DOES IT HURT?

1. From the April 1, 2010 New York Times

In the past year, Mr. Scanlon, 49, has laid off two workers and canceled the health insurance of a third, whose hours also were cut. He has scaled back his own family’s health plan, deputized his wife, Sherry M. Speirs Scanlon, 51, as an ambassador to scare up more business and enlisted their 27-year-old daughter, Tashel, to work as the office manager. When he can get a decent price for his four-bedroom colonial in Westchester County, he expects to sell it.

All that, and yet the family-run store he opened on Westchester Avenue in 1991 — a mainstay of this working- and middle-class neighborhood — still teeters on the edge, propped up by signs and sidewalk showcases. Sales have fallen by more than half in the last two years. The economy may be turning around in some parts, but not here, not now.

“We saved $100,000 to start up our business, with three kids and a mortgage,” Mr. Scanlon said with a sigh after a long day of tepid sales. “Sherry worked two jobs, as a bookkeeper and waiting on tables. I worked two jobs — plumbing supply by day, handyman by night. You know how hard it is to save $100,000? And now I find myself apologizing to my family.”

The Scanlons’ struggles at the Pelham Bay Home Center echo through the neighborhood, and the nation. Within one block of the Scanlons’ store, seven small businesses — among them a Chinese restaurant, a fruit and vegetable market, a nail salon and a real estate office — have closed in the last year. Many more, like Pete’s Car Care across the street, are scraping by, hoping to outmaneuver the recession by reducing orders, firing employees and delaying payments. Banks have offered little help; most will not lend to businesses short on cash, although after months of reproach, this is beginning to change…

2. Matty from The Soft Pack, in a recent LARecord interview: “Everyone’s going into the red. It’s almost like charity to put out records.”

3. Many people in the creative arts, and many small autonomous businesses, are watching their dreams wither and die right now due to the economic contraction and/or digital imprecation.

We all speak in private all the time about How Bad Things Really Are—about what we see happening to us and to others—but have you noticed how few of us will talk about it publicly? Nobody wants to appear as the whiner, the complainer, the embittered loser, the pessimist. It can makes us look small, self-obsessed. Some of us fear, with reason, that speaking openly about our view—our experience—of the state of play can cost us future work. Who wants to work with a depressed whiner? etc.

But: if nobody speaks, then no one outside of the circle knows. And when things aren’t spoken of, they fester. The scale and depth of our troubles remain unknown, which makes even beginning to address the problem—this implosion—difficult, if not impossible.

I’m going to write more about this soon, but in the meantime: please feel free to use the “Comments” section here. Be like a dissident. If you can’t speak openly about what’s happening, for whatever reason, then try the pseudonym option.

Categories: Uncategorized | 17 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

17 thoughts on “DOES IT HURT?

  1. I love you Arthur magazine. As with all things in life, just because the truth is hard it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be spoken. Only from knowing the truth can we all know how to begin to help each other.

  2. It hurts. I’m getting older and making less money as I go. After years of searching for the right career I discovered that journalism was what thrilled me. Hah.
    Every time I see one of those pyramid marketing schemes: “Write What You Want! Get Paid” (that pay you about a penny per hit) I feel depressed. Good writing is suffering, and good reading is suffering. I refer to the movie “Idiocracy” far more than I want to.
    My partner and I both have great educations and are good at what we do. But when can we have children? We make so little money now. Everything’s on hold.

  3. psychologically, emotionally, it hurts. but a lot of these discussion often remain on the level of the economics involved. what does it mean for it to really “hurt” though? hurt where? in what ways, exactly, besides that abstract “wallet”? in your body and mind and spirit, how does this hurt manifest?

    my hurt manifests in psychological issues, emotional issues, anxiety, desperation, deep depression and cynicism, difficulty relating to others, and in other ways.

    this is why we don’t talk about this stuff—who wants to hear about the psychological and emotional trauma I’m experiencing, especially when I know that everyone else is suffering just as much, and more, and much more? how does it help to bring the party down? the irony is that the more pain I find myself in, the more I isolate from others so as not to burden them with my “joy”, but of course, the more I isolate, the more pain I generate for myself.

    I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this cycle.

    but, I think this is a general condition of this society, not just the past few years of economic struggle. and I think it’s a general condition of the majority of people in this society most of the time—for the poor, the working-poor and working class, this is nothing new. it’s just that more people now find themselves navigating the same terrain as so many others who usually have nothing. we stew, we explode, we find self-destructive coping mechanisms. some of us develop communal support networks, but they are rare and fragile and fleeting, subject to all the other dangerous, violent elements of desperate social relations that threaten trust and humane exchange, and they are always subject to our own internal struggles, individual and social.

  4. Yeah, the USA is gonna got even more 3rd world then it already is. As we are forced to compete with other workers around the world that work for slave and starvation wages, we’re gonna get brought towards that level too. Global Capitalism is rampant, knows no national boundaries and is also in steep decline. Bad news. But who knows, maybe it will get better?

