In my travels, I’ve learned a lot of things about people and their nature. I’ve learned that what I’ve learned is just based on my interactions with them and observations of them with me adding my bias and wisdom to sum them up in a way that probably only makes sense to me. From that I try to add some optimism and doubt so that I’m not so sure that I’m not entirely incorrect. What I’m saying is that we only see things from our perspective and we all wear self-tinted glasses, so-to-say. We have impressions we learn from our experiences which won’t match what most other people have. Sure, we will have a lot of common experiences, but there are always unique qualities. Think about two people observing an even take place from different sides of event. One person will see it happen from left to right and the other from right to left and there you already have the premise to make the observations different. Now take a car crash and the driver is killed on the side of the car you are observing. You see the driver die but the other person observing does not and walks away thinking ‘people need to learn to drive’, while you experienced death and a tragedy that you will never forget seeing. Now, let’s take a look at a place and try to think about it like the guy who saw the driver die and not the guy who saw the crash then walked away because he didn’t see the driver die and he was in a hurry anyway.
I’m going to talk to you about West Virginia and I’m going to talk about a few things that I don’t think are well known or understood and that I think need more talking about.
Every time I’ve met a Mexican who has worked with a West Virginian, they’ve offered to buy me a drink. You see, and I haven’t met everyone on the damn planet so I’m not really qualified to say who is the most or best of anything. I only offer up my opinion, from my experience, that Mexicans and West Virginians are the hardest working mother fuckers I know of, on the planet. It’s like a competition to us and if the guy beside us is busting his ass, then we’re going to work harder than they are. So when these two different gentlemen I encountered met someone just like them, they understood it. They had met someone else who has been shit on, used, lied to, abused, murdered and killed and tortured and exploited, since before the places we all name to identify our origins ever existed. We’re both hard workers with integrity that show up every damn day and don’t complain. We do our jobs and that’s just the way it is.
When I moved to North Carolina I got fired from a few jobs because I worked too hard. They even told me that and said that if they didn’t get rid of me then they worried that they would be expected to work as hard or that I’d just get promoted while they didn’t. I would imagine some places automatically rejected us West Virginians on that basis because we are some of the hardest working people on the planet. They had developed a working culture in North Carolina that was just plain lazy. I had never seen so many temporary job companies. It was amazing to me that I could just find a job and go work and get paid without driving two hours. I thought I had struck gold at first and got myself a temp job at a mill making carboard tubes. What a braindead thing to do and I quickly thought that there was no way I could do such a repetitive task for more than a few weeks. Fortunately, I worked too hard and they canned me in a few days. Then, I went to another place and it was the same thing. They didn’t like me because I worked hard and didn’t need ten breaks and then didn’t bitch about everything.
I think the lazy work culture was so bad there that the temporary companies came to be more of a need to fill jobs in a very lazy and unreliable workforce. Where I came from people kept jobs for life and clinged to them no matter how bad or toxic they were. But not in North Carolina. They even had all these colloquial sayings like “laying out of work” which took a while for me to understand. It just meant they skipped work that day and didn’t feel like going so they either called in sick or just didn’t go. I would also wager that this systemic laziness caused a lot of the mills and factories to just up and leave. When you don’t have a very reliable workforce that just bitches about everything and then collectively works to oust the hardest working people, you’re creating a scenario that will fail. Big companies are smart and get big by being smart. Places like North Carolina at that time in the mid ninties was difficult to staff and when they did, they had people who would willing cut their own fingers off just to make a phat paycheck and get disability. That’s actually a thing there. My brother used to joke that you could tell how long someone had worked at a mill by the number of missing fingers. And he had examples of people who bragged about doing it.
Had they put those mills and factories in West Virginia… But that state was hard to commerce due to the lack of highways and had huge hills that caused trucks to use a lot more fuel. Building I77 through West Virginia helped the state a lot and at the time was the most expensive road ever built per mile. That interstate was just a little too late and probably still just not enough to compete with areas like North Carolina for factories and mills. I think it was a stupid mistake on the factories and mills because what they ended up with was a lazyass workforce that they would eventually have to bail on. I still don’t think a lot of people get it, but let me say it again, West Virginians are some of the hardest working people on the planet. If you put factories and mills there, you’ll have lifers whose children will want to work the same damn job that their parents did. It’s like all those sad movies but it’s what we do. It’s an ethic that’s inside us and we see it all around us growing up of people who have to work way harder than average for way less than average.
