At the bottom of this rant is a response I posted on MoveOn.org’s blog. MoveOn posted a classic George Carlin bit (see below) in which the late, great comedian tells the truth about the American dream, i.e.: “you have to be asleep to believe it.”
I too once believed.
My eyes would fill with tears every 4th of July. “Ah, we’re so lucky here in the U.S.,” I tearfully told myself. I thought, quite melodramatically, of people who lived in third-world countries, or in the former Soviet Union, or Nazi Germany. “We’ve been so lucky here in the U.S., so protected from real struggle,” so I thought. So I believed.
If only I’d been a true psychic. Then I would have known what my future here in the U.S. would be. I would have saved up my money, packed up my bags and moved to another part of the world. A place where health care, education, and “bootstraps” in general are available to those who weren’t born with all they needed to succeed but who were willing to work for it. If they were given a chance.
A chance is something the U.S. only grants to its wealthy citizens. The rest of us are just required to “suck it up.”
Ah, but there’s always suicide. I wonder how many Americans have chosen that route. Our media is so controlled by a wealthy few that I’m sure we’ll never know about those lost, forgotten Americans.
I personally want them to live. I think that a lot of intelligent, thoughtful, kind, caring, socially-conscious people are depressed and suicidal right now because our society just doesn’t value those qualities in people. Good luck to you in finding a job, in making friends, in surviving American society if you haven’t been sucked in to the rugged individualism and the focus on money and material things. You won’t fit in. You won’t “belong.” You won’t feel comfortable. You certainly won’t be happy with the way things are right now. But please, please, please don’t give up. The world needs you. That is something you don’t know because you feel very much alone. The kind and the caring, the believers in a better world, the non-money-motivated are a very lonely species living in the wilderness that is the U.S. right now. But if we could all come together…
Don’t commit suicide! If you’re struggling right now, we need you! We need your anger and depression to channel toward the effort toward social change! I wish I could gather together all those struggling in this self-inflicted Great Depression and get us all to fight back together. There is strength in numbers, as the saying goes.
Believing in the American Dream was my big mistake, but it did get me through each day (and kept me from getting depressed.) I worked unbelievably hard–at times seven-days-per-week, earned tiny wages or sometimes no wages at all, struggled, went without eating to save money. I was, after all, “paying my dues.”
Yes, believe it or not, I went hungry many times throughout my life. In fact, you may not believe this, but I actually went for somewhere about two weeks without eating…much. I say “much” because I could only afford to buy a can or two of vegetables and needed to stretch that out for a week or so while I was unemployed. So I’d go for a few days without eating and mostly slept all day to conserve energy so that I wouldn’t need to eat much. Then on days when I had a job interview or was applying for a job, I’d eat the can of beans or veges and hope to have enough energy to appear “hireable.” I actually felt my body change. Starvation began to make physical changes in my body. There was a funny taste in my mouth, pangs in my stomach, of course, and some other symptoms I’d rather not mention.
On another occasion, when I was once again unemployed, I could afford only about $1 per day for food, so I ate a small bag of chips and a few cookies every day and then ate a “real” meal (that consisted of a burger or taco) about once, sometimes twice per week. This went on for about a month or so. (Eventually, I was rewarded for my efforts with an $8 per hour part-time job. And the rest was herstory. Whoop dee doo! Wish stories like mine hit the tabloids–instead of the rags-to-riches stories of struggling actors who become rich and famous, supposedly as a result of their hard work. Right. How about the story of a struggling American who works even harder yet never makes it ’cause he/she wasn’t born with money and connections in the first place. Or worse, ’cause he/she refuses to sleep with the dirty-old-men of Hollywood, refuses to shoot up the drugs or attend the bacchanal Hollyweird parties? Sorry, but that doesn’t sell tabloids. Next!)
Yes, believe it or not, somehow I survived for at least a month eating very little each day.
I thought I was strong enough to handle all that. But there was one thing I didn’t consider (because I didn’t really have a choice anyway), and that is this: I’m getting older. Yes, with each passing day I’m getting older. One day, I won’t be able to struggle like this. My body won’t be able to handle it. So then what?
