Your awesomely meaningless life, in one simple chart

December 9, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Do you know how valuable you are? How much you contribute to the collective bungee jump that is human existence, how much you mean to the world, your loved ones, the planet, this insane madhouse swirl of cosmic consciousness we call life?

See? You ARE special!

About fifty grand, give or take. Maybe a little more.

I mean, it depends, right? On your age, your career choice, your gender, your nationality, your spurious taste in fine cheeses and wine and sex toys and how much unsettling debt you furiously incurred on Cyber Monday. Obviously.

But mostly your value depends on just one thing: your appreciable economic contribution.

Which is to say: It’s important this holiday season to remember to measure your life, your value the way a stiff British banker (or, for that matter, a capitalist country) does – in terms of how much you produce, and therefore help subsidize the free market over the brief blip of your sad and rather pathetic existence. What, you have a better way? Something about love, happiness, children, spiritual devotion, kindness? Don’t be daft.

Behold, this fantastically bleak annual report from the fantastically unlikable honchos at British banking prisonhouse HSBC, informing everyone how how weird, how crazy, how totally “unprecedented” the upcoming generation will be, in every way possible, but particularly economically. Gosh, really, gentlemen? You mean 2056 won’t be the same as 1956? You mean the world is getting crazier and busier and hotter? Give yourselves a raise, geniuses.

But never mind that now. What’s most fun is to do what Slate and Business Insider did, and zero in on one particularly fun-filled HSBC chart, Graph #6, which measures your unique value, your overall contribution to the economic whole. Behold!


See? It’s you! Reduced to how much economic value you provide to the pretty hate machine of capitalism over the span of your life.

Fun, right? You begin to be of meager in your 20s. You gain speed and traction – if you’re not a hippie or a journalist or a slacker, that is – in your 30s, right around the time depression, anxiety, bloat and a vague, nauseating sense of existential distress kick in. Welcome to hell, kiddo! Here, have a Xanax.

Your contribution to the Vortex of Fiscal Horror “peaks” around 50, when you finally hit your maximum income/spending levels but you’ve yet to enjoy your first stroke (Burden! Subtract 100 points and go back three squares), your second spouse has yet to split with the house and the kids are finally getting off the family dole and beginning to do their part to keep the engines of socioeconomic heaven purring like a bloody Ferrari. With guns.

Unless you’re a female. In which case not only have you made less money all the way through than your male equals, it’s also likely that, once you hit 40, you will likely earn exactly zero more raises. Sorry! What’s that? You also want kids? Unlimited maternity leave? What are you, Mark Zuckerberg? Your net contribution officially zeroes out. Thanks for nothing.

And after 50? That’s easy: It’s all a fast downward slide into retirement, old age, complete invisibility and being of no use to anyone at all, except Big Pharma and the people who make those creepy robotic adjustable beds.

Heartening, no? To see your life mapped out so so clearly? To be reduced to your real sociocultural value: a short, jagged line of economic fury, signifying nothing? Don’t let the bank door hit you on the way out.

It all dovetails perfectly with the holidays in America, I find, a time when every other news story is gushing solely about… shopping. This time of year, the nation’s health is measured not by peace, or lack of gun violence, or random acts of kindness and philanthropy, but solely by consumer sales, retail, the glut. Translation: Don’t you dare call yourself happy unless Walmart’s Black Friday hell-a-thon set a new record for wailing bloodshed. Sales, I mean sales.

Did you read that Cyber Monday raked in more than $3 billion this year? And that something like $800 million of that came from people shopping via mobile device? Do you know what that means?

That’s right: Nothing. Or rather, everything, in so far that the economy is chugging along splendidly, lots of people bought a lot of stuff and therefore the terrorists lose again, Americans are “producing” like they should and God finally loves you. Except not really. Thanks for contributing!

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Mark Morford

About Mark Morford