Tuesday I painted under the eaves. Painting, unlike most other tasks I’ve been doing, is a good activity for thinking. My random thoughts that day were circling around Nike having reignited the “take a knee” controversy, using Colin Kaepernick’s protest in the most cynically commercial way.
Now, Nike may see Big Bux in buying the face of the millionaire athlete who can now make money off that greatest of all contemporary triumphs — personal oppression. But the thing that’s always mystified me about the entire “take a knee” flapdoodle is why — on the first hour of the first day after NFL players started dropping — team owners didn’t say, “You have a right to protest. But nobody has any right to do so on their employer’s time. Stay on your feet. Protest in some other time and place. Or get benched.”
That should have been sufficient. A few words about “what our core audience thinks of this and how you might be affecting your own bottom line by alienating paying customers” wouldn’t have gone amiss. But it’s a simple fact that any mere mortal who insisted on using his employer’s paid time for a purpose unrelated to and even inimical to his employer’s purposes would have been canned. Why so many billionaires waffled and pandered is a mystery.
This isn’t about free speech or racism. This isn’t about respecting (or not) the American flag, which shouldn’t be mixed up on sports in the first place. This is about business.
But now everything is about the business of politics, which supersedes all other business concerns.
Ayn Rand was prophetic (once again) when she wrote in Atlas Shrugged about the “aristocracy of pull.”
Of course events unfolded differently than Rand could have seen them back in the 40s and 50s. She envisioned a small group of powerful industrialists existing mainly because of their skill with “pull.” And we have those of course (e.g. Elon Musk, not to mention every corporate head who lives or dies on the power of lobbyists).
But what she didn’t see — couldn’t see because nobody could have imagined it — was how everybody down to the most talentless nobody in a university classroom to the most cynical marketer-to-the-public would climb aboard the pull train. Yes, she saw how the culture of pull would empower a whole lot of whiners and screechingly self-righteous morons. But who could have foreseen how far both the whining and screeching would go, and how many beneficiaries there’d be? And how much benefit would accrue to the loudest yammerheads?
Oh, how it pays to be political. And oh, how it pays to be a “victim.” Because of course the two go hand in hand. Being “oppressed” is the surest way to gain influence and power over others in this brave new overgoverned world.
So now athletic shoes are political. And of course Hollywood’s so political that even devoted movie fans like me are considering ash-canning the whole business. And the media is political. And universities have become the black hole of politics. And social media is all-politics-all-the-time. And you can be cast into outer darkness by your friends if you watch the “wrong” YouTube channels or eat at the “wrong” restaurant chain. Because politics. Because somebody or another can claim “oppression” and therefore special rights — and therefore the power to control the thoughts, speech, and actions of everyone else.
It’s not only that business has become political, which Rand foresaw. It’s that every day life has become politicized — by somebody and always for somebody’s private benefit.
And that’s when you know you’ve got not only way too much politics, but you’ve got something worse. You’ve got control by pressure, pull, threat, and fear. You’ve got more of that odious and diseased progenitor of political control — government — than you can ever recover from.
Now back to work in the real world. With real materials. That obey saner laws.