I Know Why The Miner’s Bird Sings

By Kwame P. Dean

Posted November 30, 2020


I’m sure some are still wondering why there were so many tears of joy among black people as the election was called for Joe Biden. Certainly, some of my more progressive to far-left colleagues, including young, black activists, have asked the question. After all, the election result isn’t likely to usher in the systemic changes needed to open the door to equity for black people in the US. The president-elect is a centrist on a playing field that has been systematically shifted to the right since Johnson’s “Great Society”. 

The redistribution of wealth to the upper class has continued unabated over the past 40 years, no matter the party or the race of the president, as the rising tide lifted only the largest yachts while sinking the economic dinghies most of us were in. As the money flowed upwards, so too the political influence, further locking us into policy choices benefiting the haves at the expense of the have-nots. Even pandemic fueled state spending hasn’t changed the equation as hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed directly to the boardrooms of the already super wealthy. As all of this continues, the scope of material, political possibility seems to shrink with each political cycle as social identity and moral issues replace the conversation about “Who has what and why?” to “Who is whom and what do you think about them?”

So following his election, Biden spoke of saving souls and healing more than changing tax codes and cutting military spending. He spoke of restoration rather than freeing up resources to transform our neglected social safety net, one that wasn’t good to begin with. He spoke of addressing climate change without mentioning the necessity of breaking the hold of big energy money on republicans and democrats alike. He has no incentives to offer politicians from either party to counter their interests in maintaining their positions and increasing their personal power and influence.

So again, why the tears when so many have said that there was no real policy choice for blacks in this election? The answer is simple. We smelled gas filling the room and the election of Biden/Harris opened a window.

The vote against Trump was a vote for a future free of a system willing to throw dissenters under-the-bus. Having been under-the-bus for most of our history in the US, we knew exactly what was at stake as a people united in our otherness and historically alien status. Trump’s dehumanized Black Lives Matter protests and majority black cities rhetorically. He employed secret police on-the-street. He supported the ongoing system of a lack of accountability for police killings. All of that exists in a social context. 

The recognition of the humanity of black people in the US was a result of the political actions of war and legislation. Political processes, largely beyond our control, determined our standards of living and right to live, with the law being a poor substitute for general acceptance in a society disproportionately influenced by our presence in it. The laws themselves have needed to include deterrents to curb the exclusionary and genocidal tendencies of some of our fellow citizens. That, in general, is not the white experience in America. Freedom from automatic suspicion, control and “otherness” is a primary feature of the social construct of whiteness itself.

Many blacks in the US recognize existential threats because those threats have been our constant companions in a country where the question of what to do with us has been a recurring theme since before slavery ended. Our recognition of the threat Trumpism poses is more than paranoia, it is cultural memory. While some dismissed the talk of blacks voting for our survival as hyperbole during the campaign, the Trump administration and its Senate allies continue to do nothing to abate the public health crisis of the century that disproportionately affects poor and black people, people both essential and disposable. Trump supporters idea of freedom and short term economic interests are more important than the health of others, especially if those others have no social cache in their world.

So yes, there were tears of joy shed from eyes open to the historic indifference and enmity of people who would support the likes of a nativist demagogue. Despite 4 years of a pro-Trump evangelical campaign, a lackluster candidate in Joe Biden who needed rescuing during the primaries, the late support of high profile wealthy black people, and a general incumbent bias in the electorate, an estimated 90% of black people voted against Trump, Trumpism and republican policies with historic levels of voter turnout. Maybe now with Trump’s defeat we can focus on transformation rather than once again defending our right to exist…until the next Trump comes along.

Somalia On The Interstate: Growing Piracy In The U.S. Trucking Industry

By Curtis Price

Posted November 18th, 2020

The freedom of the highway and truckers, rootless and always on the move, bawdy roadhouses and neon-lit nighthawk truck stops, is an iconic American cultural meme, perhaps with highways performing as the last frontier since Frederick  Jackson Turner famously pronounced the original frontier shut. Such is the myth. But the reality, as opposed to what is celebrated in song and other popular lore, is quite different. Trucking is dangerous, hard, unglamorous work, although truckers I’ve known value their freedom from office politics and backbiting at the water cooler. The fevered imaginings of automating trucking to get rid of the human element – the driver – is a managerial wet-dream. Truckers master over 23 separate skills that can’t be easily replaced by robots or autonomous driving such as Johnny-on-the-spot repairs. I knew of a 70-something driver in North Carolina who could break apart and reassemble an entire rig.

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

Losing A Friend To Covid19

By Kwesi P. Dean

Posted October 26, 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

He has always been contrary.

