Years ago, I (somewhat) successfully completed required high school and college courses, but I did not attend graduation ceremonies. I had other, better things to do: make paintings; write mediocre poems featuring images of shore birds and dead reeds; pound on drums as a member of a band that crisscrossed the country and ran aground in New York City; get loaded, have sexual relations, alone and with others, etc.
I did not want to hear a geek babble about my bright future. It is not in my nature to be optimistic. Groundless, positive expressions do not inspire me and, upon hearing them, I tumble into a deep depression knowing a bright shiny world is meant for others. When this happens, I retreat to a basement wearing old pajama bottoms and a torn sweatshirt, I binge on amateur porn videos, and I do not emerge for a very long time.
Recently, however, I was pressed by love to attend a graduation function. It hurt.
My granddaughter, Forest, attended a high-end private high school — expensive, crammed to the rafters with exaggerated self-esteem, pretense, and entitlement. To Forest’s credit, she found the place repulsive (as I found a similar school more than 50 years before). She, unlike me, worked hard, and used her opportunity to earn a full-ride scholarship to an Ivy League school. Graduation ceremony complete, diploma in hand, she fled the grounds as quickly as she could, with neither a goodbye floated to fellow grads, nor a nibble of one of the snazzy sandwiches provided at the buffet by caterers. There no homemade casseroles served at high-end private school graduations.
The ceremony dilated time. I thought of Einstein as I sat captive beneath the tent. The event lasted three hours; it seemed like three days.
First, a stuffed suit with the title of Chairman of the Board of Trustees took the podium, and babbled about tradition and creation of a substantial foundation (something the builders of my current house failed to provide). The man was tall, and spoke in rich, bass tones. Little wonder he was the chairman. I was distracted by a stylishly clad mom seated in the next row during the bozo’s introduction, so I do not know what he does when he is not chairmanning the board. Given his height and his vocal prowess, (I read an article on the subject not three days before), I assume he is an elected official of some renown. We short folk have trouble winning the favor of voters and, when one of us does, it is usually some little shit like Jeff Sessions, who is sent to The Hill by mutants every bit as stunted as he.
Next, an Armani-clad slickster who represented the U.S. government in negotiations with Brazil, China, Myanmar, Ghana, or some such nation, yapped about himself for thirty minutes, throwing in an occasional aside about the need to be prepared for important work — though not work as important as his. His meta-message: members of the privileged class must grip the wheel of the ship and steer the course, while confused proles stumble about below deck and float face down in bilge water.
The student awards followed. I was approaching age 71 at the time, but I wanted to murder the award winners. Age has not mellowed me. The little twerps were identical to the students I wanted to kill when I was in high school: ass-kissing, smug dipshits who do things “the right way.”
One dork received an armful of honors. The goofy ectomorph was singled out as the computer genius of the decade, having designed his own video games while others in the classroom struggled to finish assignments he completed, perfectly, in minutes. He is a trombone wizard, able to flawlessly perform everything from pep songs to his own versions of klezmer classics. He received a standing ovation upon mention of his role as campus “Citizen of the Year,” the honor proffered in light of the invaluable counseling and assistance he provided to fellow students. (I fail to understand why a student attending a high school with $26,000 per year tuition requires assistance. Surely mom and dad can afford medication. ). He was singled out as a “brilliant writer,” the next Saul Bellow, or Zora Neale Hurston, depending on his inclination.
As I watched the spindly brainiac skulk across the stage for the third or fourth time, I had two thoughts. First: For god’s sake, you miserable simp, don’t try to make a living as a writer. Second: When your many admirers fail to return your frantic calls from rehab or jail, ring me up. I can provide invaluable counseling and groundless, positive expressions of support.
Then, I suffered through speeches from the co-valedictorians. The wisdom of 18 year-olds falls like virga from distant, thin clouds.
