This is America

Mario Vasilescu
Published in
6 min readMay 7, 2018

This is America.

An experiment in liberty, co-opted for control
And the raw purchasing power of hypnotism.

It’s “the invisible hand” making marionettes dance
lurching and insidious.

It’s a psychotic trip, loving itself perversely.

America is a violent addiction to consumption and entitlement.
A Gucci
United -by more guns than war-torn- States.

It’s defending the right to violence more than humanity
And cradling power instead of youth
With Every Child Left Behind
For the most incarcerated people on earth.

America is a history that won’t be acknowledged,
Falling into a blind rage against itself.

It’s patriotism that is all about us versus them.
While red hot hatred of blacks and “others”
festers up.

It’s letting people die
In hospitals and schools and wherever they can
serve and protect.

All this and all you can hear is shouting into the void.
Who are they crying to?

This is America
Like it hates itself.

“… a basic deal among Americans still held, in belief if not always in fact: work hard, follow the rules, educate your children, and you will be rewarded, not just with a decent life and the prospect of a better one for your kids, but with recognition from society, a place at the table.

This unwritten contract came with a series of riders and clauses that left large numbers of Americans — black people and other minorities, women, gay people — out, or only halfway in.

Once the social contract is shredded, once the deal is off, only suckers still play by the rules.”

“Segregation ended in 1964. Stagnation began in 1971. That is when wages flatlined.

Costs are only one side of the equation. What about benefits? The simple fact all the above tells us is the American economy was never able to generate enough real social benefits to be broadly shared, without exploitation, forced labour, and so on.”

Take a country with a clear racial bias and a radical wealth divide, and

  • equip it with more guns than anywhere on earth and a constitution that justifies using those guns to take matters into your own hands,
  • a poorly vetted law enforcement system,
  • a legal system that allows law enforcement to act with impunity,
  • and a prison system that is a profit engine.

Are we surprised with the results?

“The US has by far the highest number of privately owned guns in the world. Estimated in 2007, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 88.8 guns per 100 people, meaning there was almost one privately owned gun per American and more than one per American adult. The world’s second-ranked country was Yemen, a quasi-failed state torn by civil war, where there were 54.8 guns per 100 people.”

“For every ten-point increase in the state racism index there’s a corresponding 24 percent increase in the ratio of unarmed black people killed by police compared to white people killed in same conditions. This was true for the nation, when looking at state results in aggregate. Racial segregation was the most significant predictor among the five state racism index factors for this outcome.

“As of Sunday, 1,502 people have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since Jan. 1, 2015. Of them, 732 were white, and 381 were black (and 382 were of another or unknown race).

White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population.”

Simple math. If things were equal, the % of population would approximately equal % of deaths. Clearly not the case. White people are underrepresented (yeah, the irony) in deaths at the hands of police officers (62% of population > 49% of deaths). African Americans are almost twice as likely (13% of population < 24% of deaths).

“Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

… all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

“Over the past few decades, the United States has built more jails and prisons than colleges; there are now more than 5,000 of them across the 50 states, to be precise. And as the Washington Post reported in January, there are more Americans shipping off to prison than to two- or four-year degree programs in some parts of the country. Mass incarceration is now a signature of Americana like cowboy westerns, reality television, and cheap romance novels.”

“…predatory capitalism — for there are many kinds of capitalism, but this one is a totalist ideology, which leaves no room to breathe, no space for consideration, no chance for anything else at all — was quickly applied to every sphere of life, from healthcare to education to energy to finance, and it was quickly assumed to be history’s final endpoint.”

“America’s future, and those who follow in its footsteps, is very simple, very straightforward, and now almost inescapable. Like the Soviet Union, it is a fly caught in a web of stagnation, ideology, and perverse incentives. Thus, it is collapsing, and the end of that collapse resembles Russia: a tiny elite of cronies that control nominally privatized institutions, whether energy grids or healthcare, and jet off into the horizon, having used them as extractive mechanisms to siphon off the wealth of people who are trapped in social classes, dead end jobs, go nowhere lives, and those people then take their bitter frustration out on scapegoats, whom they have been zealously schooled to hate by the very people that laugh and thus doubly exploit them. All that, only with more guns.”

“Why are so many Americans so in the dark? For example, if I was to ask the average person: “do you know that most Europeans have rights to healthcare, income, and retirement? As in constitutional, inalienable rights, like the Second Amendment, only not for guns — rights that you don’t have, and might never have?”, they’d be surprised, perhaps shocked — and maybe even a little enlightened as to why life in America is so dismal, gruesome, and tough.”




Mario Vasilescu

Rethinking the attention economy and wonder wandering.