We live in an age of fraud. I don’t mean to be dramatic or repeat a bunch of meaningless taglines, but it’s true that nowadays value is only skin-deep.

It’s a lesson learned over time—nothing is what it seems to be. I understand why everyone is so bitter as they get older; I’m jaded enough as it is, and I haven’t gotten my undergraduate degree yet. But I get really irritated when things that are so superficial are actually taken for legitimate.

Everyone is getting scammed these days, between the card-readers at local merchants, the emails from Nigerian princes, and the barrage of pyramid schemes. I am proud to say that, knock on wood, I haven’t put money into anything I didn’t plan on (with the exception of a notable drunken Uber ride).

Most recently, I got a call from some random lady named Courtney saying she was referred to me by an old co-worker of mine. She was cryptic on the phone and, just because of my need for more money, I said sure to coming by.

As I sat in the lobby, I listened to the official spiel of the organization from another “interviewer.” I’d never been recruited so hard by a pyramid scheme since the knifesellers were circulating with popularity in 2012. It almost sounded legitimate. Primerica— it’s just gimmicky enough to be real.

And it is. It’s a publicly traded multilevel marketing company with billions of dollars in revenue being dangled over your head like you’re a crocodile chasing a piece of cold flesh. They run on this notion that they’re here to help people in a financial world of ruin.

They’re not wrong about the messages they sell—grow your money because the bank won’t do it for you. They empower you: Anybody can do this, they say. But what do they have on their side? The power, and fallacy, of authority.

This authority, like anything else in this digital world of empty words and vacant gazes reaching us from behind a screen, is derived from the superficial. It’s an official office space, it’s good lighting, it’s a website, it’s a social media following. It’s laughable.

Don’t be fooled. Even teachers—Eugenics was taught nationally throughout the 20th century—can be wrong, so question until you realize the truth: You don’t know squat, and if that’s true, you know for damn sure no one else does.

—Madi Bates

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