Banking is effectively unregulated in the United States today. A genuinely regulated banking system would not come anywhere close to allowing a dystopian horror show like this. It’s powerfully telling that a corporation involved in consumer financial services in any capacity whatsoever can even propose a scheme to datamine social media activity for computerized approval or denial of credit lines without being taken into receivership or placed under a special master or a consent decree. That’s completely fucking out of line. It’s utterly lawless.
The Overton Window on what banks are allowed to do has been in bizarroland for over a decade. In 2008 megabanks were allowed to crash the global economy, further embezzle their already precariously depleted reserves to pay their departing executives multimillion-dollar serverances for their recklessly incompetent and fraudulent leadership, claim stupefying sums of bailout money from national treasuries in the name of economic stabilization, and emerge all but intact. The fundamental failure of accountability wasn’t that none of the crooks went to prison; it was that these incorrigibly feral organizations and their atrocious leaders were not put under any meaningful increased regulatory control going forward. Government officials conceded that these banks had nearly provoked a breakdown of civilization, that they had come within days of so utterly destroying the faith and credit in their own corporate assets and obligations as to prompt oil refineries and trucking companies and electrical utilities to abruptly cease operations, and they STILL got bailed out intact and barely supervised, with the same crew of good old boy psychopaths in charge of the same unwieldy organizations for the same grossly excessive pay. In many cases, the compensation of these amoral shysters INCREASED in the aftermath of this disaster.
Meanwhile, private citizens were put out on the streets on the basis of fraudulent filings by their banks, and that didn’t fucking matter, either. Systematic institutional perjury? Who gives a shit, right? And do you suppose some level of government stepped into the breach to bypass these flagrantly crooked banks and get its consituents rehoused? Of course not. Maybe on a case-by-case basis, depending on the length of the waiting lists for Section Eight or the projects going into this meltdown, but that’s anal-rententive nitpicking. The short answer is hell no. Good enough for government work, as they say. And yes, that’s a grievously unfair way to appraise bureaucracies that were T-boned by the crisis after decades of deliberate underfunding and besiegement by hostile, nihilistic politicians, but that’s the whole point: nothing fucking mattered.
It still doesn’t. The banks still have the license to do whatever the fuck they fancy to their own customers. Last I recall hearing, the retail banking industry as a whole was collecting more in bogus fees on depositors than it was in interest payments from borrowers. That’s some acid-bathed Jefferson Airplane shit. Wells Fargo was notorious for fraudulently resequencing customer transactions in order to charge overdraft fees years before it really made the news for opening accounts without customer authorization. The industry is full of RICO-ready criminal conspiracies, but nothing happens because it doesn’t matter.
There’s a part of me that hesitates to denounce the banks and their regulators so categorically, a pang of temptation to credit the feeble mop-up operation dispatched by the Obama Administration for forcing banks to allow their customers to opt out of overdraft protections and have the turnkey computer systems already operating their bank cards preemptively decline overdraft charges, for example. But that’s really too generous. The banks deliberately shit the bed for fun and profit, and the governments responsible for regulating them deliberately jacked off at the switch. The official corruption was staggering, both in the banks themselves and in the governmental agencies and officials responsible for externally regulating them. One tangential but germane example was Barack Obama’s furious eleventh-hour push, ultimately in vain, to enact the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now why on earth would a good conscientious liberal like Mocha Haole ever feel a fire lit under his ass to do a thing like that? Why, because he’s a crook and the trusts were offering him a fortune in speaking-circuit baksheesh payments. It was the same deal as the Big Dog and Glass-Steagall. That was the eminently reasonable and prudent federal law whose repeal, allowing retail banks to return to their Roaring Twenties tradition of dicking around with high-risk speculative investments, did so much to get the international economy into the mess that Obama did so little to remedy, and so haltingly.
That’s the thing about these scumbags: they never stop going on the offensive. It’s permanent war for them. Their war, as has become all too painfully obvious, is on their own customers and constituents. In a word, it’s on us.
To hell with them, and to hell with the unilateral equanimity and nuance to err on the side of not accidentally blurting out an almost certainly immaterial exaggeration of their lawlessness. I’m at least trying to be accurate, and I’m up shitposting again. These ghouls won’t even tell their own loan officers not to file perjured documents in foreclosure proceedings.
Here’s where it gets even weirder and more dystopian. There is still, in spite of the grotesque bloat of the FIRE sector and the stranglehold that the sector has on the US economy, a significant minority of unbanked people living in the United States. It roughly tracks the medically uninsured population. According to Vice, the CPFB determined that 45 million Americans, or “almost 20 percent of the adult population,” was unscoreable for credit as of 2015. It should be shocking and scandalous that a fifth of the American population is shut out of any basic service. If the numbers surprise anyone, though, it’s because we’re living in a stubbornly segregated society, in fact one that is increasingly cleaved along class lines. That’s how affluent Americans can honestly come up empty when they try to name an unbanked acquaintance. It should be shocking that a tenth to a fifth of the US population, and sometimes even more, keeps showing up in the statistics year after year, even decade after decade, deprived not only of medical insurance or banking services but even adequate food, shelter, or water.
This shit just fucking festers. No end ever comes into sight. It’s because the people who run this joint don’t fucking care.
And so, for decades on end, a customer base of the American underclass festers, desperate enough to do business with retail usurers: check cashing joints, car title loan joints, payday lenders, pawn shops. Most of this shit is nothing but legalized loan-sharking. But these are the disposable Americans: illegal immigrants, felons, the homeless, the broke, the bankrupt, women (mostly) who have had their bank accounts closed for being prostitutes. I’m sure some #TCOT shitbird is fit to be tied for seeing illegal immigrants described as Americans for these purposes, but what can I say? They’re here, and everyone knows it. It’s impossible to overhear or skim mainstream news media without stumbling upon shrill warnings that if we repatriate them and try to feed ourselves we’ll starve.
The industry can’t be arsed to give a damn about any of these. It’s notoriously hostile to felons and sex workers, as if being forced to provide them accounts for being residents would be tantamount to forcible banking for Mobutu Sese Seko. (Mr. Mobutu was adequately banked, thank you very much, although he was reputed to prefer Switzerland.) And the generalized poor? Lol, what a bunch of losers.
Except now the industry insists that it wants to get this wretched refuse into the credit markets, same as the (oddly diminishing) middle class. The impediment is, as mentioned above, that they’re unscoreable. They’re broke as fuck and have no credit history.
