Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  December 18, 2020

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Jingle Balls

It’s the holiday season (whoop-de-do and hickory dock), and a little mass death event isn’t going to get in the way of the requisite nights of whoopie—at least not in Belgium, where a mass orgy was busted earlier this week for flouting proprietary and coronavirus restrictions. The bare-skinned blowout, which took place in an otherwise nondescript home opposite a hospital treating Covid patients, was held in honor of a French woman’s twenty-eighth birthday and required frolickers to plop down $310 for booze, drugs, escorts, and miscellaneous tools for merry-making. The police-scuttled festivities took place some one hundred miles to the south and less than a month after an all-male bacchanal was broken up in Brussels, an orgy which just so happened to be graced by the presence of Jozsef Szajer, a preeminent figure in Hungary’s exceedingly homophobic Fidesz party. Mr. Szajer resigned shortly after being found cavorting at the strictly stag affair, perhaps because it’s a bad look for Viktor Orban’s crusade to deny the humanity of homosexuals to have such an indiscreet homophile among his ranks. 

 

Till Death Do Us Part

Across the pond, Americans have continued their unabashed celebrations of the end of sex (read: marriage) in distinctly American fashion, which is to say by utterly disregarding the health and safety of the battalion of workers required to realize their very special day. As Texas Monthly reports, wedding photographers in the Lone Star state have spent the pandemic getting abused, belittled, and threatened by brides and their frightful cadre of color-coordinated maids. One photographer reports having to work a wedding in which the groom had tested positive for the coronavirus. “Don’t freak out,” one bridesmaid assured the photographer. “He doesn’t have symptoms. He’s fine.” The photographer (who is asthmatic and has three children) contemplated leaving the reception early. “I have children,” she told a deranged bridesmaid. “What if my children die?” The bridesmaid responded, “I understand, but this is her wedding day.”

 

Supermarket Swept

Elsewhere in the great state of Texas, one high school has opened an on-campus grocery store so students can purchase necessities including toilet paper, meat, and basic food items. Linda Tutt High School, likely concerned by news that some 20 percent of people living in the richest country in the world don’t have enough food to eat, decided to partner with a local church and Albertsons grocery to open the store, run entirely by students who manage the inventory and stock the shelves. Better yet, eschewing cash, the store allows starving students to make purchases with points earned from doing good deeds. The store is open Mondays through Wednesdays for students and employees in the school district, and for one hour on Tuesday for the public. On December 15, the store will be open to the entire community in the small town of Sanger. This story inexplicably comes to us via CNN’s vertical The Good Stuff; hoping to “brighten” your day, it reports on “the good in life” but seems primarily to dredge up weepy sludge from the dark recesses of our callous and selfish society and pass it off as “inspiring” uplift. 

 

Happiest Season

We much prefer the cold discomfort of accurate reportage to the phony pap of “the good in life.” Take, for instance, a new report from the Washington Post, which illustrates how, despite the fact that forty-five of the most valuable publicly traded companies in the United States turned a profit between April and September, at least twenty-seven of them laid off a cumulative hundred thousand-odd workers. Berkshire Hathaway laid off over thirteen thousand employees, Cisco nixed nearly four thousand, AT&T let three thousand four hundred go—need we go on? And that’s to say nothing of the corporate leviathans who, when not homogenizing culture, skirting safety regulations, or committing sundry other cruelties, actually “lost” money this year: Disney laid off thirty-two thousand employees, while Boeing sent twenty-six thousand straight to the unemployment rolls. 

 

Tragedy of the Commons

Private equity and tech-addled lamebrains have been tinkering in the sphere of “communal living” for years now in hopes of finding new ways to repackage increasing economic precarity as something akin to spiritual advancement. Enter Prophet Walker and Joe Green on this cursed plane of innovation. They hope their LA-based co-living startup Treehouse will have “the togetherness of intentional communities like co-ops, communes, or Burning Man”—only “without the anticapitalist politics.” Nearly sixty-seven thousand individuals are currently unhoused in Los Angeles County, but Treehouse is not for them: rents start at $1,715 a month, plus a $210 fee to cover utilities, housekeeping, free coffee and Sunday dinners, yoga classes, etc. “Truly,” Prophet prophesies, “we’re trying to build a community.”

 

Soul on Ice

As for those urgently in need of housing, society has nothing for them. Unless you’re a former hockey player fallen on hard times, in which case Toronto police will go out of their way to locate your hockey card, purchase it, put it in a protective case, and proceed to photograph themselves handing it to you in the middle of winter while you remain homeless. This thoughtful gesture, this rare display of human decency at the end of a year that has played host to the full sweep of human wickedness, has warmed the collective heart of the internet, users of which look on this virtuous tableau and ask: Wouldn’t food and shelter have been more helpful? 

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