He’s one of the most intellectually curious people I know. He taught himself to speak German by reading a scientific textbook and looking up and logging the words and phrases he didn’t know, page by page, until he finished the book. Disciplined, he pursues his interests through reading, observation and conversation, all the while not taking himself or others too seriously. His talent for languages, he speaks five, and handling people led him to work check-in and customer service at a local airport. It was a great place for him to exercise his skills of observation and practice crisis management with a smile with people from all over the world. It’s no wonder that he’s now doing that as a social worker for his adopted country.

A secret to his success has always been looking right when people tell him to look left. He’s great at finding new ways of thinking about situations and new possibilities with his clients. He’s effective because he finds solutions that work both for his clients and the agency instead of covering his ass with endless orders about what people must do. I think my fellow immigrants who get to work with him are lucky.

From the beginning, we talked about watching the spread of Covid-19 like being stuck on the tracks with a slow moving train heading our way. Having to deal with it was inevitable and neither of us knew what that would mean. We knew it could change everything. We didn’t know it would change us.

Just as soon as we started to get information about the virus and its spread, a number of medical doctors and scientists started to offer their take on what was happening and what should or shouldn’t be done. They weren’t offering research, they weren’t publishing in peer reviewed journals. They were going straight to the public through social media to make their pronouncements with a political agenda. My friend found many alternate views from these doctors that fit his need to find something contrary to the government and big media line. It was Stuart Hall’s Reception Theory in practice. Like an itch he couldn’t scratch, the notion that something seemed off about the government line wouldn’t go away. He felt he was being lied to. He couldn’t accept the uncertainty nor the limits he felt on his freedom.

It started with him forwarding me videos of Covid denier doctors. All of them had a similar pattern, great sounding questions followed by unfounded answers that would lead to more great sounding questions. It was like watching a “documentary” about ancient aliens. Underneath it all was the notion that someone is doing this to us for some reason.

At first, I would point out all of the logical problems in the videos, thanks to Carl Sagan, and justify going along with social distancing as the most responsible thing to do in an uncertain situation. As I debunked one source, there was always another. I soon realized that no amount of logic was going to satisfy him. The belief that the situation isn’t right wouldn’t go away. Science and logic, with all of their hypotheses, alternatives and maybes will never beat the comfort of a firmly held belief.

The biggest collective, emotional event our generation has ever experienced soon became something we couldn’t talk about anymore.

It is an effort to talk to him now as we steer clear of the pandemic. Luckily, there is plenty to talk about and there is also a third rail in our conversations that wasn’t there before. Recently, talking about what I miss about concerts and dancing led to a lecture that echoed Donald Trump’s advice to not let the virus change my life. He accused me of living in fear and something broke between us.

The pandemic will pass, eventually. Will our relationships heal? I don’t know and I can live with that.

“Questioning The Old Progressive Dogma:” An Interview With Jean-Claude Michea

Interview with an unclassifiable philosopher.

Translated from Le Nouvel Observateur,  September 22, 2011

Posted OCtober 10, 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

Le Nouvel Observateur – How does the Orphée Complex, the title of your book, define for you the imaginary of the progressive left?

Jean-Claude Michéa – Just as a Pythagorean would have preferred to die rather than cross a field of beans, a leftist activist immediately feels a sacred terror at the thought that something could have gone better in the world before. Such an incorrect thought would lead him to question the old progressive dogma that there is a mysterious sense of history, driven by the inexorable development of new technologies, and which would mechanically lead humanity towards an ever more perfect world. – that it has the face of the “bright future” or that of “happy globalization”. Difficult then not to think of poor Orpheus who, to bring Eurydice from the Underworld, had had to commit to go forward forever without ever allowing himself the slightest glance back. But the comparison with the wandering Jew of Eugene Sue would have been equally appropriate.

How do Orwell’s “conservative anarchism” and his defense of a “common decency” of “ordinary people” remain for you?

Unlike Marx – for whom the socialist ideal was to rest solely on science – Orwell always thought that the critique of capitalism had its source in a moral feeling of indignation and injustice. He thus rediscovered the spirit of the founders of socialism, who first denounced in the liberal order a system structurally based on selfishness and the war of all against all. But the moral understanding that “there are things that are not done” (Orwell) presupposes very strict anthropological conditions. It implies, Mauss said, a system of face-to-face relations structured by the triple obligation of “giving, receiving and giving back” and which constitutes in this respect the “rock” (the term is Mauss) on which all community possible.

