The fantastic lie of your utter powerlessness

November 29, 2014 Originally published on SFGate

The system is designed to protect the police. Always. Every time.

The system is designed to protect powerful sexual predators like Bill Cosby, letting him essentially get away with serial rape, for decades.

The system is designed to perpetuate sexism and rape culture throughout all kinds of American institutions, from Hollywood to the church to the video game industry, the U.S. military to college campuses – particularly those frat-heavy, alcohol-stupid party hubs like UVA and SDSU where everyday sexual abuse isn’t the slightest bit new and where young girls are taught the age-old axiom that wearing skimpy clothes and drinking too much are the equivalent of asking for it, whereas poorly raised, entitled frat boys are taught the exact flipside: that douchebag predation and drunken gang rapes will rarely get you punished.

But wait, there’s more! Recent news reminds us that the system is also designed to shrug off, say, numbly abusive parents who strike their children to the point of bloodshed and fear, the child eventually repeating the cycle of violence later in life, because, well, this is just how it works.

Nor is the system isn’t too bothered by, say, 250-pound men knocking their uppity fiancés unconscious in an elevator – unless, of course, he’s caught on video, in which case the system quickly steps back and waits for the firestorm of indignation to pass, and then continues on as if nothing much has happened.

The system! It’s not much interested in making us better, healthier, smarter, kinder. That’s far too disruptive. It’s fine with casually endorsing obesity, addiction, trolling, Fox News ignorance, credit card debt, resource abuse, gun fetishism, too much sugar and meat and junk food and alcohol, so long as it doesn’t threaten the nervous males in charge and politicians can keep fellating their corporate overlords. What, too harsh? Hardly.

Did you forget the violence? Hell, no. The system adores it all: any image or scene of torture, bloodshed, cruelty, mutilation, firearm obsession (thanks NRA!), pseudo-cowboy/superhero posturing, hacking up zombies with an ax and calling it fun for the whole family. You cannot show a female nipple on Facebook. You can show a sociopathic serial murderer chopping up women’s bodies with a chainsaw, on prime-time TV, as the hunky hero-cop tenderly strokes his large firearm, trembling for a showdown.

Brain damage? Sure thing! The system thinks nothing of inducing traumatic, even fatal brain injuries in professional athletes and high school players, because, well, brutal gladiator sports are the American way. Who are you to question it? Who cares if the guy who wrote ‘Friday Night Lights’ thinks you’d be insane to let your kid play football? Dude must be a pacifist.

Is the system broken? It sure is tempting to think so. But the system is not the slightest bit broken; it is working perfectly, exactly as designed, enshrining wealth, power, corporate personhood and male privilege more than ever, as it defends ignorance, demeans science and education, guts civil rights, ignores environmental destruction, keeps women in varying degrees of subjugation and fear, and so on.

There's nothing you can do about it

There’s nothing you can do about it

But never mind all that. Because none of the above examples comes close to matching the system’s greatest success, its most glorious and glaring achievement to date. Can you guess?

It’s learned helplessness. It’s convincing millions that the system is just too big, too powerful, too entrenched in its heartless ways and you are far too weak and meaningless, and therefore there is nothing, really, you can do to change it.

Learned helplessness is, as I believe Buddha, Lincoln, Madame Curie, the Dalai Lama and the founding fathers all once put it, “utter bullshit.” The system isn’t nearly as powerful as it wants you to believe. It is, in fact, far more feeble, fallible, terrified (just ask the GOP). It’s also changing by the minute. It can change again in a single act, law, cultural tipping point. Happens all the time. For better, for worse. It’s happening right now.

This is why the Ferguson protests, or Cosby’s belated takedown, the #YesAllWomen phenom, the onrush of legal gay marriage or even Obama’s China environmental agreement, health care battle or immigration plan, are all so vital. They snap us back to attention. They nudge the disruptive energy awake. And they remind us of the most important takeaway of all:

Want to help keep the system as it is? Believe all is lost. Want to ensure the system’s eventual, perpetual, ongoing annihilation? Do the exact opposite.

Read more here:: The fantastic lie of your utter powerlessness

Mark Morford

About Mark Morford