My neighbor came up to me today with tears in his eyes.
“I got laid off this week,” he told me.
“OH NO! I said, “WHY?”
“The bike shop I work at. I was the oldest employee. I got paid the most. Bike shops in the winter are dead. ”
A few years ago, I got laid off, right before Christmas. I really feel where my neighbor is coming from.
Why are so many of us looking for work and not finding it?
The tantalizing illusions offered by our consumer culture, however, are vanishing for most citizens as we head toward collapse.
The jobs we are shedding are not coming back, as the White House economist Lawrence Summers tacitly acknowledges when he talks of a “jobless recovery.”
The belief that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the accumulation of vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others is exposed as a fraud. Freedom can no longer be conflated with the free market. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out. And class warfare, once buried under the happy illusion that we were all going to enter an age of prosperity with unfettered capitalism, is returning with a vengeance. …
As the pressure mounts, as the despair and desperation reach into larger and larger segments of the populace, the mechanisms of corporate and government control are being bolstered to prevent civil unrest and instability.
The emergence of the corporate state always means the emergence of the security state.
This is why the Bush White House pushed through the Patriot Act (and its renewal), the suspension of habeas corpus, the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” warrantless wiretapping on American citizens and the refusal to ensure free and fair elections with verifiable ballot-counting. The motive behind these measures is not to fight terrorism or to bolster national security. It is to seize and maintain internal control. It is about controlling us.
I asked him,
“What will you do now?”
He said, “Well, I have a little unemployment, so I’ll be okay for now, but I just get so scared about the future!”
And yet, even in the face of catastrophe, mass culture continues to assure us that
- if we close our eyes,
- if we visualize what we want,
- if we have faith in ourselves,
- if we tell God that we believe in miracles,
- if we tap into our inner strength,
- if we grasp that we are truly exceptional,
- if we focus on happiness,
our lives will be harmonious and complete. WRONG.
This cultural retreat into illusion, whether peddled by positive psychologists, by Hollywood or by Christian preachers, is magical thinking. It turns worthless mortgages and debt into wealth. It turns the destruction of our manufacturing base into an opportunity for growth. It turns alienation and anxiety into a cheerful conformity. It turns a nation that wages illegal wars and administers offshore penal colonies where it openly practices torture into the greatest democracy on earth. And it keeps us from fighting back.
If you too are worried that you might be laid off, or deemed expendable in some way, you are not alone.
You can’t just close your eyes and visualize success.
We can’t just retreat into illusion, as Chris Hedges says.
We know times are tough, so what are we doing about it?
How can we protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from magical thinking, and government control?
What will you do in 2014 to help the long-term unemployed?