I expect many people were thinking the 2020s would be a throwback to the 1920s, back to when life was full of change, excitement, consumer culture, cocktail parties, and all that jazz. Appropriately dubbed, the Roaring 2020s, it should have been a decade of decadence, carefree living, and forward-thinking prosperity. Instead, serendipity rocked back and threw us one of those super curvy Whiffle balls and left us standing flat footed, wondering what the hell just happened. First, Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash. Then, the beer virus hits, the economy gets taken off life support, oil prices turn negative, most of the country goes into some form of lockdown, giant 2-inch hornets are discovered in Washington state, and then, to top it all off, we had two old geezers, both in cognitive decline, stumbling through the crowds of face masks, gun rallies, toilet paper shortages, political dissonance, and all other bizarre idiosyncrasies that are characteristically American, as they made their way towards the U.S. presidency.
I mean, geez. The only way 2020 could have been worse, and albeit more interesting, was if an asteroid impact destroyed a small city or if a radio signal was heard from an advanced alien civilization that said we weren't worth the trip, thus confirming what we kinda knew all along. We suck.
However, there was a bright glimmer of hope for Blue Team politics when Sleepy Joe inched pass Donald Trump to win the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Coronavirus super spreader event celebrations erupted across the country as huge crowds of people came together to hug, wave anti-Trump banners, and breathe in a heavy dose of that victory spirit.
It should be noted, though, that Trump didn't lose by much. In fact, he barely lost. Of the 233 million eligible voters in America, it was Biden's 34% to Trump's 32%. It was a coin flip victory and one that was largely dependent on how the media and public perceived Trump's handling of the pandemic, which in itself was a curious oddity as it depended on the public's understanding of infectious disease. But whatever the case, the election could have gone either way, and that's what people need to understand.
Despite all his rudeness, incoherent press conferences, and divisive leadership, Donald Trump still meets the minimum requirements to be President. He still had 74+ million people vote for him. He can still run again in 2024—political stiff-arming notwithstanding—and he can still win. But even if he loses a second time, what is there preventing another Trumponian-like personage taking the nation's reigns once more? Not much of anything. Once we're made aware of that possibility, we can work to overcome it. But to do this, we need to investigate the question, Where exactly do America's leaders come from?
Garbage In, Garbage Out
George Carlin was a fucking genius. The way he could weave together ideas to form razor-sharp insights into American culture and society was nothing short of amazing. In a standup routine performed in the early 1990s, Carlin began with a concession about how everyone always says politicians suck. "They suck!", he said. Then he led the audience into a rather provocative line of reasoning when he asked, "Where do people think politicians come from?" It's not like they fall out of the sky. They don't materialize out of thin air from another dimension. They're not imported at wholesale prices from China, Uzbekistan, or India. Politicians come from American parents, American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses, American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This, as George so keenly put it, is what America has to offer.
Carlin understood cause and effect—the elementary rationale of if this, then that. Leaders weren't born from an empty nothingness but created from the best and worst elements, morally and intellectually, in each of their respective nations. Garbage in, garbage out. We cannot complain about how much politicians suck without first analyzing the dysfunctional and malignant societies that produced them. Instead of using a judgmental spyglass to criticize politicians, let's turn it around and look at the environments that gave birth to these folks and nurtured their growth. Like Sacha Baron Cohen might ask, Who is America?
At first glance we see America as a nation that bathes in a pure and emasculate worldview. Its people uphold a false innocence for American exceptionalism and the God-granted privilege to rule the earth. It's a country that believes itself as occupying a bright plateau of civilization, and one that slopes off on all sides into a barbarian darkness. Naturally, the public demands America, and the American people, come before any foreign affairs. We want Freedom Fries instead of French Fries, American jobs instead of offshoring, Made in America over Made in China, and we want red-blooded Americans making music videos that sing that same tasteless conceit. We want America first and we'll feel victimized if we don't get it.
Americans have an unhealthy obsession with a lot of of different things but perhaps nothing more so than with celebrities and public status. We love celebrity news and gossip, and we use their shallow beliefs and opinions as guidance in our own small lives. Celebrities are our spiritual leaders, soothsayers, and health experts. They're our role models, philosophers, and doctors. America prefers pop culture icons who are more comfortable standing in front of television and film cameras shouting huzzahs than they are reading stacks of books, by their lonesome, reflecting on what can be learned from others.
And then there's food. Fast food. America is a nation of fast food. We can't get enough of it. The average American now eats more than 2,000 pounds—literally, one fucking ton—of fast food each year. It's fast, easy, cheap and convenient. There's no question that fast food is shortening life expectancy of the average American but that is the last thing Americans want to hear—bad news about their poor diets. America wants people who can rave about fast food in the same gluttonous, misguided spirit, "I like it all. It's all good stuff. Great American food!" and then serve it to guests, all on a silver platter.