This was for some reason never presented as a problem when international NGO’s were touting microfinance as the next big thing. I understand they still are, although I blessedly stopped actively following that shit over a decade ago. I do, however, remember quite a volume of gushing about it from my teen years in the late nineties. Fifty- and hundred-dollar loans were making all the difference in the world to piss-poor Bangladeshi village women, or to Kenyans or whoever. That shit was huge. Or maybe I just happened to be reading their advertorials.
It was impressive that the target communities were nowhere near the permanent offices of the organizations originating the loans. The microfinancing business was obviously an excellent way for members of the Western professional-managerial class to rack up the OneWorld miles long-hauling it on Her Majesty’s Right Bitching Imperial Big Metal. Adam Gellin was more interested in doing that with McKinsey, but what the fuck, the NGO circuit has never been bad on this count. (That is, not for its employees. Its clients? Lol.)
If it’s feasible to do due diligence on piss-poor credit applicants thousands of miles away in Third World villages, then, what the hell is the problem with doing similar due diligence on credit applicants living in the ghettos, barrios, and trailer parks of the United States? Lower A’Advantage status is the only one I can see.
But no, we have to datamine these poor fuckers’ social media accounts and let the computers do their inscrutable juju. THAT is how we’re going to determine their fitness for consumer credit.
It’s hard to believe that the corporate officers behind this scheme aren’t institutionalized. Entire sectors of American business, really, are run by people who belong in fucking group homes. Requiring credit checks for apartment rental and job applications in a country where a fifth of the adult population has no credit score? You gotta be shitting me. Systematically discriminating against felons in the country with the highest incarceration and supervised release rates on earth? This stuff is insane.
We’ve got a bunch of grown adults with lucrative, benefitted professional jobs acting like it’s just sandbox funtime to make consumer credit decisions by aggregating noise about applicants and feeding it into a computer program. I’d be stunned and more than a bit alarmed if they landed junior keyholder positions at Arby’s. They’ve got a troubling aura of unemployability. They don’t understand their own businesses, and they don’t understand business in general. It’s either that or they just don’t care. Whole lot of Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns in the air around them, and they’re obviously not curious enough to try to figure any of that shit out before they run off and upend vulnerable people’s lives with their half-cocked nonsense.
I take this horseshit a bit personally because the responsible parties, or more aptly the irresponsible, are mostly my childhood class peers, and those who aren’t are at least the sort of college-educated yuppie I was theoretically schooled to be. It stings to lose out to these bumptious, arrogant little fucks, but it’s clearer and clearer that businesses fall into the thrall of such grandiose dimwits because they’re smooth enough to bullshit their way to the top, and I’m painfully aware that I don’t have the heart to bullshit interviewers.
If it still sounds admirably plucky to fake it till you make it, I remind you again that these are corporate officers who have arrogated to themselves and their colleagues the authority to approve or deny the consumer credit applications of extremely vulnerable applicants based on datamining algorithms that nobody understands. Even for the in-house brain trusts developing these programs the processes amount to blind men groping an elephant. There’s a good chance that that’s true even of the programmers. It’s prudent to assume that they’re garbage-in, garbage-out, kludged to the max. The Vice article claims that they have not been made available for independent expert review. That’s no surprise; every fucking company with a shady program like that hides behind claims of proprietary information. It’s nothing but trade secrets for these assholes. Fuck your welfare as a credit applicant.
Jacob Bacharach is right: these fools are pig-ignorant about the humanities, and it shows. They’re proposing to surveil vulnerable populations, ones widely treated as pariahs by the classes that own and staff banks, on behalf of a banking industry with a very ugly history of discrimination against a variety of unpopular demographics. This is really basic shit, and they don’t seem to get it. On top of that, these idiots are Pollyannas about technology. Who would ever think to use IBM equipment to coordinate the Holocaust? Or trains? Please. Stop being a Luddite.
I increasingly tend to think that the techdicks behind these programs are too insecure to examine themselves. The psychosocial gloss here is that they project their unspeakable fears of their own profligacy and poor creditworthiness onto the underclass they’re scheming to surveil. The low-key, no-nonsense nerds who used to dominate high tech started getting run out of the industry in the early dot-com years, crowded out, bullied out, or in some cases I assume simply annoyed into retirement by the rising tide of fart-sniffers, suckups, flimflammers, MBA’s, and fellow-traveling trash.
It speaks volumes that Elon Musk has remained in the good graces of the tech industry as a runaway public dipshit. An industry that cared about its public reputation would not tolerate his antics. He’d have people approaching him privately and telling him, dude, you need to either shut up or go away; you’re making the rest of us look bad. By this point he’d have been publicly repudiated months ago. Like, oh, him? Nah, we’re done with Fuckwits over there. And capital? The banks would be impressed in the worst ways by his companies’ books and production floors, and that clown wouldn’t be able to get the time of day on Sand Hill Road.
It has to cause cognitive dissonance in the tech industry, even among true believers in the bro belt, to watch this ridiculous son of a bitch keep getting his ass kissed in the Valley after turns out faulty cars behind schedule from dangerous and horribly mismanaged production lines, smokes pot on camera in a radio studio for the lulz, and has the SEC publicly admonishing him to stop shitposting 4:20 memes about upcoming stock offerings in his capacity as a corporate officer of record.
This isn’t about being able to have some fun at work. For one thing, that’s a disingenuous position. The frat house horseshit is quite well known as an excuse to underpay and abuse employees in the dot-com world. It’s like, oh, no, I’m not your boss, I’m your buddy! Let’s go play foosball! Let’s go bounce around on some beanbags! This sounds like Michael Jackson-ass Neverland playtime for a reason. These guys aren’t total pedos, but a lot of them are exploitative douchebags on the hunt for legal fresh meat, and their whole model is some real Peter Pan shit. Any functioning adult with the faintest bit of good sense expects to be paid enough to live decently as a condition of employment, and every city where the tech industry sets up shop ends up with its cost of living spiked to hell. Palo Alto is the notorious epitome, but these assholes have fucking gentrified Midtown Reno.
Let’s think about Elon Musk again for a moment. Developmentally normal adults do not act like him. That is not normal behavior for a man in his forties. It just is not. How has he not been exiled to Sun Valley along with that bad sheep from San Francisco who drives the Starbucks circuit in the Truckee Meadows, surprising the customers in line behind him with hair whooshes of his greasy ponytail? That dipshit’s parents bought him a house. I’m not totally sure on the Sun Valley part, although I think I heard it was somewhere in that direction, but it bloody well wasn’t in Pleasant Hill or at the fucking top of Divisadero. No Pelosiland for our neighborhood greasy boi.
