A Primer for the Displaced Executive



There is a certain sweetness upon the mouth of Egypt this morning and a plane crash in New York. Three mass murders across the USA this week alone commend an embarrassment of riches to CNN; the anchorwoman’s faux-grieving expression can’t fully disguise her bottomless satisfaction. She is our zeitgeist.

The USA crawls with crooks, but today most of them are members in good standing of the Better Business Bureau. It is a nation overcome by the automobile, television, the Twinkie, the Jolly Rancher. It is obvious that NOW is the moment for revolution if only we weren’t so fat and stupid and could anticipate capitalism’s flamboyant and sinister permutations, if only we could resist its rebarbative blandishments.

At the moment you are stalled-up like a veal calf and, worst of all, without caffeine’s little joybump, since you raced to work this morning and did not have time to buy coffee. This is the dream you had last night: Beings made of copper pipe drove an iron buggy upon a road of glass. You slowly recognize this as a TV commercial for medication that controls the too-frequent urge to urinate. “Good News!” the church marquee says, as you enter the business park. “God is still in Control.” Yesterday you called a woman named Colleen in Bagwell, Texas about a past-due hospital bill, but she doesn’t have a nickel to her name. “I even looked under the couch cushions,” she says. “Nothin’.” She is cool to every threat. “Bring it own,” she says in her smooth Texas drawl when you allude to garnishment. “I ain’t got a thang. What can you do?” Elites care for themselves first. This is rule one in the Christian world from which you have lately fallen, with its mad, selfish soteriology. And for all you know, where you are now is the very place on Earth from which Adam fell.

“How did you go bankrupt?” one man asks another in Hemingway’s oft-quoted  passage from The Sun Also Rises. “Two ways,” the man replies. “Gradually, then suddenly.”


This is the way you will enter the WC – otherwise known as the working class. This is how you end up making collection calls for usurers. This is how you find yourself talking to half-whispering mouth-breathing adolescents answering the phone for their intoxicated mothers. You will give a whole day of your life to these people for one-hundred dollars. You are on your own here, and the territory is hostile. Soon you will discover what parts of life can be sustained by hope alone.

Someday on a high breezy verandah in the better part of some lovely American city you will tell your grandchildren how, ten full years after receiving your Wharton Executive MBA cum laude, you were compelled by circumstances both odious and unavoidable to take a position wherein you were supervised by an emaciated, hacking, foul-mouthed, chain-smoking alcoholic named Bob who every day wore a different colored T-shirt with the same message: WHY DON’T YOU GO FUQ YOURSELF?

My wife got the set, he told you: One for each goddamn day of the week.

                    o

This morning you saw stacktrains bedecked with graffiti that was a lot more true and relevant, not to mention luminous, than anything corporate advertising turns out. You passed a business called Ultimate Image Tan and the names Emerson and Thoreau entered your mind.

                    o                        
BUT LET US BEGIN HERE: This morning you almost hit a man in the parking lot. He walked very slowly and carried a large bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper™. He weighed almost 400 lbs. This is your final victory, Displaced Executive, this replacement of wholesome food by artificially sweetened chemical drinks in plastic bottles leaching polyvinylchlorides that have addicted the common man and that has made your (former) class, at least until now, well-off.

God, it’s a depressing country. BUT LISTEN: if your antidepressant isn’t working you can try Cymbalta™! Tell your doctor you saw the TV ad, which was inexpressibly Orwellian and spent more time discussing possible side-effects (hemorrhage, for instance, or blood clots) than elucidating benefits. And if Cymbalta™ doesn’t work you can add Abilify™ (side-effects: stroke, neuraleptic malignant syndrome, tardive dyskinesia …).

The Working Class, otherwise known as the workin’ class, generally does the kind of labor you and I don’t want to do, and, except in cases of acute financial emergency, will not. One result of this low & brutal employment is widespread drug use. The WC single-handedly kicked-off the crystal meth epidemic now raging through small-town America. Crystal meth blocks the grief and despair receptors and allows one to feel briefly good about life no matter how hopeless it actually is. It is, therefore, drug of choice for the 21st Century, Cymbalta™ & Abilify™ notwithstanding.

