April 12, 2017

Israel Daramola co-wrote “Work” with PartyNextDoor.

[Ed.- The country seems to be disintegrating at a remarkable pace. Every day brings a fresh deluge of horror. In Alternative Facts, Israel Daramola pauses for a second to look back and take stock of the previous week to ten days. There’s danger in retreating into a shell and letting it wash over you; it’s important to catalogue each new, impossible wrong.]

I’ve been gone for a bit. Maybe you noticed but you probably didn’t, you have other things going on in your life. If you really care though, I’ve been falling through an endless pit of anxiety, depression and lite substance abuse like a Mortal Kombat character on the “continue?” screen. It’s been a lot and, though I’m fine now, there’s no end in sight yet and it all comes down to not being able to find a new job.

Jobs are arguably the most important thing in our society. It can be the difference between being well-off and living in poverty or living in poverty and being homeless. Not only have we accepted this role in our lives, we celebrate it. We champion “hard work” and going above and beyond as a guaranteed key to success. Self-help media about wealth and success are billion-dollar businesses. Every couple of months you’ll read or watch on the news a story about a low wage worker who has to go through intense circumstances like walking 10-plus miles or shoveling through the snow just to show up at a job. These stories are considered heartwarming tales of the human spirit and “by any means necessary” attitudes towards achievement and success–at no point does anyone feel the need to question why this person isn’t paid enough by the job they work so hard for in order to be able to afford transportation or other life necessities.

On average, somewhere are 22 million workers in America are underemployed and more than half of Americans feel overwhelmed and burnt out by their jobs: essentially people aren’t paid enough yet are worked too much. Despite this, the idea of hard work being the key to success still persists. There is no bigger evil in America than “laziness”; “laziness” is used to dismiss very real issues such as the fight for equal pay and the need for a higher minimum wage. Too many Americans continue to buy into America’s Lottery Mentality: thinking of themselves as eventual millionaires waiting for their golden ticket to arrive and, as a result, have been complacent with a society that is continuing to lower wages even as the cost of living increases and any semblance of a middle class disappears.

I have thought a lot about working this week. It started with the NCAA college basketball championship game which of course brings back the discussion of paying student athletes (more on that in a bit). These thoughts continued as I waited for any notification from the jobs I applied/interviewed for which of course did not come. It was two years ago when I realized that I don’t actually want a job. An obvious statement, of course–nobody WANTS a job–but still you’re not supposed to say that. I am the child of immigrant parents and, like many immigrants, they came to America for work opportunities that were not as readily available or lucrative in their home country. For my parents, a job is work. The idea of “doing what you love” made no sense to them –even with my mom who started her own business. You don’t enjoy your job and you’re not supposed to; you work to provide; you put your job down and persist and hope that you’ll make enough money to stay alive.

The comedian Patrice O’Neal once said, “I wanted to be a comedian because I was a funny kid.. and then I found out what comedy [i.e.- the business] was. And it ain’t funny”. This could describe writing for me, but really it could describe anything you’re passionate about enough to pursue a career in. “If you do what you leave then you’ll never work a day in your life” is probably the biggest crock of shit you can here. Everything changes when it becomes work. Work at its core is relentless, unending and frustrating; and then when you combine it with the politics of the American workplace and the expectations of hard work above anything, it only intensifies the anxiety that work provides.So considering all that, the fucking least you deserve is a livable wage.

The American workplace is a pool of replaceable cogs keeping the machine afloat and to hide the fact that the majority is underpaid, it pits the cogs against each other promising the ultimate prize to the hardest worker. If you’re the type that feels guilty or anxious when you take a sick day when you’re literally dying, that is not on accident. It is the desired outcome. You are being worked to death on purpose because you are expendable pushers of the wheels of capitalism. This week the New York Times ran an article about Ben Carson’s vague plans for HUD. In it he is being given softball interview questions by two friends, one of whom is Steve Harvey, who said the following:

“I like calling people capital, because you know what? It makes people who are capitalists pay attention a little bit better,” he said. “If I looked at everybody as a stack of money, I could love them so easy.”

