Here I am, staring at the screen. I am empty of thoughts at the moment, which could mean a zen-like status, or perhaps it could mean I am out of things to say. This wouldn't be the first time. These days, I generally keep my mouth shut, as my circle of confidants is about 1 deep. There's not much new ground to cover when you only really spend time talking to one person. All thoughts that started as long winded passionate diatribes are eventually reduced to one word grunts that mean everything and say nothing. I imagine that's how twins talk, when they spend so much time together. They don't need to talk to one another at length because they're already thinking about the same things because they're dealing, typically, with the same stimulus.
Between my girlfriend and I, both working from home, we have very little "guess what happened today." I know as soon as it happens. She's in the other room and I can hear her yelling or singing or pacing whenever something happens. There is no mystery to "guess what happened to me today."
It's really not bad either. I know most of what's happening in my girlfriends life, just as she knows what's happening in my mine. If I had a girlfriend who texted me every 5 minutes to fill me in on the latest, that would be annoying. At least when I'm around my girlfriend, I can assume what she's dealing with without actually knowing. A pace. A grumble. A frustrated yell. I don't have to know explicitly what she's dealing with to know what kind of discomfort she's experiencing. If I was walking down the street, any street in New York, I would hear way more anger and frustration than any day of hanging out and working from home.
The internet. Let's talk about it for a moment too. The internet, and the computer it rides in on, play a very important role in my life. The parts I generally traverse, which include pop-culture and news and politics and science and etc blogs, allow me a voyeuristic vista into worlds that in the past would have been closed off to my eyes. These worlds are generally created by extroverts confined to the global ball and chain, their computer or their smartphone. People spend hours a day sitting at their computer, or looking into their phone, so they can create a world that is available to someone like myself, who creates content for that world. I'm creating 2,000 words a week of original thought that can be access by anyone who wanders into our block of the internet.
The internet, from an agoraphobic point of view, allows me to be immersed in the collection of worlds created by people I will never meet. I will, most likely, never attend a football game in Pennsylvania, and I will, most likely, never attend an E3 expo. But the internet assures me that I will never not have access to the information coming out of these events. I wasn't in Iowa, but I had up to the minute information available when the caucuses were being decided. I am alone in my kitchen with the entirety of the world in my grasp. This is especially true when I look at my phone's Google Earth application. I can see the entire world as fast as my phone's wi-fi connection can pull it into view. Places that would have been as unimaginable to prehistory hunters and gatherers are now as novel as any other application on my phone. Why would I ever want to go to Hungary and experience a culture I don't understand when I can spin the tiny Google Earth around to find my own apartment in Brooklyn. "There it is. That's the place I never leave because I have the entire world at my fingertips."
I need to get out more. The internet has turned a large part of the world into a cultural window shop. I can tell you facts about other countries I've never been too. I can sound smart. I can tell you second hand information about how to get a good taxi in France. I can tell other people who are actually visiting Italy what food dish they should get because the internet gave me that information.
How did I get off on this tangent? I think it goes back to that idea that I only have one person I generally talk to on a given day. The internet has helped fill that social gap in my life. I can read about other people's opinions. I can gather information about whatever impulse item of knowledge landed on my screen. Most things on the internet are impulse items. Seven hours of clicking through various websites is what happens when you don't have a mental shopping list of what you actually wanted to do. Wandering around aimlessly on the internet is okay from time to time. I would say it's not different than wandering around in a park on a nice day. Can you justify why you are actually at the park beyond, "it was nice out, so I wanted to go."
The internet is a big old park that never looks the same twice. Our mental being can take a leisurely stroll down whatever path it wants, feeling no obligation to any one thing. Of course, when you walk through any park, you're bound to run into a masturbating homeless type. Those people are what happen when you never leave the internet. They went out for a walk one day and got lost. They are trolls. They are internet addicts. They are the face behind false avatars. To them, the park that is your leisurely internet stroll is their punishment.
I work at that park. I spend the better part of my day on the internet, looking for stories and looking for stories to back up those stories. Unlike most people, if I'm not surfing the internet, I'm not doing my job. Walking around the actual block to catch a few rays of sunlight, buy a slice of pizza, and breathe in a few lungs of fresh air before the city goes dark at 4:45 is my version of goofing off at work.
