Waiting for Ricky Tantrum by Jules Lewis (review)

Many classic scenes persist in the new Old Toronto.

This work takes place in approximately my childhood neighbourhood about ten years ahead of me. Those ten years made a big difference: what was an immigrant working-class environment became middle class in only about twice as much time. While it has adult themes, the book is borderline “young adult” as there is little introspection. That said, the main characters lack of quality guidance and his role as a passive receptacle for the adult refuse around has melancholic weight to it. I was very glad to encounter my high school gym teacher and soccer coach immortalized on the page. Some characters you can’t make up.

Feminine descriptions: “peacock eyes and pouty lips”, “crimson, puffy, moist”, “droopy, loose-lipped, hound-doggish”, “snooty, racoon-like”, “perky, poodleish”, “her soft pastel fingers”, etc.

Martin Amis in Time’s Arrow on Deindustrialization in Reverse

In Time’s Arrow time is moving backwards.

“The parallaxes of the stockyards shift and quake. Industry is coming to the city. Gas is cheap. Things move faster than they used to. The insane have been taken off the street; we don’t ask where they’ve disappeared to. Never ask. It’s better if you never ask. No longer the nomads, the nightrunners . . . Instead there is a burly altruism abroad. People all have jobs now, at the steel mill and the auto plant. They wash the wind. Just as they clean up all the trash and litter, they also clean up the earth and the sky, transmogrifying cars, turning tools, parts, weapons, bolts, into carbon and iron. They’ve really got to grips with their environmental problems, facing them squarely, with common purpose. Time for talk is over. There is no talk. Just action. To total sickness you bring total cure. Now there’s less room for thought and for feeling, and it seems a great tiredness is good for keeping people steady. Work liberates: Friday evenings, as they move off toward it, how they laugh and shout and roll their shoulders.”

Macron, the gilets jaunes, roundabouts, and French politics (Charles Devellennes)

  • Macron represents a new era of French politics, for one thing the streets are reacting differently.
  • Hollande tried for normalcy but that era has passed.
  • “Macronades” are little sayings that Macron has become famous for (ex. telling an unemployed man “you only need to cross the street to find a job”).
  • Macron is very stubborn but the gilets jaunes forced his hand.
  • The gilets jaunes were the only political force to successfully get Macron to increase social welfare spending.
  • The center right and center left parties have completely collapsed. Macron has taken more upscale voters from both.
  • Macron is really despised by a lot of people. One reason is repressive police violence. He also pushes through reforms without consultation.
  • He is perceived as a right-wing president.
  • No political party has captured the gilets jaunes movement, they have intentionally evaded this in any event.
  • There was a gilets jaunes party in the 2019 european elections but it completely flopped.
  • In the first round of presidential voting younger voters went for Mélenchon, the middle aged favoured Le Pen and Macron won the old.
  • Macron’s base has changed, the wealthy and retired have flocked to him over time. He passed a tax break for the richest.
  • Le Pen has support in rural and peri-urban areas, places outside of big metros where you need a car to get to work (the gilets jaunes protest was sparked by a carbon tax policy).
  • There is a diagonal of these communities that crosses France (low pop. density).
  • Le Pen is first for working class voters. That said, the working class tends to abstain from voting.
  • Many working class non-voters are those who have distanced from the left but haven’t been taken in by Le Pen.
  • The France of roundabouts, edges of cities, big box supermarkets etc. is the key locus of gilet jaunes type French. They tend to live in still further outlying areas and are small property owners.
  • French villages have lost needed amenities like little shops so locals have to go to big box stores via the roundabouts.
  • Macron has framed French politics as “it’s me or the fascists”.
  • A Macron reform made the “state of exception” permanent in French law so his self-assertion as the candidate of democracy is disingenuous.
  • Le Pen’s platform was surprisingly boring.
  • There’s been a far-right candidate in 3/5 of last French presidential elections (final vote).
  • Macron claimed to be “at the same time” left and right.
  • Since 2002 the left end of the French political spectrum has coalesced around anti-fascism (against the National Front, now the National Rally).

Bonus: Quentin Letts on suburban roundabouts in the UK

Mini roundabouts are suburban, bossy little objects. They are imposed on us from on high, ostensibly for our own good (but just as possibly because they create work for consultants). Their introduction involves great cost and prolonged upheaval at the end of which you are left with a small lump, little bigger than an upturned saucer, on the Queen’s highway.

