My Life Matters?

By Kwesi P. Dean

Posted Sept 1, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

Another black man refuses to be quietly controlled by people with guns, badges, and immunity and is shot for it. We can raise the statistics that all races of people in the US face the risk of death by police. According to Statista, as of July 2020, 558 people lost their lives in police shootings. 39% of those killed were white. We can talk about age and perceived socioeconomic backgrounds as mitigating factors. And still, with all that has happened in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, recordings show unarmed black men are being shot by police officers seemingly more interested in being obeyed than de-escalating situations. Youtuber Beau of the Fifth Column described it as a life and death game of “Simon Says”. 

In 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote a masterful description of the racist nature of the Constitution of the US in the Dread Scott v. Sandford decision. His decision, which includes the often misused quote that “they [blacks] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order … and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”, clearly argued that the framers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution certainly didn’t have blacks in mind when referring to “all men” or “We the people”. The 14th amendment of the Constitution was required to legally recognize the citizenship rights of men of African descent. I think one could add without much of a stretch that “all men” wasn’t merely a rhetorical exclusion of women either since women had to fight 137 years to earn the right to vote nationally. 

Taney’s argument is relevant today because he highlighted that white identity was so ingrained in the minds of the framers of the Constitution and the states that ratified it that no discussion about the exclusion of black men from the rights of US citizenship was necessary. Even if free, black men did not qualify as citizens of the US. 

Identity was not only at the heart of the founding of the USA, it was at the heart of the establishment of capitalism itself. From the enslavement of civilian prisoners of war to the forced reduction of social roles of women in Europe, others outside of feudal, ethnic male hierarchies were deemed fully exploitable. As Cedric J. Robinson wrote in Black Marxism, “Indeed, capitalism was less a catastrophic revolution (negation) of feudalist social orders than the extension of these social relations into the larger tapestry of the modern world’s political and economic relations.” 

Exploited labor based on ethnicity was a norm in wealth creation in Europe and its colonies. It applied to the deckhands on the ships as well as the slaves in the holds. Europeans carried all they had learned from centuries of the use of slave and other-than-free labor in their fields, mines, and precursors to factories to new lands around the globe where processes of exploitation developed on steroids. That identity politics/economics is foundational to our current system should be recognized as a historical fact. The fact that it often isn’t feels disingenuous as highly intelligent people seem to discount the evidence of European history and tie themselves in rhetorical knots to focus solely on economic identity as important to the narrative of revolution. 

And our current manifestation of identity has severe problems in its effect on efforts to create coalitions of the exploited necessary to drive systemic change. The origin of our frame of identity can be found in a positivist cultural hierarchy and that sews the seeds of its ineffectiveness. Identity was designed to define, separate, and divide the “have nots” in service to the maintenance of the power of the “haves”. (Sometimes I think that designation should be switched as the real “have nots” don’t have to work to maintain their obscenely high standards of living while the rest of us “have” to work or face ruin.) 

The identities were only voluntary for one group, in the case of the US, white men. The rest of the identities were imposed upon different groups as white men saw fit. Legal constructs of race began in the Virginia House of Burgesses in the late 1600s following a multiracial militia of servants burning down Jamestown. They’ve continued ever since as the current US census includes 6 racial groups and 11 sub-groups that can be selected in any combination of the respondents’ choosing. 

After nearly 350 years since the appearance of the word “white” to describe people of Northern European descent according to the Oxford English Dictionary, we’ve seen developments. First, the expansion of the franchise of “whiteness” to include more people of various ethnic backgrounds, people from the Middle East and North Africa are now white according to the 2020 Census, and the continued division of non-whites into more specific cultural affinity groups. Both have led to discounting other differences that don’t fit for purpose. 

Class divisions among whites, while ever-present in the US, are culturally subordinated to whiteness when it is to the advantage of the ruling class, like election season and settling union contracts on the golf course. Class divisions among non-whites are both subordinated and exacerbated within the groups at the same time leading to even more division. All of this exists in the rampant, toxic individualism of consumer culture. 

No wonder people are anxious and confused. Even wealthy, accomplished, educated non-whites find themselves subject to the perception of their non-white status in the eyes of those with the power to enforce the exclusion associated with whiteness. A non-white professor was forced to present her credentials to far less credentialed campus police to prove she belonged on her majority white campus. Members of my family were reminded of that recently when refused service in a Savannah, Georgia restaurant. 

Today, many working-class whites can’t afford that professor’s Ivy League education nor to eat in the restaurant where my family members were refused service. Despite vast resource and cultural differences, working-class whites are told of their commonality with wealthy white people who’ve never had to work a day in their lives. A white billionaire’s daughter confidently stated, without uproar, that she identifies with recent college graduates facing one of the toughest job markets in decades. 

There are no easy answers. New processes will need to emerge to create connections beyond racial and many other social positions. 

How can our lives matter to others? How can their lives matter to us? 

Witnessing the international, multiracial movement that BLM is becoming offers hope that a new generation will take the experience of working together for justice to create those unifying processes and mutual interests. Let’s then apply those processes to other areas including taking on capitalism itself. 



https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/
Beau of the Fifth Column, “Let’s talk about country folk and their responses to the law…” https://youtu.be/5-v7Juv2bvU

Dred Scott v. Sandford Decision https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/60/393
Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical TraditionCedric J. Robinson
US 2020 Census
https://2020census.gov/en/about-questions/2020-census-questions-race.html

Red Ants

By T.J. Morehouse

Posted August 21, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

June 2, 1971. Near Drumright, Oklahoma:

5 years old. It begins.

The day I formally declared war on red ants.

I saw the red ant hill, bustling with activity in the summer heat.

I had already been killing the small yellow worms that had infested our Maple tree in the front yard. They would squish a yellow/white goo when I crushed them with the blunt end of a small stick.

The red ant hill was on a lot next to our home in Country Club Heights. Country Club Heights belied its name, visions of big shot mansions on a hill. It was instead, a solidly middle-class suburb, nothing fancy about it. A dream achieved when there was a day that a decent job could support a family.

The next-door lot had huge mounds of reddish-brown earth. It hardened into large clods and my friend from up the street, Russell and I would have huge dirt clod fights with each other, the hardened earth like a snowball with a semi solid core. We’d usually fight until one of us got hurt, no quarter given.

My mind went into full fantasy mode. I imagined the ants as heavily entrenched Japanese soldiers, the same ones that killed Grandpa Troy on Iwo Jima. Now it was time for payback. Staff Sergeant Troy Joe and his band of worthies charged Mount Suribachi. Avenging angels dressed in Marine battle fatigues.

I pounced on the ants and began to stomp. They died like heroes, wave after wave.

Then something surprising happened, more ants swarmed from the hill, alerted, I assumed by scouts who had somehow escaped my foot fusillade. More ants streamed from the hole and then more holes near me that had been unseen. They began a spirited counterattack.

Formed into a red lump, they attacked my sandaled feet, shorts and T-shirt. I managed to hold my line, but they kept coming, at last overwhelming me. Ants started on the tender parts of my feet, then proceeded to attack my legs, waistband of my shorts, then my torso.

Stunned and hurting, I organized a hasty retreat to a safe distance from ant hill Suribachi.

