New Great Depression
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
By a New Mexican resident who goes by Ken Erdedy
It is 4:49 a.m. and I’m wondering what type of oral hygiene routine I should engage in before I have to leave for work. Sometimes it is next to impossible to clear the mouth of alcohol from the night before. Beer has an awful way of hovering in the back of the throat and living in the lungs, seeping out slowly, riding one's breath the following day. Wine is staining and the hangovers can be brutal. Spirits tend to be the easiest to hide if used in moderation but also the most damning if identified by others. Because what kind of respectable and responsible citizen smells of strong brandy or cheap vodka at nine in the morning during a conference on a Tuesday? The same conference room that is used for reiterating the same talking points of key performance indicators and how “We are turning the next corner of our extravagant growth and exciting purpose driven goals.”
And for as much research revealing that the rigors of the workplace can cause extreme anxiety, stress, and other deleterious health effects, it is incredibly frowned upon to try to escape that existence. For some reason our feudal overlords feel that while toiling all day we should be completely sober and entirely focused on our mundane work. Yet they jet from city to city and enjoy strong drinks before flights in airport lounges and bars and then order more alcoholic drinks on the plane! Of course, there are also booze fueled business meetings held at twilight, in exotic locations, where new million-dollar clients are courted on the workers dime. All on the backs of workers who are required to stay right and sober, perky, and prepped for more button pushing and handling messes and receiving compensation via crumbs poured into the trough by whichever capitalist is feeding.
So my Tuesday begins with a commitment to my alcoholism so I can mitigate my slavery.
I get to work at the prescribed time, not of my choosing of course, but because "Business requires consistency." When you aren't an executive or even an Uncle Tom of the business world, as in member of upper management or leadership, your value is determined by wage or salary and schedule. If you are entry level you are often relegated to the hours that you wouldn't suggest your children stay out during, hours that police wouldn't consider the safest to travel — and yet these are your normal work hours. Examples include graveyard shifts, which are known to be heart killers. The shit shifts, which might be a morning shift at a call center or the earliest shift at the food counter. Businesses will hire you and let you know that these hours are the "Business needs" so you have to comply otherwise they will find some other clerk to do your job. I find this offensive. I am of no value and yet the most value. This corporation breathes because of an army of people like me but individually I am without value because a million others can replace me and soon robots will replace me. My work hours and my pay reflect what they think of me.
See, the problem was in my choice of formal post-secondary education. I chose to study visual art, philosophy, and writing and literature. I wanted to be creative and think differently and make a living off of the ability to create carefully brushed pieces of art, craft tight, poetic pieces of writing, and ponder the metaphysics of reality. The consequence of this decision is that I work in a job where I do the heavy lifting of capitalism. I answer the calls. I clean the bathrooms. I serve the coffee. I make the fast food. I get yelled at, harassed, under tipped, and sometimes even assaulted. All because I wanted to think creatively. So here we are! I get drunk the night before work, fall asleep, wake up in a terrible mood, caffeinate heavily, try to evict alcohol breath, eat mostly nutritionally devoid food (due to time constraints), and show up to be berated and reminded that “We need to be operating at peak performance this quarter.” Or else, you know, the bread line. They like to dangle layoffs over our head and so we work under the crack of the whip. Our feudal lords do bless us with a supply of coffee! Caffeine is an acceptable stimulant.
I have gone to rallies, protests, and conferences. I go there and feel. I feel like I am still learning when I am at these events. Using my ability to think, deduce, and use logic to determine ethics and moral codes is incredibly important to me. The rallies and protests are there and they remind me that I am living and breathing and I bleed. You feel the invigoration of the rebel yell and the large crowd of similarly minded creatives demanding something more equitable. Yet, those events end and the repetition of Tuesdays remind me that I can't go and burn the system down. I mean, I could. But I would be nothing more than a lone wolf.
What then are the options here? We get to witness the destruction of society firsthand and are advised that the world outside the system is terrifying, undignified, and generally socially uncool. You would be one of those stupid socialists that think we can live in a post-capitalism system. You would be one of those crazy people. Yet the alternative for many is drinking heavily to forget the waking hours that are so mind numbing that they drive some people insane. I am torn between worlds of madness. Which do I operate in?
I think about what Tuesdays would be like in the former world. What is it like for the couple who build a tiny house on a small piece of land outside city limits? What is it like for the farmer who spends his days growing vegetables and nights smoking weed and playing guitar? What is it like for the freight-hopping anarchists who go from protest to protest fighting police, teaching first aid, and liberating food from stores to feed poor and activists alike? What is it like for those who wake up without the horrible sound of an alarm clock? What is it like for the people who wake up to live and love how they live?
I stress to obtain the money for the things I need and know that selling more of my labor power (my time and skills and mind and creativity) will provide me a longer leash and I will have more books to read, more television shows to watch, and more pre-packaged art to consume. Yet, that won't fill my void.
The work day is over. Music in my earbuds out to the car, Bluetooth connection to the car speakers. I am driving with a slice of liberation. I get home. Pour rum into a tall glass not intended for rum apportionment. I drink that down while connecting with friends via social media, laugh and scroll, and cook something easy because I am tired. Pour the next glass. Take a shower, dry off, and listen to music while I read a few pages of a book. Then I stay up watching horror stories and conspiracy stories in a YouTube rabbit hole while downing the third glass. Bottle is almost empty. A meme on Instagram reminds me of a bad previous relationship and so I down my glass. I drink the last few sips of rum from the bottle. I head to the kitchen drawer for a bottle opener. I crack open a local craft beer. I consider pouring it into my beer stein but get to drinking rather than aesthetics. I go out to the patio to smoke a joint. I go back inside and drink the rest of my beer and walk to throw it into the trash. I drop it on the floor by mistake and it shatters to pieces. I clean it. I cut myself on the brown glass and I start to bleed. I watch for a second and consider cutting again with another piece. I don't do it but I sit staring and thinking about it for far too long.
I grab another beer after sweeping and vacuuming the last bit of glass off the floor. I open it. And I start to cry. Just tears. Not the type that makes the body move or provide sound. Just streams of tears slowly dropping down my face and onto my pajamas. I take them off, lay in bed, and finish my beer. I don't have depression. I have capitalism. The symptoms are becoming terminal.