I don’t remember the exact quote, but I know Chuck Klosterman wrote it in one of his books. It’s something along the lines of:
Most of my friends believe the world is going to shit, but all of them are convinced that one day they will find individual success.
Again that isn’t a direct quote, but I think the sentiment is in the right ballpark. I find myself surrounded by people who think the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but most remain optimistic that their personal future is in good hands. I’m not any different. I just think we’re going in the wrong direction for a different reason.
There has been a lot of white-splaining the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. I’ve found the most vocal people on Facebook are significantly more upset about the reaction to the murder — the protests, the rioting, the looting — than they were about the murder itself. There has been a particularly strong urge, just as every other time a cop abuses power and needlessly kills someone, to let the world know that NOT ALL COPS ARE BAD.
The only reasonable facsimile I can compare it to is when there’s a mass shooting. There are a lot of initial thoughts and prayers sent out, but gun-lovers will be damned if anyone uses that opportunity to criticize gun policy in the United States and maybe — just maybe — call for some sensible gun reform. It’s not the guns, they say, it’s the people.
And it’s the same every time a police officer kills an unarmed black person. It’s not all police, of course. It’s simply a few bad apples. Then it happens again, and again, and again, and nothing ever changes.
I am obviously about as far-left as anyone I know, but I tend to believe if the same things continually happen — whether it’s with mass shootings or police brutality — then it is probably deeper than a people problem. I know I can sometimes sound crazy for saying “bad things are bad and we should try to fix them,” but when the same story gets written over and over the only reasonable conclusion I can draw are that the problems are systemic and institutional. They have to be. Faces and names will change, but the issues stay the same.
For a long time politics in America have been performance art. It’s theater. Whether it’s Donald Trump taking a photo opportunity to hold up a bible or a bunch of Democrats in Congress taking a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds, all we see are symbolic gestures. They don’t really mean anything. They might make an impact on a swath of pudding-brained old people, but the youth of America — the 40 and under crowd — know that the only way things change is through policy. Until policy changes, everything will stay the same and the issues we are and have been dealing with will only continue.
Back to the original kind-of quote: most people agree that the future is going in a negative direction. But it doesn’t stop them from believing in their own personal plan for a positive direction. I’d guess that’s human nature. The only difference seems to be why the world is going in the wrong direction.
People on the opposite side that I’m on think the world is going downhill because everything is becoming more “liberal”. They see protesters in the streets, or Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, or two gay men kissing on live television, and they think society itself is moving too far to the left. It is a perspective completely devoid of policy; instead, “the left” is just a large umbrella for everything they disagree with.
Those on my side think the world is going downhill because society is inching closer to fascism. They see Mexicans locked up in cages at the border, or corporations making it more difficult for workers to organize and unionize, or states making it harder on women to get abortions, or both political parties agreeing on giving the banks and military more money and power, or both political parties agreeing on being against Medicare For All and increasing the minimum wage, or the two-tiered criminal justice system, and they see a polarized country of haves and have nots. Notice that feelings are not involved in this worldview. It’s literally what is happening.
Both sides think they have it figured out, but only one of them seems to be rooted in reality. The difference is the perpetual battle between feelings and facts. The right take it as a slight every time the smallest bit of legislation is put forth to make it harder to buy guns, yet they either don’t realize or don’t understand that with a Republican-majority Senate, nothing is ever going to pass on gun control. Because the Republican Party is in bed with the NRA, who has substantial lobbying power, and they aren’t going to do a damn thing to upset them.
In the meantime, the only meaningful policy that passes is to increase military power, give more free handouts to the largest and most profitable banks, and give more tax breaks to the billionaire class and massive corporations. Many people on the right don’t seem to care about those things because they are so tied up in minor grievances that don’t even come to fruition.
There is a ton of blame to go around on this, but from the perspective of a Leftist I can’t help but put the lion’s share of it onto the Democratic Party establishment. Leaders like Nancy Pelosi (House Speaker) and Chuck Schumer (Senate minority leader) are just so old and so white and so goddamn filthy rich that they have no fucking clue what is going on in the average American household. And because they lack the courage to do what’s necessary, and offer the people a credible alternative to Donald Trump and the Republican Party, ordinary workers are basically stuck between two virtually identical parties.
