Talia, You’re Not Alone.

A unique perspective on the Talia Jane saga

Believe it or not, the story I am about to tell has a point.

I will not digress like Abe Simpson (although I wonder how many of you would prefer that). So please bear with me, in spite of this seemingly bizarre beginning.

Many years ago in Charleston, South Carolina, an old woman taught me how to catch crabs. She took the oldest, most disgusting spoiled meat out of her freezer, tied a line around it and dropped it into the water. After a while, there would be a pull on the line and she pulled the meat out of the water, with a crab holding on. Even though the crab was now in the air, it refused to let go of the meat, and eventually was caught and thrown into a bucket.
As the bucket filled with crabs, the woman explained that she didn’t have to worry about the crabs climbing out of the bucket; any crab that started to make its escape would be pulled back down by the other crabs.
She looked at me and said “people are like that, too.”

That story, my dear web dwellers is a microcosm of the sh*t storm surrounding the perils of our online Pauline (Talia).

Okay, so she made some dumb mistakes that many kids do (hanging on that line, holding on to that stinking meat). She’s trying to make sense of her life and find a new perspective (climbing out). And there’s a gazillion different crabs trying to pull her back into the bucket, either by attacking her for her irresponsible and stupid decisions, or defending (and possibly supporting) her while she gets back on her feet.

It doesn’t matter which way the responses go. They are all trying to get Talia to play by the rules and live within the bucket (our current system) — until we all get boiled and served with drawn butter.

Talia is basically asking “what’s going on outside the bucket and how can I make things better?”

I doubt whether she’ll be in a position to figure out those answers for a while, but as a rich, privileged old white guy, I’ve seen how things used to be, when the American Dream was the real deal.

So, here’s the view from when there wasn’t a bucket:

  1. In the 60’s and 70’s there were a lot less people in and around the largest cities; the purchasing power of the minimum wage was close to an all-time high; a summer job could pay for over half your tuition at a state university like UCLA; rents in 1965 were so low that my mom could find a crappy studio for $60 that was two blocks away from Paramount Studios in Hollywood, not two hours away by train; and it was possible for a single parent to work a factory job while paying for a house, putting his kids through college and save for retirement.
    (NOTE: an older friend of mine worked at GM when they had a Van Nuys factory. He was able to buy and operate two Italian restaurants at the same time, and bought empty lots out in the boondocks, which are now the hills above Calabasas (that wealthy area where the Kardashians live). He retired after 30 years with full benefits, eventually sold his restaurants and build a mansion on one of his lots. He’s an uneducated guy whose accent hasn’t changed in 50 years — it’s almost impossible to understand him — watches Fox News, and believes Obama is a Muslim because of his middle name. But he worked hard and he realized the American Dream.)
  2. Those times are long gone. A small group of inspired entrepreneurs are going to take the risks and make the sacrifices to make a life for themselves (like you, Sara). The larger majority will try to survive struggling to find work at regular jobs. But we are living in a time where if one thing goes wrong — a catastrophic illness, car accident, terrorist attack, financial meltdown, etc — all of us (except the top 1%) are far closer to the bread lines than the velvet ropes.
  3. Our educational system has been defunded and destroyed by the powers that be, because it is inconvenient when a large middle class with time on its hand can participate in the political process, as they did during the 50’s and 60’s. A smaller and smaller part of the population has any awareness of government, history and economics at the high school level, so three quarters of the voting population is totally unprepared to be a civic participant.
  4. We are so hypnotized by our bullish*t materialistic society, 24/7 infotainment news cycle and social media narcissism hardly anyone understands the issues. So we vote (or not) based on who has the most corporate financing and best attack ads in a corrupt system where governance goes to the highest bidder.
  5. Wedge issues and identity politics keep We the People constantly at odds with each other battling over “quien es mas” (fill in the blank), like a bad SNL skit. This allows the true sources of power to continue unimpeded with business as usual. You may say, “but, Obama” and I’ll tell you that 60% of the State Legislatures in this country are spending their time doing their best to make your lives miserable (reducing womens’ health care and reproductive options, easy access to guns for criminals, terrorists and the insane, Stand Your Ground laws that basically legalize murder as long as someone is close to you, regardless of the threat they pose, kill worker protections, allow corporations to poison your air and water, and the list goes on). And the other 40% aren’t doing a whole lot better.

Talia’s story illustrates how much easier it is to control the masses when so many of us are uneducated, marginalized, infighting, struggling to survive, and/or unable to raise our kids because no one is home.

What’s the answer to our problems? I have no idea. I just know that our system has been broken since the late 70’s. We were too busy making our own Talia-like mistakes to realize what was going on. Too many people in my generation sold their souls or just drank the Kool-Aid.

I saw it happen and didn’t fight in 1980 like I should have. I was too busy finding myself and traveling the world. I believed that our country was strong enough to recover from a Reagan presidency. Sadly, I was wrong. We have never fully undone his damage. We were close and then we were brainwashed into believing that there was no difference between the parties in November 2000. Which gave us a second political and economic tsunami that went by the names of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

We have come back a litte under Obama. The country is stuck around 1993 — just out of the recession, but still far from the economic recovery of Clinton’s second term and the first internet boom.

But we have also sunk to the level of Third World country in many key aspects.

Look at the water crisis in Flint. It is not the first. Do some research and you will find local failures in water treatment systems in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio. There are chemical spills in rivers in North Carolina, fracking accidents in Michigan, and gas leaks in the tony hills of Porter Ranch, California, causing hundreds of evacuations. And when the rich folk are getting poisoned by the energy companies, you know we have reached a crisis stage.

Now, we’re at another crossroads.

We’ve got the looming apocalyptic threat of a Trump or Cruz or Rubio presidency. And it is 100% guaranteed that they will give us a third dose of the poisonous economics and political policies that transformed this country into a bucket of crabs.

Your only fighting chance is for the younger generations to stop acting like they’re still in high school and start to work together to take over the political process. This year. And every election going forward. Nationally, and at every level of government.

Millennials are finally the largest population group in this country. It’s time to become the largest voting group in the country. It’s time to become a force for change.

Carpe Diem. Carpe Situla.

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