For the last several months my wife and I had begun to dare to hope that our tiny foothold back into the world of relative economic security would last.
Sadly it has not.
Effective immediately I am unemployed again Lost one of my two, low-wage "paper route" jobs -- this one is going to hurt because this was the one with an income that actually amounted to anything and provide my family with health insurance.
So once again we are cast out.
For those keeping score at home, this is the fifth time I've been laid off from a job in the last six and a half years.
I must confess it's taking a toll.
As we speak, Blue Gal is once again saddled up and doing battle with formidably inept staff of the Illinois health care exchange. So far this morning she has had to repeatedly go over line-staff's heads and verbally correct their records, which they pretty thoroughly fucked up the last time we were in this place, and which they never bothered to correct because, uh, reasons. Also Governor Hedgefund has already made it very clear that he think the poors of this state have had it far too good for far too long which is why he and his staff are working tirelessly to monkey-wrench or eradicate virtually every program for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, children and the unemployed.
Thank goodness BG is a meticulous record-keeper and has more patience on her worst day than I have on my best.
Over the years, I have gotten very philosophical about being fired. Very good at it. I always begin a job with enthusiasm. I always give it all that I have, cheerfully, and when I have a little down time, I check out what my colleagues are up to and usually end up helping them out as well.
But when it comes to keeping a job, in the end I know none of that will weigh in my favor in the slightest, so I have become an acute observer of the small details with which each termination is carried out, noting their similarities and differences. A superannuated writerly habit, which would be useful if I lived in a universe where it is possible for me to make a living with my pen.
But I don't live in that universe.
And after ten years behind this keyboard (ten years this month, actually), while many readers have been incredibly kind and supportive and generous, the one thing of which I am absolutely certain is that I will never make anything close to a "living" by doing this thing I love and and that I do exceptionally well. However, after five layoffs in just over six years, it is equally obvious that I cannot make a living doing many of the other things that I do exceptionally well, which leaves me with...what?
Old writer's habits, mostly. And so, as the terminators once again call me in and close the door and go through the motions, I already know many things.
I know that by the the time HR shows up, nothing is negotiable. I know that I am dealing with an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill. That is all.
Every decision about the terms of my termination have already been made, far away and without me. On three occasions, the terminator has been close to tears, reassuring me that my work has been exemplary (it always is) that if there were any way they could keep me they would.
I know that it is pointless to ask why certain paste-eaters, apple polishers and various other forms of human ballast are keeping their jobs while I am being let go. No one sitting in that room is going to answer that question.
I know that the terminator is doing a distasteful job. That I'm probably the fourth of fifth on their list and that firing someone is shitty work, But I also know that next month, and next year, the person sitting across from me will have a job, and insurance, and a roughly predictable future and I will not. So I'm polite, because what's the use of arguing with some gofer from the Shawnee Land and Cattle Company?
I know that my colleagues are going to be well and truly freaked out by my firing, because if it can happen to me, then the plague is inside the perimeter and no one is safe. Well, no one but certain paste-eaters, apple polishers and various other forms of human ballast who will have a job, and insurance, and a roughly predictable future until the end of days.
And because not many years ago I worked every day steeped in the facts and figures of labor markets and economic development, I also know what my odds are of ever coming back from this. I know that that just two or three layoffs in six years on a resume is nearly always a career death sentence, especially if you're over, say, 45. Which I am.
I know that at some point, it stops mattering how brilliant or capable you are, or how hard you try, or how many doors you knock on, or how much you could contribute. Your time is over and if you are not part of a Club, you are on your own and out in the cold from now on.
So imagine my delight when I cracked open my digital New York Times to find the Most Unaccountable Paste Eater in American Journalism making his daily bread by once again decrying the Lack of Accountability, among the Poors:
...The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically.
Reintroducing norms will require, first, a moral vocabulary...
Imagine my untrammeled joy at reading the undisputed motherfucking king of Pathological Both Siderism earning that sweet, sweet New York Times dollar by lecturing everyone in Murrica on the horrors of not being judgmental:
These norms weren’t destroyed because of people with bad values. They were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism, which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another. People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set.
Imagine the heights of rapture to which I ascended when I read David Brooks -- who has never taken ownership or responsibility for a single syllable of the pro-war, hippie-punching, revisionist schlock he peddles to pay the rent -- demanding that "people" be held responsible for, uh, "stuff".
...Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?Next it will require holding everybody responsible. America is obviously not a country in which the less educated are behaving irresponsibly and the more educated are beacons of virtue. America is a country in which privileged people suffer from their own characteristic forms of self-indulgence: the tendency to self-segregate, the comprehensive failures of leadership in government and industry. Social norms need repair up and down the scale, universally, together and all at once...
One of the few upsides to ten years of futilely documenting the fictions and frauds of David Brooks in epic detail, is that when Mr. Brooks writes --
People sometimes wonder why I’ve taken this column in a spiritual and moral direction of late.
-- I don't have to wonder. Not for a minute.
Because I know that every time he has tried to sell his brand of toxic waste using facts or math or history, Mr. Brooks has gotten his ass sawed off and handed back to him on the good china. So, in the back nine of his immensely profitable career, Mr. Brooks has taken refuge in the con man's oldest and most reliable redoubt.
But of course, my opinions are just those of a recently unemployed, middle-aged liberal who has never had so much as a letter printed in the New York Times. A tired, recently unemployed, middle-aged liberal. Very tired. with some serious thinking to do about what to do next, so you might not hear from me for a few days.
So let me leave you with a sampling from all the prominent people on Twitter who, if they knew I existed, would think I am out of my mind:
@nytdavidbrooks on R. Putnam confirming @charlesmurray's thesis in Coming Apart, the book to read instead of Piketty http://t.co/MGRdFXuWrN
— Niall Ferguson (@nfergus) March 10, 2015
.@DavidBrooks420 has been writing some good stuff recently. This post on the cost of moral relativism is gold: http://t.co/lGVdaWFK9J
— Jeff Hart (@JeffHart120) March 10, 2015
Truthtelling: David Brooks on the Relentless, Vicious Cycle of Family & Moral Breakdown. http://t.co/gFOGKGHzvU @ChadSeiter
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) March 10, 2015
•@nytdavidbrooks Classic is back, and boy is he good today: http://t.co/XDmD8518cB
— W Bradford Wilcox (@WilcoxNMP) March 10, 2015
This link @nytdavidbrooks column of moral renewal is an endorsement. Not surprisingly. http://t.co/r3EMDJzhDu
— Charles Murray (@charlesmurray) March 10, 2015
@nytdavidbrooks at his best: The Cost of Relativism http://t.co/A3lBVINqJ4. More on big issues @charlesmurray tackled in Coming Apart.
— John David Dyche (@jddyche) March 10, 2015
.nytdavidbrooks is often too liberal, but he hits the nail on the head with this column. via @nytimes http://t.co/oAM6IjLP6Z
— Matt Blunt (@MattBlunt) March 10, 2015
Brooks makes the case for spiritual and moral revival: The Cost of Relativism http://t.co/Ie46J1G3jS
— Brent Nelsen (@BrentNelsen) March 10, 2015
*The Alexandria Safe Zone from The Walking Dead:
The Alexandria Safe-Zone, or just Alexandria, is a few blocks of cleared streets in Alexandria, Virginia, about six miles from Washington, D.C. When Rick Grimes' survivor group arrived, Douglas Monroe stated that the community had existed for less than a year. To date, this is the longest lasting location the survivors have lived in, with a lifespan of almost three years.