The Poor Right Winger

Originally published on Straw Dogs in the summer of 2012…

What do working poor right wingers hope to get out of slavishly supporting the ultra wealthy?

The move is well under way here in Ontario to dismantle unionized skilled labour.Teachers have had bargaining rights stripped and contracts made irrelevant by a cynical government willing to do anything to chase votes. It’s the votes that they’re chasing that have me baffled. What do working poor conservatives hope to gain out of supporting right wing positions that seem intent on wiping out the middle class?

I’ve been trying to understand the thinking of the working poor conservative in this. They think that supporting the rich will pay off? It never has historically.  The middle class has a much better history of opening its ranks to up and comers than does the aristocracy. If you’re smart and hard working and able to see things through, you’re almost guaranteed a place in the professional classes.

I don’t mean to sound elitist when I say professional classes. These are skilled laborers, everyone from surgeons and teachers, to nurses and mechanics. Yet these accessible, skilled groups are the very people under attack by right wing interests who seem intent on racing to the bottom in a global market in order to make Ontario competitive. Competitive? With what, China?

Nothing short of a miracle will get you into the 1% who are intent on taking everything for themselves, yet poor conservatives seem unhappy with anything but the complete dissolution of the middle class. I don’t get the thinking. There is a reason why the ultra-rich who are too big to fail are only 1% of the population.

Wouldn’t you want to keep the working, skilled, professional levels of society as healthy as possible in order to eventually join them? Holding out for a place in the 1% feels like desperation, the kind of thing an idiot would do. It seems like the story of a house slave who has been up to the big house and now puts on airs, acting like the plantation owners, thinking that there is empathy there. The rich-poor gap is wider now than it was then. Just because you like their big houses and how they act doesn’t mean you’ll ever see one, or be considered one of them. You’re a tool they use for their own ends, but you’re content to be a tool.

The working poor often battle one sided upbringings that make it difficult to effectively access the educational opportunities they are given (GIVEN!) by public education. I suspect this failure grates on them as they get older, and rather than accept their own failure to grasp opportunities, they would rather dream of ‘being rich’, and nurture an ongoing hatred for the teachers and education workers who they feel put them in their place. It makes for a handy target for a cynical government looking to raise right wing antipathy of public workers.  You have to wonder how far that cynicism can go.

The ‘I identify with Donald Trump more than a paid professional’ thinking speaks to an idealized vision the poor conservative has of themselves. One day they’ll be rich and at their ease through no effort of their own, just like all those rich people they so admire.  They’d rather dream of being like the aristocracy than roll up their sleeves and make something of themselves.  It’s a lot easier to fantasize about being rich than it is to realize you don’t rate as a capable skilled labourer.

Those skilled workers contribute to society, paying taxes, producing educated citizens, protecting people and property, and maintaining its infrastructure.  Only the rich selfishly leech from it, hiding their wealth and avoiding paying taxes at all costs. The idiot sub-class of right winger worships them for this and thinks it’s an ideal they should aspire to.

The professional classes are the engine of the economy. Shop clerks, manual laborers and other script followers don’t depend on their own competence, or care for standards, or invent new technologies, or work to improve their profession and society as a whole. The incompetent working poor grumble, complain, whine, and then vote for the right wing government that looks like it supports their own myopic self hatred. They swing democracies by the tail, bringing back a rule by idiot mob that any Roman would recognize. These asinine people support the ultra-rich, who consist mainly of people whose money works for them so they don’t have to be capable of doing anything at all.

I guess I can see why an uneducated, lazy jackass would sympathize with greed, self-interested and short shortsightedness.  These are traits that the working poor conservative share with the one-percenter.  How could the poor, unskilled right winger have anything in common with a firefighter, doctor, teacher or engineer who performs skilled labour that demands continual effort, improvement and expertise?

A new article today: Ontario the worst place for widening gap between rich and poor

But we’re all much happier now…

The stats back up that officer’s anecdotal experience.

I’ve had a number of conversations in the past few weeks that shed some light on a difficult subject. This all began at my men’s yoga class.  One of the other guys there is a detective from the city south of us. He has been working on homicides for the past nine years and is starting to feel the weight of being around that much death all the time. He said the hardest part of is job is seeing his own demographic so prevalent in the suicides he covers. When I asked what he meant he said the suicides always seem to be guys in their forties and fifties. That was a heavy way to start a yoga class full of guys in their forties and fifties and not the kind of thing you soon forget.

From that I went into Christmas. The last couple of years have been good with trips away to warmer places. These adventures have been a great alternative to having how dysfunctional my family is rubbed in my face for two weeks. After a long bout of mental illness, a divorce and a suicide the local family members aren’t very good at getting together and all the rest are an ocean away. I feel remarkably isolated during the holidays and getting generic presents from in-laws only serves to emphasize how peripheral I am to the festivities. I can see why some people struggle with the season while the rest are manically happy.