To complete the program: a spectacle engineered by the “Head of School.” During my disgraceful tenure at a prep school, the asshole-in-charge was called the “Headmaster.” These days, the word “master” conjures up disturbing associations in sensitive weenies, so it’s been tossed in the Inappropriate Terminology Dumpster. It is but a matter of time before “head” takes its place in that bin, alongside “master” and “retard,” though I trust it will never be discarded by the producers of amateur porn videos.
This Head was so taken with himself that he slipped into his I’m-really-hip persona, and studded his gibberish with recorded snippets of heavy metal and hair band songs from the 80s. I was tempted to seek him out following the ceremony and tell him stories relayed to me by my youngest daughter, who lived for a couple of years in Vince Neil’s pool house in Beverly Hills. She was featured in several music videos, including one Blink 182 classic in which she reclined in a bathtub filled with dirty water. So goes hair band and heavy metal wisdom.
The ceremony battered me with inauthenticity, illusions and lies. I sagged in my seat, moaning softly. I drooled. I stared at the stylishly clad mom seated in the next row. I smelled her: Bond No.9 Dubai Amber.
What would I say, I asked myself as I sped from the immaculately landscaped campus, should someone again ask me to deliver the graduation keynote speech at the high school in Siberia With a View? Could I improve on the standard form?
Yes. And, here it is.
The school principal announces via the feedback-distorted, gymnasium sound system: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome today’s featured speaker, Mr. Karl Isberg.”
I wait for the sparse applause and the jeers to cease. Then, I speak.
Members of the Class of 2018, parents, family, friends, faculty members not rendered senseless by massive doses of antidepressants, parole officers, and those few members of the school board who are aware of your surroundings: thank you for inviting me to help mark this special occasion.
Over the course of decades, I worked as a journalist in the newspaper business. I had a front-row seat at the Ecce Homo Circus, center ring. I took notes concerning what I saw. I bring a wealth of experience to my task today. Listen carefully.
I witnessed tragedy during those years, at times as it happened; at the sites of vehicle and plane crashes; at crime scenes brimming with murder, blood, and mayhem; during fires, floods and other disasters; in courtrooms and hospitals; covering political campaigns and elections; in conversations with elected officials at all levels, local to national; observing property owners association boards of directors meetings, the agendas crafted by old men who labored to buffer a veneer of vitality and power by sanctioning a neighbor for painting garage doors an unapproved color. I listened to the foggy bleating of camo-clad trogs who considered themselves set apart from law by god, the blather of armed and irrational thugs waving copies of the Constitution, exempting themselves from participation in any community shaped by reason and compromise. I took note of barely literate, ill-informed, racist, and frightened people, forever short on funds and fueled by suspicion of The Other, people willing to sanction any blowhard politician who dribbled a thimble full of fuel into their perpetually empty tanks.
I experienced things that made me laugh: conversations with elected officials at all levels, property owners association meetings, constitutionalists who never read past the 2nd Amendment, and missed the point of the 1st.
I was saddened when I encountered genuine grief: parents who lost a child; people helpless as they watched homes and belongings destroyed by flame or flood, or their property snatched from them by foreclosure; families torn by violence, or divorce; bodies mangled in accidents, victims screaming in pain; jobs lost, money gone; young brains melted by high fructose corn syrup.
I reported on the best: noble souls, selflessly aiding and comforting others. I witnessed acts of charity, courage, and love.
I saw all of this and more, for far too long a time, and I learned one thing above all else: It could not have been otherwise.
That’s the message I bring to you today, and things will go smoothly if the custodians turn on the gym’s air conditioner.
My address today will take less than fifteen minutes to deliver. If this is too long for you, you need to pray for relief, aiming your plea at whatever fictional entity you choose. There will be no response, of course, but you will feel better for doing it. You existentialists in the crowd can suffer, alone.
I am not going to say more about me, in light of the statute of limitations, and the fact I am too old to remember the lies I’ve told about myself over the years. I am going to illustrate the one thing I’ve learned during my years as an observer and chronicler of human activity, provide you with some tips.
My theme: Most of you are fucked, and it could not be otherwise.
