Collapse, Race, and Class

I’ve often been struck by the extent to which collapse-phobia is a predominantly white, middle-class phenomenon.

It seems that whites, many of whom have very comfortable lifestyles and significant dynastic wealth, are the ones most terrified of collapse, however defined – stock market crash, empty shelves in the stores, civil order breakdown, panics, natural disasters, resource depletion, etc. They are the ones in panic mode–buying gold, stockpiling guns, buying rural land, hoarding supplies, learning how to forage, installing solar panels, stocking up on rice and beans, etc. Many of the people I have met who are concerned about economic collapse and environmental unsustainability have advanced degrees (not cheap), and live comfortable lives that I could only dream about in terms of expensive houses, families, and job security. By contrast, most lower-income people I have dealt are totally were unaware of the issues surrounding collapse–economic fragility, environmental destruction and climate change, our dependence on fossil fuels for everything, the creeping police state–and probably wouldn’t care too much if they did know about them.

Now, you would expect the poorest people in society to be the ones most afraid of a potential collapse, not people who are quite privileged and well-off. After all, they are society’s most vulnerable people. Any collapse would surely hit them hardest, right? But that’s not what you see.

The reason I think poor people are not very well-represented in the collapse community (to the extent that there is one) is because for them, the wealthy, white, middle-class fears have already been realized in their day-to-day reality.

That is, they’re already living in the post-collapse world that middle-class collapsniks fear so much. The poor aren’t concerned about collapse because they’re already living it.

Unable to get a job, any job? Check. Random acts of violence? Check. Living out of your car? Check. Cash transactions in the underground economy? Check.

People in inner-cities are already growing food in urban gardens on abandoned lots all over the place–a perennial “future” scenario for collapsniks. The buildings around them are already decrepit and falling apart due to neglect. Copper wires are already being stripped from the local buildings. They already can’t afford to put gas in the tank, even at today’s prices. They are already squatting in abandoned houses and trying to avoid eviction and foreclosure. They are already wearing second-hand clothing and foraging in trash-bins for recyclable glass and aluminum. They are already out begging on the streets. They are already dumpster-diving for food. They are already routine victims of state violence via militarized police. As for stocking up on guns to defend yourself from theft and violence, well, for a lot inner-city folks, that’s been a reality for quite some time now. Gangs are already a feature of daily life there in the absence of a working economy. The inner-city already has warlords; they’re called gang leaders.

Now it’s true, there is still gas in the pumps and still food on the shelves. The issue is affording it. The food on the shelves isn’t much consolation if you can’t afford it. Poor people often live in so-called “food deserts”–places where the only food on offer and affordable is corn-syrup laden, heavily-processed human dog food. They’re alive-but sick. Getting healthy, nutritious food, especially protein, is difficult.*

I think it boils down to this:

You can’t be loss-averse if you have nothing to lose.

It’s also why it’s pointless to argue about when collapse will happen: for may of us, it’s already happened, as I’ve pointed out many times before. That’s why blacks, and poor people of any race, are more concerned with getting a job that pays the bills and staying one step ahead of the debt collector than whether humans are going to go extinct a hundred years from now.

This realization is what prompted my last series of posts.

See, most white people don’t ever set foot inside an inner-city, so they don’t know the extent to which a inner-cities already reflect a post-collapse reality. The government has already abandoned these people (except for locking them up, that is). I think that’s because of the racial divide. I’ve spent some time in places like these, so to me, collapse is a much more real phenomenon.

African-Americans have already been living with collapse for generations. That’s why collapse-phobia is largely a white, middle-class phenomenon. A lot of immigrants to the U.S. also come from collapsing countries, so, to them, the fears of most North Americans seem foolish given the conditions where they came from (Latin America, Subsaharan Africa, the Middle East, etc.). A common question you often hear in collapse forums is “how can I preserve my assets in the event of collapse?” For people who’ve never had any assets, this question is absurd. “What should I invest in given my collapse knowledge,” seems rather detached from people who are already living with it and who have nothing.

