RED TEES is a confused, wayward fellow. He enjoys drinking fine wine, listening to acid house, and eating Pop-Tarts.
I lived on a street where the waft of wet garbage and crack and meth bloomed horrible through the air. I lived on the state’s dime and occasional paper offerings from temporary gigs. I lived on poetry books and theoretical texts that would be given to me or that I would steal. I lived on my rickety faltering laptop, slowly working through poems and collaborative processes and arrangements for reading what I was writing. I lived on the sounds of Swans and Stars of the Lid and Skitsystem and E-40. I lived on and on with my partner and my friends, punks and poets and artists spread on both sides of the Bay and across the continent.
And then, suddenly, I was thrust into a new position. I was given a job in an industry that I knew little about, but by a company within this particular industry that seemed to value the idea of hiring working artists as its representatives. The company’s website quoted Baudrillard and Whitman. The prospect of wage slavery had never seemed so erudite, so imbued with intellectual rigor.
Of course, much of this rigor just disguises one facet of marketing products to a certain audience, a bourgeois, highly-educated class of people. The company aligns itself with arts and cultural institutions, and in doing so, creates unorthodox venues for shifting product into users’ hands. Employees are encouraged to attend art and literary events, sometimes for reasons that are completely lost to me; before it was dismantled, all were encouraged to visit or look at the website for Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument, a project intended to serve as a revolutionary meeting space to engage in art, community aesthetics, and politics. The contradictions inherent in such encouragement— “Do take the time from your busy work schedule to visit a space dedicated to the man who developed the Marxist theory of cultural hegemony”— are truly confounding.
Perhaps, though, this is part of what life under capitalist labor is now about: increasing contradiction, and the acceptance of such as normative.
And so, I have learned to accept. I accept that I work a luxury-goods retail job, with excellent perks, which include fancy dinners, boutique chocolates, wine tastings, exceptional hourly wages, and many other trappings of a life that I could never lead, whether I wanted to or not. Meanwhile, when I’m not at work, I accept that I live in a 14-foot U-Haul box truck that my partner and I have converted into a functional RV, and which is usually parked next to our friends’ warehouse space. I accept that in the truck, you’ll find something like a trapper’s cabin— jars of spices and food, funny wooden shelves, a derelict sink. You’ll also find a collection of books that run the gamut from anarchist theory and practice to hermeneutics to surrealist poetry from Martinique. And I accept that the warehouse space that is our neighbor houses a group of artists and punks who are equally versed in Marxist dialectics and the finer points of Romeo Void’s discography.
Sometimes, it is difficult to accept the contradictions, and sometimes I can accept them with such facility that they hardly seem like contradictions any longer. They are just the conditions under which most of us live, quietly working, plotting, dreaming, and thinking towards the day when such conditions will no longer exist, whether that day arrives in the form of ecological disaster or glorious riotous tumult or any or all of the other possibilities. While a life without contradictions would be boring to a lethargic point, when the condition of contradictions isn’t an imposition of capitalism— that will be a day when I won’t have to think about what I just wrote, because I’ll know exactly how I feel. And that will be just fine.