I’m an American, get me out of here!

04 Aug

I can’t apologise enough for the lack of posting recently; my life has been kind of a mess for a while now and I haven’t had a whole lot of coherent things to say that people might care to read. I’m not sure that this will be, either, but I need to get some things off my chest before I suffocate. That’s what blogs are for, right?

The title of this post may go without saying, as it’s how I’ve felt for quite some time trapped in this hellhole of a country. But bugger that, let’s talk about the New Job. I promise it’ll come full circle soon enough.

The new job is a bit odd to explain – basically this company is a sort of intermediary recruitment agency that helps to retrain people for technical positions (mostly software-related) and then hires them out to client companies in exchange for a cut of the salary the client would otherwise pay. The training they offer is meant to fill in the knowledge gaps employers would otherwise be requiring the ubiquitous “2-3 years’ work experience” for “entry-level” positions for, and it seems a sound enough proposition. They don’t pay much during the training period but they do provide housing, which is actually decent enough. I don’t plan on naming them at present for various reasons, even though I have little if anything that isn’t positive to say about them thus far (in point of fact I’m going to use pseudonyms for everyone discussed in this piece and try to be nonspecific as to location as well; I don’t want to identify people here). If nothing else, I’ve appreciated their willingness to be open and honest with me.

In any case, what I want to complain about is (naturally) the living situation in which I currently find myself. (Admittedly this is only temporary, as it’s only for the training period which should be at most two months… but that doesn’t absolve it of its issues, since I still have to survive that period.)

The company provides apartments for people to stay in during the training period, and they are actually rather nice (or at least the one I’ve been placed in is; I haven’t seen all of them and I’m given to understand there is some variation). Unfortunately they are also rather crowded; they have six of us living in a single flat. Though it does have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a small kitchen, the bedrooms are small and taken up almost completely by the beds, so aren’t good for much aside from sleeping, and the modest living/dining area ends up being where everyone ends up while they’re here (and isn’t really big enough to be comfortable). And because the bedrooms are shared (and small, and the doors are thin) there’s really no good place to retreat if I want privacy; I definitely feel very exposed here no matter where I am.

That might not necessarily have been the worst thing, if it weren’t for a few other details about the people I’ve been stuck with. Or, at least, some of them; three of them have done nothing yet, and seem like perfectly nice people thus far. Then there’s the uber-capitalist Libertarian in his fifties who insists on turning every conversation into an argument with me (I made the mistake of mentioning in his presence that I identify as some sort of communist/socialist) and WILL NOT FUCKING SHUT UP, oh, and the self-identified Neo-Nazi 4chan Gamergate dudebro. Let’s call them Schmuck and Putz; why waste time coming up with realistic-sounding pseudonyms when I can just use various words for penis?

Anyway, I have never been particularly fond of tech culture, which will probably come as no surprise; that said, I allowed myself to succumb to the naivete of distance and time, and find myself surprised at the intensity of my culture-shock and revulsion. I’d expected to have some issues but hoped they’d be more manageable; that said, this is at least an improvement over the Job From Hell to which I’ve alluded in the past (where I lasted an entire six days before quitting because the bosses/managers were also hateful bigots and fostered an environment of bullying and harassment), though not as much of one as I would have liked.

In addition to the tech culture aspect, though, there’s also the fact that this job is located significantly further south than I’m used to living, and while it’s not in the Deep South or anything it seems like a lot of the people they recruit are from there and many of their eventual placements end up being there as well, so in interacting with people here I’m finding another level of culture shock as well; I seem to be the only person anywhere left of centre, at least amongst the people whose political views I’ve been acquainted with, which is equally alienating. I don’t want to take stereotypes too far here, because there are definitely plenty of people in the South who aren’t right-wing bigots, etc, and with whom I’m sure I’d get along swimmingly (and I’m sure those people don’t care for this stuff any more than I do, so I certainly don’t want to dismiss them as part of the problem; I certainly don’t want to make anyone else’s situation more uncomfortable!), but thus far I don’t seem to have encountered them.

