I was born a poor black boy

I’ve reached the stage of my stagnant life where I need to blame the system. Condemn the social structures that perpetuate poverty and keep people locked in cycles of self defeating behavior and despair. The old inspirational story of rags to riches is now a tale of rags to rags. The new american arc is starting out in the middle class and then sliding into the lower. You need an education to be unemployed, to have less than nothing.

You can move to work a new job but you need to find a place to live. To rent a place you need pay stubs. You need thousands of dollars and perfect credit to get to a place where you can acquire thousands of dollars and better credit. If you’ve ever had a medical emergency or went into debt because you couldn’t pay your hospital bills then you won’t get a chance.

I’ve been emailing and messaging people for weeks. Putting out ads on craigslist. They send you a message or two and then disappear. Or they want to charge you to apply for an apartment. I’ll fail any credit check. I’m not going to pay 45 bucks for a reminder that I’m a financial failure.

Sometimes you get messages that turn out to be scams. Those are especially depressing. You read an email and it sounds too good to be true. But you want to believe so you reply. And then it becomes clear. You’re talking to a robot, a ruthless program is luring you into giving up your information, your identity. The joke is on them; I have nothing. Go ahead and take what little I have.

It’s either a bureaucratic rental company with unyielding standards and indomitable procedures or it’s a sex slavery trap. A gay grooming ring. Some guy will let you stay in an extra room but he wants to meet and see how you “vibe” first. And in my desperation I think that maybe this is the only way. I’ll have to get naked and clean bathrooms and kitchens, eat out of a dog dish and wear a collar for a nightly cot. All so I have the opportunity to make 13 dollars an hour.

They say a living wage is equal to 15 dollars an hour. So the jobs I can get are beneath what’s considered the baseline for comfortable living. Whatever you’re doing on less than 15 an hour isn’t living. And then there’s the concept of a minimum wage, which is much lower than the speculative living wage. The minimum wage as law implies that employers would love nothing more than to pay you even less. In pure, free, amoral market conditions employers would pay you potato skins and ditchwater to clean factory floors.

If we liberated the market then it could be free to value us at our true worth, which is nothing. All the education, all the time and training, the critical thinking skills and learning how to think and not what to think leading you to uncritically think you’re worth more than what you could ever contribute to the economy. You hear about how jobs are just sitting there waiting to be taken but they can’t find qualified people. They can’t find enough programmers and stem people to code and build the robots that will someday replace them.

Alright, fine, I’ll learn how to build robots. But I’d need a loan for the training and I can’t get one because of my bad credit. Plus I’m innumerate. My visual and spatial reasoning abilities are subpar and I had to take a finite mathematics class multiple times to finally get my liberal arts degree. I’ve spent my entire life playing music, reading and writing and avoiding everything to do with math, science, manufacturing, technology and building things with my hands. And now I need to become a scientist, a computer and tech savvy data drone, a networker.

I’m a former classical guitarist and I have training in literary criticism. What this means is that I spent my formative years learning how to focus on arcane, artistic tasks in isolation. What I know how to do doesn’t translate into lucrative occupations. My interests and talents are great for entertaining old farts and propping up my own sense of unrecognized nobility. But the modern, digitized economy of fluid market relations, capitol flows and tech and science powered innovation has no need for me and I don’t know how to fit into it.

I have neither hard computing skills nor soft people skills. I sit somewhere in the middle, neither masculine enough to calculate and construct nor feminine enough to cultivate relationships and empathize. My IQ isn’t high enough but neither is my emotional intelligence or whatever they’re calling it to assuage people with low IQ’s.

But then again I’m falling into the rut of self pity. I’m telling myself I can’t do these things when I don’t even know. I just feel old and burnt out, trapped and obsolete. It’s the system’s fault. Why won’t the system pay me to whine for 1000 words every couple of days.

Author: The Empty Subject

Born curmudgeon

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