The WC is promiscuous. That may sound like good news, but it is actually bad news, especially for you. The most attractive female on the CF (cube farm) is an FC (fundamentalist Christian) who will do her level best to seduce you. . . . Her Traditional Marriage is roughly equivalent to your Free-Market Capitalism. Both have a tendency to sepsis.

One Life To Live is on the lunch room TV where you have thirty minutes to slam the meal your wife put together earlier this morning. It occurs to you that your own life would be easier if you could see it as a drama, too. The strong move on; the weak stay put and make the best of it.

                    o

WC breakfast includes Doritos™, Oreos™, and Diet Pepsi™. Sometimes it is Red Bull™ and Jolly Ranchers™.  Lunch is little round chocolate donuts and more Diet Pepsi™. Dinner is something fatty and Tums™. Beer whenever there’s money. The WC is predictably obese. (American obesity is psychological pathology made horribly material.) It watches the worst shit on television and falls prey to shopping channels. It don’t live long. It takes the prescription drugs you relentlessly market to help it overcome its addiction to the industrial foods you relentlessly market and with which it is being poisoned. It is endearing. Once in a while a Merle Haggard or Elvis Presley emerges and shows the rest of the country how talented and unappreciated this class really is.

Occupying a cube next to yours is the biggest woman you have ever seen. Her T-shirt says, It All Come Back To Jesus. On her desk this book: Hard Sayings of Jesus by FF Bruce. All by herself she proves that sex in Amerika is now food. She has a necklace hanging from a pushpin. It is green and it has letters that say, Kiss Me I’m Irish. This woman can type almost a hundred words a minute, but couldn’t tell you where Cuba is to save her life. The Ten Commandments are tattooed in purple across her ample back. There is a special receptacle in the women’s room for her used insulin needles. She has diabetes because she is obese. She is obese because she eats your industrial food. She eats your industrial food because it is available, heavily & effectively promoted, and she likes it. This is a human being who is no longer able to care for herself in the most authentic sense of that word.

                    o    

DATELINE BREAKROOM, FOX TV: “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED, yells Judge Alex as he points his finger. His victim, a black woman, is suing another black woman for not paying a babysitting fee. However, the other woman had caught her on the couch in flagrante delicto with her husband. The WC is rapt. All eating stops as it gapes at the TV with its mouth open. It is obvious that Judge Alex speaks the language of the WC, which is identical to the language of World Class Wrestling.

Judge Alex, Judge Joe, Judge Judy – the WC is crazy for justice. Somebody’s gettin’ shkrewed, and by God, the perp is gonna pay. The genius of The System is that the “perp” is never the real Perp, i.e., The Man. He’s only some little guy just scratchin’ thru like the rest. (“The defendant is ordered to pay $296!” Judge Alex thunders.) The WC fights the WC for leftovers.

The Man? He’s 35,000 feet overhead in the Gulfstream, way the hell up there above the clouds of Heaven itself. Judge Alex nor Judge Joe nor Judge Judy cain’t touch him. They cain’t even see him. They couldn’t tell you his name.

                    o

Three cubes north you see a chair with a sign: “This chair belongs to F11. DO NOT REMOVE.” This person has a Perfect Attendance 1st Quarter 2008 award hanging in his cube, the coveted Shining Star Certificate. Thanks for going the extra mile! Thanks for raising the bar!

On Monday a soft hand falls on your shoulder. A supervisor hands you a $50 Walmart card and says thank you – for coming in on time day after day, and all the OT, which has allowed them to put off new hires – a huge savings if one takes into account training time and weeks of low efficiency.

On Tuesday you are called into a different supervisor’s office (a person you would later describe to an old college roommate as a “Pinochet manqué”) and written up for “displaying excessive empathy.” Days before, a woman in San Antonio had spoken to you in hushed tones about a defaulted tuition loan from Cinderalla’s Institute of Hairstyling & Cosmetology, and then sobbed uncontrollably. Unbeknown to you, the Super was listening in. You spent ten minutes with your bad Spanish trying to calm her and you never did ask for the money. “Your tactics left much to be desired,” the document read. “It was obvious to all who were monitoring that the caller was simply venting, and the call extended longer than it should have. You should have tried to take control of the call. The caller spoke for an excessively long time.”

