This is my first personal diary post at the Agonist and my first general internet ”œarticle” ever. I’ve commented on various forums and blogs for years now and even played around with a blog of my own for about one week, but I never set aside the time to write even semi-consistently. Now that I think about it, I probably just lacked a purpose for my writing. Well, I think I have found one.
I intend to start a diary with observations on what it’s like to live where I live (a red state), do what I do (a ”œred industry”), and meet the people I meet (an interesting mix). Unfortunately, that last part will be pretty limited and is the reason that I’ve decided to jot down this first entry. Most of my ”œfriends” and contacts in the area are from work or my fiance’s grad school and my interactions with them outside those environments are almost nil. The only political, social, etc. conversations I can have are with my fiancÃ©, and we agree with each other on practically everything. So, I suppose writing here will help me get things off my chest. Call it therapy. I will expand the scope of my writings to various topics. I have some ideas, but I’m not telling yet.
But before getting into all that, I should explain a little bit about who and where I am. First off, names, some locations, and some other things will be altered in my posts. I don’t want to single people out or overtly identify myself. There also could be problems if I posted the name of my employer or other very specific work-related details. Basically, think of all the things you’ve seen people get in trouble for with work, friends, or family online””-I’m going to *try* and avoid all those. I will give away a lot of general information about myself, though the motivation for this is so that you, the reader, can understand where I’m coming from. My background will also serve as a framework for social criticism.
Who I am: I am a 20-something professional living in Phoenix, Arizona-””hence, ”œred-state.” Although Arizona isn’t as red as a lot of other states and shows signs of turning more toward the Democrats, the Dems that were elected here in November 2006 were almost as conservative as the Republicans. The only third party candidates that ran were either Libertarian, Constitutionalist, or ”œAverage Joe for Congress”-type campaigns. No Green, no Socialist, nothing even to the left of the conservative Democrats.
Oops, got off on a tangent. Back to describing myself. I work at a 9 to 5 engineering job in a defense-related field””-”œred industry.” I’ve been down here in Phoenix for only a year or two and originally came from the eastern half of the country. I had, until now, lived in suburban New England and find Phoenix and the lifestyle out here to be very different from my past experience in many ways, yet similar in others.
First, let’s clear the air. I am the beneficiary of centuries of privilege and a system tailor-made to cater to my life and the lives of others with my background. There are many who have benefited even more than I, but the difference between them and myself on a global scale is almost trivial””if they’re at the top of the pyramid, I’m on the second stone from that top. I’ll explain in a bit more depth: I was born in the United States of America sometime in the early 1980s. I am from a white, protestant family that was solidly middle class at my birth and has since moved into the lower reaches of the upper class elite. I was raised in a safe, out-of-the-way, white-bread suburb in the Northeast and went to well-run public schools where I received an excellent education””though I don’t believe I was actually taught ”œto think.” I went to one of the most well-known universities in the country and received a degree in a nationally number-one ranked program at said university. I then got a Master’s as well and left school with absolutely no debt””my family was able to pay for it all with relative ease.
At the end of my schooling I fell ill with a potentially life-threatening case of cancer. I was covered by my school’s excellent health insurance and then, after graduating, by my father’s company’s insurance plan (I would refer to it as ”œA” level or ”œgold” insurance””-the best you can get). I went to see the best specialists in the US for my particular illness, underwent major surgery, and then received some rounds of chemotherapy. I am now fully recovered and have ~1% lifetime chance of a recurrence. And I have no medical bills to pay thanks to insurance and my family.
Near the end of school, I was able to get three interviews with large, technically-oriented companies thanks to school connections. I received an extremely lucrative offer from one, was turned down by another, and was practically begged to submit my resume to another (the guy pretty much said ”œsend me your resume and I’ll hire you”). This was after the dotcom bubble, not before. I didn’t take any of the offers but instead headed down to Phoenix after the chemo was done.
When I got down here, I knew no one other than my fiancÃ© and had no contacts in the area. All I had was myself and my resume. I got a job in four months without the help of a headhunter or online service. I handed the recruiters my resume and they called me up at home the next day to schedule an interview. They accelerated the interview process on my behalf and I started working several weeks before all the other new hires were slated to arrive.
I should also mention, as a final observation, that my personal appearance and size has obvious social and professional implications. I am male, have Germanic features, and am probably larger than 95% of the population in this country. No one gives me a hard time, ever. People naturally look to me as a leader even when I don’t do anything to merit it or even want it.
So, do you hate me? Wait. I hope you don’t hate ME. I do hope you hate the injustice that my life hints at. Because the great majority of people on this planet””-even in this nation-””are condemned to lead lives with more burden, more pain, and more suffering than I. And why? Because they were born to the wrong people at the wrong time. Because their skin isn’t white enough, they are the wrong gender, they are too small, they don’t have enough money, they weren’t able to get a good education, and so on. I hope you can appreciate what I mean when I speak of privilege. Most people without the resources I have at my disposal would be dead of cancer right now, horribly mired in debt for the rest of their lives, or stuck in a low-paying mindless job forever. I, however, am perfectly healthy, have no financial obligations, and am stuck in a high-paying mindless job.
I only truly realized all of this after I had gone through the system and taken a place within it. I had seen glimpses of the structure from time to time, but the blinders I had on took me a good 4 years of self-education to throw off. I’m sure parts of them are still on and will never be removed””no one can completely remove themselves from their upbringing.
So this is where I’m coming from. I have benefited immensely from the system, but I am at least aware of it and realize how unfair it is. Now I have to figure out what to do about it.
Where I am: As mentioned above, I currently reside in the Phoenix area, one of the throbbing hearts of the sprawlconomy. The place runs on oil, silicon, undocumented laborers, and defense contracts. It is a barren city with little culture placed in a barren desert with little water. In the summer, the heat from the sun is absorbed by the asphalt, concrete, and dirt so that temperatures can reach near 120F (48C) during the day and sometimes do not fall below 100F at night. The weather is as barren as the desert itself, with 9 out of every 10 days being sunny with no trace of wind””-the 45 days of real weather we get happen in late August and early September, during the ”œmonsoon season.”
The entire city consists of high-speed side roads that merge onto looping highway interchanges. The suburbs stretch on forever and are mostly identical, cookie-cutter homes that are too large for their lots. In a city of 4 million people, there is not one light rail””-though they’re finally building a single line for the more affluent side of the valley. Phoenix is the largest city to not have such a system.
I could go on, but I just realized that I have already written a thorough discussion of the city for my next post””-which was actually created several months ago but I never completed it and just sat on it. I’ll put it up as soon as I finish with it.
I aim to write one post per week. Let’s see how well I meet that goal.