With that all behind me I attended a lodge meeting this week that developed into a very insightful discussion by a group of sharp men on the steady deterioration of social interaction between our gender in the past two decades. Evidently I’m not the only man who feels socially isolated. Many older members lamented the lack of time and the means to enjoy that social time together. My sardonic reply was, ‘yeah, but we’re all much happier nowadays.’ Attendance in masonry is an ongoing concern. Twenty years ago the social aspects of the craft were central to a meeting with brothers often socializing long after the meeting was done. Back then we had time for each other, nowadays our commutes are longer, our work expectations more stringent and our family commitments more involved. We have less time for each other in the Twenty First Century.

We’re feeling time squeezed at a time when our debt levels are going through the roof in a desperate attempt to maintain that standard of living we enjoyed two decades ago. One of the first things you try to curtail when you see debt spiraling out of control are optional social events. The economics of Twenty First Century life is just another force acting to tear us apart. As Axl so aptly once said, ‘as our arms get shorter our pockets get deeper.’

Running the desperate treadmill of modern life has us feeling like we have no time to make connections with each other. To fix this problem we cunningly invented social media to fill that gap. You can stay in touch without sitting in traffic in crumbling infrastructure while burning ever more expensive gasoline to see people, but you’re not really seeing them. Having the time and means to actually meet your fellows and spend time with them without feeling like you need to be virtually or physically elsewhere is a basic human need many men have forgotten. I’m willing to bet many of those suicides my yoga buddy attended were lonely men feeling socially isolated.

The health considerations of poorly socialized, less active men are bad for everyone. I keep getting told to be active. I’d love to play hockey or soccer as I once did, but there is no access to the local cliques who do it. Men tend to be remarkably tribal and don’t like taking in outsiders. That makes it difficult to play team sports if you’re not living where you grew up with the people you grew up with (that’s most of us).

I’m going to make a concerted effort to try and cultivate the time and space to find the social discourse I seem to have grown out of as a middle-aged man. My family and my work are important, but so is finding the time and means to experience meaningful relationships with other men. It might even lead to exercise and a chance to expand my social network into something beyond words on a screen.

5 Things To Do As You Die

1.  Enjoy the silence.  You don’t realize what a noisy contraption you’ve spent your life in.  Blood pressure, thumping heart, straining muscles, bones and meat.  When it all finally stops listen to the world, even if it’s just for a moment, without the factory noises you’ve been experiencing your whole life.

2.  Let it all go.  Unclench from all of those assumptions foisted on you by other people.  From the truly fictional like economics, religion and politics, to our trivially incomplete understanding of the universe, let it all go because none of it matters, none of it is real.  All the things you thought you were: your nationality, class, race, gender, religion, values, they’re all just constructions foisted on you by other semi-sentient hairless apes, usually for their benefit.  You’ve laboured your whole life to maintain those fictions.  Enjoy the freedom of realizing it’s all nonsense.  The debts you paid, the country you lived in, the church you attended, all of these fictions are just that.  There is no heaven or hell, there is no reckoning.  You are made of reality and back to reality you go, complete and unencumbered by fear, doubt or coercion.

3. Enjoy the thought of no thought.  Why on earth would you want to cling to this semi-sentient, broken way of existing?  Our minds are barely conscious.  Moments of lucidity are fleeting at best, then we’re back to habit and impulse driven by instinct.  Living forever in this limited mode would be agony!  Hopefully you spent your time as a bipedal ape on the third rock from the sun being a good animal, helping more than you hurt, but if you’re typical of your species you took as much as you could for yourself exploiting all those fictions in the process.  An eternity as an instinct driven, selfish, barely conscious monkey?  I’ll pass.  Enjoy the end of thought from that power hungry miracle brain you’ve spent your whole life feeding so that it could convince you you’re something more than the universe that created you.

4. Become other things.  You don’t really have a choice in this, and it’s been happening even while your gimpy conscious strings together enough moments to make you think you’re you.  We’re constantly becoming other things.  You aren’t made of the same stuff you were when you came into this world, and now all that you are will become a myriad of other things.  So it has always been.  Fall back into the scheme of things; enjoy going home.

5. Laugh at the inevitable.  Death isn’t something to fear, and it certainly isn’t something we should be trying to stamp out with religion or technology.  Death isn’t darkness, it isn’t a lack of light.  It isn’t peace, it isn’t a lack of conflict.  Death is the end of having to stand knee deep in the shit people believe in, it’s the end of having to stand at all.  Your oh so brief moment of sentience is at its end (thank goodness!).   As human being recedes and you cease to be you, laugh and enjoy the experience, you won’t have any more.  Why would you want your last moments peering through this shackled and misunderstood existence to be ones of panic or regret?  That’s such a human reaction.  Laughter is a way to embrace selflessness.