People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
They say when you die your life flashes before your eyes. I assume this is a metaphor for life itself since the older I get the faster it goes, but if we do get one last chance to look back I’m not sure I would want to take it. I already try to avoid certain thoughts that might trigger uncomfortable memories, so I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be shuffling off my mortal coil, heading to parts unknown, while reliving my greatest hits. But perhaps that’s the point. If this is what is meant by standing before the “Pearly Gates” I should see myself for what I really am.
As I grow older I am beginning to pay attention to these old cliches; to sayings such as, “you can’t take it with you,” or “what goes around, comes around.” They mean more today than they did when I was still young and immortal. I appreciate the simple wisdom in those sentences, so in preparation for the inevitable, I’ve begun my “life-flashing” today in hopes that when my time comes I won’t wince at too many more memories than I already do. I don’t want to relive hour upon hour of T.V. programming, or recount too many rush-hours cursing at the car in front of me, or the animals I’ve abused. Will I recall living in a private estate, sheltered from the abject poverty around me? Or living in luxury hotels? I don’t know, but the closer I get the more I care. If I checked out now I’d have too much baggage to carry.
Being an American I was raised to believe success means the accumulation of wealth and all its trappings. While still in the womb I was being indoctrinated by T.V. and Radio waves absorbed through my mother’s abdomen. I grew up collecting Hot Wheels, and Johnny West action figures, but I was never allowed G.I. Joe. I wanted Speed Racer posters. I needed the Man from U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox, and there were never enough Legos. On Christmas my personality would turn for the worse, and one Christmas morning I even shook my fist at my poor dear grandmother, now deceased, for having given me the wrong Hot Wheels car, while having given my brother the right one. When I got older I attempted an apology for being such a young cad, but it was stumbling, and I doubt it made her feel better. I know it didn’t make me feel better. This is one of those memories I try to avoid. Nothing drives home how screwed-up this society is like the glorified greed of the Christmas season.
We equate money with love. Spending money on Christmas will provide us the joy of giving, and at the same time allow us to show our loved ones just how much we love them. But capitalism is a con and Christmas is the sting to hook us before we’re old enough to know better. It is Basic Training for the next generation of consumers. A yearly indoctrination exercise combining equal parts of Pagan and Judeo-Christian mythology with a shot of capitalism, rolled into a delicious sugar cookie impossible to resist. Despite my cynicism and the benefit of hindsight I still love decorating for the Holidays, and I often overspend on gifts, so strong is the con-ditioning of Christmas.
Success is a con too; a pyramid scheme which the majority who play will lose, but to ensure we will play all we ever read, watch and hear must reinforce the belief that we can succeed if we work hard enough. They even stamp the money with a pyramid as if to challenge us to admit the obvious. But we can’t all succeed, that’s the nature of the con, so if we fail we’re told it’s because we weren’t smart enough, or lucky enough, or tall enough; we never consider it’s a game we’re not meant to win. We call it “the economy”, we don’t call it what it is; a rigged game of chance or ruthlessness, much like a carnival ring-toss, or a slot-machine, or a hostile-takeover. Most of the players must lose else there will be no money to pay-off a winner. But win or lose, the House always gets its cut. In order to entice new players, they make sure there’s a big winner every now and then; plastering their smiling faces on the billboard. This is the carrot they dangle in front of us; we believe money actually does buy happiness.
The beautiful, airbrushed people are what I strive to become. I want to succeed like they have; to be adored just as I adore them. This is why I work myself to the bone even to my last breath; to be like them. This is why I play the lottery every other week; it’s worth it just to imagine myself winning, to imagine being so wealthy, to imagine being so successful. But even if I manage to succeed there’s no guarantee I’ll like it. After all, none of the available trappings of wealth are my ideas of success; think of them as prizes hanging around the ring-toss booth, hawked by the carnival Huckster. Only 50c will buy you a chance to win a giant stuffed panda! But who needs a stuffed panda. And who needs a Porsche?
