Prison and Fines in this Year’s Benefit Package

To be safe monetarily in this era you really need to have what David Graeber terms a “bullshit job”–the type of job that involves performative work–the upper management and tenured positions that don’t produce a good, service, or basically anything worthwhile. What they do is patrol others. They monitor. They rationalize the extraction from others, but the one thing they don’t do is add value to the moments they inhabit. They are trashy, slick placeholders for the oligarchic interests, inhabiting a realm of parasitism that would make a tick blush. We are entering a new phase of punishment for those not fortunate enough to have one of these bullshit jobs, that of criminal convictions and absurdist penalties.

Many of these types of jobs are becoming not only more poorly paid considering the rampant inflation, but also a path to criminal conviction and financial ruin. Those that were termed heroes during early covid, individuals like teachers, nurses, and others keeping people fed have now entered a new decidedly non-heroic phase. They are entering the let’s try to convict them phase. It’s not an accident that many of these professions have disproportionate numbers of women. The far-right sure loves seeing a woman being punished. Always have, always will.

Just ask RaDonda Vaught. She’s a nurse who admittedly screwed up about as bad as you can–a medication error killed someone when she was floated to an unfamiliar area at Vanderbilt where she worked. She administered the wrong medication after a truly breathtaking number of errors. She lost her nursing license, which truly seems appropriate in this case, but something extra was placed upon her–that being a conviction for negligent homicide. Her error was colossal, but nobody involved seems to be advancing that she had any intent to harm. The level of stress and demand for speed make errors of the most unimaginable type likely and nursing is in a particularly dark place right now. Work conditions are not good. The fact that she had no intent to harm whatsoever and admitted to the mistake…..that didn’t stop her conviction in a cultural landscape of authoritarians largely not paying for the intentional cruelties they inflict upon vulnerable populations daily. We are back to the accepted narrative, that being the cops, the soldiers and the powerful have a blank check on intentionally destructive behavior while the nurses, the teachers, and the librarians just keep paying, working and serving others.

Another disturbing trend is the manner in which bills and laws are being advanced across the nation to silence teaching ideas such as Critical Race Theory, or what some might call actual history–the teeth of these bills often involve ambiguous language that makes financially punitive and even criminal convictions look to be in the realm of possibility for educators who inflame certain types of reality averse white avengers and their accomplices. These are the types who have shown a decided disgust at reality and its nuance. Mind you, these are the groups who watch documentaries about snake venom being in the covid vaccinations. I don’t think I want them steering what is to be taught (and what will be punished for if mentioned) in our schools. Alas, they don’t want a narrative beyond their being the great white heteros who deserve to rule and have never made a mistake–that even genocide and slavery need to be ignored because it might give you a tummyache to think about. In their worldview, all end results that give power and authority to the wealthy are to be admired and aggrandized. Maybe someday you too can lord over someone in a satisfying manner! They don’t see the bravery and strength in confronting the demons of the past to improve lives and behavior in the future. It’s an amygdala-driven worldview and they demand the sanitized story be told, even if it is in the realm of mythos. This would be a difficult curriculum to put together for educators without the liberal use of bath salts.

One nurse’s egregious error might not seem to have a lot in common with proficient educators teaching a realistic portrayal of history, but the commonality is that these professions are looked at as being possible to bully and goad into submission at this time. As nurses attempt to improve unsafe patient ratios, as teachers attempt to teach real history, as scientists attempt to be heard regarding climate change–the equivalent of adult bullying (with major consequences) by cultists continues. The bullshit jobs power on without slowing, fueling late stage capitalism’s worst inclinations.

Sadly, the current administration is doing nothing tangible to stop the slide. They even screw people out of (to the government) irrelevant sums of money for who knows what reason? Nah, we didn’t mean 2,000 for another stimulus. We meant 29 billion more for the defense budget.  Was this to seem stern and responsible to the types who already and always will hate them? Biden seems to have a deep desire to be admired in a bipartisan manner, but he’s only becoming successful in becoming disapproved of in a bipartisan spirit. He had an unbelievably low bar coming into this thing and still he’s still managing to fuck it up.  He can’t even push for something as wildly popular as cannabis legalization because he thinks it might lead to laudanum addiction.  His group of neoliberals always concede before the battle even starts. Most likely it’s a feature, not a bug–the way he pulls away the football after making the young think he will help with insurmountable student loan debt. But Biden puts us all at huge risk with this cruel behavior….of course it won’t go well in the midterms, and many of these punitive and bullying trends will only be exacerbated with the neoliberal class aversion to the people they profess to represent. It makes the chances of a Tom Cotton or a Josh Hawley presidency next go around much more likely. The Democrats will likely offer a milquetoast “centrist” that keeps moving the accepted discourse farther and farther right and they will tell everyone again, to go with the least awful option. At this point a Plan C will become inevitable and necessary if the nihilistic slide is to be averted. It’s likely the punitives for the working class will simply snowball without a radical response from our largely exhausted populace. We do have to understand the commonalities during this time of zeal to punish the ones out there doing the no-bullshit jobs.

Kathleen Wallace writes out of the US Midwest. Her writing is collected on her Substack page.