Here’s something you learn early with the WC: The more microscopic the fiefdom, the more ferociously it is defended. Don’t disagree with the Supers, our new petit-bourgeoisie, even if what they tell you to do makes no sense at all. You are no position to challenge anybody.

The atmosphere on the CF is particularly ominous today, reminiscent of that which preceded the mass layoff back at The Office. At 5 pm you are summoned to a meeting in the Victory Vista Training Room. “This is not my idea,” says one of the supervisors as she turns on a video. The video turns out to be a motivational program some enterprising motivational entrepreneur has managed to sell to Kollection Korporation of AmeriKa. It features the world famous Pike’s Fish Market in Seattle (which not one of your WC colleagues has ever heard of), and the sheer enjoyment the jovial and apparently highly-caffeinated employees have at their job – which, in fact, consists of shouting and throwing fish around. While the video plays you are served little bowls of Pepperidge Farms Flavor Blasted Goldfish– this, apparently, to reinforce the message: Have a little FUN at work! You’ll feel great! You’ll be more productive and collect more past-due bills. You’ll be able to do “whatever” it takes. “And put a grin in your voice,” the super demands after the video ends. “That’s not my idea. That’s coming right down from the top.”

o

Technically speaking, the working class no longer exists if one uses the left-handed definition from half a century ago, when heroic Americans riveted bombers together and sent their children off to college to become Middle Class. China and India are now developing this type of working class (sans bombers) – but their WC is still indistinguishable from peasants or peons or untouchables. It’s not yet the same as it used to be in the USA, but precisely the way things are now, because the American WC is peon, too.

At present, this CF call-center in which you now find yourself laboring is all WC. It is, in fact, a WC CF with a good representation of FC’s, which is the direction most cube farms are going these days. Middle class Out, WC In. Wage and retirement Out, hourly In. Reality out, Christianity in. Insurance Out, on-your-own In. Let’s say there are situations on the CF that require a little technical expertise or raw intelligence. In that case, the Kollection Korporation dials up ND (New Delhi), where they can pay the expertise/intellect even less than the WC makes here – but that’s laissez-faire capitalism.

The WC endures the very worst of corporate America. You (they) get them coming and going. Wages are low and benefits rare. Then, when the WC is late with a credit card or bounces a check because the gas is going be shut off and there’s a fifty-dollar “re-connect fee,” overdraft penalties pile on top of overdraft penalties on top of overdraft penalties. This is a bonanza for the financial institution, in essence money for nothing at all. The Bank, in fact, is building a big new bank in the middle of Banktown, all paid for by overdraft fees from the WC (90% of the total of such fees is paid by the poorest 10% of the customer base) – but that’s laissez-faire capitalism.

The WC stays right where it is. Class mobility has ceased in America, unless you happen to be from India or Pakistan or China and are currently enrolled in one of our better graduate schools.

o

The WC pierces itself – tattoos you can’t explain in places you can’t imagine. The WC is a tribe that does both what it must to survive and whatever the hell it pleases.

The WC hates the cops but calls them all the time. In fact, cops were invented primarily to keep the WC in line. You did that. Good work.

If you anger the WC it will wait for you in the parking lot and kick your ass. Or it will scratch your car and smash a little dog shit under your door handle. On the other hand, let’s say the WC hates your guts but finds you pinned in your car, which has somehow crashed and rolled and caught fire on your drive home. The WC will risk
life & limb to get you out of there. After it saves your sorry Displaced Executive ass, it will stand you up and steady you and tenderly brush you off and ask what else it can do for you. Are you OK, Bro? You need a ride home?

o

You check your company email. You find a notice about a new Kollection Korp. program called The Alliance, which is, in essence, a digital rat line. “Help us maintain our Vital Values,” it says. “Now you can report behaviors which are unethical, illegal, unsafe or unprofitable without fear of reprisal. You can say what needs to be said conveniently, with integrity, and in total safety. You don’t have to give your ID Number and your calls are never recorded!”

