I’ve always been a fan of George Carlin. He was smart and funny. And the reason he was so funny is because he showed us things about life that we glossed over. Things we missed. Things like, “Electricity is just organized lightning.” But part of his appeal was also stating the truth about things. Things we were too scared to consider. Especially things about living in America.
As with most things Carlin, the clip below is DEFINITELY NSFW. In fact, if you’re one of my daughters’ friends who happen to read my blog, I caution you to not watch the video below until you’re 17.
I saw this 3-minute clip (from 2005) for the first time last weekend. But before you watch it, I invite you to read the following excerpt from my book Minor King. If you’ve already read MK, you know that it’s a story that contains several major themes–and one of them is the idea of the American Dream (which I call American Fiction).
From Minor King:
“As with most lower- and middle-class Americans, we were stuck in an economic spot that would define us for the rest of our lives. And not just us, but our children as well. And their children.
We were the “real” Americans. The ones who made things go. The factory workers and policemen. The accountants and paralegals. The teachers and writers. Regular Americans who all lived under the facade of the American Dream—a place were we could get everything we wanted in life as long as we “worked hard and kept our noses clean.”
The American Dream comes with a two-car garage in a new neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. It also comes with a riding lawn mower. And two kids who participate in athletics when they’re young, but read Kafka when they’re thirteen and start changing right before your eyes.
The American Dream also comes with HOA fees, a Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the strip mall down the street, and a fully-stocked liquor cabinet in your home. The puppet masters keep us happy by giving us jobs that help us pay for our American Dream, along with the facade of health and dental insurance coverage (which are really just legal labyrinths designed to maximize profit for doctors, insurance companies, and lawyers, and which are written in such a way that no one understands them, especially not in Washington, and, as the result of having the privilege of health insurance, we only had to pay a $1,000 deductible every year on top of our copays, and, of course, our monthly contribution to the plan. The health insurance lawyers got the idea from the automotive insurance lawyers. An elegant scheme, really. Capitalism at its finest.) Then, if we’re lucky we get to retire at 70. But only if the rich men on Wall Street don’t squander our savings like they did in 2008. And when we die, they’ll take what we left to our children, and then hold the same juicy carrots out in front of them that they used to lure us.
We were real Americans—slaves to a system that preferred we stayed firmly in our places and worked until all of our value, to them, was gone.
The American Dream was fiction. Sure, there were some who rose above the system to achieve economic independence, but for every person who does escape, ten million others don’t.”
Now watch the clip:
I must have been more influenced by Carlin’s work than I realized.