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Working Stiff

This is from my journal Drift, July 2004, on the Portland Writers website. I'm trying to do this here in HTML, so I hope the formatting works. http://portlandwriters.com

I'm reading and enjoying A Working Stiff's Manifesto by Iain Levison, 2002. A humorous account of all his bad jobs. I like his "bad attitude." It's all a pile of crap, we're treated like slaves, so don't take it more seriously than you absolutely have to.

Levison says that people with English degrees are a "great demographic" for get rich quick sales scams where you have to "invest" a lot of money up front. "The trillion-dollar-industry-that-produces-nothing called 'the educational system' got us, so we can be got again."

My BA is in sociology. Same difference. I've bit on a few of those ads. A couple of times I've paid for "business plans" that were vague crap. Anything to escape going to a dreary office job for low pay, suffocating in boredom.

I once answered an ad that said for fifty dollars I could get a list of companies in MY AREA who would hire me to work at home with a computer. They sent me a copy of the local yellow pages on a disk.

He's good. Tells this awful story with enough humor to make it go down. Of course if you don't want to know anything about reality - say you're a college student working on a liberal arts BA - you won't like it.

I hope he made some money off this book.

This is the kind of book I would like everyone to read, and probably no one I know would read it. Too true.

Someone took all the money, that's for sure. It's got to be around somewhere, there was so much of it. Maybe it was the trickle-down theory of economics in reverse, the trickle-up theory. It just slowly bled away from the American people, as one careless decision after another allowed the millionaires to carve off a bigger piece every day.

I disagree with Levison about the "careless" decisions. From everything I've read it has been a very deliberate decision by the haves to take more from the have-nots.

There is no happy ending to his book. Unless he makes it as a writer he is permanently stuck in low-wage work. What seems real about the book is that behind the humor and interesting writing is a solid sense of futility.

Today I went to a leftist political meeting. They are sharp, good-hearted people, but I still had that familiar feeling that I was an ambassador from the poor people's planet. I'm not sure that middle-class people can ever fully get it.

homepage: homepage: http://portlandwriters.com

Don't be so sure 11.Jul.2005 17:02


People can surprise you. A lot of middle class people started out dirt poor...me for one. We have not all climbed into bed with the nazis. You can be sure that the folks at your meeting have little disposable income too. They may live in a nice house and drive a nice car but when the bills are paid they have nothing. Stuff=misery.

nobody 11.Jul.2005 19:00

George Bender

I get your point and it's true that sometimes middle-class people do get it, especially if they come from a poor or working-class background. My experience, however, is that usually they don't. My feeling at that meeting, which was over a year ago, was based on what people I talked to said when I brought up poor peoples' concerns. It just didn't register with them. They didn't want to pay any more taxes. That seems to be what it always comes down to.

Also when I look at the Oregon political landscape we seem to have very few allies. People are concerned about school funding, which mainly benefits the middle class, but they don't seem to be concerned about how the Democrat-controlled state Senate keeps chopping the Oregon Health Plan. Because it doesn't personally affect them. I guess that's just human nature. As a poor person trying to participate in politics, the last few years have been driving me crazy. Sometimes I just have to back away from it and not read newspapers for a while. Towards the end of last November I was having migraines.

I think middle-class people should be concerned about poor peoples' issues, not only on the basis of morality but because it will eventually affect them, even if they can't see it. We are creating a social Darwinism, every-man-for-himself culture in this country. Historically that hasn't worked. What goes around comes around.