That’s just barely not acceptable behavior in the tech industry. It codes as too low-class and lone-wolf. It’s just a touch too dirty, creepy, and low-functioning, but this is not because the community has standards of decorum. As far as I know, the rather loathsome Peter Shih became more popular in the industry, not less, for his gross “forty-niner” comments. They’re fours who act like they’re nines. Get it? Hurr durr, I’m employed in a coveted professional capacity, but I’m not busy enough to refrain from blogging about these fucking ugly bitches for trying to make time with my suave Asian ass.
I keep thinking back to another story I heard about a county employee who just about got run out of Hood River for fubarring the election–I want to say he was the IT guy–responsible for the scandal of the decade, total clusterfuck that made it impossible for him to show his face around town, and the next thing anyone heard of him was that he’d resurfaced in the other Washington, hired into a salaried position with the Department of Homeland Security.
Hey, it’s the federal way. That was awful, but it’s better than the Spanaway, and I’ll accept all brame. Getting fired is awful, and the story was that this dude was just incompetent, not malicious. What I don’t get is what gives that makes some worse-than-useless idiots eligible for the Peter Principle and others, often much more competent, unable to get anywhere. The explanations that make the most sense are the worst ones: bougies circling the wagons, bullshit artistry, cokehead solidarity, blackmail.
Meanwhile, somebody has to stay down on the farm to feed the rest of us. You’re welcome, of course, up to a point, but I’m not taking the full helping of piss. I wonder whether the alternative-scoring hustlers would care to go scrape some social media profiles in Imperial County. I knew it was bad; El Centro and Calexico are tied with Hemet for the worst energy I’ve ever felt in California, and Hemet doesn’t have a Border Patrol checkpoint perimeter around the mother of all open-air agricultural waste sumps. That said, good fucking God is it bad. We aren’t even pretending that it isn’t a sacrifice zone. The county is able to account for 1,400 homeless residents out of a population of not quite 182,000. What the hell is the problem? Not enough space to house them? By the way, that’s probably a low estimate. There are homeless who do not want to be counted for various reasons: pure shame is one; fugitive, sex offender, and immigration status are quite likely in a border county in the most bloated carceral state on earth.
The East of Eden parts of California get a bad rap for their surplus trailer trash: Slab City, tweakers living on government checks in Apple Valley, etc. ad nauseam. Slab City aside, though, the scandalous thing about Imperial County’s poverty is that it afflicts so many people who bust their asses to feed this country. It’s crawling with farmworkers who are subsisting on free lunches and shit like powdered eggs, or even sleeping in parking lots. The extreme seasonality of the Imperial Valley’s crops, which are heavy on winter and spring greens, is responsible for the seasonal fluctuation of the county’s unemployment rate from a baseline of 10-20% in the winter to a peak of 20-30% in the summer. Maybe it’s’ down since I last checked; it’s a hell of a way to live regardless. Imperial County is the only American jurisdiction whose unemployment numbers I basically trust, because it’s the only one whose residents are poor and desperate enough not to crawl into the shadows or bullshit the surveyors. All the same, I guess I should add a point or two to adjust for Slab City.
Why do I even pay sales tax to this fucking state? Where the hell is that money going? Oregon has no sales tax (Yachats and Ashland lmao), and it doesn’t seem to have anything quite as degraded as Imperial County, or even LA Skid Row for that matter. Is the skim off the business I’m not taking to Oregon going to anything but the prisons and the Highway Patrol? What the fuck is the use of a bunch of punk-ass Chips in a state that won’t provide the people working its farms with so much as a cot and a patch of shade?
It’s unbelievably disgraceful and scandalous. We’re running a full-blown failed state at the local level in a number of places. People who bust their asses for a pittance to feed this country sleep in parking lots because their employers are too cheap to either to pay them enough to rent rooms on the US side or to provide them so much as dorm bunks, and simultaneously because the federal border apparatus, despite its militarized bloat, is too inefficient to process immigrants who are known to be admissible in a manner permitting them to commute the last few miles home at night. The supply lines to keep Slab City’s residents alive have to be a privatized, ad hoc version of what it takes to run a Sudanese refugee camp. It’s the same worst-of-both-worlds mashup of modern dependency and medieval overland logistics.
A smaller population of fugitive sex offenders with expired registrations is said to camp out off the Pacific Crest Trail around Lancaster. These places are some hard, hard country. It’s psychosexually satisfying to reactionary wine moms who cycle between postmodern ennui and primal hysteria about children’s safety to scapegoat sex offenders, but even aside from the serious moral problems with this scapegoating, it’s worth remembering the circumstances of Jacyee Dugard’s captivity. When Dugard was finally located and freed, she had been living with her kidnapper and his sadsack codependent wife in a part of rural Antioch notoriously overrun with sex offenders. Their exurban semirural neighborhood was one of the biggest contiguous blocks of land anywhere in the greater East Bay that was free of the schools, playgrounds, churches, and other child-friendly public facilities around which California forbids registered sex offenders to live.
They were living in the Perverts’ Pale of Settlement. There’s no guarantee that Dugard would have been freed sooner had she been kept in a more or less normal neighborhood, but it’s striking that she spent so much of her captivity in such an abnormal one, surrounded by a population of reviled criminal outcasts who were officially subjected to second-class citizenship because they had all been in serious trouble with the law. Where better to hold a kidnapping victim in plain sight than among a population of steamingly resentful pariah ex-cons with a grab-bag of disordered sexual proclivities? No need to reinforce the basement in those parts, Castro.
The very point of this shit, all of it, is to studiously pretend that the throwaway populations don’t exist. The half-assed saving grace in NorCal is that its sacrifice zones aren’t as sprawling as SoCal’s, or nearly as bleak as the worst. Huge swathes of Southern California have been sacrificed. Many Californians write off the entire Inland Empire as one of these, although that’s quite a bit too simplistic. Redlands, Loma Linda, and Claremont are gorgeous. That said, the rest of the IE? Yeah, it’s pretty much an archipelago of shitholes. I met a woman on the train not long ago who, having been counseled not to say “nigga,” gushed that that was how all her Moreno Valley homies talk. And the far northern slopes of Big Bear and the San Gabriels? Fuckin’ A, that’s a godforsaken arc if ever there was one. Is Twenty-Nine Palms marginally better than Apple Valley? Does it fucking matter?
One is traditionally fucking stoked to go to Coachella. One is not traditionally fucking stoked to go to Indio. Indio is located squarely within the Coachella Valley, where they have Coachella. This is the other end of the basin from Calexico. We can tell it’s classy because there are parts of town that aren’t awful, and because none of it is as overwhelmingly toxic as the entire shoreline of the Salton Sea.
My mistake is to concede that this geography exists. It is to think, from time to time and as fleetingly as I can manage, of Hemet.
