The key to under­stand­ing this whole cari­ous elec­tion is INHERITANCE, along­side its accom­pa­ny­ing closest-thing-remain­ing-to-an-emo­tion, ENTITLEMENT.

I used to work for a tutor­ing agency on the Upper West Side in Man­hat­tan, one of the zil­lions that popped up in the wake of charter schools and the test-them-to-death crazes sweep­ing the nation, cater­ing to the gorm­less spawn of the ultra wealthy. These agen­cies are like the Wild West — there’s lit­er­ally no reg­u­la­tions at all, they come and go as quickly as ‘herb­al marijuana’ for­mu­las, and there’s noth­ing but admin mar­ket­eer­ing to rope the kids into their crappy ‘schools’ (which are just empty offices with no heat or inter­net). The one I was at paid $40 per hour, while the admins pock­eted a whop­ping $200 per hour for work they did­n’t do (though the par­ents assumed the tutors ‘fol­lowed the cur­riculum’, there was none, and tutors were expec­ted to wing it at best or work around the admins’ imprac­tic­al or down­right dan­ger­ous ran­dom advice at worst). I bring this up not just to snitch on how ram­shackle and shady the oper­a­tions are that the ultra wealthy throw their kids at (to the tune of approx­im­ately $1500 a day, five days a week, for at least a full semester), but also to men­tion the mutated emo­tion­al appar­at­us the child-inher­it­ors of the ultra wealthy grow into. Many of these kids were third-gen­er­a­tion money — that is, no one in their homes worked for a liv­ing besides the fre­quently-mul­tiple maids, cooks and dog-walk­ers. Home­work, class­work and tests were OPTIONAL — it depended on how they felt that day, and if they did noth­ing there was to be no con­sequence. On sev­er­al occa­sions the tutors were cri­ti­cised by the kids for their off-brand cloth­ing, made fun of for their lack of vaca­tion exper­i­ence, or told their appear­ance was just under­whelm­ing. (‘Why are your teeth so yel­low?’ one pre­co­cious six-year-old asked me. ‘I eat a lot of yel­low food,’ I con­fided.) These kids are trained from birth how not to relate to any­one, but how to jockey for atten­tion and pri­or­ity of ser­vice based solely on their fam­ily’s pos­ses­sions (which for them have always been there, and nev­er required even the slight­est thought of work). They have no skills and devel­op no tal­ents bey­ond the dark arts of present­a­tion and accu­mu­la­tion. They are INHERITORS, and in case you haven’t noticed, in the twenty-first cen­tury they’re rap­idly com­ing to own the earth.

I bring this up for two reas­ons: Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton. Clin­ton was­n’t born to ultra wealth the way that Trump was, but her time as a mem­ber of Wash­ing­ton roy­alty and the elec­tion ‘stolen’ from her (god­damn demo­cracy!) eight years back leaves her squarely ENTITLED. The Don­ald is far more dan­ger­ous, tho: he has all the hall­marks of inher­it­ors, which is to say, in the lingo, sociopath­ic nar­ciss­ism. Like the kids at the tutor­ing ‘schools’, he’s taught from birth that he can do no wrong, that the world exists purely to serve him, and that world lead­er­ship is just the pos­i­tion he DESERVES. There’s no point at all dis­cuss­ing his ‘real’ opin­ions or beliefs, because the sur­face is all there is, just pomp and hurt and want and warp and woof, a real­ity TV incarn­a­tion of Pa Ubu him­self. From the per­spect­ive of ultrawealth, the world’s less-than-wealthy people are basic­ally car­toon ver­sions of anim­als, who require orders and prop­er herd­ing to do what wealth demands. That’s only an exten­sion of the neo­con­ser­vat­ive logic of pla­cing money before people, mak­ing cap­it­al the sub­ject and work­ers ITS object. But it’s a ter­ri­fy­ing exten­sion, like Pinoc­chio’s erec­tion, because its object rela­tions remove any chance of empathy ever get­ting in the way. When you’re born and raised with no con­nec­tion to real pro­duct­ive life, you are nev­er in danger of see­ing the masses as more than raw materials.

The moment of organ­ised action was squandered in the pre­vi­ous cen­tury. In this cen­tury, the revolu­tion will prob­ably not be organ­ised. But it still must be, or we’re what’s next on the dis­gust­ingly expens­ive menu.

Trump’s primary innov­a­tion was noti­cing that Amer­ic­an polit­ics was less enter­tain­ing than pro wrest­ling, and that, in the wake of Rupert Mur­doch, the most enter­tain­ing per­son wins the news (and lever­ages the buzz into money and power). The dis­en­fran­chise­ment of Amer­ic­an work­ers over the course of dec­ades, com­bined with the destruc­tion of edu­ca­tion and the con­stant lack of truth­ful inform­a­tion on even the most basic facts of Amer­ic­an eco­nom­ics, polit­ics and soci­ety have left the nation dan­ger­ously close to the car­toon ver­sion of a zoo that Trump very obvi­ously sees it as. There’s lit­er­ally no dif­fer­ence at all between the car­toon racism of, say, Piper­’s Pit and Trump’s pre­pos­ter­ous Twit­ter face-offs with the pres­id­ent of Mex­ico. Like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Don­ald Trump (also a stage name) has no racial polit­ics what­so­ever ‘in real life’ when it comes to his moneyed cohorts — he’s lit­er­ally just as happy doing deals with sheiks and mul­lahs as he is with any oth­er bil­lion­aires or war­lords with golf clubs.

The only major prob­lem about his stage-show offend-o-rama is that, unlike in pro wrest­ling, people actu­ally do get hurt. There is a real life, even in Amer­ica, just bey­ond the bump­er ads, and the people who are hurt or killed are not car­toons and won’t be fine in time for the next gag. The world of humans may be scarred irre­par­ably by its exploiters and oppress­ors — it may be gen­er­a­tions before true know­ledge and mean­ing­ful action can be recovered from the pit they’ve been bur­ied inside, entirely delib­er­ately — but it’s still the only life that counts. Your life and the lives of fel­low work­ers are worth fight­ing for, and indeed, you have no oth­er choice — leav­ing your lives up to bil­lion­aire inher­it­ors or neo­con vul­tures will kill you in the end, fast and car­toon­ishly, or slightly slower and more bur­eau­crat­ic­ally corporate.

You know this moment is very brief; you know in every major ‘developed’ nation at present there is war, mass incar­cer­a­tion, and fas­cism on the hori­zon, the likes of which have nev­er been seen or even ima­gined. There’s nev­er in liv­ing memory been a time of great­er lock-down, of work­ers fight­ing against each oth­er instead of against their actu­al exploiters, of poor people vot­ing against their own interests, of ignor­ance and mis­dir­ec­tion and sheer des­per­a­tion. This ‘elec­tion’, the joke at the end of the tragedy, marks a pen­ul­tim­ate moment in world his­tory, like Nero pick­ing up his favour­ite torch, or Garth Brooks decid­ing he can do an Aus­trali­an accent. Noth­ing good can come of this. No mat­ter who wins, we all will lose — tho of course we lose much more if it’s the inher­it­or who wins than the just plain entitled. There’s nev­er been few­er schlemiels in his­tory in charge of spill­ing soup on so many schlimazels.

The moment of organ­ised action was squandered in the pre­vi­ous cen­tury. In this cen­tury, the revolu­tion will prob­ably not be organ­ised. But it still must be, or we’re what’s next on the dis­gust­ingly expens­ive menu.

Michael Ten­cer
minutes to go
Nov 2016