During his Thursday April 20th sports-talk television show, The Herd, Colin Cowherd asked a question he couldn’t answer. The question bothered him, he said. It puzzled him to the point that he asked viewers to message him with their perspectives; he felt discomfort not knowing. Something wasn’t making sense.
He said that he had spent time thinking about why it is that no matter what anyone does to bring about parity in sports or in life, nothing seems to work. Despite rule changes and new regulations designed to do the opposite, good teams emerge that always seem to dominate their leagues season after season; great players leave the mediocre in the dust; even the gap between the rich and poor in society seems to be accelerating—despite safety-nets such as the Affordable Care Act, which have become more pervasive and accessible than ever before, at least in the United States.
Nothing works. The rich get richer faster than the poor; the talented become more talented; performance gaps become more pronounced; inequality increases. Nothing anyone does anywhere ever changes anything. Inequality persists and intensifies.
The Bible quotes Jesus to have said, The poor will always be with you. For some conservative Christians, that statement alone seems to make equality a hopeless aspiration; fairness will always be just out of reach. It’s pointless to try to organize government to address an unfixable problem.
It’s true that Jesus added, You can help the poor anytime you want, but most folks understand that it just isn’t going to happen. It never has in the past—not consistently.
People, many of them, simply don’t care. It seems like the more wealth a person has, the less they care about the poor and the ruined. Providing parity to teams, countries, and ordinary people who are challenged by adversity seems to be an impossible endeavor; a pipe-dream of weak-kneed liberals who lack common-sense.
But why? And is Colin right? Is it true? Are hearts as hard as Jesus implied; are people so cold, so ruthless, that no one has the will to make parity work; to make life a fairer process for everyone who lives it?
Is parity in sports and in life a fool’s goal? Is the situation hopeless for the vast majority of people who find themselves living in squalor, in ill-health, and in hopeless despair? Does anyone care enough to search for an answer; and if they find it, is anyone strong enough to set things right?
Well, I have an answer. I do. The problem is that I’m weak; I’m an anonymous blogger; I pontificate in a pile that is 7.4 billion humans high. Most don’t blog. Most don’t own IPhones or computers. It doesn’t matter. The pile is a teeming mass of screamers. Only a few voices at the very top of the pile are ever heard by the crush of misery that groans beneath their weight. I live somewhere very deep in that mass of misery. I broadcast from inside the pile.
No one in the pile cares what anyone thinks, or even what the facts are. The top of the pile is covered by a slime of celebrities whose value is that they mollify the mess beneath them; they entertain and distract; they bring a flicker of pleasure to a miserable land-fill of very uncomfortable humans who have no more chance of being heard or noticed than does a sea mollusk dying in the Mariana Trench on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.
This layer of celebrity slime is green, because it lives closest to the sun. The dark mud of humanity that nourishes it lies beneath; the mud never sees the sun; many in the pile don’t believe the sun exists. During their lifetimes, they will never see it; they will never know anyone who lives green under a warm sun and gentle breeze. For them, the top of the pile is an unknowable, unreachable destiny; an incomprehensible fantasy.
The rewards for being clever are astronomical. There are no limits. The clever can hide behind walls and gates—beneath radio-frequency shielded domes of invisibility, hidden from the eyes of GPS and governmental surveillance; they live on the best land, in the best climates, among the most exclusive people; they dress well; they flash beautiful teeth, skin, and hair; they possess the most exquisite material possessions—luxury homes, cars, planes, boats, and art.
The last thing the green-slime people on the top of the pile want is to share their space with the organic mud that holds them up; that supports them; that pays them homage. It’s the very last thing they want.
Right now elites are reasserting their control over the entire earth. Billionaires are taking control of governments around the world and securing their advantages at a frenetic pace. Any idea of governance that even hints at equality, of parity, or fairness—any idea of sharing advantages—is ridiculed, suppressed, and ignored.
Old political ideas designed to bring fairness, like socialism, are laughed out of consideration. Simple solutions, like progressive tax policies and estate size limits, are never mentioned.
Only morons and losers would ever espouse something as unworkable as parity; it’s as unfair to the worthy-wealthy as equality, right? Billionaires control media and education. They teach the pile, they mold and shape it, and the pile learns.
What do the mud people learn? The sun is out of reach; it’s not attainable; forget about it. Get on with life and forget, forget, forget. Hang your head, mud person; shuffle your feet, look down, not up. Ignore the obvious. Give up. Surrender to the weight of the pile above you.
Sleep. Doze. Ooze. Despair. In this life, abandon all hope, all who live in the pile. Go blind. No one above is going to reach down to help. Love is cold. Hope is dead. Forget what you think you know about what life should be. Give up on what you think is right. It’s not going to happen. Not in this life; not ever.
Capitalism is just a modern word for slavery—surely everyone must know by now that it’s true. So is Oligarchy. So is Republic. So is any system anyone can name that codifies privilege and denigrates any form of compulsory sharing. Because—can we face unpleasant facts?—the wealthy don’t share well. Old man Rockefeller used to throw dimes to the kids who chased his Model T down the streets of New York City. That’s not sharing. It’s nothing more than throwing peanuts to monkeys at the zoo.
Billionaires don’t share well. Not really. It’s why they are billionaires.
