American Feudalism: Alive and Kicking

Winter of ’74 was hard times for many. There was another economic recession, beginning a year earlier, a part of the endless business cycle of boom and bust. Having just graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in Speech & Theater, finding a job related to my education was futile. So, like most college grads, I scoured the want ads for something in Business Management.

To my good fortune (tongue in cheek) I secured an interview with a major linen supply company located in downtown Brooklyn. Someone from their corporate human resources department interviewed me, and, to my joy, I got the job!

I can never forget my first day at work. It was a bitter cold January morning. I trudged from the subway station through a few inches of freshly fallen snow and arrived at the plant. It was this giant block long concrete building, gray and unassuming.

Inside, they ushered me into the office of the manager. He was this overweight Italian American guy who spoke with a New Jersey accent (we Italian American NYC folks could tell the difference). He had on a suit and tie that you knew he didn’t like wearing, and his hair had too much Brylcream or Vitalis for my taste. The sweat poured from his ‘ I need to lose 50 pounds ‘ face and brow, his office being as hot as the outside was cold. Prior to taking me around for a tour of the plant, my new boss summed it all up with one sentence: “Kid, remember, the more we in management save the company in expenses, especially labor, the more we receive in bonuses.”

Our first stop was the vast area of the plant where the washing and drying of the linen took place. This tremendous area, enclosed by steel doors, looked like the inside of some prison movie set… You know, the workroom where the inmates did their jobs. It had to be at least 100 degrees, as the washing machines and giant dryers were giving off unbelievable heat!

As he showed me around I couldn’t help but notice that he and I were the only white people. From up above us I saw a sea of black faces, mostly women. They wore outfits that must of come right off the Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix box. I imagined how the plantations during the Antebellum era down south must have looked as we floated by at least two hundred sets of eyes. “You see, kid” , he laughed, “they fear me here. They know that one misstep, and I’ll can their black asses!” Had I been transported back in time over 100 years?

My second day at work was spent with one driver out on his route. I rode shotgun on a truck that had seen better days. We made so many stops, at bakeries, butcher shops, coffee shops, restaurants… Any sort of business that utilized linen: towels, wipes and aprons. This route happened to be in the Bronx, and I got some education on the many neighborhoods there.

On each stop I was to accompany him into the business and help a bit. I soon found out that these drivers had a really shitty job. You see, the dirty linens were not always neatly piled or bagged up for him. No, he had to search the premises for them. These were dirty, wet towels, aprons and wipes, full of horrible odors, blood, grease and grime. In one bakery we had to search the premises for linens. As we stepped down into this rather dank and dark basement, I could see the rats scurrying about the railing. I almost fainted! He just laughed and said “They’re as scared of you as you are of them.”

Back in the truck, the driver told me about his union. “This is what they call a Sweetheart union, kid. The companies got the union officials in their pocket. We complain about all kinds of conditions and about our shitty pay, and all we ever get is lip service.”

By the end of the day I could see how right this guy was. By the end of the week, after going out with three other drivers on their routes, I quit! I walked into the manager’s office on Friday afternoon, as he and his boss, the GM, were drinking coffee. I thanked them for giving me the opportunity, and told them I had found another job in my field. They looked at me and then to one another. The GM, a 50 something thin and balding guy, dressed in a fine fitting expensive suit, said to my manager, “I told you, we can’t send our new guys out with those **** drivers…. They’re all **** commies!”

They both scolded me for not giving the standard two weeks notice, and when I asked for my pay I was told I had to wait until the next payroll period. How long, I asked ? “Hey, you’ll get your pay, just be patient. Ask Muriel in the office as you leave and she’ll tell you when.”

After waiting 10 days for my check to come in the mail, I asked my buddy, Torch, to drive me down to the plant. Torch (real name Elliot) was a Vietnam vet who had a tremendous chip on his shoulder. We walked into the lobby of the plant and I asked Muriel for my pay. She gave me this look that told it all: I wasn’t going to get paid, or I would be waiting a long time to get it.

