By Chad Hill
Source: The Hipcrime Vocab
Last week I realized that there were a few subtleties left out of my (rather depressing) topic. I argued that America was doing more than just throwing its working class under the bus; it was actively trying to eliminate of them. Meanwhile, the media, especially that tailored to the richest twenty percent of news consumers, is consistently waxing ecstatic on how this is the “best, richest, most peaceful time, ever,” because Facebook, even though most of us Americans are living in communities that are in an advanced state of decay, if not outright collapse.
The point I wanted to make is that the dieoff is happening not only at the end of life as we saw last week, but also at the beginning. By this I mean that it’s simply too expensive to have kids anymore. Lowered birthrates are a sort of “stealth dieoff” among the lower classes, and the upper ones too.
Now, lowered birthrates is certainly something I can get behind, but I would rather it have come from choice rather than economic necessity. I realize that not everyone is like me, and for some, the desire to breed is unstoppable. The rich are perennially complaining that the poor are having children they can’t afford, a very Anglo-Saxon complaint that goes back several hundred years. Of course, the poor will continue to breed no matter what because a child costs nothing to produce, and if their ancestors hadn’t behaved the same way after all, they wouldn’t be here. The idea that poverty will stop the poor and indigent from breeding has a poor track record, especially with the numbers of poor and indigent consistently rising. All it means is that more children will be born in poverty, and we now know that there are a host of behavioral and epigenetic consequences of that. Most certainly, the fallout from that will once again be placed on individual failure rather than social circumstance.
The number of kids in the US would be shrinking if it weren’t for immigrants. Americans are castigated for having children they can’t afford, with entire communities, especially rural ones, bereft of well-paying jobs. Meanwhile people in these communities see a massive influx immigrants with huge families working in all the blue collar occupations that they used to do. Is it any wonder that anti-immigrant demagoguery is a political winner in decaying Middle America? Corporate America felt they could keep a lid on this situation forever, even as they cynically stoked this reactionary fervor to delegitimize the very idea of the common good to gain tax benefits and hide the stealth takeover of government. Now they cannot control the demon they have unleashed. The nihilistic philosophy purveyed by the Right of every man for himself has reaped a whirlwind that even they can no longer control. It was only a matter of time before someone hijacked it and used it for their own personal ends.
This article is from the British newspaper The Guardian, but is just as relevant to the United States:
These hurdles to the world of adulthood continue to be a great source of sadness and anxiety, and I’m not alone. For swathes of people in their 20s and 30s, who largely thought they would be at least a bit sorted by now, achieving the adult lives they want seems a distant fantasy. Spiralling property prices coupled with the fetishisation of housing as an investment – expressed through buy-to-let properties and often poor rental conditions – means secure housing is off the table for many of us as we continue to subsidise our much richer landlords…The recession, unstable and unreliable unemployment, low pay compounded by a pensions shortfall and an ageing population, have all led to a situation in which many members of my generation feel not only short-changed, but helpless when it comes to building some semblance of a stable family life. While our generational predecessors, the baby boomers, reaped the rewards of free university education and affordable property prices, we have been disproportionately affected by austerity…
Jealousy towards baby boomers is an everyday occurrence. You’ll be sitting in a bar with friends and hear them lament the fact that their parents had bought a house by the time they were 27. .. Generation Y – or millennials, if you must – are still often portrayed as existing in a state of perpetual kidulthood; we’re Peter Pans who never want to grow up. Yet many of us are desperate to do so.
Unaffordable housing and living costs are often portrayed as a “London problem”. “Why not simply move?” detractors say, as though career opportunity, family ties or personal finances are not an issue. Yet I spoke to people in their 20s and 30s from all over the UK, and many felt the same way: that their chances of getting to the point where they are stable enough to settle down and have children are slim to none. Many of them feel great sadness about this, not only because they look to their parents’ generation and see opportunities they’ve never had, but because a gulf is opening within our own generation – between those who can start a family or whose parents can help them get on the property ladder, and those who can’t….
The more people I spoke to, the more apparent it became that this is not just about generational divides, but about class. Interviewees were forever mentioning friends or acquaintances who had been privileged enough to buy, while those from low-income backgrounds lost out.
