Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Used

Usually, one needs to find themselves at the end of a long life, typically a nursing home, to get to where I've been prematurely sentenced since age 50.

Usually, one has to find themselves at that metaphorical rail yard at the end of the train line to discover what utter irrelevance truly is. That's when you get so old and feeble that no one depends on you to do anything, not even to not drool or even to shit your Depends. I've worked in two nursing homes. I know what the fuck I'm talking about.

I'm not talking about the necessity of managed health care for the elderly, even though it could use a paradigm shift on many fronts. I'm talking about superannuated irrelevance. I'm talking about the premature pasturization of those still young enough to contribute something to the world.

This is what I and many of us have had to live with as we're treated by the empowered as if we were as disposable as used Kleenexes. We're told we don't deserve a chance to contribute to society, to make our own way in the world because we're not good enough or smart enough or talented enough or connected enough. Many of us have been put to pasture and made completely irrelevant not because of a glut of talent or jobs but just the opposite.

I suppose it's inevitable to find oneself at the end of the life to be justifiably irrelevant. Mental and physical faculties decline and one can no longer keep up with an increasingly frenetic, rapidly-paced world. But what of us younger ones?

When I was a kid of 20-21 and full of myself, I thought I was some undiscovered, disrespected prodigy, the very stereotype of the starving young poet toiling away in a garret (In fact, for a brief time in the spring of 1979, I did live in a garret in historic downtown Concord, a place very conducive to poetry).

Of course, at the time, when I was pestering older poets with letters trying to get them to read my half-assed work, I didn't realize at the time I was still 5-6 years from writing anything that would be publishable. I wouldn't break into print with "little" magazines until January 1985 and virtually all that I wrote before 1984 wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

My first forays into novels about 15 years after I moved out of that garret were hardly any better. Here's the funny thing: My first completed effort, a sci fi, time travel novel, got me an agent in no time flat. Obviously, it didn't sell but it still got in the hands of the biggest and brightest editors out there at the time.

Now that I'm 1000% better as a novelist, I find it impossible to get even the cursory interest of agents who were barely out of diapers when I wrote my first novel. I get form rejection letters from the flunkies of the agents I was told to address in particular. No one wants to read beyond chapter one. That contest to which I'd submitted American Zen? I just found out two days ago it didn't even make the first cut (1000 semi-finalists).

I don't get any more respect from employers and scumbag, predatory temp agencies and people in general. I do not want handouts. I simply want the chance to contribute to the economy, to my country, my world. To show what I can do even if it's merely in a factory making $9-10 an hour. But those who have power over my life, all our lives, continually tell me I'm simply not worth that middling chance and risk they'd take.

I am disposable, a used up human being not one person thought worthy of salvaging and many of us can honestly say the same. I cannot even give it away. This is not a world as much as a massive crime scene filled with innumerable evidences of offenses against humanity, the environment, the economy, the job market. Most of the 99% are casualties.

And we're told, "Sorry, not hiring," "Not interested." "Not taking on new talent." "Make out this and maybe you'll get a preliminary interview." "You're not good enough, experienced enough, talented enough, employed enough."

Yeah, they're now ignoring the unemployed as literary agencies now ignore the unpublished, thereby directly insinuating themselves right into the heart of the problem without once realizing that irony. Far from being the solution to the problem, they have become the very problem itself.

And they remain unmindful of that collateral damage. Not their problem, not their concern. There's money to be made and we can't just give away the chance to enrich us to just anybody.

But this is why I write, why I blog, why I write novels and wrote poetry. I cannot reach people any other way. My generation and perhaps the one that came after it, are perhaps the first ones that found themselves in the position of not being able to make the world a better place than how we found it. I tried and I failed because those with power cannot be trusted to do anything except enrich itself and to retain that power even at the expense of lives and livings and homes and dreams.

I was wrong in my callow youth about my poetry. It really wasn't worth the paper it was written on. But I was barely out of my teens and barely had a critical faculty. At 53, I'm now in a position to state with some authority that I know how to write, if nothing else. I know how to reach people and I know how to put a damned good story together regardless of what the fucking idiots in the publishing business think.

I know I could be a damned good asset to a company and make a good account of myself and get promoted as with my next-to-last job. I refuse to believe that I am disposable, worthless, when I'm at the height of my powers as a writer. I refuse to believe that I will never work again for anybody because my hands, back and mind are as strong as ever.

Do not let anyone ever tell you you are worthless and expendable. You are unique and therefore precious to the universe, from the nucleus in every red blood cell out to the pores in your dermis. You are a human being and you have worth, Goddamnit. Do not ever let any employer, temp agency, literary agency, publisher or anyone fool you into believing otherwise.


At February 26, 2012 at 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi JP,
I’m a fan who wants you to know that I appreciate what you do. You are an exceptional talent and deserve to be successful. When I read your blog I feel like a mooch because I cannot help support your genius financially. I feel the same way when I listen to NPR, but there always seems to be too much month at the end of my money.
My 34 year old son is also a "disposable person". He suffers from a serious mental disorder in addition to a physical disability. It’s said a society can be judged by how well it treats its most vulnerable citizens. I give America a big fat F. I never knew my father and my son has no grandfather because he sacrificed his life in WWII to protect the hypocritical religious fanatics and psychopathic thieving bastards that control our lives.
I know you can’t stop doing what you do so I hope you get a break soon.
Mike in Moo Hampshire

At February 26, 2012 at 2:02 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Jesus, Mike, you're not a mooch. I started out by giving it away for many years and even then I put up the Paypal button as a courtesy for those who'd asked for it, back when I was working.

At March 1, 2012 at 2:46 AM, Blogger Stan B. said...

As someone just scraping by (and largely because of plastic), I know the constant fear, the lingering self doubt, the steadily eroding degradation you allude to. And it's currently all too real for all too many people. I remind myself exactly what you remind yourself and urge others to remind themselves. But our "greed is good" society constantly tells us different, and the lie beats us down every damn day we struggle to lift our head just one more time- before it becomes the last time.

I too once thought I had much to give, I still do, but one has to evolve and adjust to one's current reality. I'm not sure what that reality is, or how I'll possibly better my situation in it. Democrats certainly don't offer us hope, and hearing Republicans speak only proves that hope has long left the conversation.

The future I once looked forward to is now one of diminishing returns; I live day to day, and I refuse to give up... but as long as we continue to strangle the very planet that sustains us without regard or care, it's a bit ridiculous to think that we as a people, as a race, are going to do any better this coming century. The next will look very different, and not for the better. We are not changing course to avoid the catastrophe ahead, we're plunging full steam ahead in full denial. This economic mess is just the preview.


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