This address is brief, just as your lives will be brief; you won’t last long, nothing does. You are going to take the dirt nap; it’s simply a matter of when. We all eventually dock at the same wharf and but one in a million sail on a ship they do not steer.
A few of you will depart in the next few years: shot while attempting to rob a convenience store, or stabbed and sliced during a drug deal gone wrong; some will succumb to an OD of one kind or another; a couple of you will be crushed by rolling vehicles after you’re ejected, too drunk to have fastened your seat belts; some will be killed in a senseless war, a conflict prompted by greedy old men sitting in government and corporate offices, vultures lusting after resources, cash, and the young women you leave behind. A few of you might be lucky and perish of one of the diseases du jour, eliciting hundreds, if not thousands, of heartfelt, clumsily worded comments on Facebook. Take a moment now, look around the gym, try to identify your peers who will bow out early.
For more than a few of you, your lives will seem interminably long. Some will give birth to four or five kids, the fathers leaving the trailer in the middle of the night to go to the store for milk and cigarettes, never to return. You’ll suffer a vicious case of hemorrhoids, and a prolapsed anus. You will attempt to raise your kids when they are not in protective custody, visit three of the kids during their stays in a juvenile detention center, then repeat the process with each at a county jail and, finally, at a facility operated by the state department of corrections or the federal government (where you’ll be reunited with the kids’ fathers, whose short lives also seem interminably long).
One of your children (Little Donnie, “the slow one”) will live with you the rest of your life, and never master the skill needed to wipe his ass or flush the toilet. The only one of your spawn who graduates from high school, will go to New Mexico for diesel mechanic training, and will get a good job. He will not contact you after he leaves home. He’ll marry his boyfriend, and they’ll adopt Nicaraguan twins you will never meet: Felipe and Carmela. You will wonder where things went wrong as you slump in your battered recliner, drinking malt liquor, eating salty snacks, and watching reruns of The Bachelor on an ancient TV. Then, you will die, not remembering today’s message: It could not have been otherwise.
For most of the rest of you, time will fly past faster than you imagined it could – a montage of events totally out of your control. People who deliver typical speeches at graduations tell those in attendance that the future is rich, the horizon sparkly with opportunities, festooned with ripe fruit hanging on trees, there for the picking. The future is yours, they say, if you establish goals, work hard, and set your mind to complete the harvest. They are lying —because they are afraid to tell the truth, or they are ignorant. Either way, they can’t do or be otherwise.
You believe this kind of crap because you are eighteen years old. You think you are bulletproof, that you know everything, that you ride tall in the saddle with reins in hand. In fact, you are a child, with no clue as to how things work. Just like most of the adults in your life.
The majority of you will remain oblivious to the way things work until the lights go out.
One day, years from now, you’ll sit at a desk in a cubicle, doing the same thing you did the day before, the year before, the decade before. You’ll be with yet another company, hustling different products or services, doing the same thing you’ve done from the start of your work life: earning money for someone else. Someone who does not know your name. The next day, it will be over.
Throughout the tedious course of an unexceptional existence, boredom, stress, greed, and desire will obscure the reality of mortality, divert your attention from the foundation fact of existence. Wittgenstein said the world consists of the totality of facts, not things. Some day, just for laughs, see if you can spell “Wittgenstein.” Check the results on Google. A clue: the name starts with a W. You’ll spend your life avoiding recognition of mortality, but you now and then will encounter it as you jerk bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night, in the dark, sweating, heart pounding, teeth clenched, eyes wide with terror. Then, you know your existence will end, and end soon, with no guaranteed aftermath. Finally, you reckon with fact. One moment, you will search for more money and ways to engineer a reasonable retirement, try to figure out how to pay off credit card debts (as well as the balance on the enormous loan taken forty years before to pay for your useless college education) and, a second later, you’ll be dead.
Your lifelong exercise of cognitive dissonance will run non-stop, as you labor to harmonize your ideas with what you encounter, trying to calm the storms inside your head. A bevy of deceptions will aid you during your brief, intellectual adventure.
Let’s take a gander at a couple of the more popular, prevalent lies, just for fun.