Admittedly, to be able to place the idea of common decency in the heart of the socialist project, it was necessary first of all to free it from all its historical limits (limits which held, moreover, less to the fact communitarian itself than to its various forms of hierarchical organization). Nevertheless, this critical universalization movement of common decency necessarily finds its anchor in these elementary structures of reciprocity, which have always founded the very possibility of a collective life.

But it is precisely these primary solidarities (the famous “primary groups” of Charles Cooley) that the unlimited development of the market and law (hence of the spirit of calculation and procedural spirit) now threatens to destroy irreversibly. Orwell was therefore quite right to emphasize the “conservative” moment of any revolutionary political project. The possibility of a true socialist society will largely depend on the ability of ordinary people to preserve the moral and cultural conditions of their own humanity.

Did the left abandon the first ambition of socialism, coined by Pierre Leroux in 1834?

I would say rather that it has become what it was before the Dreyfus affair. Until that time, the left – the name under which the different liberal and republican currents were grouped together – had always fought on two fronts. On the one hand, against the “clerical and monarchist peril” – incarnated by the “whites” of the conservative and reactionary right – on the other, against the “collectivist danger” – symbolized by the “reds” of the socialist camp firmly attached as for their part, to the political independence of the proletariat (that is why we will never find a single text of Marx where he would claim the left or, a fortiori, his union).

It was only in 1899 – faced with the imminence of a coup d’état of the Right of the Ancien Régime and its new “nationalist” allies – that the modern left would truly take birth, on the basis of a compromise – initially purely defensive – between the “blues” of the original left and the “reds” of the workers’ movement (despite the fierce opposition of the anarcho-syndicalists).

It is therefore this ambiguous historic compromise between liberals, republicans and socialists – a compromise sealed against the only “reaction” and which would give the left of the twentieth century its particular mystique – which was gradually called into question, at the beginning of in the 1980s, as the idea of any attempt to break with capitalism prevailed (that is, with a system that subjugates the lives of ordinary people to the goodwill of the privileged minorities who control capital and information) could only lead to totalitarianism and the Gulag.

It is above all in this new context that the official left has come to reconnect – under an anti-racist and citizen dressing – with its old modernist demons of the nineteenth century, when under the name of “party of the movement” it had already for  watchword “neither reaction nor revolution”.

And since the right of Ancien Régime has given way to that of the followers of the economic liberalism of Tocqueville and Bastiat (which, we forget all too often, both sat on the left), we can say that the opposition of the right and the left, as it functions today, is essentially no more than an updating of certain divisions which, at the end of the nineteenth century, already divided the old party of the movement (we would now say the party of growth and globalization). This gradual disappearance of the old white and red parties in favor of an internal electoral antagonism to the blue party alone explains many things.

How is capitalism, which you think is prosperous and limitless, historically suicidal?

Originally, liberalism was simply a doctrine of limitations that should be imposed on the control of the state, churches and tradition in order to protect individual freedom. In practice, this doctrine led to the defense of the model of an “axiologically neutral” (or secularized) society in which everyone could live as he pleased, provided he did not harm others (free trade only being the application of this general principle to the particular sphere of economic activities).

If this system has been able to work so consistently for a long time, it is however because it continued to rely implicitly on a certain number of values (of “cultural deposits”, said Castoriadis) which no one thought of questioning yet “evidence.” Almost everyone, for example, agreed that there were common sense criteria for distinguishing honest action from dishonest action, a madman from a sane man, a child of an adult or a man of a woman.

Now, from the moment when all existing forms of philosophical categorization begin to be perceived as mere arbitrary and discriminatory constructions (and cultural liberalism sooner or later leads to this postmodern conclusion), the liberal system necessarily becomes incapable of defining by itself. even its own limits. And just as an unlimited economic growth is condemned to gradually deplete the natural resources that make it possible, so the unlimited extension of the right of everyone to satisfy his least personal fads can lead ultimately to undermine all the symbolic foundations of life in common.

In the image of King Midas, who died of being able to transform everything into gold, it seems that the global elites of modern liberalism are now philosophically ready, in order to satisfy their greed, to destroy even the very conditions of their own survival.

Interview by Gilles Anquetil and François Armanet

Source: “Le Nouvel Observateur” of 22 September 2011.

Saturday Night, Late September

By James Murray

Posted October 7, 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

People have been cruising south Memorial Drive in Tulsa for decades. Showing off their cars trucks and motorcycles or just burning through hours and gallons of gas in unremarkable vehicles. “It’s something to do,” I can imagine a cruiser saying. And a possibly cheaper, if less efficient way of meeting the opposite (or same) sex than going to a bar or nightclub. As a youth pastime cruising goes back to at least the 1950s, but nowadays the participants might be of any age.

