It’s bad enough when someone actually thinks reposting an “I Stand With…” meme is an act of woke resistance. But when the problem is enlarged to a societal scale, it hurts us all. Nothing actually broken ever gets fixed, and a deep sense of cynicism is injected into once-believers when they realize they’ve been conned. We live inside a con job where the appearance of action is mistaken for action.

So we are left to wonder about the point, other than setting the stage for more future cynicism, of the Google “doodle” this past Veteran’s Day. The illustration showed various vets, all appropriately racially ratioed, drawn half in uniform and half in civilian garb. One’s a painter, one’s a baker, and the Marine is shown as trans. The figure has a man’s face but half his body is in dress blue and half in a civvie dress.

We’re left to wonder what the point is. Are Americans more sensitive now to the needs of male Marines who wear women’s clothing? Or is the illustration just a naughty stunt like a gay kiss on The Simpsons, a way of angering some made-up version of a conservative who was never invited to the barbecue in the first place?

The same question begs with TV commercials, seemingly all of which now feature either black actors alone or as part of interracial LGBTQBLT couples. Just like white folks used to, they suffer from bloating and tsk tsk over which paper towel picks up better. Google and Apple don’t seem to even let old people use their products anymore. It’s all very hip youngers with I-didn’t-comb-it hair skateboarding or creating or influencing.

Movies and streaming series’ are exclusively about people struggling with coming out, going out, or staying in. Every POC who has ever suffered has had his/her/their story made into a mini-series with the tag line “Against all odds…” As time goes by, perhaps more older movies can be remade with black actors digitally replacing white performers, like colorizing old B&W movies.

Imagine all the bad statues have been torn down. All the bad high schools that have been renamed. Most Americans know Thomas Jefferson was little more than a rapist, albeit with a way with words we will no longer talk about. All the bad companies we were asked to boycott on Twitter for donating to the wrong candidates or promoting transphobia are out of business. No one ever shops at the Home Depot or Chick-Fil-A or purchases racist bed pillows. And Dems, kudos. You got more women, like Kyrsten Sinema, into office. In each election the media tally the faux progress telling us how many whites were replaced with PoC, how many female Asians bested men, and so forth towards a mythical Übermensch trans black disabled left-hander who refuses to speak English, the language of the patriarchy.

But what happens when an entire generation realizes one day it is full of baloney, that none of that changes anything? What happens when people realize after a summer of BLM violence that Minnesota did not defund its police, and rising crime in New York led to bringing back an anti-gun task force that had been disbanded as a racist tool? When people realize the Glasgow climate conference wrapped up with no real plan to reduce fossil fuels?

Those too deep into the con to see the con still cheer for awareness being raised, conversations started, dialogues opened. Black Lives Matter took over the hive mind of American media and academia. Major corporate institutions fell over themselves to “go black,” assuring Colin Kaepernick will never have to work a day again in his life. BLM became a third rail — criticize it and lose your platform, your job, maybe your freedom.

But not much changed for the good, and if you’re counting black-on-black gun violence, things got a whole lot worse. Black men are systemically shot and killed, and no one seems to care because the triggers aren’t pulled by cops. New York saw its bloodiest week in late April, with a 300 percent surge in shooting incidents from the same period in 2020. About the only thing left for the movement is to arrange the lynching of white supremacy poster child Kyle Rittenhouse.

Same with climate change. Delegates from around the world, including Ye Olde President George H.W. Bush, met in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 for a first “Earth Summit,” promising to stop wrecking the planet. And yet…Glasgow is the 26th time delegates from around the world have met to again discuss change, without change. About the only thing left in the movement is to arrange the symbolic coronation of climate change poster child Greta Thunberg.

It is important to understand that these movements did not fail. They were never intended to succeed in the sense of actually ending racism or changing the climate. They were designed as political stunts, fundraising slams, a way to promote some person into celebrity status with the help of a compliant media. That’s the flimflam.

We live in an ever-deeper fantasy world where progressives convince themselves destroying old symbols, or creating new ones like Greta, will change real life. They have convinced themselves maintaining white supremacy requires having a statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the courthouse. Way back when an old girlfriend did me wrong, I threw out all the photos I had of us together. I felt better in the moment but learned a hard lesson: symbols are not real life. Getting rid of them does not fix things.

The failure of peace, love, drugs, and rock and roll to change the world in the 1960s eventually gave us the cynical and self-centered “Me Generation” of the 1980s. That era’s deeply embedded sense of greed and bland acceptance scarred us as a society.

It is thus no surprise that to be mired in cynicism and pretending to be a resistance today defines people like AOC and her squad as a success. In their terms of office, they have passed no legislation nor done much of anything but self-promotion and fundraising; AOC voted against her party’s infrastructure bill to make some vague political feel-good point instead of helping her constituents. Attention is treated as political currency when it’s just narcissism. Welcome to modern America, where everything ends up a grift.