I was bloodied but unbowed. Numerous red welts covered my body. I took off my shoes and picked the rest of the ants off. Then I used my T-shirt to peel the ants off my legs and torso, quickly killing all survivors with a new-found respect for the enemy. They were ferocious fighters and would gladly die to protect that hill. Their severed ant heads with their pincers attached to the leather of my sandal was proof.

These sandals weren’t those namby-pamby children’s shoes, or a flip flop. These were bad-ass, wide strapped, thick leather with a recycled tire for a sole. Natural ant killing machines, despite the gaps between my feet and exposed toes. They had found these spots with pin-point accuracy. I lobbed several dirt clods into the hill, a screen for my retreat, and went into the house.

“What happened to you?” asked Momma.

“I had ant battle”, I said with enthusiasm. “I almost beat the Japanese”.

She gave me a worried look, my welts now visibly red. “Why don’t you stay inside and play for the rest of the day. Set up your Hot Wheels track in the den and then you can watch cartoons on Uncle Zeb at 3:30.

“OK” I said, knowing better than to argue with Momma. If I was a first sergeant with a stunning military career, killing the enemy in close combat, then Momma was a 5-star general and nobody fucked with her.

July 3rd, 1974. Sallisaw, Oklahoma:

8 years old. High Explosives and Nicotine

I upped the ante on the ants. My cousin, Todd Floyd and I were counting out our firecrackers under our Grandparents carport, deciding what to do with them. That’s when we spotted it. An anthill on the other side of the fence from Big Granny and Paw Paw’s garden. Big Granny was a tall, rawboned Cherokee woman from the Skin Bayou district of the Cherokee Nation. She stood over 6 feet tall. She and my Paw Paw were hardened people who had survived a depression, a dustbowl and WWII. Their entire back yard was a vegetable plot. Self-sufficient, they were proud, cutting corners and surviving the dirty 30’s. Big Granny would not hesitate to swat the shit out of you with her large hand or a nearby switch, magically produced when needed. You fucked with the garden, you got punished, hard.

“Hey”, I said to Todd Floyd, “Lets blow up that ant hill!” He readily agreed. Partners in crime. We had bottle rockets and firecrackers, preparing for maximum carnage.

We didn’t have a “punk”, which looked like a stick of incense that burned slowly, allowing you to “Light fuse, and get away”, the instructions on the box beneath a large black cat.

It was the 70’s and everybody smoked. Todd Floyd was my cousin from California “California Okies” they sang on Hee-Haw one night to my amusement. Whenever the family gathered, there was a heated, serious, sometimes all-night card game of “High Nine”.

Todd Floyd had an idea. “Let’s go ask my dad (Uncle Clinton) if he can give us an old cigarette butt to use”. “Novel idea” I thought. We went inside to the card game. Todd Floyd said to his dad: ”Me and Troy Joe want to light some firecrackers on the driveway and we don’t have a punk”.

Uncle Clinton, engrossed in the strategy of High 9, absent mindedly handed a full lit cigarette to Todd Floyd. “You boys be careful”, he said as we whisked away before he could change his mind.

We prepared our first two mega bombs, five firecrackers, fuses twisted together. The enemy would perish at the hands of well place high explosives. For good measure, we took 5 bottle rockets and tore the sticks off, bound together by a newspaper rubber band, once again twisting the fuses where one touch would light them all at once.

We struck in two waves of frontal assault. Digging deep into the hole with a stick, thus avoiding the ants as they climbed up the stick, not our legs. Once done, we placed the firecrackers on the now swirling void of ants and touched off the fuse.

We didn’t have the detonation right, so the firecrackers cooked off one at a time like gunfire: Blam, Blam, Blam, Blam Blam! Both times. Each successive explosion creating havoc and blowing up enemy troops, stuck underground but rallying as I had often seen them do.

The cigarette had burned down and was going out. We decided to make the cherry glow again, so we both took a puff, Todd Floyd first, then me. We didn’t inhale, just sucked and held the smoke in our mouths like we had seen on TV, after a few seconds, we “exhaled”.

I felt dizzy, with a strange taste in my mouth. “Let’s do bottle rockets” said Todd Floyd. We moved to the now shell crater, put the bottle rockets upside down, lit with the now glowing cigarette. We got it right this time. Like a rocket on lift off, they all ignited at once, screaming and whistling into the ground. An impressive, single explosion followed.

“Hey” said Todd Floyd. “Wanna try another drag? “ Without hesitation, I said: “Sure”. We commenced to smoke. More dizziness, I didn’t know it, my first buzz, I liked it. Todd Floyd and I lost all interest in fireworks and smoked that fucker to the filter. What a rush. What freedom. Lack of any adult supervision courtesy of a simple card game combined with a thirst for winning. The ants lived to fight another day and Todd Floyd and Troy Joe had tasted the sweetness of an altered state. My first, but definitely not my last.

November 3, 1977. Near Pryor, Oklahoma:

  1. 11      years old. Stepdad trouble.

My parents divorced and my mom shacked up with this guy named Bob.

He was a “Good ‘ol Boy” and a wanna-be cowboy turned real estate salesman. He had sold himself to my mom for sure. She hauled ass as soon as she could and left my dad in a bachelor pad at a local trailer park. My war on ants had continued in smaller sorties.

I didn’t want to play sports with my friends. I wanted to play “Army”, ride my dirt bike or kill ants. I found sports boring and narrow minded. Much like religion. Dad always said: “ If a man becomes overly religious, it’s his own damn fault”.

I launched my next large-scale attack on an ant hill situated on the berm of a livestock pond. I stole a shovel and went to the dormant hill on a Jihad to kill red ants.

I stuck the shovel deep into the sleeping ants. Stealthy hitting the enemy when they least expected it. Repeatedly, I dug up huge chunks of earth and flung it into the pond. The ants came to the top like survivors of a shipwreck, bobbing on the surface and clinging to weeds at the edge of the pond.

“Hey! What in the hell are you doing?” Asked Bob. He had slipped up behind me in the throes of my fetish. “Oh, Nothing, just digging for worms,” was my lame response. “No one digs for worms in November”, he said. “Take that shovel back where it came from and if I catch you digging up this berm again, “I’ll kick your ass.”

Sullen, but undefeated in spirit, I slunk back to the barn to put away the shovel.

August 29th, 1978, Near Pryor, Oklahoma:

  1. 12      years old. Hot days and flamethrowers.

The anthill sang to me like a suicidal Siren. “Kill me” they seemed to say telepathically. I was more than willing to oblige them, Bob or not. I was obstinate and could take an ass beating by this time.

I had been watching old WWII movies of Saipan. Sherman tanks outfitted with flame throwers cooking the caves with the enemy inside, immolated, save a few souvenir Samurai swords. I snuck into the garage and took a pop bottle, half full of lawnmowers gasoline. I stole the safety matches off the top of the fridge. Then I took some dishwashing soap from the countertop. Using this concoction, I swished the ingredients around the glass bottle, homemade napalm. Those ants were about to die a horrible death by the scores. Revenge at last. I would raise the flag on ant hill Suribachi.

I took the bottle and snuck out back to the pond while Mom and Bob fought about his latest indiscretion in someone else’s bedroom. I was the grim reaper, about to sow a flaming death on the ants, courtesy of the lack of adult supervision.

