Zeitgeist

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By Steven T. Jones
Zeitgeist, in addition to being my satellite office, is an aptly named bar. The place and the people it attracts seem to capture the spirit of our troubled times, drawing together counterculture rebels and many of the cogs in the very machines that we are fighting against (albeit usually young people striving to stay hip despite their day jobs).
After a few days worth of a running e-mail argument with SFSOS’s Ryan Chamberlin about his ridiculous but successful efforts to stop a pot club from locating in his Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, it was weird to bump into him at Zeitgeist. We rarely see eye-to-eye about anything politically, but we each try not to hold grudges and share an appreciation for the Zeitgeist…as well as this bar.
So we continued our e-argument face-to-face over beers. He likes the wholesomeness of red states and wants there to be little red enclaves in San Francisco, free from pot clubs and other undesirable elements. Ya know, for “the children.” I argue that he’s being moralistic, judgmental, and unrealistically trying to control things beyond his control.
Soon, some guy next to us was leaning into the conversation, and when I asked where he stood on the question, he backed me up. But then he got a mischievous smile on his face when I asked for his story. “I work in the White House,” he said, to which I replied for both of their benefits, “Well, you guys should get along great.”
They didn’t, but he and I did. Well, from there it got curiouser and curiouser, they say, as my new friend (whose identity I confirmed, but will protect for now), his buddy, and I headed down the rabbit hole of discussing at length American empire, international law, Iraq, war crimes, and impeachment – all with a White House lawyer, around my age of 37, who is directly involved with all these questions. He’s a careerist who just happened to fall in with the neocons, and he shared my belief in the malevolence of characters like Dick Cheney, but he still believes that only American power, exerting globally on people whether they like it or not, can fix this almost hopeless situation our country has created for itself.
And I came away feeling like all of us, from local activists and journalists to those controlling the levers of power, are just bumbling our way through life, pretending like we know what we’re doing and trying not to fuck things up worse than they were before. Maybe that is the modern American Zeitgeist.