And what about money? The American people are infatuated with great wealth. We all aspire to be the recipient of huge sums of money, regardless of whether it's earned, inherited, or won. We celebrate royalty and aristocrats simply for their wealth and all the perks that come with it: multi-million-dollar homes, private jets, Hummer limousines, $8,000 suits, supermodels, and cocaine parties. We go wide-eyed with envy every time we see playboys like Hugh Hefner, Bruce Wayne, and Donald Trump because that is the kind of high society all Americans want. Gimme, gimme, gimme!
If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders.George Carlin
Americans demands compressed thoughts that are easy to digest and remember. We want commercialized ideas, shallow soundbites, and catchphrases that we can hashtag and tweet because we don't have the aptitude to read anything longer. We want people who churn up social media with mass movements through simple Twitter messages and disposable ideas like "Drain the Swamp", "Not My President", and #americafirst.
I could go on, but you get the point, right? Imagine a presidential candidate today who campaigned like a 1960s hippie—dressed up in tie-dye t-shirts, long, ratty hair, flower headbands, telling the American people to share their wealth and stop eating meat, all the while strumming an acoustic guitar, motioning to the crowd to sing along with the song Imagine by John Lennon. How well would that person connect with the public and political environment today? They'd get their ass kicked. Donald Trump was, and still is, the perfect President of the times because he is the spittin' image of American culture, just turned up to eleven. But what if America had a moment of clarity in which it pulled its head out of its ass and said, “Derrr, maybe we need better job requirements for our nation’s leader”? What would that look like?
The Moral High Ground
Let's pretend for a moment that we could unhook ourselves from all the bureaucratic and political nonsense that inhibits real progress from being made and define minimum qualifications for candidacy that are actually useful. Maybe that's asking too much, but bear with me. Pretend we could make some change that nets us a better application pool to pick leaders from. How would we do that?
Maybe we could require candidates who run for President must hold a terminal degree in something like Ethics and Moral Philosophy before announcing their campaign for presidency. This would, at least, guarantee candidates have spent a significant amount of time contemplating what is right and wrong and how they should live their lives, and make decisions, in accordance to others. But would that be any effective?
In a 2014 study published in the weekly record of scientific progress, Science, researchers from the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands discovered that those who were religious (i.e., studying morality) were not any more likely to do good than their nonreligious counterparts. Aw, shit...
Well, formal education isn't going to help us. By the time we're 12 years old, we're pretty much the person who we're going to be for the rest of our lives. Though, Aristotle thought it was by age 7. Maybe what we're really looking for is a candidate who's had a meaningful life experience that bestowed upon them some greater level of sympathy and camaraderie towards their fellow Man. Experiences change people. But what kind of experience would be worthwhile?
Well, the greatest life experience any person can have is to jump into a spaceship and launch themselves to the Moon. Standing up there atop the dusty, barren wasteland, our perspective broadens to see the collective human race, along with all other biological life, melt into one, homogeneous life form, living and breathing together. In space you don't see the political, cultural, or racial borders that divide the human population. There is only the interconnectedness of life spanning from the earliest history of the Earth to the farthest reaches of our future. This, as it's become known, is called the Overview Effect.
Astronauts have described the overview effect as something overwhelmingly magnificent, a visceral, transformational experience shimmering with unexplainable ecstasy. It's a mystical epiphany in which physical and abstract objects lose their separateness as they fade into a much larger, oneness that permeates the universe. It's the kind of experience that will change the course of a person's life, for the better. Space travel, even as a brief tourist to low earth orbit (LEO), could play a pivotal role in rewiring the selfish tribalism that inherently shapes our parochial boundaries.
Sounds wonderful, but would it work? Doubtfully. Spaceflight is too expensive, rocket launches too impractical, and the whole systems management of getting large numbers of people up there would be way too inefficient. Being American, we want simple solutions to difficult problems. If we think about this more, we should realize that there is only one real solution to the dilemma of competent leadership, and that is hallucinogens.
The psilocybin in magic mushrooms, the chemicals in LSD, and the DMT in ayahuasca tea are effective compounds that can radically alter how we see the world. Psychedelic drugs can make us feel that deep oneness with the universe, connected, blurring all the boundaries between the integrated self and what we see as other people. This is what effective leadership requires—the ability to see each other as the same, as equals, without all the group identity drivel that accumulates over the course of one's life. Psychedelics are the only road that will lead society to the moral high ground, and that's that.