The 2020’s were looked at optimistically by so many of us, just a few years ago. As I sit here listening to the Ghostface Killah classic, “Supreme Clientele”, I hear the ambition that comes with art made at the beginning of a decade. The promise of a new leaf, freshly turned. The confidence of a legacy being written with every word. I am writing this for the kids who have said, “This year is going to be my year” for every single year since 2015 and fully believed that 2020 was going to be the one. It’s a new decade! What could possibly signify hope more than that! Quite obviously, things did not play out that way for basically everybody that I know. It pains me so greatly to type out the words, “ Global Pandemic”. I don’t know how many consecutive days I’ve seen them written or heard them in passing. The awakening that occurred after the murder of George Floyd pains me to write about as well. I saw something in my generation that I was previously unaware of. A genuine desire for something DIFFERENT. I felt hope when it seemed that the establishment was going to give Bernie Sander’s a fair shot at the Democratic nomination for President. For moments last year, despite everything, it really felt like the status quo was on the precipice of collapse. The election came and went and we successfully “defeated fascism” by ousting the impetuous Donald Trump from the highest office in the land. In the weeks and months since then, the “activists” who made themselves known in the four years of Trump’s reign slowly went back to praising the same empire they had maligned previously. The face on it was agreeable to them so there was immediately no need resist.
In recent weeks, I have seen a new resurgence in nostalgia for the 2000’s on social media. I spent some time contemplating this phenomenon, and the timing of it, and realized that we are immediately reminiscing on the collective childhood of a generation because it was before we were aware of the fact that we are living in a dying society. Death is all around us now, and the most privileged among us are able to successfully ignore it, or be blissfully unaware of the pain that oozes out of the concrete in every city in this country. People are starving, 1 in 6 children lives in poverty, hundreds of thousands are dying from a preventable infectious disease, and the ruling class is wealthier than ever. We bomb other countries indiscriminately while the war against poverty receives none of our attention. Our military spent 1.5 trillion dollars on a plane that will never even spy on Iran, and politicians we elected tell us that healthcare is too expensive and a respectable wage is too much to ask for. I am a cynic, but all of this shit is right out in the open every single day and it boggles my mind how fine the average American is with all of it. We are a docile people, satiated by calming words and a plethora of streaming entertainment. It is incredibly hard to be hopeful right now when most of the people I know are just as invested in their favorite movie franchise as they are in fighting for their own interests.
I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading by now. The cynical shit is nothing you haven’t heard before and is most likely not uplifting your mood and I apologize for that. What I am about to say just needed to be framed properly. I and many people I know struggle with depression and anxiety. It seems as a generation we have collectively come to the realization that none of us are alone in the struggle to maintain sanity. We talk about mental health plenty, and I don’t even believe at this time I’m even raising any awareness on the subject. For as much as we talk about mental health though, we do not actually discuss mental illness. We do not talk about the behaviors that mentally ill people have to combat on a daily basis in order to present as normal. My mental illness has had an impact on the way I see the world. So much so that I believe presenting as “normal”, is simply just ignoring all of the things I mentioned earlier. The anxieties that many of us face seem amplified by the neurotypical people around us who are able to go through day to day life without thinking about the amount of homeless veterans on our streets. The blissful ignorance of being able to separate your personal mental health from the collective pain of the world is what being “normal” means to me.
In many cultures, mentally ill people are revered for their ability to tap into the pain around them and speak truth to those who are suffering. That is why so many religious figures and cult leaders end up being identified as mentally ill. They are all skilled at connecting with the lost. I believe that the mentally ill are the last, best hope for society. The crushing weight of the moment, the feeling that the world is collapsing every single day, is nothing that unusual for anybody who has suffered from mental illness for their entire life. This is a natural state. Feelings of hopelessness pop up out of nowhere for some of us, but in the era we find ourselves in, it would be strange to not feel some level of hopelessness. It would mean you are either not paying attention or purposefully ignoring the weight of the world. As an avowed cynic, I am telling you you would be insane not to feel hopeless. The engine of the world has made it clear that the status quo will be defended at all costs. The cycle of war, poverty, disenfranchisement, and discrimination will continue unhindered. The Roaring 20’s have been claimed by the usual Lions. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that any change will come out of ignoring the absolute power of what we are up against, as many of us do.
Again, I am sorry to ruin your day, but I just wanted to be sure you understood that a candle means the most to those living in the absence of all other light. We haven’t hit the bottom yet, and I’ll be the most hopeful when we do.