What if after 40 years of reaching for the carrot I am allowed to eat it but I don’t like the taste? What then? I think this is the source of the alleged mid-life crisis that was all the rage a couple decades ago. Movies like “10” popped up poking fun of the American male who was starting to realize something was wrong, but couldn’t figure-out what it was. Men in their 50s became depressed when they realized they’d just blown most of their lives working for goals which once achieved failed to bring the promised satisfaction. They felt like failures despite their success.
They followed all the rules, became educated and worked hard, but something was still not right. They hadn’t considered the possibility that the point of all that education was not to get them to succeed, but to get them to participate, and most were too busy to ask why until it was too late. I’m 51 years old now and I too know something’s wrong, but I think I know what it is. We’re the lucky ones. We don’t even know we aren’t free, and although we call ourselves “consumers,” we were born to be consumed, born to work so our masters may live their lives of leisure.
By the time I awoke I was already sold to the system, and I mean that quite literally; my mother unknowingly promised her baby to the STATE in the form of her signature on my birth certificate. My birth certificate is more than just proof of identity which entitles me to the benefit of protection as a U.S. citizen, it is a document declaring I belong to the entity known as the UNITED STATES. A healthy chunk of my life’s labor in the form of taxes will go towards paying that entity’s debts, incurred partially by using my future labor as collateral for loans. Call it what you like but when you’re born into servitude without any chance of escaping you are a slave, therefore, to me, the advancement of what we call civilization is nothing more than the evolution of slavery. I am a slave, my birth certificate is the bill of sale, Capitalism is my collar and money is my chain.
We label our work-world what it is, a “rat-race” wherein like lemmings we compete en masse without even thinking why we’re doing it. We’re told what to think, we’re told what we want, and we’re told how to get it; by crawling over the backs our competition. It has been this way since the invention of money. We the People, We the Slaves are not allowed to ask ourselves what civilization we might want to live in, we are only asked to give our lives to what is already here. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. T.V. shows and movies depicting the beautiful people enjoying the good-life are nothing more than motivational posters for the slave-classes. A servant in body and mind I was born to provide labor from which to garner taxation, leaving just enough money for me to purchase products manufactured by other slaves, etc. The products aren’t important – it is the transaction and the work that count. Ours is a system of oppression, it is unnatural and diabolical, and can only have been devised by the criminally insane.
I live in “The Land of the Free,” where “Freedom isn’t Free,” where I don’t have a choice but to pay for being born a free man. The fee to be free in America is 1/3 of the income of my adult life and if I don’t like it I can go to prison where I’ll still be forced to work, only without a paycheck. I must eat, therefore I must labor, and since the STATE gets its cut from every paycheck and every transaction, as long as I labor the STATE wins whether I eat or not. When I become too old to work, I’ll likely spend what little retirement money I have providing work to the slaves in the medical profession. All things considered I no longer wonder why it is a federal crime to take your own life.
After decades of playing I realized I’ll never win this game, and more importantly, I realized I don’t want the prizes anyway. I have gambled, and I have been cheated, so experience tells me there is but one sure way to avoid losing at a rigged game, and that is to not play. If the path to success requires I screw my neighbor, then I want no part of this scam called Capitalism. But it is not enough to wake up and save myself, how do I warn the next generation? How do I fight the only game in town when it is all we read and watch and hear?
The previous generation or two were the first to feel the power of television, so their only defense was their common sense, which most ignored. My parents still believe what they read in the papers and watch on T.V. They trust the government, or at least the Democrats in government. It is a virtue to be trusting, but adults should know everybody lies, they should know power corrupts, they should know not only does absolute power corrupt absolutely, but the absolutely corrupt seek power. Grownups should know better. They should protect their children. They should teach them how to survive in the real world.
