Sunday, September 4, 2016

FF #23: Final Issue

I was recently gifted a copy of Thomas Frank's latest book, Listen, Liberal (2016). It is basically the same thing that Frank has been writing about since he started The Baffler at the end of the 1980s -- how the working class has been and continues to be raped by the nation's political class.

While reading one of the early chapters yesterday I was struck by Frank's description of the great labor struggle that began with the lockout at A.E. Staley in Decatur in 1990s. One of the divisive issues was the company's demand that workers move from a regular workday to a rotating 12-hour shift. Frank mentions that this kind of 12-hour shift -- when you're on and then off and then on again -- basically precludes any kind of normal life. You can't go to church on Sunday, coach little league, maintain decent relations with one's family. Management demanded the shift change knowing it would bring about a war with the union. And it did.

Reading this passage in Frank's book made me realize that it is the same problem I am experiencing in my life. I am not working a mandatory, rotating 12-hour shift. But I am working a job where I never know what is coming from day to day. I do work the occasional 12-hour day. But mostly it is the incessant, cascading demands, never knowing when the next flaming arrow will pierce my hide. I have no protected time to perform my duties. Each day brings new requests; and once fulfilled, nothing is ever good enough.

I have been operating in survival mode since July. All my usual routines have been backburnered. Hopefully, after Labor Day and the big annual event hosted by the organization I work for is done, I can begin clawing my way back to a normal life. (I have an escape plan hatched.)

Earlier this summer I completed Jonathan Hickman's historic run on the Fantastic Four from a few years back. The final issue, FF #23, is an amazing statement of Modernism. Nick Dragotta's art captures the essence of the 1930s optimism regarding human achievement, which is largely inseparable from the Manhattan skyscraper sky. The apex of political achievement in the United States is the New Deal, the Comintern's Popular Front, the Flint sit-down strike, etc. It is no coincidence that the comic book superhero is born at the same time. The idea is that the future is open and it is bountiful and ours to harvest. The future. Can you imagine a better visualization of it than Dragotta's first three pages below? Franklin Richards talks with his sister Valeria, both Reed and Sue Richards' children from the future.

Now we have no future. The Hippies had one. It was back to Mother Nature. That was cashed in for an ersatz free market utopia, which, after not too long, certainly since the Millennium, has been reappraised as a dystopia.

If we are to get out of our death sentence we have to go back to the foundation of our "future," the 1930s, and discover what we did right. Charles Bukowski thought it was because everyone was so tough from the Great Depression. Can we be that tough again?

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