[This post from September, 2006, is worth repeating. This was composed nearly two years ago, long before Barack Obama was mentioned as a presidential contender, but it addresses problems that resonate with the roots of his political origins. The challenges facing the working poor are not far removed from those of the unemployed. I have spent my entire adult life interacting as a manager with that segment of our population and the years have still not jaded me to their plight.
Readers who drill into the links, especially my 9/11 post, may better understand why I an Obama supporter.]
I have mixed feelings about Barbara Ehrenreich and her work. She is the professional journalist who spent more than a year gathering material for her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America , an account of how hard life is among the working poor. She has a good heart and sheds light on some very dark corners of our economy. I can relate to her sympathies because my own food service career has exposed me to many of the same problems. Unlike her, however, I was not able to crank out what it takes to be a professional journalist/muckraker, paying the rent by being published in some of America's most notable magazines and newspapers. Instead, it was my task to come to terms with the challenges of the marketplace, managing those problems as best I could.
This is not the time to outline a general business philosophy, but in a nutshell I saw my job as a manager as two-fold. On one hand I had to be the only voice of the company on the property, executing policies and doing all I could to insure that customer satisfaction, quality control and profitability. On the other hand the human resources available to me were limited by the marketplace. My take on low wages and the economy is more nuanced than that of Barbara Ehrenreich but her work is sound and her heart seems to be in the right place.
In this column from Huffington Post she speaks of shame as a verb.
Shaming can be a more effective means of social control than force. The peasant who stepped out of line could be derided for daring to question his "betters." The woman who spoke out against patriarchal restrictions could be dismissed as a harridan or even a slut. It doesn't always work, of course. In 1994, Dan Quayle and rightwing writer Charles Murray launched an initiative to "re-stigmatize" out-of-wedlock births by restoring the old pejorative term "illegitimate." But somehow the country wasn't ready to label millions of babies bastards.
Shame was far more effective in the build-up to welfare reform. Consistently stereotyped as lazy, promiscuous parasites, welfare recipients largely failed to rally in their own defense. I remember talking to a young (white) woman who professed great enthusiasm for draconian forms of welfare reform - only to admit that she herself had been raised on welfare by a beloved and plucky single mother. That's deeply internalized shame.
The ultimate trick is to make people ashamed of the injuries inflicted upon them. In many cultures, rape renders a woman an unmarriageable pariah. In Pakistan today - one of our more embarrassing "allies" - a woman who brings charges of rape can be punished for "adultery." Even in America, many women's first response to sexual harassment or assault is to feel soiled and shamed, as if she had brought the unwanted advances on herself.
Something similar goes on in the case of the laid off and unemployed, thanks to the prevailing Calvinist form of Protestantism, according to which productivity and employment are the source of one's identity as well as one's income. Not working? Then what are you? And to put the Calvinist message in crude theological terms: go to hell.re you? And to put the Calvinist message in crude theological terms: go to hell.
This provocative article is worth a read. I don't come to exactly the same conclusions the writer does but the points are well-made. Blaming the victim is the typical response that comfortable, well-placed people have toward someone whose life is in a shambles because their job has been taken away by no fault of their own. I am sick to death of hearing about bad choices and other stupid comments from those whose lifestyle is often the result of being at the right place at the right time, born into the right family or having a vision of success that was simply better and more successfully executed than that of others whose imaginations were as limited as their education, IQ or competition for the gold ring.
My September 11 post complained about polarization. Illustrating that polarization of the voting public are two comments from the comment thread. One is from an apologist for the Administration, summarizing the popular party line about the economy and all its sparkling success. The other is a point-by-point fisking of the first one, laced with profanity but spot on, I'm afraid, with the counterpoints made.
[The Huffpo comments thread does not have hyperlinks. The first comment is about tenth in the list by "busted." The counterpoint/fisking is about eight or nine posts later by "ManhattanMC".]
Addendum, February 2007:
Here are the two comments I mentioned, the second woven into the first...
There was no universal health insurance BEFORE Bush got into office. He has expanded Medicaid for children, authorized more states to use a variety of innovative programs to expand helath insurance for the uninsured, and passed a Medicare prescription program for theelderly. All of this is more than Clinton did in his Administration! So, THANKS FOR THE BUSH economic successes.
