Scott Simon aired a lengthy Steve Hartman-ass story not long ago about a twee, smug attorney lady who’s sewing masks and getting peers to sew masks. They put a fucking muzak track on as the background. This volunteer homework crew had completed, I believe it was, either 25,000 or 40,000 masks out of a goal of a million. That’s a piss-poor reason to be so loud and self-satisfied, to my way of doing math. I wouldn’t go on the radio and brag about that. Then again, I’m just the audience, not the story.
Do you still wonder how so many affluent American adults have come to cherish the Harry Potter series as nonfiction? NPR aired this happy horseshit as a heartwarming personal-interest story about ordinary Americans rising to the occasion. I can’t shake the feeling that Tocqueville put a curse upon us all by describing us. A sane society noticing that the high Tocquevillean ideal of community voluntarism had degenerated into the official excuse for a catastrophic failure of national industrial policy in the thick of a hundred-year public health emergency would immediately reclassify Tocqueville as John the Baptist to Faulkner’s Jesus.
Happy Easter, bitch. I had a good Friday. Did you? It’s centering to contemplate that we, as Catholics at least, are observing Good Friday as an extended, indefinite liturgical season this year, but it would be encouraging if there were any discernible prospect of national resurrection from whatever we wish to call this grotesque thing we’ve become. Like, we misplaced the industrial capacity to ramp up production of basic all-purpose protective face masks, and in fact we misplaced large parts of our industrial capacity in the infamous Chinese plague city no one in this country had heard of at Christmas, but instead of worrying about that, as mere citizens, warm your hearts with Saturday Morning Arts and Crafts Hour.
The complexity of N-95 masks is a secondary problem. They’re surprisingly simple in their design, and the straps and hooks tend to be flimsy. Besides, bandanas are closer to the protective effects of proper masks than they are to wearing nothing. The blindingly bright red flag is that we’re being told to take in sewing on a volunteer basis to compensate for the failure of theoretically masterful multinational manufacturing companies, including 3M, to adequately supply our hospitals with masks that are de rigueur on any responsibly overseen construction site. It’s like saying that the Quartermaster Corps is all out on R&R until no telling when–gettin’ real used to that beach life on Oahu, might even run into ScoMo–point being, we have to get grandma back into the kitchen and maybe even activate the Sister Wife Reserves. Any attentive person hearing this would think, good God, I thought that’s why those asshole hired cooks.
Normally I don’t much care if somebody’s taking in sewing. This situation is different. Sewing medical equipment at home without pay is a punk move. It’s scab labor, too, although nobody involved understands or cares, to judge from the aw-shucks sunnyside “inspirational” stories that always spring up as word gets out about these efforts, like so many mushrooms on a fresh horse pie. This dysfunctional free homework model comes into operation precisely because 3M is too cheap and venal to pay trained employees to manufacture masks on the industrial scale needed for a large industrialized society. That is, popular self-reliance and pluck among America’s amateur seamstresses frees 3M from the need to exercise the corporate self-reliance and pluck required to operate a proper factory. This Tocquevillean bitch work frees Our Job Creators from the need to create jobs, and in particular to humor uppity employees’ demands for decadent privileges such as pay sufficient to raise a family and a safe workplace.
NPR ran the story, so it’s no surprise that it served to make comfortably furloughed PMC desk jockeys feel helpful when in fact they’re do-gooder idiots. Manufacturing companies have production, warehousing, shipping, and sales departments for reasons, if you can fucking imagine it. Hospitals can’t afford to coordinate supply lines with tens of thousands of random dipshits who read on Facebook that it’s time to make masks and whose skill and quality control are utterly unvetted. As I said, it’s damning that it came to this in the first place. Floor staff want nothing to do with this ramshackle amateur horseshit. If it’s getting promoted under hospital auspices, that’s the administrators’ fault. Marketing ‘professionals” would rather talk about their employers’ branding than go to nursing school or head downstairs and wash the linens. In a number of hospitals the brand has included punishing floor staff for wearing masks. Oops; moron this as we proceed.
NPR pretends to cater to people who seek to understand the world. The last few words inevitably forced their way into my entire mind in Marco Werman’s voice. In practice, NPR is for overpaid Dunning-Kruger asshats who know jack shit about how the world works and therefore presume themselves exactly the geniuses who should run it. Smugly going on the record on a nationally syndicated program to brag about having filled less than 5% of one’s own production goal and either refusing to mention or (likelier) being unaware of the supply chain collapse making one’s amateur scab homework useful in the first place is a good example.
And, because why the fuck not, that bitch preened about her organization and herself like she was telling a story on the Moth Radio Hour. They’ve got these shows on NPR: Moth, Selected Shorts, Planet Money, How I Built This, The Ted Radio Hour, Freakonomics Radio. What’s unbelievable about them, leaving aside the navelgazing Brahmin existential abyss of the arts and culture offerings (bacteria, too, can be cultured) and the dead-eyed, dead-souled, Eichmannic rationality of the core curriculum in economics, is that every one of them dredges up pathetic social climbers who speak in the same fucking voice.
Many of them sound pharmaceutically sedated. It’s even worse than the Mary Mayhew Voice: she’s a scummy whip-wielding schoolmarm, but there’s a working soul rattling around back there. The energy on these shows is that of the belated, quietly frantic remoistening of New England’s upper crust, but it isn’t exactly a regional thing, either: Guy Raz and Stephanie Lazarus are both Jews from Los Angeles. Assimilate the Jews into the Wasp Nest, or assimilate the goys into the Tribe: take your pick, because there’s no redeeming any of them when it happens under the auspices of 21st-Century National Public Radio. Those assholes could drive out to Ronkonkoma and ruin the integration of the Jews and the Italians. They’ve already got David Brancaccio on air, so they’re off to an indecent start.
When Lena Dunham taking the Hampton Jitney out to the shore house to spend the weekend learning the words and the moves to the Fuck You Song is a psychological and existential improvement, we’ve got what they call issues. Entertain your concerns about the Brahmin funemployed all you like; just save a thot or two to ponder the possibility that all is not well with those they left behind, in the workforce (sic). An all too reasonable shorthand for their careers is that they dare not look too closely at what the hell they’re doing with their lives, because if they did they’d realize they’re in a cult. The few open fuckups I knew in prep school and college were WAY better adjusted than the hordes of neurotic social climbers who did the work and maintained the GPA but never looked like they were doing anything more than going through the motions and always appeared to be on the verge of a catastrophic, incapacitating emotional breakdown that they were barely holding at bay. They were much better adjusted than the rich dullards, some of the latter also being low-key sociopathic, who looked more or less emotionally capable of holding down a job but less or less intellectually capable. If I get daydrunk and fall asleep listening to LCD Soundsystem on repeat, and I should do that more often, I’m operating above the community baseline, not below.
I guess there are people with jobs who listen to NPR, too, like, people who do something describable for a living that others would generally agree isn’t a grift or a con. Chris Arnade says long-haul truckers all have opinions on NPR hosts, but trucking is just something for Kai Ryssdal to tacitly suggest bothering your underemployed brats for not taking up when capital is playing chicken with the driver pool again, not something to seriously pursue. This goes to show that everything isn’t always getting worse: Brancaccio once crowed, in the most revoltingly passive-aggressive voice, about how Amazon was hiring for the holidays. What’s wrong with working at a fulfillment center? Uh, everything? It ain’t your fulfillment they’re after, kid, and as Drew Carrey says, that’s why they call it a job, but everything about that job and that company is atrocious. It might take Ikea to design a concentration camp, but it would take Amazon managers to run it.
Things about NPR that don’t make sense as news are better appreciated as quack-quality family therapy with Dr. Karadzic. It’s therapy, so that means you pay for it, although Amazon pays for it, too. Love sponsors! David Brancaccio doing product-placement seasonal recruiting for a company that keeps ambulances on call outside its warehouses isn’t about recruiting temp workers so much as it is about shoring up Amazon’s customer base (we hear it’s the place to work!) and shoring up NPR’s base of pay pigs (you’re the neurotic losers who are still listening to us denigrate your children with your pledge money). Most of these neurotics and creeps don’t actually want their overeducated adult children taking one of those hellworld jobs, getting radicalized on the spot, and reporting back at Christmas dinner that the Brands are Not Good.
There’s a lot of sociology and group psychology going on here. It’s easy to discover some of the many Millennial Success Normies who are really weird around the failspawn, for those of us who didn’t get the memo from Mr. Ziglar about seeing him at the top. The normcore faith in the Economic Recovery from the Great Recession (*Thickest Possible Stage Voice* You want a recession? What rhymes with “recession?”) doesn’t work if the normies stop having jobs. That sweet gaslight, it don’t work on the down-and-out. It’s harder to get people who DON’T HAVE JOBS to believe in the “jobless recovery.” As Rob Ford himself lacked the chutzpah to assert, it was a SOBER evening of whiskey on the rock.
Five million Americans and then some dropped straight off the national payroll in a single calendar year in the heat of a residential foreclosure crisis, and two years later everything was back to normal. For a nation with so much unemployment we’re really fucking squeamish talking about it, just off-the-charts delusional. We had that problem in the First Great Depression, too, although it took more sophistry to deny because the government and the press got caught short by the crash and were forced to report the statistics they had, not the statistics they desired. The deranged psychosocial interplay between the unemployed and the employed is about what should be expected in a society run as a cult by functionally do-nothing elites who believe that work is for Mexicans. It speaks volumes that we still have the nerve to ask one another, and tolerate being asked, what we do for a living. There are appropriate responses to this intrusive question, including “Excuse me?” and “Less than the Mexicans, I guess.” We don’t dare go there because we’re a disgraceful lot of pearclutching chickens, especially for the citizens of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Years ago a well-meaning but abrasive old college buddy who was working as a junior staffer on Capitol Hill who had asked me what I was doing for a living blurted out, “I wish I was unemployed.” Of course he fucking didn’t. What he meant was that he wished he had more time off work. It sounded like maybe he wanted a different job, too. This guy’s shitty job was suddenly my problem because he’d nosed in and made my employment status his problem.
More recently I’ve had people tell me that I wasn’t homeless. What they meant was that I was able to travel, wasn’t destitute, was able to clothe, bathe, and feed myself, wasn’t presenting with acute major mental illness, and wasn’t living under a tarp stretched over some plywood surrounded by a pile of junk spilling out of my shopping cart. They were too ignorant to know this, and in one case entirely too arrogant to care (I should have asked the manager to eject that bitch from the Starbucks in Elko for harassing me), but none of that actually had a fucking thing to do with being homeless. I did not have a safe, stable place to live. I could always crash with my parents back east, but the warm homeless routinely stay with family or couchsurf. I have to say, too, that I goddamn well did not have the patience to explain that homelessness has to do with the lack or precarity of housing, not with being a filthy incoherent bum. Material constraints, cognitive loads, and the intoxication needed to cope with life on the streets turn some homeless people into filthy incoherent bums, but there are propertied people who live like that, too, just without the threat of strangers walking by and bashing their heads in in the dead of night.
That’s what a lot of street people like about Davis. It’s not a terrible place to have a head.
It’s bizarre, then, to watch America turn into a place where idleness is suddenly the in thing. Obviously our bougies are too self-dealing to seek out the stigma of unemployment, but let’s be real: if you can go home, goof off, and still get paid, do you have a job? We have white-collar workers (sic lol) dipping into savings and taking furloughs, but that mainly means that they were never paid to work. It means that they were paid 100-200% of minimum wage to work and the balance of their packages for being clubbable. We aren’t seeing a surge in staycationing among grocery workers. How the hell do you have savings, Anthony?
Idleness became hip when, and because, it became a socially acceptable cause to humblebrag and cudgel to use against enemies. The current PMC boasting about staying in has the same tone as the longstanding, habitual PMC boasting, still in vogue through the first half of March, about going out and working so hard. There are at least two common denominators at play here, both of them embarrassingly low. First, bragging about being a shut-in is the cool new way to be a supercilious virtue signaler. The professional/managerial class is nothing, if not holier than thou. Second, it’s a superficially refined but fundamentally coarse class signifier for a class that loves it some fucking signifiers.
That’s a charitable gloss. It’s far from charitable by any reasonable standard, given its stipulation that these condescending shitheads are looking down their noses at the roustabout servants who go out to fetch them their groceries and restaurant meals. The shelter-in-place orders have provoked a rash of “tipbaiting” incidents at Instacart, in which customers promise generous tips for the home delivery of grocery orders, then greatly reduce or eliminate the tip upon delivery. There’s a traditional word for this practice: fraud. This fraud is of course greatly aggravated by the circumstances of convincing precarious to downright indigent day laborers to risk their health and their lives venturing repeatedly and for long periods into crowded grocery stores. For that matter, this charitable gloss stipulates that these fuckers are cheap and sleazy enough to do business on the gig platforms in the first place, just so they can live large and keep up with their trendy (read: affluent) peers.
The uncharitable, cynical gloss is that, in addition to being predatory cheapskates exploiting an irregular working underclass they were glad to dispossess from reputable aboveboard employment, the PMC is horny for rules. The evidence is, as Lasch might say, revoltingly strong. Shady gig apps are kosher because the VC scumbags behind them bought off or outmaneuvered and outwitted the regulators, making them de facto legal, and of course the rules don’t apply to traditional and customary practices like hiring Latin American peasants under the table as discount domestics. When it comes to rules that allow them to grandstand about their own adherence, though, or to justify their own salaries as scholars and judges of the law, they’re hornt as fuck.
It’s the crassest, most self-serving attitude, and it’s so goddamn smug. It’s the most retarded hypocrisy. These assholes are on vacation from their lavishly compensated make-work jobs, with a surfeit of free time, or at least semistructured time, and instead of using any of it to do their own fucking grocery shopping, they’re preening about how they aren’t allowed to leave the house. It gets even stupider: being horny for rules doesn’t mean reading the rules, unless doing so seems advantageous. Somebody has to provide these useless eaters with their food, and the shelter-in-place orders contain explicit exemptions for grocery shopping. These are the same exemptions allowing Instacart shoppers to endanger themselves and their families and roommates for a pittance. For the love of God the orders in this country explicitly encourage solo outdoor exercise. We mercifully haven’t gone into the technocratic lockdowns proliferating across Europe or, God forbid, the arbitrary militarized chaos of Turkey and India.
The “lockdown,” which isn’t really one, is proving to be the latest bullshit excuse for some of the worst official and semiofficial misconduct. It’s an excuse for cops to go wilding in parks and on public transit over physical distancing violations. It’s an excuse for pampered assholes on partial or total leave from their cushy jobs to exploit and abuse vulnerable casual laborers. Pay attention to the language. These sleazy gig apps never would have flown so easily if their owners, marketers, and customers had insisted on describing them in generally understood terms commonly used to describe the developing world. We had to go All-American and euphemize that shit to death. We have our neighbors working 70+ hours a week driving their social superiors around in their own depreciating cars for poverty wages so low that their cars are the closest thing they have to a home. We have our neighbors scurrying around fetching groceries for the wealthy on a meager commissioned basis, walking up to the doors of mansions only to be told that their customers decided not to pay them after all.
This is the shit we might expect out of India or Brazil. We’re allowing it right here, right now. It’s the next thing to a caste system. In ways it’s uncannily like the Indian caste regime, a priestly, scholarly overclass lording it over various grades of untouchables.
Our caste system is less intricate, so far. In the nineties it was affluent property owners hiring Latin domestic servants of questionable admissibility and work authorization, but sometimes integrating them into their families. Affairs can do the job; just ask the Schwarzeneggers. There’s no need to be THAT bashful about one’s sister wife, here in Pan-American Fork. In the South, this what can brown do for you arrangement has incrementally replaced the classic tradition of the black domestic.
The developments since the crash of 2008 are the really disturbing ones. I thought the fin-de-siècle illegal immigrant nanny/gardener/lover arrangement was bad, and it was. This is worse. One of the most heinous trends is the ever more systematic exclusion of gig workers from restrooms. Restaurants have been barring delivery workers from using their restrooms when they come to pick up orders, on the spurious basis that they aren’t customers. The Sacramento Airport, very recently renovated and expanded at a cost of $2 billion, stages ride app drivers in an exposed remote lot serviced by portapotties. Two billion bucks and they drop a fucking honey bucket on the tarmac. The prohibitive cost of the terminal loop garages keeps gig drivers away from excellent semipublic restrooms that they would almost certainly be allowed to use without interference. It also adds needless driving.
But as Adam Serwer says, the cruelty is the point. The Dalit servant lady must sit on the floor of the empty Metro car to show deference and submission. Who is she to presume herself their civic equal? That fucking cunt? Devyani Khobragade, to my surprise a Dalit herself, repaid the ritual quite handsomely when she got the chance. She had to show who was boss for once.
That’s the godforsaken thing. We have to show who’s boss. The pecking order does not assert itself. We assert it, distinguishing the peckers from the pecked. We insist we must, although rarely in so many words. It’s the gospel we preach with words only when necessary. In a society only recently and haphazadly exorcised of its chattel slavery demons and structured as a nesting doll of bosses inside bosses inside bosses, it would not do to tell the boss off. Being allowed a decent, civilized place to shit for free would convey all the wrong ideas.
Management never cared for the insubordination of the lower orders that proliferated and flourished throught the Great Compression. It was unseemly. It was scandalous. It forced them to live more modestly and even do some work.
And so management pushed back: stack ranking, mass layoffs drug tests, casualization, social media checks, punitive leave, punctuality, and attendance policies, “open door” policies (talk to your boss one-on-one, not your colleagues or your shop steward), unionbusting, “gigs,” “contractors,” nondisclosure agreements, bans on employees disclosing their salaries to colleagues, ad nauseam.
Amazon’s “fulfillment centers” would be impossible in a warehousing job market worth a damn. Turnover would hit 75% per shift. The bosses would get punched out if they had the nerve to come down to the floor and offer a cookie as the prize for winning Power Hour. Managerial tyrants used to get thrown down mineshafts back in the rough old days, for reasons as rough as they were themselves. The only reason they didn’t force one worker to shit in another’s mouth was because they’d get beaten within an inch of their lives if they tried, if not a foot past.
The organizational model of our whole rotten society is to convince sellouts that they have a shot of working for massa in the big house. This is not an exaggeration. Half-assedly compensated line managers at restaurants are routinely given carte blanche authority to abuse their grunts, and they seize it. Franchisees are given equivalent or greater power over their entire workforces. Again, they seize it.
Then we’ve got the bigger cheeses: in rough terms, the Brahmins. The temptation dangled in their faces is the chance to live in the big house. They are offered rule over the realm.
At the top is a small group of true masters of the universe–Chakrabarti in the old country, or Chakrabortty or some other variant. The British actually granted useful local families the right to use this surname. Members of this overclass aren’t usually given keys to the whole world, but they’re given dominion over enough of it not to mind what they’ve been denied, unless they’re uncontrollably power-mad, and many of them are.
The lion’s share of the day-to-day trouble from the Brahmins, however, comes from the high subalterns of the true overclass. In vernacular terms, these are the assholes you knew in college. Curtis Yarvin’s Brahmins clash with his Optimates over the narcissism of small differences: who had atrocious reasons for voting for Clinton versus who had atrocious reasons for voting for Trump, that kind of shit. As a rule, the Optimates directly own manorial properties allowing them to directly oppress or just fleece the proles: dealerships, fast food franchises, independent job-creating small businesses run by America’s Job Creators, themselves. It sounds like the Godhead because it is meant to sound like the Godhead. The Brahmins assert a different but no less disgusting prerogative: the right to rule by virtue of education. They’re priests, you see, not lords.
It’s a grand bitchfest of the Estates. Mind you, the Optimates own much more in the way of estates than the Brahmins do, who resent them for it. Some dealership dad and his cokehead son are proof that the good educated liberals of this fine country are proof that the latter are of good character. We could be worse! Just look at those assholes!
The superfluous liberal (sic) elites (mostly sic), increasingly hanging on for dear life in overheated housing and education markets, in petrified fear of the bottoms below, hate their nominal class peers on the nominal right for living in more affordable regions and having shitty but lucrative family businesses available for the plausibly earned upkeep of their useless, degenerate spawn. I used to drink with a guy back east who the Insurance Schmuck told me grossed $110k working in the main office of his family’s tool business. He could barely stand up most nights of the week. By the time I got done knowing him he’d been talking about leaving the Manayunk crash pad and moving back in with his parents in the hope of getting a grip on his gambling problem, whcih had him playing six online poker games at once and losing up to $7k in a single week. His mother looked snowed to walking death on Xanax the time I met her, mostly by nodding and watching her gaze off into the undefinable distance. His father was another raging alcoholic.
Another thing that gets the Brahmins so sore over the Optimates is the latter’s insouciant assumption that the justifications for wealth and privilege are wealth and privilege. People who’ve devoted their lives to proving that they deserve what they have because they have academically and professionally earned it don’t take kindly to some openly vulgar prick sauntering in and getting all like, yo, bruh, we own this shit. This is a constant subtext to the Hillary deadenders’ shitfit about the Oaf of Office.
I generalize, and I haven’t given much thot to whether it humiliates the Brahmins more when their intraclass enemies outearn them, are worth more, or work less for more. It probably does; it could be another reason why they insist, against great evidence, that Magaland is uniformly poor and practically illiterate. It must rankle to spend decades pretending not to notice The Brands downsizing, putting one chunk of the workforce out on the curb with last week’s trash and dumping its former workload on the other, casualizing what were presumably proud professionals, and just generally screwing over loyal salarymen by reneging promises made during cult programming, to debase oneself so with a steadfast affectation of superior education and critical thinking, and then to watch an unabashedly might-makes-right scumbag with a family business shamelessly plug his shit-for-brains degenerate kid into a headquarters sinecure whose duties are whatever last night’s bender and today’s aggregate stimulant load permit.
Jacob Bacharach says Democrats throw the make-work bullshit jobs at their cronies because they hate their children. This tracks quite well with the Trump Family Organization–for God’s sake Eric looks like a fucking retard–and well enough with Joe Biden standing by while his crackhead son Beau–uh, Hunter–scored a collateral sinecure with Burisma.
One thing that’s clear about these arrangements is that the Democrats prove themselves much more squeamish before insinuations of corruption. It’s that good old happy horseshit about meritocracy again. We’re all educated here. The kid must have earned it somehow. Stop acting like he’s a crackhead; we all know Putin ate his homework. That’s what Putin does. He’s a homework eater. Ask Hillary.
Trump pisses them off by openly not giving a shit. It’s yet another norm he keeps trashing. There’s no moral center to the norms. They are in fact powerfully amoral. President Trump compelling the Secret Service to book rooms and golf carts at Trump Properties because he has cajoled foreign officials into meeting him there for offiical business is every bit as outrageous to these whiny nerds as press conferences about how General Raisin Cane called him “sir” or stream-of-consciousness rally speeches about how he respects the hard hats and likes tariffs.
Any movement predicated on an elaborate gatekeeping apparatus theoretically responding only to merit and whose participants are horny for rules will take umbrage at crude operators like Donald Trump and Rod Blagojevich. There is no fucking way anybody who admires Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, or either of the Clintons for their probity objects to Rod Blagojevich for being a crook. That’s a copout. They object to him for being a clumsily crass upstart from the wrong side of the tracks. I was going to add Barack Obama to that list, but I realized that he’s smooth enough, unexamined enough, and had enough sporadic, partial policy accomplishments for voters not to notice that he, too, is a bigtime crook.
The Brahmin-Optimate divide maps pretty neatly onto party lines, then, but not entirely. The Rod Now Spared is a proud and avowed Trumpocrat because he and his fellow celebrity yukked it up and flattered each other in openly crass terms for personal advantage. That shit has to make Obama blanch. Both of them say the quiet parts out loud. Trump in particular is so impolitic that the liberals (sic) who reviled him for being a mentally unfit blue blood prep, and rightly feared his administration at the time (many of them, at least) for what it was doing to civil liberties, now welcome him as a prominent member of the Resistance.
One of the quiet parts they do not with to hear pronouced has to do with the servants. One doesn’t mention them. Here again the Optimates and viable wannabes are more forward about the nature of our socioeconomic regime than the Brahmins dare be. It’s the affluent right wing that is out on the statehouse steps, packing heat and swinging Old Glory in nurses’ faces like a maxi pad hanging from a boner, clamoring for their hair salons to reopen. They need a haircut.
One guy got all kinds of flack for saying he missed sit-down drink refills, which I frankly find entirely relatable, We’re living through strange days, and it doesn’t seem too much to hope to again be able to sit down, have some drinks, and chat with other customers and the waitstaff. What gets me is the uproar of a political movement at once welcoming millionaire funeral directors who look like they cut their own hair and fussy rich bitches who just need somebody else to cut theirs right now and are demanding to speak to the economy’s manager. There’s a specific haircut for it, of course.
This is a bullshit grievance, especially coming from the women airing it. They look sociable enough to know hair dressers and probably be friendly with them. If I’m not totally misreading them, this means that they can make a fucking call and get a bitch to come over and cut hair for a bitch. They’re able to navigate the black market under such easy, nearly turnkey conditions; it’s just that they choose not to avail themselves of it (unless they’re just making it all up, which is a possibility) because they insist on the familiarity and convenience of that specific chair in that specific salon.
They aren’t horny for rules. They love the rules coercing their servants to go to work, such as state regulations barring unemployment benefits to employees who refuse to return to work because they feel unsafe, but the aim there is practical: to get a frickin’ haircut. The reason they want their salons officially allowed to reopen is so they don’t get caught patronizing or operating businesses that have been ordered to close, and also because they don’t mind owing the libs. They aren’t framing it all in terms of virtue; it’s all about flair.
This is a pretty rotten bunch, one that loves bossing servants around, no matter how pleasantly or graciously it does so, or imagines it does. There is, however, a crucial thing to say in Karen’s defense. At least these women admit that they avail themselves of their servants. The main thing they’re trying to do with their protests is to schedule shifts without having the government on their asses about public health. Some of the owners are looking to get back to bossing their employees around and would hate to have them all go indepedent, to become yeowomen (or men!), but they construe this as a private matter, something to let live free of employee recourse to labor law or die.
They’re just being pragmatic scumbags, I mean, goodness, small businesswomen. We’re professionals here. No, not that kind of professional. Ew. Besides, it’s not like these businesses have the cash flow* of a whorehouse, so they can semiprivately be open for business, as she said, but publicly closed due to the current indisposition*, as she said. They don’t even have the cash flow of a business providing what I guess we’re calling nonsensual massage. And, yeah, maybe we have some hangups about some dumb shit having to do with who’s recreationally rubbing whom how and why, but normies, yo.
*(/Sagest Dril voice/ but they care not, of the “Gash Flow”)
The Brahmin position, largely but not entirely overlapping with “liberalism,” is that there are no servants. The intellectual dishonesty alone is reason enough to hate the fuckers. Random strangers magically show up in our lives to help us with shopping and driving and stuff. How convenient! All we have to do is call the universe and it sends them. These yuppies never have a mature, intelligent moment of contemplation about why, exactly, the strangers who flit in and then back out of their lives drop by in the first place to ferry them around and bring them shit. Like, ooh, here I am at 79th and Lex, and this cute Dominican girl from Grand Concourse just brought me a big bag of yummy goodness from Whole Foods, so I tipped her a dollar and she smiled at me, like, totally sincere. Groovy! Karma is good! She told me to have a nice day! Beautiful energy!
Why would these soft cunts approach these matters with anything other than a Gwyneth Paltrow grade of thot? And of course there are other, more openly exploitative customers who dispense with all niceties to instead lounge around their co-ops and just demand stuff.
These gigs suck, and yet many of the customers won’t let themselves imagine that they aren’t all right. They look like a great way to earn some money on the side, especially for secure, affluent people who never do anything of the sort in the way of side jobs. Aside from the cardiac tetanus cokeheads who produce ad copy for Fiverr, the gig platforms are usually effusively sunny about the work-life balance that their drivers or shoppers or whatever can achieve by working part-time and keeping the rest of their time for family, church, and so forth. It’s a sleazy class tell, just like the characters in Harry Potter who are able to fly off on whimsical adventures without academic or professional consequences., suggesting that the author may have been living on a friend’s estate, not just claiming public benefits.
These stories are of course fucking baloney. In the places where these platforms are most used the people running them are almost always desperate, exhausted, barely afloat expendables living in their cars or hotbunking in a slumlord walk-up, doing everything they can to push through another day in hell under a standing cognitive load of 30 IQ points. Doctors in New York City find them presenting at the ER with SARS symptoms, then returning to their full-time restaurant kitchen jobs and the two-bedroom apartments that they share with nine roommates.
The customers don’t hear about this because the servants are trained not to mention it. The conditioning can be as implicit or explicit as it takes; the upshot is that the message fucking gets through. These are expensive cities: LA, SF, NYC, Seattle. Honesty costs tips. Take a stab at equality, and the only bitch that gets cut is your own ass, from the platform. Do punks be feeling lucky?
The blurred lines between master and servant have to be strategically crafted. People who do their own grocery shopping know that the people staffing the Pathmark are paid to be there. They assume the same about nail technicians, automotive mechanics (no worse on occupational pollution and the cars don’t talk back so much lol), and masseuses. Even if they habitually mistreat the employees serving them, they almost always fundamentally understand the nature of the relationship. Clients understand that sex workers fuck them for the money.
The gig platforms operate in an uncanny valley. They have 1099 contractors, not employees, which is bullshit but still de jure or de facto the law of the land most places. They’re work, but they aren’t exactly jobs. They don’t have set schedules. They brag, in fact, about the flexibility of their scheduling.
They’re exceptionally pernicious because they deliberately misrepresent themselves. Not consistently meeting the minimum wage in our most expensive cities makes them exploitative deep poverty jobs. They write computer algorithms to fire the help based on customer reviews. It’s like school grades, but for shitty, exhausting jobs. The corporate behemoths behind these platforms have the nerve to brag about the flexibility they offer when the workers presumably interested in the flexibility can barely get by hustling for their fucked-up business models fifty or sixty hours a week. What the hell is the alternative? Huddling under a cardboard box? Getting run out of Penn Station by transit cops on a nightly basis? Not even having a steady place to shit and shower, and at a time when the gyms have been closed as nonessential, at that?
It takes a peabrained hardline libertarian conception of socioeconomic relations to imagine that this regime fosters a great flourishing of free will for workers. The way it actually works, it does absolutely nothing whatsoever of the sort. Ffs a job doesn’t have to have Kunta Kinte in chains to be exploitative, inhumane, and coercive. The only reason this batshit crazy proposal has any traction is that every officially sanctioned economic philosophy in the United States assumes that our sacrosanct market incentives magically fail to include poverty as a motivation. All these fucking nudges, and none of them is the piercing fear and certain knowledge that not working will cause one to freeze and starve to death, although in fairness working might not be enough to prevent that, either. Any reasonable observer reading just about the dire poverty would guess that the country in question was somewhere like the Congo or Aghanistan, but as John McLaughlin said, *WRONG*. The correct answer is: you get food to eat.
This shit is worlds more delusional than pestering the state government to allow professional haircuts again. The #TCOT agitators behind that want the state to stop interfering in the private labor markets at businesses they patronize. They explicitly want the employer-employee relationship to be reprivatized and relieved of public health regulations that they find burdensome (i.e., inconvenient for their hairstyles). The shitlibs and fellow travelers blithely assume that there is no job market, just an amorphous cloud of angels following their own whims to work, or not, but with one or more of these angels always appearing to minister to their needs. It’s Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, but for servants, but we’ve already been over this, we don’t call them that.
This all happens out in the universe, where everything happens for a reason, but labor policy restricting the license for corporate crooks and their scumbag customers to exploit the reserve army of labor at will couldn’t possibly be one of the reasons for things happening. They just, you know, happen, like the weather or something. We want food, and they want work. It is what it is. It is a postscript chapter of Candide, about the best of all possible curiously convenient arrangements to have out-of-work itinerant peasants meekly fetch provisions and carry them to our castle door whenever we ring the bell.
This best of all possible prole summonings would turn into a real buzzkill if word got out that it’s just a big exploitation racket. ‘T would the mood. Taking desperately poor people who have been artificially coerced into taking hellish, terribly compensated jobs obsequiously serving others and systematically miscategorizing them as happy humble folk just following their natural bliss seems like an odd but oddly familiar tune, perhaps a little Song, Song of the South, Millington for Sheriff and I shut my mouth. Mercy, O’Hara, that always comes as a shock, but I wish I were just shitposting. Underworked, overpaid shitheads in the metropoles say the same things about their underpaid, overworked servants that whites in the Old South said about their black neighbors. They were happier as slaves, surely preferred this to Africa, just look at that precious pickaninny smile. It isn’t what we want; it’s what THEY want. Sure, we’ll maim or just about beat to death any of them who object, or at least banish them from the day labor market, but goodness, we never seem complain.
The through lines dive underground, but they do not go away. If nothing else, the Planter South stipulated the existence of slavery as an institution. In New York and Los Angeles and other dynamic, forward-looking cities with two thirds of the GDP today, what caste system? There are no castes. It’s the Devil who denies himself as a being. Then, taking recourse to Harry Potter, which we shouldn’t but we must, we discover wonderous questions from the deepest reaches of the intellect. For example, what if the muggles enjoy serving the wizards? Should we feel bad? Like, okay, servitude or whatever is a thing, innit, but what if they like it like that? Is it still wack?
Christ have mercy, that bitch-ass wizard shit is a roman a clef for the English class system and the American racial caste system. We’re reworking these oppressions and horrors into a batshit fantasy series about flying around under the Gothic spires of a public school on a fucking broom. We have all these dumb af character archetypes who are really nothing more than Prince Charles, Our Cockneys, and, like, dingbat Harriet Tubman. Grown adults admit to reading this shit in earnest, with no shame, no gnawing feeling that there has to be more to books than this. Real life is adult stuff, not fun stuff, but maybe this stuff is close enough.
Bitch it is not. Is it any surprise that this shit overlaps so with our current round of semiofficial bearbaiting? I’m extremely familiar with the United States and reasonably familiar with Russia for a foreigner who visited once and still dabbles in the language. The shit I hear said about our alleged geopolitical relations sounds nothing like either of the two. Rachel Maddow is nothing but a neighborhood happy hour drunk who somehow got a high-profile platform to comment on the “news.”
And is it any surprise that both of these shitty mats of cultural detritus, MSNBC and Harry Potter, intersect in such an impenetrable spaghetti bowl with The West Wing? That’s the #content our presumptuous erstwhile rulers crave: a real-time reimagining of the Clinton Administration under a boring chaste nerd, not a fun horny nerd. They refuse even to romance us on the way to the electric chair, Mr. Thurmond. That retardedly self-important outpouring of prestige television is as useful a vehicle as any for the delusion that Bill Clinton exorcised our nation’s racial demons, when in fact he liberally fed them. Food to eat: that’s liberalism, too, kid, in America.
Say, might be some left over on Ricky Ray’s tray. Bless, o Lord, these thy gifts.
Faulkner wasn’t kidding. The past is not dead, but this gallon jug of Bourbon is. It starts to feel impossible to get anything done through political channels when these navelgazing freaks keep blocking them. What else should I say if factions within the Republican Party now seem more amenable than the Democrats to reality-based living? Bernie Sanders is not realistic, but Josiah Bartlet is? Joe Biden comports himself like he’s always recovering from a trip to the East End of Cincinnati for neurosurgery from James “Mack the Pipe” Mack. I guess that’s what we’re calling compos mentis these days. Up in Over-the-Rhine there’s a $20 blow-and-go to be had if you don’t mind the brick house blowing it, but I’m sure that price, too, is just the price the universe floated to and settled on in its cosmic wisdom and not the highest starting bid our thick sister was willing to offer because she was poor and desperate for cash.
We’ve really gone off the Reality Reservation lately as a polis. Our main political parties, both aggressively aristocratic, are, respectively, a postmodern full-on reactionary death cult, currently demanding an officially sanctioned afternoon out for a long-acting Jim Jones Kool-Aid cocktail, and a modestly less death-cultic but equally postmodern collection of ostensibly “liberal” and “progressive” authoritarian chickenshits trying to swaddle themselves against perceived threats that may or (likelier) may not be present, all from the arrested developmental age of a slow sweet sixteen. This latter “left” party resents the hell out of Bernie because he’s a no-nonsense Jewish grandpa, not some out-of-touch putz showing off his top-of-the-line home refrigerator full of high-end ice cream. The former, paradoxically, includes officials who don’t mind the old socialist because they have weird patches of common ground with him, as well as voters who might defect either way across the divide, passing over the perpetually adolescent crybabies and drama queens none of them can stand.
The partisan standoff over the Dread Ailment is not simply one of science and reason versus superstition and the economy. The average shitlib Democrat believes in science the same way the average right-wing nutjob Republican believes in Christianity. Cue Gandhi musing about Western Civilization as such a fine idea. There are those in the mix who seek out the truth in a spirit of genuine intellectual and moral curiosity, but they murmur into a void awash in the stupidest, crudest, most ulterior screeching. Public health restrictions might seem less onerous if one’s favorite services are allowed to maintain full operations (GrubHub, UberEats, Netflix) than if they are not (hair salons, the dining room at Applebee’s). In this light it’s all a petty cultural dispute having nothing to do with public health.
Paranoia that secular elites are using the crisis as an excuse to crack down on religious gatherings may be warranted. I stress: may. There are Dawkinsbots squirming around in the woodwork with smug glee that Easter services got canceled because they were all bullshit anyway. On the other hand, it sure looks like that dumb fool in Virginia got himself killed by going to church. Personally, I’m pining more and more for Mass and confession, but it still looks like a pretty inopportune time to welcome the parish’s sick elders back into the sancutary, exchange the sign of peace, and all drink from the same cup.
Once again, it’s a cultural weed thicket we’ll exhaust ourselves trying to explore. Like any other crisis, this one is activating the bad actors to exploit it for all it’s worth. We’re extremely lucky in the United States, for the most part, that there has been so little government overreach in the response. We have overwhelmingly been left free to go about our daily lives. NPR segments have been allocated as veal pens for teachers’ pets and busybodies to grandstand as private citizens instead of warping official policy to their whims and using the full coercive power of the state to enforce it.
But this is just for the lucky among us. There are neighborhoods the police chronically terrorize, sometimes even with the complementary assistance of nonsworn street gangs. We have our prisons. We have our SRO’s, our workingman’s flophouses, our encampments, our residential parking strips down by the bay and the tracks on the poor side of town.
It’s plain as day that we are not actually taking this shit seriously. Inept, derelict shitheads like Carolyn Goodman are still being allowed basically full latitude to fuck around and fuck up without state or federal intervention. Nobody ever does a thing for the homeless. It’s taken a public health emergency in which they’re confirmed vectors of communicable diseases that rampantly transmissible among the housed, not just other homeless, to move the above statement from 99% true to 95% or maybe 90%. Any adequately engaged government with jurisdiction over Clark County would have immediately moved in and forced the city and county governments out of the way the day the goddamned social distancing squares were painted on that parking lot with a direct line of sight to and from hundreds of vacant hotel rooms. We, whoever the hell “we” are, are doing little about congregate living disasters in general, ones that should have been made superfluous decades ago. It’s taken weeks to months to start emptying prisons in earnest, and so far the effort has been disastrously hit-and-miss. For the love of God prisons, flophouses, squats, encampments, and other crowded, filthy congregate living arrangements with poor to nonexistent utilities have been known breeding grounds for communicable diseases for centuries.
It is not that we don’t know. It’s that we don’t care.
Then there’s the very suspect official about-face on masks. Nobody I’ve seen in a position of authority has given a credible explanation of what motivated the initial opposition to the widespread public use of masks or the recent and in many places abrupt reversal. That which was forbidden is now mandatory. All that is not mandatory is forbidden. Hospital and supermarket workers were begging for weeks to be allowed to wear masks and told to shut up and go back to work. It would scare patients. It would scare customers. Some defied these orders and were punished. Some were fired.
The original party line was that mass mask use would deprive doctors and nurses of N-95 masks. These are the same masks that DHS and other federal agencies have been seizing on arrival, almost certainly to resell on the black or gray market, along with other medical supplies. They’re scalping masks and ventilators. Charlie Baker had to get Robert Kraft to send the Patriots’ 767 to China to bring a shipment through Anchorange and into Massachusetts unmolested.
This shit rightly pissed ordinary Americans off. It was reckless and outrageous, all of it. Citizens very reasonably protested that officials were trying to get us all killed. After weeks of this furor, the authorities started to come around. Like, shit, that sounds like a good idea; we’d hate to get anyone killed. From that point public health officers moved quickly, to the extent that full mouth and nose coverings are now required to enter enclosed public spaces in much of the country.
If they wanted conspiracy theories about the pandemic, they did exactly the right things to culture them. Keep in mind that the current outbreak surged from a baseline level of public trust corroded by years of escalating celebrity woowoo about vaccines, autism, probiotics, pH balancing agents, and the dangers of allopathic medicine in general, itself facilitated by the blatant, widespread, officially unacknowledged failures of allopathic medicine. The pandemic has accreted to this already voluminous corpus of quackery, conjecture, rumor, and fraud prolifc Facebook conspiracy theories about, among other claims, the government having programmed the virus with a kill switch that it will flip once it’s killed its full quota of constituents. Mainstream Republicans have cast their lot with the Trump Organization’s fixation on hydroxychloroquine and similar compounds as cure-alls, a fixation driven by a barely scrutable combination of insider trading, extrapolation from preliminary clinical research, and Owning the Libs. Trust in mainstream medicine is now more than ever a hallmark of affluent Democratic orthodoxy. It’s a Brahmin Thing. That, and refusing to look at evidence that medical, quasimedical, and pseudomedical authority figures are ulterior, malevolent, or just fuckig inept.
It breaks down once again along lines of class, caste, and subculture. Dr. Oz is a touch on the low-class side for the proudest Brahmins, and Facebook samizdat is absolutely way too far over the line. Bill Gates, though? Dear God is he a creep, but he has his foundation. A reasonable, critical person, even one discerning nuances in his motives, as I do, has to look at the scope of the Foundation’s work and wonder whether maybe the foil hatters aren’t wrong about the guy.
;There are reasons why the streets don’t trust authority figures in these situations. Even if the proles are spelunking rabbit holes that yield no bunny, they’re touching on, if not directly raising, compelling questions about the trustworthiness of the governments that now claim to watch out for them with an eagle eye. Ask yourself: after Tuskegee, Pruitt-Igoe, the mass sterilizations, the eugenics craze that attenuated only slowly after the Gilded Age crashed along with the international economy, Flint, the postwar Nevada bomb tests, and the Anthrax scare of 2001, is there anything farfetched about gain-of-function experiments gone awry at Fort Detrick? The Chinese counterpart, sited impressively close to Wuhan, is also an acceptable answer. Correct? We just do not know.
What we do know is that the authorities aren’t telling us. At least they’re finally telling us to wear masks, although it would be nice if they didn’t encourage us to be showboating assholes about how we’re toiling away at home like so many Keebler Elf wives to manufacture them.