Corruption And Christmas

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A mile-long trail of cars and trucks curves through my neighborhood. As we greet each other at the frontdoor of the Greenwood bodega, we glance over at the motorists, sitting there. In one way or another we know - that traffic jam is corrupt. We look over at the stack of newspapers inside the front door. The news is corrupt. We look up at the jetliner descending into La Guardia. That flight is corrupt.

We live in this era of corruption, hiding in plain sight. All public activities are controlled by players who pay for control. The public has no role except as consumers. Many of us would say, "It's always been like this." But I think corruption has changed in recent years. It has become so general that it wraps around us. It activates, engages and surrounds our senses like a powerful movie in the shape of a shell. The industries, celebrities and public agencies overlap their corruption on this shell.

The corruption is ambient now. A shell with a dazzling, pixilated surface. It's like a Diamondvision in the shape of wind-tunnel. Products, celebrities, Christmas, gunships and candy appear and do their vaudeville routine. We live in this shell of unaccountably and secretly managed - well, what is it? It succeeds because we don't notice it, we don't know how to describe it. I can flail at it with phrases like "the great fake community" or the "privatized commons." I don't have it in words that work down here on the corner. Oh yes - we all know about the government bail-outs. We know about the insurance lobbyists writing the congressmens' speeches. We look at the papers, up at the jet, and out at the glowing faces on the highway.

What would I say if I had the words? That shell! It is the slippery and vast high alter of Consumerism! It expertly mimics us, but more than that - the professionals who control it anticipate what we WILL do, because they study our habits, our desires, our human-ness. Sadly, the shell broadcasts a completely believable Democracy. Has anything so universal ever been so hidden? The shell is un-locatable. It is as close as the radio in the dashboard of the citizens in traffic; it is as far as the Afghani war. The shell is bounding with young families made happy by Big Pharma, bubble credit, the hallucinating momentum of American greatness...

We see ourselves in the shell and we continue to wait, to waste our lives. That's the trouble. The true cost of corruption is that we sit in traffic. A lot of us aren't within reach anymore, so we cannot be creative as a community. That is what, for modern western culture, Americans invented. But it has gone up onto the shell now and performs brilliantly back at us, sitting in our cars, or in our drugs, or in our Christmas. Ultimately the violence of this present kind of corruption is our silence. We can no longer reach around the product-shell to address each other directly. But I'm repeating myself.

Breaking through the shell is illegal, but it is the necessary interruption of our time. We must walk into the traffic and try to say hello. I'm writing this after I walked back to my home from the bodega. The traffic citizens are still sitting out there. I could go back down and... what? ...start the revolutionary season's greetings. What if our Christmas this year was completely different?