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Twenty Six: Man-in-disorder February 12, 2014

Posted by The Typist in 365, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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— Samuel R. Delaney in City of a Thousand Suns

I agonized for days when the recruiter called me on a Saturday night, not two hours after I posted an application for the position. I knew I was a perfect fit for the position, but I had resolved to try to remain unemployed until I finished the bachelor’s degree I abandoned 35 years ago. Still, I have bills, responsibilities, a child about to start an expensive program of graduate school in psychology I would just assume not fall into the trap of an immense college debt. A bachelors in English Literature, whatever personal satisfaction I might take from it, is worth about as much as a piece of confederate currency.

I could tell from his excited voice that the recruiter was sure he had found his man. The job was with Moloch. I knew the hiring manager, had worked closely with this department in the past. The work was precisely what I had delivered during my time at the bank, greatly to their profit: the automation of financial data exchange. I had resolved before he called to take the job if the money was right: to insist on the flexibility to finish my classes and graduate, to find some way to continue Odd Words and 365 and still read and write what was important to me, not what was on the syllabus. I essentially resolved to try to spend the next three months on a few hours of sleep a night.

Then we got down to money. The job was a contract position, at two-thirds what I had just been paid as a contractor. That figure itself was a significant takedown from what I had earned as an associate, considering benefits, Long Term Incentives and bonuses, but I had taken it. Forty dollars an hour is nothing to sneer at. America is filled with former professionals who would leap at that figure, like myself the victim of the corporate rearrangement into a contingent work force, living examples of the elasticity of demand. I am, I realize, simply another piece of just-in-time inventory, a human resource no different from a a flat of plastic parts.

As a student I hear a lot about the commoditization of instruction, the huge contingent workforce living in poverty who are educating your children in the basic of English, math, science for sometimes fantastic amounts of tuition. The closest they will get to a real professor in their first year and seven second year of college is their advisor. Still I think of going to get my master’s, to become one of them.

Why would an unemployed person walk away from $40,000 for six month’s work? Because I am politically aware enough to realize that America has taken a terrible wrong turn at the hands of people who would reduce us all to credit card penury, willing to take any job to keep the house and pay the bills. I am no longer one of those people.

At my lowest moment between the first, missed call from the recruiter and yesterday’s conversation I thought often of the anarchist in Lina Wertmuller’s The Seven Beauties. An article on the film summarizes the moment: “…against the fascist Nazi ideal of order, this anarchist holds up what one is tempted to see as Wertmuller’s “solution,” an existentialist ideal of “man in disorder.” The anarchist’s last act, when the prisoners are assembled to hear Pasqualino read off the serial numbers of the six he has chosen for death, is to walk slowly out of formation, shouting, “I’m tired of living in terror, I’m a free man. I’ll go jump in the shit—man in disorder,” and dives into the cesspool, to be followed by bullets from the guards’ machine guns.” I would rather jump into the cesspit and certain death than to cooperate with the new slave masters. I will not be the collaborator Pasqualino nor the stalag guard.

Delaney’s words in his Cold War fable are a bit a graffiti that appears recurring in the novel until the moment in which the populace realizes there is no enemy over the mountain, no real war. It has all been a construct to maintain a certain order in society. I had the experience of that bright moment after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. I have had it again, or had it reinforced. I am a free man, a man-in-disorder, free of social delusions: a defective cog with no socially responsible role in the creaking of the great American machine in its progress toward the looming cliff.


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