James Howard Kunstler: Turning America into Bulgaria

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James Howard Kunstler: Turning America into Bulgaria Empty James Howard Kunstler: Turning America into Bulgaria

Post by  on Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:38 pm

James Howard Kunstler: Turning America into Bulgaria

By James Howard Kunstler (REPOST)
August 20, 2012

Check out his blog:

Over the years, I’ve spotlighted America’s telephone system as the
single best example of the diminishing returns of technology in everyday
life. This sort of negative “blowback” occurs when you apply
technological innovation to make a system work better, and you actually
make it worse.
As I tell it, we’ve spent four decades and untold billions of dollars to computerize every phone system in America.

James Howard Kunstler: Turning America into Bulgaria Telephone-operator-225x300

The objective was to “improve communications.” The net result of all this effort and
investment is that it is now just about impossible to get a live human
being on the phone at any company, agency, or institution in our land.
Instead, you get to talk to robots who emit the reassuring message:
“…your call is important to us….”

Of course, that one obvious lie is only one of the million lies we
are exposed to daily in our culture of immersive untruth, which propels
us ever-deeper into the politics of unreality, and it should be
important to us, but I digress….

By computerizing all the phone systems we allowed every company,
agency, and institution to dump all of their transactional
inconveniences onto us, the customers, clients, and citizens. That was
done in the name of “efficiency,” another unexamined evil buzzword from
the MBA playbook of mendacious BS that passes for received wisdom
in this deluded nation of craven Babbitts.

Thus, the Acme Corporation gets to save $250-K a year in combined
salaries and benefits of what used to be called telephone operators or
receptionists. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Acme callers every year
get strung along, driven mad, and just plain
lost in the wilderness of robotic phone trees they are induced to enter
in the name of “efficiency.” Multiply that number of Acme “efficiency”
victims by tens of thousands of companies and organizations and you end
up with a lot of damage to a lot of people.

The sheer cruelty and stupidity implicit here is too great to
calculate – has anyone ever tried? Has anyone at MIT’s Sloan School or
the University of Chicago, or Wharton ever tried to measure the
suffering inflicted on the American public in the name of all this
vaunted efficiency?

Is there anyone reading this blog right now who had not ended such a
phone call in tears this past year, or dashed their handset against the
wall, or, worst of all, actually found themselves engaged in an insult
match with the robot at the other end of the line?

Little more than a week ago, I was boned like a Christmas turkey on
an orthopedic operating table. This was due to yet another diminishing
return of technology. I’d been living with an “innovative”
metal-on-metal hip implant that was being pushed for younger hip
replacement patients back around 2003 as “longer-lasting” than the old
metal-on-plastic joints.

It turned out the devices were improperly tested. Huge numbers of
them failed. The simple abrasion of the ball-joint assembly parts
released cobalt and chromium ions into the surrounding tissues,
destroying bone and muscle and inducing metalosis – systemic metal
poisoning. I was one of the luckier ones. My tissues were not savaged,
but I suffered a bewildering range of systemic poisoning symptoms for
more than a couple of years.

Such cases run to tens of thousands now, growing each year as the
devices age and the failure rate surges. It is surely the biggest fiasco
ever in modern orthopedics and the lawsuits against the makers of these
“innovative” devices now stretch from Johns Hopkins to Alpha Centuri.
But again, I digress slightly….

The surgeon successfully switched out my implant. They sent me home
about 36 hours later for the routine recovery process. In the course of
things, I had to make phone calls to both the discharge department of
the hospital where the operation was done, and to the office of the
surgeon, a large group practice in a nearby city.

In both cases, my calls where shunted into a bewildering robotic
phone tree system. Here I was subjected to dead ends, dropped calls,
mystifying routing errors, unasked-for salsa muzak mini-concerts,
advertisements for services unrelated to my issue, phony reassurances
from virtual persons as to the importance of my call, and lots of other
gratuitous annoyances. In other words, this is considered the proper,
decent, and intelligent treatment of a four-day post-surgical patient
half out of their skull on prescribed Percocet, one of the most powerful
narcotics in the Pharma kitbag.

In additional other words, our society is now so stupid that it
treats post-surgical patient / doctor communications in the same manner
as people calling a retail discounter to buy shoes. Actually, I’m quite
sure it can be demonstrated that the shoe-buyers are treated way better
than the post-surgical patients.

All of this is consistent with one of my current cardinal political
theories: that it is the subconscious wish of all the people now running
things in this land to turn the USA into the Bulgaria of the Western
Hemisphere by finding the worst possible way to get everything done with
the greatest degree of collateral cruelty.

From this precept, it would follow naturally that everything our
leaders say and do about improving the dismal jobs picture is designed
to be as inept and counterproductive as possible. That is, we don’t
really want to provide more jobs for Americans; we just want to pretend
that our intentions are good – while actually striving to make things

Hence, wishing to oppose these evil and tragic tendencies in the
current flow of our history, I offer a potent policy initiative to
create hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country: the 2012 Answer
the screwing Telephone Act.

My proposal won’t cost a dime. Simply get congress and the senate to
pass a law stating that in X, Y, and Z essential services and business,
all incoming phone calls must be answered by real human beings, with
criminal penalties for failing to do so. Add to that another layer of
less essential businesses, institutions, agencies, and organizations who
would not be subject to criminal penalties but would have to pay a
substantial tax for every phone line not manned by a live operator – the
tax designed to exceed the average salary and benefit package that
could otherwise be provided to employ such a worker.

Conveniently, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the government
can levy taxes on persons who omit to arrange health insurance coverage
for themselves. Republican business avatar Mitt Romney reminded us all
not long ago that corporations are people too. So, like the health
insurance slackers, these companies can either cough up a tax to cover
the social affliction they’re responsible for, or pay salaries to real
human beings to answer the screwing telephone.

Answer the Darn telephone. It’s what’s good for America!

Join date : 1969-12-31

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