What's Left?
by Adam Engel

January 27, 2004

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Don't get me wrong. I'm no corporatist. I don't know anything about markets, free or otherwise, so I really have no right to comment on them. Nevertheless, my natural hatred of authority, and something inside me that says that every child should have at least a decent opportunity to get an education, three squares a day, and sleep every night with a roof over his head, and old and sick people should have access to medical care, naturally pushed me to the left side of the spectrum, where I thought these values were cherished. On the other hand, I'm no socialist, I don't believe in any kind of government doing anything but, if the people so decide, building roads, schools and hospitals, with money the people decide to allocate, not have taken from them, stolen actually, to the tune of 40 percent of their yearly income.

The government, so called, has never done anything for me, ever, but take, take and take some more. Take income tax; take the airwaves and public lands that rightfully belong to the public and should be divvied up through public consent or some other means; take time and natural resources, which also belong to the commons, not the "government." Take money for a military that doesn't protect anyone from anyone but itself – like organized crime, or the local gang. You pay your monthly dues, they won't burn down your store. You don't pay, something terrible might happen. The government has not provided me or anyone else with decent schools or housing or medical care or even a cheap and efficient transport system. So what have they done for me lately? Nothing. What have I done for the government all my life? Everything. From swallowing their propaganda as a child in one of their schools, to supporting their oppressive armies with my tax money – not of my own accord, believe me – to standing by like an idiot while they tell me what I can and cannot smoke, what I can and cannot drink, what I can or cannot eat or ingest into my system. Outta work for a while. Took some of the Unemployment Insurance I'd been paying for – not of my own accord, believe me – with every paycheck for fifteen years. First of all, it wasn't enough for a squirrel to live on in a nut-shelling factory. Second, they TAXED me on it at the end of the year. Something like twenty, twenty-five percent. Talk about double dipping.

But then, what has the Left done for me, lately, or rather, ever? Talk, talk, talk. Sounded good. So I too began to talk, talk, talk. And read, read, read. And it all made sense, in the abstract. So I began to write, write, write. Mostly for one particular magazine, a website actually. I got lots of letters from lots of people all over the world who said they were angry and thanked me for saying what they were thinking. All right! So let's do something! "Uh…I would, but I'm late for my boring corporate job, then I gotta go to the shop to see what the tune-up bill is on my SUV. Those bastards! Imagine charging me to fix my SUV! How am I supposed to get around? All people have the inalienable right to get where they wanna go in an SUV or the vehicle of their choice! And then they go around and make the things run on gasoline, which positively ruins the environment. But, I thank you, brother, for telling it like it is in your columns." Yeah, well, thanks. You think you might be able to send a buck or two every month if you really enjoy my columns? "What? Are you some kind of greedy Capitalist or something? Go to Hell!"

It was a troubling situation. On one hand, I thought I was doing the right thing by goading people to thought and action. On the other hand, though many thanked me for "expressing what they've always been thinking," no one actually thought or acted. Oh yeah, they marched around the block a couple of times to stop the War and when it didn't stop, they drove home in their SUVs. So, I thought, that maybe, since I wasn't really providing any kind of political impetus, I was entertaining people. Providing a service of entertainment. People spend their entire incomes and more for entertainment. They go into debt for entertainment. Surely they'd remunerate me for the service of providing them with entertainment. Not a whole lot. A buck a month for every reader who wrote to thank me for writing my columns and urged me to "keep up the good work" would do. But, of course, NOTHING DOING!

Well, at least I had a "place" in life, a little niche, where I hung out in a kind of cyberspace café, writing my articles every week and reading the articles of my fellow writers for this web site I'd been writing for at least once a week, every week, for a year and a half, without any remuneration, though I definitely "held my weight" as far as attracting readers was concerned – though real radicals aren't supposed to be concerned about such Capitalist popularity games as Alexa ratings. I had my little niche and my little group of like-minded writers and that was more than most people had and though we didn't get paid, we were all pals, comrades in arms trying to fix a broken world, so that was good enough for me.

Until they stopped publishing my articles. Not a word. Just shut me off. Now, I could understand if I wasn't popular anymore, if readers had grown tired of me, and you know those darn ratings, everyone's gotta pull their weight (for free). Or if the publisher of this website just got bored of my work or wanted to change formats. Whatever. Anything. All they had to do was write me an email, "Gee, Adam. We really appreciate all the articles you've written since the Summer of 2002, and the reviews you did upon our request and all the other stuff we never paid you for, but it's time for both of us to move on, you understand, don't you?" In fact, I would have. Such is life. That's the way it goes. I would have just sent my articles elsewhere. Though I'd built a kind of readership over those many months, and it would be weird not to receive their letters each week, well, what's my personal yadda, yadda compared to THE CAUSE?

But no, not a word. Just stopped publishing my stuff. The articles couldn't have been too bad, for they were all published elsewhere, some on this site you're reading now.

Kinda Stalinist. Kinda cowardly. Kinda mean.

Now, I'm no corporatist. I'm as much of an anarchist now as I was two years ago, perhaps more so (though I certainly ain't no LEFTIST). But I must say, in all those years I worked writing junk and advertisements and executive speeches for THE MAN, I was never treated like that. Like I was literally used up and DISAPPEARED. Also, though I didn't enjoy the work I did for THE MAN as much as I did for this allegedly "leftist" website (What about ME? Aren't I one of the masses who deserve – something, whatever it is the masses are supposed to deserve according to these allegedly leftist websites?), I was paid for it, and I was never fired from a job. I quit a few times, and they said, "Thank you for your work. Sorry you can't stay on."

Adam Engel writes and lives in NYC. He has published essays poems and fiction in numerous magazines, online and off, and has just completed his first full-length book, Topiary, which he hopes to publish by the Spring. He can be reached at bartleby.samsa@verizon.net

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