Four short dialogues with the bourgeois


I know a young woman of color who works at Whole Foods and she once told me there would never be a strike there. When I asked her why, she said it would never happen there because none of the workers would ever believe that it could actually be possible there.


A middle-aged white man, a corrections officer at the local jail, is using sophisticated biometric technology to scan my hand from a thousand different angles, thanking us for doing what we’re doing, then telling his co-worker how he’d rather be at home with his kids, playing video games and “shooting shit.”


I enter a bar in a bourgeois part of town to visit my close friend who is bartending. I sit down, alone, and wait for my friend to notice me. To my right is a skinny, pale, dirty-blonde older man a little taller than myself but slouched, elbows on the bar. He says something to me, slurring, I forget what. One of the bartenders, not my friend, sets in front of the man a plate: steak, a small arugula salad, and french fries with some bullshit aoli or whatever the fuck. My friend is busy so the man and I get to talking. His name is Shawn and he works for a life insurance company.

“Great job,” he says, “It’s really fascinating, the way money works and living and dying and everything work together, pretty crazy.” “Yea, that is crazy,” I say, “You an Irish guy?” “Yea,” he says, “you?” “Yea,” I say. “County Mayo, he says. “Armagh,” I say. “Sometimes I think about moving there. It would probably feel authentic and self-righteous to live somewhere where I could feel like a legitimate member of the colonized rather than the colonizing.”

At that moment, the local news on the bar’s television ran a feature on the big protests that took place downtown earlier in the day. He could tell I had just come from downtown.

“Protesting never works, you need pipebombs, that’s what the Irish would do,” he informed me. He also offered me the rest of his food. Yes, of course, I’ll eat the rest of your food. I hate most Irish-Americans. “I used to be like you, I am like you, I’m a marxist,” he informs me. He also bought me a beer.

“It’s never going to work, kid, I’m telling you. Just look at me…” I just continue eating his scraps, take a sip of beer, and smile.


“Look, you can’t change the world, you just can’t. Things have evolved how they’ve evolved for reasons, you can try to change things but you can’t change the reasons they are like they are so you can’t just stop the world from being like it is,” he said. He’s about eight years older than me, a goofy, friendly, funny white guy who likes comic books.

“No,” I told him, “Things are how they are because people like you make always make that argument. I don’t care if I’m naive or unrealistic, I have a right to be naive and unrealistic. And I actually believe its our obligation regardless of how practical it seems.”

“Wait until you’re my age, you’ll see… I used to think the same things you think. And people older than me used to tell me I would give it up eventually and back then I would insist that I was never going to give in…” He had tears in his eyes. “And you did,” I said. “And I did,” he said. “Well you make your own choices and I respect that,” I said. But did you ever think that, at the very least, you owe it to us, to me and my generation and everyone else who hasn’t caved yet, to maybe atone for your own faithlessness, to at least refrain from deflating us? You are clearly disappointed in yourself and I would never rub salt in your wounds, as long as you don’t soothe your wounds by sapping our strength. We can change everything, if people like you would just shut the fuck up and give us even the most passive support rather than running your dead mouths. Have you ever considered the possibility that the only reason this awful world continues is because older people will say anything to forestall coming to terms with how they betrayed themselves?”

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Murphy, Justin. 2012. "Four short dialogues with the bourgeois," (December 14, 2018).