The slow almost imperceptible abandonment of America’s common spaces has made Jeff Bezos a staggeringly wealthy man. When you can buy Zuckerberg in total and have enough change left over for Carl Ichan, you’re comfortable. But Bezos isn’t that rich by pluck alone. The diversity he yearns for others than himself to experience has helped pave his driveway in platinum.
Obtuse observers often confuse Amazon as the catalyst for this inward migration, rather than merely its beneficiary. But I think Amazon has caught what’s fallen to them as much as they’ve shaken the tree. Yes, people are increasingly choosing to shop and gawk online rather than in malls and movie theaters.
Convenience is only part of the answer. For those too young to recall the retail topography before Amazon, Bezos originally had to peddle his paperbacks at a significant discount. This because physical shopping was considered a premium experience over sterile browser clicking. This has changed entirely, yet the Internet was just as convenient then.
However, entering our common area Babels has become much less convenient. Aside from the ambient rioting of teens, a visit to the mall now makes Jakarta or Dakar seem far closer to reality than memories of shopping among members of an actual organic community. And as last night’s unbelievable carnage in Las Vegas bitterly reminded: Babel isn’t always the worst of it.
This sort of event is a tiny statistical anomaly, but one still potent in what it carves into the psyche. I once lost a good friend in a head-on collision on a two-lane road. Even though not directly involved, I still find myself years later unselfconsciously cringing at a fast approaching car in narrow lanes.
As my history revealed, even vicarious experiences can leave long residuals. And public violence accumulates indelible marks, whether or not you’re specifically on its business end. I don’t think about such things much. But I think enough to never sit in restaurants with my back to the door or feet far from an exit. Such expressions of minor paranoia are, for my purposes, preferable to a one-time dawning horror. But they are also not ideal, and the happy hour in my own kitchen is.
Millions of people will increasingly be tugged toward their own intimate refuge without ever even making a conscious decision in that direction. Most will only be reflective enough to know that I think I’d rather just stay in tonight. Hey, we could buy 20 albums for the cost of that concert ticket. The alienating discomfort of increasing diversity along with a remote prospect of lightening bolts by psychopaths will ensure Jeff Bezos maintains a very lucrative delivery franchise.
A couple of additional thoughts on Las Vegas.
A 64 year-old retired accountant? The murderer’s brother says he must have “snapped.” But snapping is a manifestation of spontaneity, not meticulousness. A person snaps when they realize Rachel Madow is a woman. When they do, they might throw a vase at the wall in horror. But they don’t surreptitiously construct a hotelroom firebase with multiple rifle tripods and surveillance cameras on their six. If that’s snapping, then the military pays a lot of men to do it competently.
So why wasn’t this geezer in his retirement home pushing Cialis to its chemical limit with his Indonesian prostitute? Also, what made him select a country music festival? There’s an obvious answer to the second question that may or may not prove to be correct. A hypothetical leftist lunatic couldn’t choose a better proxy for despised Trump America than the target pool at a country western concert. That was my initial speculation. Despite ISIS’s claim of credit, I thought it was likely to be another Steve Scalise style shooting in massive bright neon. If you’ll recall his assailant, James Hodgkinson, was similarly 66 years old and a loner. The possibility of another antique antifa remains quite viable as of this writing.
Tragedies are fertile ground for trite remarks. One of those to be counted on in such events is: You can’t live your life in fear. Well actually you can. And you can almost certainly live much longer if that fear is risk-based, rationally managed, and longevity is a priority. It isn’t the cool rush of reason that keeps most people from placing their lives in pointless jeopardy, but rather fear. Without that helpful and adaptive emotion, proto-humans would have ended in predator bellies. In a modern example, there are multitudes of base jumpers, who chose not to live their lives in fear. I wonder how many wished briefly they had.
Though I think such thrill seekers are uniquely insensitive to healthy, visceral messaging. But many other people will be much less so. They will begin to experience those uncomfortable, perhaps unconscious, niggles in packed public venues…as the Amazoning of America proceeds.