Friday, January 31, 2020

You'll navigate life much better if you understand that expecting businesses to respect you is the same as putting lipstick on a pig.

You may have heard of the book, American Dirt, recently in the news. Oprah is catching heat for it for recommending it as a "must read." Latinx writers and readers are upset because they feel that the author, Cummins (who identifies as white and Latina) is getting a payday for writing a story built upon harmful stereotypes about migrants from Mexico and Central America. You may have heard that the marketing campaign for the book is tone-deaf. I (personally) have never read the book, but in any sense of the word, I am here to argue that the marketing for it is doing exactly what it was supposed to do: sell books. It's a blockbuster as far as these things go, and harmful stereotypes don't matter (yet) in the world of big business.

This weekend, many people are going to watch the Superbowl. It too features harmful stereotypes. One of the teams in particular is a shining example of cultural appropriation. If you watch the game, you will see on the television people parading in red-face...showing their pride for their team... the "Kansas City Chiefs" and doing the "tomahawk chop." The Chiefs and any other team in the N.F.L. is just a business. They are there to make money. That's what capitalism is all about, and the N.F.L. knows how to make money. Businesses in the capitalism dystopia of the United States of America do not face (yet) any monetary consequences for making choices that harm minority groups.

I don't know how to properly feel about the "outrage machine" that is constantly burning and churning in the United States. People seem to think that businesses are supposed to be respectful. I'm here to tell you that they aren't and never have been. Could they be? Yes. But I'm pessimistic that this could ever happen. I go one step further by being "accepting" of the status quo. The fight to change all of that takes more than I have to give, and I suspect that a lot of people are in the same boat as me.

As a citizen of this country who experiences all kinds of trauma every day from capitalism, I too want to live in a world where the trauma creators are held accountable and punished. I would love to live in the world conjured up by Elizabeth Warren. However, even if she's elected president (which I see as a long shot), I'm pessimistic that real change could possibly happen without fire and blood. Her vision of America isn't the world we live in. Trauma creators and abusers are given full license to continue to traumatize, and they make a ton of money doing so, and that's just the way it is. I as a singular person don't see how any of this can change, and I'm left dumbfounded that new people, fresh people, everyday discover this truth and are shocked by it. My only explanation for this is, "you must have been raised with idealistic and loving parents, because they hid from you the entire truth of this world." A few years from now every one of these "newly minted" adults will be suffering from anxiety and depression. You can't go from a childhood of love to an adulthood of abuse and not get these two personality disorders.

In terms of humanistic and idealistic goals, the human race as a whole is pretty much garbage. For example, we have garbage for a president. Honestly (and this may shock some of you), but Trump kind of represents what I've come to know of a lot of people in this country. He's a con-man, a liar, a grifter, an abuser, and the list goes on and on. Folks, that also describes some of my neighbors and people I hang out with on a Saturday night. I'm being perfectly serious. So unless you want to live the life of a hermit (which I don't) then you end up making friends and socializing with trauma creators and abusers. Very few people are all bad, but we are all better off knowing the truth about ourselves. As a side note, it's also why we should allow people in prison to vote. Many prisoners and criminals only differ from us in one aspect: they got caught. You'd be surprised at how much scum is out there that is actually voting. If we allow that kind of pond scum to cast a ballot, we should allow the rest of it too.

You may be reading these words and thinking, "Boy, Mike must keep some terrible company...he needs some new friends." My response to you is, "If you think that the people you keep company with are noble and virtuous human beings, you know nothing of the people you spend time with." Going back to the dumpster fire we have as a president...well, we have a representative democracy. From my point of view, the shoe fits, and we're wearing it. Trump has probably (forever) torn down and rubbed mud over the highest office in the land. I'm no fan of his, but maybe it was about time. We put the people that served in that office on these high pedestals and celebrated them as the best of what we had to offer. Why did we do this? I think it's because we wanted to think it represented who we were, which was never true with the exception of a tiny minority of people.

And just like us, our entertainments (the things that we find "fun") for the most part, are not worth celebrating. Can we all stop putting book readers on some kind of pedestal? The same goes for college professors, CEO's, actors, and people who play musical instruments. "Oh you read a must be smart!" No, no, no. People who read books are no smarter than people who watch Jerry Springer. It's just another market for entertainment that isn't as cool as Tik Tok these days. And people who write books are not "geniuses" (an overused word). They're just introverts who may have personality disorders who decided that their narcissism might best be captured by telling some kind of story. My caveat to this is that some are better at coming up with ideas than others who have emptier heads. Combine that with discipline and bam, you've got a writer. That's it. That's all a book is. It seems weird to me that a book is just a celebration of discipline. Maybe actual "discipline" is so hard to find these days (which says more about our society than anything) that it's worth celebrating? I hope that this isn't true, but I fear that it is. Sigh.

