“For a salesman there is no rock bottom to the life…he’s a man way out there in the blue riding on a smile and shoeshine, and when they start not smiling back-that’s an earthquake”
-Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
Shysters will look back on this time fondly and recall the good ole days when middle-man sales culture reached apotheosis. What we have before us is the Rumspringa of the salesman, the age of the boondoggle, and what icon better imbues the spirit of our great sellout in chief than fictional character Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman.
The story of Willy Loman is a tragic tale of a salesman soul who killed himself because he could never sell enough to satiate his unvalidated ego. The discrepancy between reality and the world he was selling himself had crevassed to the state his own suspension of disbelief was destroyed, and he found it too much to bear. Even in the woven together yarns of a salesman there must be some thread of evidence to support his claims of grandiosity so he can continue to believe his own lies. Like a perpetual Freudian slip the salesman is compensating for their deficiencies, which is comprised mostly of bombastic displays and fabricating excuses for any perceived failing, so desperate to hide their shame of not being enough they become ravenous seekers of more – more riches, status, and legacy.
The salesman lifestyle has no ability to assuage the feelings of not being enough, as the life of a sellout is one of emotional desperation. The game of a salesman works on tautology, a process of chipping away at the will, the gaslighting of reason, and the manufacture of their sales pitch into a plausible reality. Life becomes a sale, a deal if you will, where the ethic of lying is unimportant, just score those points and consummate the deal. And with sales comes money, with money comes power, with power comes status, with status…Well ole boy I can tell you, then you have the life – nothing but smooth sailing from there, laid, paid, and appreciated, at least for a bit.
Sure, there are inevitable moments of self doubt, questioning if the game was worthwhile, but if one is to make this turn towards honesty and authenticity there is a cost of facing such a recognition, which means one must accept they have spent a lifetime stalking inane banality, and that’s bruising enough to an egocentric personality to prefer death over defeat. Not only does one become a cuck loser in the eyes of success chasers, but they are a loser to their own heart as they have lowered the quality of their life and relationships in favor of unfettered ego promotion where enough is never enough.
When an introspective revelation is arrived at by people of profound vanity it often leads to avoidance tactics, extreme ones at times, as something must avert and distract from the sharp point, they must rifle through their briefcase of semi-plausible logical fallacies to keep their chosen narrative alive, anything to divert their gaze from an honest confessional exposing their dreams were always juvenile and shitty. For the salesman, his profits and the perceived legacy he leaves behind in the minds of his peers are his determinants of success, as this is the ostensible pragmatism of the materialist mind, a life measured and quantified just like the profit of a sale.
Willy wanted to believe his lies, he wanted to be sold on the idea that being better than the next guy had some spiritual salvage value, and to believe his hyper-competitive machinations built around arbitrarily termed success was worth the emotional carnage caused to everyone around him. But he’d show them who he really was through winning, and they’ll all be sorry they sure will, you’ll all see, you’ll all see the inner greatness. Trump seems to be in a similar situation, dragging his family through the mud with him so he can play top fat cat. Exposing them to scrutiny I doubt any of them actually wanted, including Trump.
As for the Orangeman, he’s a much more successful salesman thus far than his fictional comparison, and his con has worked on a massive scale, after all he became president of the US of A. He pulled off the ultimate con to win a position that is ultimately a job created for con men, and a good con man most always translates to a good salesman due to mastery of a skill which makes one Par Excellence at both occupations, and it is not outright lying, that is a fool’s game. The art of the “deal” is twisting the truth the point the mark is unsure if they have been conned or not. Find those alternate facts and different interpretations of the same reality, or alt-reality, and then repeat it unapologetically until it becomes a plausible version of the truth. It’s a sales pitch. It may sound implausible – but what if I told you I could save you 50% on your health care bill by just doing this one simple trick! You won’t believe your own ears, because you’ll think how can someone lie with such absolute confidence!
And how in fact can someone have such a righteous demeanor while knowingly telling a lie? It’s mere acting. They are just doing a job, putting on a performance. John Oliver pointed out in a piece last year how nearly two thirds of politicians’ time is spent fundraising. Our politicians are salesmen first and representatives of the people seco…well let’s just say somewhere down the line they may have some inclination to represent their constituency, but it’s not exactly a priority.
The Don knows the con, and the con is to take from the mark(the people) and give to his cronies who helped empower him. But maybe even more than the money, the salesman gets to revel in the glory of the deal, where happiness is only a smile and a shoeshine away, or in his case a couple venal acts and a few public appearances away where he pitches his bullshit equivocations to thunderous applause. He’s always looking out for the next sale of his ego identity, the next event where he will be celebrated for the art of the deal and selling the never ending belief that right around the corner it’s all going to be great I tell you.
“Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score.”– Donald Fuckin’ Trump, Art of the Fuckin’ Deal
For Trump, money was never a big motivation but instead just a way to keep score of the value of one’s entire life. He wouldn’t be so crass as to state money is everything, that ain’t very classy. Money is more like a ceremonial rite of passage in a cult of material status, never a motivation in and of itself, simply a way of being. Makes perfect Loman sense. Willy didn’t care if his life was in shambles around him, it wasn’t what money could buy that concerned him, it’s what people thought of him. He was selling the world an idea of himself he thought would be the greatest thing ever if he could just close the deal. Trump has always had money, it was never what money could buy that enticed him, it was the cachet it provided so he could sell everyone on the idea he was exceptional, hence the lavish gold compensations.
It takes an exceptional salesman to make this as seen on TV country clunk on another year and Trump will sell his little orange grinch heart out, and to paraphrase his market tested board approved pitch to America: “I’ll tell you what we’ll do – we’ll put a fresh coat of red, white, and blue on her with some special militarized undercoating for only a small 54 billion dollar fee and she’ll run like new. Why, she always was the greatest country there ever was I tell ya!”
Everything about our political culture is a sales job.Every piece of heinous liberty killing legislature has a euphemized title because politicians know how hard it would be to sell their constituency on the: “Let corporations pollute the land so stockholders and corporations can make more money” act.
First of all, such an aptly named title ain’t very catchy. Second, the moniker isn’t selling the sizzle. It matters not if the meat is in a state of decay, rancid, and fetid, if it’s sizzling – sell that, and that’s just what they do. Citizens United, the Patriot Act, Restoring Internet Freedom, sell that sizzle baby! It takes many an artisan Loman to feed that stack of road kill to people and call it filet mignon. Good thing Trump has plenty of experience selling steaks. Now that Trump is doing what Republicans always wanted and running government like a business he is tallying his score at an accelerated pace, convert everything to capital for monied interests and let the trickle down economics reign down upon us.
“If You’re Not First, You’re Last!”
– Ricky Fuckin’ Bobby, Talladega Nights
There is an actual book on the topic of sales with this quote as the title, the slogan is popularly known as a farcical tagline in a Will Ferrell comedy but some salesman jackass used it as a sincere title to shill a shitty book. The subtitle of this work has the words dominate and competition in it…And that about sums up what’s wrong with sales culture. Dominate! Compete! Always one up the other guy – all in good clean competition right?
It’s all just a game, and you’re just trying to be number one, hey there ain’t nothing wrong with that right? Number one at all costs, all externalities be damned, and this is how America became exceptional. A country of profiteering opportunists competing to be number one, or as Morris Berman calls us in his book Why America Failed, we are a country of “hustlers” from top to bottom. A country full of Lomans looking to one up the other guy, and if you fail one has only themselves to blame for not being savvy and hard working enough. But hard work in capitalism has the greatest payouts based on how many people one can exploit in the art of the deal and nothing to do with providing value to humanity which “hard work” is erroneously synonymous with in our culture.
If one “succeeds” in this game of dog cannibalize dog then it seems only right to think it was solely your own gritty can-do winning attitude in the face of all odds that propelled you, a superhero individualist, a Randian enigmatic fire brand of fuckin’ success is the conceited image the salesman is trying to peddle.
Trump lights up the board on psychopathic job seeking and authoritarian traits, the consummate salesman taking life by the hoo ha and selling his way into legendary salesman status. These traits may be deleterious to the entire world, but it doesn’t matter, the goals have been set to accumulate money, power, status…you know, be a real success in the world. Trump will sell the world out to Goldman Sachs and other financial vultures who are interested in feeding on a dying planet, truly a once in a species-time firesale. Good thing we elected the greatest salesman on earth during such opportunistic times.
Donny J exhibits the full range of Loman behavior patterns replete with double speak and a loud mouth spewing ostensible tell it like it is platitudes, but as the bluster withers away and reveals itself as the baseless rhetoric it always was, the sprayed on sheen flakes off, and what is left behind is a long night staring into the darkness doing all he can to fight back the existentialist questions chipping away at the mirage of the sale. It’s that dark tunnel of truth leading out to the garage that every salesman stares down one day. A reckoning of the ego awaits when they can no longer buy what their own subconscious is selling, and they must stop to ask why they need to keep making that sale? Or even why they are in the game at all.
The salesman has unconsciously bought what every mark buys, the classic Edward Bernays/Madison Avenue psy-op – make people believe they lack something fundamental so they feel compelled to compensate for the inadequacy. Inadequacy is what the shyster soul feeds on, it knows how trigger the anxiety of not being enough in others because it’s the dictum they live by themselves. They’re forever in search of fortune and that next huge deal they believe will fill the hole of all that is broken.
Donald may not succumb to the same fate of Willy Loman, but they are twin souls in different situations. However Donald must be suffering from ego decay by now, and that will continue in steep decline as his own manufactured sale of himself crumbles in the gold framed mirror. I think the Don will be fine though compared to his fictional soulmate, after all, he has a golden highrise palace to retreat to when he is booed out of office. And although he is likely to be heckled the rest of his existence, that refuge of wealth might be enough to maintain the illusion that his fortunes made him exceptional in some way, exceptional enough to be president, and that must count for something even if they all stopped smiling back a long time ago.