How did it get this way? Was there a war? Economic collapse? Secession? Natural disaster? Fuel shortage?

Well, in the case of Milwaukee, none of the above. In contemplating how the inner-city got to be the way it is, it’s pretty obvious that it was economic trends which caused the damage. Black people just aren’t needed in the economic order anymore. And, as I detailed in the last series of posts, automation is the ultimate culprit. It’s true that deindustrialization unfolded in different ways, including sending factories to China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Honduras, etc., in addition to automation and suburbanization. But even when you suggest bringing factory jobs back, experts point out that manufacturing just won’t employ that many people anymore no matter what. There are already “lights out” factories that employ only a handful of technicians. The robot future is already here when it comes to making stuff.

So if automation caused America’s urban areas to become post-collapse hellholes, what does that bode for the rest of America? Blacks were only the first victims; the blind eye turned to that fact means that probably nothing will be done to help the latest series of victims who are being made equally redundant to the economic order.

You already see this attitude all over the place. The economists blithely assuring us that automation will create more jobs than it destroys. The “low” unemployment rate of five percent in the official government statistics. The redefining of more and more people as “not in the workforce.” The constant reports in the media of the economy “getting better.” The sneering derision of anyone without a STEM degree. The constant efforts to demonize and humiliate people on public assistance to the greatest extent possible. The fomenting of resentment toward “entitlements” and people “dependent upon government.”

What it ultimately means is that, to once again paraphrase William Gibson, collapse is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed. But just wait. If you want to know how to cope, my suggestion is to look at inner-cities. If you want to “collapse now and avoid the rush,” there are more places than ever to choose from.

It also means that the more lurid “zombie apocalypse” fantasies are just that–fantasies. People aren’t killing each other over gasoline (but do like to use the old “I just need a dollar for gas” line when begging). They aren’t starving, for the most part (but are living on McDonald’s and frozen pizzas). There’s no cannibalism in sight (unless you’re that bath-salts guy in Florida).

I think people want collapse to be a great reset applying to us all. That’s a lot more sexy than a life of poverty on the margins of society while a smaller and smaller number of privileged people continue to enjoy comfortable lives with all the modern conveniences for some time to come. Getting harassed by bill collectors and being unable to get (still available) medical treatments is a lot less enticing than fantasies about abandoned cities overgrown with weeds, bankers hanging from lampposts, and growing vegetables in your own self-sufficient homestead. I think the anxiety is really less about collapse than about falling into the poverty trap that white people have stubbornly ignored for so long in a feeling of misplaced superiority. I think a lot of collapse fear is really just fear of marginalization and poverty, and the idea that everything will burn when you do, so you don’t have to worry about it, is a comforting salve.

* Here, organizations like the Victory Garden Initiative and Will Allen’s Growing Power have helped in this regard. Both are pioneers in urban farming.

23 thoughts on “Collapse, Race, and Class

  1. I live in a “wealthy” area, San Jose, California, and there’s a huge underclass here, I know, I’m part of it. People who survive by scavenging metal scrap, huge homeless camps, etc. What’s changing now is not only are most black people not needed by the economy but most non-wealthy white people. I think this is why Trump is being taken seriously instead of as a joke. There’s no one else speaking up for non-wealthy white people, and they’re a large demographic.

  2. There are plenty of jobs that cannot be automated and require little education. I travel a lot. There is no robot that can clean rooms, and there won’t be for a hundred years or more. And who cares about manufacturing jobs. Those are mindless jobs best left to robots. Cleaning rooms is actually humanizing, more so than intellectual jobs like programmer or writer. Varied bodily movements, occasional social skills and judgement required. The real problem is that the rent is to damn high. We’ve driven down the cost of manufactured goods, why is housing still so expensive? Why can’t we have cities where people walk everywhere, which is the most humanizing and health form of transport, more so than bicycles? Why do we require college degrees for so many jobs, when mostly what is required is good judgement, common sense, etc? Why do lawyers need degrees? If they are incompetent, that will soon reveal itself and a degree is no protection against incompetence. That we have created a very high cost structure society and economy is the real problem.

