"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."
I started Permanently Embarrassed Billionaires after I finished writing my novella-length memoir, Hard Bones, because I did not feel like I was finished saying all I wanted to say on the topic of late capitalism, mental illness, and trauma. One of the major threads throughout Hard Bones is meritocracy - that old American Dream ideology refurbished and sanctified in the fires of neoliberalism. In fact, the introductory chapter of Hard Bones is a meditation on the subject that invites the reader to explore the psychic toll of internalizing meritocratic ideology - a very real, very damaging idea that most of us are not fully conscious of as we grind away wracked with anxiety and guilt over not measuring up (you can read that essay on my blog).
biophysical nature of trauma, and the reality that the resources necessary to heal - somatic therapies, trauma clinics, safe non-competitive relationships, and a slowing down of life's rhythms - are inaccessible to the people most likely to be suffering the long-term effects of trauma: poor people. In my own life I deeply felt that the chronic self-hatred and unworthiness formed in childhood were co-productive with the very loud cultural message that a lack of success was the result of individual laziness, stupidity, and inability to delay gratification.
collective trauma of late capitalism, before I had a word for it or found people that wanted to talk about it. Permanently Embarrassed Billionaires is my attempt to finally address it collectively. It is an inversion of that old quote, updated to reflect our 2020's cultural obsession with billionaires, but proudly grabbing the mighty sword of shame back from the clutches of the meritocrats to say that we do not actually desire the world that they are forcing upon us. To that end, PEB functions like a virtual consciousness-raising and support group for people who identify with this struggle, offering a platform for non-professional and gloriously imperfect expressions of our pain and our hope. If you are like one of my acquaintances who took the time to message me saying that "other people had it harder than you in the pandemic" - keep moving. This space is not for you. PEB is a growing community of survivors and fellow travelers holding space for each other's unique pain while contributing to an ecosystem of resistance. We know that there is a lot of healing that comes both from being truly seen, as well as collective action.
Facebook, IG, Twitter, YouTube, and via email at contact[at]permanentlyembarrassedbillionaires.com. It is still in its infancy, which means there is tons of space to help shape its direction. I also function as a writing coach and editor for the project, so you don't have to worry if you never thought of yourself as a writer - you will get there. And as excited as I am to share your stories through this project, rest assured that PEB is not about generating content just for content sake: deadlines are not strictly enforced, all writing and art remains the property of the creator, you can use a pen name, and consent is ongoing (meaning you can request to take down your contribution or edit it at any point).
How Hustle Culture Feeds Into the Empty Promise of Meritocracy — And How We’re Buying Into the Fantasy