Be not deceived. Mini roundabouts are a menace. They are an aesthetic blot. They kill the spirit of the road. And they cause car sickness, as the pongy interior of many a family hatchback will confirm.

They were invented by a 1960s’ Ministry of Transport boffin, Frank Blackmore. It may seem harsh to include Mr Blackmore in this sort of book. He was only doing his job. He was maybe even ‘acting under orders’, as the saying goes. But life is a merciless business.

Blackmore created a monster, as anyone who has visited Swindon’s ‘Magic Roundabout junction roundabouts all stuck together – will agree. The mini roundabout – a moonscape of mini has run amok. Mini roundabouts have replaced ancient crossroads, once site of the gibbet and the wind-gnarled oak, more recently a place of sporting judgement. At crossroads you had to time your leap, gun your engine, make tyres squeal. We could not all be Nigel Mansell but we could at least get the adrenaline pumping by darting out in front of an oncoming juggernaut. Why should only Mr Toad have some fun at the wheel?

At a crossroads, moreover, you have a sense of one road being senior to another. Should the busy A road not have priority over the piddling country lane? Not at a mini roundabout it doesn’t. Heavy traffic has to screech to a halt for even Mini roundabouts are the very opposite of democratic. They are the many bending to the few.

juicy meat #1: A beauty influencer’s monologue on work, class and adventure

“juicy meat” will be an ongoing series analyzing media content. Content being the “the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind” according to Marshall McLuhan. Further context for this particular document will be provided at a later time.

“Yeah, so… to go back to just everything I’ve been talking about. Ummm… There’s a topic in the anti-work subreddit that really spoke to me and I’m showing you right here it says ‘anti-work is not a right vs. left issue, this is a top vs. bottom movement, everyone deserves to have a livable wage, every single person no exceptions. No one should have to work until death or work multiple jobs just to survive. Don’t let multi-billionaire corporations pit us against each other, this isn’t a social issue, it’s an economic issue that negatively effects all of us.’

I believe there’s a lot of social engineering happening right before our eyes that is dividing us, it’s dividing the people, the working class, where we fight against each other while those at top they get to basically just control everything and they’re engineering these false narratives that are pitting us against each other. If you think about it, the top %1, there’s very few of them compared to the rest of the world and everyone else and imagine if we put aside our differences and worked and helped each other and understood each other more. We see each other as enemies rather than brothers and sisters and we have a common enemy which is a very small percentage of people who are puppeteering everything, who own everything, and I truly believe people are waking up from this, they’re starting to see beyond the veil that’s in front of us.

I know this year was very tough for a lot of people around the world because of just.. a lot of the uncertainties with the future uhh.. inflation of course, what’s happening with money. There’s been a lot of civil unrest around the world too so… I didn’t come in this video for solutions it was really just more to have like an open dialogue and discussion with you on this because most people are not happy with their jobs, they don’t feel valued, they have meaningless work, they have soul-sucking jobs that are robbing them of their time and energy where they can allocate that to things that they enjoy, they love.

I remember growing up and going to school and being told this was how things worked and if you follow the rules and you’re a good person, you’re a good citizen, you will be rewarded. Now that I’m older and I see the world through a new lens, through the lens of someone who’s an adult, who’s in this economic system, that is so far from the truth. It’s the corrupted people who are winning and who are passing off the laws and rules and those who are decent, decent people who are taxpayers, they are the ones who are getting robbed, they are the ones who are getting blindsided by the system and [I] think people are just fed up.

I think people just want sovereignty. I think people want to be able to pursue their dreams so now we have to reevaluate what is the future going to look like… I think this is a good note that I can end on… is that in life you can make so many different plans and be prepared but there’s so many elements that are completely out of your control and being anxious about things you have no control over will only make things worse. And so, the best advice I can offer that I used myself when I was feeling anxious and I was in debt and I didn’t have a job and I had to figure my future out… was to learn. Be a self-learner, you have so much knowledge at your disposal now compared to when I first started out and you can learn so much and learn things that bring you joy, learn things that you’re good at, learn things that can help you create a better future for yourself. And in a way, yes, it is scary but it’s also exciting that means it’s a new adventure, there’s new things to be created and to be learned and… you have to ask yourself where do you want to start. Don’t be scare of the unknown, see it as an invitation to grow as a person and also it’s exciting, you never know where it’s going to take you right?”

Jennifer Silva on working-class young adulthood in the USA

Jennifer M. Silva is a Professor of Sociology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The following quotes are from her book Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, a contemporary classic.