I got to the ant hill and poured a huge dose on it. The gas itself killed on contact, then I struck the match. The mound erupted in an acrid, smoky flame as my adversaries died trying to escape the hole. That’s when things went a little sideways.

I was still holding the bottle at a downward angle. The flames jumped up and leapt into the neck of the napalm pop bottle. The fields were dry from the August heat, perfect kindling for a wildfire. I danced around the berm of the pond shaking the bottle like a salt shaker in a panicked attempt to get rid of the flames, as I did so, it ignited all the dry grass near the berm. I finally collected myself and threw the bottle into the pond, the fire snuffed out in the water. I looked behind me in horror as a fire blazed in the dry grass. I ran over and began to stomp it out. Wearing sneakers, the heat melted the soles but I somehow managed to put it out. I snuck back to the house, hiding my shoes and claiming I lost them at the skating rink.

July 7th, 1979, Claremore, Oklahoma:

  1. 13    years old. The transition.

It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade, triple digit heat. the female lifeguards at Claremore public pool took a shine to me.

I was staying with my dad for 2 weeks each summer. He had remarried and my step brother Mark and I went every day. “You’re really cute” the blonde lifeguard said to me . “Yeah, he’s gonna’ be a total fox by the time he’s 16” said the curly headed brunette at the snack bar. The blonde then asked me. “Do you know how to French kiss?” I had kissed a girl ONCE at a 7th grade dance at the PYO, like you’d kiss your Aunt, quickly, with a closed mouth. “Come here and let me teach you” she said. It was amazing, a hot tongue swirling around in my mouth. I quickly reciprocated. They never went any further than that. I was still a virgin, so I thought it was a form of sex. It probably was some kind of crime for those girls to have me as their mascot and kissing student, however, you can’t molest the willing.

Ants were the furthest thing from my mind. I was now laser beamed focused on girls and using my newfound skill set on them. “Those guys in 8th grade don’t stand a chance. I know how to French kiss” I thought with confidence. I plied my trade, a cracked voice Casanova, steeped in puberty. It would be two more years before I figured out what second base was.

July 15, 1983 Honolulu Hawaii

17 years old. The ant war had dimmed down in the last few years.

We now lived in Hawaii. My Mom and Bob had divorced (they would do so twice), she bought him out of their little real estate company in Pryor and Bob split for Hawaii to find himself or get laid by some Polynesian women. It was probably both. I finished Junior High and was a Sophomore in High School. Bob had been in Hawaii just long enough to burn through his money. Then he found Jesus Christ, like he’d been missing. In Oklahoma Jesus was everywhere.

Bob called Mom and told her he loved her, and she was the woman for him. Jesus had come to him in a dream and told him so. Mom immediately sold everything we owned and we moved to Hawaii. Thank God once again for lack of parental supervision.

I ran wild with the kids of Hawaii Kai. Got thrown out of Hawaii Baptist Academy (Bob and Mom thought it would do me good). I had smoked pot in Oklahoma at 15 in. Lyndell’s primer and Bondo ’57 Chevy parked on Dog Pound Road. It was Mexican dirt weed, full of seeds and it gave you a mild high and enough cottonmouth to drink the shitty 3.2% alcohol beer sold in Oklahoma.

This pot in Hawaii was amazing. Fresh, crystalized, red hairs and a rich, peppery taste that got me totally wasted the first time. The locals called it “the Crippler” and it lived up to its name. You only had to be 18 to legally drink in Hawaii and we made the most of our fake ID’s in the bars and nightclubs of Waikiki. It was a target rich environment. Mainland girls coming to Hawaii to party and hook up. It was an endless supply. A fresh batch every weekend.

I was in a Mexican restaurant and over frozen Margaritas, Dennis said “Wanna try some coke”? “Sure” I said. I was up for anything. We went into the men’s room and I took a bump off the tip of his pocketknife. It was my first taste and it gave a sweet tooth for Cocaine that lasted well into my 40’s. It was literally everywhere.

One day at Kaiser High School, Kevin said, “Man you’ve got to try this” He showed me a small piece of paper. “LSD” he proudly explained. “Slip it under your tongue, let’s ditch school and go to Portlock point”. At first, I felt nothing, then a warm sensation came over me and I started seeing tracers and visuals. Big Granny always said the Cherokees respected everything in nature, living beings with a soul. My head swirled as I hallucinated, I looked around at the trees, the grass and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Everything seemed to be breathing and alive. I found a new sense of respect for the earth and everything on it. Plus, I tripped my balls off.

July 16, 1984 Honolulu, Hawaii

18 years old. Peace at last.

I formally declared a truce and cease fire on the red ant war.

It would be like Korea. A demilitarized zone separating me from the ants. A pyrrhic victory of sorts, but peace, nonetheless. Additionally, there were no red ants in Hawaii. The LSD had opened up something I had never experienced before or after. Like a portal directly to God.

Relaxing and assuring, then letting me in on the big secret. the real world was actually the hallucination. A cosmic joke.

June 2nd 2020. Topanga California.

54 years old. I am finally comfortable in my own skin.

A lot has changed, yet still remains the same. I spent 20 years in New York City. A hellish place with orange halide lighting that cast a surreal glow over everything, eliciting depression from my eyes into my bloodstream. I have gone through some good times and bad. Big Granny, Paw Paw, Momma, Uncle Clinton and Dad have all passed away. I’m a divorced father with 2 kids and on my second marriage. For all the horse shit life has thrown at me, my second wife made it all worthwhile. We’re still in lockdown and she is working part time while I ride out the unemployment. She literally saved me from myself. I’m happy again. No more bad habits.

We have a deal. She feeds the dogs and I walk them. Topanga is hilly and dry. I take the dogs on a trail to the road we walk.

The other day, I discovered a red ant hill. These ants were a little different than the ones in Oklahoma. Lighter framed to survive the coastal desert plains and lack of water, but still possessing a ferocious set of mandibles.

I walk the dogs directly over the hill avoiding the urge for full scale attack. There is a tenuous peace between us. However, I can’t help but kill a few of the forward scouts in the outlying pickets to conceal my approach.

Better safe than sorry.

Things Fall Apart

By Curtis Price

August 16, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

“If a social class acts against its own apparent collective interests, then the historian should at least provisionally assume a rational basis for its action, rather than trying to force it into a posthumous session in consciousness-raising” – Eugene Genovese,  “Yeoman Farmers in A Slaveholders’ Democracy”


At my auto mechanics last fall, I looked over the waiting room: a large battleship-grey area with four plush, copper-studded burgundy leather chairs that were circled around a non-descript rug. Fox TV blared from a wall TV. The sky hung grey too and in the distance loomed the last outcroppings of the Appalachians stooping over Huntsville like watchful gods. A corner rack held wilted Bible tracts doubled over from the summer heat just past.

I’ve been coming here for a while and even with all the customer traffic- it’s a busy place- the managers know me by name. Once, earlier on, I had called impersonally, asking if they could give me an oil change. When I showed up, the manager scolded me, “Why Curtis, why didn’t you say it was you? Of course, we can take you. I’ll do it myself.” This is not the cold, impersonal North, but the convivial South where personal relations trump business formality, at least in the working-class areas. I suspect personal relations are more formal and aloof in all the NASA and defense industry engineering labs. But these are separate worlds, worlds that barely intersect with blue-collar Huntsville.

