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Can Andrew Wiggins Save America?

Photograph Source: Brent Burford Photography – CC BY 2.0

The ruling class likes to equate the growing skepticism of the status quo with white supremacy. This is how they can equate the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements. But I do think it is more complicated than this.

How does this all relate to Andrew Wiggins, the basketball player, who keeps losing, but was of interest of the most winning team in basketball, the Golden State Warriors? Yes, Golden State, who has done a whole lot of winning lately (three championships and two second place finishes in the past five seasons) traded for Minnesota’s “losing” player, Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, by all accounts a tremendous disappointment, is not efficient.

Basketball, like capitalism, has taken a technocratic turn to the most efficient players. The past 5 years have been a more dramatic shift in the National Basketball Association than in the United States, and that’s saying a lot. Golden State put together perhaps the most dominant run in NBA history. Golden State accomplished this by shooting the most three-pointers, with their star duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Turns out three points, shot from far away, is more valuable than two points, which can be shot at from any distance. It’s amazing it took teams decades to figure this out.

Since the rise of Golden State, teams have been trying to copy Golden State, desperately cutting ways with their taller, less skilled players and instead opting for players who can shoot, but can’t do much else. Older players have reacted quite conservatively to these rapid changes, claiming, without proof, that three-point teams are not manly enough to make it. Is it of any surprise that these rich men cried like babies when the confessed rapist Kobe Bryant met his maker?

For better or worse, the rules have been changed to favor offense and “free-movement” of players, deemphasizing the type of macho play old players yearn for. Yes, between the harsher calling on defensive players and the refusal to shoot close to the basket, the game has gotten less physical. Much like capitalism, basketball has embraced a free-flowing system of movement.

The Warriors present a more communal feminine culture that inherently threatens both the white male American culture and the racial stereotypes embedded in it.

The only man and team seen previously as capable of positive culture was Gregg Poppovich. Popovich recruited much of his talent from overseas, keeping the African-American stereotypes exactly where they needed to be. There’s no need to be upset at Popovich for finding hidden basketball gems in every corner of the world (the key to his success), but it is significant that his relationship with his first African American superstar Kawhi Leanord went up in flames. It didn’t take long for Popovich, seen as the class act of the NBA, to turn on his player, saying publicly that Leonard was just a player, not a leader.

Everything about the Warriors is seen as soft and the old guard is having trouble adjusting. Their playing style, more art than strength, is met with anger. They shoot, pass and dribble better than any other team. They are unlikely to bully anyone in their playing style, they are light years ahead of the physical brutality of the massively popular NFL. Even the liberal LeBron James, best known for his Trayvon Martin hoody protest, called the team soft in the finals, which quickly turned to laughing between the two sides.

There is gendered threat of these players too. They move more like women like men, gracefully prancing across the floor, in something close to synchronized dancing. The gender dynamics even arose on this own team, with Draymond Green calling Kevin Durant a bitch, or a female dog. Bitch may now be the most popular word in American culture. If you don’t believe me, look at the most streamed songs of the past year.

Transgender identification, less than 1 percent of the population, has become many people’s greatest fear. Horrified by the implications of a genderless society and all its implications on the capitalist imperialist white supremacist patriarchy, anything not strictly within the confines of traditional gender expectations is seen as a threat. And indeed, we should rejoice, because it is!

Egos are seemingly dissolved, as none of the many star players mind giving up individual accomplishments for communal gain. If the United States operated like this, we would be winning at the same clip as the Warriors. Ironically, most of the keyboard incels whining about another victory for the Warriors, they are likely to support a Republican Party that strictly believes in a survival of the fittest ethos, with no regard for order or fairness. The Warriors did not want visit Donald Trump at the White House when they won the championship and he wouldn’t want them to either.

Charles Darwin is most frequently used today to justify the eugenics on both the left and the right. For conservatives, Darwinism involves regressive gender roles, species differentiation based on race, and an embrace of selfishness and violence as natural—even when this means destroying nature itself. For corporate liberals and conservatives, the Darwinist in them seeks to have the market naturally select who lives and dies. Those with the smartest and most efficient idea for society will rise to the top and raise all boats. For the left, eugenics exists as the most reasonable response to climate change, and a classist and racist pivot away from sexuality and humanity.

Charles Darwin in the The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex broke down these assumptions and in a letter to Asa Gray, he wrote something remarkable: “time when the thought of the eye made me cold all over, but I have got over this stage of the complaint, & now small trifling particulars of structure often make me very uncomfortable. The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!”[41] Why should a bird like the peacock develop such an elaborate tail, which seemed at best to be a hindrance in its “struggle for existence”?”

Why indeed? We, like Mr. Darwin, should get cold all over when thinking about why the peacock develops such an elaborate tail when it should be of no utility to him. Wiggins, in this analogy, is the peacock. He is athletic, he glides gracefully, he dunks with ease, but he simply isn’t evolutionary sound. He shoots dumb shots, he doesn’t have a feel for the game, and he doesn’t seem to listen to criticism. I, for one, never minded the six years of losing Minnesota experienced at the hands of Mr. Wiggins, for in turn he provided us with beautiful, maddening athleticism and a refusal to compromise with the coaches who wanted to bore us with wide-open formulaic shots.

So why did Golden State take a chance on this player, the leader of the so-called basketball revolution suddenly regressing into the stubborn Wiggins? Could it be simply their love for beauty? Could it be the wisdom, that only Golden State seems to have, that playing fun, lively basketball is more important than the reputation of winning games? No, that too is too simple.

