Hola mi gente,
Today, I go back to the belly of the beast to do what is almost impossible: create a group therapeutic environment in that poisonous mess we call Rikers Island.
The Future is Now
A public union employee, a conservative activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the conservative and says, “Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.”
I was raised to believe in the “American Dream.”* I was taught that if I worked hard enough, if I was smart enough, if I got good grades in school, went to a decent college, played by the rules, and worked really really hard, that I could grab at least a measure of that dream. When I was a child, I was assured that the depth of ingenuity and expertise in the U.S. would save us all and that we would become an enlightened society pursuing the further reaches of human nature with the increase of leisure time, as technology and human evolution converged to create a more noble society. A great society preoccupied with eradicating poverty, hunger, and disease.
I believed in a future in which we would conquer space, where solutions for previously untreatable diseases were right around the corner. I was assured that the tension between technological innovation and the environmental havoc it sometimes caused would be resolved.
I believed in this dream because so many people were actually out there on the frontlines fighting to ensure such a society. Everywhere people were engaged in critically questioning the status quo. African Americans and other people of color, women, and the gay pride movement were fighting and challenging the oppressive institutionalized systems that kept us from becoming a greater whole. And in spite of all the conflict, there was the real sense of hope in that people were doing more than talking about it — we were all somehow engaged in ensuring The Dream for all people.
When I was a child, I was assured that we would develop viable alternative energy sources. I was told of a future wherein people — for the first time in human history — could commit the bulk of their lives for their intellectual, spiritual, and material benefit.
Welcome to the future, my friends. I live in a city where it is illegal (and lethal) to be black or brown. Here the color of your skin, not your grades, determination, or educational attainment, matters most. Today, being smart is considered elitist. Worst of all, today you work longer hours for less money — if you’re fortunate enough to be working at all. Millions still are less likely to be able to have access to decent health care, if they have any health care options.
Welcome to the future, it is now — a future of disappointment. And the only reason you haven’t noticed is because you’re too busy jerking off to the latest online celebrity sex tape or watching “reality” shows of “celebrities” whose talents apparently have more to do with sucking NBA cock than having a real talent such as singing, dancing, or painting. Or perhaps you’re too busy watching the latest hit reality show — the presidential election cycle — to notice we’re amusing ourselves to death.
The major economic theory of the past 30 years, the trickle-down theory, is not just a cruel hoax, but has succeeded in exporting most of the good industrial jobs we had left in our country, while the middle class has been disemboweled. There is no free time. You’re fortunate if you can get a job whose major requirement is knowing how to ask, “Want fries with that?”
Still, while you and I struggle to make ends meet, living lives of quiet desperation, the wealthiest one percent have gotten 95% of the income gains since the Great Recession.
Here is the American Dream of the future today: no jobs, no prospects, no leverage, no short-term solutions, no long-term plans, no big ideas to save us. In fact, the current election cycle is predicated on the cynical idea that nothing can be done. That the best we can hope for is a neoliberal war hawk who will maintain the status quo. And I’m talking about Hillary Clinton here, not Donald trump. Meanwhile, the bottom four-fifths struggle to stay afloat, the upper one-fifth cautiously tread water, and the elite continue to accumulate wealth at a rate not seen since the Gilded Age.
In the future of today, CEOs earn monster salaries, corporations receive taxpayer welfare, and most of our representatives in the U.S. Congress can boast of being millionaires. Meanwhile, child poverty levels hover near record levels, a substantial portion of our workforce has stopped looking for work, and food stamp usage sets new records every month even as our political leaders conspire to cut its funding.
Economic inequality has become a so much of a feature in our lives that, for many years, a certain level of inequality was accepted, even encouraged, as incentivizing creativity and rewarding hard work. But in the last several decades, the wealth gap has become so stark, with gains at the top so disproportionate, that social mobility — the opportunity to move from one socioeconomic class to another — has all but disappeared, allowing intergenerational advantage to accumulate and compound in the form of wealth.
Shrinking incomes, fewer jobs… but bigger corporate profits. Not a good sign. Somehow, many of you have been convinced that the answer is doing more of the same: give more to the rich and we’ll all benefit from the resultant odiferous trickle down. What’s obvious is that the rich are not only dedicated to hanging on to what they have but also committed to accumulating more. This salient wisdom gets maybe a yawn from the dumbed-down, apathetic voter. In fact, our country’s concentration of wealth is worse than Egypt.
This is nothing but class warfare and when you try to show, whether through charts and graphs or real-life examples, that the system is rigged in favor of the wealthy and powerful, you’re labeled as unpatriotic, a socialist and/ or communist. What often happens is that, instead of yelling back, “Hell, yes, we’re talking fucking class warfare!” liberals usually fell over themselves in apology, vehemently denying the accusation. They react as if talking about class warfare is tantamount to treason. Neoliberal politicians like Obama and Clinton and their supporters get spooked and fall in line, saying “Look, Eddie, we can’t do social engineering through the tax code. We can’t have free higher education. Single payer will never happen. Stop dreaming!” Yet we spend trillions on a jet fighter that doesn’t even fly. It’s so pathetic they make me sick.
The wealth gap has become so alarming that some billionaires acknowledge that our current economic policies will destabilize our society (duh). In fact, billionaire Warren Buffett contends that the wealthiest Americans should their fair share in taxes.
Someone suckered us along the way. The future we bought into was great until we fell asleep and woke up to find that at some point the future becomes the present. Welcome to the future, it’s here.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…
*Note: To use “America” to describe the United States of America is incorrect. America is the name of a whole continent. United States of America means that the United States belongs to America and not that America belongs to the United States. Using America to describe the U.S. is imperialistic and served to erase the rest of the people who live on the continent.