What is The System?

A while ago, I read a tweet from someone using the antique phrase, “We’ll bring down the system.” Today, I read a similar tweet.

Whenever that particular nomenclature, The System, is called out — usually negatively — I find myself thinking, “What system? What are these people talking about?”

The System. What does that mean when the word itself means…well, here are all the definitions in my Compact Oxford English Dictionary (I don’t have physical room or the wherewithal for the uncompact one):

  1. A set of things working together as a mechanism or network: the railway system.
  2. an organized scheme or method by which something is done.
  3. a person’s body.
  4. the state of being well organized.
  5. (the system) the rules or people that control a country or society, especially when regarded as restrictive or unfair. [my bolding, I think]
  6. computing a group of related hardware units or programs or both.
  7. Geology a major range or rock strata that corresponds to a period in time: the Devonian system.

It’s obvious. Number 5 answers my question. The System is bad and unfair and must be broken or brought down. Or something.

But really, folks, the number 5 System doesn’t exist, outside of this sort of sulky symbolism. We don’t have any one system that controls our country, or our society. To name “The System” as a way of kvetching about EVERYTHING is fundamentally lazy, as well as the sort of gross generalization I’ve been seeing in all sorts of commentary.

“Our country is crazy.” “Who knew Americans were so stupid?” And most currently memorable, “We are fucked!’

Whenever I see such epic generalizations, I want to respond, “You may be fucked. I’m not.”

There is no one System. There are thousands, maybe millions of systems. Each of them is addressable and adjustable.

Nobody has to “beat the System.”

Nobody should pray.

Everybody has to vote.

Because The System is us.



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