“Get the fuck out of my truck,” I said in an even-keeled tone to the tattooed and infrequently bathed man.
I grimaced at him slightly, indicating that he had no business opening the passenger door and moving my backpack off the front seat so that he could nestle up next to me for a fucking fireside chat, as he was presently doing.i
I mean what the fuck, did I have “FREE ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS SESSIONS” decaled across my half-murdered-out benzo truck? Just because I was blaring Stormzy out da Burmester speakers as I took a “business call” on a beautiful Sunday afternoon,ii did that magically equate to me having a “WELCOME” sign on my forehead, one specifically for deadbeats? Of course not. I wasn’t even dressed that nice!
And yet there he was, hopping into my truck outside the mid-tier downtown smoothie bar we’d both just exited from. The rando had been in line behind me and had sub-audibly attempted to start a conversation with me inside before my phone rang. Taking the phone call, I was sure, would brush him off, yet to my surprise he wasn’t deterred in the slightest and made his approach as I exited the establishment and unlocked my truck parked right out front. For a split second I thought he was going to car-jack me in broad daylight, something about as rare as tornadoes around here,iii but his non-aggressiveness and general chumminess quickly made apparent that he wanted something else, though I sincerely wasn’t clear what the fuck that was. All that was clear was that he was keen to make himself at home and not the least bit interested in “social distancing,” but seriously who is anymore.
Then, like a spider, more scared of you than you of it, after being told off so unambiguously, the gap-toothed 30-something caucasian man obliged, casually if confusedly, closing the opened passenger door quietly – too quietly in fact to latch the military-inspired vault-like doors – before mumbling something about talking to me next time as I reached across the cabin, slammed the door properly, locked it, and pulled away from the scene of the crime.
Only after I drove off – with myself and the would-be-passenger both slightly befuddled but not obviously worse for the wear – did it dawn on my simpleton brain that the poor guy was just looking for a hit! He was a drug addict!! One who’d honestly mistaken me for a drug dealer!!! Like the unnamed hustlers of Kerby Jean-Raymond‘s youthiv I was the self-assured young man with the
superhero psychopath vibe and the very nice truck who could only be, in the eyes of at least one addict, a rock slinger.v
Honest misunderstandings don’t come by much more honestly nor misunderstood. Now if he’d wanted some alts, on the other hand… but let’s not dismiss this addict’s assumptions so quickly. If/when I start wearing diamond-encrusted paperclip chains around my neck, 2 carat solitaires in each ear, and Biebz-style grillz,vi what fucking chance would a random passerby have of NOT thinking I’m a rubberband man? And who can blame them? Black culture is culture todayvii and the archetypal role model of drug-dealers-cum-rappersviii have cast their spell on an entire generation of youth, yours truly included. Through their music, these
thugs warriors embody masculinity in an urbanising world intent on destroying Y-chomosomes. So who wouldn’t be attracted to the most fearless and independent men in the english-speaking world extant, regardless of race and creed?ix Now, how each of us expresses our independence is up to us but it always and everywhere has cultural context, and we’re more likely than not to ape those in our closest proximity who embody our most deeply respected values.