A dedicated hot rod car or truck costs a lot of money and few kids can afford the entry fee. From teenagers in mom’s borrowed Honda or Escalade to retired greybeards with tens of thousands invested in their weekend show rides, south Memorial is packed on Saturday nights, in warm, windows down, bumpin’ sound system weather the traffic is bumper to bumper. With parking lots occupied on both sides of the street by cruisers who have stopped to socialize, some with lawn chairs so they can watch and comment on the traffic and vehicles. I imagine different lots ‘belong,’ to different subgenres of cruisers – Chevy trucks, vintage hot rods, etc.

In my estimation, “Cruising,” has always been a rather tame, ‘Square,’ pastime. It’s the kind of thing working-class people do when they’re not into ‘Alternative,’ scenes or drugs or Jesus. When they want to get out of the house on weekends but aren’t that interested in movies or live music or distrust the downtown “Entertainment District,” as too effete, liberal, sophisticated and gourmet. Or when small-town kids from the surrounding area want to come to Tulsa and show off their cowboy hats and rural authenticity but don’t know exactly where to go, or what to do, and they have fantasies of meeting, “City boys,” or “City girls.” So they drive around in pickups discreetly sipping beer and taking in the sights and sounds of bright lights in the big city.

In the wee hours of the morning, when the traffic has dissipated and the cruisers have gone home, street racers run their bikes on south Memorial. These are an adrenaline-dependent and nihilistic type – black and whiteboys in equal measure, they get spun on stimulants and race stripped down and modified motorcycles for a quarter mile. Completely illegal and extremely dangerous, these races are conducted for hundred dollar bills or motorcycle titles. A bike bought and worked on for months can be lost via wager within seconds. Or crashed and totaled, many times the bikes themselves are not street-legal or even tagged. Insurance and registration? Forget about it. Every race carries the risk of death or jail. Lives are lost in this pastime every year.

But they do it anyway. Machismo and competitiveness cannot be legislated away. At one point the city offered to occasionally open a street and allow legal, regulated racing with police and ambulance at the ready to assist, but there wasn’t much interest. “Outlaw shit,” is always more fun, and provides its own reward and extracts its own price.

It’s about ten o’ clock on a Saturday night in late September. A friend and I have been to the dwindling and disappointing downtown “Entertainment District,” and we’re going back to her place. I pull off the crosstown expressway and onto Memorial Drive. We’re critiquing the hip-hop they are playing on Sirius 45 and gossiping furiously. The light on the off-ramp turns green and I pull into heavy Saturday night cruise traffic. I am southbound and I see a remarkable and novel sight northbound coming at me – a large convoy – hot rods, lowriders, SUVs, work trucks, vans, sedans are driving in close formation – dozens of vehicles all flying the same sized large Mexican flags.

I am amazed at what I am seeing. Over the summer, American flags or”‘flags associated with Trumpismo,” have been seen more and more. Both on south Memorial weekend nights and all over the state, but never have I seen such a display of immigrant or “Ethnic pride.” I comment to my friend, and we agree – as native Tulsans we’ve never seen such a sight. Of course we are close to the constantly expanding “East side,” here on Memorial, that area also known as “Little Mexico, or “Cartel Land,” but we think this is something entirely new.

We don’t know how to interpret what we are seeing? Are the convoy and Mexican flags a way of saying”‘Fuck you,” to Trumpismo and its adherents? A declaration of identity-based ‘nationhood?’ A simple patriotic gesture not that much different from flying the American flag?

As the “Mexicans,” drive in tight phalanx north bound we are surrounded by a loose assortment of Jeeps, 4×4 trucks and cars scattered through the traffic flying American flags, Trump portrait flags, and Blue Line flags. Whereas the ‘Mexicans,’ seem disciplined and stoic as we meet their column the white Trumpismo element is boisterous, jeering and laughing and throwing up the occasional obscene gesture. The whole street scene is energized, politicized, kinetic and restless. Yearning and aggression hangs damp in the air.

I am anxious to get clear of all this mess, it is Oklahoma after all, and chaos can erupt at any time. I am sober with a .38 snubbie in my waistband but I have no doubt there are heavy firearms all over the place, as well as ample alcohol and white crystalline substances. A dangerous mixture even on an apolitical Saturday night in a normal year of economic good times. But this is a bad year of ‘pandemic,’ and economic contraction and riots and paranoia and hysterical emotion across the political spectrum.

