And they want you to know they’re in charge. Even though concomitantly they’ve broken the system.
We used to live in an era of authority. Oh, I don’t mean “authoritarian,” I mean we respected those who paid their dues, via education and experience, to tell us what was going on, instruct us and lead us.
But today everybody is a leader. And what followers there are are so deep into their beliefs that they hate you and what you do, whatever it is, if it impacts them at all, sometimes even if it doesn’t!
People used to know their place. There was a ladder, and if you chose not to climb it, cool, but don’t tell us what is going on, what to believe.
If you lived through the sixties…we didn’t get everything we sought, but society did change, the youth had power, and then these same youth became narcissistic greedmongers in the eighties, and the nineties were an economic triumph, and then the internet blew it all apart.
You could understand the world prior to the internet, now you’re not sure what is going on. And every time you look, you’re insulted, you’re late to the game, you’ve got it wrong, to the point where you push back and say no, I do know, or lick your wounds and stray from the fray. Yes, the most important thing in the twenty first century isn’t money, although that is very important, but personality. Are you willing to get in someone’s face? Are you willing to stand up to criticism? Are you willing to bark back? Are you willing to do and say what’s expedient? Then you’ve got a chance.
We didn’t expect it to be this way, especially after the fall of the wall, the end of Communism, we expected harmony to reign worldwide.
But this didn’t suit the purpose of the most narcissistic. And the funny thing is once people got their freedom, they surrendered it, it was just too scary to go your own way on a big scale, better to leave your adventures to the small screen, on a computer or smartphone.
So we were always waiting to get to the show, but now baseball is not only not America’s pastime, the only people who pay attention are fans, the number of which is dwindling. The World Series used to be everything now it’s barely a thing. And playing baseball in November is like skiing in July. The timing is wrong for all but diehards, and the conditions are not optimal for skilled geniuses to prevail.
But then action sports died. As well as ESPN. The X-Games was a thing, but now the Olympics have surfing and skateboarding and once you kowtow to public opinion, you’ve lost it. Kinda like STEM studies. The liberal arts are history and college is a bona fide finishing school for business students. It’s a rat race, and if you drop you, you can’t even survive, you can’t pay the bills.
And of course there is overarching change, like the on demand culture, that the oldsters still can’t quite get a grip on, for decades they were told acquisition was key, that he or she who died with the most toys wins, and now kids don’t even get driver’s licenses, never mind cars, and we’re supposed to care about your expensive iron? We rent what we need when we want it. And the badges of honor are where you’ve been, what experiences you’ve had, and the number of followers you’ve got.
That’s even more important than money, your horde. Which is paraded on your Instagram or Twitter account. This is where you prove your worth. And maybe you can turn it into cash, but for those who grew up in an era where you had to have skill to make big bucks, it’s hard to fathom a world where you can game the system and become rich on nothing. Credit the Kardashians, they were there first.
And they represent the “beauty” tribe. You know, remake yourself with plastic surgery until you fit present norms of beauty. But what happens when hair comes back after you’ve eradicated it, when thin lips are in, when thin eyebrows are in… You’re lost in the past, but this represents how we’re all living for today. The Earth is gonna burn up, and supposedly Social Security is gonna dry up, and if Jesus doesn’t come back to save us we’re screwed anyway, so we might as well party like it’s…
Not 1999. But Prince O.D.’ed, Tom Petty too. Used to be that was seen as tragic, now all it gets is a shrug of the shoulders and endless Twitter tributes. Yup, the stars are just like us, addicted to opioids.
And we’ve got a President who lies at will, oftentimes multiple times a day, but he wants to keep his Twitter count up, he too is playing the game, and those inured to the old game are flummoxed and left out, losers.
And Trump has illustrated those left behind, and racist, want their say too. It’s not only rich people in the Republican party… They want government off their backs while they invade your life and tell you when and where you can get an abortion, if you can. Which is head-spinning if you’re a Democrat, but you can scream all you want, you can’t get your message out.
No one can get their message out. Even Taylor Swift. She nailed the marketing game two years ago, but two years is a long time, especially in an era where everything is forgotten almost instantly. They shoot up the school at Columbine, kill kids in Newtown, and it’s part of the social fabric, even though there are people denying it ever happened. But I dare you to name the mass shootings since. There are too many. It’s like following baseball to know, that’s right, everything is its own vertical, and it doesn’t translate to the mainstream. The media keeps on telling us we live in one homogenous country but this is patently untrue. The coastal elites used to call the vast middle “flyover country,” but today they’ve got a zillion channels and high speed internet and they’re just as sophisticated as the coasts and they can’t stop telling the coasts they’re wrong. California is a disaster, even though the truth is it’s on an economic run. We live in the land of perception, where you need a campaign to get your message across, being right is not enough, you’ve got to sell it!