    • >There is no robot that can clean rooms, and there won’t be for a hundred years or more.

      I’m willing to bet you at triple odds that robots will be cleaning hotel rooms by 2025. The two obstacles, compliant contact and decent computer vision, were very hard problems a few years ago and mostly solved now.

      > Why do lawyers need degrees?

      Because practicing law requires knowing a shitton of laws.

      I agree with your main point, by the way.

  3. 15 Years ago when I worked it IT, one of the companies I worked for had a large engineering department. Many of the well skilled older engineers(50 and over) didn’t even have college degrees. For all the talk about the need for more education as a panacea for the alleged skill shortage, just look at the fastest growing professions by numbers in this country. Topping this list are jobs in retail, customer service and food service none of which require college degrees. Somewhere i read that roughly 2/3 of all jobs don’t require higher education and of those that do, approximately 1/3 or more, could be done by a person without a college degree.
    I think much of the emphasis these days on higher education is to create a smokescreen so people can be blamed for their individual failures. No higher education? its your fault you can’t get a good job. Also, being Americans we have to assume that all greatness comes from here. We are the world’s innovators, makers and creators after all so its fair to assume that all those lost manufacturing jobs must have been replaced by great careers in other areas. I mean what are we some third world country where people by and large eek out a marginal existence? Hell no USA USA and all that. Having a BS in Applied Math and several years of software development experience has proven to protect me from the whims of the economy. Without such qualifications I doubt I’d be where I am now: a part time janitor and a part time food service worker.

    • Most older architects I worked with from that same age group had no degrees. They were often the most knowledgeable.

      Being fed up with the dearth of job opportunities in architecture, and not wanting to go heavily into debt for a Master’s degree, I enrolled in a bootcamp to learn software programming. I finished that a couple of months ago. Haven’t found anything since. Most jobs I see in programming demand a bachelor’s degree in computer science (which would take me at least 4 years full time), as well as at least five years’ programming experience (and how do you get that experience?). Sometimes people say that this is just to weed out certain applicants, but I haven’t gotten a lot of interviews from the resumes I’ve sent out so far.

      Anyway, now I have no job and am running out of money and am scared. I don’t know what to do. The paper chase means I’m not qualified to do anything without either a master’s in architecture or a bachelor’s in CS. Both would take years to acquire and put me back heavily into debt when I should theoretically be thinking about “retirement.” I’ve spent my whole life in a cubicle with nothing to show for it.

      And to top it all off, the experience and degrees I *do* have mean even if I try to get some of those low-wage service jobs, I will be rejected. Even the ads I see for bartenders/servers etc. demand 3+ years experience. Seriously? I’ve been an architect the last 15 years; those jobs don’t want me either.

      I’m sure I will be blamed for my individual failure as well. I wish I knew what to do now. There are days where I just feel like leaping in front of a bus.

      • Hmm admin thanks for the reply. i have been a big fan of your blog for years. You’ve made many insightful and trenchant comments over the years. Most of what you see via the collapse of opportunities and such are true and many people know that. Problem is, though, the world is dominated by people who don’t want to see.
        After my career tanked it was very hard for me to transition into something else. People would look at my resume and see ‘Computer Programmer’ with a Stem degree and not understand why I couldn’t get another job in my field and were reluctant to hire me in one of those low wage service jobs. That is also a big danger that results from the whole “get more education” meme. For those comfortable in jobs they just assume that the unemployed/underemployed have brought their plights on themselves due to being “uneducated” or “unskilled”. Such as it was I got my ‘big break’ in low wage food service because the lady who interviewed me was a former nurse who’d had some health issues and lost her career. She was a terrific lady and good to work for. See she knew life is a lot more complicated than “get a degree and an in demand career” because she did both, like me, only to be left going”damn what else could i have done?” Job she hired me for? Janitor at a fast food place.
        Many of the people I worked with there were much younger millenial types and contrary to all the bad press they get..They were terrific. Hardworking, decent and understanding and, what’s more, many were far more educated than the stereotype of fast food workers. It was not a ruthless environment like many of the office jobs I had and most of the customers were pretty nice. Many of them even became friends. Granted the pay was lousy as were the benefits and hours but it was one of the best environments I’d ever been in. Also, I learned that I can and will be able to adapt to whatever happens. There is a lot to be said for that.
        There is also much honor in doing things that the media says”americans won’t do”. I think in many ways Alex above has the right idea as I am familiar with his posts.
        Moral of the story is, i guess, as long as you come to accept that you can survive outside your typical comfort zone it can be empowering. When you are at the bottom and you can survive it gives you a sense of accomplishment. So many of these white upper class doomers simply cannot survive outside their comfort zone which is why they are afraid. They know that comfort zone can burst at any time.
        Have you considered maybe going to a temp agency and looking for a second job on the side? It may give you a chance to work in a service like job and get you some experience in that area. Maybe just a few hours a week(or weekends). With that new experience you’ll have the confidence of knowing that if your job goes away(lets face it companies are always looking for ways to cut higher payed jobs…more money for the ceo’s yachts and such), you’ll be able to survive and who knows you may even find some of these service jobs enjoyable.