Maybe if CEOs put factories in places where the people work hard, not just that are easy for management to visit… And that’s always been another problem. No one wants to move there and it is kind of depressing in some areas. I’ll even admit that West Viringia in the winter can be kind of ugly with the snow on the grey trees and all the dirty snow on the highways. I remember it more from days long gone where the pollution was a lot worse and the soot showed in winter from the coal. But far worse than that are the areas with all the runnoff from Mountain Top Removal and waste products from mining coal where people can’t drink their own water and can’t sell their house because of it. But, that’s still not as bad as areas like Lake Washington near Parkersburg or many others and potentially some really nasty ones we just don’t know of.
When you think West Virginia, I bet you think about coal. Well, maybe some dumb jokes as well but none I haven’t heard told to me thousands of times like it was going to be the first time ever. But when I think of home, I think of chemical companies. I didn’t have any miners in my family and we didn’t really live near any mines but for just a short time. But the chemical we had all over Parkersburg and in fact they made a movie about it. In the Kanawha River valley we had, and I’m just refering to my memory of 30 years ago but a lot of them are still there, all the big chemical companies. DuPont, FMC, Monsanto, Carbide, Corning, etc… I met a lady from Bhopal India and we had a lot in common considering what they went through. We supposedly had more MIC in Belle than they had in Bhopal and probably in very similar conditions. In fact, a number of years after the Bhopal disaster, a tank of something else exploded at Belle and a piece of it laded right beside the MIC tanks. I worked for a carpet cleaning company when I was 16 and we cleaned the carpet in the offices at that plant. It looked nice and clean but what the hell did I know at that age? Nothing.
If that tank had ruptured, it would have went straight into the river and then downstream to the Ohio, then to the Mississippi. As far as I know, that same scenario still exists today and there a shitload of highly toxic chemicals sitting on a flat beside the river. But they’re not the only ones in a similar situation that if disaster struck, it would be in the river, then down to the Gulf of Mexico. We’re just now learning about all the DDT that’s dumped off the coast of California and if they did that in fucking California, what do you think they did in West Virginia where a lot of toxic chemicals are produced? That’s a serious question I would love to have answered, but what hidden places do we have in West Virginia that are just the same or worse? I would be you any amount of money there are plenty, hidden away up some hollar or in an old coal mine or just plan buried somewhere. In the movie Dark Waters that’s about how DuPont poisened people in a hundred mile radius, including me — I have never been tested but we had a cabin at Lake Washington which was right beside that guy in the movie where they found levels of the chemical C8 was around ten thousand times higher than what even DuPont regarded as safe and you know that had to be ultra conservative. So there’s no way I was less than a mile from that and not exposed. My mother had a health monitor and enough said.
The chemical companies have been there for a long time and have left a less visible impression than the coal industry, and will be there long after the coal industry is gone.
Now I hear West Virginia has suffered the biggest loss of population of any state in the last ten years. It was over two million people when I left in the ninties and now it’s 1.79 million. People cite the same reasons I left which were jobs and pay and just wanting to see bigger and better things. West Virginia is at the bottom of a lot of bad lists and at the top of many others. None are good. It’s not an easy life and getting out of there isn’t very easy when you make so little money and the cost of moving to another state means you need to save up the rent and deposit for where you’re going, which is going to be a lot higher than where you ware. I’ve always said that from WV to CA was basically just adding a zero to the end of everything. I’ve paid more in rent in one month in California than I did for a whole year in West Virginia, granted that was 30 years ago, if you look now, the rent price hasn’t changed much in that time. I actually know one person who pays less in one year than I pay in a month. You just have to embrace the scale of economics to understand how hard it is to leave there and why then, everyone wants to get the fuck out.
Let’s recap my thoughts here:
West Virginians and Mexicans are some of the hardest working people on the planet.
West Virginia has as much chemical as coal and we’re ignoring that.
If you think the DDT off the coast of California is a problem, I’d ask you to kindly look at WV.
What hidden gems have the chemical companies produced in WV?
People are leaving WV because a failure of leadership that has been systemic for a long time.
If you put factories and mills in WV, you will get lifelong, hard workers whose kids will come work for you.
I love West VIrginia. I know people will claim I hate the state because of this, but I’d question anyone who uses that bullshit line that I just hate whatever it is I’m supporting because it’s wornout and braindead. You hear it all the time in policitcs that this or that person hates the country or whatever, but if you fall for it, you just didn’t think about it very much did you? I want to see my home state prosper but it won’t as long as it’s still held in the same train of thought and level of thinking that was created all its problems, and kept it there.
Listening to the news about a DDT dump being discovered off the coast of California and I have to ask what else is hidden in the hills of West Virginia? There were a dozen Superfund sites but you know there are more, undiscovered ones waiting to be found. I’m just glad the coal and chemical industries weren’t tighter!