Many if not most of you were told by mommy and daddy (if either was around) that you are a unique person, a rare bird. You were labeled as “gifted and talented” by mommy and daddy, grandparents, and a battle-addled educator who was unable to get a business or engineering degree and earn a decent living. Allow me to lift this burden from your shoulders: You’re not gifted, and you’re not talented.
There are very few extraordinary beings glued by gravity to the polluted glob of magma, rock, water, and dirt we call our home, and you are not one of them. Granted, you might be a smart tyke, compared to your classmates; you did well in the K-12 process, participated in extracurricular activities, and you brownnosed the right people; you were admitted to a credible institution of higher learning, and you will do well there. You are not gifted. You are not exceptional.
They say you’re an academic whiz? You attended a barely average high school and received an excellent grade in a math class in which half of your classmates couldn’t pronounce “math,” and spent their time picking their noses and eating the takings. Get real: there’s a 6-year-old girl in Guangzhou completing work on equations that explain dark matter. There’s a 13-year-old in California building a cold fusion reactor in the garage, using discarded refrigerator parts. What have you been up to?
You’re a creative genius, are you? How old was Mozart when he wrote his first symphony? How old are you? Yes, I’m talking to you, the cheeseball with the guitar, singing her original song about the agony of adolescence to a crowd of uncritical pinheads gathered in the school auditorium. An aside: Mozart is not pronounced “mose-art.” Remember this, should you use the name in conversation with someone more gifted than you.
You had a lead role in the school production of “Grease?” Mommy and daddy, and the lonely, deranged woman who directs the school musicals, deemed you a “star.” A batch of gasheads gave you a standing ovation, and mom and dad provided a bouquet of flowers. Next step, Hollywood and Broadway, right? Wrong. My youngest daughter graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, worked for years in Hollywood, learned chops at The Groundlings, and ended her Cali career filmed as she reclined in a tub filled with dirty water. A few aspirants in Show Biz Land are propelled to the firmament by the churning machine; the others fall into a dense, uncaring atmosphere, and burn to cinders.
Much the same goes for those you who aspire to be an artist, or writer. The machine will weed you out, even if you are able to write a complete sentence, or stretch a canvas. Your CogDiss process will feature the notion that the world needs artists, and that you will take charge and tote the art flag up the cultural hill. In fact, the world doesn’t need or want much art, and certainly doesn’t require a horde of artists. After you earn your expensive and useless MFA, you’ll get a periodic, low-wage, no-benefits gig as an adjunct at a mediocre school and, at age 50, you’ll no longer be able to ignore the fact your work will not be peddled to rich Russians by Gagosian or be shown at MOMA, and that glowing reviews printed in a doomed urban weekly did nothing to bring you the fame and fortune you believe you deserve. You’ll open a vein with a sharpened palette knife, and bleed out, alone in your shabby studio apartment.
The machine will not favor you.
All of you — regardless of intellect, background, or talent — will be hustled along by what many choose to call “luck” or “chance” — terms used by feebs unaware of the causal complex that traps us all. All of what occurs in the short time between your break to daylight from mom’s uterus to the moment you wheeze out your last breath, is determined by systems, influences, decisions immune to your will —where you are at a particular moment, who you know, the hand you’re dealt from a DNA deck first shuffled in Africa 200,000 years ago.
You ride in a car pulled by an engine that creates opportunity, and simultaneously renders choice meaningless. It cannot be otherwise.
So, free will is another lie you will carry in your rucksack as you hobble along.
To most of you, it’s clear your path is determined by decisions you make, freely. Absent sound examination, this assumption is plausible. Brake for a stoplight, options are set, but run the yellow light and the array of options is different. Sleep an extra hour, prospects shift. Eat too much fiber, spend an agonizing half hour on the toilet trying to expel a soda can-size plug of waste, and what awaits you after you scream, bleed, and wipe is altered from what it would have been had you eaten prunes, as your grandmother advised. Decide Jimmy doesn’t need a condom, that his promise to insert just the tip is genuine, and you’re walking down a hallway with brand new doors, your promise ring forever tarnished!