Growing up, rappers were, and remain, attractive and easily-latched-onto examples of individuals who went from being marginilised by the system to defining their own paths for success, at once within and separate from the beast.x Like the other idols of my youth – Steve Jobs and Tiger Woods to name a couple – rappers beat the odds, going from outcasts to heroes in their lifetimes by being iconoclastic, true to their artistic visions, and yes, even cutthroat. Likewise, I personally don’t have a ton of respect for the establishment nor “conventional” ways of thinking and I’ve often felt like an outsider, so maybe there’s a convergence in outward appearances (or “energies” if you’re into that kind of thing) amongst anti-establishment types,xi regardless of means and methods of undermining said establishment. Perhaps that’s what I’m consciously or unconsciously signalling, and this vibe can apparently lead to cross-wired perceptions outside the expectations of my reality bubble…xii
These personal anecdotes and introspections laid out, let’s now turn to the much broader and arguably more important tensions currently afoot. As our respective means and abilities permit, we see an Amerikkka in which “FUCK12” spray-paints the same familiar anti-establishment vibe. The protests and riots following George Floyd’s murder – ie. the tragic “I can’t breathe” in the title – is a result of continual frustration following decades of disrespect experienced by Black America, itself on the heels of centuries of oppression, and now exacerbated only moreso by 70%+ unemployment resulting from COVID’s “flattening the curve” efforts,xiii not to mention the 800 lb gorilla in the room, the general decaying of industrial-era institutions before our very eyes.xiv
Not that the riots/protests will enact the change they so desperately hope to, at least not today. Way back in 1963, Malcolm X could’ve told you that these protests and riots are, at best, desperate and deceitful attempts by white liberals to weaponise the “black vote” come November.xv At the very least, the 2020 protests and riots aren’t organised enough, nor hierarchical enough, nor private equity enough. That being said, the solution to the clear painxvi and justified frustration,xvii in my humble opinion, isn’t free education, UBI, or whatever other handouts being promised in exchange for complicity, it’s to send more Trojan Horses into the establishment – more Virgil Ablohs, more Kanye Wests, and more Kevin Harts – more disrupting and then rebuilding from within. That’s the solution.
A new and complementary hierarchy can absolutely be built from within the decaying carcass of the ancien regime, feeding off its lavish excesses to build a stronger vision of tomorrow. Building a standalone structure that’s 100% outside of the current paradigm using building blocks that prefer to be “independent” is a fraught path, arguably a road to insanity, as we saw with La Serenissima, and wouldn’t leverage the exceptional skillset of Black America anyways. A better solution is, almost certainly, the Trojan Horse, particularly that of Imagination, that which Money increasingly lacks. White America might have Money today, but as Virgil, Kanye, and Kevin have expertly demonstrated,xviii it’s very much up for grabs! Systematically pick-pocketing the establishment over the course of the next century or two is arguably the best, possibly even the only way forward. It’s largely Bitcoin’s plan, as it happens, as much as such a thing could be said to exist.
Consider the “respectable” alternative: for Black America to “out-parent” White America by getting Black children into better schools so they can get better jobs at McKinsey so they can get better jobs at Goldman, Blackstone, and Andreesen Horowitz so they can be better Whites than Whites (as Asian America is currently attempting with decidedly mixed results). Does that approach seriously make any sense to anyone? Black America is far better off leveraging their apparently innate “cool” – capitalising on the Imagination that makes the best of them so globally attractive – rather than chasing the perpetually elusive and increasingly non-existent middle class dream.xix
Ultimately, there’s room for all and there’s definitely room for love. I truly believe that. I also believe that we’re generations and generations and generation away from achieving this dream, but that we’re taking the difficult steps we need to get where we’re going. I said it in my last post but it bears repeating, my most optimistic hope for the future is that we build it and built it together.
You don’t have to be a drug-dealer-lookalike to see the opportunity before us. It’s right there.
