Old White Men Need Not Apply, Even In the “Gig Economy” – & Pity their Sons!
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Photo: photo: Pierre Kleinhouse

Old White Men Need Not Apply, Even In the “Gig Economy” – & Pity their Sons!


As a former colleague wrote, after taking a leave of absence from an East Coast University, and on returning being told that his former position had been eliminated due to restructuring: “I had my interview a week ago.  Had four interviewers (three women and one man) and I hope it went well; I didn't get that "good" feeling about it. 

As soon as I walked in the door, I got that "uneasy" feeling.  I then interviewed with the director (woman) and that went much better.  I felt pretty good coming out of it.  She said that I would receive a phone call (either way) by last Monday or Tuesday - but I haven't gotten it yet so I am a little nervous.  I contacted my references asking if they had been contacted, but they have not.  I think I have to start looking somewhere else”.

I, too, thought with former military service, and having all the academic qualifications, jobs would be easier to find, but maybe not!  I'll keep you posted. To make a long story short, he did not get the job and has now been unemployed for three months, with two Masters Degrees and also former military experience, just waiting for his Reserve Military Service pension to kick in.

Being just a few years ahead of him, in my late 50’s, I will almost be out of work too and struggle as to what I will do; I have a free ticket back to the US, but no place to land on my feet. My adult sons say that jobs are tight, as we all know, and I will suffer reverse cultural shock after working internationally for the last 20 years.  I have three sons in the US, one in Russia, and keep up with most of what is happening in their lives; it is not a happy situation, considering the state of affairs (in reality), economically, socially and politically.

They too are struggling with temporary and dead end jobs.  It was not like this when we were in our prime, as then the labor market was one for career people, and top positions were still occupied by those who had been on the job since finishing high school, or even college. But those days are gone, and it is no use looking back. There was a time where you did not even need a degree for most jobs.

Even my sons are disgruntled. Most people plan for things, have goals, etc... I don't really desire anything. I just want enough money to have a car, a house, and some food. I'd love a job with prestige, but I'm not going to make myself miserable and work 70 hour weeks to be an academic or climb a corporate ladder. A teaching job sounds nice simply because people will leave me alone after a while.

My sons are quick to blame. "Are you established there? 20 years hasn’t yielded even a single stable source of income. People your age are supposed to have passive income in the form of dividends and the like. Writing, teaching, and growing potatoes may help you survive but will never clear the financial obligation you dodged by escaping the United States."

Finally I wrote one of them back and asked if he has not heard of the gig economy? He recently graduated with his MA in Literature and German, and will soon learn what the reality is nowadays for someone with his overqualified CV. He recently started a job at an Amazon distribution center. Another son, with a degree in Environmental Management, works at a hardware discount outlet.

American Dream

I deserve the hell from my sons for not being established, like so many others of my age, and getting downsized from a corporate job with “real benefits” and real health insurance. Surviving by the seat of the pants gets old and thin after a while.

Nevertheless, I should be happy that they give me hell, as perhaps they might even realize that the same fate may await them; one career nosedive is hard to overcome.  It is no wonder why things are not so happy anymore. They demonstrate that by complaining about my mistakes. I only hope they somehow find their way, and with secure jobs, things which have become relics of the past, and with two household professional incomes. 

All the while, I read of American politicians. I’ve been enjoying hating Marco Rubio. He retired at 47 to ‘spend time with his kids’, despite the fact that he long considered himself progressive by wanting to raise the retirement age to 69. He must think only he is capable of enjoying his free time. The rest of us wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves, and should opt for wage slavery instead.

The good news is that I am over 55, and the bad news is that my friend is under. Rubio makes clear on his website that he is not in favor of changing the retirement age for current Social Security recipients or those “near retirement.” But he states that he favors “Gradually increasing the retirement age to keep up with changes in life expectancy.”

In a piece published by the National Review back in 2016 he called for changing Social Security's retirement age only for people who fall under 55 years-of-age.

I am so lucky to have made it this far!  As for my friend, he is still sending out resume but to no avail. As he describes, it’s been only three months since returning to the US but still no job yet.”

 Perhaps he should lower his expectations. However, for him, it seems like forever. All the while, things in the US are looking turned upside down.  The separating of children from their loved ones on the border and housing them in fenced areas and foster care.

I guess most of those affected immigrants come from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, and as Trump puts it, “Shit-hole countries.”  People are getting upset, over various things, some Trump appointees are being shouted down in restaurants. Justice Kennedy of the US Supreme Court announced his retirement which will be an opening for a new conservative justice on the high court. There is talk over overturning Roe v. Wade, and it is just a matter of time America will be more divided than ever.

 What kind of country are we beginning to live in?  I don't understand.

Every time I think it can't get any worse, it does.

Author: Jeffrey Silverman