The game is to make enough people happy enough that “burning it all down” remains a wish and does not morph into a call to action.

The power structure is just that: powerful.

The fewer people within a power structure who share power, the more fragile is that system. The more checks on a system, the greater its ability to diffuse power and give more people a feeling of ownership.

In the modern world, especially in America, most power is a function of wealth. Government is effectively chosen by money, whether it’s through donation-created politicians, paid lobbyists, budget standoffs or outright bribes. Money is power. It’s the power to live where you want. Eat what you want. Look like you want. Get other people to focus their attention how you want.

Clearly, there’s massive wealth inequality. This is a fact.

The question is whether enough people are suffering badly enough from this inequality to be willing to give up what they have, and possible take on a lot of suffering, in hope of eventually having more for themselves and/or their loved ones.

For many of us, regardless of what we say out loud, the calculus doesn’t work out enough to risk losing the scraps from Longshanks’ table.

Because we know that once you start burning, the fire takes a life of its own. It’s nice to think that burning it all down means we take money from the super-rich and give it to the super-poor or dismantle only those institutions we see as broken.

But why assume that tearing everything down means we keep our apartments, cars and physical safety. Why assume that in the process of tearing everything down we stay fed, showered and entertained. Tear it all down means tear it all down.

The system is strong because it’s listening to us. Its algorithms know what music, shopping experiences, flavor combinations, inspiration, sexual fantasy we want. It doesn’t need to give us power and safety, only the feeling that we have enough control to keep muddling along.

It’s not like that feeling of control needs to be particularly strong. It just needs to be strong enough that we stay docile.

The system doesn’t care if one or several of us goes off the deep end. It’s playing a numbers game. As long as we don’t organize the burn-down at scale, there’s no harm.

We are kept in check not just by pleasure and safety carrots but by mental sticks. We see the riot gear, drone strikes and mass surveillance, and we’re grateful for our carrots.

More than anything, we’re kept in check by ourselves. We love the pennies we have. Thus, we are the system.