I have a confession to make. It sounds callous and contrary to everything you’re supposed to say after an event like the one last night. But here it is: I don’t care.
Another stupid “high score” broken. Another morgue crowded with dead bodies and grieving families. Another paint-by-numbers speech from the president that offers neither real comfort nor serious reflection.
I have this unfortunate epiphany as I sit here in my car on 275 Southbound. WDET’s playing Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love Today”. They played “Tears in Heaven” before this. The hosts of Culture Shift talk to one another in somber tones about the preciousness of human life and how they can’t imagine why someone would do this. It’s deja vu. It’s groundhog’s day.
As I listen to them, I can’t drum up any real emotion. It hits me — I don’t care about what happened. That just how I feel. I know it should hurt to say that, but for some reason, it doesn’t.
I think on this, and I come to the conclusion that I don’t care for two reasons.
The first reason is this: I know the underlying conditions and motivations behind these attacks, all of them, from Muslim terrorists to lone wolf white guys to black guys squeezed to the breaking point by the still-racist justice system, etc. And I know nothing will be done about them.
We are all so hung up on getting rich and getting ahead in this shitty ass system we’ve been born into that we’re all extremely unhappy. Our souls are forced to subside on the spiritual equivalent of a thin broth and stale bread. Life has been turned into an eternal competition for money and power, and regardless of what libertarians tell you, this is not our natural state. If humans really were as inherently selfish as we’ve been lead to believe, we never would’ve made it out of the caves. There never would’ve been an agricultural revolution, let alone an industrial or a digital one. But that’s how we’re expected to behave. To thrive in a culture and economic system that rewards selfishness and greed and punishes selflessness and virtue. As a result, our souls are starving.
This economic set-up, as everyone knows, creates a few unimaginably powerful winners and a whole lot of struggling losers. It creates a world where it’s extraordinarily difficult for the average person to survive. And for some people, particularly those with defective mental facilities, that knowledge is too much to take. They’re so upset that they’ve lost the game of power that they’re willing to destroy the whole world.
That’s why they do it, particularly the disgruntled white men — power. Better to have ten minutes of total power than a lifetime of none. And for a few thrilling, electrified moments, they do have all the power. Then they end themselves, denying us even the vengeance of ending their miserable little lives on our own. (By the way — as any soldier who’s stormed a peasant village can tell you, power turns you on. Watch a video of terrorists filming a crowded marketplace where a bomb is about to go off — they sound like guys watching a porno. While these fuckheads pour streams of molten lead out their barrels at the defenseless, cowering masses below, their cocks are rock hard. I’m willing to bet a lot of these shooters even jack off at the last moment and then kill themselves as the semen spurts from the tips of their glossy appendages and the cops smash in the door. The ultimate getaway. Think about that.)
I know the system that causes all this won’t be going anywhere. Even if the Democrats pass their gun laws, the global capitalist system will live on. The unhappiness will persist. The anger and despair will persist. The rotten thoughts brewing inside the minds of those that feel they never got their due will persist. The rivalries and the prejudices and the hatred, all will continue. Even with the guns gone, there will be other ways that the left-behinds of this system will seek to lash out at the world around them. There will be knife attacks, bombings. And those events will be used by the masters of industry to consolidate even more power and sow even more fear.
The second reason I don’t care is simpler: I’m too busy and stressed out to spend time thinking about it. I’m too caught up in the system. I’m too busy right now — driving down to community college to learn editing software. One more skill on my resume, one more chance to make money in my neverending quest to get paid so I can taste true freedom.
I have no time for tragedies like this, or the milquetoast responses and attempts at poetic speech and bland readings of Scripture that follow. It’s all too routine at this point, and I’m too busy working my midnight shift five nights a week. I’m too busy working my two morning shifts. I’m too busy spending my free time writing and trying in multiple ways to turn my name into a brand so I can get an income that allows me some peace of mind. I barely have time for the people I actually love, let alone some strangers in the desert or on a tropical island or anywhere else. I hate knowing this.
This pursuit to conquer the system has completely boiled any empathy out of me. Whenever I’m on a crowded, hot freeway like I am right now, all I can think about is how disgusting it is that there are this many other people on the planet. So many useless bags of meat. All of them an obstacle to my survival.
I have no patience for the weak or anybody who needs my help. I can’t help them because I’m too busy trying to help myself. I’m too busy operating on the bottomless fear that I may someday be one of them. It’s not implausible — if I lost my job, if I stopped running the treadmill even for a couple weeks, I’d be fucked. I suppose if I ever did become one of those helpless people I would simply have no choice but end myself, because at that point you’ve lost the game and there’s no reason in going on if you’ve lost the game.
I don’t care about any of the people that got killed. I didn’t know them. They’d never done anything for me. I don’t care about the shooter, some old nobody who felt so removed from everyone that he felt he had to do this. I don’t know why he did what he did. I don’t care. I didn’t know him either.
Everybody is in my way — everyone from the car in front of me to the person competing with me for a job to the wealthy guy who wants to extract every bit of value out of me before I die. It’s impossible not to think like this in our system. Everything is a resource or an obstacle. A calculation.
I still have bills to pay. I’m still working two jobs, still going to school, I still never get enough sleep and I’m still inundated every day by a media that reminds me of my place in the world and my ceaseless battle to change it.
