“The end of apartheid should have been a fucking bloodbath by any metric in human history and it wasn’t. The only reason it wasn’t was because Desmond Tutu and Mandela and all these guys figured out that if a system is corrupt then the people who adhere to the system and are incentivized by that system are not criminals. They are victims. The system itself must be tried!” ~ Dave Chappelle, “Bird Revelation”
All good things must come to an end.
And all bad things too – although it usually takes a little more time to stop the bad things.
I think our country is headed for a violent revolution not unlike the French Revolution. And although it is unpalatable to speak out loud, I think conservatives such as Donald Trump and Dick Cheney – anyone trying to halt progress and conserve the dying, white, male, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, Judeo-Christian hegemony – should fear for their heads. As America’s greatest living historian Dave Chappelle recently pointed out on his Netflix special “Bird Revelation,” it is not entirely their fault. These people – yes, slaveowners, rapists, sexual predators, warmongers – must be regarded as VICTIMS of a system. I am not certain what to call this system, but since “apartheid” is already taken we can refer to it as “America,” a country absurdly named after a mapmaker who never touched our soil. The system “America” is buttressed primarily by subsystems such as capitalism, religion, science, and the myth of romance, all of which I analyze in my new book “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult.” As I state on page 82 of the book, “Although our country was founded on the highest of ideals, after only 250 years we may have run amok, run aground, gone awry.”
The founding fathers did not account for the possibility that their ideals would be so corrupted and manipulated and that we would become governed by a selfish, myopic oligarchy only concerned with the bottom line. Human life, the planet, animals and all natural resources are disposable to them and do not compare in importance to trillions of dollars in stocks dividends and capital gains. Politicians no longer represent constituents; they make decisions based on the bribes they accept in the form of campaign contributions. Politics has devolved to theater and our saving grace may be that theater – Dave Chappelle, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert – has risen to politics.
Here are the two psychological phenomena that the founding fathers did not heed:
1. Power corrupts. The more powerful people become, the easier time they have justifying their own heinousness. As Chappelle remarks about Bill Cosby’s apparent cognitive dissonance: “Save some, rape some.” Power corrupts. If you don’t believe me just research all of the banned social psychology experiments like the Stanford Prison Experiment.
2. There are unwitting ramifications of organized religions that exacerbate this problem. I know fully well how horrifying it is to some people to blame organized religion in general (and Christianity in particular), but we need to look at how the Protestant Work Ethic has been transmuted in our society in the last 100 years. The Judeo-Christian ethos fools people into thinking that we live in a meritocracy – the subconscious paradigm is that, “All people are created equal, thus if people become rich, that’s just God’s way of rewarding them for working hard.” Clearly this is an utter fiction, complete nonsense, but as a culture we have come to worship the almighty dollar – we trust weekend box office tallies more than film critics, bestseller lists more that book critics, glossy magazines rather than music critics, and Sotheby’s instead of our own eyes.
The fact of the matter is that America is a caste system where a tiny percentage of people have upward mobility (most often by marriage, not by work) while the majority of Americans have seen their quality of life decline for the past 50 years. As I also write on page 82 of my book, “It seems as if the concept or myth of meritocracy has become a way of controlling people, of making them work harder and harder for less and less, making them feel that it is their own fault when they do not “succeed” ( i.e., get rich). And this myth of meritocracy is so powerful that it even makes people vote against their own interests.”
Anyone who thinks that there is equality of opportunity in this country is an ignoramus. If people do succeed they casually forget that it was not only hard work that contributed to their success but it was because they enjoyed the benefits of white privilege, or happened to be born in 1955 like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, or had wealthy grandparents, or went to elite summer camps and Ivy League universities, or vacationed in exclusive places with people whose fathers they could later call to help them get high paying corporate jobs, or rode the real estate boom, or rode the tech boom… the fact of the matter is that there is always a confluence of events that contributes to one’s ability to earn money, but for some reason Americans seem to be obsessed with the fiction that working hard is to be applauded. On page 84 of my book I write, “No sane person wants ‘Worked Really Hard’ on his or her tombstone, yet every day I hear people respond to the question ‘How are you?’ with ‘Crazybusy!’” Let’s get real about how much we are actually contributing to progress, people…or are you struggling with time management because you are enslaved to a debt (mortgage, credit card, student loan) that society fooled you into undertaking?
