Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Following The Rules?

People who play by the rules often come in second - or do they?

In my last few postings, I was noting how it seems our society lauds rule-breakers as either being sympathetic characters or as bad-ass outlaws we all admire.  It is a weird message our society sends!  When I grew up, as a Boy Scout, we were told to memorize the Scout code, help little old ladies across the street, "do a good deed daily" and be brave, clean, and reverent.  Suckers!

Meanwhile, society tells us that the bad-boy who is hot-wiring cars gets all the girls, because they like that whiff of danger about him (and perhaps his pheromones).  You play by the rules, and you lose, or so it seems.

I mentioned before how we laud the mafia in so many movies and television shows.  When I was a kid, the cops were heroes (that was a long time ago, wasn't it?) and the criminals were bad guys who were caught every 22 minutes - before the show ended.  Rarely were the "bad guys" shown as getting away with it - or worse yet, shown as the real heroes.   All that has changed.

Worse yet, are the shows and news programs that depict the bad guys as "victims" - of society, their upbringing, the school system, the prison system, or the mental health care system.  And many "bad boys" do just that - but usually only after they get caught doing something bad.  "It ain't my fault!  I'm a victim of society!"

And yes, this seems unfair to the rest of us, who often were subject to greater injustices and merely shrugged them off or learned that injustice is part of life.   I meet people who faced heroic odds and still succeeded in life, despite being raised in poverty and privation.   I wonder how they feel when someone who comes from a cushy all-white suburb with good schools plays the "victim" card.

Playing by the rules is for chumps, they say.  Save money over a 30- or 40-year working life?  Dumb!  You either make a killing on Gamestop or forgetaboutit!   That's how all the big playas do it - right?  Well, not exactly.  Some, like Jeff Bezos, built up a juggernaut empire, one book at a time, over 20 years or more.  Others, like these IPO clowns, sell you the dream of success, by selling you their shares for wildly over-inflated prices.

But overall, I don't think such people ever really get ahead in life, or if they do, the success is short-lived, as are their lives.  Some hard-core criminals really think that way, I guess - that they expect to die in a hail of bullets, so it might as well be limousines, champagne and hookers until then.   In reading Feast of the Goat, it was interesting to me that the dictator Trujillo progressively boxed himself into a corner, not only with the US and the West in general, but also with fellow members of the OAS.  Rather than compromise, he rode it (and his country) all the way down, until he was assassinated.  And he felt, apparently (according to the book) that he would rather die in the saddle than fade away.   The Dominican Republic paid for that decision again and again over the last 60 years.

Some folks have a hard time believing this Epstein character killed himself in prison - believing instead in dark conspiracies.  He was silenced before he could talk!  (Never mind his victims have all talked, at great length).  He was spirited out and living in luxury in Argentina! (Never mind that all his money has been confiscated).  The idea that someone in jail would kill themselves just seems irrational to some folks.  Yet, if you talk to police officers, you realize it happens - more often than you think.  Even a simple arrest for a DUI can put someone on a suicide watch.  People get profoundly depressed and see no way out - so they try to kill themselves.

Or perhaps Epstein, like Trujillo, figured he had a good time in life, got away with what he did for as long as he could, and decided to check out.  And odd way of looking at life, but there you have it.

Again, I got feedback on my "Bling Rims" posting from a wanna-be home-boy who posited that growing up in the ghetto, he didn't expect to live past 30, so why save money?  Blow it all on bling, enjoy the ride, and avoid the rest home!  I suspect he will end up outliving his money, however, rather than being a "playa."

It only seems like these sorts of folks "win" at life sometimes.  The gangsters live large - but not for very long.  The mobsters make millions, before they rat each other out (so much for the "code of silence") and end up in prison.  There rarely is a "happily ever after" for career criminals, only because when you make crime a career, the odds of getting caught become larger with every passing day and every successive crime.   And of course, the odds of being killed by a fellow criminal increase over time as well.  Few retire from a life of crime.

The same is true of "victims."   The people who "game the system" by claiming false disability benefits never make out well.  It is a shitty consolation prize in life - getting a pittance from the government in order to not have to work.  You don't so much get ahead, but remain in stasis like so many folks who are some sort of government assistance.    It is like couponing - if it was that lucrative, What's the Name of Your Yacht?  And no, couponers generally don't have yachts, nor do these people who play the victim or sympathy card.

So yes, it seems unfair to the rest of us.  We work hard, play by the rules and try to get ahead the legitimate way, and it seems like, sometimes, that the bad guys are winning or the people who game the system are coming out ahead.  And sometimes they do - but only for a short while.  And maybe once in a great while, they actually succeed.  But few do, and the efforts involved in not following the rules often exceed the effort to just play the game the way you should.

But of course, the media paints a different story.   A reader writes asking whether the numerous stories about "Sqatter Dude" aren't designed as click-bait from two angles - half the people click on the story so they can be "outraged" that our greedy society won't let someone live for free on someone else's land, while the other half clicks on the story to be "outraged" that he is getting away with it for so long - or perhaps to laugh at him for being such a dork.  No matter how you slice it, the media gets its clicks with these "human interest" pieces.  And yes, I got sucked into the story as well - and clicked and got outraged, a little, anyway.   I am not outraged at him, so much as I am disgusted by a media that makes heroes out of imbeciles.

So yea, I guess we will always have television shows and movies that glamorize crime and sympathetic stories in the press about those "less fortunate" than ourselves because they squandered their fortune.   And these stories and movies and shows exist because we watch them, either to root for Tony Soprano or the latest victim-du-jour, or to be horrified by it all.

And no, no one is going to make a movie or write a book about your life and how you played by the rules and kept your head down and did the right thing.  On the other hand, you very well might end up happy in life - if you let yourself be so.  One problem with this adulation of bad-boys and self-proclaimed victims is that people let it get to them and end up depressed.  Why should I bother trying to play by the rules when so many are cheating!  The system is rigged!  I might as well file for a bogus disability claim!  If you watch enough media, you may end up thinking this, because the media lauds criminals these days and profiles self-proclaimed victims.  The "silent majority" of people who just do their jobs and not make a fuss, are never heard from or heard about.

Happiness comes from within, and it certainly doesn't come from comparing yourself to others, or obsessing about the injustices in the world.  And yet, when I meet unhappy people, which is to say, about half the population in the richest country in the world, that's all I hear about from them - how the other guy has it so good, and how the bad guys are getting away with murder.

These are the people who have bumper stickers on their cars that say, "If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention!" And to them, being "Outraged" means being chronically depressed, and "Paying Attention" means watching endless cable TV news.  Left or Right, it makes no difference.  People just give up on their own lives to dedicate themselves to a "cause" - often a pointless cause like Antifartism or Qanonsense.   This in turn, feeds a downward spiral of depression, which they treat by engaging in more bizarreness.  Pretty soon, they're victims, too!

It's a shitty way to live, quite frankly.  And this is why unplugging from the 24//7 media is the first and most important step in getting ahead in life.