___ ___ ___
- Russ Roberts, this dude was not! ↩
- Of course, my “business call” on a Sunday around lunch was with The Girl regarding pick-up and drop-off of munchkins. Because that’s how it be. ↩
- 1987 was the last tornado to touch down in Edmonton. ↩
- Jean-Raymond is the designer behind proudly Black fashion brand “Pyer Moss” and he shares my fascination with fast cars, as well as my repulsion to the isolating effects of wealth and fame. I think we’d get along alright. ↩
- David vs. Goliath indeed! ↩
- But no tattoos, thank you very much. Nevermind the Jewish thing, they’re just too permanent. I feel like you’d have to add a new tattoo at least once a year to keep the narrative relevant, otherwise it’s just a skin-borne timestamp that fades increasingly into the awkward distance. The narrative must be added to and reinterpreted every year, like Passover, basically. ↩
- As it was in the time of Picasso a century ago, so not that this is such a new phenomenon (as if there were “new” phenomenons under the sun), but its progression continues unabated. ↩
- As stressed on these very pages during the Ferguson riots of 2014/2015 in Why did blacks stop caring about respectability and acceptability in USistan ? Because there’s none to be had. ↩
- As B-Rad perfectly foreshadowed in Malibu’s Most Wanted! Back in 2003, however, when the film was released, only “wiggers” behaved so “street,” but today it’s not only white kids but brown kids, asian kids, and first nations kids too. It’s the modern way! And far from being taboo, it’s 100% mainstream. The word “wigger” is therefore in steady decline and most of the searches for it currently relate to cardiac physiology and/or some law firm. ↩
- While I’ll never know what it’s like to be the only black kid in school, I was the only Jewish kid in school (and for the nineteen millionth time, East Meds aren’t “white”) and I’ve always been a bit of an odd-duck to say the least. Other kids have always picked up on that, even though I “pass” for “white.” So perhaps it’s no surprise that my best friend in elementary was in fact the only black kid in school. He was of Jamaican descent, adopted by a Jewish father and a gentile mother, both professors. Racism or prejudice were never explicitly directed at either of us in our public french immersion school, not in so many words, but I have no doubt that he experienced it more explicitly on his hockey team, where he played goalie, and later from our judicial system when he was locked up for being an entrepreneur without a license or something. Our judicial system, as with our hockey teams, tend to have a few more “country kids” in these parts. Indeed, my father was one such country kid before moving to the city at 18. My father never saw a black person IRL until moving here, so it is any wonder that I consider him to be as much of an immigrant, if not moreso, than my Romanian-born-and-far-more-cosmopolitan mother?
So as the son of immigrants and as the aforementioned odd-duck, do I continue to feel prejudice from hockey boys, country boys, or boys in blue? Hockey boys and I have never gotten along for largely non-racial reasons; I still don’t love police for reasons quite possibly relating to my family history, but blessedly they don’t profile my big-schnoziness in this country, particularly since I usually have blond children in tow; and since most everyone still mistakes me for “white” and I know a lot about cars, I actually get along pretty well with country folk. So do I have it good? Better than I care to admit.
Certainly, and generally speaking, Black Canadians aren’t nearly so warmly received, although the role of “bottom of the totem pole” goes to, as ironically and as sadly, our First Nations communities. Now, regardless of positioning in this geography or any other, the unwarranted oppression of these non-white communities is a disservice and disgrace to all of us. Whether or not they even want to “be white,” a seriously contentious point, they certainly don’t deserve senseless, random, and capricious acts of violence against them. Multiculturalism is a good thing! ↩
- Including actually rapping, however “poorly.” ↩
- Little could the addict have imagined that earlier that same day, my “Jeep” was the family playground in my idyllic suburban neighbourhood (because that’s what I bought it for, to be a daddy-wagen!). We don’t go to those kinds of ski hills in this truck.
Still, it’s not that I mind the comparison, I just didn’t see it coming!
Indeed, thinking back to about 18 months ago, the same thing happened in my old LS when I pulled up to the curb in a semi-dicey neighbourhood on a frozen weekday afternoon to go check out the mid-century modern furniture selection at a second-hand store. There too, a random, slightly sketchy, but in no way aggressive man hopped into my passenger seat before I told him to get the fuck out, which he confusedly did. Now that I’ve put two and two together, in the future, I’ll use this ambiguity to my advantage. This as every other! ↩
- COVID, again, is a change accelerant, as all crises are. Indeed, when I said that the US was “a bit of a powder keg” back in April, it wasn’t just coughs and sneezes bubbling under the surface. Nothing is ever that superficial. ↩
- To quote former CIA analyst Martin Gurri from his recent and most excellent conversation with Russ Roberts on Econtalk (archived):
2011 is a year I call the Phase Change Year, where it really showed the effect of this tide of information could affect power. And you had, of course, the Arab Spring in the Middle East, probably misnamed. You had the Indignados in Spain. You had a revolt called the 10 People Revolt or Social Justice Revolt in Israel. You had the Occupiers here in the United States. And, these all had similar origin. So the question, now, was what was going on? What caused these eruptions from below?
