Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To An Angry White Male: A Counter-Rant

By Manifesto Joe

He works behind the counter in a thousand towns -- a convenience store's most sullen face. I walk into this one to buy beer, and there he is in his smock, same as always. Only today, he's got Rush on the radio. And that sullen look is replaced by a smirk and nods of approval.

As he listens to the latest whacked-out rant about "femi-Nazis," reverse racists and our liberal victim culture, I study this guy. He's fortysomething, with a big gut, and I can tell from his complexion that he didn't get that belly from drinking milk. He smirks at me knowingly as Rush rants on, assuming that as a fellow white male, I agree.

Yet I see something sad in his eyes, and I think maybe I know this guy. He's behind the counter for 10 bucks an hour, risking his life in a bad 'hood, making the stockholders and CEOs richer, because he lost his union-wage job when they moved the plant to Mexico. He's been through a messy divorce. His wife got custody of the kid. He got custody of the dog, and lives with him in a one-bedroom dump.

His wife, no great gift to the male gender herself, decided he was too much of a sick, drunken loser to live with. And now he pays child support on a $10 an hour job, and drinks himself to sleep with 12 beers a night. Blames those "bitches, niggers, wetbacks and queers" for his lot in life.

I can understand his animosity, but it's misdirected. I've been a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, working-class white guy, too. The prime gig my dad had was in the Air Force. After he got out, the best he could do was run a gas station, until he got too sick to work, and then slowly died. My mother was a teacher's aide, because she couldn't afford college.

But I was luckier than this convenience-store stooge. We had books. And one thing I learned was that demagogues like Hitler can get a lot of mileage out of misdirected rage like this guy's. It was no accident that Hitler's first bid for power started in a Munich beer hall. Or that Mao forged a pissed-off peasant army, angry in part because round-eyed foreigners had gotten so many of their brothers, sisters and cousins hooked on opium. I learned that communists are usually just a different, more sober kind of bigot. (Well, they solved China's drug problem, alright.)

Anyway, I got a nice scholarship, but ... college was also loans, grants, work-study, shitty dorms, spoiled roommates, delivering pizzas to all manner of assholes, bad food, no money, snotty bourgeois professors ... A radical feminist from a well-off family dumped me. It was lucky for me that I was too poor to marry her first. I saw a teaching assistantship go to a good-looking but not-that-bright woman. But somehow I got two degrees, went into a profession, and waited for my luck to change.

For the most part, it didn't. I spent years and years working for bullies, and still do. I also spent years and years working for women who were younger and less experienced, and I still do. I got passed over for promotions, saw less-able people get plum jobs.

But I kept going. One day, I woke up, and I was no longer a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, working-class white guy. I was a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, lower-middle-class white guy.

And though I'm still a bit angry that I've not gone further in life, here's another thing I've learned: The original affirmative-action quota program was the one for rich white guys.

I noticed something about my women bosses -- go up the ladder far enough, and they all worked for rich white guys. Come to think of it, one U.S. president barely had a C average at Yale, but he got into Harvard Business. Of course, it couldn't have anything to do with his dad being a rich white guy, or with privileges passed down by his granddad, who made some of his money dealing with IG Farben in Nazi Germany before the war. It took JFK Jr. three times to pass the bar, then he went straight to the Manhattan DA's office. Conservative or liberal, these people never give up one whit of privilege, nor will they ever, unless forced to make room for someone else at the table.

So, who is it that has to stand down and make room?

YOU, convenience-store stooge. And ME.

Hence the modern phenom -- "The Angry White Male."

He's getting fucked; I'm getting fucked. And not in the right way. But at least I know something he doesn't -- who's really on the other end of the dick.

And before I'm accused of class warfare, let me repeat that a communist is usually just another, more sober, kind of bigot. And although government programs did change my life somewhat, they can't change the human condition. People are as evil as they are good, as unjust as they are fair, as hateful as they are loving. All you need to do is turn on the radio to hear evidence of all that.

We all swim in the same water. It's too bad that some folks feel the need to just keep pissing in it.

And there's one more thing I've learned. You can't fight evil with more evil. You don't solve injustice with more injustice. You won't cure hate with more hate.

So, consider this tonight, angry white male, while finishing that 12th beer: There are a couple of billion people on this planet who'd be grateful to have that shit job of yours. I can remember when black men could get little else but shit jobs, and when white women couldn't do certain kinds of business without having a man co-sign.

You have a kid. There are parents all over the world who have lost theirs to mudslides, starvation, disease and smart bombs. And every day, there are thousands of people who violate borders and risk their lives to get jobs shittier than yours.