The masses stressed, barely functional, ignorant and irrational. Between stop lights on the crowded street I recognize all the elements of a ‘Violent racial incident,’ are present and it would be easy for young males (white or brown) to blunder themselves into CNN ’Breaking News.” I’m a (so-called) white male with a black female in the passenger seat and I just want to get out of there. But first I want a six-pack of microbrew.

I stop at Quik-Trip and vehicles flying the competing flags are circling the store. A large group of street racers have parked their bikes in one corner of the expansive lot and they stand around smoking cigarettes and observing the spectacle. The sweet skunk smell of cannabis wafts in the air. I walk into the QT and the patrons are mostly black, (all of them, like myself, are unmasked, in unconcerned  violation of city ordinance and the wishes of white liberals.)

A single mom with two rambunctious toddlers is buying late-night snacks for the kids and tall can of beer for her self. A girl in short shorts and multi-colored ‘Brooklyn Braids,’ is using the ATM. I grab some beers and get into the checkout line. I notice a teenager with red Jordans, red ball cap and red shorts is wearing a “Scarface,” t-shirt, in this unlicensed rendition of questionable artistic merit a single tear runs down Al Pacino’s cheek. No one says anything, we’re all in a hurry to leave. Maybe just my imagination and projection, but I sense these folks, like myself are just trying to keep their heads down and get home to “Party,” or watch T.V.

Making political or cultural statements on Saturday night is not in our lists of interests. We just want to enjoy a few hours of intoxication and relative relaxation before another week starts all over again. They (and I) don’t”‘Identify” with either Trumpismo or the reactions thereto. Everyone wants to tell us what to think and we don’t believe anything we are hearing. We’re all frazzled from months of acceleration. The flag-flying drama show circling outside is just another unexplained bewildering event in a year full of them. What does it mean when folks feel it is necessary to fly flags indicating “Ethnicity,” or “Nationhood?” I don’t know. Do single mom, Brooklyn Braids girl and Scarface fanboy understand this spectacle better than I do? Do they think it’s very bizarre?

Obviously I have no idea.

I get back in the Jeep and steer carefully back onto the street. “What is black america’s flag?’ I ask my friend and she just shrugs.

“I don’t know.”

I think about my own query for a minute, the traffic is stop and go, “Red black and green?” I ask.

She shrugs again. “I understand the RBG. Blood, skin and earth, but most don’t know what that means.”

“Also ‘Revolutionary But Gangster.’” “Yeah I’ve heard that too.”

“Y’all better get a flag,” I kid her, “Looks like everyone else has one.”

A Case of Police Brutality in the White Rural South

By Curtis Price

Posted on September 30th, 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

Below is an account of police brutality written on Facebook by “R,” a white female rural-dwelling acquaintance of mine from a small town in Northern Alabama. We had worked together in a chaotic environment in which one crisis bled into another and working conditions were so bad people would go on lunch break – and never come back.


“R” struck a picturesque figure, long raven-black hair, pale skin, bright red lipstick, and the finely chiseled, aquiline features of the rural Scots-Irish, looking like a cross between Vampirella and a more glamorous version of any hardscrabble Melissa Leo character struggling against the odds for a place in the sun.


In the middle of all the madness, “R” was the rock in the stream forcing the raging waters to part. She exuded natural leadership and many of the mostly black women we worked with turned to her for help and advice. These women, all single mothers raising children and often working two jobs to make ends meet, had to endure lives of endless crisis such as children that had to be taken to the ER in the middle of the night when their mothers needed sleep to work 16 hours the next day, meaning they were often up 24 hours straight, sometimes half-falling asleep while standing up.

“R” helped them survive the day; deeply religious, she told these women God was looking out for them and things would get better. Her religion was not a moral finger-pointing at others for their alleged sins but a spiritual discipline against resentment, in Christopher’ Lasch’s poignant words, and a springboard propelling a determined resilience. Whether Divine Intervention ever came is questionable but “R” at least gave others the strength to make it through another day.


Of course, much of today’s left, like terriers rooting out truffles, will sniff out “whiteness” in this story and, having made such profound analysis, retreat to their boutique-leftist, hipster ghettos of Brooklyn, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle, content that they understand the world. This story, frankly, is not for them, but for those who want principled unity instead of the endless identity-derived divisions of today’s posturing, radical-chic middle-class left.

I have lightly edited the story for conciseness and grammar.

