Welcome to the Shitshow

Image by Elliot Alderson from Pixabay

The apocalypse wasn’t going the way anyone expected. I mean, we were sitting around in our pajamas, binging Netflix, and trying to find toilet paper instead of sporting leather and chains while wandering the barren wastes searching for water/gas/food. Calling the current situation “dystopian” might not have been the most accurate description, but it felt right. We were in the middle of the slowest-moving apocalypse anyone had ever heard of and it was brought on by public stupidity, selfishness, and the rejection of basic science. I felt I was at a disadvantage because I’d never read any dystopian fiction and said as much to my friend, Thomas. He was doubtful it would make a difference if I had.

“What, you think something this stupid would ever get past the draft stage?” he said. “Any decent writer would take one look at it and say, ‘This is just ridiculous. No one’s going believe people would be this fucking stupid.’ Then, they’d toss it in the trash because that’s where stupid shit like this belongs. In the trash.”

“But wouldn’t I get something out of it? Just one thing that might help me navigate this mess? Because I’m telling you, Thomas, I got nothing right now.”

He sighed and rubbed his forehead the way he always did when I asked too many questions. “Kelly,” he said, “What part of ‘never get past the draft stage’ was unclear. You wouldn’t get anything out of dystopian fiction because there’s nothing in dystopian fiction that even approaches this fucked-upness.”

“Look, man,” I said, as I got up to get another cup of coffee. “I’m just trying to find some help navigating this current disaster. Are you saying it’s not out there? That I’m doomed to keep feeling my way around in the dark? Cause that ain’t helping.”

“Not necessarily,” he replied. “There could be something out there to provide a framework. I’m just saying that dystopian fiction won’t do it.”

“That isn’t what I wanted to hear, Thomas,” I said, staring daggers at him. Although I did take a break from that to pour a fresh cup of java.

“Okay,” he said with that maddening calmness of his. “What is it you want to hear?”

He could be so irritating sometimes. “I don’t know,” I huffed. “Something. Anything. The world is falling apart around us yet again and I’ve got no frame of fucking reference!”

“I hear you,” he told me, “But to the best of my knowledge, no one, not authors, academics, or media figures, ever predicted a complete breakdown of society due to massive public stupidity.” He looked up. “Which is pretty goddamn impressive in light of recent events.”

I realized we were caught in this weird emotional feedback loop and I knew I should try to break out with the strategies Marta, my therapist, showed me but I couldn’t remember them. “Why not?” I said. “It’s not like public stupidity is some new thing. It’s been around for as long as there have been people. Somebody should’ve planned for this shit!”

“Well, yeah,” he said. “But most folks operate under the mistaken idea that people are basically good and care about their fellow man.”  He caught my glare. “Sorry, ‘fellow humans’,” he said correcting himself. “I forgot about your fetish for inclusive language.”

“Fetish!” I said. “Why is it a ‘fetish’ to want to include others? God, you’re so insufferable.”

“I’m human,” he said with a smile. “Just like all the idiots driving this apocalypse.”

“Don’t try to change the subject!” I snapped. “I’m not disputing the fact that people are fucking stupid. I want to know why we weren’t prepared for people to be fucking stupid.”

“Okay,” he said, still infuriatingly calm, “Let’s break it down. What are the characteristics of this months-long dumpster fire?”

“Shit,” I said, “Where to fucking begin?” I took a moment to gather my thoughts. “Well,” I began, “First off, there’s the fact that we’re in another lockdown. And, why? Because a goddamn plague is sweeping the world. One which scientists say could be brought under control if people would just get fucking vaccinated. Will they do it?” I paused and took a breath. “Fuck no. They’d rather listen to some asshole on YouTube who’s telling them they’ll be fine if they take some ridiculous “alternative” cure like boiling and drinking their own piss or some other stupid shit. Second, people are still goddamn rioting because the fucking cops can’t seem to keep from killing African-Americans. Third, we’ve got an election coming up and, yet again, our choices are shitty.” I took another breath. “And, fourth, I can’t find fucking toilet paper. Again.”

Thomas interrupted me as I paused again. “But we’ve been dealing with that election situation for a long time. It is not unique to where we are now. Same for the toilet paper,” he said. “You’d think after the last time, though, we’d at least have figured out how to keep that from happening.”

“That’s true,” I said. “But I’m so goddamn tired of voting for geriatric old fucks who have no idea what this country needs.” I shook my head. “And, I can’t do a protest vote because while both choices suck, one sucks exponentially more than the other.” I waved my hands. “I’m not even going to get into the toilet paper situation. It’s too goddamn stupid for words.”

“Fair enough,” he said. “Is that it?”

“Oh, you wish. I got plenty more.” He motioned “come on”. “The Russians are still fucking around in our elections while the Iranians are trying to pull some bullshit in the Gulf. On the plus side, gas is cheap as fuck. But that’s not the win it looks like because the reason it’s so cheap is that no one is going anywhere due to the goddamn pandemic. Climate change continues to get worse and the deniers are more stupid than ever. Shit, you can’t even get away from this fucking hellscape with media because all the goddamn media sucks. More stupid-ass dating shows or garbage about whatever new shit Harry and Meghan are spouting. And, if I’m subjected to one more goddamn live-action Disney remake, I’m going to find Mickey Fucking Mouse and punch him in the goddamn nuts.” I flopped back down on the couch.

“You feel better?” Thomas asked.

I sat silent for a minute, then said, “No. Well, maybe. Shit, I don’t know. I guess it depends on what you have to say.”

“Say about what?” he replied.

I looked over at him. “You asked me to break it all down. I did. Now, tell me why nobody saw this coming.”

He nodded. “I did say that, didn’t I?”

“Uh-huh,” I said suspiciously. That question felt like he was going to try and weasel out of answering.

“Okay,” he said. “Understand that this is just my take on the matter. There’s nothing to back this up. I’ve got no evidence or anything like that.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Fucking spill it, egghead.” This sort of shit was the downside to having a friend who happened to be an academic. He was always so concerned with sources and shit.

“Think back over all the things you just said, the characteristics of this current mess we’re in.” He paused like he expected me to answer or something. I just stared at him. “Who in God’s name could have seen all that insanity coming? Oh, sure, experts might have predicted one or two things. But all of that? At once?” He shook his head. “It just boggles the mind and people still can’t get their head around it. Even though we’ve been through it all before. 2020, 2025, and now, 2028. It’s just too much.”

“That is the most unsatisfying answer I think I’ve ever heard,” I said. “And, it’s made even more so because, deep down, I know you’re right.” I shook my head in, well, not disbelief. “Fuck it,” I said as I picked up the remote and opened Netflix. Needing to vegetate a bit, I pulled up “Tiger King 5: Free Joe Exotic”. “Welcome to the Shitshow, ladies and gentlemen,” I said as the intro started.