"Busty"-who apparently lives on a different planet, with looney toons laws of physics,writes: There was no universal health insurance BEFORE Bush got into office.
(And this pixie dust I sprinkle on everything keeps dragons away-works don't it ?)
He has expanded Medicaid for children,
(Translation: expedited a billion dollar give away of your tax dollars to the pharmaceutical industry so heinous that Tom Delay threatened the repug congressman who leaked it's bogus numbers to the press with punishment.)
authorized more states to use a variety of innovative programs to expand helath insurance for the uninsured,
(translation: evoked "states rights" to tell the poor falling through the safety net his mis-administration has damaged irreparably, "you're on your own suckers".)
and passed a Medicare prescription program for the elderly.
(That makes drugs more expensive than they are at Costco. There's a real accomplishment.)
All of this is more than Clinton did in his Administration!
(You can say that again.)
So, THANKS FOR THE BUSH economic successes.
(ROTFLMAO ! Strain at those gnats, Busty-swallow those camels.)
We have created 6 million new jobs since 2003.
Our unemployment rate is at record lows, and those seeking new unemployment benefits have declined significantly.Consumer confidence is zooming as is productivity, GNP growth, and wages.
Our unemployment rate is at record lows, and those seeking new unemployment benefits have declined significantly.
(Since your lecturing us, tell us quickly-how many people has Bush removed from the rolls because they've given up any hope of ever getting a job ? You don't know do you ? Know why ? That asswipe stopped the GAO from publishing that little factoid and all others damaging to his regime by executive order.And still you defend your tin horn hero.)
Consumer confidence is zooming
(Says whom-you ?)
as is productivity,
(As workers scramble like squirrels on flywheels to keep from hurtling into the abyss.)
(Unequally distributed you dumb fuck-CEO's get hundreds of millions while workers lose pension funds, health care and adequate compensation.)
(How is no increase in the minimum wage in nine years "zooming" ? Your dishonesty and/or mindless ignorance are beyond comprehension.)
When someone is laid off, it is very tough on that person. It is tough on a family. It sometimes requires coaches or mentor or therapists to recover from such events.
However, no one can overcome unemployment for you. Only you cn overcome it. It may require a major change in lifestyle or a relocation. It can be traumatic, but it is not insurmountable. The best solution is to have a plan, which many people do not do!
When someone is laid off, it is very tough on that person. It is tough on a family. It sometimes requires coaches or mentor or therapists to recover from such events.However, no one can overcome unemployment for you. Only you cn overcome it. It may require a major change in lifestyle or a relocation. It can be traumatic, but it is not insurmountable. The best solution is to have a plan, which many people do not do!
(Did you even read the post ? When corporate CEO s get greedy there are real honest to god victims.Blaming the victim is so very Republican.Shame on you.)
Thankfully, we live in prosperous times, thanks to the Bush economic recovery program, and fewer people face the trauma of unemployment. It is easier to find "a job" even if it is not "the job" you might prefer or be qualified for. In a "global environment" competition can be tough. Things can change at dizzying speeds. You need to be flexible as well as prepared!
Here is anothe quote that you might consider as opposed to Chick's, "Success (genius) is 90% perspiration and only 10% luck (inspiration)."
Thankfully, we live in prosperous times,
(How did that kool aid taste anyway ?)
thanks to the Bush economic recovery program,
(Tax cuts for the top one percent created new jobs like a charm right Busty ? You willfully blind dope.)
and fewer people face the trauma of unemployment.
(Again you twit-what part of "net loss of jobs" and "defaulting on pension plans" don't you understand ?)
It is easier to find "a job" even if it is not "the job" you might prefer or be qualified for.
(Right-what's the loss of seventy five percent or more of your income ? At least you can be part of the great leap forward.)
In a "global environment" competition can be tough. Things can change at dizzying speeds. You need to be flexible as well as prepared!
(Flexible enough to compete with prison slave labor in China-prepared to starve on the streets and freeze in doorways. One more repig with a granite heart.)
Here is anothe quote that you might consider as opposed to Chick's, "Success (genius) is 90% perspiration and only 10% luck (inspiration)."(For repugs how about 90% connection 10% theft ?)
(You really need to expand your information sources. Listening to Rush Limpdick is not the same as staying informed.)