        • This comment hits the nail in so many ways since the bottom in America, even with it’s increasingly more dysfunctional economic system, is pretty much the top in most countries which are even worse off. On the other hand, It would also be nice if there were more open minded bosses like the lady described above since, in that case, at least just getting hired long enough to get a foot in the door somewhere would be somewhat easier. At the end of all this, I just hope that an even deeper crisis which makes MSM ignore then lie about today’s economic & environmental issues less rather than more won’t be what it takes to slap them out of their complacency even though almost everyone, including doomers, are somewhat complicit in creating today’s screwed economic systems whether they’re doing so subconsciously or not.

          • You know when I was a teen i became very fond of dystopic novels…”Animal Farm”, “1984”. “Brave New World”, “Player piano” and one of the qualities of these novels was that the hellishness of the societies was apparent and yet people,by and large, went along completely oblivious to the nightmare they were living. That scared me because it showed how easily a dystopia can appear without people even noticing. I think that is what has happened these days. The wealthy and powerful see a great world for them. The poor and disenfranchised see things are as they always have been. Whereas the middle class who have fallen into poverty see their fall as not a problem of society but as a personal failure. Kind of like severe drug addicts who don’t see the problem even as a glance in a mirror shows the deterioration clearly

  4. This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read! I do find that talk about collapse is limited to middle-class people and their concerns. I think that Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco do a brilliant job in showing us the sacrifice zones of the US that have been in collapse for years in their book Days of Destruction Days of Revolt. It shows the effects of unfettered capitalism in places like Camden, NJ, Welch, West Virginia, Immokalee, Florida and Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We have ignored these areas to our peril.

  5. Add Upstate NY(my neck of the woods) to that list Providence. Binghamton, Jamestown, Elmira, large parts of Rochester and Syracuse and pretty much all the smaller cities that relied on factories for decades, factories that have long since closed
    I often thought that the whole free market capitalism as it is now is a pagan religion.
    Wall Street being the temples. Bankers, CEOs and politicians the priests. ‘Greed is Good’ and ‘I’ve got mine screw you’ the gospel. And these economic wastelands the pagan sacrifices(equivalent to throwing sacrifices into the volcanos to appease the gods)

    • @rickc,

      that’s actually a brilliant analogy. Capitalism has become the pagan god of the modern western world.

      I actually come from NYC and have visited Upstate NY on several occasions and I can definitely back up what you are saying. Many of those towns are almost ghost towns, quite frankly-and there has been no attempt, as far as I know, to bring any new industry up there.

  6. My dad was an architect, and we had some rough times financially. Architects were some of the first victims of computerization as cad reduced the required skill level. I learned early on that America truly can be a terrible place to be poor. Now, i earn four times what my dad made made because i lucked into a super job, but it’s also the easiest job I’ve ever had (UTILITIES) It makes me think that maybe the reason affluent Americans are obsessed with apocalypse is because they don’t really think they deserve what they have. We don’t make any of the things we consume and we couldn’t do it if we tried. In fact, it’s baffling to me that anything works at all.

