From the cheap seats: The fall of western civilization

It’s no longer just those central-casting fanatics with long beards and robes carrying signs proclaiming, “The end is near.” Many are casting a balefully wary eye toward the cascade of eschatological symptoms of our potential economic Armageddon. Which makes you wonder how things got so bad.

I know the intransigent, obstructionist Republicans in Congress — who bear primary responsibility for our facing this “fiscal cliff” because of their slavish devotion to that anti-tax hobbit who rules their hearts and minds — hate for us to play the “blame game,” but I kinda think that, when we’re sitting around in mud huts wearing loin cloths, we’re gonna want to fix some responsibility for the end of the world as we know it.

So what do I think caused the destruction of modern life? Leaf blowers and weed trimmers, of course!

These infernal creations from the bowels of Satan’s most nefarious workshop put all other horrors we’ve endured to shame: ice ages, nuclear weapons, Tony Orlando & Dawn …. Consider the following:

They waste time: In ages past, we used rakes to gather fallen leaves. For the average home, that was perhaps a three-hour job, including bagging. However, with the advent of leaf blowers, we are spared the blisters from raking but add extra hours chasing the leaves from one end of the yard to the other.

Then there is weed trimming, which used to be an annual chore whether it needed to be done or not. Now the grass can’t be mowed without the obligatory edging of walks and driveways, adding at least an hour to the chore of lawn care.

They contribute to obesity: The very physical act of raking leaves or pulling weeds is what made gardening and lawn care the kind of activity that doctors encouraged. “Work in the yard,” they’d say to their indolent patients, knowing full well that jogging or going to the gym were not practical options. True, there is a little exercise involved with the hours of strolling around one’s yard with a leaf blower, moving yard waste from one spot to another until it is thinned out enough to be less noticeable, in much the same way that a child spreads his or her vegetables around the plate. I just don’t think nearly as many calories are thus expended.

They pollute the environment: Most of the awful contraptions are gasoline-powered and utilize two-cycle engines. As a result, they burn fossil fuels inefficiently, reducing our supply of natural resources and spewing toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. Electric models aren’t much better, since the Bush administration did its level-best to make sure power plants switched to nasty “clean” coal to generate electricity. So the pollution is created — in greater quantities — somewhere else.

They make an awful racket: Whether gasoline-powered or electric, all of these machines make a deafening racket, which is as bad for us as air pollution. Studies have shown how loud machinery noises disrupt normal brain functioning. In those who already are neurologically impaired, the unrelenting cacophony can trigger psychotic episodes. While we’re sitting on our porches examining our ravaged 401(k) statements or, perhaps, that foreclosure notice from the bank, it would be nice to contemplate our economic oblivion without the homicidal-rage-inducing pandemonium emanating from our neighbor’s yard.

Which brings me back to my original premise. Obviously, there was a fair amount of bone-headedness — if not outright dementia — involved in the decision-making process of our Congressional “leaders” — Democrat and Republican — as they “tried” to hammer out a debt-reduction plan last year … and, to no one’s surprise, failed. Perhaps the mental faculties of the so-called Super Committee were so addled by a toxic exposure to leaf blower/weed trimmer noise during the preceding weekend that they could not function adequately in the contemplation of bipartisan debt reduction options. Perhaps, despite the specter of $1.2 trillion in arbitrary budget cuts which would occur in the event of their failure to find a compromise, their hypoxic malaise was too great.

Since then, Congressional befuddlement from the din of power lawn tools has prevented them from enacting a reasonable extension of the Bush-era tax cuts (reasonable as in, “millionaires and billionaires pay slightly more”). Surely that is a more plausible reason than their obsequious veneration of Grover Norquist — a person not elected as a representative of the people, indeed unknown by the vast majority of the people — who demands absolute fealty from members of Congress on pain of political ostracism.

Hence our perilous approach to the dreaded “fiscal cliff” and the economic bedlam that awaits us upon our hurtling over its edge.

I know when I’m sitting around in my mud hut in my loin cloth, while I’ll be bitter about the ruinous policies that led me to such a low estate, I’ll still savor the quiet serenity of a post-machine world. No leaf blowers! No weed trimmers! No need to club my neighbors over the head with a moose thigh bone!