Monday, December 01, 2014

The Stuff of Shivs

Recently someone recommended that I read A WORKING STIFF'S MANIFESTO by Iain Levison. So I went to the Internet and located a copy and bought it.

Initially, I liked the book. It's a matter-of-fact recounting of working class jobs found and held and relinquished over the course of years by the author. He's quite a good writer and he does an excellent job of telling about the drudge work done by so many for so little reward. In addition, he tells of the monsters who seem to be forever in charge of supervising and managing the folk who hold these nowhere jobs.

And Levison has had his share of nightmarish employment and monstrous managers. From clerk in a chain grocery store (where he learned to steal), to working for self-employed workaholics, to laboring in truly gulag-like factory ships slaughtering fish and crab in Alaska.

If the job is horrible, Levison seems to have done it. And for little more than the most basic of slave wages. He knows about the work from first-hand experience, as do too many of us in the Reagan-engineered economy of the USA.

The book starts out gloomy and well conceived and continues implacably and entertainingly from month to month, job to job. The stone-faced author is let go, is fired, quits, walks away, and made unwelcome from more jobs than I want to count. The book is fun and strange and sad. Until.

After setting up a great argument for the situation of the working class men and women in this nation, Levison fumbles the ball at the goal line and the bad guys win.


Because, for whatever reason, he ends the book with the lament that this is the way of things because this is as good as it gets. And it's as good as it gets because, apparently, this is the best game on the globe. No, I'm not exaggerating. He makes the old claim that as bad as things are here, they're better than in some third-world shit-hole. Ha ha. Oh, my, he does indeed whip out that old right wing homily like a withered wang from his pants. And he doesn't stop there. He even finds a few lines to bemoan the existence of labor unions and bad-mouths those, too. (Even though, near as I could tell, he never had a job protected by a labor union.)

So, in the final analysis, Iain Levison manages to completely neuter everything that precedes the final chapter. And, all am left to think is: "Fuck you, Levison!"


Lawrence Roy Aiken said...

I'm pretty sure that's the whole point of the book. It's simply propaganda, nothing more. The reader is expected to feel outrage for the working stiff, and admire his "stoicism" -- i.e., his bovine complicity -- in the face of his abuse, because, shit, you could be scraping in the mud in Cambodia. Be glad you're an American! You have a car and a TV! You have better slave quarters than most!

James Robert Smith said...

Yep. It made me not bloody likely to read anything else from this guy.