A snapshot of America today
Many years from now, future generations will study this absurd period of history and wonder how it was possible to create such an unmitigated disaster of the human condition. Just as we look back on the atrocities of bygone tyrants in the cinema of haughty retrospect, our kids and their offspring will be dumbfounded by the utter ineptitude of this maniacal era. I’m already ashamed of our swiftly unravelling legacy.
In a modern world obsessed with documenting rather than with experiencing life, we tend to view ourselves as protagonists in a surreal film. We see things through a prism of social media, and diminished attention spans have shattered our existence into small, numbing montages of hyperactive insouciance. We have lost control of reality, and we have become desensitised to the capitalist dystopia enveloping us every day.
Unplug for a second. Disconnect from the anxiety turbine. Open your eyes and think for yourself. That is a novel concept, I know, almost like a relic from a bygone age. But that is the only way we can address the grave destruction of human life, hope, freedom and potential that is happening right now, all around the world. That is the only way we can turn the tide before it is too late.
Let us take a brief snapshot of the world. In particular, let us consider the United States of America, that near-mythic bulwark of all that once was great about humanity. Without surrendering to woke hyperbole, it is quite conceivable that the US has never been in a more desolate, divided, disconsolate and devastated predicament than is presently the case. We are living through the grim nadir of a fallen superpower, and most people do not even realise it.
Over 40 million Americans are currently unemployed. That is one of every four people across the country without a job. That is more than the entire population of Poland, Iraq or Canada out of work. That is an unconscionable malfunction of a rotten system that fails to support its people.
Almost 2 million Americans have contracted coronavirus, while more than 100,000 have died from COVID-19. That is the death toll of 9/11 multiplied by 33. That is an entire city the size of Green Bay, Wisconsin completely dead. That is the unspeakable failure of federal government to plan for and respond to global emergencies with anything like enough compassion or skill.
Nearly 27 million Americans have lost employer-sponsored health insurance due to this horrid pandemic. That is 8% of the citizenry unable to access medical care when they need it most. That is the equivalent of every person in Florida being unable to visit a doctor regardless of their ailments. That is the savage consequence of unfettered neoliberalism.
More than 42 million Americans currently receive food stamps, speaking to a deepening food shortage. Just a few weeks ago, the price of oil fell into negative territory, meaning that drillers had to pay people to take the product off their hands. Even the Dow Jones Industrial Average, that supposed panacea of human strife, has lost more than 30% of its value since February.
The foundational pillars of civilisation are being torn asunder.
Digging deeper, the typical white American family has a net worth of $171,000, while the average black American household can muster just $17,150 in assets. Contrary to claims of progress and communal enrichment, we now live in a world where somebody can access 10 times more wealth than their neighbour simply by virtue of having lighter skin. We live in a world where Jeff Bezos will soon be a trillionaire, but where millions struggle to land a job paying even $7.25 per hour.
This madness must end.
For the last seven days, riots have gripped America, sweeping through more than 40 cities and countless smaller towns. The merciless killing of George Floyd, a black Minnesotan, by barbaric white police officers sparked the uprising, but this about much more than gratuitous violence. This is about a populace that is sick and tired of peaceful protest dying at the coalface of big business. This is about drawing a line in the sand and fighting back, because you can only be suppressed for so long.
Sure, people are complaining about looting and opportunistic destruction, but as privileged white males, we are in no position to evaluate those outbreaks. When we profit from a system based entirely on looting – and what is capitalism if not the glorified looting of those less fortunate by those more able? – there is no way to seriously admonish those unruly factions. Rather than shaking our heads in faux disgust, perhaps we should devise a fairer system so that a father does not have to raid a sneaker store to put food on the table for his kids.
Across the spectrum, America is spiralling into a rudderless vortex of vigilante vengeance. The dereliction of duty from supposed offices of power is a heinous crime that must be exposed. At this point, even the most extreme satirists are appalled by Donald Trump and his egoistical stoking of outrage. Meanwhile, from a pool of around 150 million people who satisfy the criteria for consideration, 77-year-old Joe Biden is the Democrats’ best bet for toppling the despot. That Biden’s entire career has been fashioned by the entitled white milieu seems inconsequential. He may just blunder his way into another false dawn of self-gratification.
Elsewhere, the traditional apparatus of distraction has been annihilated, too, forcing Americans to ponder their own mutilation. Major League Baseball is stuck in a labour dispute over salary reductions, millionaires arguing with billionaire while diamonds lay dormant. Basketball is in its third month of shutdown. Gridiron is creating contingency plans in case its season is delayed. Hockey may return soon, but does anybody really care? We are through with franchises quibbling over broadcast deals and draft lottery picks. There is more important stuff to worry about. We have to get our shit together.
All too often, we fail to understand that tomorrow’s history is today’s actuality. Such is the pace of contemporary scrolling, there is never enough time to digest one cataclysmic disaster before another pings into the fleeting limelight. We are never allowed to analyse or dissect one insane meltdown before another fills our television screens, complete with flashing yellow banners and bold alerts of impending doom. We are never allowed to contemplate, because we are so programmed to consume.
Well, it is time to get real, people. It is time to wake up, smell the coffee, and stop spinning passively through meaningless Instagram stories of middle class opulence. It is time to put the phone down, get some fresh air, and think. Yes, actually think - for yourself, that is, not informed by the deluded mainstream choir regurgitated through elitist forums of fake news and hyperactive scaremongering.
Stop watching YouTube videos of how other people are reacting to the systematic meltdown of our planet, and react to it yourself. Get mad. Get angry. Get up and get out. This madness cannot go on, and it is time to shape a new future.
Remarkably, we still have a chance to change. We still have a chance to rewrite the historical conclusion that future generations will read. How do you want to be remembered, when all is said and done? Will you be part of the problem, or a piece of the solution? I know where I want to be: on the front line fighting for equality rather than standing idly on the sidelines, pretending everything is great.