Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Class.  §

Today was the first day of summer camp. Which is a bit odd because, of course, summer is almost over.

The reason for this is that we only paid for one week. Because the cost for us, for the entire summer, was prohibitive.

This sort of thing is pissing me off right now. I have a high I.Q. and a Ph.D. and tons of experience and a lot of skills. I’m not happy that the cost of anything at all is prohibitive, much less that my life right now is a circus freak show of disaster that would be cleaned up in ten minutes with a measly five figure windfall.

Or that I once had some momentum in building a brand and a business of my own but gave it all up just to satisfy the needs of what turned out to be a temporary love affair.

I always said that I wouldn’t be my parents when it comes to the work-and-finances world, but I am my parents when it comes to the work-and-finances world. (Not the love affair part, they’re still married all these decades later. In that—precisely the wrong thing, naturally—I have managed to deviate from the course that they charted.)

— § —

This sucks.

Class sucks. Class is so impossibly definitive; it fully colonizes and constrains your consciousness. I eat my class. I socialize my class. I hobby my class. I do everything in precisely the way that someone of my class does.

That despite thinking I could buy my way out of my class with a lot of hard work and leveraged self-investment over a very long period of time. Isn’t that what everyone thinks? Isn’t that the American dream?

© Aron Hsiao / 2006

But no. That is not how it works.

Born working class? Stay working class.
Born lower middle class? Stay lower middle class.
Born upper middle class? Stay upper middle class.
Born upper class? Stay upper class.
Born wealthy? Stay wealthy.

You can’t work your way up a class, and you can’t fail your way out of a class. It simply . doesn’t . happen. Period.

This country’s educational system would be infinitely kinder if it just told kids the truth and didn’t encourage them to tilt at windmills.

“No, there’s no point in you studying right now, much less trying to get on the college track. Your parents were laborers. You’re going to earn what they earned and live like they lived. All you’re going to do by trying to go to college is get yourself into a lot of debt that you won’t be able to afford as someone that lives hand-to-mouth in a squat.”

Now that would be useful to a young kid. They could get started on mastering the norms and mores of their station and become the top dog in their particular stratum, rather than wasting their years trying to be something they’re not and then ending up on the bottom rung instead for having started slowly and under significant misapprehension.

Milton was right: Better to rule in hell.

Doubly so when the unspoken is true: There is no path to heaven. Either you were born an angel or you weren’t. Let’s be real.

— § —

The older I get—the more I use the phrase “the older I get.”

Okay, that isn’t where I was going with that, it just came out in a moment of self-consciousness. Let’s rewind.

The older I get, the farther back I seem to place humanity’s golden age. This may be one of those “perspective” things. Right now if you try to find anything laudable about, say, the middle ages, a lot of people will tell you about death and disease and creature comforts and life expectancy.

Hell, I used to be that person, in front of fifty or a hundred students at a time.

But here I sit aging and thinking that by god, the 1950s really were a golden age, and the 1450s may have been that much more golden.

I guess it’s easy to talk about how unimportant creature comforts are when you have all of them, but every generation has their cross to bear, and ours happens to be the bitter irony of endless creature comforts in an age devoid of any reason to exist other than pure narcissism and in which every single one of a person’s earthy companions are fellow narcissists.

Yeah, this post took a wrong turn. But it is what it is.

— § —

On more prosaic matters, I have been shipping FedEx a lot lately instead of USPS. The rates are better. And I’m working on opening both an online store and an affiliate content marketing setup. Because it’s time to get back on the path that I stupidly abandoned and try to do something other than work for the man.

And if you’re wincing at that last phrase, let me tell you it’s because I come from a lower middle class household and goddammit that’s what I am and a lifetime of trying to be otherwise has brought me a lot of pain and suffering but not much in the way of success, so it may be time to embrace my origins, big words and all.

I may not know how to invest well for retirement, but I sure as hell can fix anything in the house with a bent coat hanger, some glue, and some duct tape, and I know all the best sitcoms from the ’70s onward and can quote from them liberally.

— § —

Apropos of all of this, I am stuck reading the Chronicle of Higher Education daily and getting more and more irritated with each additional word.

I’ll be glad when my subscription finally runs out and I don’t have to try to master self control to avoid all of the incredible tide of hypocrites and elitists (yup, said it) that post over there.

Who’s worth paying attention to?

Jonathan Haidt and Camille Paglia.

Who’s not worth paying attention to?

Hypatia, for one.

© Aron Hsiao / 2002

Cesspool. The number of former haunts that are turning into cesspools in my evolving estimation multiply apace.

Daily Kos? Cesspool.
Chronicle of Higher Education? Cesspool.
The Guardian? Cesspool.
The Daily Beast? Cesspool.

I am finding that pretty much everything that I judge to have been worth my time is being published or done in places that the people that I formerly held in some esteem wouldn’t deign to dignify with a mere glance, much less a sustained presence.

What does this say about me and where I am in life?

Probably that I will lose some friends and acquaintances.

— § —

The primary problem with the academy right now is that the argument about whether it’s a body constituted for the pursuit of knowledge or whether knowledge is simply another name for “politics” and thus it’s ultimately a body constituted for political weight-tossing has been settled—and in the wrong direction, in my opinion.

It’s not that everything is a form of politics, including knowledge.

Ass backward.

It’s that everything is a form of knowledge, including politics.


This mirrors the problem in society more broadly, in which the view that society is a body in the service of whose constitution we find laboring selves has been reversed; now everyone seems to think that society is a body constituted to serve the development of selves.

Not “I exist to serve us” but rather “we exist to realize me.”

I said some months ago that I was becoming a conservative.

This turn of thought proves it.

— § —

The main shutoff for the sprinkler system turned out to be leaky this year when I turned it on in spring. I found out when a man came by from the city to tell me that we were leaking gallons every minute six feet underground, by the water meter’s estimation.

As a result, the grass is yellow.

This would bother me if I cared about the grass being yellow. But as a lower middle class person, I can’t seem to bring myself to care about it, or about my crooked teeth. Those things seem less important than, say, money and career.

I fully realize that this is a poor man’s way of looking at the world. The green grass and the straight teeth are the source of all wealth. I know this intellectually.

Just like the yoga that annoys the hell out of me by its omnipresence and the Whole Foods $2.00 apples that similarly annoy me are sources of wealth.

But as a lower middle class person, I hate the fact that wealth is so superficial. And I cannot bring myself to see the enlightenment behind the appearance of the teeth, though I realize that to some in other classes, the link is only too obvious.

Sue me.

— § —

I suppose this is a rant.

I suppose that in a day or two I’ll regret ever having posted it.

But whatever; tomorrow is the second day of summer camp 2017.

The status quo isn’t just fragile, it’s threatened, and as someone in the lower middle class, I’m in love with status quos, as when they are functional, they sound a lot like that elusive boon called self-preservation that is always threatened by a dark cloud of encroaching precarity.

The precarity that, they tell me, is only in my mind. Abundance mindset and all that.

Funny thing, I’ve never succeeded in eating one of those.

I think that “abundance mindsets,” like “yoga,” “cosmopolitanism,” and “allyship,” are really tales that the privileged and the licensed-self-absorbed tell themselves to ensure that the sheen of their own morality remains intact for and over the course of their skillfully euphemized beatings of nameless masses of underlings.

It’s a fig leaf to cover a certain ugliness that doesn’t—thank god—color the lower middle class.

Yeah, ouch. Again—sue me.


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