So, there was a bit of an uproar over a story in Newsweek discussing how the current recession is specifically affecting middle-class, college educated white men. Long story short, this is the first time a job shortage has hit the most mainstream of demographics and, while it’s still worse for women, minorities, those without college educations and, well, anyone that ain’t a middle-class white guy, well, there’s still some folks who aren’t getting jobs that have never had a problem getting jobs. In other words, traditionally, it’s been super-duper awesome being a white guy in America and, now, it’s just more awesome than being anything else.
And, according to the story, a lot of those guys are having a tough time dealing with their new reality. Writers Rick Marin and Tony Dokoupil report that incidents of depression, anxiety attacks and familial stress have been on the uptick mainly because this demographic does not know how to deal with hardship. The article quotes Judith Gerberg, a Manhattan-based executive career coach who says, “If you went to the college of your choice, married the woman of your choice, and bought the house of your choice, you’ve never dealt with rejection. You’ve never had to develop fortitude.”
This, of course, makes me think about Mad Max.
Let’s go back a little. I am an unabashed child of the 80’s and have palpable memories of living in a country that twice elected a doddering old mad man to be in charge of The Big Red Button. As a young teen, there was no doubt in my mind that, one day, we would all live in a radioactive, post-apocalyptic wasteland. And, frankly, I couldn’t wait because The Road Warrior, Mad Max, Escape From New York, A Boy And His Dog, Creature Feature staples like Soylent Green and The Omega Man and a million other depictions looked AWESOME. Again, because I was knew something was…off…about Ronald Reagan, I looked at these films, not so much as entertainment, but as a sort of series of instructional manuals. “Okay, I’m going to need some bottled water, canned food, a machete and/or a crossbow, and some type of headband.”
The white guy-ness of them always threw me out my viewing though. Nothing against white guys (some of my best friends are white guys, hell, some of my neighbors are white guys…), but I never really believed that when civilization collapsed, as a specific group, your “average” white guy is going to be that helpful because they don’t really have a lot of experience in that area.
No, if you want someone to help, When The Shit Drops, you need to have someone out front who’s used to dealing with adversity. You need an example of what Zora Neale Hurston called “the mules of the world.” You need a black woman. When stuff goes insane, I need somebody with experience in prospering under insane conditions.
That’s why I love Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’ The Life and Times of Martha Washington. Over a ten-year period, Miller and Gibbons created a postapocalyptic world where the apocalypse was the result of bankruptcy, a splintered U.S. and corporations running amok. Sound familiar? In the middle of this, they dropped the protagonist, Martha Washington, a poor, black, uneducated (but fiercely intelligent) black girl from the Cabrini Green projects. And, whether her enemies are project rapists, corrupt superior officers or a Godlike computer entity, Martha applies the survival skills and adaptability she learned in her environment to survive and prosper.
(This is the point where I should probably acknowledge the black female protagonists of Octavia Butler, specifically, Parable of the Sower’s Lauren and Lilith, the main character in Dawn. While both are black women facing unspeakable odds, I would argue neither are as downtrodden as Martha; Lauren was literate in a mostly illiterate world and had the luxury of preparing for life outside of her relatively privileged enclave and Lilith was granted, basically, superhuman powers by her alien captors/saviors.)
So, y’know, God bless the victims of the “Mancession.” Seriously. Your pain is your pain; it’s just by the grace of God, everybody in my house got a gig and I’m certainly not going to dismiss the situation of cats who ain’t got one. But, again, this just goes to prove what I’ve always believed. When The End comes, I’m damn sure not following Kurt Russell ’cause he’s going to be to busy crying. No, I’m looking for the person who’s figuring out how to make some stew and use old hangers as a blade. Hell, that’s part of the reason I married her.