John, one of the managers, is a short, middle-aged white man with naturally slicked back black hair that reminds me of Elvis with a widow’s peak. Speaking in a thick, nasal twang, John is very sociable and shares his wit and wisdom with anyone who will listen. I always enjoy his stories and we banter back and forth. Today, I asked him if he plans to go gallavantin’ on a cruise again anytime soon, that vacation choice of Black and white working class America, a yearly ritual that is as unknown to our coastal cultural elites as the mating rituals of Stone-age Papua New Guinean  tribes. But I understand it. If you’ve physically worked hard all year, you want to kick back and do nothing but eat and relax. It’s only the symbolic analysts who want to climb the Andes.

It’s right after Thanksgiving so I ask John the perfunctory, “How was your Thanksgiving?” He paused and a pensive look crossed his face. There was no one in the shop so he could talk freely and without interruption. He said his son was in Nashville but he couldn’t make it down this year. A family reunion used to take place every Thanksgiving but people “drifted apart” and that stopped. When he was growing up, he knew all of his cousins but now his children just know a few. If you needed help from family, they’d help without asking anything in return. But people just aren’t willing to help one another anymore these days. As a child growing up in the country, he used to milk the neighbor’s cows from time to time and mow other neighbor’s grass “just because it needed to be done.” Things are different today. His voice trailed as he looked in the distance, “But I figure if you give a blessing, one will come your way. Eventually.”

What John doesn’t realize is that he’s describing the larger crisis of family and personal life under turbo capitalism that has undermined people’s lives, making their lives churn, leaving people more alone and adrift. Even families aren’t what they used to be. I know many families here whose personal relations remind me more of addicts conning each other for drugs than a support network, so much has the ruthless competition of the outside seeped even into that “haven in a heartless world.” John and many others look back to a better world in the past, where people helped one another more, jobs were plentiful and better paid and your knew your community. I can understand why he probably voted for Trump who at least said things were worse off now as opposed to glib, New York Hillary.  John doesn’t know whether capital is fictitious or not, he just knows “things are falling apart.”

Or “Coming Apart.” Charles Murray, to give the Devil his due, wrote one of the best class analyses of recent years in ‘Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010.” Murray, perhaps realizing he is a poisoned messenger, strictly confines himself to descriptive data analysis and what he shows, although he would never draw such conclusions, is the dovetailing of white workers with Black and Latino’s life prospects. The Great Unwinding, in George Packer’s pungent words, hit Blacks and Latinos first and then it moved on to white workers too who face the same collapse of community and family life, declining prospects and loss of security, whose neighborhoods are awash in drugs and who fill early graves just like their Black and Latino counter-parts. They may hate one another but their fates are intermingled, their lives intertwined. The line connecting the Chicago South Side to rural Alabama trailer parks will not pass through the editorial offices of The Nation. . .

What, then, can be said to men (and women) such as John?

One approach, from those embalmed in Sociology departments and Brooklyn, is to say this man is nostalgic for “lost whiteness.” After all, he’s nostalgic for the past and since white supremacy was part of that past so, ipso facto, he’s pining for “whiteness.” This is the shallow, arrogant, analysis of people who have no real contact with other human beings outside their professional and political bubble worlds. It proffers a gross psychological simplification worthy of a fourteen year old blaming everything on “society.” Why? Because people are active actors, picking and choosing from the past, freely discarding aspects of the past they don’t like and preserving those that they do. We remember days playing freely as children and not the days we were sent to the principal’s office for smearing gum in little girls’ hair (confession). John and others like him can yearn for the past without longing for the racial segregation that was part of it. Arguments about “whiteness” that used to be made by Marxist groups such as Sojourner Truth Organization to ENGAGE at the point of production with white workers are today arguments being made in a professional-managerial class Left to flatter its alleged cultural superiority and effectively write white workers off.

If a Left can’t stand for a politics of “common decency,” to use Orwell’s poignant phrase, then hasn’t it lost both its way and maybe the right to exist? Unchanged, the Left will remain, as it is today, disproportionately the province of the credentialed educated and the protected; the journalists, media pundits, academics and the like with no real roots outside these circles and no imaginative capacity to reflect on why it has so dismally  failed to connect with ordinary hopes and aspirations. It instead will continue to rely on undemocratic means such as the courts, Twitter feeds, the media, and “woke” capital to impose an identity-focused agenda from above while screaming to high Heaven . . . “Democracy Now!” Or its less protected but still credentialed part will escape from the world’s messiness into sandbox “autonomous zones.” The Left will remain the province of “Champagne Socialism” and grow further away from lived experience than it already is. It will be like a totaled car, where all critical thinkers can do is shake heads and walk away from the wreckage, realizing there’s nothing left to salvage.

From “Acceptable Men”

By Noel Ignatiev

August 4, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

(From An Unpublished Novel)

There was a constant battle between management and the day gang over shanty time. The men were expected to go to the shanty in the morning, pick up their tools and go out on the job they had been assigned that day, returning only for a half-hour lunch and later at quitting time to put away their tools. However, they stretched their time in the shanty as much as they could. They had coffee in the morning after line-up, returned to the shanty as much as a half-hour before lunch, and came in early in the afternoon to wash up and put away their tools. During the day they often dropped in, ostensibly to get parts for the job from their lockers, taking advantage of the errand to relax. Often, even at times when Petlin and Jackson were the only ones officially allowed in the shanty, it was full, with millwrights, motor inspectors and other maintenance people from the day shift, and even laborers taking a break. Once Petlin answered the phone when the general foreman called the shanty looking for one of the day crew; even though the man was there, Petlin said he was not, which won him the appreciation of the man himself and others on the day crew. Occasionally one or another foreman from the front office would raid the shanty before lunch, chasing out those who were not authorized to be there, and for a few days it would be relatively empty before things gradually returned to normal.

Among the members of the day gang were Stokes and White. They were both black men, and avowed Christians. Stokes was a welder; White had been a turn motor inspector but had been forced to drop down to a lower-paying job because he refused to work Sundays, regarding Sunday work as a violation of the sabbath. Belonging to different denominations, they held extended discussions over doctrine, citing passages from the Bible as evidence. Their disputes about the all-loving, all-merciful and all-forgiving god often got so heated that each appeared ready to murder the other. When they got too noisy, others in the shanty would tell them to shut up, pipe down, etc.

One day Stokes turned to Petlin and asked, “How about you, brother – have you found Christ?”

“Why, is he lost?” responded Petlin.

“No, but you are if you haven’t found Him.”

Petlin readied himself. “I don’t want to be unfriendly,” he said, “but I expect you’ll have more success arguing with Brother White than with me.”

Before Stokes could pursue him further, White called Stokes over excitedly to show him a verse he had found that demonstrated the soundness of his interpretation of Bible law. They soon had their heads buried in the book.

Petlin shook his head in wonderment. He asked Sourwine, who was sitting next to him, what he thought of all that.

“As far as I’m concerned,” answered Sourwine, “if I can’t see it, feel it, taste it, smell it, or fuck it, it doesn’t exist.”