My home is my office. The internet park is where I work. The question is, where do I go for escape? When I am home all day, barely having conversation with another person, I don't have much stimulus to keep my brain engaged on an actual social level (at least people who work in an office have the water-cooler, even if that water-cooler is littered with conversations about the latest episode of X Factor or Top Chef).
Sadly, and fortunately, this blog is my version of social interaction. Even though I am mostly talking to myself through this, I am also exploring what's going on in my world - I am taking a finer comb to my daily life than I would if I just kind-of-sort-of felt good or bad and didn't know why. Another beneficial aspect to my writing is that I can write what is in my brain instead of watering down to fit the water-cooler code of ethical conversation. On a base level, I can say the word cunt all day and never worry about being called into the boss' office because someone in another cubicle complained. On an intellectually stimulating level, I can have conversations about any topic that I choose. I don't have to temper how I talk to myself via blogging. There is no water-cooler level small talk with myself, so I am not training myself to speak without saying anything.
I am a self-governing social being. The conversations I have with myself are generally a deeper look into something I read or thought about. Because of that, I don't allow myself to take information at face value, nor do I let stories affect me at a purely emotional level. In other words, I can't ego check myself into backing up an opinion by saying, "fuck you, you're wrong. You don't know what you're talking about. I'm right." If a personal belief nags at me, then I intuitively feel it and can write about it until some version of a conclusion presents itself. There is no finite. When I question myself, there is no "I win" therefore the need to explore a topic is over. When I write to myself, I don't win. I explore and cover new ground. The only way to win is by discovering more uncertainty and new ground to cover. When people win a debate, they only present what they already know better than the other side.
It's also sad that I talk mostly to myself. When I go out, I can sense myself wanting less to do with the outside world. This position is only available as a luxury of the first world climate. I don't have to leave my apartment and work in the traditional sense. However, this is also a new revelation to me. I have had my share of shitty jobs. I have had to report to bosses I didn't respect. I have had to base my version of how the social world works off things that very few people can actually relate to. Just because I worked in a public sector of the world didn't inscribe any qualities into my being that made it easier for me to deal with the public. Some of the most anti-social people I know worked in very public jobs. Most of these people hate the public so much they have to actively bathe in it to justify their hate. Anti social people who get fired are more likely to believe what they believed before they got fired: "fuck these people, they don't know what they're doing."
And I feel they share a similar belief, if not a tactless version of it, with the most socially adept debaters. "I know what I'm talking about." A great debater doesn't need your opinions to modify what they believe on an intellectual level, but they need your opinions to validate the rightness of their opinions.
One problem to address: working from home isn't a luxury of the first world. It's a by-product of technology and a global economy. If anything, people who telecommute are on the front line of what will undoubtedly become a more viable market over the years. The problems facing today's telecommuters have are new problems that fundamentally clash with the problems of a more traditional working class.
People who don't have health insurance, who work 60 hour weeks in a kitchen, can't relate to the problems a person has with sitting at their computer for 60 hours a week, following the latest in celebrity break ups for their blog that pays their bills.
I suppose the question is: which problems would you rather see in our society? Which problems are actually valid? Do you want to see people with carpal-tunnel syndrome complaining that their eyes are going bad from staring at a computer screen all day. Or would you rather see 50 year old men with burned hands and spines weaker than curdled milk from numerous accidents, wondering if they're going to get paid this week? Who's doing a more noble job? What ailments would you rather see befall people? Which one would you rather see eliminated from our society in the long run?
(This last question is somewhat of a rhetorical question. Back-breaking work will always have a place in our society, especially among the lower class. This is why I feel that conservatives should be in favor of stem cell research. If we can take the poor men who have been gnarled down into useless heaps from years of violent working conditions, and inject them with stem cells that fix their bodies, we'll see a working class with a longer shelf life. It'll be like Captain America, if Captain America was a blue collar workhorse. Who needs robots when people can fix themselves with steroids and stem cells? Robots aren't concerned with retirement and benefits and this is why they would eventually try to take over the human population. We have nothing to scare them into submission with. At least if the powers that be turn the working class into a force of indestructible stem cell junkies, they will be easy to manipulate for two reasons. 1. they need the job. 2. A coup d'état rarely has any effect on the targeted social and political climate.)