I’m reminded of people who have achieved the money and power it requires to truly benefit from this system, and I hate them for it. I’m reminded of people who have it worse than I do, and hate me for it, even for the little that I do have — my one bedroom apartment that I rent, my student debt that still lingers after nearly a decade of monthly payments, my 3 year old car that I’m still paying off, a two and a half year old old iPhone, etc.
The system breeds envy and contempt — envy for those above you, contempt for those below you. Global capitalism has made sociopaths of us all. We all chase our dopamine shots from follows and likes, and goddamn anyone who’s doing better than us and goddamn anyone who wants what we already have. We know this, and we despair.
I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like feeling as though all these people are just “in my way.” In fact, I hate it. I don’t like having to think like this. I never have. I don’t know when it started. I want people to be happy, to be comfortable, to be secure. I want them to have those nice little moments where you realize that life is a good thing. I want them to pat puppies on their noses and kiss each other after dinner and sleep in cool, quiet rooms and all sorts of other gay shit like that.
I don’t want to see them lying motionless — emptied — on the grass next to a fence with flashing lights behind it. I don’t want to see them clinging to each other in moments of extreme sorrow and fear. If I had the means, I would reach my hands out through the very fabric of the universe and heal them myself. I would send them off on a picnic or to some sunset beach, somewhere they can enjoy existence and find genuine connection with their fellow living beings and nourish their souls in the ways souls need to be nourished.
The radio is playing Mazzy Star‘s Fade Into You now.
I stop for McDonald’s. It’s the lunch rush hour and so this place is fucking packed and all I can feel is this same burning hatred for all the people in line with me taking up my space, preventing me from getting my fucking cheeseburger now. Reminding myself that “This Is Water” doesn’t do anything. My soul is starving.
The fact that I myself am a white man adds another layer to all of this. Since everyone is unhappy, everyone looks to blame someone, and that someone is usually whoever said person has been conditioned to see as their oppressor. Black people blame white people. Women blame men. The rich blame the shiftless, leeching poor and the poor blame the shiftless, leeching rich. There are truths to all of these scenarios, but behind each of those truths is a looming universal truth — global capitalism isn’t working anymore, and it’s turned us against each other.
White men, supposedly the anointed sons of this system, can blame immigrants and minorities and whoever else the cowboy kings are telling them to blame. But most often, they are left with no one to blame but themselves. When you have only yourself to blame, you lash out at the world in general. You destroy the world itself, because in destroying the world, you destroy yourself.
I order two meals in the drivethru— a two cheeseburger meal with a Coke and a chicken tender meal with a Sprite. Normally I don’t splurge like this but today it seems appropriate. I’m nice to the girl at the window because I can tell that she’s miserable with the drive-thru so slammed. She gives the best hours of her day to an organization that pays her a pittance. Meanwhile the person who owns the company has more in his bank account than he could ever spend in his life. If he were to come to this McDonald’s for one moment, perhaps for a promotional tour, he’d patronize the girl, if he gave her any attention at all. He’d pat her on the head and go back to his private jet and forget about her.
But blaming that guy wouldn’t solve the problem, either. The 1%, . 01%, whatever the number is, all of them — if they weren’t in their position, then it would just be somebody else. The system is the problem. Everything is an advertisement. Everything is a transaction. Everything is a product. There is no room for empathy, or humanity.
I’m reminded of a speech that Al Pacino gave in the 1997 movie The Devil’s Advocate. He plays a personification of Satan, and he gives a lot of monologues, but this one is particularly relevant —
“These people, it’s no mystery where they come from. You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire. You build egos the size of cathedrals. Fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse. Grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own god. Where can you go from there? As we’re scrambling from one deal to the next, who’s got his eye on the planet? As the air thickens, the water sours, even the bees’ honey takes on the metallic taste of radioactivity. And it just keeps coming, faster and faster. There’s no chance to think, to prepare — it’s “buy futures”, “sell futures”, when there is no future. We got a runaway train, boy.”
The radio is now playing a John Lennon song that I’m not familiar with. It calls for peace, of course. I want people to be happy. I don’t want to not care about happenings like this one.
The media will spout their platitudes about human life, they’ll do phone interviews with shell-shocked victims and bystanders, they’ll do profiles on the twisted geezer that did all this, Google will put a little black ribbon on their homepage, maybe there will be a benefit concert featuring the acts that were performing last night, and they’ll play sad music and encourage us to go spend money on their merchandise, charities will get a boost in funding, the NRA will get a boost in funding, stocks will go up, and in between all the supposed sympathy will be even more advertisements encouraging us to buy even more stuff. Most of the money that’s generated from those transactions will primarily go to the people that already own the property, and the rest will be divided up in the smallest ways possible for the people that actually make them happen. So it goes.
I want to care about the shooting in Vegas. I can’t. I’m too stressed out. I’m too focused on my own endless journey for survival. I’m too lasered in on my own demons and ambitions. I’m too self-centered. I have no choice — it’s the only way I can survive.
I’m rambling. I’ve made this all about myself.
I drive off down M-14 W and my classmate calls me. I tell him I’m fifteen minutes away. It’s probably closer to twenty. I stuff fries in my mouth and chew them.
I’ll end this with a link to a song written by another kind soul that was released to the ether today, one final truth for each other as we scurry about this dust speck—