Here Thar Be Monsters!

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Does Your Burger Match The Picture?

One of the things that has entertained me since coming to Indonesia is looking at the American fast food chains and how they've reinvented themselves over here.

The 7-11 chains in Jakarta are like mini-grocery stores combined with deco diners.  They are usually two-stories tall, with the food court on the ground floor and a slick chrome and formica dining area upstairs.  They are popular hang-outs for the late teen set, who load up on hotdogs and Slurpies, or even a beer or two, and then sit around in cliques for several hours at a time.

The only people hanging out at 7-11s in the states are panhandlers roughing up customers for loose change.

Pizza Hut is really quite a shocker.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a Pizza Hut dine-in joint back home, but here they have hostesses and menus and a whole range of unique designer pizzas

The Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King are pretty much like home, except you can buy rice balls and get hot sauce instead of ketchup with your fries.  The big difference here is that your food looks just like the pictures.  It is perfectly assembled and packaged with care and a bit of artistry.  The staff are friendly and helpful, and will bring the food to your table if you have to stand more than 30 seconds.

It makes me flash back to all the slopped together rubbish and the surly staff at most of the fast food joints I ever went to in the states.  None of it every looked like the photos.  The staff always give you the impression that they hate their job, and you too, and that it is a tremendous imposition on them to serve you.

I guess what it all boils down to is that America, at least in my lifetime, has been a place of vacuous promises with no real substance.  When you watch TeeVee, none of it resembles real life except that the characters look somewhat human, though far more quaffed than any of us real folk.

Service industries promise 'service', or at least we are led to believe that by the name of the industry.  Yet, the actual experience is far below what I would call 'service'.  You either get gum-smacking gansta wanna-bes, or overly cloy prepsters who are constantly auditioning for the next M-TeeVee 'reality' show.

Even American politics are hollowed out carnivals with endless haggling over a 'party platform' that is summarily trashed within 30 seconds after the oath of office has been read by rote.

About the only think one can think of that America has promised and actually delivered is the "American Dream".  It is, in every sense of the word, a dream, and just as tangible and real as a dream.  It's the "land of the free" with armed drones buzzing overhead.  It's the "home of the brave", where the populace is cowed by roving thugs with spiffy uniforms.  It's the defender of freedom and 'democracy', even if it means an offensive strike that contravenes all international law and convention to set up puppet dictators by fiat.

America is that great 'land of opportunity' where fully half the population takes some sort of government largess.  It is the place where Mom and Pop can't run their shop anymore because they have been regulated out of business.  The license fees, taxes, regulatory burdens, and mandatory insurance has complete gutted the meager profit they were able to eek out after the mega-box-stores rampaged through their market share and turned all their customers into wage slaves who can't afford to shop with Mom and Pop anymore.

We were told in school that in America, anyone could be president.  I suppose I missed all the footnotes about having to be a CIA spook or a bankster crook first.

We were told that America's greatness lay in the pages of her magnificent Constitution, yet even mentioning that document in a court of law will get you thrown in jail for criminal contempt (believe me I know).

I have to admit, though, that the man who promised 'hope' and 'change' delivered on his promises in spades. Now everyone 'hopes' he'll get thrown out of office and we can 'change' the administration.  Not that it matters much.  Obamney is the same thing with a pile of elephant dung behind him, rather than donkey.

Come to think of it, I have to believe the current occupant's new promise, as well.  "I'm not done yet," he says.  And indeed, there are still some tattered bits of the old Republic left to be discarded.  But again, even the promise of a premature Nobel Peace prize was a hollow and vaporous symbol, notable only for the magnificent sky show on the eve of the award ceremony.

Even the promise of 'we the people', for all its symbolism of a united citizenry striving together to perfect their union, is a fantasy.  When 'we the people' aren't at each other's throats over profound idealistic differences, we are being targeting and herded by the very federal offices created to protect our Natural Rights, which are now called civil rights and can be amended any time the 'civil authorities' feel threatened.

So it comes down to a choice, if one can abuse that great word thusly, between the current party in power that endorsed slavery, created the welfare state, bruought us the Federal Reserve and income tax, and gave us unlimited bloody human sacrifice (otherwise known as abortion), or the other party controlled by the oligarchs and corporatists whose only redeeming quality is that they would subdue the world for profit rather than club us to death with heart-bleeding idealism.

Once, America was the envy of the world.  It had government that at least had the veneer of lawful operation.  It's middle class lived lifestyles that were, in some cases, even beyond those of the rich in other parts of the world.  It promised endless upward mobility and ever increasing consumption.  It's technology and innovation were far beyond the capabilities of all but a handful of countries.
Now America's government is awash in blatant corruption, not unlike your favorite third-world dictatorship.  The world's middle classes are quickly catching up to that mythical suburban lifestyle, with most families able to afford breeder buses and full refrigerators and the latest electronic gee-gaws.  Even countries that were just a decade ago celebrating indoor plumbing are now sending folks into space and probes to other planets.

Is there nothing left for America to promise?  Or is its new promise to the world a war of endless carnage and remote-operated death machines?

It is times like these when nations serious about survival should turn to the deepest form of self-critical thinking.  But America seems intent on cataclysmic self-immolation instead.

The Spirit of 1776 is just that, another in a long line of fantasies and phantasms that bear little relevance to current reality.  The worst part about great dreams is that one must always wake up from them.  It's time to make the burger match the picture again.