And now, while I’m not “old” yet (not outside of Hollywood, that is), that day has come.
I just can’t do it anymore because now, perhaps as a result of these struggles, I have a lot of physical health problems that will probably kill me pretty soon as I don’t have the money to have them treated properly. (I sure do hope the afterlife is better than this one! But then again if it were, wouldn’t we all be committing suicide just to get there? Just a question…. ) Perhaps that is the reason why we’re not allowed to really know for sure (until the time comes, of course) whether there actually is an afterlife. Because we won’t put up with this one if we know there’s a better life to follow. But then again, if that were true then why would we be forced to live this life in the first place? Is this some sort of test? A mere joke? In other words, what is the meaning of life? Guess we’ll have to check the old Monty Python movies to find an answer to that one.
But, as usual, I digress.
My point is, there is only so much a person can take. A little bit of struggle is okay now and then. Keeps us on our toes. Keeps us grateful for the good times. Makes us think “outside the box.” But too much struggle can kill you both physically and mentally. And when you’re dead you can’t do anything. (Unless, of course, there’s life after death, which I’m hoping exists…) But we’ve already addressed that in this wondrous and magical blog, haven’t we?
Which brings me to the real point of this blog:
Everything Carlin says here is true. The man was a genius. He was a hippie from out of the 60s who started out as a nerdy white guy but grew into his true persona, the man he was meant to be, as time went on. Like many of us, he grew further away from trying to conform and closer to becoming himself as he grew older.
Check out the Carlin of the 60s here:
And the evolution of Carlin becoming the hippie sage he was meant to become here:
Sorry that he is gone, as are so many idealists, from JFK to John Lennon. (Though we do have Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart who are able to express their idealism–to the extent they can turn it into seemingly mindless entertainment…) I wonder where the flower children have gone, the true hippies. Did they ever really exist? How did rugged individualism, selfishness and materialism take over? How did we become, as a society, so cold and ruthless? Okay, I already asked that question in another blog…
My response to MoveOn:
Problem is, our government is now a reflection of what we’ve become as a people: greedy, selfish, disconnected from and unconcerned about each other. We can’t change our government until we change ourselves. If we can’t be kind, compassionate and giving toward each other, how can we expect CEOs and government officials to be? If we can’t come together and trust and support each other to form communities, how can we come together to protest government corruption? I was always amazed when I worked for nonprofits that engaged in the same corrupt practices as Walmart because they “had to” in order to thrive. Really? Then why bother protesting Walmart if we decide we “have to” engage in the same greedy, ruthless tactics in order to succeed?
Reality check: Americans voted for Reagan then Bush. And Reagan is rated as one of the most–perhaps the most–popular of US presidents! Americans voted to budget cut programs that help the poor. Talk to most Americans about social injustice and you’ll hear, “It’s their own fault.”
The average American is walking around thinking, “If you lost your house, that’s your fault. You shouldn’t have signed the mortgage. If you’re in debt, that’s your own fault. You shouldn’t have used credit cards. You shouldn’t have taken out loans to go to college. If you don’t have health insurance, that’s your fault. You should just get a job that pays better and that provides health insurance.”
No one wants to ask the questions: Why do people need to use credit cards in the first place? Why do poor students have to take loans out in order to get an education? Why are people having trouble paying for things and paying off their debts? Why are so many people in debt? Why are so many people unemployed? Why are so many intelligent, talented, competent people unable to get an education or obtain a job while we see incompetent buffoons attaining positions of power and wealth? And isn’t that dangerous–to allow the incompetent to attain positions of power but to prevent the best and the brightest from succeeding just because they weren’t born with money and the “right” connections?
Nope, it’s just easier to blame the victim than to look at our faulty system and try to form solutions.
Sad but true. The whole country’s going to have to fall with a thud, and we’ll become a third- world country before the average American “wakes up” and decides to care about their own community.