Anyone who has had a job in the real world can report that bringing one’s personal life into the workplace is strenuously discouraged as a drag on one’s productivity. But one would never know this if all she had to go by was Hollywood. And, lacking much sustained or significant engagement with the real world for having been cosseted and micro-parented by their anxious Boomer parents, Gen-Y’ers seem incapable of drawing a clear distinction between their personal and professional lives largely because of all the television and cinema they’ve imbibed. They are thus nonplussed when hotness and ample self-esteem don’t send them hurtling pass their co-workers into the executive boardroom.
Keep it simple, stick to a simple job, and you’ll be able to go home at night and be alone with your thoughts. No one needs to hold an emergency meeting with a waitress or postal clerk after the office has closed. A janitor doesn’t need to brown-nose via Facebook while camping with his kids. That guy at the DMV who takes your (always unflattering) driver’s license photograph never worries about all those urgent emails flooding his work inbox. No, in those jobs you put in your eight hours of hard, shitty work and then you leave it.
If the current recession has offered people any lesson, it has shown to what degree parallactic antinomies rule their lives. They must somehow hold in their mind rather massive contradictions. They must recognize, for instance, that from one point of view, that of most Establishment economists, capitalism, though imperfect, offers the best system for allocating scarce resources, thus bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. And they must also recognize that capitalism immiserates untold numbers of people, subordinating them to a regime which cheats them of the fair value of their labor. (What, after all, does the perma-intern model accomplish beyond the outright theft of interns’ time and effort?) From one point of view, the former appears valid; from another, the latter. And they appear so because they are so — equally incontrovertibly, yet equally irresolvable in terms of the other.
Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein and Metropolitan‘s Charlie Black share the sort of myopically grandiose perception of their class. For them, the value their class is made plain by its continued existence. Should their class disappear, Armageddon would ensue. Seas would boil. The moon would turn to blood. Stock options would go unexercised. It’s this inflated sense of vital necessity which lay behind Blankfein’s bloviation and Charlie Black’s lucubration. Ultimately, it underwrites the sense of the unique tragedy attending the urbanite bourgeoisie’s decline, as well as the logic of “Too big to fail” and the ex cathedra decree of “doing God’s work.” Apparently no longer content with being known as “Government Sachs” for the various former executives who now stride Washington D. C.’s corridors of power, Blankfein and his merry band seek nothing less than the foundation of one holy catholic and apostolic church, consecrated to Mammon, their tribal deity, who demands regular bloodletting and smoldering hecatombs.
“Profit-seeking innovators” may just turn out to be predators, exploiting their advantages in resources to develop ways of protecting their interests at the expense of the general well-being. This underscores the reason that increasing income inequality is troubling. It suggests that those who are rich are channeling their riches into expanding their advantage through this sort of socially destructive innovation. That is to say, the rich are getting richer for no good reason.
Overextended and underemployed in creative-class Xanadu is probably not how many hipsters envisioned their post-collegiate years, but such is the sobering reality for many of them. Which can come as nothing but good news for local employers, who stand to acquire specialized labor at bargain-basement wages, as well as for landlords, the ultimate winners in all such demographic trends.