One of the most offensive lines of questioning and advice that I’m subjected to with any frequency is why I’m “not using my intellect” in a professional capacity. At best it’s misguided, but more often it’s downright provocative and inexcusable. I can’t think of a time when I discerned a compelling moral basis for this badgering, i.e., a genuine and unadulterated feeling that I was called to use my talents to better the world in a more effective way than I was undertaking at the time. Every time I can recall getting bugged about this bullshit, the argument was clearly tainted with considerations of the prestige that I’d gain. I was being concern-trolled by Bougie. I’m not referring to advice to consider specific lines of work, say, “You know a lot about San Francisco. Have you considered working as a tour guide here?” That’s too pertinent, grounded, and thoughtful to be objectionable. “You should be using your intellect” is a very different beast. It’s inchoate, poorly targeted, shot through with inappropriate class (if not caste) considerations, and easily perverted from something thoughtless and ethically weak into something morally reprehensible. It’s deceptively pernicious. It’s the stuff of vainglory.
To apply a religious gloss, that way lie cardinal sins. Why do I presume to discuss cardinal sins when I’ve spent so much space waxing eloquent about hookers, who cater to lust? Because nothing about a whorehouse, lust included, inevitably hardens anyone’s heart to humility and charity. It has been said that in the absence of whorehouses men’s lusts would surely boil over and wreak all sorts of destruction on society. What they didn’t tell you at the Newman Club meetings was that this, or something quite to this effect, was said by St. Thomas Aquinas. Trust me: he was right. As Doug Casey wrote in an otherwise tendentious essay about European art house movies or some shit, “I’ve always considered acting to be like prostitution. These are honorable professions, but ones that shouldn’t be taken too seriously.” Most whorehouses are a far cry from the radical destructiveness of hubris. This is why I can go to a massage parlor with a clean conscience, but not to graduate school just because that is what one does. I would do anything for love, including the gratuitous quotation of Meat Loaf, but I won’t do that.
On second thought, I will not hose you down with holy water if you get too hot. It’s bad enough that we all put our fingers in that shit after everybody else in the parish has done likewise. Wow Such coliform Very barf.
Normally I’m too reticent to explicitly say this, but I try to live in truth as a blogger, and I think I generally succeed. I try to be honest and honorable and thoughtful in my writing, to serve as a small bulwark against a rising tide of dishonor, lying, stupidity, corruption, and concordant vices. Do I traffic in tasteless memes about Dennis Lynn Rader and sexy male nurse Orville Lynn Majors? Duh. But the sexy Nurse Majors meme on its own cannot corrupt a man. I’d have a long slide down to join Megan McArdle in the pit. McArdle probably doesn’t know why it’s a bad idea to name one’s boy Lynn, but she certainly knows corruption. She lives it. She cherishes it in her heart. She can keep her language clean, but not her thought (sic). That much, I fear, will always be dirty.
I’m dead serious when I say that Megan McArdle is an object lesson in the moral pitfalls of thoughtlessly using one’s intellect in one’s work. She’s obviously an extreme example, and it’s obviously absurd to argue that she in fact uses the former in the latter, since neither of these are appropriate terms for her or her career, but she’s instructive, in a really sick way. If I were to write, say, an essay about Canadian bus cannibal Vince Li under the title “Chilly con Carny,” I’d still be several circles of hell above McArdle. Fuck, think about how much seedy-ass true crime fiction is floating around, including “Blood Will Tell,” a review of the time my former youth soccer coach Kenneth Fitzhugh murdered his wife. Those bastards get paid for it; I just do it for the lulz and the SEO. If you have a problem with that, go bug Lester Holt instead. Maybe pitch some skin care products to Keith Morrison so that he doesn’t look like such a cadaver.
It’s easy to mindlessly use one’s intellect. The hard part is discerning that the use one has found for it is beneficial, or at least not deleterious. This is especially true in times as fraudulent as ours. A country can’t get to a level of inequality unprecedented in its history and the highest rate of incarceration on earth with its ethics intact. That just ain’t happening. Any intellectually honest observer of American society today knows that there’s a strong current of “fuck you I’ve got mine” running through the country. This ethos of self-dealing and contempt for the vulnerable and the unfortunate is doing a lot to turn the United States into a banana republic. It isn’t our first ride in this rodeo (Gilded Age, anyone? Bueller?), but it’s sure gnarly.
