So far, so good. Granted, I’m only at about hour 26, so I have to assume that things will get worse before they get better, forewarned being forearmed and that kind of thing. Still, I can’t complain too bitterly. I started looking for other jobs yesterday afternoon, by hour 5, and I’ve been back at it today. Waking up unassisted at just past 6:30 am helped, since I had been afraid that my sleep schedule would start going nocturnal again, and nocturnal sleep schedules are generally bad juju for anyone interested in farm work. I’ve had my phone off since late last night to avoid contact from the blueberry growers, especially Mother-in-Law. I’m in a bit of an approach-avoidance nightmare with my phone right now, but the only people I’m expecting to possibly call me are Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, and MiL fucked up pretty seriously with me yesterday.
Sometimes I feel like the Forrest Gump of shitty jobs that just have to be quit. A work history as troubled as mine is ostensibly inexplicable to prospective employers. Then again, I was unable to satisfactorily explain my stable work history at the same vineyard for the duration of the summer work season, to the point of the owners being flat out of work, to Island Boy when he got all stoned and ugly on me. There are some really fucking unreasonable people in this country. One of the crazymaking things about their unreasonableness is that Americans pride themselves so on giving people second chances, on living in a country where anyone can rise out of shitty circumstances with enough grit. More accurately, however, it’s with enough groveling to shitheads in positions of authority. The real grit is applied to the job applicant, not by him, and it’s coarse.
This probably helps explain the short piece in the New York Times Magazine last weekend about how to successfully go undercover, as related by a lawyer from Manhattan who worked undercover trying to document and expose animal abuse at farms. He said that his standard cover story was to say that he was a recovered tweaker “with a heart of gold.” His immediate purpose in telling this cool story was to shut up busybodies who might blow his cover, but it struck me that this is also exactly the sort of moralistic conversion and redemption story that Americans so love. We’d rather deal with some incorrigible hot mess who at least pretends to be making an effort at sobriety than someone who’s merely lazy or who claims to have had trouble with former employers due to their bad behavior, not his own. Bizarrely, it makes a certain amount of inchoate sense that I might be better off telling American employers that I spent my late twenties loaded on goddamn crank than that I got badly discouraged by a job market that looked ruined and the third degree that I’d been given at job interviews or that I repeatedly ran into trouble with colleagues or bosses at minimum-wage or sub-minimum-wage seasonal jobs that just didn’t seem worth the low pay. Some employers, I fear, really would rather hire someone with a recent drug problem. They’d rather hire someone who claims to have come to Jesus than someone who believes an employer’s promises only when they’re delivered.
This hostility from prospective employers towards anyone who doesn’t make shows of servility is exacerbated by the very bad state of the job market since 2008 and by the loosely related rising tide of unabashed entitlement on the part of recruiters. There were garbage job markets during stagflation and regionally in the oilpatches in the eighties, but I’ve never heard of help wanted ads in those times demanding “rock stars” who work with a “sense of urgency,” possibly on the reasoning that the swing shift at Applebee’s is the main stage at Altamont and also an emergency room in South Central at the height of the crack wars.
Then there’s illegal immigration. It has to do bad things to the psychology of normal working-class Americans to watch sector after business sector preferentially hire people who neither speak English proficiently nor have authorization to work in the United States over native-born, fully acculturated Americans. We’re being called lazy. Pedro works harder, we’re told, even if Pete Wilson (Pedro Huilsoñez?) would like him to go back to Mexico. The situation at temp agencies in San Diego sounds especially lawless, a true screw Yanqui nightmare. And now we’re told that Donald Trump is the best our country can do in the way of nativist politics. Hand me a barf bag. Trump is a fucking clown and a raging narcissist. He hasn’t worked with Mexican peasants; I have. There are some ugly-ass cholos in the mix, but some of the others, I assure you, are truly salt of the earth.
Besides, the real problem isn’t with the Mexicans themselves, but with the businessmen who hire them. Many of the latter make every effort to hire the most unacculturated, desperate, servile, degraded peasants they can find from the most dysfunctional and impoverished parts of Mexico and Central America. The resulting friction doesn’t have to do with bilateral people-to-people relations between the United States and Mexico as a whole, which are cordial enough, as much as it does with the clash between the itinerant emigrant peasantry of the most hardscrabble parts of Michoacan and the deracinated, besieged, downwardly mobile remnants of the US working class. The ruling classes of the United States want a white-on-brown and especially a black-on-brown bum fight, and they have successfully orchestrated one.
At some point uneducated native Anglos will start living down to expectations. Many of us are already there. If the business community (the mafia also constituted a “community”) constantly insists that we aren’t up to the job, no one should be surprised if we submit fewer job applications. If we’re subjected to constant celebrations by Whitey of the Mexican’s work ethic and dedication, by way of backhandedly accusing the unlucky lower American classes of sloth and unreliability and maybe disloyalty, maybe we’ll stop showing up and resort to whatever public assistance, private handouts, and black-market economic activity we can find. Y’all aren’t acting like you’ve the faintest interest in hiring Sr. Gringo, after all. Maybe we’ll all turn into obnoxious slackers, causing scandal to the work ethic of the dwindling remnant who still have one. If work is so unrelentingly hideous and painful that only a Mexican will do it, why should we even try? Maybe the Mexicans can be a servant class for the native poors, too. They already are at Panda Express. Certain politically or sociologically astute African-Americans, I suppose, may think of this arrangement as reparations for slavery by other means. The means in this case are the labor of a shadow society of unenfranchised, desperate Mexicans or Hondurans. Why? No one who considers food service or landscaping dead-end shit jobs and perceives a birthright to earn at least a lower-middle-class salary doing utterly masturbatory office work asks why. That goes for all God’s Anglos, including quite a few Latinos. Noted Canadian-American Ted Cruz, for one, must appreciate the subservience of the lower orders of Latino.
In point of fact, quite a few of us are looking doggedly, even desperately, for work that eludes us. We aren’t really that picky. We’re more willing to take a chance on employers than employers are willing to take a chance on us, what with our not being self-starting rock stars who work with a sense of urgency. They don’t berate Mexicans with demands to meet such absurd qualifications. They assume that Mexicans know how to work, except for the ones now shunning the vanguard of slaughterhouses so awful that the work on the killing floors is falling to Somali refugees instead. That’s why they’re always running H2A no-qualified-Americans scams in which they strangely fail to find qualified US citizens and permanent residents for farm work in rural Montana by advertising in Santa Barbara. Funny business, that.
Many of us would like work. Many of us need work, and not just for the pay. Dylann Roof and Elliot Rodger were marginally attached types, yes? We’d like to get paid roughly commensurately for the productive value of our work, and to be treated like respectable yeomen rather than insolent livestock, but the labor theory of value is still on its decades-long foreign tour, with no plans to be back stateside any time soon. Ami continues to get panda-beared in his own country, by his own countrymen. As I’ve said before, at rock bottom, it’s about class, not race.
Hola señor, me llama Pedro Huilsoñez. Favor de ofrecer trabajo, señor.