Thursday, February 2, 2017

Overstock Sacks of Organs

There's a book on my mile-long reading list called Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts by Zygmunt Bauman, a prolific sociologist who recently passed away. This particular book is about how current global socioeconomic systems result in not only overstock, redundant products but also overstock, redundant humans who don't really have a place in the world and aren't technically needed for further production, such as refugees and the homeless. Here's a section from pages 12-13:

And page 14:

Wow. Beautifully said. Though perhaps not terribly inspiring.  

While this book is mostly about destitute and displaced people around the world, it also happens to describe me and my life to a T. As the youngest of 10, I happen to be a redundant, overstock, duplicate person that my parents couldn't afford and tried to deep-six. I'm not exactly mission critical. I'm just an additional white blob taking up food, water, space, and fossil fuels--producing trash and getting in the way. Contrast that with someone like Prince Charles or Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, or for kids whose parents carefully plan for their arrival. There's a specific reason for their conception and birth. There's a spot reserved at the table just for them. Their existence is valued and celebrated and relatively necessary.

Since I wasn't born into a reserved spot, I've spent a lot of time trying to make myself useful, valuable, relevant, and irreplaceable, to earn my right to be alive, and to convince society or the economy that I can contribute and provide whatever it is that is perceived as valuable these days. For a long time, I believed that was best done through serving others, so since high school I've been a fairly regular volunteer for various organizations by cleaning up pollution, clearing invasive plants from prairies, helping people learn to read, teaching first aid and CPR, feeding and clothing the poor, building homes for the homeless, doing yard work for the elderly, educating myself on human trafficking, etc. 

However, I found that I'm not exactly needed in any of those places. When I arrive on the scene, there are already dozens of volunteers crowding the area. Environmental organizations already have thousands of professionally trained biologists working to protect various ecosystems around the world. Humanitarian organizations already have thousands of professionally trained public health officials and social workers tackling violence and hunger. There are already thousands of politicians and grassroots activists working to advance egalitarian values. My point is, the important roles are already filled, and if someone steps out, there's already a huge list of hyper-competitive and specialized overachievers primed to take that spot. So for a redundant person like me, volunteering for any organization mainly consists of stapling pamphlets, printing envelopes, and taking out the trash. It's nice of me to be there, but I'm not technically needed. I'm just an extra.

Nonprofit organizations, theatre productions, choirs--I've been an extra in all those things, multiple times. I'm an expert at being a nameless, faceless extra. At blending in with the 7 billion.

Do you like that visual?

Anyway, I don't think good works and serving humanity are what most capitalists mean when they say, "Make yourself indispensable!" "Everyone has to earn their keep!" "The world doesn't owe you anything!" or "No one gets a free ride!"

What they really mean is that our income reflects our value as a person, our worth as a human being, so if we haven't learned a skill that the market will reward, like inventing pet rocks and designing Pokemon cards, then we haven't earned the right to survive and we don't deserve to exist. Everyone can justify their existence if they're just clever enough to find a way to funnel large sums of money towards themselves. For example, a tried-and-true method is to capture and hoard necessities (e.g. land, water, plants, etc), fence them off, withhold them, morph them into perhaps toxic products, trick others into thinking they need the products, and demand payment for their use. Another method is to trick one's employer into becoming dependent on them, then charge the employer through the nose. That is how you earn the right to be alive in a developed country, my friend.

However, I've asked myself the following question thousands of times since I was about 8 years old: Why do I have to justify my existence when I didn't ask to born? Planet Earth sucks and I never wanted to be here. If I wasn't consulted about opting in, why can't I opt out? Though I've tried really hard at times to be excited about life, the most I can muster on good days is tolerance. Like, I tolerate being alive. I tolerate living on this planet in this solar system. Someone put me here against my will, I'm too lazy and scared to end my life, I'm already here and 34 years into it (almost halfway done!), so I might as well just finish the next 40 years and hope that some drunk driver finishes me off before then.

Btw, this antinatalist book is also on my reading list:

You know what I've never understood about overachievers, is their wellspring of motivation. I follow their blogs, I see them post about their high-powered careers, their TED talks, their best-selling books, their multiple websites and podcasts, their exotic travel, their beautiful homes, their beautiful pets and spouses and children, and I'm like, where the fuck are you getting the mental energy to do all this shit? Honestly. Not only to get out of bed and leave the house (that one usually trips me up), but to join professional organizations, schmooze with decision-makers, enter into important contracts and agreements, appear on TV shows...what else do they do? Maybe they take important phone calls and answer emails. I have no idea how important people spend their time. I imagine they have overstock people doing all the housekeeping and personal accounting, because those last few things are what eat up all of my non-working time.

I've heard that when overachievers are working their way up in the world, when they're in the innovation stage before they're rich enough to have a housekeeper, they don't clean at all--no laundry, no dishes, no dusting or vacuuming or mopping, no organizing, no nothing. They just order takeout and live in their own filth, because cleaning isn't as important as setting up their empire. And while I understand that intellectually, I don't know if I could ever get on board with stewing in my own dust mites and piles of shed hair. Yelch. Although I once had a roommate who never did laundry and just continuously bought new clothes and underwear...

Anyway, every time I'm around powerful people, I feel really uncomfortable, so my own attempts at schmoozing and networking largely fail. Even if I'm wearing the right clothes and saying the right things and showing impeccable poise and manners, I'm just waiting for them to say something snarky and and privileged and awful, which they inevitably do, like, "Ugh, look at that dirty homeless person on that bench. Let's cross to the other side of the street." Or, "Ew, sugary cereal is so disgusting! My mom would have NEVER allowed that in our house." And later another powerful person will say, "Oh, did you meet [that other powerful person]? Aren't they amazing? They're such a doll!"

I think the most reliable test of whether someone is overstock or not is how they experience daily transportation. Meaning, redundant people walk or bike in bad weather when money is tight. They stand at bus stops in raging blizzards or thunderstorms, they hitchhike, they walk alone, sometimes at night, sometimes for miles to get from point A to point B. Their transportation is cheap and dangerous, and no one is tracking their whereabouts, because their arrival doesn't really matter.

Valuable people, on the other hand, almost always travel by private car. They sometimes reach the age of 20 or 30 without ever having taken a bus or train. Their whole life, others have driven them in a private car to and from school, to and from extracurricular activities, to and from the airport, or made sure they had a nice cozy car to drive themselves. Valuable people have others checking in on their whereabouts all the time. "Call me when you get there. Text me when you get there." Someone always cares exactly where they are and when they'll be back. Because they matter.

I imagine that being alive is exciting and motivation is more likely to bubble from your soul if you're born into a reserved spot, if you're not redundant. 

But I could be wrong.

As an avid reader of books and articles on personal development, I'm starting to look at genre titles in this new light. There's a metric shit ton of advice on "success" and "motivation" out there, but now when I flip through a book or read the summary I can ask, "Is this advice or goal possible or realistic for a redundant person like myself? Or is this intended for a mission critical person?" I think this will save me a lot of time and frustration racking my brain trying to execute tasks designed for important people, when in reality it's a waste of my time because there's no room for me and I'm just not needed there.

One question that we overstock sacks of organs can ask ourselves is, "Where can we apply our numbers where numbers are actually needed and beneficial?" Meaning, what types of events or circumstances gain legitimacy from a huge turnout? Marches and protests, for one. Signing petitions, for another. The world is full of exclusive clubs where only a select few are admitted. Let's avoid those clubs and instead congregate where our bulk will be of use.  

Redundant flesh blobs unite!