It’s not just that this is catastrophically stupid–it is literally how our society already works. Human beings are not people, they are capital. They are only as necessary as the worth they provide and/or the money they spend. It’s beyond stupid to admit that it’s easier to care about someone when you think of them as “capital” rather than a human, because it’s exactly this reason why our society does not care about the people who inhabit it. I do not know what will happen to me, maybe I’ll find a new job and hate it like the old one, maybe I’ll continue to fantasize about the once in a lifetime opportunity that comes to other Internet denizens like Desus Nice or Shea Serrano–though that’s doubtful as hell. That’s reality: you’re either chosen for a better life or you’re a bean ground up in the machine. So it goes.

The Week’s News Stories

  • Let’s just be clear about something: Trump doesn’t want war. He wants to seem tough, he wants people to stop talking about Russia, he wants to seem like he’s in charge and he probably wants a sandwich to shove in his fat, flabby fucking face; but he does not war, except maybe only in theory. On Thursday night, Trump ordered dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles to be fired on Syrian airfields in response to a chemical attack that killed dozens of citizens. Considering that this show of “force” comes with the knowledge that Russia–and as a result, Syria and Assad–was informed before the strike happened and that there is a ban on refugees trying to escape war in Syria in America, this looks like nothing but an expensive and callous PR stunt by  president that needs any positive spin amidst increasing information about Russian ties. And it worked. People from both sides of the aisle, seem to think that this “hard line stance” taken on Syria was presidential and necessary because if there is one thing republicans and democrats can agree on, it is warmongering and being the world police. We really do deserve this fucking cheeto puff as a president.
  • Jared Kushner has been given every vacant job in the White House and is slowly becoming the blob in chief’s number 2 now that he’s grown irritable over Steve Bannon being treated like the secret genius in charge. Kushner’s ascent is essentially watching Gob Bluth when he became the face of the Bluth company in season 2 of Arrested Development. Far from an innocent figurehead but definitely not to be mistaken for a secret mastermind. Anyway fuck him.
  • Bill O’Reilly is a fat faced, fuckstick of a human who sexually assaults women in order to feel like more of a man. His insecurity is so high that he uses his job and status as a bargaining chip to try and get laid and when it doesn’t work out he turns into a literal crying baby. He once derided Ludacris and get his lucrative Pepsi deal taken from him because he raps inappropriately about women and, like all powerful conservative white men, he has a problem with words despite the fact that his actions are worse than anything Ludacris has ever rapped about. He is a weakling, he is a creep. If Michael Jordan’s eyes had a face it would be Bill O’Reilly’s. Fuck Bill O’Reilly forever.
  • Ok let’s talk about student athletes: they should be paid based on the money they generate the school. I can’t even bring myself to entertain any other arguments and I don’t know how you can be an intelligent person and argue the opposite. The majority of student athletes will never play sports at the professional level, yet still they give wear out their bodies in order to make the university they play for rich as well as a select group of coaches and staff. In return they get what? A “free education”? You have a lot to learn about the worth of a degree if you think a free ride to college is equivalent to the billions of profit made for the schools. And this implies that the best case scenario of having the time or the opportunity to have your scholarship long enough to actually graduate from school. Whether you like it or not, athletics are a job: it requires the time and effort that a job does with none of the benefits. Sports are actual work even if you want to pretend it isn’t and hold onto some phony idea of “amateurism” as a Norman Rockwell ideal of focused, hardworking kids who excel in both sports and academics. Your school does not give a fuck about whether its athletes succeed in class, they just want the perception of it to pass whatever NCAA standards exist and of course bragging rights which is what every school actually care about. It’s not secret that racism plays a part in this discussion about paying student athletes but past that, society does not think highly of people who “just play sports”. Sports are the biggest business in the world yet we deride the people who play them: we resent their popularity, we resent that they go to the same school we’ve decided we are more deserving of our place in and we resent the money they actually do make at a professional level. Regardless how you feel about sports or athletes, if you are the tools used to create billions of dollars in profit, you deserve a fair share of it. It should be that way for everything in our society but that’s a much larger conversation. The point is: pay the fucking players already.

Song Of The Week

BXHXLD – “I’m Doing Well”

I’m not all the way alright, but I’d like to pretend to be. Also this is a good song.

That’s all I got. R.I.P. Glenn O’Brien, The Style Guy was a great read for a young kid interested in writing and not being a complete slob all his life. Your story is a true inspiration.

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