We’ve really shit the bed. This helps explain why the leading techdicks are now getting wound up about the idea of terraforming Mars. It’s also because they’re grandiose narcissists, of course. Bezos and Musk are out trying to race rocketships. It’s some real 1958 Popular Mechanics erector set shit, except that these are grown-ass men at the helms of business empires.
Fuck. It just hit me: the garage genesis mythology swirling around HP and all the rest, which is mostly bogus anyway, is supposedly about underdog pluck and such shit, but everyone knows garages are where the dudes of the family fuck around all weekend. It’s like how my mechanic uncle was “fixing up” old cars in my grandmother’s driveway until the neighbors called code enforcement because the same debris field of stray tools and parts had been strewn around the same broken-down shitbox Audi for more months than they could count and jack shit was being done about any of that. Yeah, it was a Palo Alto thing, not the driveway project so much as the busybody neighbors, but it’s not like that was ever a smart project to “work on” at the ass end of Hesperian Boulevard.
Seriously, though, what the fuck does the average bozo invent in his garage? One of my parents’ tenants was manufacturing selfie sticks in my childhood house and hawking them at trade shows in Emeryville. He had a breadwinner wife with a computer science degree, and then he didn’t anymore.
The problem with this model of self-esteeming man-children moving on to trash the next frontier is that we’re flat out of frontiers to trash. That’s why they’re itching to get in on the Final one. That’s why they’re chomping at the bit to go to Stavvy Baby’s beloved bitch-ass space. Musk can’t even build cars whose bumpers don’t shear off in the snow, so I’m sure that’ll go just swimmingly. The creep’s had enough work done on his face–like, 200-degree Max Headroom-level 10,000-grit dermasculpting–that he ought to be able to burn his boy Jeff with the sickness just by recommending an ophthalmic plastic surgeon. But no, these cunts have to race each other into outer space.
That’s one ringing self-endorsement for their work here on earth.
It bears specifying, lest this detail go ignored and unexamined as too obvious to be worth mentioning, that these two, like so many of their competitors, set up their primary shops in the United States. That’s as true of Jeff the birthright American as it is of Elon the Robert Allen Stanford-style Canadian-American. America was supposed to be where refugees from the Old World’s hobbling class bigotries could flee to start over, free to prosper away from the meddlesome, prejudiced intrusions of their condescending betters.
Yeah, we had our issues, as we like to call them these days, our regional custom of owning other people and condemning their entire lineages to racial attainder, that kind of thing. So, okay, that part we majorly fucked up, but we always had the frontier, where, well, don’tcha fuckin’ know, looks like we systematically massacred or banished dozens of other peoples for the crime of being there first. The point, however–and this part was actually worth something, as heinous as its external costs were–was that we kept finding these world-historically exceptional amounts of space to let the lower strata of our ethnic ingroups start afresh in states of civic and socioeconomic equality that they’d been denied back home. We spread thousands of miles from coast to coast to coast across the width of North America, then hopscotched across the Proto-Canadian Big Beyond to take over the last remaining Russian colony in Asia, and then, already sharing a narrow maritime border with continental Asia, established an island empire extending as far into the Pacific Ocean as the Philippines.
To this day we have Guam, Tinian, and Saipan. They’re apparently shitholes, but they’re ours. We’ve still got American Samoa, emphasis on Samoa, not American. None of these places are worth a damn for anything but domestically offshored sweatshops at a time when we’ve shitted up our continental holdings from coast to coast.
We’ve done a real number on this joint. Lawrence Ferlinghetti lyrically described California as the end of the road for the American Dream or some such, and indeed, at a certain point there really is nothing more than the Great Highway, the last spit of sand, and a hundred horizons of cold surf. He’s originally from back east, so I suppose he’s always understood on some level that Puerto Rico is not a viable substitute.
What, then, are a bunch of Mexican field hands supposed to think of us when they’re sleeping in that parking lot because the Calexico Port of Entry is fubar? They’re already, so help us, in el centro imperial. There are reasons why strains of thought suspicious of and hostile towards El Norte endure in Mexico. On the other hand, these poor bastards are at least here with some hope of self-improvement. They’re in the promised land to work, to save something up, maybe to send some remittances home so their relatives can build a new house.
What in the hell is the native permanent underclass supposed to think about this same awful regime? It’s rude to say this in bourgeois circles, the kind of thing that goes to show just how easily class transcends political ideology when it’s time to circle the wagons against the restive poor, but there are people in this country who can’t trace their ancestries back to a time when their kin weren’t constantly getting the shaft from glib, scummy good old boys. All they know from their family lore, or from what is left of it, involves some condescending shithead from the school district or the social services office humiliating them, or some thug ADA or cop terrorizing them, or some great-uncle getting turned into hamburger meat in Nam. When we hear preening assertions about how real Americans in real America respect the police and the military and all that shit, we’d be wise to remember that this is probably just the provincial elites arrogating to speak on behalf of their entire communities, same as it ever was.
Maybe the class lines are more fluid than that. Maybe the allegiances are more complicated and ambivalent. In either case, it’s safe to say that entire communities have been structured so that no one on the outside hears a word from the local losers. Notice that just about everybody we hear from on NPR from the deep deplorable interior has significant property or business holdings: shops, factories, farms. They have distinct class interests for bitching and moaning about the town junkies.
If a lineage gets driven clear across America to the water’s edge by a succession of hostile elites and finds that it can’t get by in Venice Beach, either, then what? There’s always Slab City. Deeper inland might work if you don’t mind the Mormons. But there’s so little anymore that some gang of shysters hasn’t enclosed and squeezed like a recalcitrant juice orange for the rent. The beat poets may have been a bunch of pretentious yoyos or whatever, but the geography of picking up and moving on to the next place really does change pretty drastically in, say, San Ysidro or Port Angeles. Other countries start showing up in the yard. Bluewater appears by the unfathomable league.
Mind you, the true coastal San Diego classic is the skank-ass river bottom. It’s nice that Mexico is positioned to reserve some of the good shit for itself and leave us with a slimy, soggy, half-assedly palm-studded mat of shit. It’s also cool that the San Diego River is the same shitty bottom dribbling out to the bay without the Boundary Waters Commission.
But when that’s all that’s left between Dairy Mart Road and the beach, where the fuck is there to go next? Wednesday night praise and worship in Lahaina with Glenn, Don, and the ghosts of missionaries past? Landside at Honolulu is reported to be teeming with the homeless all night every night, and I don’t hear the other Lawrence channeling the other Don, minus Glenn, to blow the tiny bubbles up our asses for that. We might as well go into town and rumble with the Micronesians, or see if the Kealohas are yet in a position to take delivery of mail.
