I’ve been struggling with the idea I call cannibal capitalism — the idea that one would trade of your body, health and well-being in order to get money. It makes the most sense to help understand some current rappers — Gucci Mane in particular.
But this morning I got two recomendations from Longreads — one on the NFL and the other on deep-sea industrial diving. Both seem to suggest that there is a popular understanding that in some occupations — the danger and assumption of self-harm is part of the job. That one trades of their body in order to continue to survive, and occasionally thrive. I guess one element of surviving in cannibal capitalism is that one often has a limited selection of options and choices. In my opinion this is driven by the previous discourse one is saturated in — learn, as the NFL players do — that one is expected to endure suffering for pay and success and one is more likely to see this behavior as normal and participate.
The perspective of pain is what this story is about. For fans, injuries are like commercials, the price of watching the game as well as harrowing advertisements for the humanity of the armored giants who play it. For gamblers and fantasy-football enthusiasts, they are data, a reason to vet the arcane shorthand (knee, doubtful) of the injury report the NFL issues every week; for sportswriters they are kernels of reliable narrative. For players, though, injuries are a day-to-day reality, indeed both the central reality of their lives and an alternate reality that turns life into a theater of pain. Experienced in public and endured almost entirely in private, injuries are what players think about and try to put out of their minds; what they talk about to one another and what they make a point to suffer without complaint; what they’re proud of and what they’re ashamed by; what they are never able to count and always able to remember.
The deeper you dive, the more you get paid. In his second or third year an apprentice may be promoted, or “broken out,” to a full-time diver. His salary will increase to between $60,000 and $75,000. He will start as an “air diver,” diving as deep as 120 feet while breathing regular air. Jobs at this depth might include retrieving tools from the worksite, or cutting and retrieving the polypropylene cord that runs between the surface vessel and the underwater worksite. Next the diver will be assigned to more complex jobs below a hundred feet, for which he must breathe mixed gas in order to avoid suffering the effects of nitrogen narcosis while working with heavy machinery. A full-time mixed-gas diver can earn more than $100,000 a year. He will perform jobs at ever greater depths, with higher degrees of technical difficulty, until his diving supervisor deems him ready to graduate to saturation diving. Sat divers can make $200,000 a year. Sat’s where it’s at.