Torch reached inside her sliding window and almost grabbed her by the throat. “Hey, give him his money! Or else!” She buzzed her buzzer and out flew the manager from his office. “What the hell is going on here!?” Torch turned to him and said, “Hey fatso, either my buddy leaves with his money or you leave with a broken **** nose!” The GM now hurried out of his office. Before things got out of hand I said “Listen, if I don’t get my pay which is coming to me, I come back with the cops!” They had Muriel write me a check, and we left.

From that moment on, I realized what American feudalism was all about. Do you?

Philip A Farruggio is regular columnist on itstheempirestupid website. He is the son and grandson of Brooklyn NYC longshoremen and a graduate of Brooklyn College, class of 1974. Since the 2000 election debacle Philip has written over 500 columns on the Military Industrial Empire and other facets of life in an upside down America. He is also host of the It’s the Empire… Stupid radio show, co produced by Chuck Gregory. Philip can be reached at Read other articles by Philip.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Gary S. Corseri said on October 18th, 2010 at 9:07am #

    Nice going, paisan! It was shi*ty back then and our elite managerial types have succeeded in globalizing all the “satanic mills.” The best overview I’ve found for how our feudalistic system really works is THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS (Global Research, 2010), edited by Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall. Most Americans don’t have a clue. One wonders if we’ll wake up in time!

  2. bozh said on October 18th, 2010 at 9:52am #

    And if only american feudalism is in full force or even getting stronger by day.
    One needs to include ?all european lands and most muslim lands in the highly uncivilized behavior towards own subclasses and towards aliens not eventhink about.
    It is just horrendous to contemplate the degree of ruthlessness of the aghas, ceos, sirs, and modern ‘nobility’.

    Mind u, emperors and ancient clerico-noble class of untermenschen were as cruel as today’s ruleholders in all asocialistic lands and evil empires.
    Remember or note please that the ruling bunch of subhumans also have tanks, jets, wmd, cia-fbi, warships, 700 bases and we, the s’mwhat superior people, do not.

    And most people just lament or simply don’t see or don’t want to see what is going on.

    At least some of us avoided lamentations and organized in early ’93 large protests against coming war against iraq.
    I did stand at street corners; holding banners and distributing leaflets; instead of sitting in front of the computer typing off posts that harddly anybody reads or agrees with.

    If u lamenters and namecallers get off ur ass and on ur feet and hit the streets, i cld then take u seriously. This way i just laugh at hypocracy of these warriors sitting dwn.

    But such behavior is not bad; it produces neither a plus or minus; it is just wasting time. But i do not fall into this trap.
    Remember, germans in ’14 and ’39, saddam in ’91 were dumb enough to be tricked by americans.

    I do not expect ever to be entrapped by anyone! OK, now! My wife is calling me to get off my ass and do the pots! Thanks for ur Right Ear and the Finger!

  3. bozh said on October 18th, 2010 at 9:54am #

    darn it! i forgot about the ‘indians’. They knew they were lied to, but what cld they do than fight and die out!

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 20th, 2010 at 4:42am #

    Capitalism has always been thinly disguised feudalism. While the Soviet existed the barons were worried, so they allowed the serfs and villeins some privileges. Once Gorbachev surrendered, and the threat had passed, it was back to ‘business as usual’.Of course Gorbachev may have been cunning, knowing that the capitalist psychopaths, in their insatiable greed and utter contempt for the rest of humanity (including one another, and, often, themselves) would overreach and produce a reaction. Unfortunately, if that is the case, he underestimated how rife stupidity, greed and viciousness are amongst Western publics, hence the Tea Party phenomenon so cleverly manipulated by billionaire psychotics, and he forgot that capitalist excess is omnicidal, hence the unfolding ecological crisis of multiple crises. Either way, the inability of the decent fraction of humanity to overcome the evil fraction has resulted not just in social dystopia and omnipresent race and cultural hatred, manipulated by evil elites to their advantage, but to environmental Armageddon.