Friday, July 23, 2010

Corporate Punks, and Other Non-Sequiturs

I hate the army and I hate the RAF
I don’t wanna go fighting in the tropical heat
I hate the civil service rules

And I won’t open letter bombs for you

Career opportunities are the ones that never knock

Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock

Career opportunities, the ones that never knock

-- The Clash, "Career Opportunities"

I couldn't be a punk if you dolled me up in a ripped t-shirt and safety pins, teased my thinning hair into some pathetic semblance of a Mohawk, and gave me unlimited Cockney elocution lessons. And, despite my sporadic efforts, I apparently don't qualify as much of a corporate American, either. So I'll admit from the start that the title of this post is absurd. But grant me this: I think Joe Strummer had it exactly right. Economic recovery my ass.

Another thing I am not is an economist, so I have no idea how this is all going to shake out; whether this is some momentary, albeit several-years-and-counting, blip on the otherwise-bright horizon, or some cataclysmic hemorrhage in the vaunted American Dream. Being an extreme melancholic sort, where the glass is neither half full nor half empty, but rather contains a few botulism-filled drops that are utterly insufficient to slake a thirst, and will kill you if you dare to swallow, I tend to gravitate toward the latter view. But what do I know?

Here's what I do know: There are currently two types of jobs available in Columbus, Ohio. The first type requires you to say words like "Cash or Charge?" and "Grande or Venti?" If you have a master's degree, as I do, you won't even get a sniff, because you're overqualified. These jobs only require a bachelor's degree, as the 82% of 2009 graduates from Ohio colleges who are now working minimum-wage retail positions have found out. The second type is the contract consulting position, which pays a straight hourly rate without benefits. You'll be qualified for these positions (possibly as many as two at a time in a metro area of 2 million people), but you'll be competing with anywhere from several hundred to a thousand people for the same job. If you're fortunate enough to secure one of those jobs, you'll be given somewhat meaningful work for three months, maybe six months, or, alternately, a day or a week or whatever period of time the employer decides. Timeframes mean nothing. A thousand years is as a day in the eyes of the Lord, and six months is as a day in the eyes of an employer. This is the way it goes. If you don't like it, you can be unemployed for all 365 days per year instead of 364.

There are no other alternatives. Let me repeat that. There are no other alternatives. Welcome to the brave new world.

The irony is that poor, uneducated yobs have understood this for eons. The truth is just now filtering down (almost wrote "up," but it's most definitely down) to the middle class. Historically, the poor, uneducated yobs suffer under this yoke for a while and then all hell breaks loose, and eventually palaces are burned down and prisoners are set loose and kings and queens are beheaded, or nuked, etc. Only bread and circuses seem to delay the inevitable revolution. Go Bucks.

So, in the midst of these little economic epiphanies, I'm reading Babylon is Burning by Clinton Heylin, a great history of punk music. It's probably a dangerous book anytime, but it's particularly incendiary given my current mood. Can you tell? And the punks simply did what great music has always done -- get in peoples' faces and tell the truth. London in 1977 was full of unemployed, hopeless yobs and bread and circuses. It was the Queen's Jubilee Year, a time of great celebration, of pomp and glory, until Johnny Rotten hijacked the airwaves:

God save the queen, she ain't no human being
There is no future, and England's dreaming

Thank God for the snot-nosed truth tellers. Somebody needs to do it again, cut through the morass of political speeches and photo ops and lies that pass for Want Ads. Who will be this generation's Joe Strummer or Johnny Rotten?


Burningbluesoul said...

Fantastic post Andy; really smart.

hewhocutsdown said...

the truth-tellers in music at present are, for me at least...

[in punk]:
Fucked Up

[in hip-hop]:
Saul Williams
Mr. Lif

aaronstrumpel said...