Can’t Stand It – Addendum

I just want to add an addendum to this post. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and there are some things I want to make very clear. First, the bottom line is I want people to have the opportunity to live healthy, happy, and satisfying lives. That’s the bottom line. That’s what needs to happen. And I think discussions of raising the minimum wage are really trying to dig at that issue, but they’re falling far short. If my car is barely puttering along, belching smoke, tires flat, engine hemorrhaging oil, is the solution to add a bigger sprayer to the washer fluid so I can see more clearly? No. The car is dead, it’s time for a new one.

Second, I stand by that unskilled work isn’t worth much. It just isn’t. However, my reaction to that isn’t to force paying more for it. My reaction is to ask why someone would be doing that work with the goal of living a healthy, happy and satisfying life. Not to presume to know motivations of everyone out there, but I seriously doubt most retail associates at walmart are honestly trying to build a career out of it. It’s a job, it pays. Not much, but better than nothing. That’s no way to build a healthy, happy and satisfying life, and every single person working a shit job like that knows it.

But does forcing walmart to pay them more really solve the problem? I guess my secondary beef with this is I consider a lot of these kinds of jobs (and a whole host of other jobs, including my own) to be fundamentally useless, and destructive in the larger scale of things. Honestly, I’d rather we just cut these people a check for 40 hours at $15 bucks an hour, no-strings-attached, and be done with it. Because I know at the end of the day, even at a “good” job like mine, people would be a lot happier not doing that useless work.

I’ve said to friends that I really want one of two things: Either to work at a job I can really believe in as long as is pays enough to live and eat (and that’s not a lot at all), or work somewhere where I get payed so much, I don’t give two shits what it is I’m doing. Well, for me personally, the amount I’d have to be paid to not give a shit is higher than I can ever expect to see, so option one is all there is. And people forget, not all minimum wage jobs are for shitty corporate behemoths. Raising the minimum wage might destroy jobs that are allowing people to meet that first option. That would just push us backwards.

I think if people really did some hard thinking and soul searching, they’d find that they agree with that sentiment as well. Raising the minimum wage does NOT get us to option 1. All it does is allow us to see a little more clearly while we continue to hobble down the road in our crippled car.

Bottom Line

When you work really hard at something, and devote criminal amounts of  time, energy and resources and still come up miles short, that sucks. There’s no sugar-coating it. That’s the bottom line: it sucks. Hard.

You’ll feel broken. How could you possibly do all that, engineer to perfection, and still fail over and over and over? Something must be broken.

You’ll feel exhausted, because it is exhausting to fall down that many times and still stand back up (if you even still can).

You’ll feel stupid and inferior. Usually when something doesn’t work repeatedly, it’s an inferior or ill-designed piece of equipment.

You’ll walk in endless circles. What was missed? One more time around, you’ll find it.

Finally, you’ll feel scared.

At this point I just want something to work. Anything. If path A is not meant to be, fine, I can come to terms with that and adjust my life, but you have to open path B for me, or C or D, I don’t care. I have to catch some kind of alternative, because I’m massively jammed up right now. If the alternative won’t present itself, I’ll force path unknown by just walking away.

Can’t Stand It

Look, I’m sorry but no company (not Walmart, McDonalds or Al Harrington’s Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man Emporium) is compelled to pay workers a “living wage”. That’s a highly subjective term anyway. This DOES NOT mean that I don’t think people deserve a livable wage. If you don’t like that Walmart or whoever pays such shitty wages, don’t shop there, don’t work there. There are NO rules that say a company has to pay its workers anything. Why? Because it would be a slippery slope. If all potential workers told Walmart to take their sub-$8 wages and go fuck themselves, Walmart would have to pay more or die.

When I took my job, I entered into an agreement with the company. I do this for you, you pay me this in return. At any point in time, it’s well within my right to ask to amend that agreement, but under no circumstances is the company compelled to accept the amendments I request. If we can’t work it out, I can either remain with the existing agreement, or walk out the door.

And something else. Companies pay people what the work is worth. Unskilled work isn’t worth much because anyone can and will do it. That’s just how it is. But how come no one ever asks the question: Why are so many people in a position where they have to take that or nothing? That’s a really, really tough question to answer and it cuts deep across our entire culture and economy. You’d better work on answering it though, because it’s the only question that matters.

Look, I’d love it if people were paid more. Everyone wants to be able to support themselves. But a lot of these jobs just can’t do that. The answer is to have more jobs that can. And if there aren’t enough, then we need to decide as a group what that means. Do we really want to consume just for the sake of jobs? Are there too many of us. For christ’s sake, ask the right questions! Forcing companies to pay more is a shitty band aid. It completely misses the target of the real issues here.