There was no shortage of characters. One fellow had written a book, with maps and charts, “proving” that the earth was shaped like an apple with a bite out of one side, and that flying saucers were visitors from the “bite.” The odd thing was that his understanding of global geography did not seem to affect his life in any practical way: mad north-north-west, when the wind was southerly he knew what route to take to Detroit and how long it took to get there.

Another man had a theory that a superior species had conquered the earth and was raising human beings for food. “What else can explain the world?” he would inquire of doubters in a perfectly reasonable tone. Other than on that one subject, he, too, seemed unaffected by his bizarre view.

One fellow thought weather forecasters deliberately exaggerated the severity of upcoming storms in order to sell more snow-blowing machines. No one argued with him.

Another walked around always with a paperback book in his pocket, which he took out and read at every opportunity. Curious, Petlin asked him what he was reading. It was a pornographic pulp, the same as he always read. The discovery made Petlin feel unclean, and afterwards he made sure not to sit too close to him on the bench.

One of Petlin’s favorite characters was Poulos, whom he had worked with his first two days in the mill. Poulos was so consistently sour in his outlook and so narrow in his interests that he fascinated Petlin. For the last two years he had been the highest-seniority motor inspector in the blast furnace division. The distinction brought with it privileges, among which was his regular job in the skip house. It was a soft job, consisting to a large extent of waiting around for the furnace to fill up so he could stop the skip and work on the control board. In good weather he spent most of his waiting time leaning on the rail on the walkway outside the skip house, watching the traffic up and down the furnace road. The common sight of him leaning on the role stimulated comments.

“Been polishing the rail?” said one man, as the day crew was washing up for lunch, a man a few years younger than Petlin.

“Why, you puppy, be quiet when the men are talking. You haven’t started to lift your leg when you pee. I’ve got more time in the shanty than you’ve got in the mill. I’ve got more time getting my ass chewed out in Fletcher’s office than you’ve got in the mill.”

Poulos talked as if everything around him was there to make him unhappy. Supervisors, co-workers and helpers, auto and TV repairmen, traffic cops and parking lot attendants, telephone operators and bus drivers – all made his life difficult, and he waged the struggle against them with unflagging energy.

Today he was complaining about the trash collection. The city where he lived, and where the mill was located, had elected a black mayor following a series of white crooks and incompetents, and he claimed that his trash was not being picked up as often as before.

“They used to come twice a week. If they missed a day I could call City Hall and they’d send a truck. Now it sits for a week.”

Jackson, who took special pleasure in needling Poulos, responded, “That’s how it works. It used to be my trash would be there in the alley. Now I can call City Hall and they’ll send a truck. It shouldn’t bother you, though – white trash doesn’t smell as bad as black trash.”

Poulos sneered at him and shifted to complaining about his neighbor, with whom he had been battling ever since he moved onto the block.

“The son of a bitch. He lets his dog shit on the bushes in front of my house. He parks his car in front of my house. Who the hell wants a ten-year-old Chevy that hasn’t been washed since he bought it sitting in front of his house? Use common sense, Jackson, would you want it? This morning I came out and found a pile of cigarette butts on my curb. The son of a bitch emptied the ashtray from his car.”

“You need to move back to the ghetto,” said Jackson. “We like to throw our trash out the second-story window.

It helps the grass grow.”

“I told the son of a bitch,” continued Poulos, “to quit dirtying up my curb or I was gonna get the law on him. He just laughed in my face. He said if he felt like it he would come over and take a shit on my front doorstep and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.”

The men were laughing (except Poulos). Jackson, holding his sides, asked, “What did you tell him?”

“I told him if he ever shit on my doorstep it would be the undertaker that wiped his ass.”

“Hey, Poulos,” said Jackson, “Tell us about the time you worked foreman in the stockhouse.”

“Up yours.”

“I heard it from the car man. Poulos wrote out the sheet wrong and had him send up twenty-seven skip loads of limestone in a row. There was so much stone in the furnace they were casting bricks.”

“I suppose you never made a mistake in your life, huh? I suppose you’re one of those geniuses like Fletcher. I feel sorry for you, kid, having to work helper with a genius like Jackson.”

(Update: Charles Kerr will be publishing “Acceptable Men” in the upcoming future. You can get on their mailing list at charleshkerr dot com)

Fugitive Culture, RadLib Outrage

By James Murray

July 25, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

It’s pitiful to see the left have an ‘outrage moment,’ over federal agents snatching people off the streets in Portland..it means several things – the so-called left is still playing a ‘game,’ and have yet to accept and adapt to the new conditions of wartime… although loudly deriding ‘white privilege,’ the left still expects it, and they react with juvenile shock when such historic privilege is denied them. Federal agents in quasi-military outfits arresting people is fairly common in black, brown and lower-class white neighborhoods. Hundreds of thousands of people go to bed every night and wake up every morning with outstanding felony warrants hanging over their head fully aware they could be “snatched” at any moment. And if they resist they will be shot.

Alice Goffman’s 2014 On The Run, Fugitive Life in an American City,” explored the neighborhoods in Philadelphia where the prevalence of outstanding warrants had created a ‘Fugitive Culture,’ among the residents. In this culture no one called the police, disputes were settled via interpersonal violence and an inability to maintain identification cards and bank accounts made the illicit economy the only option. Far from being strictly an urban phenomenon ‘Fugitive Culture,’ stretches far and wide across the continent. In my former county of residence, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, a newspaper article once informed me that there were almost as many outstanding warrants in the county as there were residents! This was explained by the thesis that very few people ever paid a fine, and there were individuals with very many warrants, sometimes stretching back for decades. They drove without valid driver’s licenses, in untagged vehicles. Existing in a low-grade “Fugitive state,” for year after year. This simple reality – shared across decrepit urban slums and isolated rural ghettos, was just accepted, ‘I might go to jail any day.’

This is the American reality the so-called left knows little about. The white ‘RadLib,’ protestors in Portland never expected to go to jail. How could a ‘left’ being so well-behaved and moralistic ever expect such treatment? They’re not like “those people,” who sell drugs and carry unlicensed firearms and commit petty fraud and prostitute their bodies and settle “beefs,” without hiring a lawyer. One of the video clips that provoked such hysterical outrage showed a kid wearing a bizarre “riot outfit,” including helmet and gas mask and soft body armor. Some “federal agents,” swoop upon the scene and take him “into custody,” without incident. He appeared as harmless (and probably confused) as any other Portlandia anarchist but I laughed to myself watching the video, the outfit, perhaps more useful at a fetish party than in street combat could not help but attract ‘law-enforcement,’ attention.

I could not imagine any young prole, either a black or white guy, with a few years of “hanging out on the street,” behind him, thinking he could stroll down the avenue in such attire and not “interact” with the police! Certainly more “lumpen,” elements like Piru Crips or Aryan Brotherhood members would think such “dress up,” is laughable and “amateur hour.” They know all about fighting and sneaking around and avoiding the police and they don’t wear fetish gear to do it.

Could it be, after these riotous months of ‘”white privilege critique,” that those white radlibs shouting the loudest and “performing,” the most incendiary acts of “social justice,” actually have more white privilege than anyone? And suspend that privilege for a few days and Facebook and Twitter explode with rage, disbelief, and the now de rigueur accusations of ‘fascism.’ That all this quasi-left mess (IdPol, anti-racism, PC culture, speech codes, etc.) are not an attempt to project power upward, and challenge the state and capital, but an attempt to project power downward, and police the proles into a (petit)bourgeois cultural project they have no interest in and often actively disagree with?

