This little commie has been out of work since the start of the Great Bush Depression, so this week I joined a volunteer group of other out-of-work “professionals,” under the auspices of the EDD of the Great State of California. At the first meeting I attended, the other newbies and I were taken off for an orientation led by someone I’ll call Mr. Motivation. Mr. M was a sharply-dressed black man, oozing self-confidence and positivity, and determined to get us all feeling good about ourselves.
Most of us in the room were 40 and over, except for one guy with a “Dumb and Dumber” haircut who looked to be in his thirties and who seemed to not have a clue as to what he was doing in life. Mr. Motivation started out with a hearty “Good Morning!” and was disappointed that none of us wished him one back.
“Come on, people. This is supposed to be interactive. Where’s my ‘Good morning?'”
A few smiles broke out on the glum faces in the room, and we managed a half-hearted response. The rest of the meeting consisted of Mr. Motivation trying to get us to tell him how good we felt about ourselves, how valuable we were, and how we were going to use the power of positivity to convince some hiring manager somewhere to make us yet another disposable cog in the soul-destroying, money-making machine of corporate America.
(Of course, we had to banish all negative thoughts, including our feelings of anger and resentment towards the bastards who failed to appreciate our talents and abilities and had put us out on the street, or the bastards in Washington who were playing mindfuck games with our unemployment benefits extension, or the fucking assholes whose unparalleled greed had cratered the economy and thrown us into the shithole of despair we found ourselves in.)
We sat there, like some spent pieces of used jet-trash, trying to summon up the enthusiasm that Mr. Motivation demanded, telling our stories and giving our affirmations. The time went by. So. Damn. Slowly.
Here’s the kicker: at the end of his spiel, Mr. Motivation asked us to think about the things that helped us overcome the disappointment of our miserable, failed lives, and prevented us from spending our mornings and afternoons at the dive bar down the street, or swallowing that entire bottle of Ambien that was oh-so-temptingly sitting on the bathroom shelf.
He told us what kept him going, of which number one was his faith in God. Fortunately, he didn’t elaborate, although later, in the general meeting, he mentioned Jesus as the source of his strength and yadda yadda. That’s when it hit me: What if Mr. Motivation and I were to change places, and I was the one up there giving the feel-good rap? How would people respond if I said this:
“My greatest source of strength is my strong atheism and my belief that all religions are phony inventions of power-hungry, misogynistic assholes. I am driven by my hatred and contempt for a capitalist system that treats people like disposable, interchangeable parts, that punishes integrity and rewards failure, that fires whistle-blowers, that considers loyalty to be a one-way street, and that rigs the system so that the have-nots keep chasing a brass ring that most of them will never be able to catch, but all the while they will be contributing to some rich bastard’s bottom line.”
OK, so maybe not the rant about capitalism; let’s just say that I said that what kept me strong was my own self-respect, and the love and respect of my good friends and family members, and that Jesus was nowhere to be found in the equation. How long do you think I would have lasted as Mr. Motivation, regardless of how rah-rah I was and how much empathy and support I showed to my unemployed brethren and sistren? How long before the complaints from the god-botherers that I had offended them with my expression of unbelief, so that the group head would have been forced to replace me? Or more likely, do a preemptive sacking, Vilsack-style?
All you want to do is something good
So get ready to be ridiculed and misunderstood
‘Cause don’t you know that you’re a fucking freak in this world
In which everybody’s willing to choose swine over pearls
And maybe everything is all for nothing
Still you’d better keep it to yourself
‘Cause God knows it’s not safe with anybody else
I would have no problem keeping it to myself, if everyone else did the same.