Alaska is no more virgin than Hawaii. It had active Homestead Act claims into the 1960’s, like it was ever worth a good goddamn to hack a living out of a section of any of that, but both of these frontiers have inconvenient local color, we might say, da kine we didn’t ask anyone to pass us at the luau. I once watched an episode of Hoarders featuring a crusty old soldier from Fort Wainwright who totally had buyers lined up for these classic trucks and nearly caved the second story of his detached garage into the first in a pile of his junk until a structural engineer showed up with a big metal beam. Excuse me, operator, THIS is a lot of stuffs? No, THAT is a lot of STUFFS! The state police beat up that way, to judge from television, is mostly shit like 3:1 staff-to-inmate ratios to aerially evacuate the village drunkard to the big town drunk tank, a night hike into the woods on the outskirts of Fairbanks in half a foot of snow when it’s headed for twenty below to plead in vain with some Into the Wild sourdough to come to a shelter, and, Scout’s Honor, Trooper Cooper chasing drunk drivers around the Mat-Su Valley. In the actual, honest-to-God news, it’s more like the governor firing the public safety director because he won’t let her shitbag trooper brother-in-law be Safety Bear at the state fair.
By the way, these two states, Hawaii and Alaska, have two of the three highest per capita levels of Spam consumption in the country. The missing third is Arkansas. Don’t tell my heart, and by God don’t tell my cardiologist.
We’ve really blown it as a nation with these settler stunts. We’ve spent our entire national history, straight back to Plymouth Rock, figuring we can just keep kicking the can down the road. Thing is, cracka we outta road. We really have conquered every last resort. Ferlinghetti, Henley, Frey, et al. were on to something. It’s no coincidence that they were actively writing contemporaneously, give or take a decade, to the exhaustion of viable Homestead Act claims in Alaska. What else was there for us to take? The Yukon Territory? The Port of Churchill? Don’t laugh; it’s pretty close to warm water now. Our dorky boi Pompeo is on it.
It’s pathetic, tragic, actually. We ethnically cleansed these stupefyingly vast swathes of land of their indigenous peoples as a way to provide lebensraum for our cherished coethnics, and then, possessing these lands, we used them instead to exploit and degrade our own people. It’s troubling how deeply ingrained this habit is in us as a nation. The Massachusetts Bay was settled by the Puritans as a place to conveniently fuck off not from the British, but from the Dutch, Holland had been liberal and gracious enough to take them in when the British Crown and Parliament wouldn’t stop getting all up in their business, but they got sore about their children coming down with Dutch values. Oops. Ever since then, in a traceable, uninterrupted line, we’ve been using the frontier as a combined refuge for our own oppressed asses and external dumping ground for the undesirables.
The frontier as a banishing ground dates back at least to Roger Williams, religious dissident, lovingly incented by the Puritan authorities of Colonial Massachusetts to kindly fuck off to that other patch of swamp. We call it Rhode Island. The Founding Fathers, for their part, were quite keen on the Appalachians as a ready-made Cracker Rez and military outpost for Our Highlanders to crack Indian skulls for God and Country. Legitimate interior grievances against federal oppression date back at least to Shays’ Rebellion, provoked in large part by a foreclosure and disenfranchisement racket run by financial elites on the Connecticut Valley’s poor yeomen, and the Whiskey Rebellion, a peasant showdown with federal revenuers and eventually George Washington himself over intrusive tax farming to service the federal debt.
Over the centuries we ethnically cleansed peoples from the Penobscot to the Navajo, from the Seminole to the Nisqually. We did what we could to leave them with nothing more than the Bosque Redondo, a few miles of contested fishing river, or the Foxwoods Casino. We somehow put the Cherokee over the oil. Now having this land, what did we do with it? Enclosed it and used it to oppress our own coethnic poor, mostly. If they didn’t like it, they could always move somewhere else. That meant somewhere to the west: the Pioneer Valley, the Cumberland Gap, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Utah. California. Alaska. Go far enough west and you end up in the fucking east, back in the, back in the–shit, did the Soviets even want any of that? They said they did, but they were always trying to look tough.
Of course, we couldn’t look in the mirror without staring at the stain of slavery. We ended up in possession of Texas after a bellicose rabble of our slaveholding emigrants rose up against the Mexican government for daring to enforce the human rights of its own constituents to be free of bondage. A cynical Texan I heard years ago on NPR claimed that Texas agreed to be admitted to the Union in order to have the US federal government assume its sovereign debts. I’ve never researched this, but it sounds about right for the Southern gentry.
The slavers did, however, loudly start some shit they couldn’t finish. The Alamo foreshadowed Fort Sumter, which itself eventually permitted General Lee a pleasant, gentlemanly day at Appomattox. The late antebellum Solid South shenanigans in Texas, Missouri, and Bloody Kansas effectively sealed the deal to get the rest of the American West admitted to the Union as free soil.
We blew that, too. We had a historic opportunity to imprint a better, more humane colonial culture on California when we assumed jurisdiction over it, and we all but failed. Spanish colonization of California had been nightmarish for ordinary residents, a pastiche of theocratic royalist enslavement along the Mission Trail–El Camino Real, or the King’s Highway, as it can be translated into English–and enormous private land grants to court favorites and their cronies for the establishment of practically feudal ranching empires. We really didn’t do much to break that shit up or reform it. We’re probably still dealing with the ramifications of the Forty-Niner influx, which flooded California with get-rich-quick dipshits. We’re definitely still dealing with the legacy effects of the railroad trusts, as is nearly every other state in the Union to some extent or other.
We can’t just keep banishing the fruit of our national demons over the next horizon. We can try all we like, but we cannot exile our own sinfulness or the devastation it wreaks into the next frontier. It’s easy to use this as a pat explanation for everything, and alluring and fun and so forth, but there seems to actually be something to it. A 400-year habit of progressively exhausting the capacity of new territorial conquests as dumping grounds for the flotsam and jetsam of several boundlessly arrogant colonial projects now consolidated in one nation surely has a warping effect on the national spirit. In the longue durée of these national tragedies, the mere half century or century, depending on our specific criteria, that we’ve stumbled along without a credible frontier left to exhaust in this fashion is a fairly short episode, so maybe we should be patient. It’s hard to decide whether to take encouragement or discouragement from this gloss.
Either way, the actual, abundantly documented history of the United States is damn near saturated with gutwrenching evil. The same framers of the Constitution who are despised in shriller quarters as dead white males not only held blacks in bondage but also schemed to dispossess their fellow whites. It was never enough even to be English.
