There’s this guy that used to rap who went by Benefit. I didn’t discover him — because I don’t discover anything music-related — but I would wager that he is the very best pound-for-pound lyricist of all-time. He would probably be considered underground, but labeling him that would imply that he was well-known or even decently known by those that follow these sorts of things. Put another way: the only other person I know who is familiar with Benefit is the guy who told me about him.
He has a song called “Behold,” and it opens like this:
Well my style is free and can't be held in any cage or prison While you resurrect my rhymes and practice blatant plagiarism Living in the age of wisdom but surrounded by the dead A beneficial sage is risen set to pound it in your head
I remember I listened to Benefit for the first time around 2010, and that third line stuck with me even then. Living in the age of wisdom but surrounded by the dead. The brilliance of that line is in its simplicity, and truth. As a 20 year-old, which I was in 2010, I had long ago convinced myself that I was the smart one and most people were stupid. I hear it now, as a 32 year-old, and I am no longer convinced of the first part but am absolutely certain of the second.
To be real, I don’t give very much weight to smarts anymore. I used to think it was the end all, a clear line that differentiated people. Now I believe it to be a more or less worthless distinction. I know plenty of smart people who don’t have much ambition, and I know many people I don’t find very smart who know exactly who they are and are much more successful than I am.
The point about that line — Living in the age of wisdom but surrounded by the dead — applies to almost everyone I know and everything I see on social media. I made a deal with myself to stop getting into stupid arguments on Facebook about politics, but it does seem (to me, anyway) that there’s a certain pride people take in the ignorance they broadcast. Carl Sagan, in an article he wrote in 1995, said it like this:
The dumbing down of America is most evident in slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.
A celebration of ignorance. Pseudoscience. Superstition. It isn’t simply One Big Thing that the public is wrong about; it’s everything; it’s a way of life. It’s a rejection of hard truths and an acceptance of what is easy to grasp. A certain side of America’s political system has deliberately, over many years, catered to these people in the name of Capitalism, and making money off of them, but at this point I feel like we are well past the point of no return. No matter the topic, the con-artists and charlatans will be able to sway half of the public that up is down, left is right, and two plus two equals five.
I saw the other day on Facebook one of my friends post an article saying that the state of California will now allow women to abort their children up to one week after they are born. And he was being serious about it, because linked to the article were two other articles saying the same thing. One was from Breitbart, the other from Turning Point USA.
My first instinct was to leave my friend a comment saying something like “nah bro, this is fake news,” but I lost my fastball a long time ago on social media because at the end of the day I’m just that jagoff friend people have who supported Bernie Sanders in 2016. No matter what I say, regardless if it’s legitimate, can only be seen through the lens of somebody who supports the left.
But this article isn’t about the crazy, crackpot bullshit that we see on a daily basic. Like I said, it’s everything, all the time. It’s people posting that Democrats want to tax people 90 percent of their earnings; it’s that the government is going to go door to door and take your guns away; it’s inflation; it’s gas prices; it’s homeless people costing tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece; it’s all the way down the line.
The colossal failure of the Democratic Party is that the bar was so low after Donald Trump left office in January, 2021, and they were still unable to offer the American people a decent alternative. Liberal friends of mine think I’m crazy for being so convinced of a future that involves the Dems losing the House and/or Senate in 2022, and Trump (or some facsimile thereof) winning the presidency in 2024, but what other alternative exists? The Democrats have owned all three branches of government over the last two years — meaning theoretically they could accomplish anything — yet you would be hard-pressed to identify any one thing they have done to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
It’s obviously not completely true; I can’t sit here and say Joe Biden has been any worse than Donald Trump. I’m merely suggesting that if he has done something well — which I’m sure he has — his party has done an abysmal job of marketing it, or branding it, to Americans. I pay attention more than average, yet I am more focused on all the promises broken — all the things that haven’t been done — which is why I am not dying on any hills for this administration.
That leaves us in a place where you can find truth even in places when there is none to be found. People would rather blame Joe Biden for inflation than do a simple Google search to see that America’s billionaires have gotten more than $2 trillion richer during the pandemic. They would rather blame Joe Biden for rising gas prices than finding out the price per barrel of oil costs less money now than it did ten or fifteen years ago, and that the companies like Chevron and Shell are raking in historic profits. Why do it the hard way and investigate for yourself when everyone in your life is telling you the same wrong thing?
It leaves individuals like me with nowhere to go, really. I am not going to waste all my time correcting people, because I had a solid three- or four-year run when I did that and it probably just made people annoyed by me. I’m also not going to exhaust myself defending a Democratic Party that wants nothing to do with leftists like me. To conservatives, Bernie Sanders supporters are no different than Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton supporters. We all represent “the left,” even though the Democrats themselves prove time and again to be significantly more aligned in their interests to Republicans.
So I’m on an island here. I am relatively silent on social media, knowing it’s getting me nowhere to be the opposite, and I spend my free writing time talking about meaningless items like football. Everything just feels like such a waste of time, even though I’m steadfast in my belief that I’m going to make it in life and prove all the haters wrong and be that socialist guy who ends up making more money than everyone else. It doesn’t have be this way, but I feel like I don’t have any options.
It doesn’t make me feel depressed like it used to, feeling so alone in my beliefs and actions, but I find myself fighting the urge to give up completely. Part of why I enjoy life so much are the challenges that I’m presented. Being the smart one in a room full of dumb ones. Being the right one in a room full of wrong ones. There’s this cliche about when you think everyone else is crazy that actually you are the crazy one. I’m not there, because I can still use legitimate sources to back up everything I say. My most inaccurate takes are always my sports takes. But I can’t deny that I feel a little bit of frustration having to disagree with both my Republican and Democratic friends about pretty much every issue all the time. La-La land is a real place, and I haven’t found it yet because I still refuse to.