Walking around the too-wide, too-straight streets of Bakersfield, California. Fidgeting with a pen and a little black notebook that I don't write in, I ask people about why the economy sucks for them and for the people they know, and what can be done about it. (This passive tense intentional.) I'm being an anthropologist for one of the bigger unions, experimenting with frames and rhetorical gambits, exploring the cognitive terrain of labor, class, job, economy, and power. I talk to machinists and truckers. I talk to black guys smoking weed on the proverbial street corner. I talk to teachers waving their signs in protest of another round of corrosive budget cuts. I talk to a white woman fallen out of the middle class. In Los Angeles I troll the food line at a neighborhood's Cesar Chavez celebration. I talk to people in their gardens or in their cars or on a bench waiting for date.
Then I sit in restaurants and bars, or on the bed at Anna's apartment in Glendale with my little black notebook and I write about what I see and hear - and compare this cognitive terrain to the arguments that labor organizers want to use - the assumptions they rely on - and see where things mesh and where they just crumple against each other uselessly. And mostly right now, it's a lot of crumpling.