Front St. Arts


Hunt for Steel

Center City


Socratic Men

Wild Heart



At the Pond

Celia's Parade


Marsha Taylor

Put Up





The 1960s

Just Briefs


Black Sunday

The Big One

Clark Field

The One

Memphis Woes

A Miracle Maker

Last Standing

John Ealey

Just a Girl

Mary's Katrina

Al Cicada

Exalting Towers


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Sunday Call

Tough Birds

Run of Hollow


Horned Owl


Robbing Bees

Hay Hauling

We Got Married

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Dad Dive

Final Mission

Like About Bob

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Star Shadows



Man of Earth

With Neighbors




River Plunge

Not Winning


Keep It Moving



Trigger Sapping

Get Her Done!

Optimist Wager

Not for Sale

Elder Anarchy


Illustration by Brad McMillan (for CENTER CITY, Memphis, 25 November 1976) 



by Jerry Murley

It was a long time coming, but my family has expected it since 1975 and lived accordingly. I refer to the great economic crash of 2008.

We are chic again, having refrained from participating in most of the economic development and consumption spree of the past three decades. Simple and sustainable is back in vogue – in theory.

I guess a few learned the lessons of the Arab oil embargo and the cold winters of the late 1970s and never forgot them. In truth, my family learned the lessons from our parents, who were children of the Great Depression and whose stories of those days frightened us – and made us long for the adventure of things really being so serious that people had to sacrifice and work together. We liked the thought of being gathered around a lone radio in the household on a cold night gratefully listening to drama, comedy, music, and news from the great world beyond the dirt-poor existence of many in the South. Maybe coming from the South prepared us better.

But this end of an era includes more than the economy. It coincides with a nation-changing election, sixteen years of bitter partisanship, the growth of more new electronic necessities than were necessary, and a string of investment bubbles that everyone knew couldn't last but acted as if they would anyway.

We can change our administration and it can succeed or fail, but nothing will really change until we curb our addictions. You know what I am talking about because everyone you know has a problem with one of them: an addiction to work, food, guns, books, drugs, alcohol, sex, religion, the news, political battles, cultural differences, race, consumption, spectator sports, the Internet, digital music and videos, et cetera, et cetera. These addictions are what our fake economy has been built upon. We all knew it but did little to moderate it.

We consume way too much of everything. For a brief time, I have even become addicted to typing and posting my thoughts on these Web pages as if they mattered and anyone cared.

My wrath is directed as much at the media as at anyone. If we really wanted a peaceful cultural revolution in this country, we would make watching cable TV and surfing through Internet blather a punishment of the severest kind. (However, I suspect and fear that those addictions are what has really given us a reduction in crime of late as it depletes our sleep-deprived, ear-plugged, caffeine- and sweet-charged youth of their vital essence.) I understand old people glued to the wonder of TV from an easychair. I don't understand that the greatest generation and their accidents of propagation don't see the harm all of this does to the nervous system, imagination, and ethical training of children. (Don't get me wrong, children are as mindless as anyone else. But they not only mimic the worst, they make is worse.)

I don't really have any tricks for returning to basics. (And what are basics anyway but what we have to do but don't want to do anymore.) I try as hard as everyone else to shake the addictions that have seeped into my life over the past three decades. Fortunately for me, I am enough of a Luddite and preoccupied with my least troublesome addictions, such as outdoor exercise and old fashion daydreaming, doodling, and letter-writing, that I have arrested my development in terms of the new, more expensive and more unhealthy attractions of modern life in America.

The culture wars that we ought to attend to are not the ones that the bitter right snarls about repeatedly. (I wonder that they do not literally explode with rage. Where's the love?) Our culture war is with addictions such as culture wars and the media that too abundantly feeds our too quickly hungry faces and fleeting minds.

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