I posted in multiple social locations yesterday a very plain statement: sometimes I get ranty. To which my friends and readership replied everything from, “That’s an understatement,” to, “Only sometimes?” (to which I replied that as I sleep 6 to 8 hours a day, that yes – the other 16 to 18 hours of the day could be classified as “sometimes”)
You’re all such jokesters. I adore you.
Yesterday’s rant stemmed from an article on Bloomberg about Target employees protesting hours for the impending Black Friday consume-a-thon. I won’t rehash the article here, but I’ve kept my mouth relatively shut about my views on Occupy Wall Street and the voices of economic dissent long enough. And I have a few things to say, as there are a few pervasive arguments with which I have a fundamental problem. I’m sure you have a problem with some of these things, too, and nor do I expect (by a longshot) that all of you will agree with me on the following statements. But grab a latte or a Snickers. I’m going in.
Sweeping Generalizations are Bullshit
It’s really easy to use words like all and every and them. What’s hard is crafting concise arguments that specifically identify (1) a party to be accused, and (2) a defending party who has arguable grievances. That’s why it makes me sick to my stomach to see signs of protest in the Occupy Wall Street movement that want to “taxidermy the rich” and point a finger in the general direction of anyone who has done well for themselves financially in the U.S. economy. While signs like this might have an inkling of truth to them from a mathematical standpoint, it all speaks to a bigger issue.
The System is Broken
I can yell until I’m blue in the face about GE paying less in taxes than I did in 2010. We can scream about corporate bonuses. Healthcare remains an unattainable goal for many. But those things have nothing to do with “the rich.” They have to do with the systems that allowed them to accumulate their wealth from out-of-control corporate machines.
When you point the finger at the wealthy as a whole (and it doesn’t matter how you define wealthy – as the guy who makes $100,000 next door to someone who is unemployed could potentially be perceived no differently than the guy who owns a $1 million home next to a $4 million one), you’re missing the point. The people in my life are the most precious assets I have and y’know, some of them happen to have done quite well for themselves. They’re business owners who made good – and sometime lucky – decisions over time and profited from those decisions. That doesn’t make them the enemy – it makes them an asset to our communities. As by and large, these are people who spend and give freely in the community. They give (as do many of you, regardless of financial status) to charity. They spend at local restaurants. They pay taxes – city, state, county AND federal. So again, the “rich” aren’t the problem. Capitalism isn’t the enemy.
The system and the unethical leaders that have poisoned our country’s financial system – they are the problem. And perhaps our anger would be better directed, and more influential, if we directed it at the systems which allowed all of this pervasive jackassery to happen. We need to look at the systems, as therein lies the source of our discontent.
Did I Mention the System is Broken?
Medicare is broken. Social Security is broken. Healthcare is broken. The tax code is broken. We’re deluding ourselves if we believe that these things are “fixable.” Solutions aren’t going to come with an election or (for fuck sake) more legislation to layer on top of the already broken machine. It’s like trying to glue something back together that’s already been glued 12 times before – it isn’t going to “fix” anything or for very long.
If you’ve ever built models, you get to be pretty familiar with how glues work. For women, I’ll equate it to artificial nails. When something breaks you can only glue it back together so many times before you have to sand or otherwise strip the existing layers of glue off and start over.
As a nation, we’re at a start over point, and we need to brace ourselves and consider structuring our lives so that we don’t rely on what we’ve been told to perceive as the norms.
“If You Don’t Like It, Quit Your Job”
THIS was the response to a thread related to the Target article on my Facebook page that drew my ire the most. There are people who are reading this who are unemployed or underemployed, and I’d love to know how YOU feel about that. But I’ll tell you how I feel about that. While I might walk down the pathways of my local mall and see numerous Help Wanted signs, quitting a job – even a shitty one that makes you work shitty hours - isn’t a reality for many people. How about we QUIT telling them that if they don’t like it, they can quit and get another job. With our national unemployment rate hovering at 9%-ish, you probably know someone who’s had or is having a tough go of it in this economy. How about we collectively cowboy the fuck up and have some compassion for people who – for more reasons than we are privileged enough to never be able to understand – CAN’T QUIT?
