No matter how many times I said it, whether IRL or on social media, I never actually believed it. Not really, not deeply. I certainly never internalized it as a thing that was legitimate and true. And yet… best goddamn thing I could’ve done.
I officially walked away from my job of almost 15 years this week. I was effectively unemployed, receiving no pay and with lapsed benefits, but not officially. I sent the email to the higher-ups. Subject line: Peace. Because no matter how old I get I guess I’m still the same facetious little punk who could never be caught dead taking something seriously, least of all the most terrifying bits. It’s an odd cocktail of emotion I’m dealing with. On the one hand this is something I should have done years ago. And when I hadn’t done it then I should have done it a few years later, or a few years after that. So many times I held on because the pay was ok and the medical benefits were… existent. A job I was reticent to take in the first place, excelled at in spite of so many things, then gave up on, then continued to stick around at in spite of my better judgment. I suspect I’m reciting the hymn of much of employed America there… however many of you are left standing.
I won’t bore you strangers with the whole saga – there’s little I hate more than sitting through someone’s spirited recounting of their employment history – but I will say that I’ve opted out of the engine driving the apocalypse. If I must be a spectator so be it, but I refuse to have a front row seat just so that I can tell myself I’m steering The Beast. I recently learned of a Chinese myth and the insult which accompanies it (from Jackie Kashian’s Dork Forest podcast) called a Chang Ghost. Now the Chang Ghost is a former victim of a tiger who, in exchange for being able to continue to sort of live, agrees to lure victims back to the tiger to be eaten. There are many words for a traitor; the labor movement has the word “scab”, far left circles have the term “boot-licker”, occasionally you’ll even hear “Benedict Arnold” thrown around for one reason or another, but in China you might be a Chang Ghost (insert Jeff Foxworthy formatting joke here). What I like about that is the universality. Scab takes explaining, particularly to a post-Reagan ear but also it’s tremendously specific; boot-licker too, for so many reasons; and Benedict Arnold is historically wonky, it ignores much of the complexity of the man. But the Chang Ghost, in a mythical sense anyway, says what it means. A Chang Ghost is sacrificing human beings so that it can still have the illusion of proximity to life. Like killing a dude for the empty box his Nikes came in; even the excuse rings hollow, and in the back of his mind the ghost must know it. Writ simply it’s pathetic and futile. It’s not the work of a villain but of a henchman. No one ever said “Fools! I’ll aid the man who says he’ll destroy them all!” But for some strange reason it’s a fucking cottage industry these days. I believe the University of Chicago even has a Department of Henching if I’m not mistaken.
Now why did I just dump 200 words on the Chang Ghost as we reopen the country in the hopes that throwing enough bodies at the economy will keep the billionaire class comfortable? No reason. Certainly not because most of the executioners have more in common with the condemned than the king and it’s goddamn revolting that they’re so smug about managing to score the royal table scraps. No sir. That’s not a point I’d make. No, if I’m being honest I’m procrastinating. See, I’m trying to navigate Ursula K Le Guin’s Steering the Craft at the moment and the next exercise is a real bear. I’m tasked with writing a paragraph to a page of sentences 7 words or shorter. Comb through my posts, dear reader, and tell me if you think I’m capable of writing 2 or more consecutive sentences that short if I’m not writing a short story about an ogre or cave man. It’s looking grim and I’m none too enthused. But it’s a challenge, and a challenge from one of the greatest masters of prose the world has ever seen so I have no choice in the matter. Procrastination is my only option apart from action, and action is sorely overrated.