What’s It All About, Alfie?

Set in postwar London, Alfie features Michael Caine as a chauffeur bent on promiscuity. After impregnating his girlfriend he takes off on vacation. He continues his life of womanizing, but he can’t hide forever. A misfortune strikes and Alfie is forced to face the product of his ways.

This not the crux of the question, since I was a monogamous dater and monogamous husband. It’s more centered around the discordance and dissheveled nature of humanity in the Western world, which unfortunately is the litmus test for much of the world now, which is another conundrum for me: why the hell would Japan or Oaxaca or Istanbul give a shit about McDonalds, Disneyland, Top Gun and disposable diapers? How viral is Western consumerism and retail disease? How diseased are the people of the world to buy into a disposable culture, from the ketchup containers to the children to the old people?

Marketing, man, and that is a very sophisticated psychological end game. The end run around is the pervasive marketing of everything, and the fake quality of modern humans. All about selling or acting or putting on a show.

Yeah, I’m writing this on the heels of yet another attempt to have a job tied to some civil and social justice gig. I got the call for a 15 minute interview Tuesday, with the fair housing coalition of Oregon, working in four rural counties as an outreach-educator specialist, getting stakeholders (I despise that term) to get around a table, or in a room or on Zoom to understand the rights of renters, tenants, and home buyers.

Up my alley, and alas, I have worked around the housing “issue” for several decades, as an urban and regional planning grad student, and then with clients in Seattle, Spokane, Portland, Vancouver, and on the Oregon Coast.

Two people interviewed me, and one big question was what I thought of how poverty has come about. Oh how it all ties into Capitalism, about the Gilded Age, about the first Anglo Saxons coming to this “New World” and exploiting the Original peoples. Exploiting as in murdering. Stealing land. Polluting the land. Moving them off the land. Re-educating them. Turning the real people into savages. Enslavement and denigration. Haves and haves not. You know, workers, laborers, even the professional managerial class, at the whim of the One Percent and the Five percent. You need poor people to make a buck, and you need poverty to be rich. You know, toil and labor to make the gilded ones money.

But it is deeper, sort of like economic sanctions on countries like Cuba or Venezuela — sanctions against the majority of people in Capitalism to pay the fines, fees, tolls, poll taxes, taxes, add-ons, service fees, tickets, violations, late charges, penalties, and the mortgages.

All those millions working hard to stay afloat, and then some medical emergency, some run-in with a lawyer or insurance company or the law, and bam, the semi-stable household is put into a spin — economic, spiritual and existential spin.

There will always be a PayDay monster lurking in Capitalism. There will always be scammers and legions of thieves who get away with it in CAPITALISM. Poverty makes millions of people money — cops/pigs, courts, judges, schools, governmental program managers, workers in all those so called welfare divisions. You get it! Take a child out of a home, and you will find dozens of workers and managers managing that Child Protective Services intervention-destruction.

In any case, I got a second interview, this time in front of seven people and with an hour to dog and pony my self into their midst. Provide a seven minute Zoom teaching modality or Power Point. Also tell us what a strategy would be to undertake an outreach program in Clatsopo, Tillamook, Lincoln and Columbia Counties. One educator and outreach honcho, and what would you do and who would you engage to get this off the ground?

One hour equalled five hours or more of prep. I actually called county commissioners in two of the counties. I did much research on all the places that might be engaged with low income folk or people of color. The obvious thing is to get into the faith communities, with support services like work source and Department of Human services departments, and even school districts and landlord groups.

Here, what I was being asked to get ready for:

Here are some details about the interview.

  • It will be about an hour long. The whole team will be there.
  • One question for you to prepare in advance: Talk about how you would conduct an outreach campaign to raise awareness of fair housing in rural Columbia, Clatsop, Tillamook and Lincoln Counties. Who do you think would be most important to reach and what would your strategies be for reaching them?
  • At the end of the interview, we will ask you to conduct a seven-minute training on any topic you like. We want to see what your facilitation style is like. We will make you a cohost on Zoom so if you have a PowerPoint to share, you can.

I talked to one woman originally from Michigan who was a county commissioner in Clatsop County. She had spent much time in Portland, and she told me that she had experienced living in Lansing, Michigan as a white woman who witnessed redlining and major discrimination against Black Americans in their attempt to get affordable housing.

She had that poster of Che on her wall.

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.

? Ernesto “Che” Guevara (“Venceremos: Speeches and Selected Writings of Che Guevara.”)

She gave me great insight into her county, and how the rural-urban divide has a crass and prejudice guiding mark — “These trust fund babies or super rich come into our Oregon Coast Communities and think that the IQ for our rural residents is 30 points lower than from their urban locales. Everyone comes here to be served and waited on, even for a couple of days. Everyone, even the struggling middle class, want that two or three days of pretending to be like the rich — fancy food, big hotel, and loads of beach fun and trinket buying.”

I even talked to the president of the Landords Assocation, and I interviewed another commissioner, with the eye toward their opinion on how an outreach campaign might work in their respective communities — counties with 27K, 50K, and 42K populations. Rich homes, arts, retired, and then the linen changers, the cooks, the medical technicians, the teachers, you know, coffee shop workers, bussers, cooks, even the simple laborers to keep those amenities and Martha Stewart homes, kitchens and decks prettified.

The lack of housing is huge, and affordable housing is few and far between. Of course I am a socialist, and these systems of oppression and exploitation have to go. Homes and apartments and mixed neighborhoods have to be run by us, the people, the new American government, and, sure a few can get in on building and designing, but there should never be a society where rents are artificial for investment and profits. A one bedroom apartment for how much in Seattle, Chicago, here? And what are those wages of the linen changers and hotel cleaners?

It will take so many tens of millions to strike against this super exploitative system, and we need a public commons, public utilities, public health, education and transportation. Housing has to be part of that, not some bogus HUD lie, which is predicated on which insane political party is in office. Safe, affordable housing. That human right!

Fact: In 1948, the United States signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), recognizing adequate housing as a component of the human right to an adequate standard of living.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. (source)

Oh, well, that job went the way of the Dodo, as many of my job applicatons have: “Hi Paul, Thank you so much for your time and energy today in the interview and the obvious passion you have towards social justice. We didn’t feel that you were the right fit for this position at this time and we are going to continue our search. Again, thank you for your time and energy. Sincerely, S…!”

There are those buzzwords — “energy” and “passion” and” social justice.” AND, “not the right fit.” I will not get into the errors of their ways, or the dynamics of being age 66 and being interviewed by all women except one, but all in 30 something age range, two hitting forty something. Spilt milk? Sour grapes? Come on, that missive-whatever-rejection-note tells me shit about the interview, what was missing, what I did right, about anything, really. Me thinks there is prejudice here, including age, gender and alas my white skin discrimination. I’m a communist, which I did not disclose, but certainly they might have Googled me, and then, you get the semi-half picture of me (right … little of what I write or how I express myself gives anyone doing a cursory search of men much to know about me — the real me).

Oh well, another interview bites the dust, another quippy essay in the can.

Note: For a Continuation of this diatribe around bandwagons and following the sheeple, go to Dissident Voice, “Let the Bandwagon Play On!”

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.