Let’s be part of the solution instead. Here are some things we can ALL do when we know of someone who is out of work:
- Resume reviews: I’ve made the offer before on this site and it still stands – if you are currently unemployed and would like me to review your resume, I will happily do so. You can email it to mark [at] redheadwriting [dot] com. Why not tell your friends you’ll do the same for them?
- Tap your network: Quirky though it may be, I connect more people who end up doing business with one another than do business with me. There’s something pretty cool about this. If you know someone who is out of work or otherwise looking, make the ask. All I can say is that my best hires have always come from the recommendations and introductions from others. Regardless of what you think, it’s not imposing.
- Keep our eyes open: When we see or hear about opportunities, share them. Post them on Facebook. Take a picture of the Help Wanted sign and text it to a friend. Of you want to get old school, dial your smartphone and CALL THEM. Or better yet, pick up a job application for them (since you’re there).
- If you’re a company hiring, say so! I can’t tell you how many hiring notices I see in the social media world every day, especially from the startup community. Companies are looking for talent! If you’re a company hiring, get the word out and ask your online friends to spread the word. The more people who see your notice, the more resumes you’ll have to choose from when it comes down to decision time.
And just like the “quit one job, get another” isn’t a viable argument in today’s economy…
Radical Swings Aren’t the Answer
In 2008, we as a nation made a radical choice. When the votes came in, we swung from a Republican President to a Democrat. From a caucasian to an African American. From older to younger. As we move into an election year, can we keep our heads about us and avoid the knee-jerk reaction to automatically choose something that’s merely different or the opposite of what we currently have? Heaven knows, it took a fair share longer than 4 years to fuck this country up. It’s going to take a fair share longer than 4 years and one administration to get it headed in the right direction again.
Many of the decisions we have entrusted to the government can be addressed in our own backyards and WE can begin to stimulate our immediate economies. Perhaps think less about for whom we will vote than where we will spend our dollars. Will be spend them with the giant corporations whom we blame for all of our current woes? Or will we spend them with local retailers who live and pay taxes in the communities in which we live? A good question to ask on the brink of the holidays.
And a Bit About Black Friday…
With numerous national retailers opening in the late evening hours of Thanksgiving Day in hopes of hitting a meager 2.8% increase in sales (per the Bloomberg article cited above), let’s think about how, where, and why we’re spending our money. Certainly – you’re free to spend where, how, and why you choose, but as Shelly Kramer stated when she posted the Target article for her network on Facebook, we are the ones who create this. We’re fueling the corporate machines that people all over the country are saying they hate!
This year, I’m not able to travel home to Houston to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. So how will I spend it? In the company of friends, connecting with family in every way I know how, as I really and truly have everything in this life that I need. I don’t need a 50% off sale. I don’t need the stress. And if I can’t get what I’d like to give from a local or online retailer that isn’t among the corporate behemoths, then it won’t get gotten this year.
We’re wound-up in the fact that these corporations have “ruined our lives” and all we do is continue to feed them. That is what makes Black Friday the darkest of all, in my world. To all of you reading who work retail, thank you for what you do and the hours you give to your employer in exchange for hours with family and friends. And if for some reason you’re not happy at your current job, start mapping a course for an exit and let the people in your life know how they can help. If they refuse to or can’t help, find new people. It’s not easy. It’s a process. And I know because I’ve been there.
But the greatest gift I get for the holidays each year doesn’t come in a box or a stocking. It comes from the people in my life who I’ve earned the privilege of keeping in my life.
And you can’t buy that shit at Target.
You’ve been slapped.
Medicare is not broken. Social Security is not broken. wealthy political donors have skewed the system to use it for their own means.
Oh fuck it - eat the rich. And the little starving children in Africa. Sustenance for the greater good is a good thing.
