Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (conclusion)

Erbach was probably disappointed that I had quit the Writers Guild-East office boy job before completing the task of coordinating the annual scripts award-judging process by Guild members. And after reading my letter of resignation which contained criticisms of the Writers Guild's liberal politics from a New Left perspective, he probably also felt that I unrealistically expected too much from both the Writers Guild-East and from my Writers Guild office boy job.

If all I wanted from the Writers Guild was a steady paycheck, good benefits,health care insurance and a chance in the future to eventually be in line for an administrative assistant position in the union office, the Guild could give me that. But if I expected the Guild to lead some kind of crusade against institutional racism, institutional sexism and U.S. militarism within the U.S. television network world, then I would never be satisfied with working at the Guild. And it was probably best for me to move on to some other job elsewhere, in which I wouldn't feel I was compromising my principles as much.

So Erbach did not bother to reply to my letter of resignation, but did save me the extra burden of having to revisit the Writers Guild union office one last time to pick up my remaining wages, by just arranging to have a check for the remaining wages that the Guild still owed me arrive in my Bronx apartment's mailbox a few days after he received my resignation letter.

Besides deciding in March 1971 that continuing to work as an office boy for the white liberal anti-communist Writers Guild-East while other anti-war Movement activists were now being hunted by the FBI and the war in Indochina was continuing to escalate was morally inconsistent with my revolutionary left anti-war political and moral beliefs, I also walked out on my 9 to 5 office boy job for other reasons. In March 1971 I felt that six months in a 9 to 5 wage slavery cage was a long enough time for any hip man in his early 20s to have to spend at a menial straight job before making his escape for awhile from the then morally, emotionally, politically and sexually dead and repressive 9 to 5 office world of U.S. society in the early 1970s.

I was still expecting, in March 1971, a revolutionary feminist-led Revolution to happen in the USA in the 1970s that would soon change the whole pattern of 9 to 5 life, create a more leisure-oriented society in the USA and abolish the sexist, racist and classist division of labor in the 9 to 5 work world. So I then felt it made no sense for me to worry much about things like where my survival money was going to come from, over the long-run, in the future, since, in the short-run, there would be a women's-led Revolution in the future.

In March 1971 I wanted to be absolutely free immediately. And I felt that young hip people who still kept their 9 to 5 jobs during this historical period were unwisely chaining themselves to their jobs and wasting their lives during their twenties. So my strongest desire in March 1971 was now to not be chained to any straight, 9 to 5 job. By the early 1990s, the U.S. power elite foundations like the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation had started to fund "civil society" NGOs in a big way so that young politically radical and culturally hip people who were just out of college and didn't want to chain themselves to 9 to 5 straight jobs could more easily often find some kind of "alternative job" at a "non-profit" NGO in order to obtain their economic survival and rent money. But in March 1971, if you were young, politically radical and culturally hip, it was extremely unlikely that you'd be able to find an "alternative job" at some foundation-subsidized non-profit organization in the USA, that would enable you to both avoid a 9 to 5 straight job and earn enough money to pay your rent.

In March 1971, I also felt that I wasn't meeting as many people around my own age to become emotionally involved with during the evenings and on weekends in the 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, straight work world as I had been able to meet when I was a student or when I was a summer camp counselor. And it seemed that the longer I remained trapped in the Writers Guild office playing the office boy role as my day job, the more socially and politically isolated I would get from the hippest young people of my own generation who one never met within the 9 to 5 television network world in the early 1970s.

After March 1971, on only two occasions did I bump into people I had met at the Writers Guild office. In the Fall of 1971, Shirley--the woman in her late 40s who had been a WAC during World War II and who had recommended I go see "Man of La Mancha"--noticed me as we were each walking on a Midtown Manhattan street. She was still working in the Guild union office. And after a brief chat, she suddenly put her arm around my waist and whispered, in a desperate way, "Let me give you my phone number and you can come to my apartment and I can show you a sexual thing or two," as I tried to walk away from her.