Many of our revered Founding Fathers were, in their business lives, nothing but shakedown artists and thugs: the Virginians with their plantations full of slaves, Hamilton with his corporate waterfall squat on the Passaic. It’s scandalous. It’s also a matter of abundant public record. They made some crucial improvements over the British system they’d inherited, including their explicitly doing away with titles and royalty, but we’re out of our minds to turn to them as our moral true north. Yet we keep compulsively doing exactly that. Lin-Manuel Miranda has made a hell of a name for himself with a road show empire devoted to making this civic pantheon of manor thugs and corporate sleazeballs look hip.
For all our talk about how jealously we guard our freedoms, we seem awfully uncomfortable as a nation with the intellectual freedom to say, hey, these guys were pretty fucking questionable. There’s a palpable timidity and immaturity about it, even a psychosis. Intertwined with that, and going back through most of our history, to points barely shy of first Anglo settlement, is our enthrallment to leadership classes that screech incessantly about the duty of hard work while scheming every way they can to personally live off the work of others.
Jefferson at least recognized that this was a serious failing, one that would be painful to transcend. He was a monster as a person, a man who ruined the lives of his fellows as their master, but at least he valued his own liberal arts education. For many of my own college-educated acquaintances, the point of having a liberal arts education is to be able to brag about having a liberal arts education. If we insist on being that solipsistic, I can’t think of a good reason not to just lie. “I have a degree in the liberal arts. What do you mean, I’m ‘illiberal?’ What’s ‘illiberal?’ Stop making fun of me, you friggin’ jerk.”
There I go shitposting about the uneducated educated again. What’s crazy is that these bumptious college fuckheads are so common. They’re ubiquitous around many schools, and where they exist in any large numbers they’re shockingly domineering. They have a cryptofascist mindset. Duh, of COURSE you have to brand yourself and manage your own reputation to get a job! The liberal wing of this class aspires to integrate the guard pool at Dachau, not just the inmate population. I take license, but not much license. There really do seem to be a lot of collegiate idiots who define civil rights as Bull Connor telling the fire department to go home.
I’m still referring to college-educated Democrats, or mostly to the Democrats. The Republicans present with a different cluster of symptoms, although there’s some pretty impressive overlap, mainly due to the entrenchment of common class interests and the unfolding moral degradation of both major parties. Shit, we’ve now got Joe Biden bragging about his role in the civil rights movement. What’s next? George III reminiscing about that crazy night when he borrowed Paul Revere’s spare horse?
There’s no reason to exclude gerontocratic brain damage as a factor, Ronald Reagan painfully recalling how he helped liberate the Nazi death camps and so forth, and Funny Uncle Joe seems if anything more publicly disinhibited than ever with the bad touch. Septuagenarian neurological decline as the bridge this nation needs across the aisle: God bless America. Atrios, among others, has blamed the Boomers on lead poisoning, and there are crazier things to think about Joe Biden than that he ate paint chips.
Political analysis veers into psychoanalysis more often and readily than I’d like, but it’s hard to look at some of these leaders and their constituencies without suspecting that they are somehow profoundly mentally disordered. We might figure, oh, it’s just the Orwellian style in American politics, but more than a few of these people seem to have crossed the magical threshold from insincerity or cognitive dissonance into planted memories. This whole scene gives off the vibe that life under the Party is even worse than Orwell painted it. There’s a huge amount of more or less made-up shit that we’re expected to believe as members of polite society. Donald Trump hasn’t possibly done or said anything senile in public over the past month. Barack Obama was a liberal reformist who fixed banking and healthcare. Bernie Sanders is too old to be medically fit for the presidency, but Hillary Clinton doesn’t possibly have incipient neurological damage or substance abuse problems or mental instability or anything else inhibiting her fitness. Uncle Joe is just Uncle Joe. Pete Buttigieg is a genius and a visionary for being able to string together multiclause sentences. Well now, whaddaya mean he has a shady record as the mayor of South Bend? Where did you hear that? It wasn’t in the Times! It wasn’t on NPR!
Of course it fucking wasn’t on NPR. We’re really in Wonderland here, and not the one I like to visit on the Blue Line. Sorry, buddy, I’m too busy trying to get myself off, CHAHLEE. The psychological projection at play here is really worrisome. It’s ramped up hard among the quasiliberal intelligentsia since 2016. There’s something troublingly illiberal about the assumption that the Grey Lady, infamously punked to shit by bogus intelligence prior to the second Gulf War, is eminently trustworthy and any obscure outlet disagreeing with it must be suspect. On at least three separate occasions I’ve been questioned point-blank by Boomer bougie liberals about what my sources are for specific criticisms I’ve made of the neoliberal system or its darlings of the month.
There’s an unnerving edge to these questions. The real Cold War redux isn’t some spook-ass shit that Putin and Putin alone is doing to our precious Yankee Doodle Dandy selves; it’s Americans’ studiously ignorant failure to recognize and admit that the United States has a controlled mainstream press. This has a really uncomfortable late Soviet feel. It calls to mind neighborhood busybodies who dutifully took at copy of Izvestiya every day giving the hairy eyeball to anyone who dared breathe a word about the samizdat. No news in the Truth and no truth in the News, as the word on the Soviet street had it.
The liberal stance here is a crazy one: no, we aren’t imagining things, YOU’RE imagining things. It’s only ever dissidents who hallucinate shit. There’s no way the unemployment stats are cooked to make the government look good; that’s just as crazy as your deplorable nostalgia for a bygone era of good factory jobs that never existed, which you’re pining for only because you’re a sexist and a racist.
This sputtering argumentation, if we’re generous enough to call it that, is so jumbled, desperate, and disordered that it’s prudent to attribute it entirely to psychological projection and make revisions as warranted if there emerges any evidence to the contrary. Recapitulating the unspeakable racial prejudices of liberal elites feel superfluous and tiring, but it’s worth noting that they sure seem to be desperately throwing things at the wall to see what will stick on their vogue folk devil, the (extremely sic) white working class. Shitlib projection of structural sexism onto a folk devil is harder to prove. The vile categorical slurs that elements of the alt-right direct at women as a group, that they’re uniformly incompetent and antisocial, etc., are too crazed to take seriously without being a lunatic, an abrasive ugly drunk, or a shut-in. They do, however, make some sense in the narrow context of Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for the presidency: she had, after all, launched her own political career by cravenly riding the coattails of her two-timing husband. The counterfactual proposals for her parallel-timeline ascension to political power without the Big Dog might as well try to count the angels on a pinhead. She was famous for being his wife. There’s no unringing that bell.
