Monday, October 03, 2011

The Problem with Liberal Organizing

I just finished reading a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called "Bait and Switch", which details the ironic downward mobility of educated, white collar workers. This was partially personal reading for myself who, as a former IT professional in the late 1990's, I have felt quite downwardly mobile since the end of the 90's heralded the last time I felt like I made a great wage. I'm hoping that changes soon.

Digressing from my own situation, Ehrenreich's reporting accurately, and shockingly, documents the plight of America's white collared "professional" middle class -- those who are not doctors, laywers, scientists, engineers, or of a profession that needs specific highed education and licensing -- being told to stay positive and passionate for your corporate employer while getting fucked over. Given my own corporate employment experience, I fully believe Ehrenreich's reporting about employees getting praised by a COO one day, then fired the following day by somebody else. Some employees like to take this personally and believe there is a conspiracy against them, but honestly, most upper levels of corporate management are so unorganized and incompetent that it is surprising many busiesses stay afloat. Ehrenreich asserts that corporate behavior aesthetics dictated for workers, being "cheerful" and "passionate" -- lest get labeled as being "negative" -- leads to incompetent management. You can be cheerful and advance through the management ranks, but still have no clue what the fuck you're doing.

In my view, most people who make it into management in this corporate environment do have one skill set to tap into -- they know how to campaign, make themselves look good, and like most politicians they are in it for themselves once they get into power. What can get them a bonus? Decreasing labor costs? Oh hey, goodbye employee cluster X!

All of this is necessary to know, but I must say that, after years working in this environment, I no longer read these books and think "We, the workers, must band together and fight this!" I read it more like a general reads a field scouting report, plotting his next battle move on the corporate battlefield.

Whenever you read a good piece of liberal journalism, or watch a liberal documentary, the facts are always pristine, but the classic conclusion is a call to action that is just left dangling out there, with nothing following it. A summary of most conclusions is "We must rise up and fight against this!", but there is hardly ever an activist organization formed that can follow through, continuing to work against the problems detailed. Sometimes the authors will make a half-heartered attempt and give a link to a website where you can continue the discussion, but that's not organizing a movement.

Afterwards, all of the liberal authors revert back to producing more media and issuing more calls to action instead of, well, acting. Coincidentally, fans of liberal journalism like myself go back to our cubicals Monday - Friday, and also don't become activists. I think liberal authors and fans share one common pain that we haven't thought of a way to get around yet: We need to eat. I eat by finding white collar jobs, and they eat by producing journalism. To suspend both activities and partake in activism means wondering where our next meal will come from.

So, America continues its downward mobility. Judging from the actions of our latest "liberal" president, liberal journalists don't even hold sway in the Democrat Party that's supposedly their ideological home.

America has careened past the point where one middle class income sustained a family. Instead of living in a world of "Mad Men", we now live in a world of mad men. Couples meet and pool their incomes tgether just to survive. Relationships in the 21st century aren't just about love, but holding each other up and not worrying about things like when you'll eat again if you lose your income for a time.

I wonder if like minded, and similarly screwed over working liberals -- and there's plenty of us out there -- could band together into organizations offering "group marriage"; love is removed from the equation, and this marriage is all about survival. Are you educated, unemployed, and looking to fight for a better tomorrow? Welcome, here's a roof and some soup.

Just a random thought, or a half-hearted call to action that I accuse others of doing.



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