Those of us who live in the pile are slaves. Who can admit it? Who can bear the shame of humiliation that crushes anyone who finally understands that the green slime is pushing them down. It ruins them; it sucks them dry; its roots grind like jackboots against their heads to keep the slime on top; to keep itself green, to keep itself in the light of the sun, which it worships like a god.
I don’t know much about professional sports, but I know about salary caps. The billionaire owners of teams have no qualms about limiting the amount that teams spend on their players. It has the effect of limiting what players can earn, while doing nothing to prevent team owners from squeezing as much money as their greed and clever machinations will allow.
No limits, no caps on owners. OK… agreed. On players? Of course not! Caps are for everyone; everyone who lives in the mud pile, anyway. Pro athletes might not believe it, but they find out soon enough, after a career-ending injury, retirement, or replacement by a more talented player. They too live in the pile.
The pile is a vertical column of filth which, if only it could be flattened like a pancake, would provide a huge surface area of exposure to a greening sun; a sun that will shine parity and hope and pleasure into the lives of the vast swarm of suffering humanity, which desperately deserves to experience good things.
It’s possible that people have one shot at life. We have to admit that it’s possible. This life could be all there is. This could be it. When it’s over, it’s over. The end comes quickly.
The wealthy won’t live among the poor. They won’t fix any injustice, unless the pile becomes restless; unless it shakes like an earthquake, nothing changes. The green slime believes it will live forever, that the sun will keep it alive, but in the end mud and slime share the same fate—certain death.
Then again, maybe people live more than once; maybe they live twice. It might improve the odds that life will be better the second time around if people reshape the pile. Forge the pile into a shape more favorable to the majority of folks who will live in it or perhaps on it, someday. Make it better all around for the people who will come later, who might be—can anyone imagine it?—ourselves. Does anyone know anything at all about their own future for sure?
I believe that limits to income, estate sizes, and inheritances are the only effective way to flatten the pile and expose more people to the pleasures of life, which our creeds assert are these: every individual has a God given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Success by any reasonable measure is making $20 million per year; not a dollar more. Success is accumulating $500 million; not a dollar more. No one should ever be permitted to inherit more than $5 million during their lifetime.
Caps like these encourage both innovation and the sharing of advantages. They force the successful to invest their excessive wealth in the lives of their employees, their communities, and their governments—federal, state, and local. Why? Because they can’t keep the excess. Caps prevent individuals like our current president, for example, from seizing power, because his enormous and unbalanced financial advantages made his presidential run unstoppable.
One more way to bring parity and fairness to real people: make segregation a felony. America segregates itself by both race and income. I can’t think of a more vile way to live.
Outlaw gated communities. All neighborhoods, all housing, all apartments must be compelled to provide living spaces for people from all income groups; from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. The problems we have understanding one another and living peacefully have the best chance of being solved for the well-being of everyone, including the wealthy, when people of all backgrounds live together, interact with one another, and share their unique understanding and experiences of life.
One more thing, and it’s important. The minimum income should be no less than one-thousandth of the maximum income. It means that no person, working or not, makes less than $20K per year. Businesses will have to pay higher wages to encourage people to work; that’s a good thing.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. Free health care can remove a lot of stress from a population. We can provide it, if we lower the salaries of doctors and health-care administrators. It’s counter-intuitive, but lower salaries will, over time, attract better doctors and more patient-centered administrators. People who want to be rich can work in other professions. Why not?
Have I answered Mr. Cowherd’s question? Maybe not. Not yet. The dynamics of groups is complicated. It’s much easier to evaluate talent in individuals and distribute it more or less evenly into groups or teams.
It’s impossible to know in advance which players will become force multipliers on any given team. Where does the personal chemistry lie that can be identified and measured; that can transform a pack of randomly selected players into world champions? If the owners knew, they could find it and use what they learn to create parity, where any given team has a 50/50 chance to defeat any other team on any given day.
How many times have winning coaches traded away a seemingly less talented player, only to stand by helplessly as their team suffers a melt-down? It happens a lot—more than some people might think. Sometimes a great player on a losing team is benched due to injury. Mysteriously, the team starts winning games.
Too many unknowns and variables make the task of predicting team performance based on individual performance evaluations impossible. When people run in packs like wolves, success or failure in the hunt can depend on the interplay among alphas, betas, gammas, and only God knows what other variables. It’s not easy.
People are not equal. It’s true. Teams are even more unequal, no matter what anyone tries to do to strike that balance and get parity right.
But I want to make a larger point, which involves society and how people are punished and rewarded. Isn’t it obvious that less capable people are happier and more productive when they aren’t mistreated and humiliated? Do we mistreat our dogs and cats, because they can’t spell their names or perform basic addition and subtraction? I don’t think so. Do we deny them health care, good food, and a comfortable place to live? We do not.
Most billionaires won’t give the time of day to regular folks. They are predators, every one of them. They know it. They want to think well of themselves, but they are pigs, so they work hard, many of them, to convince themselves otherwise. Many find solace in the books of Ayn Rand, who preached when she was alive that selfishness is the highest virtue of humankind.
I hope that someday soon it will be a felony for an individual to possess a billion dollars—in the same way that possessing pain-killing narcotics can lead to the incarceration of Les Misérables.
I pray that someday life will change. People will learn to love and share. Does anyone believe it is possible?