Oh, The Man, The Man. Endlessly inventive. A real viral dude.

o

“My mesothelioma!” a man exults, when you ask him why he hasn’t made his Kollection Korporation payment this month. He says this as if referring to an infinitely precious possession. “It kicked up and I spent all my disability,” he croaks. Then he starts coughing and after a good thirty seconds of this hangs up.

Let him rejoice who breathes up here in the roseate light. ( Schiller, “Der Taucher”)

Lotsa tears in the workin’ class. Lotsa pain.

o

Shut up. Get back to work. You have bills to collect. In essence, the WC is actually collecting money from itself for your former class, the BC (Business Class). You’ve already talked to a man named Jupiter Black who owes 47K on eight credit cards with an average interest rate of 29%, and halfway through the call a violent fight erupts in the room from which he speaks and the call drops. Now ring ring again. Hello, I’m a Displaced Executive working on a WC CF. You owe X company $. They want it. (In the background you hear a television [on which someone is screaming], a baby crying, and somebody vomiting. It’s your 4th 11-hour day in a row and you’re not feeling so good yourself.) What’s that you say? – oh, I’m sorry, very sorry. Lung cancer is a terrible thing. Unfortunately, Co. X still wants its money – but hey, (sotto voce) here’s the funny thing: the company you owe money to is a subsidiary of the tobacco company whose cigarettes caused your lung cancer in the first place. They’re part of a holding company that also owns the hospital where you get your cancer treatment, and now, in a very real way, yourself, because you owe them money, too. Lung cancer does not change the equation. Garnish your wages, we will. Lien your house.

A little hit of crystal meth would make you feel a whole lot better about now.

o

To appreciate the full song of the WC, you’ll have to admit that they can do things you cannot, even with your fancy education. The 22 year-old girl next cube across: Harley shirt, small-boned with rose-colored hair. Listens to Black pimp music on  her way to work: niggas be down/niggas be aroun. Makes those calls like she’s chewin’ gum, all leaned back and relaxed-like. Collects X3 what you do. You could tell her the asteroid was on the way and she’d smile and pop a bubble. Her dark eyes would say, Who cares! Hey – I’m having a little party down at my place. You’ll have FUUUuuuuun!

The WC don’t get too excited about money ‘cus The Man just goin’ get it anyhow gotdammit. Shit.

If you weren’t part of the innermost ring of the Inner Circle back at The Corporation, nobody took care of you either when they chained the doors. (This was one week after the CEO referred to employees as “family.”) That’s why you’re here at the cube farm. That’s why you don’t have nothin’. See? Shit.

Some of these gals will still be cute for another year or two, before the full effect of Doritos™ and Mt. Dew™ and Marlboros™ really kicks in, so time’s awastin’.

Joyride to hell: disease, pregnancy, divorce, revenge.

Stress, humiliation, depression, contrition, and remorse.

o

DATELINE CF BREAKROOM: The Dark CNN News Continues: Someone’s taken cellphone videos of a Domino’s Pizza worker sticking a slice of pizza up his nose before he serves it. Now he spits on another slice. Now he sticks another up his nose. Now he spits on another piece. Ironically, the really important news – Domino’s pizza all by itself will kill you, even without the snot or saliva –  is never mentioned.

You’ve made almost seventy calls so far. Three hours still to go. Your throat is so raw you can barely speak. Where’s that truckstop throat spray?

The last debtor answered her cell phone at a hospital where she’s been admitted for heart trouble. She told you they’d wheeled her out on the patio where she’s smoking a cigarette in her gown. Don’t worry, she says between coughing fits. It’s tied in the back and I’m sittin’ down. Nobody can see my ass.

DATELINE CF BREAKROOM: CNN – Four spectacularly unattractive Midwestern women have captured a Black man in a motel room near Lake Winnebago. Claiming that that he jilted them with promises of false love while cynically accepting their money, they beat him up and superglued his penis to his abdomen. The CF women nod and whisper amongst themselves. This is not news to them. This is the way scores are settled in the WC. Mama, in fact, has done much worse several times, and never made it on the TV. Sure its kinda terrible they remark – but so what? He lived, didn’t he?