The decay of America’s working class is often chalked up sort of a moral turpitude, and this is depicted as something that emerged as a fallout of the permissive 1960’s, despite the fact that it more exactly coincides with the shuttering of factories all over the country than the flower children. The lower classes are consistently depicted by the media as stupid and lazy, and thus deserving of their plight. Meanwhile, the wealthy are depicted as increasingly hard-working and morally upstanding, constantly either studying for another certification or working to the point of exhaustion, and pushing their sheltered, overprivileged children to study hard and get into a good college so they can keep up with the Joneses. Yet at the same time, these poor, working class white Americans are held up as moral exemplars of the nation; the “Real Americans,” in contrast to the swarthy, godless, libertine city-dwellers living it up on welfare. Middle Americans get the mixed message that they are morally superior than the lazy, dark-skinned masses in the cities (where most of the economic activity takes place), at the same time as their communities are being overtaken by violence, family breakdown and chronic drug abuse. It’s a rather schizophrenic view, to say the least.
I recently read this comment on Disinfo :
Viewing this site without Adblocking software is quite the experience. Right now, I’ve got two professional wrestling ads and an ad for Kohls up top. Down at the bottom:
“The way Kim Kardashian lost her virginity is disgusting!”
“25 sexy girls who don’t hide that they’re bisexual!”
“14 selfies taken right before death!”
“20 unseemly moments caught on Walmart security cameras!”
“24 stars who forgot to wear underwear in public!”
Something about ultimate female fighter Ronda Rousey.
It’s like the server is emanating from “Idiocracy,” targeting the oh so coveted “13 Year Old Boy Who Jacks Off 23 Times a Day” demographic.
When I click on the banners, I’m brought to a site running so many simultaneous video ads that my computer freezes. “Gee, thanks! Say, could I perhaps buy something from you?”
This is in reply to a Matt Taibbi article, America is too dumb for TV news.
It’s our fault. We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth.
The old Edward R. Murrow, eat-your-broccoli version of the news was banished long ago. Once such whiny purists were driven from editorial posts and the ad people over the last four or five decades got invited in, things changed. Then it was nothing but murders, bombs, and panda births, delivered to thickening couch potatoes in ever briefer blasts of forty, thirty, twenty seconds.
What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it’s just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.
And this coming not long after “Black Friday,” in which we are treated to scenes from all over the country of herds of people camping out outside in the freezing cold on one of our few holidays outside the blank, cinderblock boxes of suburban wasteland, so that they can trample themselves to death to secure a new big-screen TV, video game or juicer.
It does seem like Idiocracy, which was theoretically a parody movie, is increasingly an accurate depsiction of our society right now. We currently have a reality TV star running for president. What else is Donald Trump but our very own President Camacho?
Idiocracy is now. How much further can society plummet?
On this news website, chronicling just one area (upstate New York), every article was a depiction of the horror show that Middle America has become:
This is not the sign of a healthy society. This is a society in the grip of madness. This is the other dieoff.
America is one giant tapestry of scam artistry. From pedophiles in Congress, to hedge-funders jacking the price of drugs, to shaking down taxpayers to fund sports stadiums for billionaires, to gutting finance laws, everywhere you turn there is a scam where someone is either trying to rip someone off, or is getting ripped off. And those who are getting ripped off are busily looking to get in on the hustle where they take advantage of someone else below them. It’s a society of predators and prey. And we think this is somehow normal. How much longer can a society like this last?
Isn’t it time we start acknowledging that this is what capitalism is. I mean inherently. It’s the law of the jungle. It’s every man for himself. It’s the “survival of the fittest.” It’s everyone jockeying for some sort of advantage, every minute of every day, morality be damned. It’s a society dedicated to nothing else besides getting every last dollar from the next guy by any means possible. It’s appealing to the lowest and basest instincts in humanity. Yet we’re told that “naked self interest” is natural and is the sole engine of prosperity, and that extreme inequality drives us to “achieve” by the pseudoscience of economics, and most of us appear to believe it.
