Nothing makes me angrier than stupid rich people getting unfair advantages. These same entitled rich people then turn around and fight against so-called “entitlement” programs and affirmative action because they seem to think their achievements are based on merit while the rest of us who actually work for a living — or at least try to — are nothing more than lazy freeloaders or unscrupulous “welfare queens” who deserve to die if we can’t afford our hospital bill.
Now we see some richies arrested for lying, bribing and cheating to get unfair advantages for their offspring. To hell with them and their unearned privilege. May they suffer the indignity of a second-rate college or otherwise rot in a minimum-security prison.
The college bribery scandal is just the latest example of what anyone who’s been paying attention should already know: The United States is not a meritocracy. The biggest marker of success seems to be the zip code you are born into — regardless of how talented, intelligent, or charismatic you are. The Horatio Alger story has gone from mythical to fraudulent.
The real tragedy is that many average people, whose parents cannot afford to spend millions to send them to Harvard, operate under the assumption that a person’s financial net worth is equivalent to actual worth. I blame this primarily on our education system and our mainstream media, both of which do the masses a grave injustice by shielding them from class-based analysis.
I recall learning about Helen Keller and watching “Miracle Worker” as early as elementary school. Missing from the lessons was the important detail that Keller, who joined the Socialist Party of America as an adult, acknowledged that she would not have achieved personal success — much less celebrity status — if she had not been born of wealthy parents. This would have been a far more useful classroom discussion-starter than questions about overcoming disability that omit any mention of class or other structural considerations. I was led to believe in my formative years, thanks to public schools, that every achievement, no matter how suspicious or improbable, can be attributed solely to personal ambition and talent.
The mainstream media took over where schooling left off. It’s no exaggeration to say that media personalities are obsessed with actors, athletes, monomaniacs, zealots, wealthy entrepreneurs, eccentric politicians, and anyone else who can be spotlighted rather than contextualized. To put it simply, we do not celebrate team players — we celebrate ball hogs. We celebrate people who would suffocate their own twin just so that they could emerge from the womb a little sooner. And when I say “we,” I am talking about everyone — even those of us who stand to gain nothing from this celebrity-obsessed culture except the juvenile diversion of vicarious living.
Think of what the common people would gain from a feature story that, instead of lionizing a mediocre celebrity, questioned whether he or she was worth such honorifics in the first place. The reporters could scrutinize the celebrity’s past performance in school, talk to the friends they had before they were famous, browse their tax returns, learn how they performed on standardized tests, and so on. This is what journalism is supposed to be but often is not. What if they had produced stories like this in 2016 about Trump and ran them on the major networks as often as they ran his childish-rants? I doubt he would have garnered many votes.
But instead, we as Americans pretend as if every rich person is smarter, more attractive, or otherwise better than we are because we didn’t win the (zip-code) lottery. We like celebrities for the sole reason that they are celebrities. We let our inadequate education and uncritical media determine how we think about those with more power and privilege. This serves the purpose of keeping us in intellectual chains so that we would never dare organize ourselves and challenge these two-bit oppressors with their baseless braggadocio and ghastly comb-overs. Most of us would rather be them than fight them.
Please. The rich are no smarter than you. But they think they are, they want to you think that, and they are pushing you around like you’re the small kid on the playground. They have been stealing your lunch money and sense of self-respect for generations.
What are you going to do about it?
Matt Johnson, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is co-author of “Trumpism.”