Fragments on Identity

There’s no more West left. I can’t pack my things and head across the plains in pursuit of a better life on a free plot of land.

There are no more decent jobs being created. Wages no longer rise. Health care is still out of reach. Student loan debt still buries us. Poverty remains entrenched.

The ruling class raped the economy with their incompetence.

Abundance is over. The gig is up.

Now I am beginning to understand that the American dream is a bankrupt dream.

No longer do we instinctively blame the sickening inequality in the nation on our own failures. Now we feel deeply that we have been robbed, that we are being robbed. We know that a profound change is necessary. Revolution begins to seem like a reasonable option.

We are taught to worship the Founding Fathers, but we dare not do what they did. We can’t be revolutionaries. We think there will only be one American Revolution.

But maybe there will be many American Revolutions.

After we displaced or killed the native population, there were enormous amounts of land for the taking. Working class people could move into the wide open spaces and hack away at the stolen land to create a better life for themselves and their descendants. This enormous space, this beautiful, abundant land, fueled America’s prosperity and growth. But there is no more land left for working class people. There is no more more prosperity and growth for the 99%.

I once thought Alaska was a new frontier. Like so many others, I wanted to go into the wild to seek abundance. But Alaska was bought up and commodified long ago.

I looked for a new frontier beyond the borders of the United States. The world is not just the ruling class’s capitalist empire, it’s the working class’s new frontier. Some of us fan out across the globe seeking a new beginning, a new beginning that was once sought in the American West.

One of the only ways I can assert control over my life is to cut my labor short and move on to a new job, in a new location. But my wages always stagnate, because I’m always overworked, and the job benefits are always pitiful, so it always become necessary to move on. I keep moving, if only to remind myself that I’m free, that I deserve better.

I’ve become a migrant laborer, constantly in search of a better life. Between jobs, I get a brief taste of freedom. Freedom from selling my labor to pay my debts. Freedom from wage slavery. A brief taste of freedom reminds me who I really am. When I leave a job, when I stop working for wages, even if only for a moment, for that moment I belong only to myself.

I won’t settle down because there is no longer anything worth settling for.

My community is a community of migrant laborers drifting on the undercurrents of inequality, always in pursuit of transitory freedom from capital.

I am alienated from my true self by transient wage labor so I am always seeking an identity. I attempt to forge a new identity in each place I land. In Alaska I wanted to be a wilderness adventurer. In Texas I wanted to be a rugged individualist. In Israel I became a pilgrim. I identify with a place and try to meld with a place.

What I am, briefly, becomes where I am. But then I move on, and the flimsy identity I tried to construct for myself is shattered, so I look for a new identity in a new place. Like migratory labor itself, my identity is tenuous.

I still seek abundance. I feel entitled to abundance. I want to possess places. But I can’t possess by taking physical possession since I have no money. I can only possess through experience.

Abundance is no longer material, abundance is experiential.

I will never stop looking for a dignified life beyond the cash nexus.


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