After finally acknowledging that Donald Trump received the power of the presidency yesterday, I understand a little better than I did before why my instinct is to reject success: the most successful people in our society are the most disgusting.
If you are a capitalist, you have both the motive and the opportunity to exploit others for your own gain. If you are a politician, you have both the motive and the opportunity to accept bribes. In the first case, the most rapacious are the most rewarded, and in the second, the most venal. Donald Trump is both, along with embodying the stereotype of the attention seeking whore, having surfed the waves of commercial mass media for decades. How could I not feel disgust for the man, let alone his ascendance to the presidency?
I am disgusted. I have not engaged with politics or media for months. I have such distaste for our new president that I don't want to see his ugly mug, let alone hear the bloviating asshole's gaseous nonsense. I hated the Bush-Obama years, both of those surprisingly similar administrations for unsurprisingly similar reasons, but I kept myself informed throughout. Trump is something else entirely, a greedy bastard intending to open the door all the way for his buddies, a motley crew of white nationalists and kleptocrats, but also such an incompetent bastard that the kleptocrats already in power are grabbing even more. Since Trump is also inheriting the security state built by his two predecessors, we are in for some brutal years. I have refused to witness the reality of Trump's presidency because I don't want anything to do with it. Unfortunately for me, I have neither the wealth nor the privilege to prevent Trump's presidency from having anything to do with me.
Rejection is not rebellion, but it is easier, and it seems safer. At first it is safer to sit on the sidelines while someone else stands on the front lines for you, defending our rights, enduring LRADs, water canons, tear gas, and the county jail. It is easier to merely reject injustice than it is to rebel against it, especially when those injustices are inflicted upon others. You can pretend that they do not exist outside the walls of your house if you've got one, and when you can no longer avoid acknowledging another's pain and suffering, you might even believe that you can continue to take comfort in the fact that circumstances will probably be ok for you, because they have been in the past. You'll be right until you are wrong. And once you realize how wrong you've been hopefully you'll still be able to salvage enough of your self-respect to stand side by side with whoever is left.1
Refusing to engage is impossible for most of us in the long run. The question is when will you and I take the step beyond merely rejecting the status quo, and pushing back against it. The taste of disgust is like bile in my mouth. I can't pretend its not there any longer. I need to do something, and writing about how I feel helps, but it's not nearly enough to set things right.
The other thing is that rejecting success is problematic because it is disempowering. I have no real economic or political power because of the way I have lived my life. Rebellion without power is ineffectual. I need to change this. I can think of no better way to do that than to do what I want rather than to do what I think prospective employers want of me. This seems wrong until you actually do it. Try it. Seek power rather than approval. That's what the asshole in the White House did, and while I have no interest in emulating him, he demonstrated for all of us that old fashioned moral compunctions are absurd, and irrelevant in this fight. My disgust of success has only held me back.
By "you" I'm referring to the bougie you out there. I don't like to admit being one of you, but I am, if it is not obvious from the bougie perspective in just about everything I write. ↩