It’s very possible to be a dumb Millennial and to blow too much of your time and your life on things like activism or watching Breaking Bad for 30 hours straight instead of focusing on getting a career so you can move out of your parents’ house or whatever.
Why are you into politics? Is it because you feel bad for others who are suffering? That’s understandable, I dig that, but it’s not my main motivation. For me it’s my own freedom.
So after spending countless hours working on political projects which ultimately mean little if they do not feed into a revolution which is kind of iffy, you begin wondering if maybe you shouldn’t just bail out and start pursuing the more typical capitalist methods of self-liberation. Try to focus on a career, try to focus on a small business.
It’s true, some of these things can help. Maybe you can move out of your parents’ house, maybe you can buy some nice appliances and get some better health insurance, yeah this is all possible. Maybe you can work in an air-conditioned office instead of a meatpacking plant. I guess these things are worth pursuing and I’m getting better at pursuing them.
But the wall that I always hit is that the true capitalist dream of liberation is not just small improvements. To be truly free, which can only mean to be free of work, means that you have to build up something called “passive residual income.” You have to have enough investments that are paying some kind of dividends or interest or profits that you can live off of them without having a regular job.
Only 54% of Americans even have stock investments, and that includes people who only have a handful of shares. The amount of people who can live off them? Basically no one — pretty much the 1%, possibly the top 10%. We can’t even retire, let alone live off of an automated money machine during the prime of our lives.
So maybe pouring those hours into the revolutionary process isn’t such a mistake, when you know that when using capitalist methods, probably 95% of us will just never be free.
When I work on political stuff, even if I do it in total isolation, I still feel an incredible togetherness with the world movement. I feel like I am stepping into a stream that includes the strikers in China, everyone who went to Occupy, the Middle East revolutions, politicos all over the Internet, everyone all over the world who is fighting for themselves, and giving solidarity to each other.
When I do apolitical, self-centered things, I get a noticeable lack of this feeling of togetherness. I realize that there are things in life which no one else will do for me, things which it almost does not even make any sense to talk to anyone about, because they’re so completely individual.
The Left would have you think that you could live with it forever. It constantly pulls you in, it invites you into its warm fold of causes and collectivity and crowds, and often enough will demand more and more and more of your time until it’s like it’s all you do.
Here’s an great example of the distinction. Comics like this are great reminders of what women have to deal with when it comes to body image problems — our society’s whole visual display is one giant reminder to women that they “don’t look good enough.”
This is odd for me as a male. Of course I think that social pressures are unhealthy, that the images of women provided by the corporate media are unrealistic. And yet I find these subconscious cues continue to exist in my thinking. Obviously it comes up when thinking over things like “would I date her?” The worst part is, no matter how I may fight it, it ends up leaking into other judgments too — my basic non-romantic judgments of a person’s character. I’m not alone in this.
I’ve been chubby, so I know it’s rough. It’s hard to lose weight when you live in a McDonalized culture and you blow all your energy working — especially if you work a standing job and your legs hurt too much to go running at the end of the day.
However, I still can’t help feeling that a person who controls their weight just has their shit together more. You have to ask yourself, at what point in a person’s weight gain did they just decide “fuck it, I give up on ever trying to reverse or even halt this?”
It’s not just my judgments of others. I guess I happen to be one of the few males out there who is openly dissatisfied with his body image. Maybe it’s because I actually possess objectivity unlike many males who just think they’re hot shit without ever taking a critical look at a mirror, or maybe I’ve somehow internalized comparing myself to people on TV the way many women do.
So yeah. I’ll stand together with people who are saying that we should smash body image expectations, that we should value everyone. I think Marx was really onto something when he wrote “Social progress can be measured exactly by the social status of the beautiful sex (the ugly ones included).” Because deep down I think the hard objective truth is that not everyone is beautiful, that there are beautiful and ugly people superficially, so maybe we should get better at valuing people in unrelated ways.
And then, at the same time, I’ll continue to be a product of my environment. I’ll pay more attention to women who are stereotypically attractive, and fight like hell to look better myself, knowing that others are not just judging my attractiveness but even my competence by it. I’ll do it alone, without anyone’s help. The difficulties and the results won’t belong to anyone but me. Much of my soul belongs to the Left, and its great celebration of human unity. Some of my soul, though will always be separate and apart — not just distinct, but perhaps even antagonistic, putting up a necessary wall of buzz-killing selfish pragmatism against the big happy human embrace. I guess that’s the dark side.