Products

I manufacture Products for The Boss.

If I make a mistake and my productivity falls, I feel bad because I’m not making enough profit for The Boss.

As my productivity increases over time —  as I get to know my machines more intimately and understand their temperament — I feel content knowing that I create more profit for The Boss.

I wonder how he feels.

Does he feel guilty if I make more than 1,200 Products per day, knowing that my hourly wage is a pittance compared to his profit?

Does he resent me if I make less than 1,200 Products per day, annoyed that I did not adequately contribute to his hoarded wealth?

When he built this small, family-run manufacturing business, did he consider if it was fair that his business model relies on hiring and exploiting a single, interchangeable, replaceable worker to run his machines and make all of his products and create profit for his family?

Of course he didn’t. He is 70-years-old and lived through the Golden Age of Capitalism. He pulled up his bootstraps his whole life and created everything with his own two hands. He deserves everything and more. He deserves the entire world. He is a White Man and a Capitalist and therefore entitled to exploit workers and exploit the Earth for the benefit of his bank account and his family and his legacy and his pride in perpetuity.

This is freedom.

In America, we have property rights and water rights in the arid Southwest and these are the words we use to justify the plundering of our most precious natural resource by a small group of people who LARP as Cowboys and Ranchers. This is their tradition and you can’t mess with it, partner.

The Boss owns a share in a water company and grazes three horses on his 16-acre desert pasture. During the worst drought in 1,200 years, he runs two rotary sprinklers for at least eight hours per day to grow grass for the horses to supplement their main diet of hay, which is stacked on a trailer next to his full-size RV and tractor. 

But he tells me that margins are tight and he can start me at $17 per hour without any sick time or vacation time or health care or benefits of any kind. Margins are real tight, he says, looking out over his land and water and animals and vehicles.

He is a Boomer and Boomers never retire. Boomers never take time off because they don’t know how to rest. They don’t know how to stop making money. When you’re 70-years-old and lived through the Golden Age of Capitalism, you develop a certain type of mental illness. Profit becomes the only thing that matters in life.

If you stop working, you die. He tells me his retirement plan is a pine box and he’s got a lot of retired friends who are dead. He says he’s a firm believer in, “If you don’t use if, you lose it.”

I wonder how his daughter feels.

Seeing an old man, her own father, hobble around his workshop with his worn Cowboy boots and easy drawl and toxic masculinity. Does she want him to see his grandson graduate from high school? Is she concerned that one day she might come into work to find her father crumpled on the concrete floor, lifeless?

At least he would die doing what he loved. Making money.

Joy

This human reality will never please me, and that’s OK. I find joy in my own way.

When I’m at work scrubbing pots and see a cricket jump in the corner of the floor drain, trying to find sanctuary, I immediately pause my work. I squat down and extend my finger, an olive branch. I do this with spiders, moths, beetles and whatever other tiny being appears to be in distress when I’m cleaning.

Sometimes I think about how they perceive a human finger. Do they know it is attached to a human? Do they know what a human is? Do they know they are inside a building with fluorescent lights? Have they ever seen the sun? Are they terrified? How do they perceive the rushing water and wind from the high pressure hose? Do they want to be in another place? Do they want to be extracted from this situation? As a level six ethical vegan, I follow the philosophy of non-interference in the affairs of non-human animals and all other sentient beings, unless there is immediate suffering that I can prevent without shifting the balance of nature and affecting the timelines. In this case, I believe there is cause for intervention.

So I extend my index finger and the gray moth lying belly up on the floor suddenly comes to life. Her tiny legs cling to me. I smile and suddenly forget about how much I hate my boss. There are more important things in life. I stand up and pull my fingers into a loose fist, with the moth sitting on top of my knuckle. She opens her wings to shake off the water. I whisper to the moth and assure her that she is going to be OK. I walk around the drying racks and pull the rolling garage door over my head with my other hand. Cold, dry air and natural light fill the soil room. I breathe in the desert morning then place the moth on some sagebrush and feel a simple joy from reducing the suffering of one little, tiny being.

In a world of wanton cruelty, I see this as an act of rebellion. And I’m a soul rebel.