And, to my thinking, it has to do with the kinds of institutions that we have inherited from the 20th century, from the industrial age. They’re all–how many people are aware of Frederick Taylor? He’s sort of a forgotten figure in history. But he was sort of the prophet of industrialism and scientific management. And, if you read his writings, everything happens from the top down: the top manager figures everything is going to happen, all the tools that you need, and essentially what everybody, every layer below you–and there are many, many layers below you–is going to do. Everything is scripted.
Well, our institutions, which we think or tend to think were created in the 18th century by the Founders, in fact are the product of the industrial age, and of political Taylorism, in essence. And, one of the things that they required, to maintain their authority–and they had, in their day, a great deal of authority: that they believe in expertise, they believe in science–one of the things that they were–the primary foundation was a monopoly of information in their domains.
So that, if you’re in government you have a control over a certain set of government information. If you’re in politics, you and the media, you as the politicians and the media share a certain set of information that nobody else had access to in the 20th century. Nobody talked back.
And, what that [internet-enabled digital] tsunami has done was destroy that monopoly. In brief, it has destroyed that monopoly; and it turns out these institutions can’t seem to function without that and have lost their authority. Where, before there was a sort of instinctive reliance–the President says something at the age of JFK [John Fitzgerald Kennedy], somewhere between 70% and 80% of Americans trusted the government. Today, if you’re the President, you are instinctively distrusted: somewhere between 20% and 30% today, trust the Presidency and the Federal Government.
So, I think it has been a crisis that these institutions have lapsed into. And, I think the elites that manage and inhabit these institutions have reacted pretty badly in the sense of not really being aware of what’s happening, and trying to pretend that somehow the 20th century is still amongst us and that the internet and the web and the digital universe has never exploded around them.
I think disenchanted is the way I would describe the public’s view of government.
And, if you remember, there was a moment when nature was disenchanted. People used to think that it had fairies and that you could do spells or prayers and you could influence natural events. And, science came and said, ‘No, I’m sorry. That was a very beautiful story. But, in fact, none of that happens.’ And, then we could deal with science or with nature as it really is. Right? And, okay, that’s the way it is. I mean, if you want to have illusions about fairies, you can have them; but you deal with it the way it is.
The same thing has happened to government with that digital tsunami and all the institutions . All of them: the media, the academia, everything. They have been stripped to the point where the public has disenchanted all those stories that they could solve joblessness, that they could impose economic equality. All the things that have been claimed, we now see they don’t know how to do any of these things. There’s a disenchantment.
What we need, again I go back to my new elite class that we need. We need an elite class that is the equivalent of the scientific class when the first disenchantment happened and says, ‘I can’t promise you what is not true. I can say we will try this. I can say we’ll do trial and error in this direction, and that’s my policy. But, if it goes wrong, we’ll fix it.’ Versus some global, ‘I can promise you paradise, elect me.’
- Tragically, some of those on the front lines of the riots know all too well the futility of their current actions, yet they aren’t even sure where to begin building a better world, so what can they do but foist the responsibility on virginal 16-year-olds?
As an aside, it must be admitted that these protests and riots feel much closer to home than the recent Hong Kong protests, probably because they literally are, but one has to hand it to the proverbial “chinese netizens” for their great sense of humour regarding the current American situation, suggesting that 17-year-old photographer Darnella Frazier, who captured George Floyd’s murder for all the world to see, receive the Pulitzer Prize, as Reuters photographers did for their coverage of the HK protests in 2019. ↩
- I don’t know about you, but I’m finding the pain of Black America harder and harder to ignore. ↩
- Yes, culture is created by exclusion, etc. but fear creates nihilism. This was true back in Africa just as it is today. Trust and love breed creativity and productivity. Not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. ↩
- And as China has also expertly demonstrated, lest we forget. ↩
- Leveraging skills, recall, is sine qua non for success in the coming world of financialised feudalism, and since there’s a distinct need for more art, more entertainment, and more positivity in this world, why not be at the forefront of that trend? We all need distractions in a pre-robot-tax world, even the elite. The demand to fill our existential angsts has rarely been greater. ↩