Archive for February, 2010

A glimpse of the future

February 23, 2010

When one compiles a list of progressive, free speech activists, Larry Flynt (publisher of Hustler) doesn’t immediately come to mind.  In fact, he would never have come to MY mind at all if my regular news analysis site (counterpunch.org) had not provided a link to his site.  Here’s something he wrote in June following a description of how China and Russia are eager to ditch the dollar as international reserve currency.  Once the dollar has been completely shut out of international trade, here’s what’s going to happen to the U.S. economy:

The cost of daily living, from buying food to getting medical care, will become difficult for all but a few as the dollar plunges. States and cities will see their pension funds drained and finally shut down. The government will be forced to sell off infrastructure, including roads and transport, to private corporations.

We will be increasingly charged by privatized utilities—think Enron—for what was once regulated and subsidized. Commercial and private real estate will be worth less than half its current value. The negative equity that already plagues 25% of American homes will expand to include nearly all property owners. It will be difficult to borrow and impossible to sell real estate unless we accept massive losses.

There will be block after block of empty stores and boarded-up houses. Foreclosures will be epidemic. There will be long lines at soup kitchens and many, many homeless. Our corporate-controlled media, already banal and trivial, will work overtime to anesthetize us with useless gossip, spectacles, sex, gratuitous violence, fear and tawdry junk politics.

America will be composed of a large dispossessed underclass and a tiny empowered oligarchy that will run a ruthless and brutal system of neo-feudalism from secure compounds. Those who resist will be silenced, many by force. We will pay a terrible price, and we will pay this price soon, for the gross malfeasance of our power elite. 

How much more time can Wall Street buy with their shenanigans?  How much more time will it take for China and the Arabian oil-producing countries to empty their reserves of dollars?  Do you think I’ll find a job before then?  And will it really matter?  On the bright side, thank goodness I never bought property.  As long as they don’t start taxing cardboard boxes, I should be all right.

A pathless land

February 21, 2010

Not that anyone’s waiting for another post with baited breath, but I’ve been having difficulty . . . with just about everything.  Relevant to this blog, however, I haven’t been able to cobble together any coherent or relevant thoughts.  Many situations seem too daunting to overcome, not just two months of my personal unemployment misery but also the struggles of so many others, whether my friends or people I’ve never met but whom I read about or those people whose difficulties one can begin to imagine just from the facts on the ground. 

When I first learned I was going to lose my job, I told a few people, some of whom offered to help me in finding another position.  Since I didn’t know then what I wanted to accomplish, I tried to wait until I felt more focused before I took them up on their offers.  As a rule, people are generous with what they have and what they know, but if you want something that doesn’t fall within these parameters, everyone is going to end up frustrated.   One gentleman often forwarded me job postings and notices about webinars.  He’d met me through my last job, found me to be intelligent, and eventually began to get frustrated that I wasn’t jumping to follow his good advice.  When I mentioned my blog and gave him the address, he sent me a curtly worded e-mail telling me to save my ranting for personal acquaintances and not for prospective employers.

Maybe this is what stopped me from writing a post for now almost two weeks.  It’s not that I felt I needed to ponder what the purposes of this blog would be, or worried that I’ve written inappropriate entries here, or that I honestly cared whether a prospective employer would find it.  Heck, I can’t even find my site when I deliberately search for it.  The questions that tugged me were organized around why I didn’t want, for instance, a white-collar job.  Was I simply being lazy?   Was it low self-esteem?  Lack of imagination? 

Maybe I can’t provide an answer that someone wouldn’t roll their eyes at.  Maybe I’m looking at the issue from the wrong perspective all together.  Maybe I’m just rationalizing my lazy, unimaginative lack of self-esteem.  But as I think about formulating an explanation, what my mind keeps returning to is how when I moved to Boston so my ex could start his job at Harvard and I could begin job hunting, we got an apartment in Jamaica Plain, next door to Dominicans who soaped Sammy Sosa’s batting average on their Nissan’s windows and working class retirees who keep their square of lawn neatly cut behind a chain-link fence.  And I was glad to live there.   Our neighbors might be loud and economically self-defeating, dirty and culturally ignorant, but they were the kind of people I wouldn’t have seen if we had taken an apartment in Cambridge.  I needed to know that these people were in the world; an insular existence with other professionals would not have given me that experience.

When the woman working at the pottery studio next door lost her job last year, it made me sad for her and glad I had a job in abstract ways.  When I lost my own job, I began to feel the particularity of what millions of people have been experiencing.  As difficult as this has been, I appreciate the vitality of the association, and this blog has been a way for me to probe how I could use my talents in service to this.  During this recession I believe the largest number of sins aren’t being perpetrated by the financial industry but by people who are more absorbed in keeping the little bit of what they’ve managed to accumulate than in helping another person in need.  This mentality can be found in small business owners who cut staff rather than compromise their own standard of living to people like the retirees and former military who have fought universal healthcare tooth-and-nail because they’re afraid that their own privileges will be jeopardized if they’re shared with anyone else.  There’s an “I’ve got mine and who cares what happens to anyone else” mentality that is horribly disturbing since it demonstrates the successful brain-washing efforts of capitalist consumerism.

Many people will no doubt think I’m crazy for not wanting a piece of the pie they’ve been enjoying for so long.  I do want to find a job; I do worry about finding one.  But when I take another position,  I don’t want to be like the French nobility in pre-revolutionary France, enjoying my dessert while the peasants are starving.  Yeah, sure, sometimes I wish I had been born with an obliviousness to the existence of others, but that’s not my path this time around.

A little help from my friends

February 10, 2010

Got back to my apartment yesterday after 4 days.  The power went out on Friday night, mid-storm.  Luckily for me, I’d talked to my friend Rachel earlier that day and she’d insisted that if my power went out, I call her and they’d come get me.  Her husband Andy being Andy — a guy known regionally for his cavalier approach to timeliness, I waited for almost 4 hours before he showed, but he did despite the worsening weather.  Each day following I expected power to be restored at my place, a desire that was blandly frustrated by the series of Dominion Power representatives I talked to, so that by Tuesday when I came by to feed Clarabelle, I expected to drive back to the Willis’ and spend another day with Rachel and Isaac, their three year old.   I’m still in the stage of delight I felt when I first saw the lights on — thrilled with waking up in my own place, petting the best tabby cat in the whole world, using the bathroom without a three year old, etc — although I am also missing the familial hub-bub of the Willis household.  The entire experience has been interesting and no doubt what I needed even though I still don’t have any clear notions why.

This morning another snowstorm is finishing up, with some wicked winds to follow.  There’s been a kind of “snow day” limbo this entire winter, nourished undoubtedly by my unemployment as well as the series of snowfalls which I believe has broken the record for the cumulative amount of snowfall recorded in Virginia.  I feel submissive, willing to take whatever is coming next but unable to feel any confidence in charting my own direction.  Rachel asked me Sunday night what my plans were the next day.  “Going home,” I answered, and I realized that was all that was occupying my horizon.  It’s a weird kind of natural disaster survivor feeling, very low on any spectrum that includes hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, but I’m feeling grateful for the chance to experience it at such a minimum level.  Really there isn’t much delineation between the comforts of civilization and the devastation of nature.  And the dividing line isn’t electricity; it’s the generosity of the human spirit.  Thank you, Rachel, Andy and Isaac.

R.I.P

February 1, 2010

“People should go where they are not supposed to go, say what they are not supposed to say, and stay when they are told to leave.” 

— Howard Zinn

On Thursday I had dinner with friends, none of whom knew who Howard Zinn was.  I love my friends, but I think I need to get out more.