The only authentic voices I have heard regarding classes are Robert Reich, Slavoj Žižek, Nick Hanauer, who claims in his brilliant TED talk that “Rich people don’t create jobs,” and Warren Buffet who admits paying 17.4% of his yearly income in taxes while his secretary pays 36% of hers.
We need to have an honest discussion about white privilege that Dave Chappelle begins by rhetorically asking us, “Ever wonder why it was easier for Bruce Jenner to change his gender than Cassius Clay to change his name???”
Here are ten steps we can take towards having the right conversations and avoiding another civil war:
1. Abolish the electoral college. Why should a Wyoming resident’s vote count 3.6 times more than mine in California? How is it possible that two of the last five presidents lost the popular vote in a representative democracy?
2. Outlaw Political Action Committees and limit campaign spending. Bribery must be abolished by strict regulations We live in a representative democracy. Representatives are elected to vote for the constituents who voted them into office. Websites with the representatives’ views should be established and then constituents check off their own viewpoints to find out which candidate best represents their views.
3. Eliminate the antiquated voting by paper chad system. All registered voters should be voting by their telephones or by computers. And this will also eliminate the completely unnecessary two party system: dividing the country into Democrats and Republicans lies somewhere between stupid and insane. The two party system is an impediment to progress.
4. Abolish all religious 501(c)3s and most of the other 501(c)3s that function as tax dodges for rich people. Every decent human knows that REAL philanthropy is done ANONYMOUSLY. If your face is on the cover of Time Magazine as Man of the Year because you know how to sign a check, then you are an egomaniac, not a philanthropist. All religious institutions and all vanity 501(c)3s should pay taxes just like the rest of us. Gore Vidal unveiled this travesty in the 1970s so I am merely reiterating his point. Billions of taxes dollars are lost each year to these pious holier-than-thou cheaters.
5. Fix our educational system. Our school system originated to produce factory workers. Our “one-size-fits-all” highly competitive system is now just producing depressed and anxious bingers who then have to figure out how to become adults while shouldering an average of $26,000 in student loans. University should be free for all like it is in Europe, and children should have a wide range of subjects to study such as “How to be Happy,” How to Have Loving Relationships,” and “How to Lead a Balanced Life,” not just biology, chemistry and math. The entire educational system needs to be revamped from the ground up.
6. Define groups such as the Ku Klux Klan as terrorist organizations and refine the first amendment to curtail hate speech.
7. Stop trying to privatize entitlements such as medicare, etc. We need to have a government in which we trust again, one that provides the services and protections that all citizens deserve. Nobody is in favor of BIG government. All Americans stand completely united in favor of EFFICIENT government.
8. Figure out an equitable tax system so that our government does not have to borrow billions or trillions of dollars every year to pay for the basic amenities to which we have grown accustomed, i.e., schools, roads, libraries, police, fire departments, defense, healthcare, etc.
9. Have quotas so that all groups are fairly represented in government: if 50.8% of the population is female then 50.8% of our politicians should be female; if 13% of the population is black then 13% of our politicians should be black; if 5.7% of the population is Asian then 5.7% of our politicians should be Asian; if 4.1% of the population is LGBT then 4.1% of our politicians should be LGBT.
10. Anyone who doesn’t believe in a Single Payer Healthcare system is on the wrong side of history. It’s coming. And in 50 years when historians look back they will praise Barack Obama for initiating the change. It will take another 20 years to get all of the corrupt white men earning millions and millions of dollars out of the healthcare system, but it is going to happen.
I do not think Matt Lauer or Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump or Bill Cosby or the CEOs of the insurance companies were born evil or greedy, or ever thought when they were children, “When I grow up I want to be rich and powerful so that I can oppress people, take advantage of the less fortunate, rape women, etc.” But power corrupts. Period. And we need to a new system to regulate the privileges of powerful people because left to their own devices we cannot trust them to police themselves.
Lastly, students usually cause a ruckus when I claim that “science” – the supposed acme of rational thought – could be problematic. However, science devoid of ethics is just as likely to devise gas chambers and atom bombs as it is to discover penicillin or send men to the moon.
We are post truth, post apartheid, post white male history, post liberal democracy and very soon we may be post America. Any survivors will be thankful to people like Dave Chappelle, John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, social critics like Susan Faludi, activists like Rose McGowan and all of the #MeToo signatories who are leading the way towards having the right conversations, as difficult as those conversations may be.
Those authentic conversations are our only hope of averting the next big bang.