“On 6/13/2020, my husband, SG, called the Madison County Sheriff’s Department to file a complaint against a man that was threatening us via text and Facebook Messenger. He was speaking to the officer on the phone via speaker and SG told him he wanted to file a harassing communications complaint. The officer asked him what he knew about harassing communications.  SG told him that he used to be an officer. The officer got some information from S and stated he was coming out to take the complaint.

It must have been about an hour or so and the next thing I know there are three officers at my door. They state they wanted to see SG. I told them he was no longer there. The officer told men he knew SG was there and needed to see him. The officer stated that they had a warrant for him but would not tell me what for. But he never produced any paper work. He just spoke very belligerently to me.

They then came into my house looking for SG as if he had done some heinous crime. My children were sitting on the couch. I was told to stay in the living room at that time. I told the officers my husband has a shattered shoulder blade as they were going into the bedroom.

Then the older officer told me to come into the hallway at which point he placed handcuffs on me. I heard my husband again tell them about his shoulder and then I heard him yelling out in pain.

I was then taken into the living room in front of my children handcuffed. My mother came out of her room and I asked her to take the kids to the garage because all three officers were making statements that never should have been spoken in front of my children. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. I am a dedicated nurse and mother. Yes, I made the mistake of saying he wasn’t here, but they then started making comments in front of my children that should never have been said!

I was still asking what the warrant was for, with no answer. Two officers then went out the front door with my husband, leaving the door open. They were discussing something and I am standing in my living room handcuffed just crying and watching them. The main officer looked at me and said, “Don’t look at me, you need to deal with him” and nodded his head to the older officer.  The older officer asked me where I worked and wanted to know my supervisor’s name. I gave him the info and he told me he would be calling my boss to let her know what type of person is working for her.

I was then taken into my kitchen, still cuffed. The taller officer then told me we had a lot of guns, which really I don’t think I do but he then asked me about them and checked to make sure they were registered and not stolen. I asked again what my husband had done that was putting us in this position and they told me it was about a bad check in 1991 (or 1993 maybe). And then they say we told you. NO THEY DIDN’T!

I was completely flabbergasted. All this brutality and bad mouthing over something that was NOT a violent crime and well past the statute of limitations! The taller officer then proceeds to tell me it’s just stupid to want to do a harassing communication on someone over Facebook. I tried to explain that it was also a text and that this man knew where I lived and had actually been to my house. This man had not only threatened my husband but me and my kids. But the taller officer completely blew me off. It was his civic duty to make a report but not one of the three of them would do so!

The older officer uncuffed me and told me, “You’re welcome.” Later we found out they had the wrong man on top of it. Ludicrous! This was handled very badly! They spoke to us like we were the lowest scum the whole time they were here and half of it was in front of my children. Yet you all go around trying to make kids believe you are the “good guys.”

My brother is a cop in another state and I told him what happened. All he could say was “Remember, not all cops are like this.” And I’m sure there are some good cops in Madison County but they are really paying for the brutality of cops like this.

My husband was brought home because he wasn’t the right guy and told me the arresting officer told him he got upset because he doesn’t like being told how to do his job. Which is ridiculous! . . . There was a study done a few years ago on officers and domestic violence and how domestic violence with police officers is rising. I can imagine why, if you allow officers to go in and treat people the way they do based solely on the bruised ego of one officer.  . . . Maybe more people need to realize that police brutality is alive and well in Madison County and it’s not race related – it’s ego related! And something needs to be done about it.”

***

Now, how can we dissect “R”’s understanding of what happened to her at the hands of the cops? She doesn’t see the underlying structure of policing and its role in controlling working class people, instead passing it off as a few bad apples in the bunch. She lacks the conceptual tools or connections to a larger analysis that would position her experience in its wider context. Her response is like that of most working class whites (as well as large numbers of working class blacks too), a matter of personalities.

But working class blacks have the continuity of a historical context in which to place such experiences that working class whites don’t have, even though they face police brutality as vicious as blacks do, as black scholar John McWhorter has documented. (1) (An even better text, too important to be buried in a footnote, is the Institute for Family Studies article, “They’re Out to Get You:  Police Misconduct in White, Working-Class America,” https://ifstudies.org/blog/theyre-out-to-get-you-police-misconduct-in-white-working-class-america?fbclid=IwAR1oz0wef5jN8N39XHpht3a8N6CbzvCE25mCkeXaA-lg2FA-6BeArw24hWs) A major difference, though, lies in the fact that even isolated rural areas, a local NAACP will serve, however imperfectly, as that repository of  memory and mechanism for making abuse public.

