Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Work is a human right. It is the activity of a human person; it can never be considered as mere merchandise, as has happened in the past and still happens nowadays. Treating workers as mere tools does no justice to their personal dignity.

Laborem Exercens

Pope John Paul II


I am not in the habit of quoting Catholic teachings in my blogs, but this quote from Pope John Paul II reflects an issue that has bothered me for some time. Social justice is a term used in derision by many Conservatives, especially those on the so-called “religious” right. However, social justice is just as critical to peace as any other form of justice, and we live in one of the most unjust societies in American history. Unemployment and employment at wages at poverty level are becoming a permanent part of our society – at a terrible cost to many American families. Ultimately, if we don’t stop the institutionalization of unemployment, there will be no peace and order.

Some people might argue that the age of slavery was the most unjust era, and it they wouldn’t be wrong. However, we now live in a time in our Country’s history when men and women of all races and ages are slowly being led into economic slavery – to a society where we can no longer afford to own much property and where our freedoms are voided by our need to remain trapped by low paying jobs.

To say that we have a 9% unemployment rate is deceptively antiseptic. It does not include nearly as many people unemployed so long that they have given up and fallen off the official lists. It also does not include another important fact: that many of the people employed now are underemployed in jobs that have wages approaching those of 3rd world countries. This is one reason why the rate of poverty has exploded in America. It is one reason why a household can have two wage-earners and still not make ends meet.

It is true that more Americans are unemployed, more Americans are underemployed, more Americans are impoverished that at any time since the Great Depression. It is not a coincidence that the decline of unions has led to a decline in the middle-class. Unions protected the dignity and the safety of works. They created the living wage and the American middle-class. In this period of flagrant union-busting, it would serve us well to understand the alternatives of working poverty or unemployment.

It is also true that American wealth is greater than any society in the history of mankind. What? That’s right folks, there is more wealth in America today than in any society in the history of mankind, except it is all kept by a tiny number of people, not through labors of their own, but by virtue of laws that value financial. That is the fundamental injustice of our Government and society in general: we value wealth obtained through investments in financial markets rather than the dignity of man.

One Response to Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

  1. InYourFaceNewYorker says:

    So much I want to say in response to this great post, so forgive me for another chapter of “War & Peace…”

    Your post could not have come at a better time. Right now I at my wit’s end and what you describe in your post is the story of my life. I am thirty years old and I graduated from college, where I studied film/animation, in 2003 (and no, I can’t afford to even consider a career in those areas, not in this economy, so I’m doing my artwork on the side). I thought, at most, that it would take me two years to get on my feet and I would be supporting myself without my parents’ help. But that was in the post-9/11 economy, not THIS economy. Over the past EIGHT YEARS, I’ve been from one dead-end job to another and I haven’t climbed a ladder of any kind. I’ve moved horizontally, if that makes sense, and I don’t have a career. I eventually got a government job which lasted a grand total of 9 months; government cutbacks resulted in the layoffs of recent hires. I’m going to write my congressman and state representative soon…

    I started pursuing my Master’s in 2008, but in this economy tertiary education only looks good if you are a doctor, lawyer, or computer programmer. Yesterday, a job counselor advised me to remove my Master’s from my resume because it MAKES ME LOOK OVERQUALIFIED. Last year, a career counselor at my school said something along the lines of, “You know what was the first thing I noticed about you? You’re a lot more intelligent than most people, and I think employers see that and think you’re overqualified and that you’ll get bored.” And it’s true, people have often told me I’m overqualified. Sorry, I can’t pretend to be Sarah Palin. And when I go to interview for jobs that require high intelligence, I’m told that I don’t have enough experience or the required Piece of Paper.

    Yossarian: That’s some catch, that Catch-22!
    Doc Daneeka: It’s the best there is!

    I really hate it at interviews when employers ask me where I see myself in five years. Jesus Christ. Are they really that oblivious that they think that this is a reasonable question in an economy where people are struggling just to not starve to death? I don’t know where I’m going to be in five MINUTES, let alone five YEARS!

    Or how about how most jobs don’t come with health insurance? That is true, at least in NYC. What I can’t stand is when they say, always with a big, friendly, smile, “Oh, you don’t need health insurance! You’re young and healthy, right?” That mantra right there perfectly illustrates that in America we have sickcare and not healthcare as well as the pervasive American attitude that in treating illness we should address the symptoms, not the cause. First of all, I take happy pills and medication to lower my cholesterol (high cholesterol is in my family) so, yes, I need insurance to manage myself daily. Even if I didn’t take medication, it’s important to get a checkup every year and get vaccinated. Not just that, but what if something happens?

    My mother, father, and I have all had brushes with death. When I was seven years old, I got kicked in the back by my aunt’s horse. I suffered three broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a contusion of the spleen. I was in the hospital for a week, out of school for another week, and if I recall correctly it took about a month for my lung to heal. How much would this hospital visit have cost if my parents’ hadn’t had insurance? What if it would have been too expensive to be treated without it? To be fair, I actually don’t think it was life-threatening (it’s for reasons like this that animals evolved two lungs instead of one, and you really only need one to survive!), but who knows what complications might have resulted had it not been treated?

    When he was 40, my father contracted the same strain of pneumonia that killed Jim Henson. He thought it was just the flu, but when he woke up one morning with purple blotches on his face, he realized he had to go to the hospital. They pumped him with heavy doses of a cocktail of antibiotics (it was so urgent and time-sensitive that they gave him a bit of everything before diagnosing, to be on the safe side!) constantly for about a week and he made a full recovery within that week. The doctors also told my mother that if they had waited another day, my father likely would have died. Again, how much would this visit have cost without insurance? What if my parents wouldn’t have been able to afford it? My young and otherwise healthy father would have died at age 40!

    When my mother was 47, she had a brain hemorrhage. The doctors said that there was a 90% chance that she would need brain surgery to clean out the blood. Fortunately, the blood was only on the surface of her brain and the only thing they could really do was just wait for her body to reabsorb it… and dope her up on codeine during her hospital stay (which was less than a week long, incredibly) and give her a cocktail of painkillers to take home while she spent the summer recovering. She made a full recovery, which is just incredible. The doctor told my father that my mother was lucky to not need the brain surgery, let alone lucky to be alive. Again, what if my family didn’t have health insurance? I actually recall my father telling me that my mother’s treatment would have been $50,000 without it. Again, her hemorrhage wasn’t life-threatening, but without being able to go the hospital and without being able to get the cocktail of painkillers, she would have suffered in horrible pain all summer while she recovered. Even with the painkillers there were some problems. She was sensitive to sound, and one time my father had to ask the neighbor outside to stop hammering a nail.

    Right now my best friend thinks he might have hypertension because he took one of those pharmacy blood pressure tests and the digital display indicated “stage one hypertension.” He also found out that his heart rate is 110. He can’t afford to go to a doctor so he called me. Why me? Because he knows that I read a lot of science books watch a lot of medical documentaries and hoped that perhaps I knew something about hypertension. I don’t. This shows you how desperate people are today, that a guy who can’t afford to go to a doctor asks for advice from his friend who reads science books and watches medical documentaries! I told him to Google it and I also told him to stop slowly killing himself with fast food and to get exercise (the fact that he’s normal weight is incredible, considering the destructive way he eats). But seriously, the fact that he’s denied this basic human right of a doctor’s visit to get his heart examined is just a disgrace. You don’t fuck around with cardio issues, that much I DO know! If he weren’t only 28 years old I would be more than mildly concerned about him.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: