Working 40 hours a week takes a lot out of a guy. Also, what the hell, I had a lot of views a few days ago. Maybe I’ve been neglecting this blog…yeah, I’ve been neglecting this blog.
Earlier this week I sat down with Tim McAllister from the The Lowell Ledger about my novel, In the Land of God. I’ll be honest, it was strange talking about it after months of forgetting that I even wrote the damn thing in the first place. That’s not a coded way of saying that I’ve gone the stereotypical writer route and drank so much that I forgot I wrote a book, I went more of the, “Huh, nobody’s reading this thing,” route and decided to pretend I hadn’t wrote a novel to offset the disappointment. It was refreshing to talk about my novel, and I felt a tiny, tiny hint of pride talking about it again. For those wondering, I grew up in Lowell, Michigan, and the Ledger is the daily paper for the city and the surrounding area. It may not be a feature in the New Yorker (like I’d want that anyway), but it feels great to know that I made at least a small mark in my hometown.
Fun fact: Lowell has some unexpected literary connections. Glendon Swarthout and William S. Burroughs I (grandfather to William S. Burroughs the Beat writer) attended Lowell High School (same as myself), so I guess I’m in decent company. I have considered writing a short story collection about my time growing up in Lowell, so maybe it’s time I get cracking on that…when I find the time between the factory grind and running UnApologetics.
Hey everyone, Adam here. I know it’s been quiet in this neck of the cyber woods, and I apologize to my small but loyal group of followers. I’ve gotten a new job, and it dominates a lot of my time. When I’m not working, I’m trying to do that one thing, what’s it called…what’s it called, oh right, a personal life. The rest of the time is throwing a couple hours at UnApologetics (that’s the SoundCloud, here’s the website) and struggling to get shit done for Borderless. In short – I’m busy.
I’m not abandoning this blog though, no sir/ma’am. This is my Corregidor! Well, maybe that’s a terrible analogy considering what happened. Alamo? Nope. Never mind.
On top of posting partial articles I wrote for Borderless I will also dump public episodes from UnApologetics here. I’ll also still write articles that don’t really fit for UnApologetics or Borderless (read: semi-coherent rambling). Also, any fiction I write will also show up here as well as on the UnApologetics site (well, maybe not there). Well, when I get the time to write some fiction. I suppose I have the time, I’m just being a lazy writer. Ah well.
Maybe I’ll throw up an article about The Handmaid’s Tale tonight since I’m watching it again with Shanice. It could happen! Stay tuned!
Hey everyone, so like I said in my last post I’m now involved with a podcast & blog called UnApologetics. To help (potentially) expand the audience, I’m posting the first three (and only three, for right now) episodes of the podcast.
Whenever a new episode comes out, I’ll make sure to upload it here too.
Borderless Media Collective is a magazine/website/podcast out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that focuses on global issues at the local level. I am a contributing writer and will be writing articles for the website and the magazine. Once the website is up and running I will make sure to do a follow up post to let you know where to find them. If you’re a fan of National Geographic, Jacobin, or The Baffler then I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy Borderless.
On the flip side, I have started a podcast and blog called UnApologetics with a few other like-minded guys. We are also Grand Rapids-based, but focus less on local journalism. Our episodes and articles cover pop culture, history, social issues and (sometimes) politics with a dirtbag left slant. Basically, it’s irreverence to hide the crushing existential horror and frustration. We will host local art (this means music, graphic art, fiction and poetry), but won’t push away independent artists from outside the area (well, except for fan fiction unless it involves Reagan, Trump and Pat Robertson).
You can find UnApologetics on SoundCloud, our website, Facebook (and YouTube soon). If you want immature, but honest and earnest opinions then you should check it out.
Basically, this is a call to action. Corporate media is an embarrassment and the conventional local press is waging a noble, but depressingly futile battle against the degradation of journalism. Borderless and UnApologetics serve as bulwarks against the corruption and erosion, and I’m excited to be part of both projects.
It’s Memorial Day weekend. People are stocking up on beer, beef, and other cook-out essentials. Cheap little American flags are everywhere. Red, white, and blue covers everything. It feels less like a day to remember the dead and more like a prelude to the patriotic orgies of Independence Day. In the grocery store I see spray-tanned soccer moms and middle-aged men with swollen bellies preparing for the long weekend, for the retreat to the lake or grazing by the pool. Here are the people that swell with pride when a terrorist camp is vaporized by a Patriot missile or get choked up when a soldier is killed or the Star Spangled Banner plays before a football game. They love Jesus and George Washington, but haven’t read the Bible or any of the founding documents. They believe in the pageantry of the holiday, but don’t really care about its core meaning. They’ll go to the parade, walk to the cemetery, and talk in somber voices about “duty” and “sacrifice,” but would never dream of doing either of those things. Would they give up their Bud Light and barbecue if it meant protecting the country they claim to love? I sure as hell don’t know, but I’d wager they wouldn’t. Instead they’re content to let other people, other people’s kids do the dirty work. Yes, it’s a terrible price to pay, but if I can sip a domestic brew by the pool then it’s a price that must be paid. Raise taxes to care for those veterans? Hell no! I earned that money, I need that money. Now let me enjoy my long weekend and spend my money. How depraved it is to turn into a holiday about remembrance into an act of consumerism.
These are the same people that gush about liberty, the Constitution, and the American Way, but don’t bother to understand what any of that means. The government is spying on its citizens in violation of the Fourth Amendment? Well, if you have nothing to hide. Journalists and the press are eyed with suspicion and derision? They should get in line and support their country! Love it or leave it! Protestors are exercising their First Amendment right? Lock ‘em up for all I care. The police are running rampant and becoming militarized? Good, it makes me feel safe. They dream of overthrowing a tyrannical government with their hunting rifles and shotguns without realizing that by supporting enormous military spending that a revolution would get smothered in the crib.
They live in poverty, or on the verge of bankruptcy, but vote for politicians that push their faces deeper into the mud. These politicians distract with talk about the salvation of hard work, the strength of Christian morals, and how the immigrants and leftists are the ones ruining America, not the nihilistic bankers that would pillage the country if it meant a better bottom line.
How does this tie into Memorial Day? It’s because the people who faithfully observe the holiday don’t seem to understand that the men and women that sacrificed themselves did it to protect the country from the threat of mindless tyranny. Granted, many of these people also fought for their loved ones, and in recent years for the chance at a slight boost up the social ladder, but at the end of the day there was that kernel of defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That may not have been the case, but they believed that that was what they fought to protect.
Case-in-point, two days ago, Greg Gianforte won the special election in Montana. Four days ago, his name wouldn’t have meant too much to people not from Montana. His name may have been heard in passing, and he may have been known as the Republican candidate running for office, but now he’s the guy that body slammed a journalist. He still won. Now, his punching a journalist probably didn’t clinch the election for him since Montana allows early voting and he may have already won his seat.
Still, what if that punch had happened a week before the election, or a month, or before the opening of early voting? Would it have sunk his chances of winning or only gained him points? We can never really know, but it seems like we are sliding into an era of American history where thuggish authoritarianism is preferable to democracy. A congressional candidate goes pro-wrestler on a journalist and the president talks about turning libel into a chance to censor dissent. That’s not to say there aren’t conservatives appalled by this behavior but this trend toward an American dictatorship is…troubling, to put it lightly.
There is also this shift toward adherence to civic religion, or the idea of worshiping the state. It’s a strange mix of nationalism and the belief that our country is nearly perfect if not perfect already. This ignores the fact that for a democracy to work, and work well, you need vocal skeptics and critics. Why are we doing this? What will this accomplish? Where is your evidence? This doesn’t make sense. Why aren’t we doing X instead of Y? It also means patience and dedication. The time to gather information, turn it into a policy, then defend it before the nation. It seems that people don’t want that, they want instant fixes without the annoyance of sacrifice or delay. Mind you, this applies to the left and the right. The right screeches about Constitutionality and “American values,” but goes on the defense when it comes to questioning police power, military intervention, or social oppression. Meanwhile, the left thinks that bumper stickers and timid rallies will make an impact because the alternative is too daunting or dangerous. And both sides still celebrate Memorial Day with the same vigor, despite lacking the self-awareness to realize that they are doing it on reflex without pausing to consider the weight behind the holiday.
How many of us would be willing to sacrifice for freedom, true civic freedom? I’m not talking about giving an arm and a leg, or even your life, but sacrificing a little time and money to help stem the rushing tide of authoritarianism in America.
How about those burgers and beers on Memorial Day?
How about voting or doing more than attending a single rally and patting yourself on the back?
How about just reading, knowing and defending the Constitution?
There are cheap fireworks exploding in the distance, and on an afternoon walk I smelled burning charcoal for a pre-Memorial Day barbecue. I have nothing against these things, but how many people recognize that Memorial Day should be a somber reflection about the price of civil liberties and the duty to make sure those men and women didn’t die in vain?
Go, enjoy your food and drink and parades and fireworks and time at the lake, but don’t pretend you care about freedom then cheer on a thug that punches journalists or a tinpot king that celebrates violence and cronyism.
It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, and although I love my mom, I despise these holidays.
Why? Is it because I’m an emotionally crippled Scrooge who hates seeing happy people?
But I’m more inclined to say I hate these holidays because they put a price tag on affection. When you get down to the core of these holidays, it’s pretty depraved. “Hey mom, my love for you is worth approximately $30. Here’s a chintzy card with a schmaltzy platitude and a gift card to Red Lobster. Thanks for my existence!”
Now, I have no problem with showing gratitude in the form of gifts. It’s a handy way of expressing appreciation, but the way these holidays operate is on such a shallow level. Instead of buying mom a card, why don’t you call her or write her a letter? Instead of buying her a gift card, why not treat her to dinner? Hell, why not make her dinner? The same applies to Father’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day.
It seems like we’ve gotten into a social arms race injected with a healthy dose of consumerism. It feels like our communication, both verbal and nonverbal, has been stunted and replaced with heaps of plastic and gaudy displays. It’s an ugly part of social capitalism. We have turned our care into capital, and treat our relationships like an exchange system. Let’s see, mom gave birth to me so she’s worth this much, dad contributed to the project known as “me” so he’s worth this much, and my significant other is worth this much.
Look, I understand why we give gifts. It’s a simple sacrifice. I care about you and am willing to deprive myself of something to give you something in return. The problem is that we have turned it into an isolated exercise, a series of materialistic holidays where, if you don’t spend x amount on the people you love then you must be a cheapskate or an ungrateful bastard.
So why does it have to be organized? Why does it have to be a bizarre example of peacocking? Also, why do we even need these holidays to remind us to appreciate the people we care about?
If you love your parent(s), or your significant other then why does there have to be a day on the calendar to explicitly show that affection? Shouldn’t that be, y’know, every day?
What about Christmas? We talk about family, we talk about world peace, but why does it have to be one day, or one month? Shouldn’t we aspire to appreciate those things year-round without the need to express that appreciation via an orgy of buying and heart attack-inducing stress?
The worst part of this is that we bought into it voluntarily. Nobody held a gun to our head and demanded a spending quota. Hallmark and Macy’s don’t have armed thugs coercing the passerby into buying overpriced greeting cards or trinkets. The federal government isn’t threatening to arrest you if you don’t spend enough money on your loved ones. That’s one beauty of capitalism: it can be fought with very little effort. Simply don’t engage.
Now, for the sake of transparency I bought my mom and other mother figures a card and a small gift. I’m just as manipulated as everyone else, and I can’t decide which is better: artificially induced guilt or feeling disgusted with myself for buying into “it.” Why should any of us feel guilty, though? All this is is turning love into a physical commodity. It seems like we have forgotten the ability to deal with abstracts, so we panic and grasp for tokens to deal with the emotional crisis.
My plea is not to never ever buy something for a person you love, or to not participate in any of the personal holidays, but simply remember that you aren’t scum if you don’t buy a blood diamond or an overpriced card cranked out by overworked and cynical office employees. Instead, just remember that something as simple as a phone call or a heartfelt message, or an act of kindness means a helluva lot more than a worthless trinket that wraps a price tag around the necks of people you love.
Happy Mother’s Day, and try not to get sucked into the stupidity.
Today is May Day, or International Workers’ Day, a holiday created in remembrance of those killed in the the Haymarket affair, a violent clash between police and workers in Chicago demanding better working conditions with the 8-hour workday being at the top of the list. In the United States, we celebrate our version of May Day on Labor Day in September, but the spirit of the holiday is still there. The problem is that it would be more meaningful for the United States to celebrate May Day, it would show solidarity with the rest of the world and that the only major difference between workers is the place they call home.
Imagine if it was a mandatory day off in the United States? No grocery stores open, no gas stations, no shops, no schools, no TV or radio. A day to remind everyone that we all play a significant part in society and ought to be treated as such. As automation looms on the horizon it would be easy to discard workers as soon as a better deal comes along, but that ignores their inherent humanity. The issue now isn’t the 8-hour work day, it’s a living wage, practical benefits, and a chance to thrive no matter what the occupation. Some might argue that a fast food worker isn’t as important as a doctor, but does that mean the McDonald’s employee shouldn’t be able to afford a home, a car, the occasional vacation? That they shouldn’t have access to healthcare or a retirement plan? There was a time when a factory worker had access to these things, and its safe to say that we were in better shape as a country.
So, what happened?
Calls for deregulation in the 1970s followed by the breaking of union power in the 1980s helped with this. The adoption of “trickle down economics” in the Reagan administration allowed by insane tax cuts helped distance the owners from the workers. Why should someone pay their workers better if there isn’t the threat of government intervention?
Now the worker has almost nonexistent power, wages haven’t increased to coincide with inflation, and the income gap keeps growing while the middle class shrinks.
How can this be fixed? Some might argue that awareness is key. Every morning when I check my email there’s a new slew of petitions for this cause, or that cause, and I never sign them. I never sign them because it’s an excuse to feel like I did something without really doing anything. Signing a petition entitled, “Raise the minimum wage to a LIVING wage! Sign if you agree!!1!!1” is about as effective as making a Facebook post that adds value to one like or one share. It’s self-congratulatory and isn’t helping. Even if 10,000 people sign a petition that won’t get the attention of the government. That’s .0033 percent of the population. In a group of 100 people that would be a third of a person voicing their discontent.
Corporations won’t listen either, because a petition means nothing to them. They operate based on the bottom line, and unless something directly negatively affects their profit margin, they will not listen.
The other problem with petitions is that they are disorganized and have no bargaining power. Sure, we want living wages that match inflation, but what will we do if we don’t get it?
The most obvious answer is a total boycott of a certain company while threatening to vote for only politicians that support this goal. This requires concentration and dedication. So what does that mean? It means actually doing something that might cause you a little discomfort.
For example, when I worked at McDonald’s, I made around $9 an hour, give or take a few cents. I figured that if I worked 40 hours a week and was taxed 15 percent, I would have had a yearly income of $14,688, which would have been okay for a single guy. What about a single parent with one kid?
Now, I know there are some who will fold their arms and grumble about personal responsibility and that it’s not the taxpayer’s problem to fund someone’s life. All callousness aside, I’ll half-agree, but because I believe it should be the corporation’s problem.
How do we fix the problem? A fairly simple demand:
Pay your workers a living wage (about $15/hour), keep food prices the same, or we won’t give you money.
We have grown far too complacent when it comes to injustice. I understand, sharing information on social media, signing petitions, and talking to people about issues is a great way to raise awareness, but that awareness will not translate to results if there isn’t pressure behind it. Getting Bernie Sanders, or someone like him, into office would have started the process but there needs to be public participation too. It means making some minor sacrifices, and the funny thing is these sacrifices don’t require much effort. Don’t like how fast food workers are treated? Don’t buy fast food. See? You’re already doing something. But if you complain about how fast food workers are treated then go to McDonald’s for lunch, it rings hollow. You become a self-righteous hypocrite who cares more about the perception that you did something rather than actually doing something.
So on this International Workers’ Day, remember all the people that you directly or indirectly rely on for your lifestyle, remember that they are people too who deserve more than the bare minimum, and before you sign any petitions, click “share,” or make a lengthy post about the plight of workers (I know, I’m doing that right now…) consider whether or not you really mean it.
Agree, disagree? Leave a comment below or click on the Twitter link to leave a comment there.