    Admin, i discovered your blog after hearing you on the C-realm, and I’m never board of your writing. It maybe for partially selfish reasons, but i hope you can continue to write through the tumultuous days ahead. I also check the Naked capitalism blog daily and find myself scanning for the always incitefull comments from escapefromwisconsin. I’ve heard no mention of your children, and if you have none then at least that’s one less worry. Before my current job i lived with a constant fear for how i would care for my kids when i was living paycheck to paycheck.

  7. Most of my childhood was spent in small town white communities of West Texas. There were no jobs beyond providing goods and services to social security recipients. Most people were retired or commuted over an hour each day. My parents generation remembered the fifties and sixties with nostalgicalia because everyone had work and a sense of community. I bring this up to say the waves decay went far beyond the inner cities and the rust belt. We never lost the factory jobs because we never had them, we just couldn’t afford the basics of life from the income we could generate.

  8. I met a genius today. Now, when I use the term genius I tend to be very correct, in the same way that I say AYE-ther rather than EEther, EEther being a gas, and in the way that I pronounce “Gemuchlichkeit” in proper Hochdeusch when I need to use the term. I myself have a measured IQ in the low 160s, and my boss/friend, I’d easily believe is 20 points higher. Well, I met a guy I think is every bit as smart and maybe a smidge smarter. And he’s a tall skinny black guy who skateboards, smokes weed, and has a pretty decent set of dreads. I can’t wait to get the two together, some kind of cross-pollenization is sure to happen. But, while I was maintaining that there are no more technician jobs in electronics, he was maintaining that they’re crying for decent RF techs. I shot back that I have an Extra class ham license, have always been interested in RF, and there are no freakin’ jobs. He then rattled off a whole slew of RF CAD programs I’d never heard of! He was surprised that I’d never heard of them. And I was surprised that (a) they exist and (b) that there’s *any* demand for RF techs and (c) that there are all these programs and I’d never heard of them. Obviously, it doesn’t matter how much you know, if you don’t know the right people, well, you’re strictly SOL.

    I finally told the guy, and I hope we stay in touch because he is truly bitchin’, that at my age, no matter how much work I put into going back to college, I’d not get anything out of it, and I’m best off drawing lots of noses (working on my caricature drawing skills) because at least for me, there’s tons more money in art than in hi-tech (basically a matter of making $10k a year in hi-tech vs. maybe making $35k a year, the most I’ve ever made, as in artist).

    And I met this amazing genius guy at a TEDx talk no, wait, at the new US patent office tech incubator on 4th street no … at the computer science lab at San Jose State … no, wait, not there … at TechShop, a noted makerspace … no, wait,

    AT THE SKATEBOARD SHOP.

  9. Alex:
    Your story about meeting the genius at the skate shop makes me think about how often the stereotypes that our society goes by are wrong and that is part of the problem. Not everyone you meet in a skateshop is a ne’er do well and not every person at Harvard and on Wall Street is a genius. However, the corporate world and the PTB live by formulas, formulas they designed, to decide who is gifted and who isn’t.
    Hence you could be the most gifted C++ programmer in the world but if a company is looking for a Java/Python programmer then you might as well be illiterate. Same is true for CAD, or SQL or other software. Never mind that such prior experience illustrates that you have the fundamental skills in logic and problem solving to learn quickly the new software: you’re not within their guidelines.
    Oddly your story brought me to mind a guy I know. He has done well for himself in part because he inherited a successful roofing/landscaping business from his dad. Of course he is the type who thinks he did it all by himself(born on third base and thinks he hit a triple).
    Awhile back he bitched and moaned about welfare and how lazy these people were that used it:living the high life on his tax dollars(Yes that sweet sweet 150 a month in food stamps). He added that if he ever fell on hard times he would go door to door and sweep floors, mow grass shovel snow, wash clothes do anything before he’d ever go on welfare.
    So no more than a week ago….he told me about some guy who was going door to door asking to do odd jobs for a few dollars. How did my acquaintance react” he kicked him out and called him a bum. Told him he didn’t appreciate lowlifes going around bothering good hard working people like him. essentially this guy just wanted any excuse he could find to abuse the ‘little people’
    I think part of the reason that many of the white upper class is so afraid of collapse is because they are so used to mistreating those below them that they fear the whole law of ‘what goes around comes around”. A good analogy is the fear a crooked cop would have about being thrown in prison, sent into general population, and being surrounded by people he had helped(often unethically) put away.