But rural working class whites fall short in such infrastructure. In these areas, there’s an absence of intermediate organizations, those “little platoons,” as conservatives so love to gush. It’s only the immediate family and church – and beyond that, nothing. In case of the single, religiously unaffiliated, there’s just nothing. Lots of it. I know of such men, shaggy, disheveled, who tramp through the woods daily to the liquor store and then stay cooped up in their apartments drinking, with only the TV to keep them company, men for whom fantasies of “fully automatic luxury communism” is nothing but  a sick joke.

This breakdown – or perhaps more accurately, since in some cases there weren’t dense social networks to decompose to begin with, social stasis – and the ensuing loneliness and isolation is more accurate a predictor of Trump support than racial attitudes. As Timothy Carney argues in his book, “Alienated America: While Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse,” “People enmeshed in strong communities rejected Trump in the early primaries while people alienated, abandoned, lacking social ties and community rushed to him immediately.” As an economist put it, describing the hollowed-out areas where Trump did best, “These are nothing economies. Other than the hospitals and local government, there’s not a whole lot going on.”

This is supported by Carney’s analysis of Iowa Trump-supporting counties such as Pottawattamic, showing that the larger numbers of “the unattached, unconnected, dispossessed” living in “civil society deserts” the more correlation with voting Trump in the primaries. Nor is this phenomenon confined to the United States. A recent survey of European social attitudes found a connection between social isolation and support for right-wing populist parties. One respondent, an “Eric” in Paris, said he joined the Rassemblement National (the former National Front, France’s far-right populist party) because he found more genuine community in the RN then he did in any of the other parties, including the left-wing ones. (2) It doesn’t take much imagination to see the same development here, in the communal fervor of Trump rallies. Or for that matter, in the streets of Portland.(3)

“R” is more fortunately placed because she’s mobile, works in a larger nearby city and is Internet savvy so she has access to news and information (if what’s on the Internet can properly be called that). She reposted, for instance, Dollie Parton’s meme in support of BLM. But many in her situation don’t go online so they try to make sense of their world with the tools at hand, which of course, reinforce the ways things are, the inertia of the everyday that weighs on lives and consciousness, stifling awareness of alternatives and maintaining the status quo.

Notes

1) John McWhorter, “Racist Police Violence Reconsidered.” https://quillette.com/2020/06/11/racist-police-violence-reconsidered/

2) https://www.ft.com/content/ffadb189-5661-40c3-b142-43f91cf38bdf

3) https://gen.medium.com/ive-been-a-democrat-for-20-years-here-s-what-i-experienced-at-trump-s-rally-in-new-hampshire-c69ddaaf6d07

To Vote or Not to Vote?

By Kwesi P. Dean

Posted September 8, 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

For all its faults, Facebook has given me the chance to interact with people I would not normally meet. That’s especially true as quarantine is perfect for my inner hermit and I no longer need an excuse for not leaving the apartment. Because I live in an economically mixed area in Europe, working-class, social housing, and a new colony of urban professionals, there are 3 grocery stores within a 5-minute walk. If you don’t see me between the hours of 0800-0900 on Saturday morning at one of those stores, chances are you won’t see me at all.  

Facebook is the exception. I’ve spent the pandemic immersed in the thoughts and opinions of friends, in the American sense, who share things we normally wouldn’t talk about in the superficial friend zone that encompasses the vast majority of my circle of nearly 1,500. I’ve learned I am only one degree of separation away from COVID deniers, anti-vaxers, blue lives matter supporters, white supremacists, Trump supporters, never Trumpers, conservative Christians, conservative nihilists, and Republicans of all stripes besides the normal bunch of Democrats to radical lefties among those who post political opinions.  

The announcement of Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party candidate for Vice President brought me in contact with a group of pissed off young black progressives who felt the former prosecutor and attorney general was too conservative to support. They began to talk openly about the taboo topic of not voting at all. Cue the firestorm.  

Any black person talking openly about not voting is taken by some as a betrayer of 400 years of racial struggle. It’s as if slaves desired the ability to participate in the political system that enslaved them above all other options. We know that’s not historically accurate as black people went to great lengths, including supporting foreign invaders, for freedom from the white people who controlled every aspect of their lives before the legal end of slavery.  

The notion of voting as a responsibility in the black community is in direct response to the efforts taken to keep black people from voting after the 15th Amendment. Taxation without representation is very profitable and second-class citizens have little protection against the whims of those in the first-class anywhere in the world. In the US, acts of terror were acceptable for those seeking to maintain the centuries-old status quo of one white man, one vote.  