By marriage I am lucky enough to have an adult daughter, and two grandchildren now beginning their own indoctrination process. It is their turn to try to make sense of our world, and they will do so with a heavier dose of electronic perception-management than did even their mother’s generation. Knowing what I know now, if I had children today I would try to teach them to think for themselves at a very young age how to survive in the world as it is. I would teach them about lies and liars. About advertising and marketing. The difference between education and indoctrination. That peace is the absence of violence, whether threatened or used. That evil is the lack of empathy and how it is recognized. I would try to teach them how to build shelter, to find water. and to grow food. How to care for their neighbors and to care for the land. I would try to teach them to be smart consumers by spending their money and time on things that better their lives without hurting the lives of others. And I’d teach them to never use credit. Every child should be taught these things before being subjected to television.
I would try to Home School them while learning right beside them. I would try, but to do so would be very difficult, and is generally frowned upon by society; that’s experience talking. 12 years ago I would never have imagined I would be saying such things today. Before 9/11 I was a normal, red-blooded American male just a decade away from a midlife crisis who believed Home Schooling was extreme and unfair to the kids; the turf of religious zealots and cults. But not any longer; nowadays I would urge any parent to take that route; no cult can be as bad as our government. The more you teach your kid real street smarts, the more likely they won’t fall for the trap of trading their life and conscience for an education by joining the military.
It would be much easier to sit my kid in front of the T.V., and let the STATE raise them the way most of us were raised, but to succeed in raising a free-thinking human beyond the STATE’S reach, and thereby free in mind, body and spirit, now that would be a success story worthy of sharing with St. Peter. For two parents this would be a very rough road to travel; but for a single parent it is impossible. Thank goodness the STATE is there to help. Just sign on the dotted line.
Never trust anyone over 30.
My generation came of age during the 60s and 70s when flower power was cool, and when peace was at hand. “My Generation” is still one of my favorite songs, but today it might as well be used to sell some old hippie a Cadillac. Like The Who, some of us died, but the rest got old. We forgot the slogans of our youth and fell into the same trap as our parents. Where we once protested the Vietnam War during the Summer of Love, we now protest high gas prices during the invasion of the Land of Sumer. Mine is the square generation, the middle management for the Old Guard. I’m the kid who once flashed the peace sign from the back of my folks’ V.W. micro-bus, but now I’m the prick who flips the bird from the driver’s seat of my BMW. Where I once wore Ankhs, I now wear Armani. Where I once tried to save the world, I now try to conquer it. My generation is the I Got Mine Generation and the things we do look awful cold. I’m no different than anyone before me, why should I be? What’s in it for me?
I did as everyone has done for thousands of years but I did it with B52s. Here’s my vacation house. Here I am scuba diving the Cayman Islands. These are my winnings, what did you get? In my youth I couldn’t wait to see what the young politicians who grew up beside me were capable of; but now I know what we’re all capable of. I gobbled up all the spoils of war I could, and thanks to Cable Television I don’t even need to look at the collateral damage. If I am collateral for a loan then the term “collateral damage” takes on new meaning.
I got mine, get your own. I am taught to think everyone else on the planet shares my greed, my fears, and my pettiness. Everyone is out to get me because I’m out to get them. It’s a dog-eat-dog world after all, and because I lack compassion I assume so must everyone else. This is why we must “hit them before they hit us.” We have been trained to attend to the beast within that lives only for today.
The capitalists of the world want us to believe what we can purchase is all that matters. They created a system that benefits only them at the expense of everyone else. It exists to serve the wealthy few and at the same time it serves to keep ignorant and poor We the People upon whose backs they rest. They would have us believe we are created in their image; petty, greedy and fearful but these aren’t our natural tendencies, else there would be no need for the marketing. No need for Basic Training. No need for Christmas.
When I die I honestly hope I can take one last look back. I hope I am able to look with a steady gaze at my journey and recognize where I took a turn for the better. I want to be able to proudly see that despite all the bad weather, hurdles and traps, I still managed to see the light. I don’t mean religion; if there is a god it is nothing like what has been written by men.
If my life flashes before my eyes then I will be the only audience I need to be concerned with. I may not be able to take it with me, but I’m pretty sure when I get mine, it’ll be what I have coming to me.