A few months back, publisher Chip Smith asked me to write a new intro for the upcoming second edition of my 2011 novel NVSQVAM. To write the essay I had to rethink my protagonist, Lester Reichartsen, whose youth and dreams came to a screeching halt when his girlfriend slyly quit taking her birth control pills.
Reviewers’ response to Lester’s depressive and unenthusiastic assumption of the role of family man surprised me. Many a columnist—both liberal and conservative, those who loved the book and those who hated it—declared him a disgusting human being.
Pushing aside the fact that the phrase “disgusting human being” may be redundant, I was forced to confront the contrast between reader responses and my own underlying assumption: that Lester is no more horrible than anyone else.
I’ll give you the tl;dr version of my soul-searching: I came to reflect that most of the choices that we, as civilizations, settle on together and begin to call “good” are really only the least horrible thing we could have done—at best, anyway; often we choose the worst—and that we should avoid gloating over adopting them accordingly. To forget that we have chosen the lesser of two evils is to give the devil’s tether too much slack.
Let me explain.
Lester resents his wife and child, which is clearly not a great thing to do, for anyone involved. This is true. But the underlying trouble is the result of a compromise the West has made with that Nazi bitch, biology: we’ve come to the conclusion that decisions about childbirth should ultimately fall to the female.
Pregnancy and abortion are both, after all, about the most intrusive things short of death and plastic surgery that can happen to a human body (even rape only lasts so long, if you have any luck). There is something so viscerally awful about creation that the only civilized solution to the puzzle seems to be to let the adult whose viscera are involved decide. And then let’s quit thinking about our innards, shall we?
And we slap the dust off our hands. Justice achieved! Like most decisions, once we’ve made it, we like to think of it as good and right, unequivocally and through and through . . . and thus we begin to overdo it.
It’s too easy to forget that childbirth and rearing are, although more invasive to a female life and body, are still invasive to a male one.
If the child is aborted, the father’s DNA is still being tossed in a dumpster, though the forceps never had to pass between his legs. If the child is born against his will, then either sentiment—as in Lester’s case—or the law—in the case of child support—will cause intrusion upon his resources, his life, his years.
Most readers of NVSQUAM side with Lester’s wife Evelyn, apparently forgetting (as it’s so often forgotten in real life) how she abused, even gloated over, the fact that the least bad solution to the problem put nearly all the cards in her hand. To my mind, in the past few decades, we’ve put far more cards than are necessary or just in the mother’s hands. We have forgotten, in other words, that the least bad solution is not actually good. And planting a flag of “good” upon the lesser evil, conceptually convenient though it may be, opens the door to abuse.
Parenthood has now been rigged: instead of consciously deferring to the extra burden biology has placed upon women, we reflexively kick men in the teeth out of habit. We’ve forgotten why we’re doing it; this is simply justice as we’ve come to accept it.
We make such moral shifts quite often; it’s not just parenthood that we’ve rigged in favor of a forgotten compromise.
Sometimes we rig both sides of the same compromise.
Take capitalism and socialism. They seem to be the binary system we’ve worked out for modern economies, the yang and the yin as it were. We can’t seem to get a third choice properly conceived, much less put it in motion.
So we make our choice. Some people, despite the rivers of red blood shed by Stalin and Mao, have decided that socialism is the way to go. Others, like Churchill, have decided that a free market—despite the way sheer chance, one’s geographical, genetic, and economic starting lines, limits most people’s options like an e-collar—is the lesser of two demons. Most people on both sides choose based on their relative dismay in the face of the opposing system’s glaring flaws; worship of their own candidate’s virtues is at first an afterthought, then an obsession.
As they confirm and then cackle over the cleverness of their choice with their teammates, they forget that both options are flawed, and finally learn to gloat over the pure virtue of their favorite bitch-goddess, demanding that society indulge her every extreme.
The political class contains members of both teams who find it professionally advantageous to foam at the mouth—and, unfortunately, they’re all getting their way at once. Contentious issues become clubs for them to swing at each other, but mysteriously they always miss and hit everyone else instead.
Take immigration, the eternal elephant in the room. Beginning with Paris, it’s an elephant that’s begun stampeding around the room; still, polite people don’t discuss it. You want to talk to me about intersectionality? Here’s another “lesser of two evils” problem for you: which do we care more about, the suffering of third world peoples or the fate of the poor who are already among us? I tend toward the impecunious myself (which is by and large the result of my own choices, but as people usually must do, I was choosing the lesser of two evils). So I don’t have as much trouble with this one as my friends the progressives. Pain, as Daffy Duck used to say, hurts me. (And bullets even hurt champagne socialists.)
