A complex computer model by geophysicist Brad Werner seems to show that the earth will not be stable for humans unless there is widespread revolt soon. This is just one of the calls for revolt echoing through our culture recently.
We are witnessing a revolt of the world’s middle classes. How does that bode for global capitalism? Has the system actually reformed itself since the 2008 slump? And, does the world have the resources to accommodate the demands of the rising middle class? CrossTalking with Mark Levine and Richard Wolff.
She told me she doesn’t expect me to ever make any money. Her love for me isn’t about that. That’s what she told me during one of our rides from the train station last week. She desperately wants me to let go of the feeling of failure that burns into the pit of my chest until my stomach hurts.
“You’re a brilliant man,” she says. “I just want you to write.”
But I don’t just write. I mean, I write plenty, sure, but I also teach at this local university, because I have to bring money into this home. I have to. It’s a matter of my mental health.
And that’s my point right there. I don’t mind teaching, but I hate that shitty need to make as much money as possible, that shitty drive to make more and more money. And I hate when people do ugly things to make tons of money, and then act like they really made that cash because they’re so much smarter, or more talented than you are. You just didn’t try hard enough to do ugly, degrading shit to get ahead, they say. But don’t worry, they can teach you! Unless you’re just deficient in some way.
Seriously? Fuck off. I’d rather drop the whole game, instead, to be honest. I’d rather find some way to barter with people more and use money less, join a food co-op to keep costs down, move to a cheaper apartment that’s closer to mass transit. Less driving. Less gas. Less worry about the car dropping dead.
In fact, now that I write about it, I would gladly do whatever it takes—simplify, simplify, simplify—just to escape from the tossing and turning, all night, no sleep, wide awake and exhausted and running numbers in my head, groping for creative ways to manauever not enough cash.
If I can just convince the electric company to give me one more week, I can call them, charm them, and then I could keep them from repossessing the car until our next paycheck, end of next week. Is there any way I can set up a payment now to go through on payday? I’ll have to ask them. I’m sure they can do that. Why wouldn’t they do that? It might be time to cash in that bucket of change.
Meanwhile, my good friend, Matt, was living without electricity for three months before he finally got evicted. He lost his job because his company completely collapsed with the economy. He managed to hang on to his rat infested apartment—somehow—for three years.
When the eviction finally caught up with him, he lived in a motel for an entire Spring. He played underground poker, every night, to pay the motel bill, buy some gas and food.
His luck ran out in early Summer. He was removed from the motel, at which time he relocated to my couch for a few weeks.
He looked like he’d been through a war when he showed up at my apartment. He was carrying his clothes in a black garbage bag.
“Hey, dude… what’s up? Listen… remember when you used to say I could crash on your couch if I ever…”
I told him to shut up and get his ass inside.
He never applied for any public assistance, food stamps or welfare or housing assistance, despite my constant goading. Eventually he drove to Florida to crash with family, a cosuin or something. And, eventually, he wandered back to New Jersey—drifitng as a means of survival. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t hear from Matt much anymore. I think he finally let the cell phone go for good.
There must be a lot of people like Matt wandering around the United States these days. Nomadic survivors who at least find a way to maintain their sanity, traveling from couch to couch, like Matt did/does.
What a lonely thought.
Anyway, at the very least, what Luz said during that car ride was absolutely correct. Matt, and those who have it so much worse, the millions of people in this country who are flat on their backs—these people aren’t losers or failures any more than I am.
The underemployed, the unemployed, and the homeless—we’re all refugees of our economic system, do people understand that? Can anyone glean that from inside the social fog of the mainstream media bubble? We are the battered survivors of the economic collapse that many in our country still refuse to acknowledge with critical honesty.
But a lot of people are ready to talk about it. And I’m certainly going to keep talking about it, growing increasingly louder as this crisis rages on. I’m tired of waiting for the fortunate to wake up to the suffering all around them. And I really don’t care who doesn’t like me anymore.
This is the new normal. American capitalism failed. That’s a fact. And we’re likely heading for another massive failure. We have to start dealing with that, bracing for that, preparing ourselves, collectively, for the worst that can happen.
In short, we have to get organized.
Please leave a comment with your thoughts.
I’m noticing a serious craving for structure simmering just below the surface of my consciousness. The world is chaotic enough, the last thing I need is for my work to stress me out. I’ve never minded long hours of reading and intimidating writing assignments, as long as I could find the joy in my work, as long as I understood the ultimate purpose, as long as I really wanted to know what I was studying.
When I really want to know something, I tend to stalk the subject, consuming all the media I can find about it. And I decided a long time ago that I wanted to understand my father. I wanted to know why he behaved like an awesome dad in one moment, only to transform into a total violent asshole in the next. Several in my family told me that marijuana made dad nuts, an addiction he picked up in Vietnam. That’s what some told me, but I never believed that. Eventually, my stubborn questions landed me in the office of some expert in some long dropped PhD program.
“Everything you need to know about the United States,” he told me, “can be learned from a close study of the Vietnam War.”
He assigned me a list of thirty or forty books, and a list of articles and films—heaven—and scheduled my final doctoral exam. I had six months to prepare. I was three months in when the word Wikileaks first hit the media. I took the exam, passed it, found the empathy to finally forgive my father for the abuse, and dropped the doctoral program as an ABD: All But Dissertation. Technically, I earned an M.Phil—Master of Philosophy—which makes me a poetic philosopher, I suppose.
Since then, I’ve been watching the shock of 9/11 ripple through my culture. I’ve been reading and writing and teaching whenever and wherever I can. Things are already much worse than I thought they would be almost thirteen years after 9/11. We have conversations that we would have never had before: legitimate rape and all the other offensive war on women talking points, and the spying, and the passive acceptance of the death of privacy, and on and on.
The economic crash surely helped us spiral down a little bit more. I’m startled by how many homeless people I see wandering around. The police scream at them for panhandling in the train station. I wonder how long it will be before I’m getting arrested for giving money or food to another human being in need. That’s the day I’ll gladly sit in a cell to escape the madness that’s raging outside the prison walls.
Anyway, when I started this typing, I said I crave for structure, but I think it’s more a sense of purpose I grope for. What is my place in the fight for economic justice? What do I contribute to the cause?
Like a good academic, I’ve been falling back on study for years—working though reading lists, listening to lectures, taking notes. A lot of study and a little writing, that’s been my safety dance.
Then Richard Wolff knocked me on my intellectual ass in his monthly economic update for June 2013. He does that to me often.
We don’t have a shortage of smart people, Wolff said in this paraphrase, what we desperately need are courageous people, people who take risks, people who take chances for the sake of change.
Translation into my poetic blogger mantra in progress: bear witness, be an honest emotional reporter of the American collapse. Be a poet—one courageous voice—and write it all down. All of it. Write more.
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