———

I feel a similar sense of joy when I go for a walk at the nature preserve and see a glimpse into the simple, private lives of chipmunks and geese.

Watching a chipmunk wag his bushy little tail and play with a piece of long grass that glows gold in the morning light gives me so much pleasure. What worries the chipmunk? Does he think constantly of imminent attacks from hawks? Or does he play carefree with his friends and jump between boulders during the warm daylight hours, then retreat to his hole at night to cuddle with his family during the freezing nights? Does he think about the exploitation of labor? Does he think about how much he has to save up to buy a house?

I always hear the geese before seeing them. Their honking carries across the rocky terrain. The flying “V” is broken into two distinct pieces, with the leading group working in perfect coordination to reduce wind resistance for those behind. I always feel like waving my hat in the air or saluting these magnificent animals, like they are a highly decorated air force squadron returning victorious from war, but instead I just watch and listen. They fly over my head and I hear the delicate squeak they make when breathing during vigorous flight. I’ve never noticed that before.

As they fly into the distance, the flock becomes fluid. The geese are no longer individuals, just black dots against a clear blue sky. The dots dance and their shape morphs constantly. The flying “V” ebbs and flows like the tide.

I thank the animals for showing me the simple joy of living.

Labor

Which is worse? That our owner lives in Hawaii, never works, watches us on camera and extracts all of the wealth that we create and uses that wealth to start new businesses or that our coworkers are bootlickers? What do you think is worse?

“I dunno man. I don’t think I have an opinion on that. I’m just trying to pay rent.”

Nevermind.

Do you ever think about how it’s unfair that the person who makes the most money is also the person who is never here and never does any work? Do you ever find it frustrating that all of the managers —  front of house and back of house — fucking hate each other and don’t communicate? As a result, the workers receive mixed messages. They keep us in the dark and they feed us shit. We’re not important, even though we do all of the fucking work. No one ever asks us what we think because that’s a dangerous road for the capitalist.

We already do all the work. What would happen if they ask us if we have any ideas or if we have developed any techniques that could increase production? We might realize that we don’t need managers and bosses and capitalists. That these people are bloodsuckers, vampires, parasites and leeches who contribute absolutely fucking nothing to society but continue to take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take and take.

This is exactly how they want me to feel after I come home on a Friday afternoon. I don’t have any emotions. Except anger. I always have anger. I don’t know if I’m more angry at the capitalists who exploit us or for what they have done to my brothers and my sisters. They are uneducated, which makes them easier to exploit and manipulate. They are oppressed but instead of looking to the top, they direct their hatred toward their unemployed brothers and sisters receiving benefits. No one wants to work anymore because of the dole. They hate “woke culture” and how everyone is so sensitive now. We can’t have fun movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective anymore and laugh at the blatant transphobia. They remain unvaccinated in a county of 26,000 which had 92 new cases of Covid-19 last week, with outbreaks in several local schools and the jail. They get their news from “doctors” on YouTube and don’t believe the mainstream media. In their world, the delta variant is no more contagious than alpha and viruses always get weaker when they replicate. You can’t trust the vaccines. There are going to be long-term side effects.

They barely have high school degrees yet they believe themselves to be smarter than all of the scientists and doctors in the world. But they are still my brothers and sisters and I still love them.

I believe in solidarity among all working people. I will never buy into the zero-sum game. 

“What do you mean?”

A zero-sum game means that if someone wins, someone else has to lose. It can be between racial groups, like a white man getting angry that a black man gets a raise. Or getting angry at your coworker for having an easier assignment at work. Or EMT’s getting angry that fast food workers want to make $15 an hour. It’s just another way for the capitalists to divide and distract us. It’s like sleight of hand magic, “Don’t look at me and my hoarded wealth, I’m not the problem. Those other people, whose labor I’m also exploiting, they are your enemy.” I don’t buy into that bullshit.