In any case, let’s talk specifics. Schmuck I’ve mostly summed up, I think, except that he seems to hold ignorant or obnoxious opinions on pretty much everything you can think of, and insists on opining loudly about them to everyone around as often as possible. (For fuck’s sake, last night he was going on and on about how he believed there really were alien spacecraft at Roswell!) Disagreeing with him just makes him double down and argue more vehemently, which is frustrating because I don’t want to sit silently and have to listen to his opinions going unchallenged, but neither do I want to get involved and cause him to escalate (especially because when I do he doesn’t take it too well, either). He just never shuts up. And he loves to bring everything back to his pet economic issues… I do wonder if I’m being a bit hypocritical in getting so pissed off at this guy, because some of the things I’m complaining about are like a funhouse-mirror reflection of myself (I too am talkative and opinionated and irascible, and like a good argument sometimes, though of late I find it harder and harder to tolerate people whose disagreement with me is this fundamental – I’d rather debate interesting nuances with people I respect than try to demonstrate people should be entitled to food and healthcare), and I’m not sure I’ve handled the situation as well as I could have. I’ve tried setting boundaries and disengaging, both implicitly and explicitly, but it doesn’t help except in the short term (he’ll just pick up later where he left off, and there’s often noplace to run in any case) and I really don’t think Schmuck knows what a boundary is. I’ve tried explaining that I’d like my living situation to be relatively conflict-free, but all I get in response is a disingenuous “but we were just having a conversation! I like talking about/debating things like this!” Well, bully for you, Schmuck; I don’t like you and I don’t like talking about them with you, so go get your jollies elsewhere. Consent is fucking fundamental in my view of ethics, thank you very much, so take your virtual argument-penis and stop shoving it in my ears, you can perform mental masturbation just as effectively on your lonesome. (“If you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours, consult a physician immediately.”)

He also gets accusatory and plays the victim (at one point he went off about how rude I am) if I disagree too strongly with anything he says, try to put an end to a conversation, or just ask him to leave me be. Because of course he does; why should I expect him to be a decent human being? “Are you calling me stupid? Because a professor at [insert name of prestigious university] once told me I was a very deep thinker. How can you be so arrogant and think you’re so much smarter than everyone else?” Yep, argument from authority fallacy everywhere too, and he really didn’t like when I pointed that out either. For the record: Yes, Mr. Schmuck, I do think you are stupid and your ideas are stupid, and I actually think you are quite a shallow thinker as well. I don’t like to say so to people’s faces, especially because I’ve been walking on eggshells around you for some time because I’d like to minimise anxiety in my living quarters, but as long as we’re being honest with each other here and you’re never going to read this I’ll say what I fucking mean. You’re so full of shit you may as well be a sewer.

And then there’s the guy I’m calling Putz. Who is actually perfectly civil to me most of the time, and can carry on a perfectly decent conversation without touching on ideological disagreements for the most part, so he’s a lot more tolerable. Which is weird, because his views are probably even more odious. In an attempt to break the ice I decided to tell an anecdote about my father’s freshman roommate at university, which was about the worst possible roommate situation a university could create – Dad’s Jewish (I think he was the only Jew in his class), and they put him with the son of a member of the Hitler Youth. Immediately in response to this, Putz tells me he’s a neo-Nazi. I took it as a joke at first, but apparently he’s perfectly serious… the 4chan connection explains where he learnt it, I suppose, but it’s still very disturbing. For the most part he seems to regard me as a curiosity at present, which I’ll survive (he’s said he finds my views fascinating and well-thought-out even though he disagrees with me on practically everything…). But he’s still claiming to be a Nazi, going on about the evils of “cultural Marxism” (whatever the fuck that means; background here and here ), and hinting around the edges of Holocaust denial. Needless to say, I am not amused.

(Also, I should probably not make any further jokes about Sabbath elevators and the like around self-identified neo-Nazis like Putz. I hadn’t realised when this particular gentleman told me such that he actually meant it, because for better or worse I have a bad tendency to assume people I’m interacting with are basically decent and couldn’t conceive a reason other than shock value for anyone to say such a thing. Ironically, for such a pessimist, I tend to be irrationally optimistic when interacting with new people; I think I might project too much.)

That said, I’m not sure yet whether I need to be watching my back, and if so what for. (If I do turn up murdered, though, please mention this connection to the investigators.)

And of course they also looked at me incredulously when I told them I’m a feminist, because the rest wasn’t enough yet. (Both of them support Donald Trump for president, too, which says quite a bit about them I think.)

In particular regarding feminism, I’m not sure whether the underlying issue in many of these people’s cases is an inability to properly identify the scope of the problem, or a deliberate choice to be on the wrong side of it. In many cases you can tell which of those buckets a person falls into (if not both to some degree), but not always. I’m also not sure which is worse to deal with – with people who are openly and deliberately bigoted, it’s at least easy to know where you stand, whereas the (willfully or not) blithering blinkered ignoramuses are frustratingly obtuse and just deny/gaslight everything away. Where economic issues are concerned it’s easier for me to see how people end up with the beliefs they do even if I think they’re equally nuts and harmful, and liable to drive me insane (or moreso than I am already anyway); when it comes to racial or sex/gender-based bigotry, I just don’t understand these people.

