The Politics of Feeling Special

I’m currently going through an Against Me! phase, and as like any other musical phase, I can’t believe I’ve ever listened to anything but them, while simultaneously realizing my current love for their music is based on my historic tastes and getting tired of whatever I was listening to a lot of last (maybe Hot Water Music?) and wanting something fresh (refresh as it were).  Anyway, whatever, I only wanted to mention it because the name for this post occurred to me just before “Don’t Lose Touch” began, and it made me question whether or not to post this–I mean, keeping it real, I just read a super-disturbing article on The Nation about how we’re going to have a near-extinction level event on account of all the methane that will rise up out of the evaporating arctic ice.  Upon reading that, I had two diverging courses of thought:  A. I should really focus on skateboarding now because that’s at least fun and currently actionable, so I should enjoy the moments I have left on this noxious planet and B. suppose we’re not doomed–in fact, suppose I should find myself with the means and opportunity to live for, say, 200 years.  It seems like up until now, everything I’ve thought has been based on the idea that vicious, dramatic internal and external and meta factors are preventing me from living the way I want and lurking, ready to limit the overall duration.  But I found myself considering alternatives–let’s say I can stay in good physical health for 200 years, then what?

If I can use the past as a guide, I would expect…. shit, sorry I got sidetracked watching Against Me! live videos on youtube.  Man, we are fucked as a species–just enjoy it while it sinks, right?  A quick Google search said only certain bacterias get rid of methane so it doesn’t look like I get to be the guy who saved the world by a simple google search today. ,_, not that I expected that per se.

OK so I forget the road that I took to get from the 200 years old thing back to the title of the post, but I believe it was along the lines of:  when I was poor, being not poor was the primary objective, but as soon as I became not poor, things got more complicated [again].  Moreover, as I became more learned [extra-scholarly, of course–schools are increasingly designed to preserve the status quo], I couldn’t help but notice that it benefits people in power to keep more people poor so that there’s less resistance to ..well, less resistance to the sort of laws and allocations of public resources that put some people in power and make other people poor.  And it’s funny/sad because this is the sort of thing that people discuss in abstract terms and then are blind to the manifestations of it that surround them.  But I digress.

You see, when I was poor, everything was sort of a dream–and I wasn’t poor long, don’t get me wrong; I don’t *really* know what it’s like to be poor, but in my early twenties I got a taste and didn’t care for it one bit.  And I guess maybe since I went directly into that low-income position from being totally oblivious about money and naively optimistic about my prospects in the real world, I was affected by the experience and quickly appreciated how thin the line is that separates the Haves from the Have-nots.  In fact, now that I think about it, I wonder if “my problem” is that I’m too concerned about old, poor me.  You see, I solved my problem by getting good with advanced technology that was sort of a natural path for me, given my background and interests.  But I don’t really see myself as a different class than when I was struggling and working the desk at the shadier Ramada Limited or delivering pizzas.  It’s over a decade later, of course, and my lifestyle and perspectives are fundamentally different, but now I feel the burden of adulthood and have an additional sense of “golden handcuffs” as it relates to my dependence on expansive technical skills in order to maintain my standard of living.  While many of my contemporaries have successfully bamboozled institutional investors and probably their own parents’ pension funds, I have remained married to what I want to eagerly refer to as the craftsmanship model, which requires continuous improvement and fine-tuning to stay interesting and competitive.  …but you might also reasonably interpret that I derive my sense of smug moral superiority from my ancestrally protestant work ethic and only know how to feel OK with myself if I work for money.

But here’s a fucked up thing, I think.  In that model, I have to work for money to feel like I deserve to be a human being or whatever, but that model–especially when I was poor–lead to my exploitation and my involvement in business practices that I disrespected on a personal level.  And, like I said, I wasn’t poor long and grew up in such a way that I probably would’ve and certainly could’ve gone home crying to mom if I ever really really needed to do that.  Fortunately it didn’t come to that.  But I definitely had to work some shit jobs supporting companies that had treated their investors, customers, and/or rank-and-file employees poorly.  And I typically found myself surrounded by people who didn’t seem to care because even if they were lifers, they would be happy to have the raise that came with additional authority and unlikely to rock the boat.  And so …ugh, I still haven’t made any sense or any points, but if I had to do either of those things, it wouldn’t be a real blog, so get off my back.

Here’s where I’m at:  I feel like I’m a silly person with silly ideas and that I should hide myself from the world because I’m such a fool.  But then I think about all the images and brands and icons and semiotics and shit that I’ve had imposed on me in my life, and I think, “No!  If I have to have this shit crammed down my throat, I should subject others to the things I make, too, so they can see that there are silly people, too, and not just hucksters in the world.”  But then I feel like to do that is to assume or presume or act out some obnoxious narcissism that insinuates an inflated sense of self-worth, which makes me recoil from the idea.  But THEN I think back to my days at the fascist mega-corps, and I think politics of specialness be damned, the only decent thing to do in this life is to help people break out of the matrix.  But then what does that even mean?  I mean, some of these people who are happy to follow orders are good rule-followers, and society needs good rule-followers–right?  And these companies were probably totally stoked to have employees –well, I guess the companies don’t have feelings, but I’m sure the upper management, shareholders, and local law enforcement would all be pleased to know the company had deferential plebeians in its ranks.

And so what’s the problem even?

I guess it’s just that when you have too many rule-followers and too many people getting stoked about the benefits of authoritarianism, you get authoritarianism, which inhibits creativity and intellectualism in culture, which are things we could probably benefit from so some folks might can figure out some solutions to save our species from environmental collapse.  And I guess if you can sell yourself on the idea that you can do something to preserve the species (apart from adding more mouths to feed!), maybe feeling a little self-satisfied is ok now and again, so long as you keep it out of conversation and plain view.  Further, if we can’t save ourselves, we’re just making souvenirs for the aliens.  Or something–shit I’m sorry, I didn’t really have an outline for this.

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