I woke up to an overwhelming compulsion to watch “Falling Down” – the 1990 Michael Douglas classic featuring a defense contractor/engineer who snaps one fine, sweltering summer day and goes on a cross-town crime spree consisting of shooting up a fast food burger joint for refusing to serve him breakfast, killing a neo-nazi and blowing up a section of roadway with a bazooka, to name a few of his exploits. The movie is a fucking classic par excellence. Robert Duvall is excellent as the dogged, aging gumshoe who cracks the case on his last day as a cop before retiring to Lake Havasu with his traumatized wife who still suffers near-psychotic breaks after their only child died in her sleep years earlier.
Joel Schumacher ‘s 120 minutes of mayhem introduces us to William “Bill” Foster, a fossilizing relic of a cold war mentality who decides to unleash his pent up rath which erupts violently after watching his simple “Captain America vs The Bad Guys” binary world disintegrate before his very eyes. You get the impression he can’t fathom what happened to his father’s Post WWII America with its impeccable accomplishment of having turned the tied of war, ushering in a period of Pax Americana (until Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf, Gulf II, Afghanistan, etc, etc). You also get the impression that D-Fens (his vanity plate on his GM Chevette) has had a hard time adapting to a rapidly evolving liberal mindset which invariably leads to laziness, parasitism and disavowal of personal responsibility as evidenced by 21st century America.
It was this same feeling that greeted me upon awakening – a surge of self-entitled anger based on some real but mostly imagined offenses against me – the little guy. It’s hard to remember that all illusory, deceptive safety nets aside, we are born alone and die alone. We come into this world to toil, struggle and shake our fists at the unfairness of it all. I grew up middle to lower-middle class as defined by socioeconomic status so I was never raised to believe that I was entitled to anything in this world. My father instilled a certain sense of forlornness in me very early on which conditioned me to understand that you had to fight and claw for everything this world gives to you (unless of course you’re a hot woman with great tits and ass to match). The truth is I was blessed despite having an unextraordinary childhood with no particular advantages. My family was to inherit a substantial sum of money from my father’s dearly departed brother I barely knew nor from whom I expected a solitary dime. This windfall came at the expense of my father’s second younger brother to die well before his time. His youngest brother succumbed to Leukemia decades earlier. I had only met my uncle a handful of times. He would send us princely checks on holidays and birthdays but that was about it until he would find himself briefly reuniting with my dad on exceedingly rare vacations. He was a highly educated geophysicist who spent more than half his life in countries like Sudan, New Guinea, Nigeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela to name a few and he made a lot of money as a result of his trade craft – locating big deposits of oil in often volatile, dangerous countries. Nigeria was such a country and the land where he would meet his end; a heart attack in the early morning killed him at the age of 51.
I was at work that day – getting trees and shrubs ready for sale at the greenhouse where I worked part-time while attending CSU. I’ll never forget that call. I was summoned into the office and told I had a call. This had never happened previously and I couldn’t imagine what necessitated pulling me in from the potentillas and lilacs. The person on the other end of the line explained that they had my contact information on file for some reason (or they couldn’t reach anyone else – I forget) and asked if I was nephew to the deceased. I explained I was and so she revealed that my uncle had had a massive heart attack and died in his residence in Lagos. Long story short, my father was called away to settle his estate as no will was ever identified, and in Texas next of kin is the beneficiary of the estate – period. My father was able to prove that he was indeed his older brother and we slowly learned that my brilliant uncle who had amassed 3 or 4 masters degrees in physics from places like UC Berkeley, University of Michigan and Yale, had also amassed a small fortune of just under $6M. He was sitting atop thousands of shares of a his employer’s very valuable stock in addition to bond funds and other far flung investments in countries around the world.
Fast forward 20 years and based on that inheritance that my father generously split between my sister and me, you might assume I’m comfortably retired and idly golfing away my days. The fact is, I’m not a model of financial success by any stretch. I’m doing better than a substantial number of Americans truth be told, but it’s still so fucking hard to get by on a salary that isn’t amazing, IMO, and sadly dwarfs the paychecks of some double, low income households. I can’t imagine how they’re surviving if they live in a city like Denver where housing alone eats up roughly half their take home income. I work hard. I get up early and get home late after an hour long train and vehicle commute each way. I do my best by my employer and while I’m grateful for the opportunity to work for a living and provide for my family, I can’t shake this feeling we’re all still falling further behind save a select few who continue to stack because they have the sheer advantage of investment ready assets. For example, private placements are quite risky but with a 10-12% coupon (and higher!), the wealthy can afford to roll the dice on a $2.5M investment in a wildcatter who might punch a productive hole in the Niobrara formation. That investment, if successful, will yield not only the initial investment, but a substantial amount of interest along with other incentives to invest like warrants. Point is, money makes money. And with most money concentrated in consistently fewer hands, the opportunities to make money present themselves far less often to people who can’t pay down their credit cards let alone invest in a 401(k).
I think my point is, the deck is stacked against us and even hard work, integrity, sacrifice and other redeeming traits just don’t cut it anymore. They don’t guarantee a modest, worry-free existence, and they never truly did to be sure, but a middle-aged man certainly stood one hell of a lot better chance of supporting his family on one salary and saving for a meaningful retirement 50 years ago. No, today they just mean you’re giving yourself a better than average shot of augmenting your income somewhat and maybe keeping your head above water a little longer while money continues to pool in the hands of the few.
I’m no Marxist, nor am I a true capitalist in the free hand of the market sort of way. But were the market(s) truly free, I would wholeheartedly subscribe to this sort of beneficence. But having firsthand witnessed stock manipulation, securities fraud/insider trading and a host of other violations, I know all too well what’s lurking out there. The regulators do their best to “regulate” trillions of dollars in daily asset movement but it’s a fool’s errand. My point is, if you believe the stock market is a fair and equitable affair, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Humans, like playing fields, are also never level. The overwhelming majority of Americans are half-wit fucking yokels. Tried to have an engaging conversation with an American lately?? Yeah, I’m sure it was stimulating. Then there are those who some say are, ahem, more deserving as they have achieved more through perseverance and determination and sheer intelligence. I happen to subscribe to this sometimes unfortunate belief system. But what does that say about a financial advisor (by trade) whose finances are, well, less than enviable? I’m not too proud to acknowledge that I number among the restless proletariat, striving for more materially but generally falling short.
The Golden Rule says he who has the gold makes the rules. Goddamn right. And until those who possess the gold allow those without to start promulgating law, it’s always going to be this way. Until they push too far. Then heads roll. A new bourgeoisie is born out of the ashes of upheaval and chaos. And the cycle repeats. Only this time I fear something new is brewing. The degenerates of the new American Soviet are going to get their way. The cult of redistribution and tolerance and retribution will have their way and we’ll all suffer for it. Make no mistake, one set of degenerates is worse than the other and those ushering in this social experiment in entitlement will soon discover what your mom and dad taught you at a much, much earlier age: life isn’t fair. And were it not for the fact that these people with their hands out are largely lazy, entitled, narcissistic cocksuckers, I would probably support an uprising that restores some of the balance to the universe, but alas, this will not be such an occasion. Money and power will corrupt as they always do. Sick fucks will learn that money allows them to indulge fetishes like snorting coke out of a hooker’s ass or even touching little children in the case of Saint Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Clinton. And so there will be some handouts to placate the loyal base but eventually, reality slams into their constructs and socio-economic and monetary collapse ensue. Don’t expect any different this time.