  This is a quasi-left whose consciousness remains reformist and liberal, still expecting rules and justice. And of course, they expect their privileged positions to be maintained. Their irrational belief in “progress,” is undiminished. Revolutionaries understand there are no rules, and justice is a myth. To me, this Outrage Moment has “Late Weimar” written all over it – a (petit)bourgeois left, completely misunderstanding itself, its enemies, the situation, the masses. Lost in a cascading series of Outrage Moments, bizarre fantasies, and hysteria. The same people who have convinced themselves Trumpismo is “fascist,” and is actively engaged in genocide are simultaneously shocked, stunned that federal agents would dare arrest white liberals. They couldn’t do logic syllogisms if you held a gun to their head. Because this is a secular religious movement, a faith-based doctrine. It has no choice but to abandon logic, free-thought, and speech. It would mightily like to coerce the masses, but that is and will remain beyond its capacity, so it can only threaten coercion. Like a small-town Baptist preacher threatens his flock with Hell for their sins.

The Ideological Delirium of the Modern Left

By Jean-Claude Michea

July 18, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

“To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.” A simple glance at the intellectual and media world of today is enough to verify Orwell’s judgment. “Politically correctness” represents nothing else, in fact, than a liberal update of this double think that previously allowed the left intelligentsia to justify all the crimes of Stalin. Or – specifies Orwell – a “system of schizophrenic thought,” closed to the ingenuity of language and common sense, and whose power denies the most obvious facts (“he lies like a eyewitness,” quipped the Soviets) is based on this maxim of “double standards, two measurements “(the double standard of morality) which legitimizes all witch hunts and the clean conscience that accompanies them.

However, for Orwell, this totalitarian perversion of original socialism had its main source in the intelligentsia of the new urban middle classes whose “secret vow” was, according to him, “to seize the whip in turn.”


It is therefore understandable that by sacrificing its old working-class base to the “cultural” interests of these new social classes alone (as witnessed, among other things, by the fact that the radical critique of capitalism faded everywhere in face of the fight against the “hetero –patriarchy, ” ” white privilege “or “carnivorism”, the modern left blew up the last safeguards which still kept its intelligentsia from traveling the crossroads to ideological delirium in the end. . .

(Unofficial translation from a contribution to an Orwell symposium in Marianne, July 12, 2020)

Killing Your Past To Become Your Future

By Curtis Price

July 14, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

John Bell, a son of the South, moved to those “Cities of despair/ Where black and white fight over the same grey jobs/ They both came north for” (I am probably mangling from memory the poem by Phillip Levine). I never knew much of John’s early life before he ended up in Baltimore except that he had done time in North Carolina and served in ‘Nam.

Baltimore – a cramped, monotonous city of no-trees, no-grass, brick row-houses stacked like coffins on end with white marble sarcophagi steps, each embalmed with thwarted life. Then and now, Baltimore can only tear down, it never builds up; it destroys, not nurtures. John either developed or brought north his heroin habit, I can’t say which.

***

“This is the dark time, my love/All round the land brown beetles crawl about./The shining sun is hidden in the sky/Red flowers bend their heads in awful sorrow” – Martin Carter, Guyanese poet

I met John in crisis in the late 80s while working as a street outreach worker/case manager for IVDUs with HIV. He had tested positive for HIV and like so many at the time, his life collapsed before his very eyes. This was pre-AZT, where the only drug available was “hope,” that pharmaceutical of doubtful efficacy.

 It’s hard from the vantage point of today to remember the war-like intensity of that era. Gay men with AIDS volunteering at the agency where I worked would disappear and then you would hear in whispers that so-and-so had tied a plastic bag around his head and “called it a day.” The Larouchites held meetings calling for quarantine and claiming mosquitoes spread HIV: The only people who came to those meetings were poor black folk with HIV. The director of a Black Nationalist clinic in DC “discovered” a  cure for AIDS from Kenya called Kemron which he claimed was being “suppressed” by the white supremacist medical establishment. Poor people from Baltimore dropped out of medical care and spent their last dime running to DC to get this “miracle” treatment which like most miracles cost dear and failed to deliver. The white doctors at Hopkins knew it was a fraud but were afraid of being labeled “racist” by speaking out. So the doctors stayed mum, demonstrating, then and now, how white guilt can harm black lives as much as white hatred.

In this maelstrom, John always kept cool. His burning intense eyes and an aura of calm radiated to those around him. But behind this surface, he was riven with conflict and uncertainty. He would repeatedly relapse, disappear into the streets and the shooting galleries, then go into rehab.  “Rinse, lather, repeat”: building his life up and smashing it down. Fortunately, John had a good union job with the railroad with seemingly inexhaustible rehab benefits. (As an aside, knowing that John’s job was to inspect the track for damage in northern Maryland and knowing too that half the time, John would be nodded out in his Amtrak truck, I always held my breath catching the train until it passed into Pennsylvania. )

One day I heard that John had signed himself into a rehab program in Philadelphia, which also had a long-term half-way house. When he finished, he decided to stay in Philly, a move that probably saved his life by escaping from the stagnation and slow-motion death that is Baltimore.

He got involved in Philadelphia Act-Up, which alone among Act-Ups was dominated by straight black and Puerto Rican people in recovery. His quiet charisma came to the fore and he quickly became a leading member. He spearheaded a counseling program to inmates with HIV and traveled all over the state giving presentations. He was arrested many times for civil disobedience in Act-Up actions. When I’d visit him in Philly, he was always excited about some new project or workshop he was giving. He teased me and said all that “hippy, Commie, pinko” stuff I talked to him had finally sunk in.

How do people change and remake themselves, why do some remain prisoner of their environment and others challenge it, even when they are both subject to the same external conditions? It seems to me that this consciousness is truly an independent factor; a wildcard not determined by structure alone. Whatever the chain of causation, John Bell escaped his chains. He killed his past to become his future.

When John died, his partner Gloria asked me to speak at the memorial meeting because I was the one person who linked John’s past and present. The room was packed with people from Narcotics Anonymous, Nation of Islam, gay men, lesbians, and transgenders – and the former Commissioner of the Pennsylvania prison system: a true testimony to the impact John had on people.

When I got up to speak, I said there are two types of people, “circle-the-wagon” types and bridge types. The circle-the-wagon types associate and mingle only with people sharing their identity or views while bridge people cross boundaries and disregard socially imposed branding. Bridges, of course, can get stepped on but they always lead to somewhere else. John Bell was of this latter mettle. Today, the “circle the wagons” types can be seen most clearly in identity politics, the cramped, stifling dogma that reduces human complexity to a group label, something that John’s life in practice was admirably a direct refutation of. Today, a clinic serving newly-released inmates in Philadelphia, the John Bell Health Center, bears his name; a fitting tribute.