Oh, God, not the "corporations simply pass tax on to the consumer" crap again. That's merely ONE choice they have. When tax rates go up, or loopholes/deductions are removed, a company can also (perish the thought) choose to accept a lower profit margin, rather than raise prices. The same as anything else on the expense side. (The one thing most companies can't do, at least not for long, is operate at a negative cash flow.) Agree that most millionaires are not the problem. It's the small percentage of absolute greedheads who pay politicians to operate the country for the exclusive benefit of the top .01%, and screw the middle class -- and their enablers in politics, economics, academia and the media -- and who have been in charge of this country since the days of Ronald Reagan -- who are the problem.
Hi. I'm the guy who said to get another job if you do not like the one you have. And I will defend that statement here now. Full Disclosure: I am self employed. I work all the fkn time. I do not get paid vacations, I pay my own health insurance from my family, and when I call in sick, I don't get paid. I am no rich, not even close. I do not resent rich people, nor do I demonize corporations. I do think that the ire of the Wallstreet Occupiers is incredibly myopic. They worry about corporate profits, but have nothing to say about the waste of government... waste that reaches into the trillions of dollars. A tax code that is indecipherable, and a leadership that makes the keystone cops look brilliant. (And the myth that corporations do not pay taxes is simply the ravings of people who do not know how business works. the tax code is your enemy. A corporation simply passes the tax on to the consumer. It is not taken from the profits, it is added to. But, understanding the way things work is sooo much bother.) We have as a nation decided that the ownership of a degree actually makes us smarter, and more worthy when it obviously does not. It is a paper that has less worth than the ink on it, and young people have built a national debt of a trillion dollars now that others (including the unworthy who have no 'paper') will have to repay. And the whining is deafening. Any business has the right to make the rules. Captain of the ship and all. When the competition does something, it is a business decision to either ignore, match or find ways to better compete. Anthony doesn't want to work to help his company be competitive, he wants to do what so many young people want to do. FORCE HIS beliefs and needs on everyone else. And he has instituted an attack on the company with the end goal to create less revenue for the company who writes his paycheck. Let's say he is successful. And he creates a situation where the company makes 11% less than they usually do, or less than expectations. Will Anthony be OK with an 11% reduction in his paycheck? 11% less in his sick pay? 11% less vacation days? I hate to put words in his mouth, but I am gonna guess no. When the company takes a chance on something and they lose, the employees still get what was promised to them. And when the company does better, the employees get raises. And they do get raises at Target, I KNOW that. I think that if someone is that unhappy, they should, for their own sake - and that of the people who DO like working for the company - quit and find the thing that makes them happy. If you thought I was thinking that was easy, you grossly added something to the mix that I did not. I have done that, and it was terrifying. But I knew that if I stayed at that sou-sucking job, I would not be able to find my own path. I never blamed the company. they wer just as I knew they would be when I asked them to hire me. As Anthony was aware of Target's - indeed the entire retail world's - approach to shopper insanity. He asked to be hired, and is now actively working to bring them less revenue instead of more revenue. In what world does that make sense to you? And are you aware that there are millions of shoppers who EXPECT the earlier hours? And my neighbor, who works at the local Target, LOVES the overtime she gets for working those hours. But Anthony chooses to ignore those people, and has no interest in what THEY want. That is called being tone deaf. His unhappiness is Toxic. As to the "shop-small" movement. I have been doing that for over 15 years. All gifts are either one of a kind, or hadnd made. We don't shop big boxes, but prefer to help the smaller companies. I didn't have to be told though, I make my own choices. Choice. Embrace it, don't destroy it. And some choices mean tough, difficult decisions, and sacrifice, and macaroni and cheese, and used clothes. But the rewards are pretty cool. Even if they don't necessarily involve sitting in a drum circle chanting old hippie invocations...
'Let's be part of the solution instead.' caught my eye, Red. It inspired today's post on my blog. Thanks for the slap & the inspiration!
You literally could not pay me to shop on Black Friday. I worked retail, both as an associate and as a store manager, and what a whipping that day is, just to save a few bucks... I prefer to keep my sanity, and part with a few extra bucks... :) and yeah, our system is broken, it does suck, but it's still a whole lot better than many other countries... I have faith we will eventually climb out of the hole we are in.... we will see!