Remember Ricky Gervais's speech at the Golden Globes? Here's a small part of what he said to the Hollywood elite with a "nod" to the fact that he knew this was his last time hosting (it's obvious he didn't care about any consequences):
"Seriously, most films are awful. Lazy. Remakes, sequels...the actors who just do Hollywood movies now do fantasy-adventure nonsense. They wear masks and capes and really tight costumes. Their job isn't acting anymore. It's going to the gym twice a day and taking steroids, really. Have we got an award for most ripped junky? No point, we'd know who'd win that.

"...Apple roared into the TV game with The Morning Show, a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China. Well, you say you're woke, but the companies you work for in China--unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you'd call your agent, wouldn't you?

"So if you do win an award tonight, don't use it as a platform to make a political speech. You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg.

"So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God and fuck off, okay?"
Everything Ricky said is completely true, and I loved it. This. Everything. This is the world that we live in. We shouldn't put these people on any kind of pedestal. They are entertainers and our entertainment is garbage. I consume garbage, and so do you. So does everyone. It's okay to like garbage, but let's not call it something else. This isn't to say that we shouldn't appreciate the garbage that brings us joy. However, if our garbage is served up without the beautiful trimmings of cultural awareness and respect, I don't think we should act as if we are shocked that this is happening. Ever hear of the phrase, "Putting lipstick on a pig?" Entertainment is business, and business is "the pig."

The demands for a better world from business is trying to put lipstick on a pig. To change how business operates, there needs to be consequences. There needs to be laws. There needs to be fire and blood. So without any of this, how about we celebrate American Dirt for achieving remarkable sales, and then throw away the lipstick that we want to put onto it? Sales and money were always the bottom line of the content creator and the publisher. Writing is not art, it's a business.

If this is an upsetting truth, then've just experienced abuse. Welcome to capitalism. It's trauma-tastic. However, I think you'll navigate life much better if you understand that expecting businesses to respect you is the same as putting lipstick on a pig.


  1. It's like they say: any publicity is good publicity. John Bolton is the latest to be rewarded for working for Trump and then writing a tell all. It's not fair but as long as people love reading gossip they'll continue making money off books like that.

    1. I'm pretty sure I said on my blog before that I know I write garbage but the stuff I wrote that was less garbage people didn't buy. If people demand garbage, that's what they'll get. It would be nice if people went to see smart indie films instead of Bad Boys for Life, but that's unlikely to ever happen because it's never happened. I'm sure bear-baiting and the like were a lot more popular than Shakespeare plays back in the day just like I'm sure the Coliseum in Rome was a lot fuller for gladiator fights and killing Christians than for plays. Not to be too snobby but the majority has never been extremely sophisticated; until about the 19th Century most of them couldn't read or write and even now most people have at best the reading/writing skills of a fourth grader. It's all pretty sad.

    2. What you're saying here is basically the point I'm trying to make. Businesses are (for the most part) garbage entities spewing out garbage that people demand. Why do we try and hold these garbage producers to a high standard? I think if that's what society wants to do, then 1) it needs to stop buying garbage, and 2) it needs to rethink the very nature of business whose sole purpose is to produce garbage.

    3. I want to add that I think one of the big problems is that Americans don't all agree on anything anymore. What I call "garbage" is another person's "treasure." And that's a huge problem. People need to get on the same page about things. For example, I think that the big publishers are (for the most part) purveyors of garbage (which I happily consume). I like my garbage. But I'm under no illusions that I'm a hyper intelligent man. I put on no "airs" that I'm better than another person because I read books. In my opinion, reading books is just "different." I'll take my "jerry springer" in book form, thank you. This book "American Dirt" sounds like a good read (I haven't read it yet). But is it trash? My Magic 8 Ball says, "All signs point to yes." So why the hell is anyone giving grief to Oprah about recommending it? It's because they've put her on a pedestal. I'm not sure why people put others on pedestals, but they do. And that's another problem with society, because whomever is on a pedestal suddenly has whatever trash their into "glamorized" for the masses.

  2. I've had some time to ruminate on this post, and... Yeah, I still don't know what to say. (I had time to sneak read while the coteacher instructed the kiddos.)

    We live in the universe we choose to see, I guess. There are people who want companies to do better, so they yell and argue and attempt boycotts in an attempt to get them to comply. Change only happens when enough people push for change to happen.