“She taught me love
She taught me patience
How she handles pain
That shit’s amazing
I’ve loved and I’ve lost
But that’s not what I see
‘Cause look what I’ve found

-Ariana Grande

“Over and over again, the men and women I interviewed told me that growing up means learning not to expect anything from anyone. They told stories of investing their time and energy in relationships and institutions, only to find that their efforts were one-sided. I demonstrate how experiences of betrayal, within both the labor market and the institutions that frame their coming of age experiences, teach young working-class men and women that they are completely alone, responsible for their own fates and dependent on outside help only at their peril.

They learn to approach others with suspicion and distrust. Many make a virtue out of necessity, equating self-reliance and atomic individualism with self-worth and dignity: if they had to survive on their own, then everyone else should too. In an era of short-term flexibility, constant flux. and hollow institutions, the transition to adulthood has been inverted; coming of age does not entail entry into social groups and institutions but rather the explicit rejection of them.”

“For the vast majority of the men and women I spoke with, coming of age has been reimagined as a psychic struggle to triumph over the demons of their pasts. These ‘demons’ take several different forms: pain or betrayal in past relationships; emotional, mental, or cognitive disorders (e.g., depression, dyslexia, or anxiety); or addiction to drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Hurtful and agonizing betrayals within the family lie at the root of these torments, grounding their adult identities in the quest to heal their wounded selves. Through telling their stories of confronting a difficult past, working-class women and men stake a claim to dignity and respect, based not on traditional markers of adulthood but on having undergone emotional trauma and emerged, triumphantly, as survivors.”

“…couples who want to create relationships that foster the growth of their deepest selves find that self-realization requires resources that they do not have, and they must decide whether commitment is worth sacrificing their own interests and desires. For women, fears of losing the self predominate: their sense of self feels too fragile to risk in a relationship. Because many young people fear disappointment, betrayal, and dissolution, they often choose to be alone.

In a world where you have only yourself—hard-won through privation and suffering—to depend on, relationships feel overwhelmingly risky. Caught between two impossible ideals of love, many find themselves unable to forge romantic relationships that are both satisfying and lasting. Respondents thus numb the ache of betrayal and the hunger for connection by embracing cultural ideals of self-reliance, individualism, and personal responsibility.”

“As the coming of age stories of working-class young people reveal, the strain of risk-bearing has split individuals, families, and communities apart, leaving them with only the deep and unyielding belief that personal responsibility is the key to meaning, security, and freedom. In an era defined by neoliberal ideology and policy, collective solutions to risk run counter to common sense. Young working-class men and women understand personal choice and self-control as the very basis for who they are, and blame themselves, rather than large-scale economic precariousness and risk privatization, for lacking the tools they need to navigate their futures.”

Germany’s rapid urbanization and industrialization

“In 1870 Germany’s population was two thirds rural; by 1914 that relationship had been reversed, and two thirds of all Germans lived in an urban setting. In 1871 there were only eight cities with a population of over 100,000, whereas in 1890 there were twenty-six, and by 1913, forty-eight. By then twice as many laborers worked in industry as in agriculture, and over a third of the population consisted of industrial workers and their families. The concentration of German industry was another of its striking features. By 1910 almost half of all employees worked in firms using more than fifty workers, and the capitalization of the average German company was three times that of the average British firm.

The speed of urbanization and industrialization in Germany meant that many workers were first generation urban dwellers, confronted by all the attendant social and psychological problems that the shift from countryside to city entailed. The concentration of industry and population also produced the rapid growth of a managerial class, of service personnel, and of municipal and state bureaucracies. As Gesellschaft, or society, overwhelmed the sense of Gemeinschaft, or community, as speed and bigness became the dominant facts of life, work and social questions, ambition and job enjoyment became abstract notions, beyond the individual and his scale of personal reference, a matter of theory and intuition rather than experience and knowledge. The rural pre-industrial setting had been replete with its own social problems and indignities, but it is undeniable that industrialization, particularly the rapid industrialization undergone by Germany, brought with it a disturbing measure of depersonalization that material well-being could not expunge or rectify. The so-called new middle class — this enormous army of semiskilled white-collar workers involved primarily in management and service — was a sudden and direct offshoot of the later phases of industrialization and was perhaps even more prone to a sense of isolation and hence vulnerability, than the laboring classes. The concentration of industry and of commerce meant that this social group was particularly large in Germany.”