THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM: WE’RE GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT THIS EASTER
It’s Easter Sunday, the Feast of Our Lord’s Resurrection and conquest over sin and death. I have much to be thankful for: good health, a way to support myself, access to education and knowledge, and a loving and supportive family.
In that respect, I must add that we don’t see eye to eye on many issues. I just got back from Easter supper at one member of my family’s house and his family and was confronted, as usual, with diametrically-opposed views on virtually all stances on society’s problems. Particularly differing were we on socio-economic issues and their moral implications regarding personal versus collective responsibility of the individual for their own outcome versus the state’s moral responsibility to act in a benign and benevolent fashion to intervene collectively on behalf of the individual citizen so as to come to the aid of said individual and improve his or her chances of either achieving prosperity or rising out of poverty by supporting the individual’s capability to rise above the most basic level of subsistence so as to have a better chance of earning surplus wealth which will then permit them to accede to the ownership of property and engage in a sustained and sustainable level of material consumption so as to permit them to establish and maintain and perpetuate a healthy social fabric, such as we are having difficulty doing at the present time.
The members of my family were all of an opinion that the cost of labour was being kept artificially ‘too high’ by having such ideologically erroneous and heretical interventions such as minimum wage legislation, which, in their opinion, was causing ‘market distortions’ and cases of ‘unfairness’ because students were now earning roughly $11-12/hr for basic retail customer service jobs, whereas an apprentice mechanic, who is learning a skilled trade, is earning the same amount. I did not wish to interject to ratchet up the tone of the argument any higher than it was already above the already considerable din of the violent shooter game which was being played at that moment, since the mood in the room was already fairly tense.
However, I would have liked to say that an apprentice mechanic earns minimum wage with the expectation that he will soon earn much more upon graduation, and his employer is basically doing him a favour by paying him a base salary to learn on the job in the first place. Whereas the retail sales or customer service associate is a relatively unskilled person who is working at a job which requires no particular technical skill to execute. But even then, I would beg to differ. After having worked the last year for a number of months as a CSR in a call centre production environment at between $10.50 to $12.50/hr, I would have to say that those jobs require a considerable amount of literacy and numeracy skills, as well as short and long term memorization skills to be applied in an immediate and under-pressure environment, as well as a considerable amount of logical reasoning skills, problem solving skills and conflict resolution skills as well as time and spatial management skills, all under considerable amounts of pressure and duress. The fact that there is such a high rate of turnover in these jobs is proof positive that not ‘anybody can do it’, as many purport to be the case, and management’s chronic undervaluation of call centre employees from a pay scale viewpoint is more a testament to the overall poverty of the global population than any ease of which said jobs can be executed efficiently and with dignity and grace.
The argument that wages should be allowed to be adjusted to the so-called imperative of the ‘free market’ has not a single element of ‘freedom’ in it. In Economic History we study that so-called ‘Free Enterprise’ has an axiom called the ‘Iron Law of Wages’, whereby, left to its own devices, unfettered by any interference from government or organized labour organizations, the so-called ‘free enterprise’ system of economic development has had, and continues to have, a tendency to grind down wages to a bare subsistence level. We have seen this since the Industrial Revolution and we now see it happening again in the wake of the de-industrialization of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and the Quebec/Windsor Corridor in Canada. Especially in America, we are now seeing incidences of wages going as low as $2.50/hour for a waitressing job and $9.50/hour for an administrative assistant.
To say that such wages are meant to be supplementary positions to a main bread winner’s income, or that the waitress job earns tips, is patently hypocritical, as most of the ‘main bread winner’s’ jobs, which are supposed to act as an anchor for such supplementary forms of income, have been brutally and summarily eliminated by a concerted and willfully perpetrated and perpetuated campaign of union busting and antagonistic ‘right to work’ legislation, which puts barriers in the way of workers’ rights to organize collectively and to be properly and duly represented collectively before the law in regards to their employers at the bargaining table, leaving them prey to all manner of coercion, socio-economic browbeating, threats, and a constant fear that whatever little economic security they have might summarily be taken away from them by the stroke of the legislator’s pen or of the Board of Director’s corporate fiat, thereby reducing them once again to the level of social and economic debt servitude, thereby only reinforcing the theory all the more clearly that we are currently living within the parameters of an increasingly rapidly emerging era of postmodern proto fascist plutocratic elite corporate feudalism.
How anybody is expected to earn a living on such pitiful wages is beyond me. How anybody can ever hope to rise above the basic level of subsistence is astounding when you consider that in today’s world, the basic ‘necessities of life’ are much more technologically complex and expensive than before or even right after WWII. Even with the lowering cost of electronics, it is still very costly to keep up with the expectation that everybody should have a computer with internet, ideally wireless, a cell phone which is ideally web-enabled, a television with some sort of package to view content above and beyond the basic essentials, some sort of music-playing device, some sort of game console, a microwave oven, fridge, stove, washer and dryer, automobile, radio, vacuum cleaner and so on. All on a wage of between $2.50 to $9.50 an hour! What if the person lives alone and does not have another income coming in to supplement such meagre income? (Who would want to marry anybody or move in with somebody with such unattractive socio-economic prospects? I know that for myself, lack of steady and sufficiently high paying work has long been a reason why I never got married, since I was never socio-economically attractive enough to any member of the opposite sex to be considered a ‘good catch.’ What woman wants to get hitched to a guy who doesn’t come with a steady paycheque, good benefits, paid holidays and a pension plan, or who at least has a good shot at rising up into some sort of situation where he has a chance at supporting himself and a wife and kids? Think about it a minute!)
