A funny thing happens when you hold fringe beliefs. Your worldview shifts ever so slightly to the point when you just assume, rightly or wrongly, that everyone shares them. I for one am vaguely shocked when I find out that a new aquaintance eats meat, even though only 1-2% of the North American population are vegetarians. Because I do not eat meat anymore, on some level I assume no one else does either, in spite of my 29 or so years of quite heavy meat consumption and the fact that it is literally everywhere.
Anyway. One – or at least I – tends to assume that everyone agrees with one’s opinions, even the unpopular ones. So here’s something that I think everyone should agree with, even though I know they don’t:
Stupid, lazy, uneducated people who make bad decisions still have the right to live decently.
By this I mean: even if you drop out of school, do drugs, have unwise numbers of children, or just slack off, if you have a job you have a right to earn a salary that will keep you fed, clothed, housed, medically cared for, and generally OK. I think that if your job requires the full-time attention of an adult human being, it should pay a living wage.
But here in what is theoretically the 1st world, many people are working jobs that just do not pay enough to keep a cat alive. And they’re supposed to be grateful for that, because at least they’re not chained to sewing machines in Chinese sweatshops for 16 hours a day. (If you don’t believe that anyone would say that, go on Twitter and search #ows. About half of the tweets will be a variation on “Dirty hippies!/Get a job!/You should be grateful you’re being paid at all!”) So people work 2-3 jobs, cobbling together a subsistence income out of the scraps.
And if you, like me, have been reading both We Are the 99 Percent and We are the 53 Percent, you will know that you get really proud of yourself for surviving under these circumstances. And it’s good to be proud of that, just like it’s good to be proud of surviving a war or a famine, but you know what?
I think you shouldn’t have to struggle like that forever.
No one should have to work 70 hours/week just to get by. No one. I don’t care how stupid and unskilled you are, you should be able to get by on 40 hours a week tops. If you want to work more to save up some extra money or just because you really love your job, great! Go to town! But we cannot live in a world where that level of toil is the *minimum*, because all of us deserve better than that.
There’s a famous exchange in Brecht’s Life of Galileo:
ANDREA: Unhappy the land that has no heroes! . . .
GALILEO: No, unhappy the land that needs heroes.
A system that requires heroism just to function is not a system that is working.
We are not a poor society. We have tonnes of money to spend on stuff we really care about, like celebrations commemorating the War of 1812 (Canadians: you’ve been lied to! We didn’t win! It was a tie!) and extra prisons to house all the people who’ll have mandatory minimum sentences imposed on them. We have enough money to keep everyone out of dire poverty.
But, like I said, I know that a lot of people just do not agree. They think that if you do a shitty job you should have a shitty life, and it’s your own fault for being born poor/making bad life decisions/just not being very smart.
So I don’t know what to do other than found my own fiefdom on an abandoned oil rig. I have to say, as an option it looks better and better every day.