The Civil War: Back To The Future

A Talk By Noel Ignatiev

November 15, 2016

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

Given November 15th, 2015 in Cambridge, MA

The Failure Of An Identity Warrior

By Kwesi P. Dean

June 20, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

At a BLM demo recently, a young woman had a sign that said “I’m proud of being in a generation that stands up”. It made me think about my generation and wonder what do we have to be proud of? Members of Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980, are in positions of power throughout global systems and I wonder, what have we done to bend the arc toward justice?

My conclusion is, not much. More personally, I haven’t done much . . . certainly not enough.

My personal reality is one of relative comfort marked by the individual pursuit of success because, though black, my family provided that privilege. My dad served twice in Vietnam, and in the course of his military career moved our immediate family from its working class origin to a solidly middle class status. I started in private, predominantly black grade schools where believing I could be most anything was practical because we were surrounded by people like us who were doing most of the things we could imagine.

According to US census bureau data, black income increased by 28% between 1965 and 1970. With unprecedented growth and opportunity, it was easy for my parents and their circle to imagine that it would go on, “the rising tide“ and all of that.

We faced racism by living in places where some people didn’t think we should live and doing things others thought we shouldn’t. Those incidents, painful as they were, were mostly seen as inconvenient as they didn’t prevent our access to safe spaces. There was so much good happening in our lives that the bad couldn’t outweigh it.

Growing up in the 70’s meant multiple black “firsts” were a part of my life…I watched Arthur Ashe win Wimbledon, Dr. J become a sports icon, and I could read Black Panther, Falcon and Power Man comics. Tom Bradley’s election as Mayor in Los Angeles was a political first and he was the exact opposite of a 60’s protest veteran turned politician. Bradley’s rise to power seemed to indicate a certain acceptance because he was simply good enough in a multiracial environment. Black trail blazers used access forged by civil rights and affirmative action victories to create a false sense of confidence in the coming merit based society.

On the other side of the coin, I remember watching the Watergate hearings and Nixon being held accountable for lying. If the most powerful man in the country could be punished for not following the rules, anyone could.

Falling into the individualistic trap of the 80’s was easy. Pursuing the good life while black seemed to bring about the promise for which so many had sacrificed. Moving to a small town in the Midwest meant leaving the protective circle of a vibrant black middle class. That brought more slights, subtle limitations and missed opportunities explained away for one reason or another. The explanations felt like lies and excuses, but those explanations didn’t register. I was taught my success was in my own hands. Like so many others in my generation, working twice as hard was the formula to overcome set-backs and road blocks.

Focusing on the successful, near superhuman black exceptions as the rule meant that my failures were personal responsibilities, signs of a lack of character or persistence. We were only getting part of the picture as we didn’t see the communities that supported our heroes. We didn’t know who picked them up when they fell. Believing the “by your own bootstraps“ fairytale meant there was no need to see what was happening to others like me or to care much about those whose failures weren’t my responsibility. Life is what it is but we still get what we work for, no matter how unequal the system.

Despite living in a small, predominantly white town, I grew up in the mostly working class black church scene. In high school, I followed my mother’s social justice work in the NAACP, I read Baldwin, Ellison and Malcolm X, and I started to acknowledge that I may not be crazy in having the feeling that things were unfair. No matter, I was still privileged, “living in the lap of luxury” as one church mother put it. My mother never had to clean white peoples’ houses like her mother to make ends meet. No matter the problem, I should just put my head down and keep pushing. With all of my advantages, personally advancing was a duty to the race.

While at the university and after moving to Chicago, I connected with black professionals who, like me, wanted as much of the good life as we could afford. We worked hard, made our social bubble of house parties, tennis dates and skiing trips while moving up the ladder. We treated the Rodney King incident as something tragic, enraging, and remote…not likely to happen to us. All the while it was happening around us regularly with Chicago police earning a reputation for harassment stops and coerced confessions.

As someone black who made white people comfortable, I fell into diversity work at a small, mostly white, community college. I started teaching classes to low income adults returning to school for GEDs and job training and then as an advisor to a small number of minority students. The biggest part of my job was keeping the black basketball players eligible to play and out of trouble. A promotion to being the Equal Opportunity officer of the college system put me in the position to investigate violations of the same laws that made my life possible, but only on a case-by-case basis.

I was good enough at playing the honest broker to get hired in HR by a local plant for a Fortune 500 company. It was a lawsuit mandated position forced by black employees to address systemic racism in the plant’s HR processes. No one told me that in the interviews. Named a “change agent” by the business unit president, I was aware enough to know the ghetto I was confined to. Authoritarian cultures rarely reward change agents.

I did enough in good faith to keep the company out of court while noticing that most of its zero tolerance policies and pronouncements about fairness were just things they were saying. There was no intention to lead the community toward a more equitable future. Working in the system for change wasn’t really changing anything. I was providing cover for making money. I was making money too so why should I complain?

The foundational lie of identity politics and policies in the US is simple. They are based on a hierarchical, positivist framework created by the most privileged group to maintain that very privilege without looking like assholes to the market. Note that it was the Nixon Administration that first implemented Affirmative Action at the Federal level.

I think back about that time as a diversity manager, leader of the “get-a-long” school as it was called on the plant floor, and how hollow it all was. . . . how hollow much of my equality work was in an inherently unequal system. Progress was subject to the personal commitment of leaders with no skin in the game. Equality work was largely PR, window dressing, with box ticking activities that just needed to be under budget and not too progressive. Placating those who would judge that we had done enough was enough. Most of those who judged really didn’t care.

At best, I whispered truth to power in inoffensive language to try to guide leaders to the self realization that openness and equity were the right things to promote and that they were profitable. Little did I know that businesses have other goals besides making profits Maintaining a social order leaders can support is part of their motivation too.

My job was to create programs and systems for awareness and fairness so people of color could justify their existence to those in power and the white majority through affinity groups, banquets and minority awareness month celebrations. All the while, people were dying in the streets at the hands of the very system in which I was working. Though my job was directly in the identity industry, I wasn’t alone. Many like me invested in attempting to change the system from the inside through personal achievement to prove black people are worthy of inclusion.

The foundational lie of identity politics and policies in the US is simple. They are based on a hierarchical, positivist framework created by the most privileged group to maintain that very privilege without looking like assholes to the market. Note that it was the Nixon Administration that first implemented Affirmative Action at the Federal level.

Each non-white male group was tacitly pitted against each other, measuring progress against the relative attainment of success as defined by the group at the top of the pyramid. Class issues and differences could be sublimated and enhanced at the same time in a so-called merit system. “If one could make it, it is possible for all” became an ideological club to beat down talk of general inequality in social power and distribution of wealth. Absurd conversations involving choosing an identity category if one could identify as more than one or companies getting “two-fer” credit by hiring a Hispanic female somehow made sense. Tolerance was the goal and the person showing the least amount of tolerance was the starting point.

Angela Davis noted in a speech to the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelonain 2018 that “if we stand up against racism, we want much more than inclusion. Inclusion is not enough. Diversity is not enough…We do not wish to be included in a racist society.” She concluded by indicating that true change will require a broad series of revolutions, both personal and systemic, in all of our social relationships, including economic relationships. (1)

I spent years of appealing to the better angels of the nature of others by being good. Later I used identity statistics for exposing the gaps of fairness, all to have a seat at the table where oppressive decisions were made. It was no more than placing band-aids on an open wound as the body count of destroyed lives mounted.