DATELINE BREAKROOM:  Tehran Riots. The beautiful black-haired Persian could not have known that images of her punctured body would be utilized in the United States to sell laxatives and nasal spray on CNN.

She died for liberty.

Which is synonymous with capitalism.

o

If all you lose is a hamburger job there’s no further to fall – but then what? Another hamburger job? If you can find one. Or tech school to train for a job that went to Bangalore three years before? There’s a guy in town who stands on the street in a Statue of Liberty costume waving a sign for a cellphone store. Maybe that’s the bottom of the barrel. But by now you’re not so sure. You check your Monster account. This is what it says:

SYSTEMS DIRECTOR
GROUND MOVING TARGET INDICATOR ANALYSIS
VANGUNT GROUP
OMAHA

Still depressed? Now there’s Prestiq™ (side effects: bizarre behavior, hallucinations, aggressiveness, hostility, suicidal thoughts or attempts, worsening of depression …). The ad features a rundown windup doll and a woman with the most pleading, desperate expression you have ever seen on a human face. Could that be me? you ask yourself. Am I that far gone?

o

Now that you’re WC for real you’ll need guns, both long and short.

When it comes to the Sheriff and the WC, this is what’s important to understand: No matter how polite and compliant you are, he’s goin’ kick your ass. It’s just that simple. Way out wherever they git you, there won’t be no witnesses. Even if there are witnesses, there won’t be no witnesses. Sometimes the deputies will Tase you for practice, but more likely for fun or because they’re bored. They’ll top it off with a little Mace just to see what happens. RESISTING ARREST the police report will read. Upon discovering from what great heights you have fallen The Judge will likely ignore the RA and deal only with the DUI – which will still be a financial boon to the county, thank you very much, but allow you to return to your miserable job a little sooner.

In the paper you see an announcement for a free professional employment seminar hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. It’s on a Sunday, so you can attend. Here are a few things you learn:

Your resumé must contain a WOW FACTOR or it’s worthless. . . .
You CAN’T WAIT to get to work, even if you’ve got diphtheria.
If The Man actually says Yes and makes an offer, you will still be nothing more than an interchangeable dog turd, laboring at something unimaginably insignificant.
Don’t wear a brown suit to an interview. Brown makes you look weak.

                    o
After a lifetime of heavy smoking, WC mom and dad are on death’s doorstep. WC son and daughter will certainly make a connection when they themselves light up but since they are radically fatalistic, this makes no difference. Extreme fatalism is the hallmark of the WC, and comes through experience – but since the experience is circular, and so few break out of the WC loop, it is also radically solipsistic, which tends to invalidate its value as an indicator of absolute – as opposed to WC – reality.

Without a breach in the WC wall, there is no new paradigm and no hope. There is only Jesus when the end comes.

o

More than other classes, the WC talks with its eyes. For instance, when you give the woman behind the counter at JiffStop four quarters, three dimes and three pennies for a fraction of a gallon of gas, she will say O for Christ’s sake, or You poor thing, or I hate my life, too, without moving her lips at all.

You go back to Cash2Go and apply for another loan. The “Executive Vice-President,” who turned down your first loan application (not enough time with Kollection Korporation Amerika), again eyes your bank statement and paystubs in the same slow, suspicious manner. But now he’ll give you $400 for two weeks. This will cost you $60.

Humiliation: unavoidable. You feel it in your pants as you pocket the money and walk out the door.

When you seat yourself in your car you unfold and read the contract: Annual Percentage Rate: 391.07%.

Hunker down a few years in poverty and fear, boy. Keep your eyes & ears open. Listen: This ain’t field labor. You ain’t diggin’ roadways with your bare hands at 20 below in the Soviet Gulag. You ain’t gut-shot on Iwo Jima. A little scripture readin’ won’t hurt you, neither.

Contemplate the dirty gray weave of your cube partition walls, this new and important component of your existence. Imagine that labor in that factory in that godforsaken country that breathed the dust and fumes and endured the heat and noise to make the materials of which your own little prison now consists. Pretty funny, isn’t it?

Oh, The Man. The Man is Endless!

             


 














                           

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