This powerful piece about the Unnecessariat describing an out-of-view America and explaining how Trump happened. I was surprised, given that I come from a different background and reality to find that I resonated with this part:
“To know that nothing more is expected of you, or your children, or of your children’s children, than to fade away quietly”
I have written before about how, during my last years living in Israel, the conversation about lack of money in my life transformed into a lack of relevancy. I became more concerned with not being relevant or needed in my society, then about not being able to extract money from it. I came to Romania to create space between myself and that question … to gain perspective. I found some relevancy here … it is both precious and fragile.
“… The number of overdoses in 2014? 47,055 of which at least 29,467 are attributable to opiates … families are being “hollowed out” with elders raising grandchildren, the intervening generation lost before their time … neighborhoods are collapsing into the demands of dying, or of caring for the dying.
… Suicide is up as well. The two go together: some people commit suicide by overdose, and conversely addiction is a miserable experience that leads many addicts to end it rather than continue to be the people they recognize they’ve become to family and friends … Both suicide and addiction speak to a larger question of despair. Despair, loneliness, and a search, either temporarily or permanently, for a way out.
… Its no secret that I live right smack in the middle of all this, in the rusted-out part of the American midwest. My county is on both maps: rural, broke, disconsolated. Before it was heroin it was oxycontin, and before it was oxycontin it was meth. Death, and overdose death in particular, are how things go here.
… And yet this isn’t seen as a crisis, except by statisticians and public health workers.
… In 2011, economist Guy Standing coined the term “precariat” to refer to workers whose jobs were insecure, underpaid, and mobile … The term found favor in the Occupy movement, and was colloquially expanded to include … unpaid interns, adjunct faculty, etc. Looking back from 2016, one pertinent characteristic seems obvious: no matter how tenuous, the precariat had jobs. The new dying Americans, the ones killing themselves on purpose or with drugs, don’t. Don’t, won’t, and know it.
… Here’s the thing: from where I live, the world has drifted away. We aren’t precarious, we’re unnecessary.
… Utopians on the coasts occasionally feel obliged to dream up some scheme whereby the unnecessariat become useful again, but its crap and nobody ever holds them to it … what if Sanders (or your political savior of choice) had won? Would that fix the Ohio river valley? Would it bring back Youngstown Sheet and Tube, or something comparable that could pay off a mortgage? Would it end the drug game in Appalachia, New England, and the Great Plains? Would it call back the economic viability of small farms in Illinois, of ranching in Oklahoma and Kansas? Would it make a hardware store viable again in Iowa, or a bookstore in Nevada? Who even bothers to pretend anymore?
Well, I suppose you might. You’re probably reading this thinking: “I wouldn’t live like that.” Maybe you’re thinking “I wouldn’t overdose” or “I wouldn’t try heroin,” … This isn’t the first time someone’s felt this way about the dying. In fact, many of the unnecessariat agree with you and blame themselves- that’s why they’re shooting drugs and not dynamiting the Google Barge … You’ll get there too.
If I still don’t have your attention, consider this: county by county, where life expectancy is dropping survivors are voting for Trump.
What does it mean, to see the world’s narrative retreat into the distance? To know that nothing more is expected of you, or your children, or of your children’s children, than to fade away quietly and let some other heroes take their place? One thing it means is: if someone says something about it publicly, you’re sure as hell going to perk up and listen.”
via Sam Muirhead