So, you say, your know-it-all 18-year-old brain going into overdrive, there are options, lots of them. What I’ve been told from the get-go about my ability to make choices and plot my life’s journey is true. I can choose to be successful and happy, rich and free, gifted and wonderful, married to a Bulgarian woman with a perfect boob job, and childbearing hips.
No, you can’t.
A scary number of your options are fixed; and the option you imagine you choose freely is determined by the genetic hand dealt by your parents, their parents before them, their parents before them, etc., ad infinitum, in an environment in which you operate, but do not control, since all decisions, everyone’s decisions, every opportunity and action feeds the machine that provides you with “options.” In nature vs. nurture, nature wins. All nurture does is provide icing for the cake, clothing for the mannequin.
You do not flit like a bee between blossoms of possibility, because you don’t have free will. You think you do, but you’re drugged by language unmoored to fact. Free will is a necessary deception, required in the evolutionary scheme of things to maintain a somewhat stable human order, to keep you and others in line long enough for you to reproduce (given that the machine determines you are heterosexual). The notions of free will and moral sensibility are nonsense that keep you focused as you make babies. Some babies will survive and reproduce; others will be selected out of the mix, their characteristics unsuited to changing environmental conditions.
The choices you make could be not made otherwise.
It’s the genes, kids. And, I don’t mean the new pair of denim pants mommy and daddy bought you as part of the load of graduation gifts you’ll open later today, after you return home in your new car. Your appearance, your mental and physical capacities, many of the diseases that will haunt you, the choices you make, were put on track when mommy and daddy each contributed fifty percent of their genetic material in a reproductive project that began when sperm hit pay dirt with egg. The machine brought mom and dad together, put sperm and egg together, at a certain time. Your time. Had different sperm from dad hit the same egg the day before, or when the deliveryman who screwed mom before dad got home from work sent sperm on their course, you would not be you. You would not be here.
The structure of your personality was bedded as a consequence of this determined event: the degree to which you are extroverted, neurotic, oriented to cooperation or its opposite, defiant or compliant, whether you are disposed to have a positive outlook and be energetic. Your basic personality, with but a few insignificant perturbations over the years, will remain stable until the end (unless the machine hurls you into the darkness of dementia). Your dopamine networks are wired at the start. Nurture will provide you with style, not substance.
Nothing you are, and nothing you do, could be otherwise.
The only thing that varies is the array of options present at any moment, pushed to prominence by the deterministic interplay of the results of your actions and the actions of others — behaviors that could not have been otherwise. You select the options that you must, others do the same. You and they can do nothing else, despite what you’re told, and what you tell yourselves in an interior monologue peppered with language untethered to fact.
I don’t expect you to come to grips with this, since you didn’t absorb detailed, up-to-date info about genetics, DNA, biology, personality profiles, and the like, in your four years at this high school. Just as you didn’t learn how to avoid pregnancy and STDs.
Nature casts the die; nurture merely tints the surfaces of things, yours included. It can’t be otherwise.
Take the relationships you’ll engage as you mature, as an example.
Most of you graduates received the major portion of your sex education from Internet porn. As a result, your style regarding this fundamental human activity will mirror what you’ve seen as you sit before a computer screen in your locked room, mesmerized, your pleasure stick or fun button in play. Nurture will frost your sex cake as you encounter opportunities provided by circumstance, after nature determines whether you’re straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.
A few of you here today will understand you are legitimately transgender. Several boys, however, will undergo breast implant procedures and hormone treatments only to realize, two years later, that it was a phase, prompted by Internet porn. For others, a normal sexual relationship will involve a beaten and bedeviled woman wearing cheap lingerie, cohabiting in a seedy motel room with her husband/boyfriend/pimp, and a group of strangers recruited at a nearby bar. The encounters will be captured on video and distributed on the Internet, there to be digested by high school students.
