A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Finally Awake

Not sure how to start this blog. Yet again I’m not sure about anything that I’ve grown up to believe anymore. I’ve been wanting to write this for about two days and I’ve thought of many ways of starting yet a clever introduction feels unnecessary. Life is banal. No need for wittiness, for a purposeful introduction when it seems like there is no purpose to our existence anyway. People may think there is a plan for everyone, but what happens when this plan cannot be fulfilled? What happens when you realize the beautiful scent of flowers is as meaningful as life can get (Yes, I got girly, I apologize but the way in which I was brought up—as most females—has me thinking of flowers and romance and body image and my hair).

 I have recently begun seeing this idea of “purpose” in our everyday existence as something driven by the capitalist society in which we live. From the moment when we are asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” life becomes about pursuing goals, chasing dreams, and becoming “successful”. As children we question everything, we go about our daily lives fearlessly climbing trees, eating bugs, and letting our parents pick our clothes. Yet, ones the teens come, so do the questions about our future, about sexuality, about our identity and about that daunting question “what are we going to become?”

And for many of us, this goal, this dream becomes our only driven “purpose” in life. My goal was to graduate college and become a news reporter, live in a cute closet sized apartment in the city, and be happy by seeing my name in print. Then some dude would come, propose, we’d have kids, and I’d become a soccer mom who either has a position as a television reporter, or who works for a non-profit organization that aids in women’s issues or who writes for some magazine. Instead I am becoming what people call “a nobody”. My success has been halted by the constant rejection from employers who continue finding better candidates than me- the same goes for other aspects of my life. I am sleeping in an airbed in my sister’s studio apartment in Bayonne, NJ. The most affection that I get is from my sister’s puppy Mia. In January I will start working a job that I am already dreading and yet it’s the only sustainable opportunity I have found—a substitute teacher in public schools. I also have a part-time job that, although it is better than working at Easy Pickins on Bergenline Ave (a commercial street in West New York, NJ), it feels like I’m wasting my skills by trying to convince students to come to an overpriced small, private university.

 My point with this post is not to complain about what has become of my life, my “dream”, my “purpose”. Nor is it to complain about my lack of “success”. My point is to actually explain success and why I am on my way there. You see, “success” is nothing but a comparison to others. We live in a society where our skills have a price, and the way in which we market this skill is what ultimately defines our chances for success. And that is completely and utterly sick. From disparities in job wages often related to what positions are predominantly female, to the little access many low-income communities have to a good education, the capitalist version of “success” is ultimately not an individual’s decision. 81 percent of education majors are female, as are 88 percent of health-care majors. 80 percent of those entering the fields of computer science, information technology, and engineering are males. I don’t think it needs to be said that on average teachers earn less than engineers. Many ignorant, blind people out there will say that obviously it’s because the latter jobs generate more revenue than the former…yet am I the only one who doesn’t think that teachers, who are constantly under attack by the way, are some of the most important members of our society and ultimately the ones who help build future generations? They are an example of a group that deserves to earn more. Yet growing up under a capitalist system, we become completely alienated individuals when it comes to this idea of “success”. We are all in an imaginary line where the lowest point (to me at least) is sickness, followed by poverty, followed by those with a college education and so on. At the end of that line is the one percent, yet none of us realistically expect that of ourselves, all we want is to be somewhere on that second half of that line—a comfortable job, a big beautiful home, and I’m sure dreams ranging from wanting kids, to constantly travelling, to becoming famous, etc. We are told to do what we love once we “grow up” yet this thing that we choose to do somehow comes to define us. Our career becomes our goal, and we forget about the rest. Many think “I am blessed” or “God is good” (let me not even go there) whenever they get a raise, or whenever something that is good for their careers occurs. Yet is a career what really made up your life when you were younger? Is a career really the only way in which human beings can become the best that we can be? No! I am honestly done with living a life that is driven by my career. I am excited about letting go of the imaginary line of success and finally just living and doing the things that I love, the things that I truly love that are not related to a career. But this is difficult because bills need to get paid, I need to be fed and I can’t sleep one more night on that air bed. So we become stuck in this “survival of the fittest” competition that is clearly in need for a change. There should be more to life than the job that you choose to do: One of the biggest regrets for many in their death beds is to have worked so much; Many also regret not spending more time with their children; Moms are constantly being attacked to stay at home while feminists continue to talk about the need for gender equality and women to be able to work—going on a tangent here with moms working let’s ask  then who takes care of the kids if both parents are working? Oh, no worries…Maria and Dorota are here to the rescue! Because even feminists who are capitalist are deeply wrong. Because in our society there is no room not just for gender but for racial or class equality.

I’m sitting with my hair wet because I just dyed a strip of it blond in search for self esteem and some sort of adventure. You see, where we stand in this imaginary line of success—whatever our dreams are—really do affect us deeply. But I’ve come to the realization that just like the dye that I bought, just like the importance of the number of shoes that a person owns, just like pretty much everything on TV ranging from the Kardashians to the morning news, our career and dreams were nothing but a capitalist social construction. They are a mere comparison to others and a way of getting to the second half of that “success” line that wouldn’t be necessary if we all truly lived in an equal society.

And many try to be good. We try to donate our time and money to different causes. Some take small trips to other countries in order to help build schools, hospitals, etc. Some people even dedicate their lives to causes such as a fighting for the environment, advocating for LGBT rights, advocating for pro-abortion rights. But this narrative needs to change completely in order for each one of us to have a purpose and in order for each one of those human rights fights to be won. Human existence would really flourish if we all stood in solidarity and worked together to move forward, rather than have everyone survive on their own. This “survival of the fittest” narrative is nothing but a ridiculous and ignorant justification for capitalism and a misunderstanding of Darwinism. Natural selection is not about survival of the fittest person but rather about survival of the fittest traits and characteristics of human beings; and a society that is racist, misogynist, and violent will not contribute anything to the advancement of the human race. A society that will contribute to making our existence worthwhile has already been imagined by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and further explained by others. And if your only understanding of Marxism is Stalin’s Soviet Union then you are mistaken.

And so, what I’d like to end this with is a vow to stop thinking about my own success and to use my skills to serve a greater cause in solidarity with my comrades. You see my struggle is a class struggle. I am successful because I am finally awake. Are you?


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