Thursday, May 14, 2020

Extra Notes: My Commencement Address to 2020 Graduates

Please sit your asses down. Thank you.

I'm not Barack Obama; I'm not his wife. Maybe you were hoping to see one of them. They're giving an online commencement address, and I think you should watch it. You should watch it because Mr. Obama was the last actual president of these United States, and may very well be the last actual president of these United States period. He was and is a legitimate leader, a moral man, an intelligent one, an example your generation needs now more than ever. You can count his wife in on all those accolades as well. They are excellent role models, something your generation is literally dying for, and will die for in ever-greater numbers as time goes on.

But the thing is, neither Mr. Obama nor his wife are going to tell you the unvarnished truth about your futures, about what you can expect in this life, about your fellow humans. They are going to deliver, however beautifully and eloquently, an impassioned speech about striving for your best, about how good people are, about the potential of your future to be all shiny n' shit.* They are going to feed you sunbeams and sugary praise, when what you fuckers really need is a stiff kick in the ass--or ten. That's why I'm here; and that's what I'm gonna do.

So let's get started, shall we?

First off, let's get real about your "educations." They weren't. Not, at least, in any decent or moral, civic or pedagogical sense. You were educated, if you can call it that, to be cogs. To be slaves. To be unthinking herd animals. And that's exactly what the vast majority of you are going to be.

Look around. Go on, take a look! Look at those seated with you, all resplendent in those shiny caps and gowns, all the same, indistinguishable from a distance. In five years, max, you won't need that distance anymore. You'll all be indistinguishable from each other up close, too.

Take a look! If your graduating class is 400, only four of you, at most, will wake up to your coghood and fight to get out of it. More likely it will be only one, if even that. The rest of you will willingly take on that role and will demand that your kids become cogs too. It's what your so-called teachers and so-called parents call "the real world." And you're going to fall in line with nary a peep of protest.

Oh, yeah, right. You're a rebel. You didn't listen to your teachers. You didn't do the homework. You snuck out of your room at night and got high with your "friends" and screamed at  your "parents" and regularly flunked classes and got a tattoo or six and vaped and got suspended from school and made fun of the jocks and the nerds and lived your life with both middle fingers thrust high into the air. Right?

Sit the fuck down, asshole. You're no rebel. Not even close. Neither are the jocks; and neither are the nerds.

You think that's all that's needed, right? You think that's what rebellion actually is. You think that's what genuine nonconformity actually is. Well, you're a fucking idiot, and if I had my way, I'd have a gang of Chinese martial arts masters beat the living shit out of you before you exit the auditorium, and made sure they give you lifelong scars to remind you of your bullshit. Maybe it'll help down the road. Doubtful, but maybe.

Maybe--maybe--one of you in a class of 400 will have the stones to be a true rebel. A true person. I'm going to be optimistic and assume that person exists, and speak exclusively to him or her now, rebel to rebel. Here goes.

Get ready, my friend, because if you think life is tough, you ain't seen nothin' yet. You're likely a fairly intelligent individual, probably pretty quiet, almost certainly very observant. You're just now getting a glimpse of the Game. You're getting a sense for how absolutely vile and immoral and soul-crushing it is.

Please believe me: it's a thousand times worse than you can imagine.

And the reason why is sitting right next to you.

Because your classmates are dedicated to becoming comfortably numb cogs in that Game, regardless of any drunken speeches to the contrary they may have given in the past or may give in the future, and they are going to defend their cowardice, and hence the Game itself, full-on for the rest of their miserable lives. Count on it.

You might be able to see that the Game is destroying all life on Earth, is responsible for the fascism and nationalism and wholesale bigotry currently swarming over the planet like the COVID-19 virus, is responsible for suburbanism, materialism, and nihilism that contributes directly to and fuels these ills, is responsible for consumerism and elitism and the grotesque inequality condemning billions to a scratch-the-deadpan-earth subsistence living, is responsible for Donald Trump and his supporters, is responsible for the mindlessness and soullessness of modern evangelical Christianity, is responsible for late-stage capitalism, the massive cancer that it is, and is responsible for the hard, hard reality that humanity will be fortunate, if you can call it that and not wince, to see January 1, 2100.

Most of you are what?--17? 18? Add 80 years, and you'll be 97 or 98. You'll be very old, even with advances in medicine, which are very likely not going to come, or if they do, stick around long enough for sad sacks like you to avail yourself of them.

Your children, should you be stupid enough to have them, are going to suffer in ways you cannot even imagine.

Those sitting next to you, rebel, are going to do everything they can to crush you and your individuality and your efforts to make a living--while getting you to forget the simple truth that in any truly decent and moral world, there would be no such concept of forcing people to make what they already have. They are going to ostracize you if they haven't already. They are going to use and abuse you like toilet paper. Again--if they haven't done so a dozen times already.

Here's a term you need to familiarize yourself with right now: Amatonormativity. Basically, it boils down to this toxic sludge: your classmates, in their desperate efforts to fit in, to be like everyone else, are going to go on a seek-and-destroy, carpet-bombing, take-no-prisoners mission for their so-called "soulmate." They--those you are stupid enough to think are your friends--are going to haul you along while they do so, pretending to give a shit about you; but the moment they find this person, whether or not he or she actually resembles anything even remotely close to a "soulmate," they are going to marry that person, settle down, and promptly abandon your ass. This they and their culture call "normal"; this they and their culture call "healthy." It isn't.