As a practical matter of career discernment, this means that there is a lot of noise from bad actors that has to be ignored in order to make a morally sound decision. It also means that there is no countervailing mainstream source of morally sound advice, since everybody who has been playing along with the mainstream ethos for the past forty years has been corrupted by its treachery. Practically everyone in a position of significant power or influence in the United States today (and in a number of other First World countries, too, although we’re near the head of the pack) has been pursuing some kind of Ponzi scheme or boiler room scam. Everyone leading us is a fucking mountebank. It might not be so bad if the corruption were limited to Congress and the White House, but it also pervades the mainstream press, the professional organizations, and many churches. Thus, orthopods trolling for patients in need of spurious knee replacements, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Joel Osteen.
Read it and weep.
The “you’re too smart for farm work” bullshit got splattered all over me once again this week. Like a dog to its own vomit, perhaps, I returned the other day to my extended family’s nexus of gaslighting sleaze. The deal here is that when I’m out of work, as I’ve been for over a month, I can save $30-60 a day by crashing with this crowd in some fashion, but every form of refuge has its price, and in this case the price is payable in the form of submission to emotional abuse. The historic core abusers have been out of town, but I crashed at their place for a couple of nights this week with one of their Johnny-come-lately hangers-on, a guy who recently returned to the mainland after spending most of his adult life on Kauai. I shit ye not, this dude knows Laird Hamilton from the neighborhood and has a friend who became buddies with Pierce Brosnan as a result of hawking shit in front of a grocery store that Brosnan frequents. Another haole friend of his, a Quagmire-grade horndog grifter known locally as Get-a-Job Bob, convinced an ex-wife to cash out a medical insurance settlement so that they could use the proceeds to go jet-setting, then shacked up with his current common-law wife in the subsidized apartment that she got grandfathered into through her rehab program.
This same fucker who hangs out with Get-a-Job Bob and hands down his secondhand clothes to Pierce Brosnan’s ne’er-do-well buddy with the peddler’s cart in front of the Foodland spent the last few nights badgering me about how I am a fuckup. Oh, am I? Did I miss something, or have I been left to handle day-to-day vineyard and winery operations on other people’s properties with next to no supervision? You shittin’ me, mate?
I’ve always liked this guy, but no longer can I trust him. No disposition is sunny, laidback, and good-natured enough to compensate for such a twisted and vile attitude. The first night this week that he badgered me for being a failure to launch, he got baked as shit and belittled me for mentioning that I got burned out in a matter of months at the environmental consulting job that I landed after college: “Wait, how old were you? How can you say you were burned out at the age of 25?” I nearly told him to shut up, and maybe I should have. No decent person second-guesses another person’s ability to handle a job in an office where he has never set foot and an industry in which he has never worked.
I’ve now seen how this guy gets when he’s disinhibited, and I won’t be able to unsee it. It’s ugly.
Over the course of several days and nights, this dude repeatedly berated, interrogated, analyzed, and generally annoyed me about why I hadn’t gotten into a line of work that he found satisfactory. It was like something out of Groundhog Day. Bear in mind that it wasn’t I who was expressing dissatisfaction with my employment as a farm hand; every fucking time he was the one who raised the issue. He was the one bellyaching that I’d look back on my life and wonder why I hadn’t done something with it, asking whether I was nervous because I kept pacing around the kitchen instead of staying seated (forcing me to explain that I was mostly just restless and not in a mood to sit on my ass all night), inquiring about my personality type (the fuck?), asking me whether I was “living on a budget” and how much it was (that was the only time I’ve ever forthrightly told him to mind his own business), and telling me that my doing migrant farm work was “a hobby for you” (this after I’d discussed at length how I was currently on seasonal furlough from a vineyard job that I’d held for most of the summer).
