You wouldn’t believe how many used rubbers pass through your local water treatment plant.
I moved back to my hometown a few years ago to be near my folks, work on some projects, and generally be free of The City that seems to sprawl towards us a little more each year. As my savings slowly bled out, I needed to secure funds via wage-cucking, and the water treatment plant at the public works department was taking on hands. I figured it’d be like getting paid to go to Vo-Tech until something better came along. Oddly enough, scraping used rubbers off discharge screens wasn’t nearly as disturbing as seeing what’s happened to the Blue Collar core of the town where I grew up.
At the beginning, it was a nice change of pace after a few years of dying a little every day in an office. My expenses were few, so the money was sufficient unto my needs. I was free to wear overalls. I mowed, weed-eated (“weed-ate?”), poured acid down manholes, swept, and removed spent condoms, tampons, candy wrappers, and I-don’t-know-what-all from the screens and aerators, in addition to the dozens of other little odd jobs that needed doing.
One day, Calvin, who handled the lab work, didn’t show up. His wife had left him, and as was the case with Johnny Paycheck, she “took all the reason” that he “was workin’ for.” Calvin never shirked a task and always seemed cheerful, and hearing him talk, there was no hiding the fact that he’d hailed from the pioneer stock who’d settled our state. The place was never quite the same after he left, and I’m not sure what ever happened to him.
Hearing that his marriage had ended, I suddenly noticed how many of my co-workers were divorced (often several times over). Due to the nature of the work, with the exception of one or two women in the office or on the street crew, the department was nearly all male. Noting that, and the fact that the work was manual labor, it didn’t take long to detect the fallout of Hypergamy. Due to their place on the low end of the economic spectrum and the dim view modern America holds for those who turn its bolts (to say nothing of the runaway Id meticulously cultivated among the modern female), it was next to impossible for these men to maintain a marriage, and by extension, stable family life.
The place was filled with walking wounded from small town tragedies. They’d occasionally open up with stories about coming home to a double-wide trailer after having spent a day working in the mud to find their wife in bed with stranger. Another would share his sadness of having been denied visitation rights to step-children he’d come to see as his own as his ex-wife traded up for the second or third time. Perhaps the kids were simply doing bad in school and they didn’t understand why, and you knew the cycle was firing up for yet another round.
Naturally, most had gone (or were going through), some form of substance abuse. Experimentation with drugs had practically been a rite of passage in their youth, and much in the manner of those in military service, unless on-call, weekends were often spent in a bottle.
There was little to no religious sentiment. In what was once a stronghold of the Bible Belt, they regurgitated catch-phrases from TV shows and comedians who hated them. I suppose this was what bothered me most of all.
“I was taught the fear of Jesus in a small town,” as the man sang. I was saved and Baptized in that town. When I was young, my world largely revolved around The Church. And yet, like all the other kids at school, that world also shared its orbit with a pop-culture that was part propaganda, part marketing gimmick, which in the end, taught us to “sell our birthright for a pot of message,” and drew us closer to it every year as the older one faded further into memory. Hearing my otherwise salt-of-the-earth co-workers repeat Bill Maher’s words concerning Trump around the time of the election, made it easy to put in my resignation when the time came.
Drifting among many of the other shipwrecks there as a man in his thirties with little property and no family of my own, I often wondered about how to fix the “coming apart” Murray wrote about that I saw playing out before my eyes. The abstractions of philosophy or political musings have their place to be sure, but in the here and now, it doesn’t help someone make their car payment, save their marriage, or keep their kids from getting Pozzed, let alone reclaim their dignity as a people. If any reading this have any suggestions, I’d be all too happy to see them in the comments.
For all of that, the experience made me appreciate my parents and grandparents from a whole new perspective. My dad had been in that line of work for over thirty years, helping to keep the water flowing in a nearby town. He had spent much of his waking adult life doing a hard job in the trenches of a decaying working class, and yet, he and my mother just celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. They raised three of us on the salary of a man doing water line maintenance and a woman working as a secretary. They are soon to pay off the house where the remains of our childhood dogs were buried over the years with honors in the back yard. My mind refuses to entertain what our lives could have been like had my parents not been instilled with the virtues of family, hard work, and the hundreds of other things attendant to what was referred to in The South as “a good Christian raising,” that have shaped us into who we are. They protected us from something that might have been. They bought my brothers and I time.
And yet that time is running out. As many on this side of the things know all too well, our prospects and purchasing power are diminished in relation to the “Old Economy Steve” model our parents enjoyed. (Though even then, thanks to the depreciation of wages and the gutting of the family-based economy under the guise of Feminism, my mom had needed to work in the private sector when she had hoped to be a homemaker. Mary Tyler Moore can go piss up a rope.) Our towns are filling with strangers – from Haji to Walmart – who reshape it in their image, and the local Gas Chamber of Commerce is all too happy to help them. My parents’ first date was at a church revival. How many of our people nowadays believe in the sanctity of marriage, let alone Jesus? Do we really even believe in anything anymore? What is to be done?
“Optimism is cowardice,” Spengler tells us. Thanks to the Spenglerchat hosted by a man who runs under the handle “Southern Comfort” here at Identity Dixie, I’ve finally gotten around to reading the old man haunting Twentieth Century history, and have the privilege of doing so with the help of a teacher who knows what he’s doing and is patient with our occasional descent into shitposting. “We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end,” Spengler wrote. “There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honourable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.”
That’s grim stuff. There’s truth in it though that reminds me of things I can’t deny; my hometown is lost. Walmart and the turnpike are merely delivering the death blow. The strip malls and soulless buildings of suburb culture had already taken root there long ago, laying quiet all those years. Waiting. For a young couple in the Seventies, whose parents had known outhouses, war, and the Great Depression, it had probably been a wonderful place to fall in love and raise their babies. Going through their old pictures at their anniversary, I was overwhelmed to see them so young and full of hope. I was also reminded of just how fewer houses there had been in the neighborhood. With such a small population and wide open spaces, there had been a beautiful freedom and intimacy in my hometown that the clever and ambitious had at some point seduced the foolish into trading away for the prospect of becoming like everywhere else.
I suppose Spengler would say that this lingering death of a small town (and the people who make them tick) to the cancer of Post-National Managerialism is but a case study in the winter of Faustian civilization; that we must be as the brave Roman soldier. And so we are left with the prospect of yet again trying to hold on to what we can in the face of those who would Reconstruct us for our own good.
Or perhaps it may be that though this world into which we were born is dying around us, we will live to see the beginnings of a new one built upon its ashes; that the forces we marshal are for a war that we will this time win.