Advice King

Comedian, musician, host of Chris Crofton's Advice King Podcast and former Nashvillian Chris Crofton asked the Scene for an advice column, so we gave him one. Crowning himself the “Advice King,” Crofton will share his hard-won wisdom with whosoever seeks it. Follow Crofton on Facebook and Twitter, and to submit a question for the Advice King, email bestofbread[at]gmail[dot]com or editor[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.



Dear Advice King,

How do I stop worrying about the future, and leave the past behind? 

—Michal in Wroclaw, Poland


About 15 years ago, I read a book called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. I think about it often. It’s about how the people in charge of the earth (the wealthy, the politicians installed by the wealthy) see events that “shock” the general public as opportunities — opportunities to make more money, and opportunities to tighten their control.

Think of a crisis, in this context, as a time when the narrative that keeps us “moving forward” as humans (consuming, spending) is interrupted. People are stunned. The conveyor belt we call capitalism grinds to a halt. 9/11 was such a crisis. The pandemic that we are in the midst of is another. In these moments, the people in charge of the narrative (the wealthy, the politicians installed by the wealthy) get scared that the general public might start FEELING things. Feelings don’t ship Amazon packages, you see.

So the controllers of the narrative snap into action. Most of the time, they start a war. Wars are a time-tested narrative device. Not only does a war redirect any introspection a traumatized population may be engaging in, but it also starts the money flowing again — upward. After 9/11, the Bush administration kicked the war machine into gear with a literal bullhorn. George W. vowed revenge while the rubble of the Twin Towers was still smoldering, and the remains of Americans lay on the rooftops of surrounding buildings — as they did for years, in some cases. They told us to shop. They gave government contracts to Halliburton, a company that Vice President Dick Cheney had previously run. And they got away with it.

Halliburton and the Cheneys got richer — and one of their subsidiaries electrocuted American soldiers. Mass surveillance began, or continued, depending on who you believe. The wars Bush started became nightmarish quagmires, but the narrative was up and running again. We all went back to spending and consuming.

I almost forgot about the financial collapse of 2008! Another time the nation was in shock! Did the people in charge apologize? Did we reinstate Glass-Steagall? Nope. We gave all the rich folks their money back, and foreclosed on the poor. Sometimes following a shock with something even more brutal (they gave all the banks their money back?) works too. In 2008, they disoriented us with a double whammy of corruption so naked that it practically qualified as performance art. First we felt powerless, then resigned, and then we took massive amounts of Oxycontin. The narrative marched on.

Now we’re in a pandemic. The human conveyor belt was forced to stop for longer than ever this time. The people in charge told us to sacrifice our grandparents to preserve the precious narrative. They injected massive amounts of money into the stock market. They tried to blame China for the virus, priming the pump for a new war. 

This crisis has been turned into the most profitable period for our narrative-crazed overlords IN HISTORY. Fundamentalist Christians like Tennessee's Gov. Bill Lee are using this moment when people don’t know what to think to set up mechanisms to TELL THEM WHAT TO THINK. Rich guys like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump have attempted to use our collective anxiety as a tool to OVERTURN AN AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. A lapse in the narrative is just an opening for these fuckers to introduce one they like better.

Or ...

…we follow our instincts this time. We refuse to go along. We refuse the standard narratives, and realize that capitalism is supposed to serve us — not the other way around. This is our world too. We have a say in the story. 

In my story, there is no past and there is no future. There is no judgment, and there is no vengeance. Wealth is an illusion. Power is immoral. God is not a white male. People in shock should be tended to, not exploited. A world that places profits before people must be reimagined.

I’m not sure if this helped, Michal, but I am grateful for the thoughtful, timely question. 

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