This chip on the shoulder stands out in Hillary’s case. Other American women have followed their husbands or fathers into elected office without such defensive carrying-on. I find it quite plausible that a large portion of her base preferred to project sexual anxieties onto outgroup scapegoats than to admit the full extent of its own class privilege. Surely this projection was exacerbated by unmentionable unease with the belligerently feminist campaign of a woman who, in the years immediately proceeding her own election to the US Senate, had been something of a laughingstock for putting up with escalating humiliation by her almost psychopathically unapologetic husband.
More planted memories, perhaps. The showdown between Hillz and the Donald was officially about feminism versus masculinism. Framing the pussy-grabbing uproar as a front in the war of the sexes was overwrought. That would have been a perfectly on-brand horndog utterance for Slick Willie, and it was considered bad form on the establishment center-left to speak ill of his presidency in 2016. It does say something about that schoolmarmish dork Mike Pence that he didn’t have the principles or the self-respect to point to that scandal as the last straw and walk away from the campaign, but only a fool would insist that the profession of Christianity be about Christian living in this sick country. Playing second fiddle to that shambolically horny oaf was never meant to be a ministry. Pastor please. As always, the Republicans were in it to win it, and the Democrats were in it to lock down their backup consultancies in the likely event of their own loss.
Notice that the projectile neurosis and anxiety of these Democrats class-codes as bougie. The Republicans try to class-code their own Freudian projection as something like the extreme low end of the petty booj; attendees are encouraged to dress down for abortion clinic protests and See You At The Pole, but they’re also encouraged to shower. They’re inevitably better at threading such needles than the Democrats, because they’re singleminded, focused, and ruthless, while the Dems clumsily try to act like they aren’t networking to line up their next sinecures for the next time they drop the ball.
Winston Smith’s comments in 1984 about salvation coming from the proles sound contrived, but Orwell was onto something, certainly in the 21st-century American context. It really does take influence and disposable income to be such a dipshit about politics. Apathy is a categorical error for why the broad underclass doesn’t turn out to vote, if not a weasel word; usually it’s that they can smell the con job from a mile away and refuse to be bothered to vote for it. When the chips were down, Jed Bartlet was every bit as much the triangulating psychopath as Bill Clinton, but he didn’t go around getting his dick wet. That’s somehow pathetic enough to make up for the lack of an explicit Ricky Ray Rector storyline. The West Wing was a bougie show because no one else had the spare energy to watch extra-dry political porn.
Shitlib political projection extends to the endless gross comments about how the white working class “votes against its own interests.” #TeshTips: It actually votes against bourgeois liberal interests, and mainly it doesn’t vote at all. There’s something refreshing, then, although also bleak, about lowbrow conceptions of politics that don’t revolve around the suite of current courtly euphemisms and instead expect elected officials to deliver the fucking goods. The lower classes end up at a huge advantage over their superiors, almost by accident, precisely because they won’t countenance distracting masturbatory horseshit in the name of politics.
I’d hate to romanticize the proles for any of this. The sort of learned helplessness that so many of them apply to their own citizenship because they’ve been screwed over so many times in the political sphere is tragic. But in many ways they just don’t have the margin of error to indulge in the functionally psychotic politics of their betters, and to the extent that they use it in their own interest or the common interest that can’t be anything but an asset. Marxist exhortations about nothing to lose but chains get pretty overleveraged, but at the same time much of the grossest, most bizarre argumentation of our bourgeois strivers amounts to an attempt to stay in the right authority figures’ good graces and hold on to sinecures that the poor cannot imagine landing. The fuck is a personal brand worth in Slab City?
It’s hard to exaggerate how intellectually and morally degraded the American bourgeoisie is today. It’s become markedly worse over the course of my lifetime. I don’t entirely trust my own perceptions, since they involve childhood memories dating back to the age of six or eight, but I could swear that there weren’t nearly so many adults in the eighties desperately trying to kiss ass for a precarious living. It was a pretty shallow decade, and there was no shortage of fools for the system, but the system wasn’t nearly so broken, and there weren’t nearly so many denialists desperately insisting that it was working just fine. There were plenty of yuppie idiots who believed in farfetched, self-interested shit like an escalator of upward mobility that some people just didn’t board as early as others–say, lettuce cutters in Salinas versus some Glengarry Glen Ross midlife crisis case whose mistress had just puffed her hair back up for the evening’s droptop Beemer ride down PCH. Even so, and even thinking back on the adults I knew in the context of what I’ve since read about the Reagan era’s unionbusting, I don’t recall that menacing psychotic edge.
2008 changed everything. The crash was to the American economy what 9/11 was to American geopolitics and domestic security. But we dare not talk about this. We’ve all been gaslit about this for over a decade straight by now. It’s impolite in bourgeois and elite circles to categorize the 2008 crash in a magnitude much greater than the quickie crash of 1987, the Bush I recession of ca. 1991, or the dot-com bust of 2001. Excuse me? This is why people don’t trust the official numbers. From what I can tell, the US has haltingly and regionally recovered to something like its pre-crash prosperity over maybe the past three or five years. The caveats I’d insist on adding to this statement would be endless. We had officials bragging that the “Great Recession” was over in, like, 2011. That was not the case.
Notice, too, the prominently missing D-word. The crash was right on schedule per Strauss and Howe’s generational model–we’d be quibbling about a single calendar year for an even eighty from 1929–but it seems there are certain things we aren’t allowed to say, spells we are forbidden to break. It’s got perhaps a little something-something to do with an old Cleveland hospital story. Doctor: Do you get depressed? Patient: No, I gets de Plain Dealer.
Don’t none of us gets de Plain Dealer in this fucking joint no more. By the way, the rank and file at Local 1 got slashed by something like three quarters just this year. Steam that one on down to the lake.
Think about the brain scrambling it takes to insist that “we” have all “recovered” from the “recession.” They said so on the news, and the Telescreen loves us. The class and generational splits are excruciatingly blatant here: owning real estate is the only reason to possibly believe that it’s good for rents and real estate prices to rise faster than wages, and being retired damn well helps, too. In addition to all the gaslighting and moral warping and disorientation from observable reality (e.g., ignoring tent cities), the defenders of this system can’t even distinguish their personal interests and values from objective statements of fact. It’s real epistemic closure hours in Sundown America.
And I wish it were just the Boomers. I’ve got thirty-something friends and acquaintances who believe this same happy horseshit. The pressure to go along with this insane nonsense to get a job is more pronounced among Gen X and much more pronounced among Millennials; the Boomers who blame the young punks for complaining about it (and tanking their home values) are comfortably retired.
