The Apocalypse Will Be Beige
I blew a tire in Orange County the other day. It exploded going 85 on I-5, leaving me stranded for several hours at a freeway adjacent mini-mall. It was fairly a harrowing experience. Not the actual car accident, which was actually fairly benign – more the unwanted time spent in the O.C.
Waiting to get my tire fixed, I found my way to an upscale mall-restaurant, overlooking a bleached gray parking lot with the interstate beyond. A sleek but generic Asian/Hawaiian theme pulled the place together, and ambient corporate rock covered up the sound of cars whizzing past us at 80 miles per hour.
A group of businessmen sat next to me at the bar, Fox News on the TV in front of us, drinking wildly expensive fruity cocktails and talking shop. There’s something deeply unsettling about people willing to pay twelve bucks for a designer cocktail in a freeway adjacent corporate lei lounge. These guys were clearly filthy rich. All the world’s resources marshaled in their favor and this was the best they could do?
This thought swirled over and over in my head and left me strangely terrified.
Staring out the tinted front window of the restaurant into the blinding parking lot, rows of chain stores and packed freeway beyond, I suddenly realized something important: I have seen the apocalypse and it looks like Orange County.
I’m not being snarky. I mean this quite literally. Imagine, if you will, what kind of existence humans would live after a nuclear holocaust — people using hermetically sealed vehicles to transport themselves to hermetically sealed, corporate-controlled living, working and commercial environments. Little nature, little unmediated social interaction, little activities that don’t require cash.
Sounds a lot like Orange County, no? Orlando too, which just so happens to be the other “city on the hill” of the American conservative imagination.
This is the complete opposite of the environmentally friendly liberal elite, who want to preserve pockets of the natural world so they’ll have something pretty to look at from the bay windows of their sterile, glass and steel modernist palaces.
But the O.C. reactionary elite really doesn’t give a shit. They seem perfectly happy shuttling from one controlled, generically bourgeois, environment to the next. Need food? Rick Caruso and the Grove have shown you can stick Baja Fresh next to wildly overpriced Katsuya in a mall and people will pack both. Need culture? You’ve got Disneyland. Need some fresh air? You’ve got the food court at the mall.
None of what I’ve just described is particularly revolutionary. Rants against beige, chain store-controlled suburbs are ubiquitous. But I think my observations do go a long way to explaining why American conservatives don’t give a crap about global warming.
There’s a snarky liberal barb that likes to posit that conservatives want to usher in the apocalypse so Jesus will come to rain hell-fire on the non-believers. I disagree. For conservatives, a post-apocalyptic life won’t be much different from their current ones. In fact, it will be better — wiping petty annoyances like illegal aliens and the poor.
And thus, I get to the ultimate lesson I drew from my unwanted stay in Orange County — the importance of colonizing Mars.
The best, and perhaps only, way to prevent global catastrophe, is to create an extra-terrestrial paradise for people who don’t give a crap about, and would be barely affected by, the death of the natural world on Earth.
Basically, we need to send American conservatives to Mars.
I can’t think of anyone more fit for Martian colonization. No pests or vermin to deal with, quiet, solitude, no illegal aliens (that we know of), plenty of real estate to pave over and develop. A human colony on Mars would require a completely controlled environment, constant supervision to make sure everyone is following the rule of law, and an abundance of starchy, chemical-laden foods that can survive inter-planetary transport – or, better yet, can be manufactured on site in a laboratory. A day on Mars would consist of lots of time at home; perhaps some work at a centralized office space, and plenty of human engineered leisure options. An amphitheatre could easily be constructed to host mega-church functions. Epcot Center, the Grove and other monuments to fake experience provide substitutes for culture on earth – I don’t see why it couldn’t be the same on Mars. Corporate food chains, lowbrow, aspirational and upscale, would surely be willing to contract their services.
The one caveat is golf. Conservatives fucking love golf. Which makes sense. Golf is like a nature prison: perfectly trimmed grass, truckloads of chemicals to keep the pests away, terra-scaping to make sure things aren’t too hilly, and strict, often asinine, rules that regulate your behavior on the course. Figure out how to duplicate that experience on Mars and you’ve basically got an American conservative paradise.
In some ways Orange County and Orlando are already replicas of actual human existence. Replicate the replicas and put forty percent of the country on a spaceship. They’d love it.
Once you eject the folks who have absolutely no vested interest in preventing global catastrophe from the planet, the rest of us can work things out down here. After all, it’s the conservatives who have all the scrap in them. The liberal elite are too cowardly to fight back. We could strip-mine their mansions, redistribute their wealth and build a global society we could actually sustain. Meanwhile, Martian conservatives could have their Orange County in the sky, free on Mexicans and Godless, whiny liberals.
We all win.
So come on Applebee’s and Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson. Let’s get crackin’ on this idea. There’s plenty of money in it. A whole planet to strip. Because if you don’t, the apocalypse is neigh, and it will be as beige as Gap khakis.