Thank you so much...you just made my..."Season". As usual, insight that makes me think "duh" even though it was you that helped me to really think it through, see the light, whatever you want to call it. Funny, too, that just hours before reading this, I was excited to share the attached photo on FB (along with tens of thousands of others...guess the sentiment is widely shared!).
You are right about all this. In my case I haven't had a job since 1978 and have seen all the BS politicians and beggars, (occupiers) try to do to people who stick with a dream through the struggles and crap. Then if you do reach a certain level of monetary success they want to eat it, FOR FREE!!! I'm in a very obscure line of work, which I've done for the last 33 yrs, and despite that fact that I could have given up and work a job, I stuck with it and succeeded through many falures and insanity pleas. Sure there were many times when I could have quit like the other 99% who do but who in the hell would feed me and pay my bills and support my bad habits? The Feds? Don't think so. I do business with rich people and once you get to know them they are just like us...their crap stinks too. They have taught me not to depend on too many people to help you get where you want, yes you have people who help but you are solely responsible. In today's society people have long arms and big hands expecting the rich to give them something for nada. What a bunch of crapola. I've already laid out my plan of action...come on and try it. Out of 12 kids, 7 girls and five boys, I'm the oldest, and the only boy who has never served time, but let these choosy beggars come to my place and try that shit...won't happen. I really think it's a ploy by the Gov because they would like for all of us to depend on them for sustenance so they can control what we do and think. Not happening here. Black friday? I never follow the crowd so it makes no diff to me. Let them all eat cake...I like Mom's blueberry pie. Wanna get rid of that stress...Throw out the alarm clock... "Joy of Irresponsibility" ...Mikey
I agree with much of what you say. However, the 1%, or the "rich", are inextricably linked to "the system" as many of them are the system or have great control over that system. The links between corporations, lobbying, and government control have been demonstrated over and over. Sure many of the rich have earned it but due to tax loopholes, government subsidies of industry, and frankly, all out corporate corruption, is that really "earning" it? If someone in the 99% is not offered the same breaks and opportunities as the 1% is it a level playing field? I also understand your point about overgeneralizing, but still, the system is made up of people. Many of them would fall into the 1%, or more likely the .1% category. I would also say that the version of capitalism that we have here in the US is indeed the enemy. Ours is capitalism with special benefits for a special few, is totally unbalanced and certainly not operating as true capitalism should.
Can you tell me when our nation has experienced what you call "true capitalism?" Ideologies are often great in theory yet impossible to practice due to a quirky little thing called human nature. And yeah, I don't subscribe to percentages. Looping everyone who's achieved financial success into a lump-sum label called "the rich" does nothing, when in fact many of those accomplished people are owners of private business that operate outside of the corporate machine. Oh, and a level playing field is called socialism (I even looked it up to be sure I wasn't talking out of my ass). Having the same set of rules apply to all will never be a level playing field, as we all bring our own experiences and socioeconomic positions to the game. My two cents :)
Red, I love your candor. You have addressed something that is near and dear to me in this simple question "Or will we spend them with local retailers who live and pay taxes in the communities in which we live?" I've become a huge advocate for Small Business Saturday. The economy in my area is pretty good. Not great but not horrible. I'd like to see it improve all the more by people spending more at local businesses rather than Big Box guys. I've started up a website that is intended to promote Small Business Saturday deals for as many small businesses as I can reach. So far it's in very humble beginnings but I hope it spreads and people take advantage of the offer I'm making to them. If anyone is interested and with your ok I'd love to promote the site with a post here. (Just reply to let me know) One of the things that you point out also is that it's really hard being unemployed/underemployed. I'm currently in the process of moving from "un" to "under" right now. I was fired from my last job and at first I was happy because it was a horrible place to work. After about 30 days of unemployment I got a little scared. Now almost 3 months in I'm relieved to have the chance to earn peanuts (earn is better than mooch). The problems are just as you describe them. The solutions aren't simple. The reality is that we need to work together (Democrat, Republican, White, Black, smart, stupid...) in order to make things better. We can't afford politics or economics as usual. I'm glad you see that. I'm glad many of your readers see that. Now if we can see that as a disparate group then surely we can see that as a country. Time to quit occupying and start cooperating, working, doing, earning, helping, donating, and a variety of other verbs that lead to solutions and fewer complaints. Thanks Red. Let me know if it's ok to post a link to my site.