Something got into him and turned him all meddlesome and provocative. I can only surmise that the impetus came from my relatives, who are also his landlords and housemates, my former de facto landlords and housemates, and my sometime employers. Really, I’m just reading the tea leaves, but I know these people well enough to accurately enough read between the lines, and in the past these particular relatives have shown me that they have an almost bottomless capacity for disingenuous treachery. In the course of his tirades, our islander friend said something like “all we want is for you to be successful.” My immediate thought: who the fuck are “we?” This dude has a flowery enough style of speech to loosely use the royal we, but I wasn’t convinced that this was what he was doing. I had a bad feeling that my relatives had been concern-trolling me. These are the same ones who have never paid me a goddamn cent for at least 1,100 hours of farm work. Maybe my parents were a part of his “we,” but he’s only met them a few times, and I have no reason to believe that he’s in touch with either of them.
I was somewhat of a mind to choke a bitch.
Maybe this fellow just blurts shit out and lives no filter. I’ve always known that he has the gift of gab in extremis, although, to my amazement, he could hardly get a word in edgewise when his brother came for a visit.. All the same, he normally has an exceptionally diplomatic way of interacting with others. It’s important to understand that he is in no way unhinged. In a way, this makes the provocative nature of his intrusions into my professional life and finances worse. A nutty twerp with no sense of boundaries would be less disturbing, to be sure, since nutters gonna nut. But this guy is well put together.
This doesn’t mean that he always knows what the fuck he’s saying. His most ridiculous comment of the week was, “You’re hugely overeducated for these jobs.” What in the righteous motherloving fuck? In point of fact, one of my two college majors, history, isn’t a professional qualification for jack shit, and the other, geology, is only really a qualification for entry-level environmental consulting work. Theoretically it could serve as a qualification for entry-level work in a mining or oil exploration firm, but these companies generally insist on training in engineering or an MS in a geological subspecialty. I also know for a fact that a BS in geology can be superfluous for applicants who know hiring managers or principals in consulting firms, so a college degree is not a hard prerequisite for my nominal “field.” As far as a history degree being probative of anyone’s employability, if you believe that, you are not fit to make hiring decisions. Period. You’re just too foolish, a twit begging to suffer the pwnage of n00bs. So, even without my outwardly troubled work history, which would throw any dime-a-dozen idiot asshat in HR for a loop, if I were to try to reenter my original “field,” I’d be competing against geotechnical whizzes with no training in engineering, no professional geologist or subsurface evaluator license, and little experience with CAD.
Island boy would be baffled by that last sentence, but the truth that I’ve discovered bit by bit is that he fundamentally cares only about style, not substance. What’s really rich about his bugging me about my supposed professional failure is that in his own career he deliberately miscategorized subordinate employees as independent contractors, getting something like $20k in delinquent payroll contributions clawed back after a fired employee filed for unemployment benefits, and that the business in which he pulled this stunt was one that roped tourists into sitting through boiler room sales pitches for time shares in exchange for a free dinner. I can hardly reconstruct the convoluted explanation he gave me for what distinguishes sleazy salesmanship from the upstanding kind, except that by his reckoning it’s honorable to pitch a Tesla to a rich guy who was going to buy one anyway.
The relatives of mine with whom this guy is shacked up are the same ones who make a show of being independent yeomen beholden to no one while every year or two discreetly sucking another five-figure handout from the well-to-do moochables in their good graces straight down the pneumatic crapper. Whoosh. They’re in the range of a quarter million of other people’s money down the shitter now, and they’re still on the verge of losing a half-million dollar farm to foreclosure.
Meanwhile they’re gaslighting the hell out of all of us. I used to wonder whether they were really the gaslighting kind, to think that maybe I was unduly critical of them, but lately I’ve been around too many plain dealers to believe otherwise. It’s a bit like living in North Korea for a spell, wondering all the while whether maybe one is just imagining that someone’s fucking with the lights, and then wandering across the DMZ, looking back north at the hilltop village where one lived, and thinking, well wouldja look at that, the Kims are really are modulating the goddamn power supply.
I only have $15k invested with these fuckers, and I’ve only worked three hundred-odd hours since they first barred me from staying with them because I’d done hurty to their fee-fees.