Today I got up earlier than I usually do. I had an appointment for an evaluation for disability benefits with a psychiatrist in the employ of an organization with the improbable and mildly horrifying name of Industrial Medical Associates. Every time I hear it I think of myself being moved along on a conveyor belt, transformed into a male chick in a hatchery, destined for the dumpster.
This is an organization that apparently has a monopoly on these evaluations. I’m sure it’s lucrative. Like everything else it seems to run on contract labor. People with credentials are hired in on a part-time basis to affix an altogether different set of credentials on the downwardly mobile. Managing poverty and distress is it’s own industry.
I drink too much coffee. My nights aren’t very restful. The sedating effects of medication wear off after a few hours and then I stumble around talking nonsense. The last couple hours of sleep are for dreaming about my sister kicking me out of her house or women that I’ve loved examining the circumstances of my life and expressing disappointment.
There was a gap between awakening and my eval. My mother is a dedicated viewer of MSNBC, which is pretty much the Fox News of the well-intentioned. While I’d take the former over the latter most days, I still find it pretty stupid. Their unfortunately named ‘Morning Joe’ program runs until 9:00 am. Host Joe Scarborough has weird beady eyes and the face of a frat boy with progeria. His co-host (and spouse) Mika Brzinski reeks of self-satisfaction. She looks well-bred, a mixture of genetics and plastic surgery that will likely be replaced with the blood of prepubescent children when it finally comes to market.
It seems like everyone on this show publishes a book. It’s not like they need to (or should). They’re certainly all wealthy and also that kind of middle-of-the-road stupid that allows a person to be highly functional. Generally they write biographies of people who the world absolutely does not need another biography about. For instance Scarborough himself wrote a book with the pants-shittingly stupid title Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization. Truman unleashed a nightmare on the world; the Cold War was the partial realization of that nightmare and Western Civilization is the worst thing that ever happened to humanity.
This morning’s boastful presentation of such a product was an accounting of the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnston. The general sentiment was that he was an awesome bipartisan president and a strict adherent of the Constitution.
This might be the case. But still: Fuck off. Who cares? It’s just this kind of celebration of polite killers that makes this network so execrable. This guy persecuted an imperialist war that sent American boys on a murderous rite of passage and turned them into the gray, miserable baby boomers that drive around with Trump flags flying behind their trucks as though they’re ISIS without a destination.
There’s also the kind of moralistic eye-rolling exasperation that typifies blue-dog democrats in the Trump era. They care less about the violence that the state doles out than a lack of consensus about how the violence should be managed, as though they’d prefer a more competent fascist. Politicians that are less disgusting and have the good graces to lie eloquently about the horrors that are visited on people are preferred. Maybe it helps them sleep at night. An ambien and some self-satisfaction allows them a restful night so they can rise in the morning, staple their jowls to the back of their necks, and get on with the business of being famous.
It’s not that I don’t hate Donald Trump. Nor is it the case that I prefer him to Joe Biden. I just acknowledge that they merely represent different strategies for managing capitalism. One’s way better at white-washing the misery they inflict and promising deliverance from it at some point in the distant future. The other provides a satisfying hit of rage to dummies.
Between the relatively brief expressions of impassioned pablum are commercials, which I think speak much more to the state of the world than the news program itself. You can usually figure out which demographics can be expected to be watching based upon the stuff being advertised. Sometimes demographics collide and you get a weird mixture. I gather that the expectation is that competent people leave their houses earlier, so these time-slots are loaded up with various ways to protect and manage wealth.
Today there was one of those ‘Ask Marcum’ commercials. There are two audiences they pitch to. Both suck. The first is someone on deck at the point of production. It’s either a guy in a factory, one that has been mysteriously emptied of the brown women who predominate in such environments, or a guy on a construction site. No people in gloves or PPE. No grime on the floors. No one tumbling from a high place to the floor. A person who is apparently the grand-master of this grand, sterile enterprise discusses with a man in a suit and a hardhat the challenges of managing such a large operation. They reply: “Ask Marcum”.
There’s another (and I might be wrong about the company… does it even matter?) in which a daughter discusses the hard work and dedication her father has expended in building his vineyards into a massive agricultural operation. He’s got a flannel shirt on- a total man’s man. If he has a profile on the ‘over 50’ dating website (also advertised at this time of day) ‘Our Time’ then the women are literally beating down the door for a viagra fueled romp. Again, his vineyard appears to run without any labor. It’s just him and his kids. Nobody’s stooped over in blistering heat. No one’s pissing in a jug because they can’t access a bathroom. How could he possibly manage the money flowing through this wine-making goose that lays golden eggs? Ask fucking Marcum.