You mean I DON'T have to buy every version of the iPhone that comes out? Are you sure about that? Maybe you'd better double-check.
I've kept this inside for too long and I have to say this right now or I might explode. Erika, I fucking love you! Great post, again! :) (I almost had a real tear at the end. Really.)
I like this, but I'm not entirely sure WHY I like this. Maybe that's the brilliance of your writing. Dunno. That being said, I'll be the one to zero in on one point above - the one about helping people find the right jobs for them. Damn, it sucks out there. 30 percent of us are living in an underwater home. 30 percent of us are underemployed. Some of us have kids and bills, but just about all of us have bills. I'm going to say this: even if you ARE gainfully employed, there's going to be a potential business hookup that makes sense. It could be a contract gig for someone, it could be a business partner that one of your friends needs, it could be the thing that gets someone from their state of underemployment to a state of better employment. The advice in the blog post is awesome. I'm going to suggest THIS, too: don't say "how can I help?" Instead, say "here is how I would like to help." And it's something specific. "Bob, I thought of you...XYZ company is looking to hire a leader in the field of metallurgical social media marketing, and I know that's your thing. I also know Chuck over there at XYZ, and I would like to connect you two via LinkedIn. Even though I know you are gainfully employed, Chuck is a great person to know..." Thanks again for the slap.
Maybe I'm in the 1% of readers who agree with every bit of this (haha) but what a timely and effective statement. Thank you for the slap. x.
To me, Black Friday also represents something else pretty despicable, which is that we've been brainwashed into believing low prices are the single most important thing when it comes to spending our money. This thinking is what allowed WalMart to get away with demanding severe price cuts from American manufacturers like Huffy Bicycles, which had to leave the US in order to lower their labor costs. Shopping by price has destroyed lots of good-paying jobs in this country, and we have only ourselves to blame for it.
Hi Red! I haven't commented here in a while, but you always hit your mark. I love your ability to slap without prejudice - political or economical. Thank you. The biggest reason I love today's slap is because it connected with me right above the jawline and I think your ring might have drawn a little blood :) I am currently part of the 9% looking for work and I've been a bit whiny about it lately. You've encouraged me to get beyond myself and find a way to be a part of the solution, even if my own problems remain. For that, I owe you tons of sparkly thoughts and a hug if I was in Denver.
Well, I agree with you that the system is broken. But we may disagree with what about it is broken. The reason that I've participated in some of the local Occupy protests is because I think the political system is so broken that we no longer have a democracy of, for, and by the people. It's now of, for, and by the corporations. Corporations fund the ads (with no accountability, now) that get representatives elected; they literally write the legislation that is supposed to regulate corporations and establish cozy quid-pro-quo relationships with the supposed regulators; and they essentially buy the votes to pass the legislation, through their campaign donations to Congressional representatives. Our representatives don't work for we, the people, at all anymore. They work for faceless business entities and their insanely wealthy owners. It is possible to take small steps such as buying locally/small and avoiding Black Friday. But it's not feasible in this society to live without buying and without buying largely from these big corporations. (You can choose to live a very fringe lifestyle and do so, but not very easily.) Our free market system has run amok. I don't believe that the free market is some ultimate truth that must simply be allowed to thrive. I believe we shape the world we want--and that means that we actually get to decide what economic system we want in America. Right now, the free market system we have in place puts too much emphasis on short-term profits and not enough on the long-term impact on society, our economy, and the world. The Occupy folks I've met aren't against people making money and doing well. They are against a system where smaller and smaller numbers of people can make money and do well. Against a political and economic system that is working to benefit an increasingly smaller minority instead of the majority.
