There’s a well worn old quote by Tony Campolo that goes something like this:
“[According to a profile in Christianity Today entitled] The Positive Prophet, … I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
It’s one of those quotes that gets spread around because people, even the people at whom it was directed, find it has a way of disturbing ones presuppositions. I know when I first heard it some years ago it made me uncomfortable.
I recently heard a similar quote from Zizek:
“I am told that here in New York a man can have his penis cut in two. …So you can do it with two women. You can achieve immortality. You can go into space. But maintaining a little bit of health care is impossible.”
Perhaps I’ve become too jaded but I didn’t even think that the penis bit would arouse any frown but it did. Now, both who seemed to find the bit a little crude are people who I really respect and I hope that this post is not viewed as a simple reaction to what may well be a legitimate sense that FB ought to have some cleanliness about it; but I found it sparked an idea in me that I’ve not been able to shake yet. Why is it that attention was drawn to the perceived offensiveness of the mention of genitals but not at the idea of the rich taking leisure cruises in space while the rest of us plebs can’t even find jobs?
Today I just read this piece by Adam Kotsko which I think hits right on the mark and I was about to post a link to it until I thought about it and realized that many of my friends and family would find his use of fuck excessive and unnecessary. (do go read the whole post)
“We passively accept “cuts” in everything else because of the “cut” represented by the tax “cut” — the “cut” that would “cut us loose” from shared responsibility, from anything that would challenge the ever-more-dominant attitude of “I got mine, and you can go fuck yourself.” Are you being foreclosed on? Fuck you, you fucking bum — I pay my bills. Are you out of work? Find a job, you lazy fuck — I work hard.
The result is a society based on the premise of looting. We are all “cashing out,” taking whatever we can hold onto — because fuck you, I’ve earned it. The CEOs are the most visible offenders, rigging companies to give themselves insane bonuses worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but isn’t that the model for everyone? The dream of homeownership: I’ll live in my own little detached box and go to my job in my own little individual box as well, and everyone will have to leave me the fuck alone. I’ve got mine, so leave me the fuck alone — did it ever occur to you to get a fucking job like I did? Did it ever occur to you to work hard like I did? Obviously not, if you don’t have what I have — so fuck you. Don’t ask me for a hand-out, you stupid fuck.”
Yet, that is exactly how the word fuck is supposed to work. It’s meant to make one feel uncomfortable much in the same way an evangelical preacher like Campolo using shit is meant to direct ones attention in a certain way.
But we get angry in certain ways because we are trained to get angry in certain ways. In our day we’re trained to sympathize with the ultra-rich. “Don’t tax them, we need them for (poor paying and unstable) jobs (jobs which are quick as a wink shipped overseas at the first dollar sign); Don’t demonize them, they worked hard to get where they’re at.” Moreover we exalt them because they idealize the strange myth of the American Dream. Rags to Riches for everyone. Of course the massively overwhelmingly vast majority of people in this country never make that cut and ride it out in the lower and middle classes; tales suppressed because they contradict the normative narrative and if you don’t agree you’re a communist.
Why people are afraid of government instead of corporations honestly is beyond me. It defies anything like empirical backing. And things simply won’t change until we care more about space rides than about genitals.