I think we can actually calculate a win here for the Warriors in terms we can quantify. While all teams have tried and tried to copy the strategy of the Warriors, they will never catch up simply because the Warriors have the best players. Now, the rules have changed in a way that favors perimeter players, but I do think our conclusion is that simple. The Warriors wanted Wiggins simply because he is a very good player. He doesn’t fit with the math, but the Warriors don’t need him to.

Is Wiggins like the colorful peacock then? Does he produce value not in and of himself but because his female mates want to produce with him? That is to say, can the Wiggins trade prove a value in talent, pleasure, beauty and fun for its own sake rather than for the technocratic future? What is Silicon Valley, who sets up shop court side for Golden State going to say about this interruption?

Let’s take a step back. Is the problem really the fact that our society is getting more efficient? And more importantly, is there anything we can do to stop it? This is why in many ways Andrew Yang is the most intriguing candidate for President. In theory, the fact that our society needs less work should be a good thing. But the elites have used public money, land and labor to build their empires and yet refuse to share any of the gains. Every small invention must be paid for, every advance costing even more enslavement to help the masses. Capitalism is working, unless you are working.

In comes the ecological question, which is essential. Capitalism, far more than the NBA, is a slow-moving force. Despite evidence that the use of fossil fuel will kill off almost all species on earth, there is such a grip by the fossil fuel industries on current governments, that no one can really adjust for the long-term. This will prove to be fatal. The argument is convincing that even agriculture killed the planet and if anyone wants to be around a while, we got to cut it out yesterday.

However, does this mean returning to the old guard, just for its own sake? Once again I wonder about that insistence. Here we must be specific. The openness to change and the breaking of hierarchies should be good things.

The violence against the earth and the poor in our further development actually mirrors the cultural return to ownership of others in the age of commodified fascism. Fascism is just the next step for capitalism. It’s a new place to conquer, like the moon, or the indigenous land. The next place to make “our” lives better (whoever “our” is) is to squeeze the immigrant.

This, framed as a return, is really just another progression in the system of commodification, extraction and exploitation.

What is the anecdote then? Love beauty for beauty’s sake. Recognize that all living beings are beautiful, all materialism is violence. Erase hierarchy, reject rigidity.

Ahh, what advice to be giving to the world as drought, war and famine balloon out of our twin evils of capitalism and imperialism. For the poor person, what good would an Andrew Wiggins be? Shouldn’t she want the best shot available?

For a bad team, Wiggins was no good. He offered spa trips to someone who needed food stamps. For a good team, he could be pretty good, as the three point shooting beside him will free him up to play his individual game with enough space.

And yet, what Darwin proves is that the female peacock doesn’t always take the best shot available. This proves more dignity, beauty and self-respect in the world-called monstrous poor person, struggling for scraps than the rich person, still tossing and turning at night, despite all the best sleeping machines at his own exposure. What could help me sleep better? This is the question that keeps him up at night. The paradox to the Darwinist, who can only copy, and never innovate. For he knows only what he sees, steals and exploits. He creates nothing. From a reproductive standpoint, he creates nothing.

Such is the rest of the NBA, trying to copy the Warriors method without pausing a moment to enjoy the beauty and talent that guides them from within. Such a mentality is a threat to the object of play. Where give and take is unpredictable, democratic and diverse. Now as we calculate the next best option for our shrinking reality, let us learn from the past. Violence upon the earth, the poor, the human spirit, should not be tolerated as a solution to our current alienation. But neither should a self-righteous power-seeking prudishness that aims to regulate those who are hungry, tired and beaten down. Most have no choice but to wildly fire shots from the outside, hoping they one day win the lottery, and make a 3 pointer.

Capitalism then is seen to be working not because of the made three-pointers (a la Golden State) but the attempted three-pointers (a la the rest of us). One of the more tolerable technocrats is Elizabeth Warren, but even she believes in equity, rather than equality. The same depressing thesis was laid out at an education seminar I went to recently. How do we give each child the chance to succeed, no matter their identify, it seemed to ask. However isn’t this the question everyone is asking, every step of the way. It is never “how are you?” but always “is it fair?” Which is exactly how the ruling class can dictate the terms of a two-sided discourse when there isn’t one (in Charlottesville, Trump made an equity argument). Equity is subjective, equality is objective.

This is the sort of logic employed by capitalism. It is always an ideological one. Well, now everyone has a chance, what’s the problem? The formula is: “if you’re rich, then you’re rich” while the stated formula is: “if you have a chance, you can be rich”.

All around us we see there is nothing the white liberal won’t do to preserve the gateways at all cost. To deny the humanity of the outsider. To hurt her before she gets a shot at you. All of it is lies designed to spread the proper paranoia for us to submit to the helping fatherly hand of capital.

Behind every white liberal sneers a monster, numb to the basic humanity of the immigrant, ruthless as the bodies wash up at shore, too docile to ever assert a meaning or purpose to the bitter, miserable and lonely life they find themselves in. The wall of liberalism is being built. Free the capital, wall the migrants. It is imperative that the liberal be stopped at all costs. The chips will fall as they will after that. But nothing can be accomplished until that sweet day of glory comes.

Silicon Valley does not need to tell us where the beauty lies, neither do evolutionary theorists. We know, already. It is only through the blitz of modernity that we have forgot each other, and soon we will find, that when we look into the eyes of the commoner, all we see is beauty, and we will be overwhelmed, by our own failure, our own fragility, our own heart that begs to love.

That is the most incredible thing about it all, when we choose love in the free choice economy. In these days ravaged by climate change, corporate greed and unparalleled decimation of the natural world, love is not on sale. Instead, we remain foolish, almost naive if we choose it, but nowhere near the foolishness of those who die before daring to love. The journey from womb to tomb is too short, too hard, and too bewildering, but the times worth our while, remains, for a moment, magical.

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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