Or a woman sits in a massive corner office overlooking a metropolis. She’s puzzling out some pressing business problems, clearly. It’s late at night. Fuck the kids. Consuela will deal with them. We’re in the world of finance capital, where the algorithms work hard buying whale oil and selling rhino horn. How to justify the existence of a human being in this system?. Would you be better off smashing the glass and jumping? Ask Marcum.
In another there are two women at a posh restaurant. We know it’s posh because there are no waiters. The restaurant industry has figured out how to make service staff invisible. You can pretend your loser brother’s ghost is bringing wine to your table- he’s only been dead a few years. Business Woman A says to Business Woman B how concerned she is about an IRS audit. I guess the subtext is that she’s committed financial crimes? Or improprieties. Titans of industry don’t commit crimes. She wonders how she can justify withholding the relative nothing that her business contributes to society. If the world ran on paper she could just set the building on fire, but computer files stick around. Her companion drains her glass and responds: Ask Marcum.
My personal favorite is a meeting room full of suited and ambitious professionals dialing someone in for a conference call. They’ve got business to discuss. A quick roll-call and then the most improbable thing occurs! Marc, the delivery boy, is in the room. He fucks around on his phone, unconcerned with business stuff. What a wacky thing! How’d he get in here! Don’t ask Marc! He’s just going to ride around the financial district on a scooter giving you assholes sandwiches until he gets hit by a car and then spends the rest of his pathetic life in a wheelchair. Ask Marcum!
Anyway, after any one of these brilliant pieces of advertising, created by very smart people who deserve good things out of life finishes, we pivot to another corner of capitalist society.
A recruiting commercial for GrubHub features a young African American woman. She expresses the absolute freedom and self respect afforded to her by this part-time job that’s allowed her to raise her children and her self-esteem. She loves bringing trash food to garbage people. She is not bothered at all that the odometer on her car is spinning wildly into the future, a future where it breaks and Grub Hub finds another desperate sucker to trash both their transportation and livelihood for less than minimum wage. Marc used to work there, but what with turning invisible someone ran him over.
After this things can break in a few directions. GrubHub recruitment marks the turning point where professionals are out the door and on their way to a morning of digging at hemorrhoids and wondering what life would be like if they killed their families. It’s after 8:30 and that means the unemployed, the retired and the disabled are the only ones left to watch. By this point Joe and Mika both have to piss and Mike Barnagle is getting worried about diaper rash.
Commercials from this point onwards are concerned with illness, litigation and insurance. There are those ‘push’ marketing ads for medications, all of which somehow result in people paddle boarding. They’re all for the treatment of poor people stuff: Diabetes. COPD. Schizophrenia, etc.
The schizophrenia one is my favorite. The mystical commercial voice, so caring and wise, tells us that little accomplishments are a big deal when you’re living with a psychotic disorder. A man plays the guitar. Alright, that’s pretty cool. A man makes a peanut butter sandwich. What the fuck? This is the best that you can get? A food that kids with bad parents make for themselves before going to school? Then they get to the downsides, as if living on peanut butter and white bread wasn’t bad enough, they explain that you might gain a hundred pounds (and peanut butter pounds no less), experience unintentional repetitive movements, have suicidal thoughts (again, suicidal peanut butter thoughts), and possibly death from neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Don’t let the risk of death steer you into periods of homelessness. Your shattered life will never be the same, but at least you’ve got your own jar of Jiff at the group home.
These commercials for drugs, all of which will cause everything from piles to bleeding eyes, are followed by commercials for litigation services against the very same pharmaceutical companies that promise paddle boarding and peanut butter. It’s enticing, to sit on the couch with nary a paddle board in site, and think about the oodles of money that your broke ass could get if only you had a life-ruining side effect from one of the ten medications you’re on, but alas, these medications disappoint even in that regard. You’re still mostly intact, you’re out of peanut butter, and you can’t afford to buy a vehicle to work at GrubHub so that you can finally access that shame-reducing invisibility you were looking forward to.
My disability examination tore me away from television anthropology. I explained to some geographically remote person who is apparently a doctor that the last time I was arrested was in 2010, which is pretty good for me. She asked if I had ever been manic and I asked her if manic just means ‘not depressed’. She asked about drug use and I lied my ass off. It’s challenging to explain to a psychiatrist how fucking awesome DMT is. Once upon a time I was on a psych ward (in a professional capacity) and heard a young man explain to a social worker how smoking DMT had allowed him to say goodbye to his grandmother, which is a far better therapeutic outcome than he was getting from the shit they were making him take. She lied (or fabricated a truth that validated a prejudice, which is lying for stupid people) and said it caused brain damage. So does riding a scooter for GrubHub and getting hit by a car but they don’t tell the incipient homeless person that kind of thing.