We in the United States have had our brains fried in the past week by the surfeit of stories about the drama surrounding O.J. Simpson and the murder of his estranged wife and another man which occured in California last week. We know everything there is to know about the speed and cruising range of his friend's stationwagon, the size of the dog which came to wag its tail when the car pulled into Simpson's driveway after the chase, and the size of Simpson's jail cell.
I do not want to concentrate here on the personal drama of a talented black football player, who made it into Hollywood. Undoubtedly, even a movie star with luxury homes and million dollar contracts lives under tremendous pressures in a sharply class and color divided America. His mixed and broken marriages, the gulf between his family roots and the society of millionaire businessmen and glittering movie starlets, all these factors undoubtedly exerted powerful forces to break up his life and career.
What concerns me as a socialist, is the social lessons we need to draw from the downfall of this American hero.
The media pundits, talk show hosts and radio DJs in discussing the O.J. Simpson story all avoid the central problem of our society: what about the working class youth? The capitalist press built Simpson, Michael Jackson and other sports, music and movie stars into role models for the young (especially black) Americans. Every ghetto kid was urged to emulate these heroes, follow them to success and wealth.
For years, the press and the TV was peddling the idea that even though the ghetto schools are awful, even though the conditions of life for the majority are decaying and deteriorating, even though American (and foreign) companies are downsizing and laying millions of workers off, never mind all that. All you need is talent and hard work and you will get to the top of the heap; you will stand out from the crowd; you will strike it rich.
Now this myth stands revealed as a bare-faced lie. Capitalism has no future for the working class.