Mortgages, cars, kids. Lawns two-and-three-eighths inches long. Picking up the dog poo weekends. Piling up credit card debt. Doing useless work at a useless, almost certainly destructive corporation, say, as a business analyst, compliance systems and analytics cog at Western Union. It sounds all important, right? But it very much isn't. It's the title of one who sold his or her soul. That's it. That's all it ever truly signifies, and all it ever will signify.

Fitting in is what your "education" taught you, above all things, to do. It taught you not to become a creative agent, but to behave. It taught you not to imagine, but ape. It taught you not to think critically, but to accept your fate like cattle being prodded up the chute towards the slaughterhouse.

Believe me, that's where you are headed. Anybody who claims anything else is trying to sell you something.

Being a rebel--being a true person--means rejecting this horseshit wholesale. It means doing the intensely hard work, work you'll never stop doing, to discover and honor who you truly are. It means shedding the labels this hateful culture wants to slap on you, and eschewing the roles it intends for you to assume. True nonconformity begins there. In essence, it's a journey inward to your soul, your spirit. If you do that with any sustained commitment worthy of the term, you'll see just how ludicrous your classmates and their cling-to-with-white-knuckles culture truly are.

It doesn't require tattoos. It doesn't require getting high. It doesn't require what those assholes think is nonconformity.

Look those fuckers up in five years. Seriously. You're going to find that they, maybe even more than their peers, are working harder at fitting in as good herd animals than the others. Just wait. You'll see.

Reject the notions of "freedom" that those herds try to saddle you with--especially Republicans. Republicans are arguably the vilest, most slavish, most slobbering herd animals of all. Everything they do and say is in perfect lockstep with their mooing brethren. And don't expect Democrats to be much better. Far too many are so cowardly, so spineless, so malleable, so limp, that you'll find yourself amazed that this country hasn't fallen into an outright autocracy decades earlier. Independents are almost never; and the indifferent are the biggest herd of all.

Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em all.

You're expected to "make a living." This is herdspeak for "get in line and do what we tell you to do." The system is explicitly set up to starve those who fight it. You're almost certainly going to have to sell your precious, finite hours to a job doing something you hate in order to keep a roof over your head and your belly filled. But that doesn't mean you have to capitulate. That doesn't mean you have to become comfortably numb like the fuckheads next to you will. That doesn't mean you have to become a defender of the system like they will.

Finding a way to keep, maintain, and grow your soul while doing hateful work you couldn't give a shit about will be one of the biggest challenges of your entire life. Very, very few ever bother rising to it. You're in rare company if you are still fighting in two years, let alone five.

Recognize fame as the herd trap it is; money too. Refuse to let them define you, no matter where on that spectrum you may fall. It doesn't take talent to become famous, so don't bother. It requires luck, connections, and cash, nothing more. Being truly loved and cherished by a tiny few is far better than being fawned over by millions. If you understand all I've been saying about herdmanity to this point, you'll suss out why. As for money, the system is so rigged at this point that if you're making lots of it, or you've inherited lots of it, you're almost certainly part of the problem, and a big defender of that fucked-up system too.

There is a powerful quote attributed to Jesus from the Bible. Here it is.

Enter by the narrow gate.
For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leadeth to suffering,
and those who go through it are many.
But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leadeth to true life,
and those who find it are few.

No matter what the herd tells you, what those cogs claim, this quote has nothing to do about walking a Christian path. That's bullshit. It was spoken by a Jewish rebel to another (religious or not) rebel--to you. It isn't about being religious; it's about being a goddamned rebel. It's about honoring your soul. It's about true nonconformity, true individuality. It doesn't require that you believe in God or kneel to pray or becoming a fuckin' monk, got it? It's about refusing to kill your spirit, period, in a world absolutely devoted to making you do just that.

More than ever, we need people like you. The herds of humanity are literally destroying this planet as we speak. Few are willing to look at it and fight it. Very few indeed. Most think they can consume the world back to health. They concern themselves with laundry detergent and washing the car and boner pills and making sure their kids don't hang out with "the wrong element." They are precisely the target market for all those inane commercials you're inundated with every day. They're proud of it! They think that if they can just afford that new Lincoln, that they can be as cool as Matthew McConaughey. They don't question corporate greed. They don't question the invasiveness of Facebook or Twitter or Google. They admire pigs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

Look around. If there is a heaven, these fucks aren't going. Because the narrow gate and the way is hard, bitches. It's very hard. It's lonely. You may starve to death. You may go homeless--as I did once. You may lose all your friends and family--like I did. If so, at least know this: they never were anyway.

Humanity's future is bleak. That is, if you, rebel that you are, give up. The motherfucking world spins because of ones like you, and, as Erich Fromm once said, humanity probably would've destroyed itself were it not for those true persons keeping the species going. He wasn't talking about Elon fucking Musk or Jeff Bezos. He was talking about rebels. About you.

Humanity's future is likely bleak no matter what you or I do now. That much must be admitted. Don't give up regardless. Don't let the moo cows win. Refuse to join them in the chute to the slaughterhouse. Fight with all you have, with all you are, against them and the corporate machine that is wiping everything out. Please. I beg you.

"Truth," says J. Krishnamurti, "is a pathless land."

We rebels know this. The way is hard precisely because of that fact. Be one of the very, very few who dare to make your own path. Be one of the very, very few who refuse to sell his or her soul. It's your life, after all. It's yours. Have the courage to truly claim it!

*The bits of Mr. Obama's speech I saw put to the lie
that all he was going to do was speechify sunbeams up your asses.
He was a great president; and his speech shows
just how great a human being he is too.
I stand, at least partially, corrected.