This is some truly desperate cargo cult thinking. It’s the kind of regime that collapses catastrophically. Think Christmas with the Ceausescus. Many of the downwardly mobile who have been dispossessed by this regime are furious about it. Some of them will never forgive those responsible. For Millennials in particular, there’s the added annoyance of being categorized on account of nothing but our age and the marketing considerations with some of the most obnoxious cokehead poseur assholes and hustler trash: Instagram influencers, hipster dipshits, some Quisling cocksucker who made a fortune investing family money and is now whining about kids his own age wasting theirs on avocado toast, ad nauseam.
Every shred of this crap is directed at insecure targets who hope they have something to gain or fear they have something to lose. This explains the Tiger Mom scam: we ching-chong are here to move your white cheese whether you’re up for it or not, and I totally didn’t just kiss that lecherous mick’s ass in the newspaper to give my daughter a job.
The poor don’t figure into this shakedown. It’s that nothing-to-lose problem again, but it’s also nothing to gain. They’re too wise to the world to fall for that shit. They may go along with it when their bosses or customers are around, but they know better. They don’t have the luxury to lounge around all day in the Land of Make-Believe, and they’re also too astute about how the society above them actually works not to notice how far short they fall of the unspoken qualifications that get their betters into the plum positions. There are people whose families have been living lives of such quietly observant subordination since time immemorial.
Let’s come back to alternative credit scoring. Of course it was rich fucks and their subaltern booj who came up with that. What poor person would decide whether or not to lend a buddy some gas money based on some shit on Facebook? Hell, what person who ever spends time with the poor would do that? This crap is just nerds who don’t understand how algorithms work bullshitting each other about data analytics. Trusting banks just because is painfully bougie. The poor know they’re most likely in for a screw job. You have to be either affluent or an upward-bound kiss-ass to act like that, and either way you have to be lost in the Kool-Aid.
Expecting banks that can’t ethically make credit decisions based on two- or three-variable scoring protocols to have a computer deep-learn how to ethically do infinite-variable credit scoring is nuts. The poor know that it’s just another excuse to abuse them. We’re talking about people who refer to their girlfriends as their fiancées when they meet with prospective landlords. They’re familiar with off-the-books rules. How will this affect what they post? That’s harder to say. It could cut either way, or both ways at once. Like so much else about poverty and social subordination, it’s a setup for unpredictable volatility.
The free speech angle in general is worth examining. The tech industry resents vigorous free speech because it gets in the way of its social control schemes. It’s the same stance as with advertisers, corporate busybodies, authoritarian churches and their pushy members, or any feral division of government. It’s to be expected that there will always be a small hardcore remnant of such dictatorially inclined creeps in the prison services, the Marine Corps, Scientology, the CIA, or among shady weirdos looking to hold onto their extreme wealth. What disgusts me so about the avowedly liberal elites today is that they act barely any better than this despite holding expensive degrees from schools that should have taught them better, and if they’re challenged over this they descend into defensive tautological sputtering.
These are people with zero understanding of corporate power and why it’s dangerous. Don’t like your job? Get another job. No one’s forcing you to work there, Kunta Kinte. This is an grade school understanding of social relations. Most people who’ve had a shitty manager or franchisee at Burger King know better than this. There’s a power imbalance when one party has lawyers and money and the other doesn’t.
It’s revoltingly servile. Of course there are bad actors who abuse positions of authority to make adverse decisions against the vulnerable for their own psychosexual gratification. Of course the banking industry is shady as all hell. Sure, individuals can choose not to apply for consumer credit, but that’s not the fucking point. Bank of America is not Donna on the Corner deciding whether or not to lend your broke ass a five spot. It’s a chartered and insured financial institution. If Donna on the Corner can afford to spare a five, BofA can risk default on some $100 credit lines. $500 or $1,000 shouldn’t necessarily be a problem. There are mechanisms for banks to centrally block charges to cards they believe to have been compromised or that have been reported lost or stolen.
There’s no legitimate reason at all for alternative credit scoring. It’s just another scheme for privileged shitheads to surveil and police as they wish the constitutionally protected speech of their social inferiors. Enough of them loathe their own freedom of speech that they won’t mind loathing others’ as well.
This, by the way, is why I never submit to counsel to watch what I post on Facebook unless I’m convinced that I’ve recently made a huge ass of myself. There are people I try not to offend because I respect them, but I’m not about to timidly censor things I feel deserve to be said just because some shithead resents me for not quaking in my boots about what some hiring manager might think. Management ain’t welcome there anyway, and besides, Facebook runs psychological experiments on its users without their knowledge or consent. It’s a Tuskegee Experiment of the Mind. What the hell am I going to do to corrupt THAT?
If applications for consumer credit are denied because the applicants’ social media posts got datamined and flagged by some pop-psych quackery purporting to be risk analysis, the problem isn’t free speech; the problem is failure to regulate the banks. This really sounds like all the worst corporate minds coming together to boss private citizens around and admonish them about what they’re allowed to publish. It’s abhorrent to just go along with this shit or make excuses for it. The people behind it aren’t in positions of power because they’re meek and gracious. That’s just more gaslighting.
It gets tiresome to deal with affluent people who act either like there aren’t born losers in this society or like things will magically work out for them if they just, you know, whatever or something. There’s no telling when human agency will suddenly go AWOL in these Pollyanna stories, although it’s pretty consistently when it might implicate powerful institutions and their officers. As I said near the start, this is the sort of situation where the proper role of government is to just fucking steamroll the banks and their contractors for going rogue on defenseless customers.
Joan Didion, in her piece on the high school rape gang scandal in Lakewood, California, wrote of a Faulkner story about a proto-Kardashian starlet from new money Okie stock who got chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood celebrity gossip machine, disgracing her oilman father and breaking his heart. The moral, she wrote, was that there are people who think they’re cut out for California but ultimately can’t make it. It’s evocative and eloquent, but it misses some key points. Lakewood got thrown into crisis because a crew of BRAC beancounters at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, technocrats who would never personally face the consequences, abruptly decided to terminate another bloc of keystone jobs for the broad middle class in a community they couldn’t be bothered to care about and let the locals figure out what to do for themselves now that they had been left on the curb with last week’s trash. That didn’t account for the latchkey kid Lord of the Flies stuff, but it was germane to Lakewood’s overall health and viability as a city that the federal government nurtured it as an industrial center and then abandoned it after a few decades with no transition plan. Didion painted this as something that mostly just kind of happened, like an act of God.
There’s something deeply wrong with us as a society for refusing to admit that some of our poor are poor because the affluent and the rich keep robbing them of their shit. Or that it’s more than just some. They aren’t all the liquored-up no-account loafers that so many of us secretly aspire to be. A lot of them work for us.