  10. Admin – I didn’t read your post before, now I have. I didn’t know you’ve lost your job! All I can suggest is:

    (1) Stay the hell away from college campuses, and recognize them as the tar pits they are! They will swallow you alive, you will choke to death as the tar envelopes you…

    (2) The way the economy works now … who’s the least successful character in King Of The HIll? Dale Gribble, the exterminator. One of the lowliest of jobs. That might be worth looking into, if you find bugs interesting. I’ve considered it myself.

    (3) Going door-to-door for odd jobs may not work as people are so paranoid now, but I’ve seen people go door-to-door at small businesses for odd jobs like mopping, emptying/cleaning the trash cans, cleaning the bathroom, and had success. Stores are always manned by peons making minimum wage who still hate to do jobs like that and will flip a fiver or so to someone to do ’em.

    (4) Do not leave where you live. I made this mistake; while I was a hated “haole” in Hawaii, dammit I knew people. And us “haoles” tended to stick together. If I’d stayed in Hawaii, I’d have probably joined the carpenter’s Union, and have a nice little house in Manoa by now. Uprooting yourself is incredibly toxic.

    (5) However, do you have Jewish, Irish, Polish, any ancestry that gives you “right of return” to a country outside the US? If so, you might seriously consider making use of it because while it’s best to stay where you’re “rooted” in the US, it’s still adventagous to leave the US if you can go live in your “volksland”.

    (6) Can you carpent? Fix ailing cesspools? Good with A/C? Hell, fix cars? My boss’s wife had a hell of a time retaining the services of a piano tuner. Can you fix shoes? Make shoes? I’ve considered this myself.

    (7) Can you teach English overseas? A college degree is kinda required but it sounds like you have one. Japan is good.

    (8) Can you downscale at all? Own a house? Sell it and get something cheaper? Own a car, sell it and get something cheaper? Can you do without a car? I know doing without a car makes you a dirty Communist but well, there are a lot of us these days.

    (9) Do you have a knack for buying and selling? Ebay is a thing. Not nearly the thing it was pre-crash but it’s still a thing.

    (10) Can you tutor HS students? You write well; you can probably “explain” well, lots of kids need help with their algebra.

  11. Alex:
    saw your advice. All sound observations. Would like to point out a couple things about #2, however, as a fan of the show:
    Dale revealed once when Khan was taking about “his great job” that the joke was on him because he(Dale) didn’t make a living wage. He relied on his wife who was quite successful as a weather lady even if she did have a certain hobby that Dale was not aware of lol.
    Marry a rich woman might actually be good advice. When i was in Vegas and Reno, those cities were filled with many a rich and lonely widow.
    The movie Midnight Cowboy(a classic) comes to mind.
    I am actually myself interested in maybe overseas teaching. I do have a BS in Applied Math and though I didn’t go to grad school, I did manage to score in the top 1% on the verbal section of the test.
    One bit of advice I can add. such as it is, is that trying something outside your comfort zone may seem scary and at times depressing(for me going from making around 50k a year to min wage was a major let down) but if you look at it as an adventure..it can be.

