There’s a big brown cloud in the city,
And the countryside’s a sin.
The price of life is too high to give up,
It’s gotta come down again.
When worldwide war is over and done,
And the dream of peace comes true.
We’ll all be drinking that free Bubble Up,
And eating that rainbow stew.
Normally, I wouldn’t think of quoting the Poet of Walden Pond alongside the Bard of the Working Man, but Thoreau’s words seem to share a certain kinship with the anti-utopian sentiments that underlie Merle Haggard’s bouncy lyrics:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation; a stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.
Driving past the strip malls and big-box stores of East State Street, watching cars dart in and out of 40-acre parking lots as their occupants desperately take advantage of the after-Christmas sales, I have to wonder whether Thoreau could ever have conceived of a day when “the games and amusements of mankind”...