See update for July 27, 2022, at end of post.
Moving to Pittsburgh, as I did a little over three years ago, has been an eye-opening experience.
Not only have I witnessed a remarkable toxically masculine viciousness and a shamelessly blatant racism I certainly never expected to encounter in the 21st century, but as I have driven around, revisiting the places of my childhood—I lived in Mount Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb, and walked to my grandparents’ house in nearby Dormont for a couple years—I have had an intensive look at a vignette of that experience.
I understand more vividly now that I have always been excluded, forsaken, abused, teased, beaten up, not just by my father, but by other schoolchildren, and really by the so-called “real world,” by one employer after another, and by the thousands who over the last twenty-one years have ignored my job applications, consigning them to the bit bucket. Outside of post-secondary academia, this behavior has been consistent and persistent, and now that academia has gotten all the money it can out of me, it has ostracized me as well. This social world has always alienated me, always hated me, always exploited me, and in every place I have ever lived.
I have rarely found love, rarely found stable employment.
Why? Who does this to a ten-year old kid? Who does it to a person for their entire life? Why?
This is something you do to a monster. I am a monster.
I don’t know how or why I came to be that monster, but I am a monster. And I have spent—wasted, really—much of my life desperately seeking a place where I would not be a monster. In truth, I have never found it. It is like Avalon, a magical place that exists in legend, not in reality.
Why am I a monster? There is my intelligence, which while perhaps in some respects ferocious, is constrained. I am worthless at mathematics, for example. And I seem to lack any clue whatsoever as to how to live a decent life in this society. In many respects, I am obviously stupid beyond belief.
I go to a grocery store and I see absolutely gross men, blatantly toxic, who nonetheless have wives and good-paying jobs. I pick up a few each day as an Uber driver, more obviously here than in California, but the pattern is inescapable: Employers and women find toxic, brutal men irresistible while I am trash on the side of the information superhighway.
People I despise do best of all. They are renowned for their wealth, which is confounded with intelligence. Why, for example, are we listening to Bill Gates on epidemiology? Why do we listen to Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos at all?
I am alone, a monster, psychically in a cave. I can be permitted to drive for Uber both because it is exploitive and because no lasting friendships are possible.
It is in the nature of the so-called “gig economy” that I am used and discarded, several times per day. The monster is locked away, yet again, each time, ritually purifying society.
And oh, how pure this society is. We are destroying our planet and we will not stop. We are cruel to each other, cruel toward nonhuman animals, cruel toward the environment that nurtures us all. We are tough. Oh, we are tough. Not tougher than Mother Nature, whose word will be the last, but we are tough.
And we are tough even toward children like me.
Update, July 27, 2022: On a drive through the Colorado Rockies, I was remembering a summer camp I went to there and
I was remembering an overnight trip we’d taken to an old cabin. It still had tools, implements, and dishes from the 19th century. I remembered thinking a place like this would be a possibility for hiding out from my tormentors, then pretty much all other kids. It wasn’t practical, of course, but the memory reminds me that along with desperately needing acceptance, in the form of a real job, I am still desperate to escape those who continue to abuse me. It makes for an odd psychological combination.
These are, I realize, the components of an abusive relationship which I am unable to escape. As a human being, a member of a social species, I am dependent upon the social group. I am dependent upon my abusers—people generally find some satisfaction in rejecting me—and I am trapped in a relationship with them.
- David Benfell, “To be a monster,&Rdquo; Not Housebroken, July 17, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/07/17/to-be-a-monster/↩
- David Benfell, “Thrice across the Rio Grande,” Irregular Bullshit, July 27, 2022, https://disunitedstates.com/2022/07/27/35591/↩