I will never be able to convince my brothers and sisters that socialism is a viable alternative. All they know is that socialism has caused genocides and, like, just take a look at Venezuela. I can explain Dr. Wolff’s description of worker-self-directed-enterprises and how things would be different if all of the workers were members of the board of directors instead of one guy in Hawaii telling us what to do and taking all of our wealth. But it’s futile. The biggest obstacle to socialism in America is the distinct lack of education among working people. We will never organize and seize the means of production if workers do not know history. The capitalists know this. That is why they defund schools, recall liberal school board members and bring religion into the classroom.

My brothers and sisters have been indoctrinated their entire lives into believing that capitalism is the only way. I can only think about the alternatives. For this, I will never be happy.

Prickly

wide

I used to come here when I was young

About a year-and-a-half ago

I had just quit my career and would sit on these rocks and listen to a podcast about depression

I felt like the broken glass next to the prickly desert cacti matched my demeanor

cacti

Now I’ve stumbled upon this little alcove and I remember what I was feeling back then

I was so lost and confused and angry

That hasn’t changed

But now I’m more comfortable with chaos and uncertainty

The seven seas don’t scare me as this boat continues to drift unmoored

Yet returning here, I feel older and I feel more disconnected

I feel more strongly than ever that I don’t understand anyone and that no one understands me

Putting the broken glass back together would be impossible

close

Alienated

What’s your five-year plan?

I laughed and told her I don’t have a five-year plan or any sort of plan and I think that’s when she decided it wasn’t going to work out between us.

Life is a lie so what’s the point in having a five-year plan anyway?

There’s also a good chance that we, collectively, don’t have many years left.

About the lie though. I spent my formative years in an insulated levittown, nestled comfortably between the man-made lake in my backyard and pothole-free streets and the metro bus stop that goes straight to The Pentagon. But it was all a lie. Like I was living in the cave and the entire system did everything in its power to prevent me from investigating the shadows cast on the wall.

They didn’t want me to know about poverty and hopelessness and how many people have seven DUIs and how many people leave their dogs chained up outside year-round. I never saw exploitation and wage theft and I never really understood what it means for a white man to own the fucking means of production and what it means for his children and their children.

Everyone goes to college, you have a bright future, the world is your oyster. You gotta get good grades and score well on the SAT and get a degree so you can get a good job and afford to have kids and own a home and get married. Shut the fuck up. Just fucking stop with the bullshit. This world is garbage and capitalism has rendered life meaningless. I have developed immunities to your capitalist propaganda and highly-effective forms of American brainwashing. That shit doesn’t work on me. I live firmly outside of your fucking cave.

Regardless, there is no point so I don’t have any interest in thinking about a five-year plan and when she asks me questions about my likes and dislikes I squirm and contort my face because I do not have strong connection to The Self and I feel detached from this world and Buddhism teaches that its not good to have likes and dislikes and I’m always stoned anyways which increases my indecisiveness.

I just feel alienated. Marx was right.

IMG_5669
Within a society that operates in the capitalist mode of production, there is no point to life for the wage slaves, who make up the bulk of society. We have no agency in our lives.

No point in making friends; falling in love. We cannot afford to buy homes. An unforeseen illness can plunder an entire life of saving in this fucking gilded oligarchy.

Yet we keep our eyes aimed on each other — we fight amongst ourselves because we have been trained to believe that capitalism is a zero-sum game and that the government is the enemy. We are bootlickers. We hold grudges against our brothers and our sisters and fight over tip money but never raise our eyes above the cave walls, where Mr. Capitalist hoards his wealth and reaps the benefits of paying his wage slaves the bare fucking minimum required by the laws his friends wrote.

I do not feel a connection to any specific group of people. Some people care about their hometown football team or religion or their gender or skin color or hobby or whatever. I don’t feel a connection to anyone. No one understands me and whenever I talk about capitalism they call me crazy. When I say Americans are brainwashed they tell me I am brainwashed. I feel no connection to white people in America, who have benefited immensely from the long history in this country of genocide, slavery and capitalism yet today seem to believe that we exist in a vacuum. I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ, there are actual Nazis. Furthermore, there is no geographic boundary to which I call home or feel a significant connection.

I really just want one thing.

I want to tear down the capitalist mode of production and fight for the liberation of all humans and non-human animals.

I’m coming for you, Mr. Capitalist.