  12. Admin: We’re battin’ for ya, more ideas:

    (1) Bartender is hard to just step into. Don’t do into one of those “bartending schools” like all schools, they are a pit of filth to be avoided. Instead, you start out as a “barback” which is a bartender’s helper. This is gonna strike you as hilarious, but I’m quite short, with arms 2″ shorter then they should be for my height. Bartending involves reaching for things, and I’d be at a real disadvantage. This is why I’ve not gone into it myself. You are probably of normal height and reach, and could do it fine. The thing is, dishwashers are always in demand, bar-backs the same, and then the day will come when the regular bartender doesn’t show up and you have to fill in…

    (2) Are you handy at all? Can you learn? For some unfathomable reasons, old-fashioned type hand-lettered sign painting is HOT right now. I know a chain of stores that will buy all I can make. There are tons of tutorials online, a few free some for pay, but much much less than that bootcamp scam you fell for. I live in a tiny space that’s almost like living in a sailboat, so I’ve determined that I really can’t do sign-painting, but it’s a good old “mechanical art” and learnable by just about anyone. Sell your work locally, through Ebay, Etsy. You can use a lot of found materials like pallet wood.

    (3) Dog-doo removal? There was an episode of King Of The Hill about that. As always, in life, I look to King Of The Hill for guidance.

    (4) Building shit for people. From assembling IKEA to building pizza ovens in people’s backyards.

    (5) I’ve considered becoming a “fence” – buying silver coins from people who’ve um, “obtained” them, maybe honestly, maybe not, I’d not be able to tell. The local pawn shops pay shit for silver coins, and I could easily pay 2X what they pay, and still make a fat profit. But I’ve decided it’s too dangerous. It may be different where you are; I once knew a guy who sold insurance door-to-door, and he said his main money was made by getting customers’ confidence and asking them if they had any silver/gold/guns they wanted to sell to him.

    (6) Are you good at sales at all? I’m sure I could learn to sell cars and with a few Brooks Brothers suits (they are cheap and effective) I could do fine, what keeps me back is I don’t want to work that hard and customers’ questionable driving during test drives worries me.

    (7) Are you good on the phone? I am good on the phone, and worked for the Arnold Schwartzenegger campaign, among people who were not. So I placed myself at the center of the room so the most other volunteers could hear me, and they learned from me. I’ve met Arnie and he reminded me of my little sister so I was happy to go to bat for him. If I were really hard up for work, I’d walk a block over and get a job at Fry’s Electronics’ 24/7 call center. How did I find out an always-hiring call center is a block away from me? From hanging out and talking with a security guard at the local gas station convenience store! And that’s because I was a suckurity guard decades ago. It’s who you schmooze….

    (8) I got talking with an ex-con on the light rail who works for “a Christian company” that stocks snacks and sodas and such for companies …. they pay him over $20 an hour to basically stack up “sets” of stuff, following directions on an iPad. So many sodas, so many wrapped bagels, you get the idea. He says they’re really nice, and there are weirdly high-paying jobs like this out there … my last GF makes over $20 an hour doing kitchen prep, not even a cook, at a hospital.

    (9) ENVIRONMENTAL TEST. If you have knack for lab technique at all, ENVIRONMENTAL TEST consider this: Every factory has to have a “smog test” yearly just like your car does. Start out being a TECH – I did this, and slaved over a hot gas chromatograph for $100 an hour. It pays $100 an hour because you barely get competent people for *that*. Environmental test companies hires tons of techs and the level of incompetency is amazing. Poorly packed samples, etc. I swear they barely know what an impinger does. You can find all the EPA techniques online, and if you’ve got a year of college chem and a scientific mind, you’re yards ahead of anyone else.

    (10) If push comes to shove, come here. I can give you a roof, feed you, and show you the ropes around here. I can get you fixed up with something. California might be the ticket for you. The weather won’t kill you, and there are high-paying jobs in helpdesk/helldesk that don’t even require a HS degree. I can probably get you a job in 2 weeks. I can’t put you up in the Hilton, but I can give you a place, an address, food, etc. And the weather won’t kill you.

  13. Frank – you speak truth. My mom cleaned rooms at Pat’s In Punalu’u when I was a teen, she promised me $2 a room to help her, but that never materialized. I still helped because I had a chance at leftovers in the fridges. Cleaning rooms can indeed not be done by a robot. In fact, since I’ve long maintained that a human can live on $10 a day, humans can work cheaper than robots, and that’s why life on Earth is organic not robotic.