The biggest growing demographic of people in North America are people living alone. Why is that? Because our society does not support the winning socio-economic conditions to permit people, especially men, to land good-paying employment to enable them to support themselves much less a family because we are too busy supposedly ‘creating more wealth’ by enabling management to offshore and nearshore jobs to Mexico and Asia and to reward themselves handsomely through outrageous executive compensation packages by shifting employment overseas, yet repatriating the ‘wealth’ (i.e. the profits), back into the hands of management through corporate compensation and stock options as well as benefiting personal and institutional investors who are already wealthy enough to be unit holders of mutual funds in these corporations who thereby ‘grow their wealth’ by having their net worth in their portfolio grow for themselves as individuals or as institutional investors, but leaving the vast majority of the working class population of North America bereft of any means of re-establishing any semblance of socio-economic dignity and self-sufficiency and hope in a system which is increasingly stacked against them and which more than ever is reducing them to a state of debt-leveraged peonage and servitude, thus incurring all manner of illnesses such as mental health problems, addictions, suicide, and Domestic Violence.
So it gets my goat when I hear people say things such as these things I heard tonight, especially from people whom I love dearly and from whom I would expect more compassion and understanding than the discourse I hear from them. Unfortunately, I feel that the truth is being horribly distorted and corrupted by very wealthy and powerful people who have an agenda to for some reason attack the most vulnerable elements of society and to denigrate and commit all manner of moral character assassination of a sort of collective ‘ad hominem’ nature upon the working people of our continent and to imply, often explicitly if not implicitly that the working people of North America are morally undeserving, spoiled, lazy, overly entitled, and somehow need to be taken down a few notches and reduced to a state of abject poverty once again so as to make them better appreciate their citizenship here in this continent.
I think that such an elite hegemonic discourse smacks of the kind of fascist plutocratic social Darwinist and eugenics kinds of reasoning the likes of which we were witness to before the First and Second World Wars, and which the Second World War especially categorically disproved and debunked by virtue of the valiant and equal share of suffering and equally applied use of science and technology which was brought to bear on our populations to raise them out of the mire of poverty and equip them with the necessary tools to fight the enemy and to achieve such a resounding and categorical and unequivocal victory over our enemies. If we are to go this route once again, we bear the grave responsibility of once again committing the fatal error of drawing the human race once again into the quagmire of social and economic as well as socio-political and socio-religious and socio-cultural global confrontation between the re-emergent empire of the eastern alliance, led by China, who is reaping the greatest benefit from our economic and moral decline, and the empire of the west, led by the USA, who is still militarily dominant and culturally supreme by virtue of its powerful popular culture through Hollywood and domination of the electronic media and its content, but who is now financially strapped and demographically played out from a growth perspective and her population is increasingly sick, poor, obese and ignorant, despite being exposed to a more abundant than ever quantity of Mc garbage infotainment pop cultural potpourri of pap 24/7 by way of social media and the internet.
Where this is all leading is anybody’s guess. I’m just happy that my life is going well, but that I feel for the millions who are struggling because of the current deconstructionist climate in the west and how it is benefitting the east and how this is bringing the two halves of our planet closer and closer to armed struggle. I wonder if our Lord ever envisioned such a scenario ever being played out in this mortal coil? It must all be part of the Divine Plan otherwise it would not be so. Everything happens for a reason. I think our planet’s development along core-periphery lines is following a logical, yet tragic path of thesis, antithesis, synthesis which is all leading ultimately to a final establishment of a new thesis, which will emerge as the Phoenix out of the ashes of the crucible of human suffering that will be the ultimate eschatological reconciliation of a distinctly apocalyptic nature.
In the meantime, we must all live with grace and dignity in a most fallen world and do, as Voltaire said in his book of short stories entitled ‘Candide’, to ‘cultivate our garden’, meaning to cultivate the sanctity of our souls so as to produce ‘fruits and vegetables’ of a metaphysical nature which are worthy of receiving redemptive grace and salvation through Christ Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar and through his saving Word in the Good News of the Gospel, which has been handed down to us through Apostolic Succession, and through the Fathers of the Church, through the Saints and the Catechism of our most Holy Mother the Church.
Yes indeed, He is Risen Today and all Creation rightly gives Him praise, despite ourselves and our enduring culture kampf of temporal discord over the rights and privileges and prerogatives and aggregation and arrogation of money, power, property, prestige and personalities, which all have a tendency to lead us away from the true presence of the One Spirit of a Divine Creator who loves His creatures with a love which surpasses all human understanding and which cries out in the wilderness constantly for our self-seeking concupiscent selves to die to self and so to live and dwell in the one true and real presence of His Divine Majesty, made manifest every time we celebrate the Eucharist and partake of the sacred mysteries of His body and blood, shed once and for all time and space, for the redemption of sin.
So let us go forth with joy and peaceful predisposition of conscience and labour, in all that we do and all that we are, to make God’s earthly Kingdom worthy of Heavenly Grace and favour and to bring God’s Heavenly Kingdom that much closer to fulfillment here in this mortal coil. For this we came to bear witness, and for this we shall vouchsafe for generations to come, until every tear shall be washed away, and every wayward soul in every wayward ship shall be safely guided home to port and to obtain our final reward, to pass through the narrow gate, to thread ourselves through the eye of the needle, and to know, at long last, eternal repose in the Gardens of Eternity. Amen. Happy Easter everybody.