Saturday, December 10, 2016

Have you noticed they're always fallout shelters?

It took me a long time to understand.  All of high school I knew that it was a fallout shelter, walked by the sign with the three yellow triangles in the black circle God knows how many times, and I never once had an inkling.

You might think I figured it out in university.  I went to a good school, and they didn't even try to destroy it until after I'd earned enough credits for one degree.  There were people who could have told me, I suppose.

Nope.  Didn't catch on.

I was twice as old as when I'd graduated high school.  No idea.  Never forgot that my high school was a fallout shelter, but neither did I dwell on it.

Finally I found myself in another place at another time, and there were those yellow triangles on a black circle and it finally clicked.

Try to get the money to build a school and you're more or less fucked.  Ditto for a courthouse.  Public building of any kind.  The money's not there, the people are overtaxed already, how the fuck can we afford to do it?

Try to get the money to build a shelter so we can survive a war that will never happen against an enemy that's averted World War III more times than we have?  You're set.

We spend money on war.

So you don't say you need a new school, or a new courthouse, or a new town hall, or a new . . . you say, "We're gonna build the best damned bomb shelter you can imagine so that when our pilots get back from bombing the ever-loving shit out of them Ruskies they'll come back to find their families safe and sound."

You don't dwell on the fact that the shelter will be a basement and on top of it you'll place a high school.  If you did that then people might think it was education spending, and they wouldn't pay for it.

No.  This is fucking WAR people and war spending gets approved and if the fallout shelter just happens to have a really nice public building on top of it then that's . . . collateral or some such.  It's not like we set out to make the world a better place.  You can't hold it against us if it just kind of happened as part of our totally legitimate military spending.

And so they're fallout shelters.

But we're not worried about being nuked anymore.  We're not building fallout shelters with useful buildings on top anymore.  We no longer need to use the interstate highway system to connect America in a way that's good for commerce and civilian use move a tank anywhere in the country at 50mph and/or evacuate our nuked cities and set up new communities by the roadside.

So our roads and bridges suck and we've stopped building useful buildings.

I don't really have a good solution.

Certainly spending money on things like healthcare, education, infrastructure, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, comforting the afflicted, and so forth is something that would never make it through committee, much less pass in a floor vote.  But how does one re-frame those things as war spending in an era when Americans are afraid that FEMA will take them away (in boxcars with shackles; REX-84 people!) rather than being bombed into non-existence by people they'll never meet.

Yes, we could maybe increase funding of fighting diseases by claiming that we were trying to prepare the population for a bio-terrorist attack while noting that those already ill are those most at risk, but people would just assume that the funding was really going to creating diseases that could be released into the population via chem-trails and flu shots.

It's certainly true that the best way to get America fighting against global warming would be to invent some oily menace in which the gas you're putting in your car is actually specially treated liquid evil that will poison you with mumble-mumble and as for your heating oil, you don't even want to know, and the only way to be absolutely safe is to not use any oil or coal products but instead switch over to self sufficient off the grid 'Murican individualism with a windmill in every yard and solar panels on every roof, BUT

That doesn't really work when the horrible threat we must defend ourselves against are our neighbors.

Of course, another solution might be to cut the bullshit and just argue that necessary things are necessary and thus should be funded.  But that never works.  Necessary things are always fallout shelters (or a means to transport tanks and troops, or ...) for a reason.

Ask for money for something that's useful and you'll be shot down.  Ask for money for war and, provided you underplay the useful thing that you actually want to get out of it, you've got decent odds.

There's a reason that my state, home to the last American shoe manufacturer, was so proud of its people in congress getting a law passed saying soldiers equipment, including their shoes, should be American made.

If we'd pointed out that a shoe industry is a useful thing to have and maybe the government should pitch in a bit to keep it alive we'd have been laughed out of congress.  So we made it into a defense issue.  Do we really want our troops going into battle wearing foreign made shoes?  What if they trip and fall because of horrible shoe sabotage?  No.  For the good of our troops, for the good of our ability to wage war, we must have locally made shoes.  The fact that that will dump money into the shoe industry is a side effect.  Surely not the entire point of the convoluted exercise.

And that'll do for shoes.  But it's not building buildings, or bridges, or repairing roads, or fixing leaky pipes, or giving people educations, or healing the sick and injured, or feeding the hungry, or . . . any of the many other things we ought to be doing.

I don't know about the way forward.  But I know this much: if you look at the good things the US government has built in the nuclear age, they're all fallout shelters.  Sometimes that statement is metaphorical, but a lot of the time it's really damned literal.


  1. I skimmed most of this so maybe you mentioned it, but...
    That movie, right? Collateral Beauty?
    Except this is like Collateral Decency. Collateral Community. Like the climate change thing... what if we made a better world and we didn't "have to?"
    And I was so familiar with this in the environmental industry and science in general, but now there's less money everywhere...

    There's also a thing where you have to say it's about business. Not people, not communities, not even, like, products necessarily, if they're not the right kind of whiz-bang gadgets. If you speak business language and talk about markets and profit, then you're allowed to do things that are good for people and communities, which of course are part of the magical Realm of Business and Glorious exalted Capitalism...

    It's very hard to distinguish between things companies are doing for PR that don't really help or actively hurt, and things they're doing for PR and maybe other good reasons that are good, and things where one of the main things a business sells is the feeling of being a White Savior or whatever...

    I guess probably we are moving/accelerating toward more and more privatization so we should keep using some parts of that for good, in the cyberpunk dystopia everybody predicted... But IDK to what extent our current model(s) of government are really headed for extinction, what can/will replace them, what we can and can't do with those things...

    Can we do space exploration? Can we have educations systems that really serve students/families/communities? Law/justice systems? Healthcare? How do we get there/for things where some places are mostly there, how do we expand that?

    With what you're saying and increasing automation and some other stuff... will we be providing basic income to people with the understanding that we are all on call in the War On (thing)? If thing were hostile extraterrestrials, that might work. Can we not have War On Environmental Degradation? Whatever we want to call it... War For Future Business Opportunities?

  2. Even the Interstate Highway System was sold to Congress on the basis that there would be a fallout shelter under every on-ramp!

    That bit got quietly dropped once it had been approved.