According to Pew Research projections, black people make up 12.5 percent of the US electorate in 2020. In a winner-take-all election system, minority status creates another form of powerlessness in the electoral process. Outside of a few communities, blacks were and are voting minorities whose power is in inverse relation to the unity of the voting majority. This reality is the basis of modern gerrymandering as stacking blacks in one majority-black district to make their political participation insignificant in 3 others, helps to ensure hegemony and a general lack of interest in issues more specific to the black community.  

Why should black people vote to legitimize a system that routinely ignores or minimizes their interests? What are the alternatives?  

Non-violent, direct action seems to bring a higher level of attention to interests outside of the mainstream as long as it in some way disrupts the routine of life of the target audience. The more disruption, the less it is like a polite request, and the more it becomes a demand. Forcing the larger community to devote stretched civic resources to manage direct action costs money. Boycotting endangers businesses directly as a slight dip in business can lead to being unprofitable in low margin companies. 

What about rioting and looting? Something about wide-scale destruction and theft of property by black people touches something deep in the American cultural DNA. Maybe it harkens back to the threat and reality of slave rebellion, a constant challenge to the white power structure prior to the end of slavery. CNN conservative pundit Amanda Carpenter posits that in her circle, the current presidential election comes down to the pandemic vs. protests. She explained that the people she talks to in Michigan see events in Portland and Chicago and wonder if they are next. Talk about massive false equivalency! I’ve had Facebook commentators openly defend killing rioters and looters who threaten property alone. It’s rare to hear that “kill them all” rhetoric after sports teams win or lose and mostly white people destroy property for fun. No threat to the social order is perceived.  

What is it that makes property that can be replaced more valuable than a life that can’t? In America, property equals a certain way of life so completely that it can be confused with life itself. Property originally determined which white man could vote and which white man couldn’t. Property today determines who has access to power beyond the vote and who doesn’t since the US seems generally disinterested in curbing backdoor corruption in the form of campaign contributions and in-kind support through political advertising. Property equals free speech. Property equals influence and influence equals agency in a capitalist society. The value of ideas for capitalists is in direct relation to their ability to generate more property. As Gil Scott Heron said in “Work for Peace”, “The only thing wrong with Peace, is that you can’t make no money from it.” Maybe that is why the US has been at war 93% of the time since 1776.  

So, when it comes to gaining influence in minority communities, the brick may have more social impact than the ballot.  

There are risks in damaging property, not only to life and limb when facing off with police and vigilantes but to offer justification for the callousness of the write-off mentality. Capitalists make mistakes all the time. Businesses large and small make big mistakes and walk away from them when they can. Segway anyone? As the President floats the idea of walking away from centers of black population by abandoning Democrat-controlled cities (a dog whistle if there ever was one) he is tapping into an accepted belief system. If something costs you more than it is worth, stop investing in it. When he’s speaking to communities that don’t value black citizens in general, it doesn’t take much to secure their agreement.  

One disappointed young progressive told me he wasn’t going to vote. He explained it can’t get any worse with a second Trump administration versus a Biden administration. I don’t have a crystal ball, but Trump’s track record and history say otherwise. My progressive acquaintance is on to something though. Maybe the answer to the question of voting or not is to be found in answering the question “What best supports the revolution?” That’s a much more powerful analysis than which is the best among bad choices. 

A more revolutionary option can be found in the Fred Hampton approach. Before he’s was murdered by Chicago police in 1969, Hampton was working to build a coalition beyond race with people who had the same interests as the black community he served. Hampton connected with people others had written off. His coalition of Latinx and white organizations to improve the lives of poor people confirmed it was possible. Actions, including putting their lives on the line, prove that people outside of the black community have interests in common with black people today. Connecting people with common economic and social interests offers the most direct threat to a system designed to control the majority of people in service to the property and power of a clear minority. Maybe to vote or not to vote is simply the wrong question? 

Pew research American electorate 

Amanda Carpenter 

https://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/08/28/trump-rnc-se-cupp-amanda-carpenter-unfiltered-from-home-intvu-vpx.cnn

USA at war : https://freakonometrics.hypotheses.org/50473

Trump retweet’s “let them rot”: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-twitter-democrat-cities-rot-retweet-a9674106.html

Fred Hampton: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/fred-hampton-black-panthers-rainbow-coalition-poor-americans

https://assets.teenvogue.com/photos/5d371a1e283d550009da960f/16:9/w_1280,c_limit/00-social-fred-hampton.jpgBlack Panther Fred Hampton Created a “Rainbow Coalition” to Support Poor Americans | Teen Vogue On December 3, 1969, 21-year-old Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, led a political education class, had some dinner, and talked to his mom on the phone. http://www.teenvogue.com

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.