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January 4th, 2006 Zach Dundas | Books
 

Going Postal

Ever feel like just blowing everyone away? Maybe there's a reason for that.

     
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Used to be that postal clerks never went on murderous, kill-crazy rampages. Then, in the early 1980s, they started doing just that. Corporate offices once were seldom transformed into blood-soaked massacre scenes. But just a few years after USPS workers took to gunning down colleagues, private-sector rampages (blue-collar first, white-collar soon) began as localized anomalies, then spread. Kids never used to shoot up their high schools, but now, with disturbing frequency, they do.

Why?

In Going Postal (Soft Skull Press, 280 pages, $15.95), author Mark Ames connects a postindustrial phenomenon—the American vocational rage massacre—both to a dark history of doomed, gory rebellions and business's increasingly amoral ruthlessness. It's a startling analysis, fizzing with the caustic, no-prisoners rage Ames perfected as the editor of The eXile, an incendiary English-language newspaper based in Moscow.

Ames notes that the first post-office massacre occurred in 1983, the same year an end to government postal subsidies made an early right-wing wet dream come true. Unstable, put-upon workers in Rust Belt towns began celebrating "Take an AK-47 to Work Day" as Reaganomics gutted the unions. By the '90s, with high-tech and professional-service corporations openly celebrating outsourcing, cordite wafted over office parks. And with any number of schoolyard deathfests as evidence, few could dispute Ames' contention that an educational system relentlessly focused on achievement, testing and "results" produces collateral damage.

Maybe because he's normally posted in Russia, Ames' fury feels fresher and more morally authentic than the usual Subaru-bumper-sticker critique of the Wal-Mart Era. You don't have to swallow Going Postal's whole complex corpus—Columbine as modern equivalent to Nat Turner's slave rebellion?—to buy Ames' underlying point. When one in six kids lives in poverty, when American factories shut down in favor of massive,

MasterCard-financed imports from China, when the most skilled and loyal worker can be cast aside tomorrow...well, someone's gonna get hurt.

 
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