The American Scheme

I’ve had 3 friends get divorced recently. And I’ve had 2 friends say they are only staying married for (redacted). Prior to that, after 20 years of attending weddings, I had never known a married couple to get divorced. Prior to the last couple of years, no one ever told me they were staying in an unhappy marriage for noble(?) reasons. Maybe statistically I was just due?

But then I dug a little deeper. Was there anything similar about these three divorces? I’m not gonna name any names or give any kind of personal details unless they’re absolutely necessary and even then I will change them up. I just think talking about these fraught or folded pairings is germane to the overall point of this blog post.

All of these folks were pretty close in age, all reported the difficulties when they were in their 30’s. All had postgraduate degrees. They were all intelligent, kind people. I would not say any were naive or entered marriage unaware that there would be difficult patches and challenges. All were “successful” financially and professionally and they were all good looking (per the standards established by western media – my feelings on that are outside the scope of this post).

Now I sure as fuck am not gonna try to analyze the particular cause of the difficulties or rupture in these pairings. But my sixth sense has been awfully yappy lately about Life in America.

Shit, this might be too much to take on in a single post. But I’ll keep it as short as my verbose ass can.

All of the relevant citizenship documents for American citizens promote equality and liberty and justice. These are noble ideals. These are NOT reality. (I’m also not going to delve in a comparison of the USA versus other countries. That’s outside the scope of this rant.)

In reality, as most people know, we don’t all start with the same advantages. But we’re all living in the same culture and we’re all being aggressively sold the same “dream”.

Here’s the American Dream (Scheme) strategy:

1. Tell you that everyone has the same opportunities so EVERYONE can play the game

2. Bombard people with the following message via TV, publications, movies, schools, universities, churches, self-help peddlers: You can be more and you can have more. What you are and what you have is not enough to make you happy.

3. Almost everybody has to pay the rent and eat so we all play the game. (I’m sure as fuck not independently wealthy so I gotta hustle. I don’t hate my current job. I’ve had jobs I’ve hated. Like Drew Carrey quipped “Oh you hate your job? We have a club. It’s called EVERYBODY. We meet at the bar every Friday at 5.). We get a job. We give it usually 10 out of our waking hours (I’m including commute time because I sure as fuck don’t have a teleportation machine).

4. The bombardment continues and all ages are hit by it. Nothing significant changes. Different ages are just convinced they need different shit. And they are convinced that they can definitely be happier!

That’s the scam. Now I’m not gonna go into a defense or attack on capitalism. That’s for another post. I’m just saying this is the culture we live in (for my American readers – I think I have one Scottish friend who reads this sometimes).

Marriage and committed relationships are preferred by the capitalism machine. I’m sure there’s some economic research on this. Maybe families need to buy more shit? Or maybe stability results in buying more shit? I don’t know.

But I do know that’s the preference. Look at almost every work of mainstream Fiction or mainstream film or mainstream tv. What happens to the successful protagonist? They end up getting the person of their dreams and they settle down together to live happily ever after.

The capitalism machine, the American scheme, PROMISES, that if you buy X and do Y, you WILL be good enough to get the PERFECT companion.

And now we’re back to my friends and their marriage difficulties or ruptures. They all grew up being exposed to the American Scheme’s most diligent messengers. I’ll list a few of these envoys just so you know what the fuck I’m ranting about:

Religion: if you do X you will be a GOOD person and get a very nice prize!

Government: if you pledge allegiance to the flag and follow the rules, we will give you medicine if you live to be 65 and will hire a militarized force to protect you from crime and scary people!

Universities: if you give us a LOT of money and follow our instructions, we’ll make it so you can make money and not die hungry in the streets!

Employers: You do X and we will give you Y amount of money.

Advertising: the most naked avatar of the American Scheme. I can’t say it better than Rodger did in the 2002 film Roger Dodger:

Roger: You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad.

Nick: Why not?

Roger: Because it’s a substitution game. You have to remind them that they’re missing something from their lives. Everyone’s missing something, right?

Nick: I guess.

Roger: Trust me. And when they’re feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them your product is the only thing that can fill the void. So instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root out the real reason for their misery, they go out and buy a stupid-looking pair of cargo pants.

Besides making you want stuff, the American Scheme pedals monogamy. And they promise if you do and buy what they say, you’ll get the perfect partner. Sure they’ll tell you relationships involve hard work and ups and downs. All that will be clearly stated when you’re signing the contract and you’ll see it and acknowledge it and sign the contract because you’re sure everything will be ok because that’s what’s they’ve told you is what is DEFINITELY going to be the case.

Then reality sets in.

Wait, this person I am with now isn’t perfect? Wait, this person might change? Wait, this person might want dramatically different things than I do?

When you tell a person that they deserve perfection and then perfection is not delivered, that is a soul and mind fuck.

I’m not saying many much smarter people haven’t criticized materialism before. They’ve probably done a much better job than I’m doing here. But this blog is for me to say what I want to say. I never promised to be original or entertain anyone other than myself.

And even the best, most capable and earnest and good people, like these 5 friends of mine, fall to this deluge. The scheme wasn’t created in the USA but that’s where it is the strongest today. It’s an ancient long con. And even if you know you’re being fucked, you really don’t have too many decent alternatives.

I just wish there was a better world to grow up in. But this is the one we got so we got to live in it and work the system the best we can. I blame the system for setting up my friends to suffer. I’m not taking away their agency. They made choices. Choices had an impact on their pairings and the resulting difficulties. But they entered that bargain with serious and all-consuming bullshit filling their brains.

It’s a fucking miracle any marriages last, let alone 55%.

Anyhow. This post was inspired by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s seminal trade: The Flintstones Volume 1.

That’s not a joke. It’s a scorchingly brilliant and hilarious and spot-on satire of modern society. A lot of what I’ve written here is said in a much more entertaining and succinct and funny way than I could ever do.

And I’ll just finish by saying you should rage against the machine. But just remember that you also have to figure out how to live in it. It’s not easy. I think I’ve finally figured out what I need to do to live my mostly happily ever after. I can tell you my plan but happiness isn’t one size fits all. So I’m not sure how much help I would be.

But keep on fighting and try to get over as much as you can and listen to that internal gut or conscience or hunch or heart that lives in the very center of your soul. It’s been affected by the American Scheme, too, but it has a pure enough heart to still open its gaping maw and spit truth to you.

Or maybe I just have a case of the Mondays.

PS – just to be crystal clear here: I’m not claiming I’m sort of Buddhist monk. I like my share of consumerist shit. I like to eat out and take recreational drugs and drink in bars and travel and buy shit for the people I love. I’m in the game. I get I’m being played. But I’m good with the fact that I’m at least fully aware. It took me 43 years to really feel it as opposed to just repeat it. Anyhow, it’s lunchtime.


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