This is the society we’ve made for ourselves. Are your proud of it? So is it any wonder there’s a backlash, whether from religious fundamentalists or radical political ideologies like Trumpism?
…on the free market it is legal and customary to instrumentalize our fellow human beings, violating their dignity because our goal is not to protect it. Our goal is to gain personal advantage, and in many cases this can be achieved more easily if we take advantage of others and violate their dignity…What is decisive is my attitude and my priority: am I interested in the greatest good and the preservation of the dignity of all, which is something which affects me automatically and which I benefit from as well, or am I primarily interested in my own welfare and my own advantage, which others might, but will not necessarily draw benefit from? If we pursue our own advantage as our supreme goal, the customary practice is to use others as means to achieve this goal and to take advantage of them accordingly.
If we must constantly fear that our fellow human beings will take advantage of us in the market as soon as they are in a position to do so, something else will be systematically destroyed: trust. Some economists say this doesn’t matter because the economy focuses completely on efficiency. But such a view must be disputed, for trust is the highest social and cultural good we know. Trust is what holds societies together from the inside – not efficiency!..The interim conclusion to be drawn is radical: so long as a market economy is based on pursuit of profit and competition and the mutual exploitation that results from it, it is reconcilable with neither human dignity nor liberty. It systematically destroys societal trust in the hope that the efficiency it yields will surpass that achieved by any other form of economy.
This comment to a Barbara Ehrenreich piece at Naked Capitalism describes one major reason the white working classes, especially who have bought into the “rugged individualism” ethos, are being skinned alive by this economic system.
I believe this analysis is missing a very important component. True, historically poor whites have experiences somewhat more privileged conditions than minorities (admittedly even today they still do), but that traditional privilege has simultaneously caused them to be somewhat more fragile, less resilient than other oppressed groups. Poor whites are more atomized, isolated people in America. They do not have, nor have access to, the same cohesive social structures that have tended to develop among minorities as a survival mechanism against white oppression in the past.
I don’t say that as a theory, but rather as experienced reality. In the trailer park my family still lives in minority groups tend be gregarious and social among themselves (and honestly among others as well if one were inclined to invite himself as I often was). From my experience they were mostly psychologically stable and had a good ability to roll with the punches. The poor whites on the other hand were near universally drug addicts and thieves, and even when they did (or do–they’re still there I mean) form (weak) social bonds they’d nevertheless steal from each other or rat each other out to the police regardless. This was something I never saw happen among minorities (though I’m sure it does happen; I just didn’t see it at all).
Anyway to continue on, I believe that our economic system is in decline across the board, and that everyone’s wealth and prosperity are taking a hit on average (and the poor are getting the worst of it, as is common in collapsing societies–as I believe I understood from Jared Diamond’s work as well as a Sciencedaily anthropology article I read a while back). This being the case, I put the two together and come up with the idea that poor whites simply do not have the social frameworks, that were previously forged by oppression among the minorities, required to survive a declining society–and thus are dying off.
Which coincides with my observations.
Of course there are no social bonds in a society where it’s every man for himself trying to gain personal advantage. Humans were not meant to live like this. The endgame of such a society is Colin Turnbull’s description of the Ik in Uganda, also brought about by a rapid onset of scarcity and deracination. We’re doing the elite’s dirtywork ourselves. They don’t have to massacre us if they can get us to massacre each other.
Meanwhile, among the “meritocratic elite” winners, things are not looking so rosy either:
The rich middle- and high-school kids Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm. They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.
One of the two major causes of distress, Luthar found, was the “pressure to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits.” …From their answers, Luthar constructed a profile of elite American adolescents whose self-worth is tied to their achievements and who see themselves as catastrophically flawed if they don’t meet the highest standards of success. Because a certain kind of success seems well within reach, they feel they have to attain it at all costs—a phenomenon she refers to as “I can, therefore I must.” Middle-class kids, she told me, generally do not live with the expectation that they should go to Stanford or earn $200,000 a year. “If I’ve never been to the moon,” she said of middle-class families, “why would I expect my kids to go there?” The yardstick for the children of the meritocratic elite is different, and it can intimidate as much as it can empower.
