Rendered Fat Content


A Song dynasty painting attributed to
Liu Cai: Fish Swimming Amid Falling Flowers (circa 1080–1120)
"No need to affect superior airs, for those suspend nothing really worth caring about."

Criticism seems to have overtaken plagiarism to become the latest sincerest form of flattery. In a world obsessed with attracting clicks, with drawing attention to itself for fun and profit, Carping has grown to become the primary export of each of this world's key economies. Once renowned for our wheat exports, The United States now primarily trades in agricultural-grade Tweets reeking of primitive fertilizer, each year producing formerly unthinkable volumes. Other than complaining while ignoring underlying difficulties, we've forfeited our farm economy to attend to the one activity certain to inflict the greatest harm on ourselves, we point out each others' shortcomings in lieu of tolerating or lending a hand. We deal exclusively in picking at low-hanging fruit, for why bother with hauling out ladders and stretching if we might might more conveniently savage whatever's already ready to hand? We discount each other better than even the biggest discount retailer slashes product prices. Once proud peoples have become simply whiny.

It's always, obviously, the wrong frickin' glass, whether half empty or half full.
We seem to succumb to the pull of the low road, first noticing what's missing and only rarely finding any potentially rewarding gift imbedded within anything. We exclusively tell our books by their covers, seeking somehow to sort shit from Shinola® by mere appearance. Whatever glitters amounts to gold. Worn and wizened seems shabby and stupid. Our discourse degrades itself, repeatedly devolving into demeaning dormatives, labeling of the most insidious sort. Acquire a label and you'll likely never be able to outrun the stigma attached in the instant that title was roughly slapped on your back. "Kick me!" it says, inviting further demeaning. No need, seemingly, to any more deeply question any meaning beyond whatever's immediately apparent, after all, we all already know. Don't we? We know what it means if you're a Conservative or a Socialist, especially if you deny a little too loudly any association with the movement. I might vainly argue that trees just hug me, but I'll convince nobody who's already characterized me as a tree hugger. We all "know" what tree hugger "really" means. Don't we?

Click economies devalue generosity. There's simply no money to be made by praising anybody or anything. We post our movie reviews on a site called Rotten Tomatoes. We pride ourselves most on our snarkiness, on our endless ability to undercut. Aren't we clever? (Nope!) We seem secretly grateful that nothing's perfect in the world, for this feature provides infinite possible complaints. We bestow our appreciations by drawing attention to whatever needs more work and not by affirmatively appreciating whatever might have been done right or even masterfully. Our messages simply state, "You've disappointed me. Again!" Who are any of us to allow ourselves to insist upon such disappointments? This practice leaves little leverage for friendship or camaraderie. We seem most interested in acquiring enemies and fleeting likes for our enmity and our heart-felt hostility, as if we really could see right through everything rather than simply appear transparently unforgiving. We've grown to expect no less from the least of us. A great leveling has been occurring, ever plumbing fresh bottoms upon which to gorge ourselves. Carp. Carping.

I am not ever what you believe me to be. I suspect that you're not whatever I've convinced myself that you are, either. Surprisingly, I'm most certainly someone else, just like you are, too. I deserve the benefit of every doubt, as do each of us. No doubt, no benefit. We have proven ourselves to be fully capable of disgusting others if not ourselves, and utterly incapable of discussing much without devolving into unsubtle slurs and deepening disrespect. We have become our own worst enemies, perfectly willing to take a bite out of anyone at any time for darned near any reason, good or not. My third grade teacher taught me that if I couldn't find something good to say, I'd be wise to strategically find nothing to say in that moment. A coy and unknowing smile might suffice. No need to ever slice anyone a "new one." No need to appear clever in the eyes of someone who never impressed you with their prescience. No need to affect superior airs, for those suspend nothing really worth caring about. Where do we go from here? In Eastern Europe, they favor carp for Christmas dinner, an allegory worth savoring here and now.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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