I’ll admit it’s entirely possible I’m contributing to the problem here, despite the fact I’ve been acting surprisingly conflict-averse (for me at least) and have been trying to keep my head down. Maybe it’s partially my fault for caring about these things and being sensitive enough to find them painful to listen to. And there is the concern that I could be being hypocritical here… but regardless, these two gentlemen feel like just the tip of an iceberg and I’m already feeling trapped. It probably doesn’t help that these particular flavours of right-wing ideology feel particularly American to me (though it might not be entirely; I do get the feeling that especially online it’s a major export of ours, and 4chan etc isn’t confined to any particular location), and just in general I feel surrounded by reactionary nastiness. My escape can’t come soon enough, and yet I’m likely stuck here in the States for quite a while yet (if all goes well I’ve agreed to a two year commitment with this company, after the training period; I’m just hoping that wherever they place me will be more pleasant than here).

In the meantime, I’ve been drinking like a fish.


Posted by on August 4, 2015 in mitchell


Tags: , , , , , , ,

13 responses to “I’m an American, get me out of here!

  1. Ymfon

    August 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Ouch. Can I offer you some Jedi hugs?

    • mcbender

      August 6, 2015 at 12:39 am

      Thank you, much appreciated. It honestly does help, at least a little.

  2. theimpossiblygeekygirl

    August 5, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Oh boy.
    Well, I can tell you that I’m from the South by way of multiple other places (and still live there, also not in the Deep South, but Deep enough to feel the influence), and generally it’s not a great hot spot for people with opinions outside of the “acceptable norm”, regardless of there being a great number of free thinkers down here, and there are, believe me. Even people who do like to think and argue, myself included on most days, just shut the hell up to keep from being ostracized or otherwise made into an outcast by the masses.
    I myself am a libertarian, though I don’t see how you can be a Capitalist with a big C and be libertarian. Though I do believe in the free market to some degree, I don’t like the power mongering of capitalism, but that’s another story for another day. I guess I fall to the Libertarian Socialist side. In true Libertarianism, we take care of each other since the government wouldn’t be set up to do that, and I don’t see many Capitalists doing that if they didn’t get the tax write-off for doing so. But I digress.
    That guy living with you who claims to be a libertarian – Schmuck – sounds like a bit of a nutter to say the least. I don’t think he understands what he believes in, and that’s generally the problem with most people who say and do stupid things while debating a point, in my experience at least. I love to debate, took debate in school and did all sorts of fun things with it, but it’s no fun at all of the other didn’t do their homework. My bet is he wanted to be a love child free thinker, just missed the boat on age, and is now a sullen piece of work who likes the trendy label that he’s picked up that he thinks allows him to be a “free thinker”. Can’t be libertarian without being feminist, anti-law, and considerably tolerant of the other. He’s probably a Republican or Democrat, just in the closet about it as it were.
    I’m not saying to keep quiet, I just realized I said something about “shut the hell up”, lol. Although, life is easier down here if you do choose your battles wisely and talk when you know you are in a group of like minded persons. Lord knows my own mouth gets me in enough trouble, though mostly at family gatherings with my highly Republican, Southern to the bone and proudly upper class relatives who never know what to do with my meager, mediocre ways that they consider much lower than their own, since I’m a single mum and chose not to advance my education further than my degree from a “gasp” state university along with four certifications in my chosen field. I long for my Scottish folks on those days.
    The Putz … good grief. I pretend that people like that don’t exist, though I guess they really do. I can understand the drinking. Bottoms up to that.

    • mcbender

      August 6, 2015 at 12:48 am

      Thanks for your input, I appreciate it. I think what you might be getting at, actually, is the difference between small-l libertarian and big-L Libertarian (the latter of which seems to me to be most often adopted by hypercapitalist Ayn Rand acolytes, like Mr Schmuck here). In the small-l sense, the way I suspect you’re using it, I definitely have some leanings in that direction as well (I’m certainly no authoritarian, though I’m not sure precisely how I’d characterise my position).

