Wednesday, August 11, 2004Death Match
I have long been a proponent of Frank Zappa's assertion that the world will end not by fire or ice, but by nostalgia. Lately, however, in conversations with my friend Taylor, I have developed a new theory of Armageddon. It will no doubt strike many as a scenario that reflects too many years spent in the southern United States, but I think it bears mentioning, if only so I can posthumously collect on my bet when it finally comes to pass.
The two opposing forces that will bring about the end of the world are -- pay attention, now -- Wal-Mart and kudzu.
Yes, I'm serious. Think about it: these two phenomena are merely two sides of the same dark energy. Kudzu is a pernicious herbacious weed that smothers and ultimately destroys everything with which it comes into contact; Wal-Mart is a pernicious economic weed that smothers and ultimately destroys everything with which it comes into contact. Two irresistable, inviolable forces, they are, in the greater sense, the same thing: one side represents indifferent, ravenous nature, and the other indifferent, ravenous free-market capitalism. Nobody has been able to hold back the encroachment of either for long, and where a seed lands, destruction inevitably follows sooner or later. Kudzu is legendary for its phenomenal rate of growth, but I'm here to tell you that the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Goodman Road in Horn Lake, Mississippi, has grown by 60 sq. ft. per year since it was erected, at least on the inside.
Taylor believes that ultimately the kudzu will win, in exactly the same way that paper beats rock. I'm not so sure; as the kudzu continues to submerge the rest of civilization, eventually the only place left to run will be the fortress housing the sole force strong enough to beat back kudzu: Wal-Mart. At first, the battle lines will be drawn at the edges of the parking lot, the asphalt gradually beating back the vines to accomodate the abandoned cars left by customers who no longer plan to ever leave the safety of the Wal-Mart. The people will gather inside the fluorescent-lit bunkers, singing paeans to Sam Walton as the vines creep around the foundations and the steel girders groan under the weight. Every dollar will be spent inside Wal-Mart, each Supercenter and Neighborhood Market connected to every other by a complex system of tunnels and subways which will be discovered below the foundations of even the oldest Wal-Marts; it will be unclear whether these tunnels pre-date the onset of Armageddon (suggesting an ominous degree of planning on the part of the Head Office in Bentonville), or whether they grew of their own accord after the fact.
Eventually a race of pasty, squishy grubworm-like people will evolve, subsisting only on discount Doritos, Sam's Choice peanut butter cups, McDonald's hamburgers, and 1-gallon jars of dill pickles that only cost a buck. The race will begin to exchange labor for protection from the kudzu, becoming not paying customers but simple serfs; the General Manager will be as a god among men, exercising le droit du seigneur and jus primae noctis. Advanced specimens of the new species will develop the ability to consume and digest any form of synthetic material or fiber, and within their bodies to transform that material into excrement in the shape of a regular, consistent form of currency. Consumption leads to production which leads to further consumption; the perfect free-market cycle will become a closed circuit and humanity will attain its most refined, elevated economic form. Ironically, this form will be based on a synergistic relationship between the hosts and the parasites (Wal-Mart and the grubworm people respectively... or vice versa; experts disagree) and as such will ultimately come to closely resemble classical socialism.
And in the final days of this millenia-long battle between the forces of Wal-Mart and the forces of kudzu, the earth will adapt a dual-strata structure, with Wal-Mart occupying even the deepest parts of the planet's crust, and a thick layer of kudzu completely enshrouding the surface. With nothing left upon which to cling or climb except itself, the sheer weight of the miles-thick kudzu layer will begin to collapse inward, suffocating its own taproots and ultimately -- finally -- bringing about that which seemed impossible: the end of kudzu.
Either that, or the kudzu will become sentient and eventually constitute the Earth's dominant (and only intelligent) lifeform. But that seems a little far-fetched to me.