The second major cause of distress that Luthar identified was perhaps more surprising: Affluent kids felt remarkably isolated from their parents….
Since Levine wrote The Price of Privilege, she’s watched the stress in the Bay Area and in affluent communities all over the country become more pervasive and more acute. What disturbs her most is that the teenagers she sees no longer rebel. A decade ago, she used to referee family fights in her office, she told me, where the teens would tell their parents, “This is bad for me! I’m not doing this.” Now, she reports, the teenagers have no sense of agency. They still complain bitterly about all the same things, but they feel they have no choice. Many have also fallen prey to what Levine calls a “mass delusion” that there is but one path to a successful life, and that it is very narrow. Adolescents no longer typically identify parents or peers as the greatest source of their stress, Levine says. They point to school. But that itself may suggest a submission of sorts—the unquestioned adoption of parental norms.
The Silicon Valley Suicides (The Atlantic)
One of the reason the children of the elites feel such a sense of anxiety is by design. We’ve made sure that anyone who doesn’t make it into the “cognitive elite” now lives a life of persistent humiliation, desperation and scarcity, constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the debt collectors and predatory law enforcement. And now they can’t even afford to have a family, as we saw above. Add to that the fact that the social safety net is being gutted every day because it is “unaffordable,” even as the pool of jobs is inexorably shrinking. Is it any wonder they’re being driven to neurosis, even to the point of taking their own lives?
It’s yet another dieoff.
So who exactly is thriving in a society like this? Because I can’t find anyone. Yet we’re constantly told by economists that this is just the “natural” evolution of society, as inevitable as the phases of the moon or the law of gravity. There is simply nothing to be done but stomp down on the pedal of more growth and innovation. Really?
Can there be any doubt after reading stories like those above, that something is seriously wrong? for those of us who don’t live in gated communities, or the rarefied communities in Manhattan, Washington D.C. or Los Angeles where all of our media originates, we can see this with our own two eyes. We see the dysfunction around us. Yet the media constantly denies it. It’s dedicated to stoking our fears and insecurities to push product. Can there be any surprise that people in this frightened and decaying nation are turning to someone like Trump who ignores the economists and promises to “make us great again?” It was only a matter of time before someone did it.
Now, you might accuse me of cherry-picking the sordid and sensationalist stories above. I collected them last week entirely by happenstance intending to write about them, but in the interim, something else happened that you may have heard about. As cynical as I am, even my breath is constantly getting taken away.
I once wrote that mass-shootings will become so common in America that the media won’t even bother to cover them anymore. One remarkable thing about the massacre in San Bernardino was that it managed to completely obscure the other gun massacre that took place on the very same day! And it pushed coverage off of the religious fundamentalist massacre at an abortion clinic less than a week before. In other words, there are so many gun massacres that the media cant even cover them all!
Of the 30,000-plus people killed by firearms each year in the United States, more than 11,000 of those are homicides. That means there are more than 30 gun-related murders daily.
The San Bernardino massacre marked the 353rd mass shooting in America this year alone, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which defines a mass shooting where at least four people are either injured or killed.
“You have 14 people dead in California, and that’s a horrible tragedy. But likely 88 other people died today from gun violence in the United States,” Everytown for Gun Safety’s Ted Alcorn told the New York Times.
In 2015 to date, according to the Gun Violence Archive, 12,223 people have died as a result of gun violence in America, while another 24,722 people have been injured.
“We’re having a mass shooting every day, it’s just happening under the radar,” Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Gun Policy and Research, told news.com.au.
Legislation that was unobjectionable to the George W. Bush administration—laws that would simply prevent people on the FBI’s consolidated terrorist watch list from buying guns or explosives—are voted down in Congress. A physician, running for president, say, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” And 185,345 background checks to buy guns were processed on Black Friday alone—a new record. According to the FBI, “The previous high for receipts were the 177,170 received on 12/21/2012—a week after Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.” Mass killings turn out to be extremely good news for the gun industry.
