The View from 2020: ’10 Oil Spill started it all

Although nobody saw it at the time, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010 was, in retrospect, the tipping point.  The grand scale of the universe was finally tilted the other way, so that what had been up began to go down.

The change was imperceptible at first (it often is), but surprisingly swift once the momentum took hold.  After a while, it was just one damn thing after another.

Back in ’10, people began by bemoaning the lack of fresh seafood and unspoiled beaches for their summer vacations.  It did not immediately occur to these people that, with the economy already on its own sly slide, they did not have the disposable income to spend on either of those things anyway.

As the Gulf was essentially rendered lifeless, swarms of unemployed fishermen, oil rig workers and service sector employees migrated northward in desperation.  The term “illegal immigrant” started being used in the Midwest to describe native Louisianans.

At first it was only true illegal aliens who were willing to stay on the coast and take the dirty jobs, like shoveling out the blobs of oil that coated Bourbon Street in New Orleans after Hurricane Gordita, so nicknamed for its unprecedented size, and tendency to devour everything in its path.

However, having escaped the worst of the hurricane season, the Mexican economy continued its slight but real improvements.  The major drug lords of Mexico, never ones to let a business opportunity slide, began to expand their reach.  Cannily reading the restlessness of the Mexican people, and bored themselves with the drug violence, they struck an accord between the various cartels and quite easily put up a vapid, attractive candidate for president in 2012, winning handily.  With the on-going infusion of drug money from the U.S. (as the U.S. economy sunk, more and more people sought the solace of drug-induced escape) the cartels had found in politics a new and more amusing way of exercising power, and by 2018, Mexico was starting to claim its place in the pantheon of first world countries, while the U.S., having had its debts called in by China (who needed the money for their own expansion), saw its financial standing go through a shocking slide.

The U.S. economy received a big boost when Mexico bought the entirety of the border fence, to prevent the upsurge in baby boomers tryin to move to Mexico for cheap prescriptions.  It was the biggest real estate deal since the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, and don’t think there weren’t people in Washington regretting that move, either.

The second (or was it third?) wave of the recession hit in 2015, when half the Republican senators and about 20% of the Democrats, were found to have taken huge stock options in several of the banks that were “too big to fail”.  The resulting scandal not only took down those politicians, but the banking industry itself.   Emergency legislation was rammed through and what had been branch banks on practically every corner of every city were turned overnight into independent “home town banks”, with government bailout money, for the only time in history, being shared more or less fairly among them all.  Some thrived, some failed, but there was a mini-boom in the printing of new business cards and stationery.

Meantime, practically all of the “greatest generation” passed on, due to a combination of old age and cut-backs in Medicare, apparently taking their “can-do/make do” spirit and know-how with them.

Young people in their 20’s, who had come of age with an ingrained and total faith in the internet, and their own pre-ordained fame and fortune, at first continued to seek answers online.  Unfortunately, with the shaky economy, all the major internet search engines were forced to start on-line usage metering in order to keep operational, since they were no longer able to make money by advertising.  No one was buying anything.  The 20-somethings were befuddled until the most forward-looking of their generation began to strike out, putting on coats and ties (a curiously unisex ’70’s fashion throw-back) and hitting the bricks to job-hunt face-to-face.  Others, of course, followed.  Many were stunned to encounter humans of other age brackets, who, however inconceivably, seemed to have something to contribute that might be of use.

The period was hard on everyone, as the new reality was still sinking in.  We had lived in a culture where constant new technological advances were eagerly anticipated, and people regarded every new gadget as a life necessity.  Therefore, everyone was bewildered, unnerved and depressed when the flow of these new products slowed to a halt.  Third world countries began to horde the valuable minerals and rare natural resources required for production, so that, over time, used cell phones, MP3 players, laptops and other items, became of greater value, and an unanticipated business grew in technological repairs.

Like Cuba, after the 1959 revolution shut the country down, and old cars were kept going for decades, so now were iPhones and iPods kept alive by “shade-tree techies”, so named because, with the periodic power outages and the rising summer temperatures, more and more people took to moving tables and chairs outside to do their work.

One upside of this was that the obesity problem began to dissipate.  Abruptly un-tethered from their devices (power outages), and from their cars (gas shortages), the hypnotic addictions of the first part of the 21st century were broken, and at least the strong survived.

Of course, this survival of the “fittest” had already begun, in terms of technology, as so many people had been killed crossing streets or driving while fixated on their “smart” phones (not so smart after all).  Another side effect of this shift was that, denied access to constant communication, more and more people came to a shared conclusion, which was that they really didn’t like or care about most of those other people anyway.  A mini-boom in body-language expertise rose to meet the demands of newly-discovered non-virtual communication.

And since life had slowed down so much, there was even less trivia about their lives worth sharing.  Who wants to read a tweet that says, “still sitting under the tree…”?

On the other hand, actually sitting under a tree didn’t turn out to be so bad.
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