Your concept of a meaningful domestic relationship was modeled by characters in television programs and Hollywood blockbusters, since mom and dad split up when you were in kindergarten, and taught you little more than how to yell, weep, and shatter IKEA dishware by hurling it against a wall. You learned how to navigate a personal relationship from Spiderman. As per the average, you will marry and divorce at least three times. You will have children, but you’ve been taught to be their best friend, not their parent, so they will sleep with you until they are 15, and one day you will find them in the backyard tearing the wings off small birds and setting the neighbor’s cat afire. They will be gifted and talented.
It can’t be otherwise.
Today, you graduates are about to transition from one form of life to another, shouldering a bag of illusions, meandering down a predetermined path, blissfully unaware it is not of your making.
Don’t expect much, the past eighteen years were the best years of your life. You’ve been housed, fed, clothed, and occasionally bathed. You had Internet service, and access to a full lineup of cable TV programming, all free of charge. It’s as good as it gets. You made your way through thirteen years of sub-par schooling (a number of you were held back a year or two, so for you it’s fourteen or fifteen years); you’ve been coddled and fawned over; you are gifted and talented; and you are ready to leave the nest, and whatever measure of security it provided.
It’s been swell, hasn’t it? Try to seem happy.
Most of you will go from here to dawdle for several years, dreaming of careers as rap music idols, or imagining you are soon-to-be stars of stage and screen; a few will aspire to be skateboard professionals, or artistes. Many of you will go to college, there to be protected from mini-aggressions, provided with a lexicon of trigger words the avoidance of which will allow you to dodge bruises to your delicate egos while you absorb skills needed for careers as captains of industry, poets, curators, hedge fund bigwigs, or managers of convenience stores. The flock of fledgling video producers in your ranks will arm themselves with the new iPhones they received as high school graduation gifts, and set off to find documentary subjects worthy of their genius: homeless people who don’t know where they are or what they are doing, teenage runaways who don’t know where they are or what they’re doing, or ferrets in Iowa in danger of extinction because they eat GMO crops.
The thwarted dreamers and the college grads will eventually join their peers who shucked caps and gowns following today’s ceremony, and immediately went to work at minimum wage jobs, avoiding the unnecessary, costly interlude. All will get to the task of making money for someone else.
It cannot not be otherwise.
A fact for those who begin work tomorrow: your economic future is horrifying. As you take a job for a minimum wage at the local gas station, Wal Mart, or supermarket, you can be certain your salary will never increase to the point where you break above the poverty line. This has been assured, thanks to the wisdom and labors of a generation of miserly, self-centered “conservatives” in Congress — aged men (and a woman, now and then) who don’t care a whit about you. Their stupidity is unrestrained, and you are far down on the list of things they don’t understand. Remember, a good number of these Solons are occupied 18 hours a day by two concerns: finding contributors to fund their next campaigns, and ensuring that homosexuals are not included on expeditions to colonize other planets. What difference do you make?
If you find employment, you will join a workforce in which neither you nor more than a third of fellow workers earn enough to get by, week to week. As a result, you and they will seek assistance from a variety of government programs — Medicaid, the food stamp program, and others.
It could not be otherwise, because meat puppet legislators whose strings are yanked by wealthy individuals and corporations protect a system in which your wages will not increase during your work life when compared to the cost of living, while their wages and benefits will soar upward at rates as high as 100 percent every few years. They get away with this because they convinced your elders — old people my age, and folks like your parents — that money will trickle down from the wealthy to those less fortunate, that there’s nothing wrong with a tiny percent of the population owning the major portion of a nation’s wealth. An addled Hollywood B movie star and his cynical handlers perpetuated this idea, and it took root in the shallow intellectual soil tended by your grandparents. Granny and Gramps voted for Mr. Hollywood and his cronies, and they and your parents have elected similar buffoons ever since. Your graying and lame predecessors, and millions like them, sneer at the indigent and the immigrant, gripe about the unfair tax burden put upon them as they struggle through an unrewarding work life, and indulge the lie that they, like the wealthy, have led a privileged life, full of promise, the notion banging around in their empty skulls until they draw their last breath. As the end approaches, they demand that the government support them in their final days with Social Security (they like to say, “I earned it”) and pay their medical bills with Medicare money (even though the money they put into the Medicare fund barely pays for two years of basic care, not to mention the bypass surgery, and hip replacements they receive after they retire). If you give them an opening, they will dominate conversation at Thanksgiving dinner with talk of the evils of entitlement and welfare for people of color, the threat of non-Christian religions, the need for giant walls on the nation’s borders, the lie of global warming, and the horrors of socialism. They will undercook the turkey.
