Generally speaking, I’m an optimist. I always like to look at the glass as half-full, and I rarely complain about the world around me.
Oh wait. That’s not true.
All I do is complain about the world around me.
In fact, I wake up every day wondering how I’m going to screwed by life. I’m an eternal pessimist. I’m the guy standing on the street corner with the sign that reads “The End is Nigh”.
But just because I’m crazy, doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
If anything about the events of the past three months has shown me, it’s that everything is broken. Everything.
Every. Single. Thing.
Healthcare is broken. Race relations are broken. The educational system is broken. The prison system is broken. The relationship between the public and law enforcement is completely broken. Economic disparity has never been worse, and of course, the political system is entirely broken. We can’t even manage to get voting right.
And there is no help on the horizon. Joe Biden is not the answer.
I had to leave Facebook for a few days and stay away from the news because my anger and frustration was growing and manifesting in a way that made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.
I watched the video of George Floyd and I grew angry. And then I watched the video of stores being looted in Minnesota and I grew angry. And then I saw video of cops in Michigan shooting pepper balls at people for standing outside their homes after curfew, and I grew angrier still. And then curfew came to NY, and I watched the images of windows being smashed and police vehicles burning, and I grew angrier still. And then I saw an old man get pushed to the ground like a rag doll, and storm troopers in hockey pads walk past him, and my anger grew like a cancerous tumor until it affected my sleep. All this on the heels of a two-month lockdown.
But worst of all were the hurtful and ignorant and insensitive comments that I saw posted on Social media. People on all sides of every argument pointing fingers at each other. Some of them friends. Some of them family. Most just acquaintances; people I thought I knew. But I found myself getting angry at the people I loved, wanting to lash out at them, hurt them verbally. So I stepped away before it consumed me.
For three days I stayed away. I worked, and I read, and I stayed silent for a few rotations of the earth.
This morning, my company had a conference call on our version of Zoom. The topic was about race in America, and I assumed that it was going to be a lecture about how we should behave at work and respect each other. But it wasn’t. It was an open forum where anyone could express how they were feeling about the current state of affairs. At first, I stayed in the background and listened to some of my black co-workers talk about the number of times they had been pulled over for no reason, or been humiliated in front of their families. I listened as two of my white bosses talked about how they had been raised by racist men whose vile invective shaped their childhoods. I stayed in the shadows, listening, holding back tears and anger, and yet wanting desperately to raise my hand, but resisting, knowing full well that I only wanted to fill my own ego, and satisfy that urge for constant attention. I wanted to sound smart and important; to impress my friends and bosses with how much I thought I knew about this broken world and all the broken people in it, but instead, I stayed silent.
For probably the first time in my life, I stayed silent.
And then I went to sleep, and when I awoke, I watched a documentary with my wife about a magical time and a magical place, and when she went up to bed, I came here to write.
And while I may romanticize the 60’s, and southern California, and the hippie culture and Woodstock and the Moon Landing, I gloss over the fact that things were worse then than they are now. There were riots in Detroit and Newark and Watts and Chicago. I’ve seen the images of snarling german shepherds and men with firehoses and nightsticks. I see these things now, in my mind, and it makes me realize that I have absolutely nothing in the world to complain about. I’ve got it better than 90% of the world; better than 90% of all the people who have ever lived on this planet, but still, I remain… unfulfilled.
The only difference between then and now, is they had Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King to lead them, even if it was for a short time. We have Sharpton and Trump, two charlatans selling magic elixir from the side of a traveling show.
And somewhere down in this bottomless pit of an ego, I think that I have some type of solution, some type of answer, as if just doing pushups and eating broccoli and posting witticisms on Facebook will solve the world’s ills.
As if I wasn’t part of the problem.
As if I wasn’t THE problem.
But no one thinks that they are the problem.
Everyone thinks that it’s the other guy.
There are three universal truths about people:
Everyone thinks that they are good drivers.
Everyone think that they have a great sense of humor.
And everyone thinks they are great in bed.
Add to that, everyone thinks the other guy is the problem. Nowhere is that more evident than in politics and media. When is the last time that you’ve seen anyone take even an ounce of blame? Oh, I don’t mean apologize, we see that all the time, but it reeks of insincerity because the only reason they apologize is because they got caught, and they are worried that the cancel culture will erase them.
-A movie star gets harassed by some verminous member of the paparazzi and he retaliates by calling him a schoolyard insult, and then has to go on late night TV and kow-tow before the audience in order to retain his standing in the world.
-Or someone else has to defend an opinion they had 20 years ago, even though they may not have been wrong, but because it’s now an unpopular idea.
Free speech is a dying concept in this country. You’re only allowed to speak freely if your ideas agree with the orthodoxy, otherwise, you get cancelled.
And under it all, under all the disfunction in the world, lies the almighty dollar, because in the end, thats what really makes people tick.
Let’s face it. We blew it.
Nature gave us this beautiful, magnificent planet. A place of wonder and abundance and we pretty much have run it into the ground. We were given a place with enough water, and land, and resources, and opportunity, but once upon a time, some selfish bastard said, “one house isn’t enough, I want another”. So he took advantage of someone weaker, someone less sophisticated, and he subjugated him, and he got his second house, and then he wanted a third. And then soon, his neighbor wanted a 2nd home, so he subjugated someone else, and pretty soon, greed spread like a virus, infecting us all in some ways, until the concept of “daily bread” became a lifetime of abundance for some, and abject poverty for others.
And best of all, those in power convinced those who weren’t that they were lucky to have what they have, and they should be grateful.
I should be grateful too, but I’m not. I want that 2nd house. In Maui.
So we raped the land, and poisoned the rivers, and then we passed laws protecting those who raped the land and poisoned the rivers, and we solved our disputes in the easiest way possible.
We started wars.
Lots of them.
10,000 years worth of wars.
Mostly over land; some over religion, some over oil, but mostly because one guy had too much and the other guy had too little. That was our answer.
It still is.
But now, it seems like the war is at home.
I don’t claim to have the answers. Hell, I’m not even sure what the real problem is, or where to start. From the looks of it, neither does anyone else. But they are all too willing to blame the other guy.
Me? Today, I write.
Tomorrow, I’ll listen.