Notes

1. https://youtu.be/bzQkVfO9ToQ – Angela Davis address to CCCB

Commodifying Leisure

By Curtis Price

June 11, 2020

But trucking is also work that relies on the commodification of the trucker’s body. This body has to be primed for maximum efficiency, pushing itself to the limits to overcome the inevitable routine obstacles and delays. Trucker’s work life is determined by an intersection of time and distance and at this intersection is where their money is made. (1)

COVID19  has thrown a new spanner in that equation, besidse the shutdown in commercial traffic in the early days of the pandemic: increased piracy.

Industry sources report a 56% increase in incidents of theft and 80% increase in the value of goods stolen in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. In April 2000 alone, thefts skyrocketed 300%. But actual thefts are notoriously under-reported because trucking companies don’t want to get a bad rep for not securing their trucks. The true figures are much higher and the reported figures misleading because there are incentives for all parties concerned to keep quiet. Since industry reporting is voluntary, the federal crime figures woefully underestimate the true extent of theft and piracy on the highways..

The type of goods stolen since the onset of COVID-19 has shifted too. Before COVID19, electronics scored high, with most electronics stolen by professional gangs that then shipped the goods overseas to South America to be broken down and sold in Asian markets. But with slowdowns in international trade in the first few months of the epidemic, thieves turned to food, bottled water, and other household consumer items. These goods are easy to unload on the domestic black market and thieves with a determined hustle can peddle food stuffs to mom-and-pop stores with virtually no ability to trace such transactions. As one industry loss expert says, “You can’t put serial numbers on almonds.”

 But as the economic pain from COVD19 spreads, the incentive to pirate trucker loads has only increased.  As good capitalists, criminals will tailor thefts for local markets; for instance, nitrate gloves were stolen for areas with shortages and stolen bottled water gets diverted to hurricane-struck areas where drinking water fetches premium prices. In one heist, 18,000 pounds of toilet paper were spirited away for black market destinations.

Another factor boosting opportunities for theft is lay-offs or absenteeism because of COVD-19 at shipping docks, which leaves less eyes to keep track of goods and gives thieves more opportunities. Even before COVID19, truckers faced a shortage of berths at truck stops and with COVID-19, many truck stops closed or cut-back staff and hours, forcing truckers to bunk down in less secure areas, which has led to a number of violent attacks. Trucks, for instance, have been commandeered at gun point. In one case, a trucker who had pulled over for the night in a parking lot in Detroit was shot and his rig set on fire,

Many of these attempts are small-fry crimes of opportunity where attempts to steal unprotected goods devolves into violence. The big boys use more sophisticated technique such as hacking into logistics computer systems, posing as legitimate cargo shippers and even setting up phony shipping companies.

The figures for shootings and other violent acts against truckers have mushroomed since COVD-19, leading some truckers to start a “Trucker Lives Matter” Facebook group to fight for the right of truckers to carry arms.  Trucking companies for insurance purposes forbid drivers to drive strapped and state laws don’t recognize gun permits held out of state so even a trucker with a permit in Oklahoma can be arrested for carrying the same weapon in Arizona. Truckers are demanding not only that companies allow them to carry arms for self-defense but also  are demanding a federal law letting truckers traveling cross-state to be armed without legal repercussion.

COVID-19 is having a ripple effect throughout U.S. society and if economic hardship grows, it logically flows that attempts to appropriate necessities by any means necessary may stand to increase too. The uptick in violence and piracy in the trucking industry is just one of those hidden, unacknowledged  markers of social disruption following in the wake of COVID-19. As one truckers posted on a trucker’s list said, “It’s wilder out here now than anything I’ve seen in 35 years of driving.”

Notes

1. See Benjamin H Snyder, Dignity and the Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Instant Gratification,  The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2012. Accessed from https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/work-and-dignity/articles/dignity-and-the-professionalized-body-truck-driving-in-the-age-of-instant-gratification

When I was younger, I remember my father – a railroad worker – coming home from work and hiding out for hours in his workshop in the basement. His improvised workshop was full of tools of different sizes and shapes; he poured over copies of Popular Mechanics, studying the schematics, drawing his own blueprints. I’d look at the Popular Mechanics and feel intimidated by the complexity of the designs – they made no sense but instead looked like some sort of secret code interpretable only by the initiated of some secret brotherhood, a Templar Knights of hacksaws and hammers.

Much later, when my father separated from my mother and had moved out, self-isolating to a house in a patch of the woods that he called “Poverty Hollows” – yes, he’d actually answer the phone “Poverty Hollows –he turned the garage into a workshop. (I should add he got out of a couple decades of working with a full railroad pension for having a diagnosis of vertigo;  a vertigo though that didn’t stop him from driving to shop and drink beers at the local bar anytime he chose.) When he died, we had to sift through the wreckage – “clutter” is too generous a term – the turned over, abandoned chicken coops, the old refrigerators and car-carcasses in the yard straight out of rural Mississippi and a workshop where everything had rusted. Perhaps a fitting symbol for the whole scene was a mummified rat that had somehow gotten trapped in its death throes dangling from a stopped wall-clock.

Now, for many men of my father’s class and generation, the home workshop was an arena of self-expression and self-mastery, qualities that were probably lacking on their jobs. Working with your hands and tools outside of the demands of paid employment was a form of creative play, perhaps in a small way close to Marx’s famous observation from “The German Ideology” about hunting in the morning and criticizing in the evening without becoming either a “hunter” or a “critic”.

A couple years ago, I was browsing magazines in a bookstore and opened Popular Mechanics. The majority of articles were product reviews of some new whiz-bang gadget; the self-help schematics  relegated to a distant second. In a tiny way, it illustrates to me the onward march of the commodification of leisure, where instead of building you now buy objects from the Sharper Image. In its small, almost insignificant manner, it signifies yet another step toward deskilling, of replacing the active ethic of the producer with the passive ethic of the consumer.

But there are two exceptions to this general trend. One, which I’m only superficially aware of, is the tinker movement, which strives to recapture some of the old skills of the home workshop, even if most of the tinkering is done with electronics. But its enthusiasts are young IT and creative types, not blue-collar workers.

The second is repairing and messin’ around with your own car. This is more widespread in the South than in the north, in part because of more relaxed zoning and code enforcement so that you can fill your yard with old cars without racking up city fines. Now, in part, this self-help repair is out of necessity and not from creativity: since people are poorer down here, working on your car becomes a responsibility and not a hobby, especially in car-dependent Southern cities.  Noel Ignatiev once wrote about how auto industry supervisors complained of lazy line workers, yet these same workers spent hours off the clock fixing and souping up their own cars. It’s  true:  Removed from the compulsion and the regimentation of labor, a worker’s creativeness can flower.

 Where I live – a low-income apartment complex – on weekends there are at least a half a dozen men with their hoods up, staring intently inside, banging and pulling at something, what I can’t see. Often their labor becomes a communal affair; others come up and watch – or pitch in. A black guy will call up a white co-worker to help him with his car – and vice versa. (1)It’s just part of the informal mutual aid that comes easier in the South, with workers of different races interacting freely and un-self-consciously; true, an infinitesimally insignificant act in the grand scheme of things but a tantalizing glimpse that prefigures a different mode of living than our present.