These sad-sack feebs toddle on their way, dull beings swollen with unsupportable ideas, adult diapers bulging, absorbing corporate and privileged-class propaganda from right-wing cable news networks and inane talk radio hosts, and voting for the minions of oligarchs. As they do so, they ensure that you will never succeed, that middle class status will be unattainable, if the middle class still exists. They remain blind to the fact that it is they, all along, who’ve paid for their foolishness.
Of the million and a half of your fellow workers at Wal Mart, a million will not earn a living wage. They will not earn enough money to pay for food, shelter, and other basic necessities. The notion they can afford medical care in a healthcare system swollen with corruption and corporate greed, is absurd. The government programs needed to keep these minimum wage drones above water puts out $6.4 billion a year to do the job that fair wages could handle at a much lower price. But, no: a reasonable wage would cut into the profits of the mighty.
So, who pays? Certainly not the wealthy few who stash enormous amounts of cash in offshore accounts, or the corporations that move headquarters to other countries to evade U.S taxes. It’s the dumbshits who vote for the lawmakers who guarantee the lower economic classes — and increasingly the middle class, or what is left of it — do not get a fair share of the pie.
It cannot be otherwise.
For the college grads who take on careers, doing the same thing for decades, hustling products and services for a succession of companies, there will be a molecule of solace: your somewhat greater, but stagnant salaries will allow you to lease new cars and watch bigger TVs. Make no mistake, however, you’re still fucked.
It’s possible one of you in this graduating class, blessed with the machine’s gift of repetitive good fortune, might walk through a gilded gate and ascend the economic heights. The rest of you will be lulled into complacency by a series of deceptions that provide meager relief, until such time as lies vaporize and facts are unavoidable. Unless, of course, you die as you’re driving to work, crossing a bridge built in the 1950s and not maintained since, and that bridge collapses. Our legislative Neanderthals have made sure the nation’s infrastructure crumbled, since repair and construction requires diversion of funds from a grossly swollen defense budget (and the corporations that feed from it), or higher taxes on the wealthy (an unthinkable situation, since it would deprive the plebes of trickle).
It cannot be otherwise.
Nor can it be otherwise that the economic gap between the few citizens who continue to gain wealth, and the overwhelming majority who continue to lose wealth, will grow. The course is set. Eventually there will be a massive, destructive uprising, and a new privileged class will take the place of the old privileged class, whose members fled to the Caymans or Monaco, or whose mutilated corpses were hung on lampposts outside the New York Stock Exchange. The process will begin anew.
That’s right, kids, some of you will live to see a violent revolution and, likely, take part in it. As the gulf between the wealthy few (the unbelievably wealthy few) and the masses of have-nots widens, as lack of concern about the situation on the part of the privileged class and its legislative lickspittles is sustained, the playing field for upheaval and violence is marked and made ready.
The only good thing about the idiotic elders who have allowed this situation to develop is that they are staunch supporters of your right to possess firearms. Due to the vigilance of the NRA and the bobbleheads who chew the gun industry’s cud, you can purchase an AR-15, and all the ammo you can afford. My advice: apply immediately for Medicaid and food stamps, and free up what little cash and credit you can to buy several assault rifles, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. You are going to need them.
It cannot be otherwise.
But, let’s pause now. I’ve said enough. I won’t take the time to review the nonsense you hear at church on Sunday, right after the Praise Band finishes it’s overamplified number.
