Housekeeping: With today’s letter, I’ve moved over to Buttondown. Tiny Letter was a great little product for a while, but I feel better working on a platform that’s actively supported. If anything seems amiss, let me know.
In the paper of record, a man writes that millennials, flush with savings from the past year, are prepared to quit their jobs in droves. He calls it the “YOLO economy.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have problems with this framing. First, as this Gen Xer can attest, this is not a pattern specific to millennials, and really, any analysis that rests on arbitrary marketing categories is doomed to miss some things. But setting that aside, treating this like a flippant meme-driven move and not a correction to generations of worker abuse does a real disservice not only to the people making these choices but also to our understanding of how professionalized labor is changing more broadly.
Another way to frame what I also suspect will be a summer of quitting is this: given the chance, people will buy their way out of burnout. This is both a privilege and a salve. After a year of relative comfort, spent largely observing the impacts of the pandemic without being at risk from the worst of it, what a lot of people want isn’t stuff but relief—from work that is deadening and too much all at once. Meanwhile, the corporate response to burnout has been earnest but superficial: offering meeting-free Fridays and subsidized yoga, plus an extra week or two off—while the Q3 roadmap and OKRs crank along—is like trying to put out a house fire with a glass of pinot. What people really need is months of rest and control and autonomy over their work. What we need is a total reset about what work is for, and who gets to decide how it gets done.
I keep looking at the word “burnout” and feeling like something about it is off. It’s an image of being out of fuel, a tank run dry, a fire with a few rapidly cooling embers and no kindling in sight. But that may not be sufficient for what this past year feels like. Maybe we’re not burned out but burned up. The former assumes we’re empty vessels simply in need of refueling while the latter asks what might rise from this heap of ash at our feet. However we come out of this year, it’s not going to look like what came before.
There’s this poster from the New America Movement—a precursor to the DSA—that I have been thinking about a lot lately :
Here’s the text:
If you’re unemployed, it’s not because there isn’t any work
Just look around: a housing shortage, crime, pollution; we need better schools and parks. Whatever our needs, they all require work. And as long as we have unsatisfied needs, there’s work to be done.
So ask yourself, what kind of world has work but no jobs. It’s a world where work is not related to satisfying our needs, a world where work is only related to satisfying the profit needs of business.
This country was not built by huge corporations or government bureaucracies. It was built by people who work. And it is working people who should control the work to be done. Yet, as long as employment is tied to someone else’s profits, the work won’t get done.
I think this lights up to the real crisis underway: how crushing it has been to work from your comfortable apartment or house, to ship another product feature or finalize a marketing plan or adjust a P&L, while people gasped for air in the hospital just a few blocks away. It’s not just that people have worked too hard with too little interruption over the past year. It’s also that the pandemic has made present how little most of our work matters—and how much real work there is to be done.
Ayesha Siddiqi’s newsletter has rapidly become one of my faves. Come for her slaughter of Promising Young Woman and white feminism generally, stay for her resonant thirteen truths. This one in particular hit me just where I needed it:
Aiming to be useful rather than impressive will always make a better impression.
To call stacy-marie ishmael’s newsletter a “newsletter” does it a disservice: It’s a weekly benediction, and the only church I belong to.
Erin Kissane wrote about the decisions she and others made as they built The COVID Tracking Project. Among the many lessons I am sitting with is this one: “I suspect that a disciplined commitment to messy truths over smooth narratives would also breathe life into technology, journalism, and public health efforts that too frequently paper over the complex, many-voiced nature of the world.” Amen.
Andreas Malm’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a brisk firefight of a book, traipsing through the history of social movements to locate the battles and sabotage we’ve neglected to record. Malm is a sharp writer and an unsparing critic of capitalism and this book neatly demonstrates both.
I also read Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, having evidently completely forgotten how strongly I disliked his last book, The Buried Giant. After finishing it, I recalled that Le Guin had politely murdered him , not only for the hackneyed writing but also his choice to use fantasy tropes while evidently harboring a supreme dislike for fantasy. (“It was like watching a man falling from a high wire while he shouts to the audience, ‘Are they going to say I’m a tight-rope walker?’”) I suppose Klara isn’t as bad as it could have been, given that it was written by a dead man. But I can’t recommend it.
There’s still a chill in the evenings, and I’m trying to enjoy it, knowing it won’t be long before sundown heralds only the slightest break in the humidity and the arrival of the mosquitos. Until then, this drink, adapted from the NYT, makes a delightful nightcap. The reversal in the name refers to the flipped whiskey to vermouth ratio: instead of 2:1, it’s 1:2. Because the vermouth (or amaro) is the prime ingredient here, you can’t skimp on it—this isn’t a drink for that Martini & Rossi hiding in the back of your fridge. Dolin will suffice, although the recommended Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is better. Averna is quite nice and technically makes this a Reverse Black Manhattan. Cynar is also lovely here. You get the idea.
2 oz sweet vermouth or amaro
1 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
2 dashes orange bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
Add the vermouth (or amaro), whiskey, and bitters to a glass filled with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Squeeze the twist over the drink and drop it in.
Thanks for reading! If you’re enjoying this, share it with a friend. As always, reply with what you’re reading or drinking. —m
 I have been unable to locate the source of this photo. I seem to recall seeing a version of this poster, with very similar language, but which was credited to the Black Panther Party—but I haven’t been able to find it again. I do not know if the NAM version or my remembered Black Panther version is the original. If by chance you know anything on the origins of this poster or messaging, please share!
 Le Guin’s old blog adorably lacks permalinks to individual posts. The Ishiguro murder is number 95 in the 2015 archive. A short addendum follows in which she apologizes for her haste and then deftly murders him a second time. God, I miss her.