This is the midweek edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen, which you can read about here. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing. At some point yesterday afternoon, I was attempting to go back and forth between updates to the NYT live feed and the book chapter I’m working on, periodically responding to various text groups and making sure my partner, who’s covered MAGA/conspiracy movements for the last four years, got some food while he was
Thank you for writing this. I am so angry that capitalism has us continuing on today like nothing happened. I am in tears writing this. Four years ago, I had a lot of traumatic things happen in my life and then Trump got elected, and I was afraid for this country. There was no time or ability to stop and process any of it and I ended up mentally breaking down in January 2017. I went to an inpatient facility for depression and while I was there my employer let me go because I didn’t qualify for FMLA because I had only been employed there for less than a year.
Yesterday confirmed everything that I feared from four years ago, with all of the trauma of 2020 layered on top of it.
Our capitalist society doesn’t allow us time to grieve or to process anything, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been on the edge of a mental breakdown for a while and I need a break but I’m not in the position to take one. Like four years ago, I am now in a job where I have also been employed for less than a year. Even if I had been there forever, I would still be afraid to take leave out of fear of conveniently being fired for another reason due to my past trauma of being fired. I don’t know what to do.
Thank you for this. My company hasn't said anything at all, so it's just people making sense of it quietly on their own or through slack DMs with like minded colleagues. It's impossible to focus and I feel like this ignoring of a huge, violent, white supremacist elephant in the room just normalizes events like these. I mean 2 weeks ago we didn't even bat an eye when an entire block was decimated in Nashville.
This essay was spot on and I almost wish it was in the paid subscription because there are such good discussions there. I shared with work colleagues (the ones I was texting with nonstop yesterday) and am considering sending to management. I wonder, though, when the crises keep hitting one after another, how do we do anything but put our heads down and work?
But haven't you heard that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a coup?
As an office worker who eventually just got up and went for a bike ride because I needed to stop looking at screens, this definitely hit home. Of course I also have a job that lets me do that. But later it was wild, I'm running for something locally and still was sending off emails, texts, and calls trying to hustle votes and it's like...maybe not today? But it feels like that so much these days
In other countries where there have been coups and coup attempts, it’s very likely that the citizens didn’t have the privilege of setting around, watching the news and reflecting on it. They had to make a living.
This is true. My employer, a SLAC, is scheduling circle time via Zoom in order to process events. but I confess I just pretended to join the circle and instead have been scouring news stories and twitter in an attempt to find out WTF the happened and for real. It doesn't help that my elderly mother is in the hospital with pneumonia and they want to discharge her to rehab but they can't find a bed.
9/11 happened at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I remember us students wanting to get more news, and the teachers wanting to just carry on teaching. So, at least in a small town in Wisconsin, things didn't grind to a stop even then.
My god, thank you. Had multiple direct reports reach out to me yesterday to say they were distracted, too upset to have a 1:1, anxious, etc. I kept "working" because that is all I know how to do, while telling them yes, of course, please step away. I need to extend the same compassion to myself that I do to others and this was a good reminder.
Thank you for writing this. I'm DC-based and my company yesterday sent out an email that said "please reach out" and that they could "direct [us] to additional wellness resources." As you wrote, while well-intentioned, that still puts the onus on the employee to do the work of outreach to the management structure—not to mention that corporate "wellness" resources are so often completely inadequate and focus on individual self-optimization as a response to stresses and negative feelings caused by large-scale systemic problems/events. I wish they had provided a more robust statement denouncing yesterday's hellacious events (unmentioned except for the subject line "DC Protests") and taken the initiative themselves to collectively offer us something (though what I don't know—additional PTO?). I had a meeting yesterday at 4:30 pm and everyone was acting like nothing was wrong; it was so surreal that we had to put on that facade (as I half-listened and doomscrolled).
This this THIS - straight into my heart. It's exactly right: "Over the course of this past year, I’ve been on the receiving end of corporate messaging that says: feel free to take some time if you need to. But that sort of opt-in strategy, while well-intentioned, can be incredibly pandering — with the potential to position people as “under-achievers” simply because of their identity, their proximity to events, or the way they process grief."
I was working in a different area yesterday 1-5, without internet/cell phone reception, and walked out to a torrent of delayed texts/calls. In that same are where I don't really know people today, and no one has mentioned anything at all! Meanwhile, I'm stewing trying not to yell at the world in front of patients or freak out at anyone. HOW IS THIS NORMAL?? We continue to exist in these different realities and I don't know how we move on.
Ugh, yes. Took me hours longer to do basic tasks. Then I asked myself why I was still bothering to do them. The black heart of capitalism is beating. :/
YES! My friend teaches third grade and said the coup happened while she was teaching math class. She texted me saying she didn't know if she should stop teaching math or talk about what happened. Ultimately, she finished the lesson because "what's the framework for talking to 8 year-olds about a recent attempted coup??"
This made me cry because it put into words everything that I'm feeling. I just went and unloaded on my director, who gave me permission to send all of my staff home for the rest of the (paid) day. We're a nonprofit and the compulsion to keep working to support our clients "out of compassion and duty" is so difficult to fight against, so this unusual and probably won't happen again - but if not now, when?
Thank you so much for this. Many of us have experiences in cultures that have discouraged us from understanding and processing our feelings, cultures that can be work and productivity and output oriented, that make us feel bad for having negative feelings or simply suggest the most constructive thing to do is push past them. Many of us only learn from therapy or books how to do the processing. I think those of us who can't work, who are deeply disturbed and want to do something about it, need to trust that instinct. Ignoring this ugliness only makes it worse, uniting together to address it in an honest way seems the only way to bring meaningful change.