July 7, the dreaded Monday start back to another week of wage-slave hell, only a brief July 4 Holiday on Friday, possibly providing you with a three-day weekend and reprieve of the endless toil; yet it’s back into crawling out of the hole, working overtime to pay off bills and look forward to a life of endlessly hustling for money. It’s a particularly hard to start the week when you find yourself on the the side of a busy intersection with your family members, holding rags and cleaning supplies in hand holding up signs ‘Carwash, Donations for Tilyah”. The ‘land of opportunity’ allows you the opportunity to take advantage of the ‘free-market’ by hustling a street corner to pay for a family member’s funeral expenses. Now, even paying for a funeral is a ‘commodity’; if you are one of the unfortunate members of the bottom tier working poor, a funeral can be just ‘the thing’ Upton Sinclair alluded to in the Jungle — sending one to their economic, and consequential physical demise. Time to put that American Spirit of Work Ethic in high-gear and earn the privilege of a proper burial.
I’ve lived in Bakersfield, California over two years now, and noticed the funeral car-wash phenomenon when I first landed here, but it seems every few months the signs become more populous. On Monday, I drove across my locale in ‘East Bakersfield’ (just across from the bridge from the methamphetamine neo-nazi gangs in the illustrious Oildale) and witnessed the first family asking donations for ‘Emilio’. An older Hispanic man was holding a sign, he seemed to have the ‘popeye’ appearance of someone who had lost most of their teeth, and an assortment of young Hispanic girls waving signs; all-together probably six or seven family and friends standing, working just to pay off a funeral expense. I hopped out of my car to give one of the younger girls a few dollars, and not much conversation was exchanged, except ‘Thanks!”. The little girl who accepted the money from me was quick to rush back running furiously in her flower-patterned dress, waving her sign. I pondered the impossibility of them making enough cash to cover the most basic necessities for a funeral in this manner. Venturing west, the signs continued to populate different intersections and at the end of the day I counted over six different intersections I saw, all families holding car-wash signs for deceased family members. It seemed quite a few people in Bakersfield unfortunately met their untimely demise the previous weekend.
This is the savage nature of current ‘functioning’ capitalism, and we are witnessing the further eradication of any resemblance of a social safety net. What a cruel and macabre joke; that we find ourselves in a nation where we celebrate a day of independence, only to find ourselves struggling to find the capital to bury family member’s after the weekend is over? Once again, we enjoy the freedom to be grinded through the neo-liberal machine, and hope to make the most of a life of penury. In a way, these signs, that are becoming more prevalent in this location and others, are saying something more radical and profound then any ‘We are the 99%’ slogan or banner. These signs show the reality for every-day working Americans in some of the less pristine areas of California, and across the nation. These signs are saying “Help me live, It’s too expensive to die”. Hold tight, load up on vitamins, avoid any dangerous activity and hermit away. Hopefully you don’t punish your family by burdening them with an expensive, unexpected bill in your wake.
Daniel Church is an anarcho-syndicalist activist residing in Bakersfield, California. He can be reached at Lfsdan@hotmail.com