Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Choose Freedom

"We have been created for greater things, not just to be a number in the world. Not just to go for diplomas and degrees, this work or that. We have been created in order to love and be loved."

-Mother Teresa

It's been two years since the first post of Escaped Wage Slave. Number 394 will be it's last. It would be an interesting study by a grad student as to the content. Personally I feel it chronicles a return to lost good mental health.

Mark Ames' "Going Postal" was an inspiration. A working thesis within the book has a sympathetic slant to the modern workplace shooter, doing good investigative work on many instances. Each case study is a mini-slave revolt and that perspective appeals to me. Every wage slave has a limit to how much he or she can endure physically, mentally, and spiritually. Most die of work related induced heart attacks at home, unreported, it seems.

My particular breakdown (or breakthrough, CA speak) came after three years in an institutional setting. I was a free spirit, surviving from good economy to good economy, working hard when I could, winter lay offs were not unusual. I hired onto my first job with a time clock at 48 years old. I thought I had it made, a "job for life", so to speak. Head down, mouth shut, nose clean - an easy walk until retirement.

My first 6 weeks or so, the lunch table talk was about "Eddie", the union steward out on disability. I listened everyday to what type guy he was and it was quite obvious some of my co-workers had problems with him. I was working in the system with two other new guys, we didn't know what to think about this unseen, unfelt force of nature coming over the horizon returning to work. The eye-ball roll was the common denominator when people said his name.

He did his homework when he was gone. He said to me when we met, "I heard you were a good union man. We need more." This greeting ingratiated me, as I thought of myself as a good union man at the time. He next said in a haunting, foretelling way, "I Googled you. Brought up seven pages." I often wondered why the institution never did the same. At this date, my future in the regular 40 hr world is sealed closed by a simple Google search.

I dedicate Escaped Wage Slave to Eddie's memory. Without an iota of knowledge about Marx or Bakunin, he was the finest union man I ever worked with, simply because he knew right from wrong and was willing to back it up. The people in his unit he dutifully represented for 17 years and 5 contract negotiations didn't back him, unappreciative of the fruits of collective bargaining, and found it easier to shirk work and kiss ass. Forgiveness is needed all around in this instance. I truly want to let go the ill will I had when I left. I grieved hard and silent for the 6 months after Eddie's fatal coronary and the remaining "trustees" never softened up on his memory. I found that deplorable, and now with no workplace representation there was no low-bar that my co-workers wouldn't go under, or so it seemed, to keep this "good job". I internalized all the ribbing among the crew, even if it wasn't about me. I've learned now not to take ANYTHING personally, but it is a hard concept to apply sometimes. Words were like knives.

It wouldn't be fair to the story so far if I didn't take responsibility for actions, words and deeds during this three year time frame. I was out on my own, freedom and alcohol drunk, sex addicted, political passionate and emotionally driven in all manners. As I swirled into a negative tornado, I became intolerable as the bullies I later decry. It's been a self discovering journey to this day with slip ups and embarrassment along the way, but healthwise I'm in a good place ready to grow. Bad thinking habits ARE hard to break. This is a Bully Nation. It seems economic survival demands a emotionally abusive attitude. I can't live like that anymore. I'm looking for a different model.

I learned much on this blogging journey. I made some new lasting friendships of common thinking. I strengthened many long time relationships. I lost camaraderie because some are uncomfortable with the subject of society sickness and the individual mental illness that is it's collectivization. I've come to the conclusion many people enjoy their oppressed situation, want to stay ill and victimized, and refuse to help themselves. It may well be an easier path to go down. I intend on going in the other direction and wish to surround myself with people that think that way, too. My first instinct is to help. Rebuffed, I won't stick around to hear their sorry story. I've realized I can't change anyone but myself.

I mentioned Mark Ames, but other authors are influential as well. Daniel Goleman and Tara Bennet-Goleman's books on "Emotional Intelligence" and "Emotional Alchemy" are tremendously important and need to be read. The Dalai Lama, Krishnamurti, books on meditation by Levine, Kornfield and numerous other authors appeared in my life at the proper time, as the universe deems it. Searching for answers will bring you to the feet of the great teachers and best received with humility. At the start of this episode I probably should have been given drugs and told to sit in the corner. I chose to just sit without the prescription, and it took a few weeks, but the practice of meditation gave me the space to sort out problems. I highly recommend it to battle stress. It does take a certain concentrated effort. I consider that time my daily General Strike, the only time when I'm truly in charge. Yoga is in my life to improve my meditations.

I grew up and out of the labor movement, that is, the formal structure of trade unions. These organizations have awesome potential power for social good. Their leadership at the top are either too corrupt or stupid to fight back. For every Eddie there are thousands of greedy, venal, chauvinistic workers reflecting and responding to the pressures of capitalistic debt-ridden daily life. Until these unions call all their people in and teach them to behave like human beings, instructing them on group dynamics and respect, on compassion for all people, or just point out to them how they are hurting each other on the jobsite, I don't believe fighting for another 25 cents an hour is worth it. I must point out the groundbreaking work of Dr Donahue and Mr Lynch at the school of IBEW NECA 134 for their efforts in this regard. Their seminars to the 3rd yr apprentices and construction industry forewomen/men is a model to be replicated. (

I still recommend working under a collective bargaining agreement if you have to work at all. I just wish I could offer a sense of community with the contract.

War is the greatest institutionalized stressor. My empathy for the people of Iraq and the brutal repression of my so-called government puts my heart in pain. I think of my friend and his family in Baghdad everyday. I'm so appreciative of the people that brought us together because I was injected with secular hope when I needed it the most. I am proud of my small role in the antiwar movement and request many more to rise in indignation what is being done in our name. Labor hasn't stopped one bullet or missile being fired, nor has institutionalized religion. This apple is red and shiny on the outside, rotten and wormy inside, I'm afraid, for these two society pillar groups. Since the beginning of these wars I have been distressed and I know I join millions across the globe calling out "Shame" to the military/industrial/congressional complex that continues to kill for profit. I applaud each and every activist antiwar soldier today. These people must lead. This madness must cease now.

Two years ago my blood pressure was sky high. My diet was sugar, caffeine, sodium, carbs and alcohol. My arrogance made me the smartest person in the room. Hypersensitive beyond belief. Wound up tight or totally exhausted. Believing rumors of rumors, my thoughts and feelings were real, for sure. At my core I was afraid.

I've learned what bubbles up from the mind isn't necessarily true and often valueless. I desire to have a better filter of what I allow my senses to experience. Surround myself with caring people and learn to care. Popular culture and mass market consumerism has a way to deceive and draw me back to hurtful behavior and speech. I am ready every waking moment to change and beyond some morning grumps, I work hard on maintaining energy levels, allowing life to pass through me, taking nothing personal. The more I learn, the less I know these days, while always striving to learn. Healthy and aware with love in my life, I intend to move in a different direction than the tone presented in EWS.

It's called personal empowerment and all I'll ask of you is to wish me luck.

I don't know who has looked at this blog. I never put a counter on it. I got few comments. I suppose I'll leave it up for a year as is. I have no intention of logging in and editing anything, but I suppose I might. I want to start a new blog of healing content and if anyone would like that address, drop a note.

My best wishes for good health to all.