And all the destinations are a shadow of themselves. Number one on the “Billboard” chart? Only relevant to the record companies and those who might appear there, which is a fraction of musicians. Opinion piece in the “New York Times”? Only read by dedicated “Times” readers. A larger tribe than ever because of digital distribution, but with smaller influence than ever, because the news does not spread. Only rumors, gossip and disasters spread. The whole nation is the 10 o’clock news.
So everything you used to want to be is devalued. If you’re into it for more than money, i.e. fame and recognition, it’s now impossible to reach everybody, you cannot get acknowledgement, the game has not only been disrupted, someone pulled away the board and all we’re left with is our game pieces.
The center does not hold. Even though Democrats keep telling us it’s still there. Give the Republicans credit, they line up behind Trump, because they realize there is no center, only charismatic leaders with tribes. You don’t infect people with facts, but personality. Facts are fungible, personality is forever, which is why you can’t admit you’ve made mistakes.
And mainstream culture is whipsawed. We go from male abuse of women to women controlling the dialogue with men not allowed to stand up and debate the issue. Kaepernick stands up for his community and then Jay Z gets in bed with the overlords. A$AP Rocky is guilty and our President says to let him go, to forgo another country’s laws. And this Greenland nonsense… Why don’t we make it easy and just buy China. It’s a good media story, and it’s everywhere so more people believe it, but it will never ever happen. Ain’t that today, it’s all about a good story.
So no wonder we’re looking for strongmen. We want someone to lead us out of this mess. And these rulers tell us if we give them all the power, they will literally fix everything, health care, welfare, business…everybody will have their own home and plentiful food and a job…meanwhile, this is a trifecta that’s hard to get these days, but despite all their naysaying, putting down of other tribes, deep down inside people are optimistic, they believe in change, no matter how delusional.
Everybody can’t have everything, but they believe they can, and if they can’t it’s got to be somebody’s fault…the immigrants, the rich, the corporations, the government. It’s never your fault in America, and if per chance it is, you just apologize and go to rehab and your followers forgive you.
And the old guard still plays by the old rules in the old game, even though it’s got no resemblance to today. “Billboard” Top 100? DNC centrism? Hell, there aren’t even any ratings on Netflix, which is a good thing, because it all comes down to what is good and what you want to watch. But if they eliminate likes from Instagram… How are you gonna make it? It’s like likes are part of your brain, your DNA, you probably put them on your college application. But why go to college at all when you can make bank as an influencer, like Olivia Jade, whose parents wanted to buy prestige with a USC degree. Meanwhile, Olivia Jade is living a jet set life and the rest of us are in the back of planes that crash because Boeing had to make money and the government provided no oversight. But we keep hearing the government is bad and regulations need to be eviscerated.
This is now. When you’re not sure of your motivation. But chances are you don’t have a regular job, you’re a contractor or a gig worker so you’ve got to constantly be working. Ever found an Uber/Lyft driver without a dream? Ask them, they’re all gonna be rich, they’re working on it.
So there’s no center, everybody’s deluded and they keep trying to shout you down. They don’t want reasoned debate, they just want it their way. But they’re running on emotion not knowledge, and when confronted with knowledge they reject it, excoriate it, because it makes them feel small. It’s not only the underclass, can you explain to me why the wealthy are such anti-vaxxers, despite all the documentation saying otherwise? And they think just like they live behind gates, their kids won’t get measles, they’ve got too much money, and even though they’re atheists they believe God will protect them.
No one can save us, not immediately. For now, it’s getting worse. We’ve got to agree on the facts, agree that everybody can’t be rich and famous and that we’re in it together. But now the whole world is positively tribal. We’ve got smartphones but we’re living in the Middle Ages. It’s gonna take a long time to get out of this mess. Once you give everybody a voice, which is what the internet did, you end up with chaos. And the only people saying to secede from the scrum are those addicted to their smartphones anyway. False prophets.
But we’re lacking any real prophets today. And your history is easily searchable, so if you were a bully in kindergarten your entire future is in the dumper.
Forget grades, you’re being rated on personality, emotion, soft skills in an era where they keep telling us it’s about hard skills, i.e. the aforementioned STEM.
Being nice and altruistic might make you feel good, but don’t expect any kudos for it. If you want to win today, fire up your social network and promote yourself. You’re the best ever! Even though we can no longer quantify “best.” But we should buy what you’re selling even though you’ve got no portfolio, YOU DESERVE IT!
Visit the archive: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/
If you would like to subscribe to the LefsetzLetter