Libertarians complain that the Left is using immigration to rig democracy. As anarcho-capitalists like Stefan Molyneux are wont to repeat to no avail, the Democrats don’t want to bring half of Mexico here out of the goodness of their hearts—they like having them here because they vote Democrat. (Apparently an impressive percentage of illegal immigrants successfully manage to vote in elections; gee, I wonder why the Republicans are so mysteriously avid to check IDs at the polls? They might make themselves sound less crazy if they came out and said it.) Instead of winning the argument, they stack the deck so that what’s left of democracy can be used to aid socialism.
Excellent argument. But on the other hand, immigration is also being used to rig what’s left of capitalism.
This seems to be a bipartisan project, if not a Republican one: “Cuckservatives” might not so much be wusses as hypocrites who are acting in their own self-interest. Do you think for a minute that third-world immigration into the West, should it happen not to further the interests of those who’ve already got theirs, would not be stoppered?
Why has the purchasing power of low- and middle-income workers sagged over the past few decades? The Left blame greedy rich kids—those other rich kids, mind you, not us; keep your eye on the Bush!—while the GOP blames laziness, and both sides blame high school teachers. Never mind the fact that the labor market is never allowed to stabilize.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that capitalism is not as bad as socialism, then—unless you are, say, a dick with rich parents whose ideology exists to justify his trust fund—you likely believe that the best-case scenario under capitalism is for the market to closely resemble a meritocracy.
For capitalism to approach a meritocracy, it needs to be a fairly closed system, in which the price of wages can find a livable equilibrium, and labor is scarce enough that workers have some sort of bargaining leverage. Otherwise, the idea of anyone ever working his way up becomes a parody. The old libertarian talking points about the “liberty” to trade one’s labor for wages only makes sense if both parties have eaten breakfast; a desperate worker cannot make deals that will be advantageous. I find it difficult to take the idea of “freely agreed-upon” labor arrangements seriously in a market that leaves even skilled, educated, conscientious workers continually living from hand to mouth.
If kids can’t even get a starter job to prove their employability, their entire working lives will be compromised—not to mention the attitude problem they’ll develop. Capitalism is not an ideal system, it is practical, and has yet to prove to be quite as violently conformist as the other major name on the ballot.
And it is only practical when artificially created labor surpluses are not constantly tilting the field in existing employers’ advantage. Now that abuse of H1-B visas has given foreign tech workers a leg up over their U.S. counterparts, even the most practical-looking diplomas—the life choices that looked the most sensible five or ten years ago—are an unsure bet.
It is no longer defensible for Leftists to look down their noses at native workers who are losing their jobs to immigration; it’s not because they’re bad workers and yahoos, it’s because of supply and demand—not to mention the fact that since a ridiculous proportion of immigrant households with working members are being given welfare, they can afford to bid lower than native labor. The rent will still get paid if Dad is making under minimum wage, and Jesus H. Christ—we have reduced gainful employment to pin money.
And if this sounds like egghead theory to you, look at the fucking numbers. Progressives will point you to a White House propaganda page telling you that immigrants create jobs with their demand for consumer goods—but household math tells you that at the wages they’re taking, most of their income is going to landlords and childcare providers. Fewer employees working at higher wages would have more disposable income to spread around the economy. In other words, immigrants take restaurant jobs and cook at home, as most restaurant workers must do. Restaurant work used to be the first rung on that dreamy old American ladder, but now the first rung is dangling somewhere up in “I can afford an unpaid internship” land.
Now that I think about it, it’s mostly the eft who seem to be stumping to rig capitalism against the up-and-comers. Right-wing assholes like Donald Trump are arguing for immigration sanity, even if he might make slightly less money off his kitchens next year. (I guess the presidency is more prestigious than an extra few billion.) Actually, so is Bernie Sanders, much to his credit, but he’s being eaten alive for it by the parlor pinks.
It’s the mainstream (they think they’re rebels, but let’s call a spade a fucking spade) Leftists who keep calling us yahoos for complaining about immigrant competition in the labor market. Now, isn’t that strange? The Left has left the care and feeding of the white working class entirely to capitalist assholes. It’s almost like they’re racist or something.
Possibly this is because the wealthy Leftist only likes capitalism when it’s firmly rigged in his favor (I’m using a male pronoun to annoy heshit). Charity is always more delicious when someone else feels the loss. Look at the way the American Left hounded the French for their racism. Now French attempts to assuage their ancestral guilt have literally blown up in their face. And we keep hounding Europe to take in more immigrants. Surely they can’t make it across the ocean?
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