And before you say something totally unoriginal, like calling me a bleeding heart, let me say something trite to you: Charity begins at home.

So, tomorrow night, why don't you try drinking just 11 beers?

Maybe that kid who visits on weekends could use some of that money.

-- December 2003

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

13 comments:

Jack Jodell said...

Manifesto Joe,
That was a remarkable piece, written by a remarkable man with an abundance of heart, brains, insight, and basic common sense, and I thank you for it. You, like I, have succeeded in directing your rage correctly, at the right sources. For that reason, we are both infinitely better off than that pissed-off clerk you describe. Thank you again, my friend!

Storm'n Norm'n said...

Ref:"We all swim in the same water. It's too bad that some folks feel the need to just keep pissing in it."

I may want to use this in the future...but if its OK by you I'll use my version:

We all swim in the same water. It's too bad that Barack Obama feels the need to piss in it.

Thanks in advance

John said...

Good piece, Mr. Manifesto. Very enjoyable with both good content and literary appeal.

I am blessed with the ability to bypass most of the anger and just smile dumbly as bad things happen. I intend to become more emotionally involved with what is not right with the world, eventually; but it probably will not happen until I grow up a little, which I will most likely not do until my grandchildren tell me to.

Anger often needs anger around it to survive well and it is mostly the result of incomplete understandings and wrong ideas.

The happiest humans tend to smile in the face of anger, to realize that it is not the product of reason, and to realize that other people make bad choices mostly because they have mistaken ideas (not unlike ourselves at times). It is true, that some people are selfish sociopaths; however, most conservatives whom I have met in daily life do not strike me as evil. They truly believe that they are just, that they have righteousness on their side, and that their philosophy is more rational than that of the left. Many of them seem very good-hearted when politics is not the topic. (I know anecdotal evidence is not admissible in your court. I only present it, as I think it is representative of the norm, fallacious though it may be. Fallacy is not equal to wrongness). Lots of corporate leaders believe that it is their ethical duty to their employers, the stockholders, to represent the interest of the business, and this duty often clashes with other personal ethics.

When a conservative’s core beliefs are challenged or his core ethical philosophy violated, he becomes irrational and gets angry. We progressives (not liberals, as I have recently learned), are no different (Well, except for me. I am above it all, as I am passive, worthless, whatever they call it).


I would recommend that the clerk study the anatomy of anger. Once he understands that, much of the anger he takes for granted will become impossible. Once he forgives those he has identified as the primary reason for his position in life, the burden will be lifted from him. Yes, he bears this burden. Those targeted by his anger, feel it not at all. They are too busy trying to lift up their own rage to busy themselves very much with the rage of others.

Sincerely,
JMyste

John said...

Mr. Manifesto. I tried to post a response to this, but I get an error statement that my comment is too long. I checked the length. It was only 400 words.

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, John:

It looks like all your comments did come across. Thanks for your kind words.

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Norm'n:

I read your resume, and obviously you don't work behind the counter of a convenience store. That makes it even harder to figure out why you would be pissed off at the likes of Barack Obama. People sitting to the left of me politically seem to think that the problem with Obama is that he's been far too nice.

You seem to have led a rather charmed life, compared to someone like me who's either been too poor or too busy to travel much of anywhere.

Seems like you need to kick back a little and count your blessings, rather than sling feces at people who are trying to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Manifesto Joe said...

One more point, Norm'n:

I just took a look at your blog. I was immediately reminded of a quote from Dr. Samuel Johnson -- "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

Say it ain't so, Norm!

Marc McDonald said...

re:
>>We all swim in the same water.
>>It's too bad that Barack Obama
>>feels the need to piss in it.

You want to elaborate on that, Sparky? Things today, while not perfect, are much better than they were in Sept. 2008, when the economy collapsed under Bush and Wall Street melted down and many economists were predicting a Second Great Depression.
The stock market has nearly doubled since then. But of course, Obama gets no credit for that, right?

John said...

You make a good point, Marc. Does Obama buy stock?

Anonymous said...

re:
>> I learned that communists are
>> usually just a different, more
>> sober kind of bigot

Communists are "bigots"? I'm afraid I have to disagree.

The U.S. Communist Party championed the rights of African-Americans during the Great Depression.

As Wikipedia notes: "The party also was a leading voice in battles on behalf of African Americans, fighting racism in their own ranks and lynchings in the South in seeking social equality of the races."