Have you considered that, perhaps, it's because we've become a nation of consumers versus our history of being creators? Our free market has taken numerous things overseas and out of US production. Why? Cheaper. Just another perspective to throw into the argumentative fire :)
I agree with you there. One of the oddities of our economy is that it is built on the idea of constant and growing levels of consumption. I never understood how people thought we could just endlessly grow consumption. And I agree with you on the overseas issue, too. But, again, that's because our current capitalist system puts an emphasis on profit over all else. Companies want to be as competitive and profitable as possible, and that means cheaper production, which means oversees. Once a few (Walmart) start the trend, the others don't have a lot of choice. If our economic systems was such that companies were penalized (say, very heavy taxes) when they took actions that were detrimental in the long-run to the US, then they would make different choices. Even the banking/housing crisis is a case where different incentives could have stopped the rush to make a short-term profit. The choices the financial industry made actually hurt them because of the prolonged recession that followed. But there were no systems in place that would penalize them for making those choices which were in their short-term interests, nor incent them to make choices that might result in lower profits now but provide a better long-term economy for the US--which ultimately is better for the businesses as well. That's exactly what I mean about our free market system. We need to make some fundamental changes that put carrots and sticks which will force companies to think longer-term and more broadly so that they have economic reasons to act in the best long-term interest of the US.
In my home, Black Friday is also known as Triptophan Friday. The mashed potatoes are reheated, I can scramble for dark meat without kicking away my nephew. The dressing and gravy taste even better, and the cranberries are properly cold. Why would I leave this to fight a mob at WalMart? It's hard enough for me to endure that place on a slow, hot Tucson summer evening in August!
:) Heh maybe it would surprise you to know that, as someone who's rubbed shoulders with anarchists and peaceniks and homeless people and business people and moms and Egyptians for the last 4 or so weeks at Occupy Oakland . . . breath . . . I kinda dig what you wrote here. I for one will celebrate Plaid Friday and spend some of my free time in the next few weeks encouraging local shops of all kinds to provide a way for their customers to buy and give more - a la Toys For Tots - this holiday season. People are the priority, not ideology. Relationships matter. Listening counts as action. Be Love, and the rest will follow.
Girl, you just rock! Please tell me when our country turned onto a bunch of whiny little "fuck-twits"? What would would we be if our forefathers thought this way? A British commonwealth that's what--sipping tea and eating crumpets. We'd be...Canada. J/k Canada, much love. My point is our history is filled with people got tired of the bullshit of the day and stepped up and did something about it. Stop whining on Wall Street and start building on Main Street. Thanks for the slap...I'll pass it along. ;-)
This is how I've felt about Black Fridays for a long time. I worked at one at a Wal-mart. If that doesn't keep you from shopping at them, well, you're even more twisted than I am (and all I have to say there is "Wow!") I love hearing from someone that holds a similar view, and it's nice to know I won't be the only one hiding from the insane selfishness that is Black Friday. I would much rather spend the time with family, relaxing and enjoying my day. And I could hug and kiss you and send you liquor filled chocolates for your feelings on "Just get another job." Having worked there, it really isn't that easy to get out. It's not that they're a cult, but it can be hard to find another job. Wal-mart, Target, those sort of companies look for people that don't really have anywhere else to go. They usually desperately need the benefits that working at that sort of place can get them, and once they're there, they usually never feel comfortable leaving. Some love it at these retailers, and to them I say "more power to you!" But to the people that want other things in life, it can be depressing since you don't really get a wide variety of skills that transfer to other lines of work. It's not impossible, but it is damn hard. So, thank you, thank you for reaching out and offering others help, and thank you for this bitch slap, reminding people that the Friday after Thanksgiving can be used for something besides finding the biggest discount.
I love you. One of my biggest issues with all of the crap going on right now is the pervasive use of the word, "they". Who are "they", exactly? You are right on the money and I appreciate you slapping us and saying what needs to be said.
I wish this post would air on, likee, MTV or Fox News or something - so it can get out to the people who actually need to hear it. Then again, they'd probably be watching it on the 5000 inch plasma screen they got for $13 at last year's Black Friday sale.
They do have a certain criteria for the female commentators they bring on board. And you do fit that criteria. Just sayin.
The only thing Bill O'Reilly can look down is my sleeve as he gets a fist in his face for looking down my shirt.
What, like tits? You'd like this piece on the meritocracy in media: http://www.salon.com/2011/11/14/americas_meritocratic_watchdog_news_media/