Don’t let what I’ve said distress you, today. This is your day, kids, so set aside what I’ve said about lies, your mundane status, and your dismal work and money prospects, just as you’ve put aside the few rules of grammar you learned in English class. Given your Twitter-formed, short attention spans, this should be no problem for you.
Go out tonight to your party by the lake or river, unburdened by weighty concerns; binge drink, use a funnel and a tube to inject grain alcohol up your ass, smoke thermonuclear weed, manipulate someone’s genitals (or imagine you did), lose consciousness, and awaken tomorrow morning in a puddle of undigested pizza, beer, blood, and bile, without a care in the world. Do it while you can.
Things aren’t that grim, once you accept the fact that things can’t be otherwise could not be otherwise. You can’t do anything about it, or about your reactions to it. Look on the bright side: the majority of you will be back to town after a few years to again live in your old room at your parents’ house. You will stay there until you are at least 36 years old, extending the best years of your life nearly twofold. The renewed good old days will include a TV with a full lineup of programs, stuffed with pap produced to keep you and the rest of the rabble subdued. You will gnaw on microwave meals mom and dad obtain with what is left from their small weekly checks once the car payment is made, and the vet bill for Stubbles is settled. Since the entire family will be on Medicaid, substandard providers will care for the digestive problems you develop when, and if, said providers find time to see you. Perhaps your parents will die and you will inherit the house. In that case, you’ll be able to move into their old room. It has windows.
And, don’t forget: the potency of recreational marijuana increases by the day, thanks to kids who graduated college with degrees in botany. Those who didn’t turn their attention to the genetic modification of plants and animals for the food industry focused on improving cannabis. It’s good. Real good. Fire up the bong or vaporizer before you wolf down your Hungry Man dinner or your Hot Pockets, and you’ll effortlessly indulge the fiction that your life will be long, and flush with opportunities.
It can’t be otherwise.
If you find you can’t adapt to this lifestyle, good for you! You’ll enlist in one of the armed services and you are sure to be kept busy, fed, and housed in one fashion or another. Our nation’s history, in particular since you were born, has shown that war is enormously profitable, and whatever is profitable in this world will endure.
It cannot be otherwise.
There is one last reason for you to sit back and relax. If I were to guess, I would say the evolutionary pressure that pushes our pathetic species onward, its members cuffed by genetic imperatives, will result in our extinction. We are a failed experiment, a renegade mold growing in a Petri Dish. There is only so much space and so many resources in the dish, and as the mold continues to grow, it blindly ensures its demise. Once the debris is cleared, the dish cleaned and nutrients replenished, the experiment begins anew for another species, perhaps some kind of odd fish that has grown tiny feet due to exposure to radiation leaking from the Fukushima site.
It can’t be otherwise.
Take what I’ve told you today, and use it as you will, as you struggle to sift out what you don’t understand of your experience, and align your beliefs with what remains. If need be, watch at least an hour of Fox News each night for inspiration.
Then, again, I might be wrong about everything I’ve said. Who knows?
That’s about it, kids. My address today has been wordy, somewhat confusing, but short, as promised. Short enough that I can make it home in time to crank up the vape, mix a gin and tonic, and watch the Cops marathon on my favorite cable channel. If you are not busy cleaning the cat box, I urge you to enjoy this entertaining and instructional show. Those of you who want to be law enforcement officers will learn how you can succeed in the profession with a sub-100 IQ, developing undeserved self-satisfaction and the air of moral superiority as you arrest prostitutes and drug addicts, and shoot black men. If your goal is to become a prostitute and/or drug addict, you can learn how to shout obscenities, spit, and beat your head against a window as you sit, shackled, in the back seat of a patrol vehicle. This is more useful than anything you experienced in a classroom during the past four (five or six) years.
So, toss those tassels starboard, grads. When the janitors open the back doors of the gym and you parade out to the accompaniment of the hillbilly hoots and airhorn blasts provided by the gaggle of parents, family, and well wishers seated in the bleachers, imagine the blinding light beyond the doors ahead of you emanates from a bright future, rather than from the lunchroom.
I wish you all the best of luck, despite the fact there is no such thing as luck.