      I am definitely trying to choose my battles, but that’s a difficult thing for me generally so it might take me a little while to perfect my technique 😉 Right now I’m trying as much bribery as anything else, supplying them with tea and coffee…

      What terrifies me about Putz in particular is that he’s really good at masking it when he wants to. I don’t know how. But for the most part the really odious stuff has only come out after he’s had a drink or two, and he seems like a perfectly normal human being the rest of the time. I’m now depressingly certain that these people are hiding in plain sight and I’ve no good way of detecting them; it’s almost enough to send me paranoid…

      • theimpossiblygeekygirl

        August 6, 2015 at 2:07 am

        I use it both ways, really. Rand denounced libertarianism and anarchism herself, which is one of the reasons I can’t combine being a “Libertarian” and her brand of Capitalism, though I know there are enough people who do. I think it’s just a way to mainstream the party and the thought process into the American culture. We do love our free market here. Interject anything marginally socialist and almost everyone goes screaming in the other direction.
        I’m probably more philosophical on political matters anyways (ironically, from reading a hell of a lot of Rand’s writing as a teenager) – if more politicians had a thought process about their position and the party they stand for the country might be in marginally better shape. Which is why I’m in the process of pulling my hair out anytime I watch the news, lately.
        Don’t forget the sweets, depending on what part of the South you’re in, for bribery. We’re all a little mad for them.

  3. mcbender

    August 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Just to get this out there – on rereading this post of mine I’m rather disappointed in myself for using some language that could easily be interpreted as comparing being nonconsensually talked at by an irritating douchebag to rape. I’m going to leave it as is rather than edit it because I’d rather not run from my mistakes, but I hope I didn’t hurt anyone by saying it and if I did I’m very sorry for that. I really should have known better.

    • janach

      August 7, 2015 at 2:30 am

      Rape? I didn’t see it. I just looked like ordinary garden-variety vulgarity to me. Nothing to get upset about. But that’s just me, of course—old and well-armored.

      • mcbender

        August 9, 2015 at 8:34 pm

        It was mainly this sentence I’d been thinking of –

        “Consent is fucking fundamental in my view of ethics, thank you very much, so take your virtual argument-penis and stop shoving it in my ears, you can perform mental masturbation just as effectively on your lonesome.”

        With the amount of scrutiny to which I often subject others’ writing, it didn’t seem fair not to do the same to myself. It’s also particularly on my mind because of certain incidents of Bloggers Behaving Badly going on recently in places I frequent (and about which I will probably be writing sometime soon once I can get my thoughts sufficiently ironed out); needless to say, a bit of self-criticism is probably not unhealthy. If this makes any sense at all; I’ve a feeling some of that may come off as unduly cryptic.

  4. Isa

    August 8, 2015 at 3:59 am

    Hm not knowing how deep south it is will change the dynamics. Generally speaking, the deep south is very into “politeness” and will never be rude to your face, but decimate your life in passive aggressive ways you can’t mount any defense against. (To whit, “bless your heart” is not a complement.)

    That being said, these men clearly aren’t deep south types, so I would probably pretend to agree and/or be disinterested, then ask them about sporting events. Feigning interest in football (college preferably) seems to be the key to male bonding in the states.

    Otherwise, glad to know who the Trump demographic is. The thought anyone would support a clown like him is rather depressing.

    • mcbender

      August 9, 2015 at 8:37 pm

      Hmm. I’m aware of the “politeness” phenomenon (at least as a stereotype, heh), but I haven’t noticed it much with these particular guys, aside from maybe that one remark about how rude I was for daring to disagree openly. Oh well.

      Hah, yes, I’m aware of the football phenomenon, though I’ve never had much luck with that, mostly because I’m just no good at the feigning part.

      • Isa

        August 11, 2015 at 3:14 am

        Perhaps the I.T. Crowd approach is appropriate. To whit:

  5. P.S. Paddfoot (@PSPaddfoot)

    August 10, 2015 at 2:37 am

    I feel for you. I have an Uncle, that while he was born up north where things tend to be more open (democrat/liberal) he has lived in Texas for a long time, and become a born again Christian. Not to say I have anything against Texans, or religious people, but he takes on some of the more annoying habits that they display. Like he is pretty racist, anti-gay, pro-lifer, and I find myself completely avoiding politics with him.

    Unfortunately I do not have any advice to offer up, except to bite your tongue, and bide your time. Hope to be placed somewhere, where you can escape people like them.

    I am a bit un-nerved to realize that there could be neo-Nazi’s right under my nose, and I haven’t recognized them for what they are. Becareful around him, I don’t think he would do anything to you, considering you have so many people living with you, but one can never be to safe when it comes to something like that.

    PS: Sorry if this is a bit all over.

  6. sellmaeth

    August 19, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    I, too, have an uncle like that, Paddfoot. And the worst thing is that he won’t shut up about politics. Which, on one hand is nice, because one knows what he’s like immediately, but with people you cannot get rid of … it gets annoying.

    I, too, would advise to be careful and not openly oppose those people as long as you have to live with them.
    Men are less likely to be murdered just for setting boundaries, but it is still dangerous.

    As for the topic of feminism, I think men like those consciously choose to continue partaking in the oppression of women. That is the case with most antifeminists, actually. Those who cannot see the problem tend to be neutral towards feminism.


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