If I'm blogging so that I can afford to put coke up my nose, then no job I have will ever be admirable. But if I am blogging to feed myself and pay rent an generally be a decent human being, then my work is as valid as anyone lifting boxes all day so they can feed their family. If you lift boxes all day, or, say, run a country, just so you can get drugs and fuck unwilling participants, then your job isn't noble at all. I've worked both kinds of jobs: manual and creative. Neither one made me a better, well-rounded person just because. But aren't jobs really about affording us some sort of upward mobility? If we can't use our job for personal gain on some level, then why work? So what good does it do to question the motivations we have for why we work. If we want money or want to help the poor, does it really matter why we work? Isn't the end product of our work the most important factor. As long as we say we're going to do a job, and do it, isn't that what's most important. Who cares if you get tons of pussy because you sewed on a child's arm. Is that any less admirable than doing charity work because you want God to really like you?
The idea of hard work and respect seem to have been created by a class other than the poor. These are the principles so often espoused by very rich people. People who have earned their money, but who were also put heavily in a position to win from the start. I'm talking about the super rich. The moderate rich can be attained from people who work their way up. But the idea that a person should take pride in swabbing out toilets all day for minimum wage seems off to me. On the one hand, a person with a steady job can take pride in that they are earning their way in life. On the other hand, they are swabbing toilets out (and probably more than just that. Most porters or janitors have a plethora of tasks just so they can earn the meager wages they do earn). When compared to other professions, is their work really valuable? And what if they want their job because it ultimately has no social responsibilities attached to it. When they are off the clock, a janitor probably isn't consumed with thoughts of how they can better clean toilets tomorrow. At the end of a long shift, the best thing that can happen is eating a shitty meal and drinking a few beers until sleep takes us over. The idea that the life a shitty job affords us is a noble thing is and isn't true. Noble people do noble things (and I am overusing this word now), regardless of where they work. The idea that work affords us the freedom to do what we want with our spare time is also a good thing. But for the most part, the kind of people who are attracted to shitty work are the kind of people who will not do anything other than decompress at the end of a shift. . When I say decompress, I mean the following: feed their children, go out to eat with their significant other at a chain restaurant, drink, play video games, surf the internet, booty call, go camping, play in a part time band, go shopping, write a book. In the lower class world, there are a lot choices imply a sense of change or freshness - getting another job or moving to a new apartment, etc - but these moves are largely lateral. If a boss pisses you off, you can quit and get a new job doing the same old thing. There's an illusion of choice in the world of the working class - it's the same sense of illusion that exists when you say, "what do you want to eat tonight, Wendy's, McDonalds, or Burger King." For the poor, upward mobility is in the form of scratch offs and other "all or nothing" forms of pay off. There is respect and noble action in the world of the working class, however it is generally only relevant to anyone in the bubble of working class, which is why poor people shit all over poor people and look to their leaders to make life better.
What about what I do? I've already compared my work to the creation of semi-intellectual internet pollution. The integrity I have as a writer will determine the value of what I write, I suppose. It's not different than the choice we face as comedians, choosing topics that have personal meaning as opposed to opening your mouth and making whatever's easiest the target.
As a writer, the value of my contribution is limited somewhat by my talent, however it is limited more by my willingness to actually try and say something. It is a scary task to attach social value to humor. For the most part, my goals consist of finding a topic, running it through a humorous filter, which undoubtedly devalues the topic, and then trying to sell it as more than mental junk food for the 9 to 5 clock watchers. At the very least, I can find worthwhile topics to highlight. People who read my articles can walk away with a little bit of information they wouldn't have had otherwise. If I am not particularly funny on this go around, so be it. There's always tomorrow, and there's always that truck unloading job waiting for me if I really want to add that value to my life.
Work ethic, when applied to any job, is a good thing. When applied to what's right for yourself, it can be a great thing. I love writing, and I will write everyday, even when I don't feel like I have much new to say, just like today.
By and large, the internet is a large shit hole filled by people with mental diarrhea and opinions and misinformation. And that's okay. It's not unlike the Earth, in it's early days, a festering ball of lava and poisonous gasses. The qualities that made the Earth as uninhabitable as it was early on, are what have led us to the semi-reliable stasis we're experiencing these days. I can sit in my first world luxury kitchen (albeit at a lower class level), ignore my girlfriend for 8 hours a day, even though she's sitting in the other room, and explore our world as an agoraphobic voyeur. Maybe I'm not using the internet right. Maybe I am. Maybe I should talk more to my girlfriend. Maybe we talk less because our relationship has evolved and we have not evolved with it. Either way, if you're reading this, then you're probably sitting in your own world, mentally and physically isolated from those around you too.
You're not alone.