the idea of striking seems to have caught on, as even the usually deflated McDonald’s workers have rallied themselves a pride to shout with.
they’re complaining about the following:
“part-time work, contingent work, the inability to have control over one’s schedule … essentially no protections, and even where there’s existing protections, they’re not enforced … They don’t even approach living wage jobs,” and for most workers, “there are absolutely no benefits.”
does this sound familiar? because it’s practically the reality for anyone without a college-born job.
and in particular, those of us a bit too young to experience what actual, professional work is like.
most of us read that paragraph and relate to it. then quietly we wonder, “well, my job is shit like this. why aren’t we striking?”
one of the greatest quotes to describe the culture behind American working life was said by John Steinbeck. pretty sure you’ve read it by now:
“…the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
this mindset is cultivated from the very start of life in america (assuming you’re not already born into the upper class). it begins first with your struggling parents, who tell you of their origins. it’s reinforced later by teachers who were fortunate enough to live their dream of teaching but fail to tell you the financial slavery they’re deeply embedded in.
it’s later supplemented by the pop culture you idolize. shows, movies, and music of hard-working protagonists who struggle deeply until achieving whatever it is they desire. and they always achieve.
when you’re finally cognizant enough, the politicians will make sense to you. you will hear their fabricated tales of rags to riches, believe their immaculate speeches about hardships, and be moved by their thrilling conclusions. these conclusions are the same for either a party; work hard, be nice, achieve your dreams.
the cement has solidified and the pillars stabilized; you now believe you can become anything you want. you just have to work hard. you have to struggle.
that is always the condition, isn’t it. to struggle. that you can’t get what you want until you struggle.
this is where america fails.
the thing to ask is what exactly is “working hard”? what exactly is “struggle”? there’s a lot of things to struggle with. a lot of ways to “work hard”. “struggling” could be just remembering to wake up on time. “working hard” for some is as simple as completing the last paragraph of an essay for class. but these aren’t really the things that come to mind.
no, “struggle” and “working hard” usually conjures images of mind-numbing work, and soul-breaking atmospheres. to do things you don’t like with people who don’t respect you. for money that has no value to purchase things that don’t matter.
they tell us that “working hard” is what will make us succeed. but who exactly defines that? because if it remains that undefined, then aren’t we susceptible to doing anything? isn’t easy to make people do things they shouldn’t be doing in environments they shouldn’t be standing for if you just tell them “well, this is ‘working hard’”? that “we all have to ‘struggle’”?
america’s sacred clause is a very clever way to remove pride while pretending to instill it. to ask you to lose dignity while suggesting that you’re gaining it. do things you don’t want to. sacrifice precious time for common shit. compromise personal aspirations for a business you don’t own and never will.
it is easy to dismiss this with a simple #firstworldproblems. and it is. but i’d rather “struggle” on my own terms. “work hard” in the ways i choose to. the “first world” does not offer that.