Friday, March 31, 2017

Freedom and Bar-B-Cue

I am reposting this post from March 20 because I think it is important and worth saying. It had to do with a computer contract I was doing in Birmingham Alabama under what were very painful physical circumstances for me at the time. I had a pinched nerve in my neck that lasted for six months (and longer). I was in a lot of pain and could not stand up straight but I went to work every day for those six months. I had a family to support and some things are worth doing, just like some things are worth saying...or resaying.

A few years back I was doing a computer contract for Bell South in Birmingham Alabama. It was in a corporate park. It had snowed, which was unusual for Birmingham, and by 3:00pm nobody was left in the building except me and a couple of supervisors and the security guard. I looked out the window at the parking lot and there were two cars there; mine and the one I assumed belonged to the security guard. I went up to one woman who was still there at her desk and I asked if they were closing the building.
"Why are you still here?" she asked me.
"I'm a contractor. If I'm not here I don't get paid. They own my ass."
This was the mid-nineteen nineties you understand, supposedly the era of the "New South."
Anyway, she looked up at me and with a smile that would have melted butter on a cold day, said,
"It's nice to be owned. Isn't it?"
I knew exactly what she meant, right away.
Now, if ever in my life I wanted to call a woman a "c__t" it was at that moment. Instead, not wanting to get fired, I am ashamed to say, I just gritted my teeth and walked away.

In any case, I have always regretted that I let that racist bitch get the last word. Unfortunately no matter how much of a bitch she was, what she had said about human nature was true. People do most often like to be owned or at least are accepting of it--particularly in the workplace. It relieves them of the burden of thinking-- so long as they follow the rules they know they are OK. In Trumpian America we should be particularly mindful of this attitude as in its worst incarnation, it can become fascism. I am not trying to make a political point, I am just stating something I have observed about human nature.

So, what I learned from all this is that, no matter what my mother told me, sometimes, you can't observe the niceties and the office etiquette. Sometimes you can't just be polite-- you just have to dispense with that when other people think they own you or your reality and then, even if it is snowing in Birmingham Alabama, you just have to call a spade a spade, and a "c__t" a "c__t". So while, I can't say I am proud of everything in my life--I am at least trying to make some amends at this late date.

So that is the end of the previous post and this is what I have to say about it--it is clear why the woman in this story was a piece of shit. What is not as clear is why she was right about people being willing to subjugate themselves and that was really the point of this story--that it is human nature (and a lie that we tell ourselves) that we feel we only have to right to fully define ourselves only after we have been subjugated. In marriage, we willingly mutually subjugate ourselves out of love and hence define the family as what is more important to us than our individuality--what this woman in the story was talking about was NOT a willing subjugation, it was a brutal imposition of the will of one race on another. (And the same holds true for the brutal imposition of one individual's will over an other.) The simple fact of human nature about self definition that the woman got right was that once we are subjugated to something we can begin to define ourselves anew. In the case of what she was talking about it produced the miracle of black culture in this society--in bondage black people were made free to define themselves completely. The key point and the key difference is understanding what is a willing subjugation what is one that is imposed. We all feel the need to have power to define ourselves, but if we are willing or even eager to sacrifice the one thing that his truly important --in the case of this story--freedom--then that self-definition is worthless and we have lost the one thing that is truly important. Obviously this has political implications for our present situation and we should be wary that in submitting to an enslaving ideaology (whether it be of the right or the left) or to a religion, or to a person, we should remember that it is never worth sacrificing your freedom as that is really the only thing worth having and without it--and no matter what they tell you, without it there is no such thing as love.