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.