    It’s all supply-and-demand and how “replaceable’ you are. Getting back to that hot gas chromatograph, the guy I worked for paid me what he made, to fill in for him while he was on vacation. It was worth that to him to have someone competent fill in for him. He feels most people can be trained to do the work but I differ; not only do I have a fair amount of scientific education but I’ve had to survive, mend, manufacture, improvise, and invent, in my life. Combine the Time/Life Nature Series, Carl Sagan, and poverty, and you get who’s gonna try Plan A, Plan B, etc in the midst of a plane crash* and think their way out of trouble.

    *Source: Saved a plane.

  14. Rickettsia – sorry, easier to spell than your name, you’re right, Dale Gribble lived off of his wife, didn’t he?

    When I was a hotshot shooter, I met a gal who seemed to be independently wealthy, (maybe not now if she didn’t have the common sense to save her wealth in the form of silver dimes buried in coffee cans in her back yard) and it seemed like a possibility, but she was kinda weird.

    “You can marry more wealth in an hour than you can make in a lifetime”.

  15. Admin – a fellow who helped me out quite a bit, and a really good guy, hails from Fond du Lac. He’s not about to ever go back to Fond du Lac. He listened to KFI and KGO radio and knew he needed to move to Los Angeles and did. Another good friend says, “They say you can take the boy out of New England but you can’t take New England out of the boy, but I could never move back”.

    Your coding bootcamp diploma may have some currency out here. Supposedly there’s a crying need for programmers who can actually solve fizzbuzz and if you don’t know what fizzbuzz is you’d better learn. I take it you’re a couple of decades younger than I am (53 here) and before you do something like jump in front of the proverbial bus or even worse, stop blogging, come out here. My offer is real. I may be a Bedouin in a tent, but half my tent is at your disposal, and I can give you a home base. While the area is expensive, for some reason offices are cheap, and I think I can get you launched somehow and provide a safe runway until then. Please contact me before you do anything drastic; my offer is real.

  16. The foundation of the US Republic occurred in the Age of Reason, AKA in Europe as The Enlightenment. As such, it presupposed rationality (Aristotelian Logic and empericism). The economic and legal systems are founded on this fiction. From the beginning, both served an elite.

    People are more like Pavlov’s dog, instead. We have a very limited capacity for rationality. Even if utopias could be had rationally, they would contain logical contradictions that would bring them down. To understand, consult Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem of formalized Aristotlian Logic.

    As for STEM, there’s always something else and one might as well say STE. Then again, I know of brillian engineers who eventually retired because they weren’t getting work anymore. Now we’re down to ST. How vague! It’s a card game and the dealer is bought. Too many people get to vent their spleen on others.

    It’s just an animistic system with (once) good propaganda. That doesn’t mean that some people aren’t making it.

    Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, transportation iand housing are big issues. Even programmers living in San Francisco can hardly afford to. One told me that he moved from the South Bay San Francisco, but that “the value proposition wasn’t there.”

    Commuting to (and from) San Francisco is challenging enough, but so many people want to stick their noses into it. In the case of transit officials, stick their noses up in the air and not provide public transportation. Then there'[s the rash of freeway shootings in the nothern East Bay. Driving to San Francisco isn’t a very good option, either. The Bay Bridge from the East Bay to San Francisco constricts traffic, backing it up onto East Bay freeways.San Francisco is hostile to drivers.
    Furthermorre, San Francisco wants to confiscate gasoline taxes for its own use, rather than allowing those more or less forced to drive to have road/bridge repair/building.

    So people are thrashing around, can be quite hostile, and are far from the rational beings they are impli itly assumed to be.

    Computing to work is not so open to all, as a high speed internet connection is needed, if even that is acceptable. The internet service providers have gotten this and many other state legislatures to block competing (for example, city) high speed internet connections.

    So it’s just a free-for-all and almost any animal behavior is likely to happen. On the upside, some jobs are going begging. My advice is to somehow learn how to do one of them.

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