So I have a hard time blaming the 40 million Americans who are currently out of work for protesting, and rioting, and looting. The George Floyd murder was a tragedy in a long line of tragedies orchestrated by police officers against unarmed black people. But in many ways it was simply the match that struck the fuse of unrest littered all about American society of the last decade-plus. I would argue it’s actually like 40 years in the making, but I don’t want to conflate black problems (which have been like 400 years in the making) with the economic problems (which have basically been around since the 1980’s) all races are dealing with.
On this blog I make it a habit to consistently return to economics, because I’m of the mind that when people are comfortable and making money they are much less prone to get out in the streets (with the exception of many celebrities looking for good press). The only way to accomplish an uprising like we have seen over the last couple weeks is in an environment where people feel like they have very little to lose. I think if you give everyone healthcare, a job with a decent wage, and a little spending money on the side, then citizens will have less reason to feel aggrieved by the system.
Unfortunately, times have gotten so desperate in the United States that healthcare is not at all easily accessible for millions of people. 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And our way of life continues to decline. People can only take so much before they ultimately decide that enough is enough.
I’m hopelessly an optimist, so I still believe in a future that is worth living. I just think most of the dinosaurs — the 75-and-older crowd — are going to have to die off before any of us are able to enjoy it. The book is out on how millennials feel about Capitalism and Socialism, and if Baby Boomers think millennials are bad just wait until they see the generation after us — Generation Z — and just wait until both of our generations have kids that are old enough to vote.
The struggle will be getting to that point. American billionaires are vindictive people, and I can’t shake the feeling that many, or most, of them would rather see the world burn than have to experience a reality where they have to pay a few more dollars in taxes. I mean, all the climate scientists say a tipping point for the Earth will be around 2050, but we haven’t even gotten started yet on trying to reverse our carbon emissions. We have no plan.
Then you look at secondary issues, like Medicare For All, The Green New Deal, increasing the minimum wage, expanding Social Security, or providing free college to kids, and you realize these billionaires will absolutely fight tooth and nail to deny working people the same opportunities that they themselves enjoy as a way of life. There’s a strong urge to blame those at the bottom for being too lazy, or too entitled, but the fact of the matter is that most billionaires never had to work a day in their life. They just project what they do onto poor and working people because they know it so well.
Yes, at the rate we are currently at the world is going down. But it isn’t because society is getting too liberal, and it isn’t because working people are too lazy and entitled. It’s due to the simple fact that virtually every aspect of life is getting harder on those at the bottom, which automatically means it’s better for those at the top. In a world where those at the top have everything, and those at the bottom struggle for the most basic necessities of life, there can only be one logical conclusion.
That conclusion is an all-out revolution. It may not happen for another 20 years, or another 100 years, but unless something changes it most certainly is coming. Every so often — as with the response to the George Floyd murder — we are offered a preview. We see millions of people in the streets, we see property getting looted and destroyed, and we see violence. The billionaires and the people we watch on the news hate it. It must terrify them.
But it’s nothing compared to what it ultimately will be. And it’s nothing that can’t be prevented. Those at the top have choices in this matter. Right now, and for as long as any of us can remember, their choice has been to hoard as much wealth as possible. It’s been to beef up the military (even though there isn’t a clear enemy other than the loose-fitting label of “terrorism”), and to expand the power of police departments.
If you want to keep the masses at bay, you give them what they want, which in this case is also what they deserve. They deserve justice. They deserve healthcare. They deserve education. They deserve a job with a living wage and retirement benefits to where they can live out their lives in dignity. Any one of those things will help the problem. Right now those at the top are unwilling to deliver on anything.
Me? I don’t need a lot. If I can keep a good job and buy a house and be able to one day provide for a family, I’ll be all right with that. All my extra ambitions — like owning a business someday, or purchasing a McLaren P1 — are exactly that: extra. I don’t believe I’m being unreasonable here.