Since I still wasn't particularly attracted to Shirley because she seemed too culturally straight, not politically radical or artistic enough, didn't turn me on by her appearance and was over 20 years older than me, I falsely replied that I was then "already involved with someone." Yet I have to admit that a few times over the next few years, when I was feeling particularly lonely, I sometimes wondered whether I should have accepted Shirley's invitation. But, in retrospect, even if Shirley had turned out to be a sexual tigress in bed, she probably wasn't bohemian enough or philosophically and politically similar enough to me for an emotional relationship between us to have been able to overcome the over two decades of generational differences.

The only other person from my Writers Guild office boy days I subsequently bumped into was Pat--who, when drunk after Sylvia's 1970 Christmas Party, had surprised me by how much she turned me on when she began kissing me in the backseat of a car. Around two years after I quit my Writers Guild job, I bumped into Pat on East 42nd Street in Manhattan. I can't remember much of what we briefly chatted about. But I do remember that she still looked pretty much like she did when she was 38, still worked at the Writers Guild office and still was having difficulty surviving economically as a single-parent under capitalism on the salary the Guild was paying her.

I kissed her goodbye in an affectionate way. But we both seemed to realize that, given our age difference, it still made no logical sense for us, in the early 1970s, to try to develop some kind of a love relationship, despite certain philosoophical similarities. Between the time I quit my Writers Guild job and the time I bumped into Pat for the last time a few years later, I had also become less confident that a revolutionary feminist-led Revolution was going to happen quickly in the USA in the 1970s. And I also had probably become even more embittered with U.S. society than I had been at the Guild office in 1970 and early 1971. So I assumed that Pat would now find me a less interesting person than she had found me when I was a few years younger, newly arrived in the early 1970s 9 to 5 office world and just beginning to work in the Writers Guild office.

On one of my job hunts in the late 1980s, ironically, I noticed that there was an ad in the New York Times for some kind of clerical position at the Writers Guild-East union office, which was now located on the West Side of Manhattan on one of the West 50s streets. So, both in need of a job and curious to see whether any of my old workmates were still working for the Guild over 16 years after I had left them and how the Guild's new office looked, I applied for the position.

The Guild's new West Side office was plusher than the one I had worked in between September 1970 and March 1971. But neither Miss Burkey, Paul Erbach, Joe, Sylvia, Eli, Shirley nor Pat now worked at the Writers Guild-East office anymore. And the young woman in her late 20s or early 30s who interviewed me for the position quickly decided--unlike Paul Erbach--that the Guild shouldn't hire me and that she should continue to interview other job applicants.

Yet I suspect I probably had a deeper understanding of the hidden history of the Writers Guild of America-East than the person she ultimately hired in the late 1980s because, after all, I had been the Writers Guild Office Boy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxvii)

It was while working for the Writers Guild-East and living in the Bronx in early November 1970 that I voted for the first time in a United States election. The voting booth for my electoral district was located in a public elementary school a few blocks from my slum apartment.

The way you cast your ballot in those days was to show your voter registration card, pull a big lever in the voting booth that closed a curtain behind you which protected your right to a secret ballot, rotate small pointers until small "X"s appeared next to the candidate or "yes" or "no" choices on bond issues you were voting for and then again pull the big lever in the voting booth in the opposite direction to simultaneously record your vote and open the voting booth curtain before you left the booth. As a protest against the U.S. corporate elite and corporate media-rigged nature of U.S. elections, I just cast a protest vote for a Socialist Workers Party [SWP] candidate, who was one of the few anti-war left or anti-capitalist left minor party alternative candidates that I was able to find on the ballot in New York City in November 1970. I would not bother to cast a protest vote in another U.S. mass media-rigged election again until Ralph Nader eventually ran as an anti-corporate protest candidate in 1996.

