That Sinking Feeling

in Politics by

I barely read the news these days, and when I do, I read with an easiness you wouldn’t expect a newsreader to have. The world is a more and more batshit place, but it has always felt that way. Today the icecaps are melting and the rainforests are on fire; less than 80 years ago, Hitler and the fascists had their eyes on global domination while people in Oklahoma were choking on dust. It’s always something, which isn’t to say the icecaps and fires are nothing, just that there are and have always been and will always be hellish scenarios threatening humanity and our planet.

We chase after happiness and security as if they were permanent things. Happy and safe are only feelings, not states of being.

This post doesn’t make sense, but you should automatically distrust anything that tries to seem like it’s making sense. Intellectuals and news anchors and politicians and parents all try to seem like they’re making sense. But it’s the people who throw up their hands and just say what they see–people like Orwell, or Bukowski, and Thompson–people who don’t pretend to know more than they do or be more than they are, those are the people who consistently offer something closer to the truth.

How do I know? How do I know when they hit closer to the truth?

How does anybody know the truth? That’s sort of the point of my rambling nonsense, I guess.

The polar icecaps are melting and nobody in power is going to do anything about it, and the world is being torn apart along all kinds of tribal lines and the people in power are, at least seemingly, somewhat encouraging it–those two things are related.

For the past couple years, ever since You Know Who got elected, we’ve been reading and hearing the endless comparisons between our time and the 1930s, when the world was in a global depression and fascism took power in Europe. But I can’t help feeling we’re on the Titanic right after it hit the iceberg.

Remember how the people responded?

Most of them were in denial and carried on like nothing. A little iceberg. So what? This ship of ours can take anything a jealous God throws at it. And they kept their top hats and tails on, swilling their martinis, laughing even, the music still playing.

The lower classes realized what was happening first, remember? The water started seeping into their cabins or wherever they were at, down in the great big guts of the ship. And in their poor-people guts they knew the ship was sinking, or if they didn’t know it for sure they at least were afraid it might be, but they waited to see what the upper classes would do anyway. They had to wait on the rich people: it was their ship. The ship belonged to the upper classes. And so the water kept pouring in but the poor people waited and waited around, getting more and more scared, the water getting higher and higher, the whole ship leaning more and more every minute.

But once everybody on the ship knew what was going on, a wave of panic swept through. And what did the upper classes do then? You remember: they locked the lower classes down in steerage behind gates while the upper-class people made for the lifeboats, still carrying bottles of champagne. I could look up the numbers, but the point is most of the people who went down with the Titanic weren’t drinking champagne.

And in that same way, our big ship has also hit an iceberg, a melting one. A melting iceberg we at first unwittingly created and then knowingly kept building and then ran our ship into. You can blame capitalism, like I have. But our crisis is much simpler than that.

Supposedly, the captain of the Titanic, on its maiden voyage, was himself on his very last assignment. And they’d given him reports of iceberg fields en route but, wanting to impress everybody in New York and the world with his prowess, he ordered full steam ahead.

Our own captains, drunk on power, have run into an iceberg, or are headed right for one, with no time left to turn away. And the wide majority of the upper classes fully intends to save itself, steerage be damned. Hence, the cages, the walls, the tax cuts for themselves, the crackdowns on the poorer people and darker people–the workers–and the shiny new prisons and crumbling old schools.

And hence why I read the news at ease these days. I’ve know this story.

The story goes like this: There are two kinds of people, basically–the kind who try to get as many children as they can off the ship before it sinks, and the kind who will do anything to make sure they’re sitting on a lifeboat, and the sooner the better, too, so as not to be around a lot of screaming and crying. There’s the kind of people who would captain their final voyage just the same as they have always captained during their decades-long career, easy and calm, using all the knowledge and experience they’ve gained over the years; and the kind of person who would, in a fit of vanity, indulging the urge to dominate, throw away all they’ve learned and give the order: Full steam ahead!

(Full steam ahead! is all capitalism knows, by the way. To put brakes on capitalism is to destroy the capitalist system. So either give the fucker gas, or give the fucker up.)

The upper classes know what is about to happen. They aren’t that dumb; most people aren’t that dumb. Everybody knows what happens when ships hit icebergs, just as everybody knows what will happen on this planet when the water and oil dry up and other resources get scarce. Some of the upper classes will rush to make sure all the children avoid the worst of it–the rich aren’t all bad–while others’ll… well, like I said, there are two kinds of people.

Meanwhile, there aren’t even enough lifeboats for everybody: not everybody’s going to Mars or Europa, and a worldwide drought would affect everybody’s food supply. So if people are going to die anyway, goes the standard upper-class thinking, let the poor die first.

The President knows that much; it’s why he was elected. The Senators and Congresspeople know. The newspeople know. Silicon Valley knows, as does Wall Street. Hollywood maybe knows, depending on the talent. The Vatican knows. Saudi Arabia knows. China knows. Russia knows. Germany knows. Brazil knows. Mexico knows. All of Africa has known for hundreds of years. The Indians seem to have always known.

The ship is going to sink… The ship is sinking.

And, when it comes down to the bottom of it, it isn’t about true or not, right or wrong, left or right, Democrat or Republican, North-South, city-country, rich-poor… there are simply two kinds of people. And we all live on that spectrum. And there’s no arguing about where people are on the spectrum, or where I think they should be. You can inform people, you can pull a mule to water, but you can’t decide what people think. There’s no making one kind of person behave like the other kind without force.

“I don’t see any peaceful way to disarm America’s whites,” says Dave Chappelle in his latest special. But it isn’t about disarming whites, it’s about steerage having a say in what happens on the ship. A lot of people in steerage are white, so the problem isn’t whiteness, it’s only that the people in power happen to be white and use their whiteness as a tool to maintain their power. They use their money too, and their religion, and their U.S. citizenship, but those things in themselves aren’t problems.

The real problem is there are a few people in power who, through their greed and vanity, have run the ship into a melting iceberg, and now they’re going to lock us down in the bowels of the ship while they head for one of the few lifeboats. Not so much crabs in a barrel, but The Scorpion and the Frog.

So if there are two types of people in the world, and if making one kind act right comes down to force, then there’s no point in me reading any more news, is there?


Featured image: kaplanmyrth/Flickr

Hector is the founder and editor of MANO as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and his writing was featured in 'Ricanstruction, 'a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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