As brainwashed as Americans are to believe that everything ever associated with Communism is "evil," the fact is, Communism has done some good things over the years. I think this fact is more recognized in places like Europe than it is in the U.S.

Marx is still widely read and appreciated in places like France (and not just by fringe radicals).
Don't believe everything you read in the capitalist-controlled U.S. mainstream media.

Manifesto Joe said...

Anon, let's get real here.

In China, communists have morphed into the kinds of people who won't even let a local dissident, or any members of his family, go to collect a Nobel Peace Prize. There, they have clung to power on a basis of pure political muscle, not even honoring the principles that presumably brought them to power. They are nearly as exploitative as any capitalists we have in the West, but have hung on to the brutal tactics that kept them in monopolistic power for decades.

I can certainly understand how one could have become a communist circa 1933, but we have the perspective of history now. Remember good old Uncle Joe Stalin, and his 1939 pact with Hitler? Remember Comrade Krushchev's speech of 1956? The thing fell apart, man. It's been very discouraging that we lost an alternative to capitalism when we lost "revolution," but there it is.

I can see that we're witnessing an implosion of capitalism, and in our time. But don't romanticize the past. Something else is going to have to come to pass on our planet, something that represents a break from the two opposing economic forces of the 20th century. I'm not sure what it will be. But 20th-century communism died long ago, and it's time to, if you will pardon the phrase, "bury it."

Anonymous said...

You condemn China for not allowing a Nobel Prize winner to collect his prize. This is indeed wrong---and I'd agree with you there.

But is this a comparable crime to America invading Iraq in a war of lies and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent people, in order to steal that nation's oil?

You need to re-read my earlier post. All I was saying is that not everything done in the name of "Communism" over the years has been evil. But apparently, you're incapable of grasping this concept. If you haven't traveled overseas, you really need to. Most Americans are utterly ignorant of the rest of the world (and then they're surprised when the world turns out to not fit their simplistic preconceptions, Example: "The Iraqis will greet us as liberators.")

If you want to believe that everything in done in the name of Communism was all evil, then go ahead. But there are many millions of people worldwide who'd disagree (hell, there are still many millions who vote Communist in Russia to this day---and those people have first-hand experience of what it was like living under Communism).

As brainwashed as Americans are to believe that everything ever associated with Communism is "evil," the fact is, Communism has done SOME good things over the years. I think this fact is more recognized in places like Europe than it is in the U.S.

re:
>>>But 20th-century communism died long ago

Excuse me? China is still very firmly Communist. It's a one-party state. Yes, there is some free-market activity, but most of the big industrial corporations are state-owned. And the Communists are in complete control of the direction of the economy. And under the Communists, many tens of millions of Chinese have risen from poverty in recent years.

But the Communists get no credit for any of that, right? No, let's blame them for anything bad that ever happened, but give them zero credit for any good that ever happened. Keep drinking the U.S. capitalist-controlled media Kool Aid.

And don't turn around and accuse me of defending everything that happened under Communism. You're misrepresenting what I say and twisting my words around. Really, what you're doing is not much different from what I hear on the likes of Fox News or U.S. talk radio.

Manifesto Joe said...

Anon, comparing the treatment of a single dissident with the U.S. invasion of Iraq (which, BTW, I opposed from day one) isn't a good analogy.

A better one is to compare the U.S. invasion with China's 60-year occupation of Tibet. Not quite the same thing, either, but it says much about the intractability of China's regime.

And regarding the Iraq war: Who's been buying U.S. Treasuries to finance our federal deficit and help bankroll that war? China has certainly had a big hand in that. If they oppose the war, they've gone about it in an odd way.

And you seem to be forgetting about Tienanmen Square. China's might crushed their democracy movement more ruthlessly than anything we saw over here at Kent State or Columbia. Hundreds, perhaps more, were killed, and many more went into exile. China's government remains highly authoritarian; and their economic growth has mostly occurred since they began liberalization policies. I certainly wouldn't recommend that they ever "liberalize" their economy in the American fashion. But their growth did not begin during their time as a classic command economy.

Oh, and ... the dictionary definition of "bigot" (1) "a person who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc." Some bigots are racists. Not all are -- it's not part of the basic definition.

From what I've read, serious communists nowadays, those who are left, don't regard China's regime has having much of anything to do with real communism. But I'd say they are fanatical romantics, clinging to a past that never was. China's "Party" has taken the route of expediency in order to retain power.

Oh, and how many elections have communists won in Russia in the past 20 years? I recall one presidential candidate who did pretty well a while back, but since then they've been beaten like a drum.