tricycle around a circular track. He represents the “party” in which we are currently engaged. With no concern for others or the next generation, he continues to do so, to the detriment of all.

 

14. A slurry of questionable nutrition is force-fed into the Body, comprised almost entirely of corn, leading away in two rows, with leaves of dollar signs. This represents the complete ubiquity of this food, of what we create endless derivatives, feed to the majority of our livestock, and eat directly. A diet consisting of this one food is not healthy, whether personal or societal. It has been monetized to an insane level, from multiple sources: the government provides subsidies to farmers who grow it, Monsanto hoards the seeds as the owner of a well in a thirsty town, and bullies anyone who does not buy from their stock. This type of corn does not naturally exist where it is cultivated, hedges out local flora, and has the added detriment of requiring pesticides and insecticides, directly poisoning plants, animals, water sources, and the very ground itself. It is in our soft drinks, nearly every type of meat, and even the gasoline of our vehicles. It is being forced down the throat of our environment and common good, to the detriment of all, even itself.

 

15. A man pounds a chain into the ground, securing the Body’s left arm. This represents any and all environmental control, up to and including damming rivers, deforestation, pesticide spraying “noxious weeds” along roads and in parks, city ordinances requiring lawns, and continual mowing of grass. Socially, it represents criminalization of drugs and poverty, our twisted idea of “justice”, and the prison industry itself. Any and all suppression of alternative voices, views, and challenges to “Economic Growth” and its derivatives.

 

16. A dog with blood-shot eyes cries and sweats bullets, unable to look away from the scene. He represents the animals with whom we share this planet. Many of the wild ones are aware of the trouble. Household animals, less so.

 

17. A spearman pierces the Body, releasing a flood of goodies, that a businessman catches in a bucket. Situation is similar to the butcher and the pig, but a bit less egregious. You might call this businessman the “payday loan shark” compared to the big bankers. Again, the wealth is not created through any real effort, but through usury and theft.

 

18. A four-armed man with a monocle and hat points pistols in all directions. He represents the military, both domestic and foreign. Armed to the teeth, and capable of any and all malice. The armed forces of our planet (particularly that of the United States) are quite capable of taking care of themselves, and are known to perpetuate a war or occupation or two, even in a world of peace, to justify their continued existence. Ultimately, however, there are no geographical enemies. Philosophy and awareness may lead one to find a few scattered here or there, but this is lost upon them. They are beholden to law, and orders often come from the worst perpetrators of this whole scheme.

 

19. A man and a woman climb up and away from the terrible conditions below. They climb a line that leads away from the scene, representing “dropping out” of the system or “the grid”, or at least coming to awareness of the situation. Thus, in an elevated position, they sound an alarm, yelling from a bullhorn. Their efforts combine with the next scene.

 

20. A sorceress, through some sort of magic, manifests a swirling kaleidoscopic dimensional rift, warping the Body and the surroundings. She, and the rift, represent the technological progress of the 21st century, seemingly “magically” altering the very foundations of society that we once thought concrete. Particularly, our ability to immediately communicate with anyone and access the entirety of human knowledge from a single pocket device, has changed our lives in astonishing ways already, and will alter them further as we continue. The positives of this technology are evident, though at once, it is actively being used against the interests of people as well. It remains to be seen what will come of it, but certainly the “dimensional rift” will be with us for as long as we remain.

 

21. A large building reads “VACANT”. This is literal. Hundreds of thousands of perfectly good domiciles currently lie vacant while many people sleep on the streets. Common sense dictates such a thing, in all aspects, a great waste.

 

22. An derrick releases its last drop of oil. The era of easy oil is over, and the last bits will soon be spent. To prove that this is the case, one can judge by a single piece of evidence: the exploitation of the incredibly inefficient tar sands of Alberta, Canada, a prime culprit of the doomed Keystone XL pipeline. The resource is quite valuable, as we have seen, but its exploitation has been mainly utilized in running around in circles, as our society is wont to do. If we do not use what available resources we have to create a sustainable future, to reach the next “plateau”, we shall tear each other apart. The “progress” we have made over centuries will become the remnants of some great past civilization, the heights of which humanity shall never, ever reach again.

 

23. A prophet crawls along the ground, and with his last bits of strength, speaks of the horrendous scene about and soon to come. A policeman prepares to bludgeon him with a cudgel. This represents the last vestiges of religion that may, though beaten and broken by neo-liberal capitalism, still show the “light” to the people destroying their paradise. The policeman is, akin to the butcher and spearman, a tool of the establishment.

 

24. This “slice of life” insert shows a confused and wondering man pushing a wheel around a mysterious gear and another man at a desk emphatic that he continue doing so. This represents the rat race, the “grind”, the continual pressing of people upon nonsensical labor that rewards only with the dollar. This is the present and the future of all new “jobs” that our Economic Growth creates in the United States. The rewards are abstract, the process rote and unfulfilling, and the ultimate goal utterly nonsensical.

 

25. An office complex contains a woman running on a treadmill, and couple having sex on a desk, and a terribly distraught man in a cubicle, all of which confined by two large, locked glass doors that read interiorly, “TURN AROUND”. This represents a state of distraction, that deflects our attention from greater societal importance to our own, personal lives. Much of suburbia lives in this fashion: work a cubicle with some strange sense of utility, fuck your significant other, and improve your health, all within faux-confinement. “Wrangled into pens of Emperor’s invisible gates”. More could be said of this lifestyle. It often requires use of prescription drugs, because people are justifiably depressed to live in a state of such little perceptible value. Personally, I often wonder how anyone could live such a life, but then again, they have not broken their conditioning. I would suggest that they trust their depression, rather than their detractors.

 

26. A multi-colored castle stands apart from the landscape. The road leading to it is blocked off. This represents the glorious future, the utopia, the precipice upon which we currently stand. The powers that be, in the infinite wisdom that extends all the way to the tip of their noses, are unable to comprehend it. They find the change weird and strange, and block access, unaware that such stolidness will doom not only our nation, nor our civilization, nor the potential of which we are capable, but our entire species. As was said by a great 20th century philosopher, Alan Watts, some 50 years ago, “We may have no choice but utopia”.

 

27. A jester lies bleeding to death, shot by a sheriff. A great pile of bodies burns. A baby lies upon the ground, the next successor of the Body. In the event that the Body is killed, if the “thousand cuts” results in death (our environment and our general welfare, cease), all bets are off. Our system of global trade will grind to a halt, millions will find themselves starving, and resource wars will be fought the world over. The thirsting, starving remains of humanity will cut and feed upon the vestiges. The next war will indeed be fought with stick and stones. The sheriff shall shoot the jester; laughter, good humor, and in a word, hope, will die. Bodies shall be burned in great pyres in the cities, if at all. The planet shall begin its slow return to the state of nature. Our time as stewards of this planet shall be finished. We will find our current civilization a footnote in the history of our planet. We, who found ourselves masters of paradise, with what few remain, and with what fewer dreams, shall remember the downfall in oral traditions for all perpetuity, a nostalgic remnant of a glorious, bygone age.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>