Beyond the frequency and the brutality and the futility of effecting changes, maybe this is a statistic worth noting. As Joshua Holland writes: “Perhaps the most frightening thing we know about gun violence comes from a study conducted by researchers at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia that was published earlier this year in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law. It found that almost one in 10 Americans who have access to guns are also prone to impulsive outbursts of rage. Among this group are almost 4 million people who carry their guns around in public and say they ‘have tantrums or angry outbursts,’ ‘get so angry [that they] break or smash things’ and lose their temper and ‘get into physical fights.’ ” This is not about mental illness; it’s about anger, violence, and fear. And in no small part because of mass shootings, we become more angry, violent, and more fearful all the time.
And while we read the same articles, and make the same phone calls, and buy more guns, and grow more frightened, one other thing does change. Our schools go into lockdown. More and more. Thursday in Denver (“reports … of an armed person at the school”). Thursday in Pleasant Grove, Utah (“after a student reported another student with a gun”). Thursday in Chicago. Thursday in Palm Beach, Florida. Thursday in Dallas. Thursday in Savannah, Georgia. Thursday (and two other days this week) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Friday in Philadelphia. Wait, what? Kids bring guns to schools? In what universe does this surprise us? For our children, a world of daily shootings and daily lockdowns is the way they will have been raised. For them, as a friend who lives near one of Thursday’s lockdowns puts it, “It’s not if. It’s when.”
Mass Shootings are Changing Us (Slate)
The irony is that, when it comes to real resources, America is one of the best placed societies in the world. We waste upwards of forty percent of our food and energy on a daily basis. While we do import oil, this is mainly due to our profligate ways rather than true scarcity or “need.” Our population density compared to land area is the envy of Europe, much less places like India, China and Nigeria. We have the resources to give people a much higher standard of living in an industrial decline situation than much of the world, it’s just that our frontier growth mentality and bootstrap ideals dictate that life must be a hard struggle, and that allowing the rich to accumulate massive fortunes is somehow not only morally, but also practically, ideal.
I feel somewhat fortunate that I understood from an early age that the American lifestyle is toxic just be observing the lives of people around me. I never bought into the bullshit, and it seems like the people who did are the ones who are struggling, particularly mentally. My circumstances are somewhat similar to this woman from the article cited above:
Some might argue that expectations are now simply too high. Thea, 26, certainly thinks so. “I come from a working-class background, so, while I have had some financial help from my parents when I’ve been desperate – I’m talking a couple of hundred quid a month – the onus has always been on me to achieve and get where I want to be in life. I’ve not had anything ‘handed’ to me, like a house or substantial amount of money that would help me settle down in future.”
But it doesn’t bother her too much. “My upbringing and background have helped me accept my current situation. Despite not having much money as a kid – we never went abroad, for example – I never felt I missed out on anything. I do think my expectations of what constitute necessities – foreign holidays, owning a house or car – are lower than those of some of my peers who had more middle-class upbringings.”
Thea has never wanted children and, as an only child, knows that she will inherit her parents’ house when they die. “I think the country, as far as wages, property, poverty and my generation actually being able to build secure finances, is in an absolute state and something undoubtedly needs to be done. But I also think part of the problem is that so many people go to uni now: it devalues a degree (I don’t have one) and doesn’t guarantee anyone a job. So you’re left with broke, unemployed twentysomethings in debt.”
In my office context, I saw countless examples of people pursuing the “American Dream” of going deep into debt for a fancy degree, clawing their way up the career ladder by working 80-hour weeks and hitting the links, marrying someone from a suitable class background, pumping out the babies immediately thereafter, and moving out of their cozy, walkable neighborhoods to a bloated starter mansion out in the distant exurban wastelands, with the requisite hour-plus commute to be in a good school district (and moving another ten miles out with every raise or promotion). This is the good life? Really? I had no intention (or even opportunity) to get into the competition of who has the bigger house, or whose kids have the best SAT scores, or any of that nonsense. Being born on the bottom with no family has its advantages. You don’t have to be a hermit to not buy into this society’s bullshit, you just have to think for yourself, something most people are conditioned never to do, because if they did the whole thing might fall apart.
But then, again it’s all falling apart anyway.