  5. Hoo-ray! I’m free to bitch now! Whoo-hoo!

    I’m making about as much now as I did in the early ’90’s & my ever expanding job description is exhausting. Working lots harder for skimpy pay for a retail giant during the worst shift with the worst benefits I’ve ever seen offered (always shrinking, to boot) is all taking a toll on my marriage. I even took up hardcore alchoholism to deal with the stress, but thankfully I can’t even afford that deadly hobby anymore. One can only wish that our corporate overlords were to get their just deserts and the entire planet should banish unchecked global capitalism as this rampant soul stealling mass hypnotism bug has more than run its course and threatens to take the patient down with it.

  6. As tall as the problems seem, cele-fucking-brate the victory of knowledge that the current condition presents.
    We all have dear ones who are getting shafted. But is this really a surprise? Jesus H Cranberry Sauce! A world of murder, black ops, blood for oil, buy today pay tomorrow. They’re selling us the water for Christ’s sake.

    We’ve been living on a false economy, placing our trust and physical destinies in the hands of greasy, greedy pigs. Corporate law has woven itself into our Constitution.

    The lesson? No one cares about us like we do. (I’m even to the point of thinking that Sony feared the Michael Jackson song with the same sentiment that mysteriously came to life AFTER his death. Was the song’s original withering the deal breaker between Jacko and Mottola? Because it’s a great fucking song, with an incredible Afro-centric video, and just maybe, the world would’ve rallied. Remember the press conference? “He’s a racist, he’s a meanie and he’s very very devilish.” I think the poor bastard was trying to tell us something.) Just a suspicion.

    Blow the trumpet. Let the walls of Jericho fall.

    The left/right division is a construed distraction. The liberation of the human spirit seems like a straight up the middle shot to me.
    Time for everybody to wake the fuck up, see clearly the ruins and the rotten loopholes, and start again. Join with family and friends and take care of each other.
    Our ancestors arose out of the adversity of corrupt king and country. Our power together is boundless.
    So now we know. (Again). They’re not going to share it. Get to work. Godspeed.

  7. Just stay alive, difficult as that may be. Express your love to your friends and family — they need you and you need to be needed. Yet be fiercely proud of your >self<; use your anger to burn a hole to the truth, and not through your heart.

  8. Ok, Here’s a story.
    My wife and I moved back to the states after a year in the south pacific. we arrived and bought a house the summer of 08. things were looking up and we thought the market was rebounding (not that the real estate market has any transparency). big mistake. after 9 months of looking for work unsuccessfully, my wife returned to the south pacific to her old job. i have stayed here working so that we can pay the mortgage on a house whose value has plummeted. being apart from my wife for so long, without knowing when it will end, is excrutiating. providing asshole bankers with mortgage interest every month on a house worth less than i’m paying for, in addition to billions in tax dollars, is infuriating. I know why the guillotine was such a satisfying piece of the french revolution now.

  9. Pingback: DOES IT HURT? Part 2 - ARTHUR MAGAZINE

  10. The future value of a daily cup of $2 Starbucks is $382,000 (at retirement at 10 percent ROI). A $300 car payment is almost 2 million dollars, as is the same for daily lunch-out. A mortgage-free lifestyle is in the financial stratosphere. Those who’ve brown-bagged, who’ve never spent a single nickel at Starbucks, and who’ve maintained their car (not always buying a new one) are resented today because they’re not suffering. Blaming greedy bankers and fascism for one’s problems is like a drunken sailor blaming all the bars and prostitutes for the loss of his money. Sleep in the bed you make, not the one someone else has made for you. There wouldn’t be so many fascist, greedy, corrupt bed-makers if so many of us didn’t let them make our beds. Sure, there are corrupt politicians, but they came out of the woodwork when voted.

    • jackal – point taken, but doubt very much anybody here buys starbucks everyday, buys new cars regularly, etc etc. you may be barking up the wrong tree.

  11. Babcock, Starbucks is a metaphor. Did you even read the comments? Everyone would be better off by saving and paying as you go — not by borrowing to buy everything, in turn driving up prices for those of us who consume less and save for rainy days. Artificially inflating demand is like jury tampering. It’s not a level playing field. The only thing that is still a bargain in the West is that which can’t be financed. Visit a country like the Ukraine, where everything costs 10 cents on the dollar, where bankers haven’t yet flooded the economy with loans that inflate prices and morph common people into addicts of consumption. Not even a construction worker needs 6,000 calories a day, yet Americans at any given time are eating as much and watching TV, pretty much content as long as the food doesn’t run out and the satellite bill gets paid. Western lifestyle is a disgrace to nature, and she’s not rolling over and playing dead.

  12. This is the birth of a new era. It is. Birth is raunchy, gory, disturbing and impossible to prepare for in many ways (or so I’ve heard). The 2012 experience is the manifestation of a new consciousness I think – no (additional) UFOs, no warheads (ideally), just a thrilling, psychic (either actual, solar flare-induced ESP or a wireless personal transparency) that will shift the normalized, black magic materialism of the past fifty years or so for GOOD.
    There were too many unseen people being tortured to perpetuate the tres gross western lifestyle. Expect an Age of Aquarius that is light on ‘stuff you NEED (but don’t, like a crap house in the suburbs)!’ and heavy on a new kind of group intimacy (without the random fucking) that will mobilize, supply and reharvest our ancient ambitions of family, hot rock and a cool strut. Let some of this stuff go. Walk away from debt and see what happens. Don’t care. Care about something else.
    Be a Light unto Yourself – Krishnamurti

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