In November 1970, the 26th Amedment to the U.S. Constitution which lowered the voting age in the United States to 18 years of age had still not been proposed and ratified, so you didn't see many hip young anti-war college age people lined up to vote near the public school where I went to cast my protest vote. The vast majority of the people in my Bronx neighborhood who were bothering to vote in November 1970 seemed to just be politically and culturally straight white working-class or white middle-class people of either Italian-American or Russian-American Jewish background, who were all over 45 years of age.

Casting a protest vote in a booth after standing in a line surrounded by few hip-looking people, but by many older conventional-looking folks from my parents' generation, seemed like a poor substitute form of protest. Militant non-violent street protests and militant non-violent campus protests in concert with large numbers of other culturally and politically hip and hip-looking young people of your own generation seemed like a much more effective, more meaningful and more real way for politically powerless youth to make an immediate political impact on U.S. history than meekly pulling a lever for either a lesser-evilist mainstream party candidate or a minor party candidate who--without equal mass media access--had little chance of getting elected.

Ironically, by the 21st century, even the way U.S. elections were conducted and rigged in November 1970 seemed like a less rigged electoral process than they had now become. Instead of going into a voting booth, rotating small poitners and pulling a lever behind a curtain, voting now in the USA at many polling places consists of making marks by an open, un-curtained desk on paper ballots with magic marker-type pens, before the paper ballots are folded into an envelope and shoved into an uncurtained box. And if your local election board's computer print-out mistakenly fails to include your name on the list of registered voters it provides the election day temps at your polling place, then the cop there won't let you cast an official ballot--even if you provide him with an official notification from the election board which previously confirmed your eligibility to vote.

Despite the election of more anti-war Congressional candidates in the November 1970 election in which I voted for the first time, the Nixon Administration and its right-wing South Vietnamese military allies, predictably, again escalated their war in Indochina by invading Laos in February 1971.

There was some relatively small anti-war student protests against the Nixon Administration's 1971 invasion of Laos on some campuses and on the stretts of some U.S. cities. But within the U.S. television network mass media world in Manhattan, there was no visible individual or collective protest by any of the culturally straight, white liberal corporate media workers against the Nixon Administration's 1971 invasion of Laos. And although most Writers Guild-East members and union office staff workers were all individually anti-war by 1971, as an organization the liberal Writers Guild of America-East felt no moral responsibility to organizationally speak out against the Nixon Administration's 1971 invasion of Laos and latest escalation of the war in Indochina--despite the further increase in civilian casualties in Indochina that this latest escalation was likely to produce.

By mid-March 1971, the chatterbox receptionist who had started to work in the Writers Guild-East office in September 1970 at the same time I started to work there as its office boy--Maria--had thrown in the towel and suddenly quit her job. Since the union office was run in an undemocratic, hierarchical way, Maria found her job at the Writers guild to be boring and unchallenging. And Maria could not escape being in the office for a few hours each day by delivering and picking-up messages, office supplies and scripts for Guild members and other office staff employees as could I.

After Maria quit her job, I quickly decided that it was now a politically appropriate time for me to protest against: (1) the Writers Guild-East's failure to really use its collective bargaining power to attempt to end institutional racism, institutional sexism and the exclusion of anti-war, Black Liberation and women's liberation Movement voices in the U.S. television network world of the 1970s; (2) its failure to run the Guild's own union office in a democratic, non-herarchical way; and (3) its failure to speak out against the Nixon's Administration's February 1971 invasion of Laos, by also suddenly quitting my office boy position at the Writers Guild-East.

So in mid-March 1971, I stopped taking the subway down to Manhattan from the Bronx in order to appear at the Writers Guild office at 9 a.m. between Monday and Friday and, instead, mailed a formal letter of resignation to the Guild's assistant executive director, Paul Erbach, in which I explained the political and moral reasons why I could not, in good conscience, continue to work as the Writers Guild's office boy.