Min/Max

No, it’s not that difficult to serve a burger and fries. You don’t have to go to college for it, so it can’t require that much skill. People that can’t even put a burger or taco together without screwing it up are basically not even trying – certainly they shouldn’t get paid any more money.

Although, I guess I can see how screwing up like, one burger out of the 200 or so you made that day is a little more understandable. Or accidentally forgetting that six of the twenty burritos you just put together were supposed to be meat-free, not bean-free. And of those six, half were supposed to have no cheese. Now you have to remake everything while a crabby vegan stands outraged at the inconvenience of having to wait, and your manager proceeds to crawl up your ass about keeping orders straight during lunch rush.

Actually, now that I think about it, most fast food menus are just the same five or six ingredients endlessly recombined to give the illusion of variety. Constantly churning out the proper sequence under severe time pressure actually does sound a little bit difficult to do. Or at least easy to screw up.

Ok, so maybe it is not exactly easy work. And maybe it is a tiny bit soul-crushingly repetitive. But it’s not like it’s dangerous or anything. It’s not like you have to deal with angry, crazy, entitled people all day. It’s not like you have to do anything risky, like apprehend thieves or hold back a herd of humans desperately stampeding toward savings.

Right. So, there does appear to be an element of danger which emerges at the confluence of boiling oil, slippery floors and the pressure to move as quickly as possible. And, yes, mistakes are inevitable – for any job over a long enough time period – but really, so what? I think the main point is that none if this is very important work – as in not terribly crucial to anyone. Nobody’s life hangs in the balance. Nobody will go to war or anything if a mistake is made. No economies will crash. A burger flipper doesn’t have to deal with the stress of having a job that’s . . . you know, meaningful. As such, the wage should reflect that.

But sometimes people decide that the work you are doing is actually important.

Someone trying to squeeze the maximum profit out of the industry thinks it is very important that you do your job as efficiently as possible. You manager thinks it is very important that their specific restaurant is the cleanest, friendliest and most presentable. Their McFranchise should be the best possible representation of McFranchise culture. And they want to have the best numbers on whatever scorecard determines promotions or bonuses. It’s all important to them, and they will apply whatever pressure is necessary to let you know that it is important.

And you had better believe that burger is important to the customer. Depending on the day the customer has had, prior to stepping up to that counter, it might be the most important thing in the world to them. They might have been shopping all day with their insufferable kids, or trying to get food as quickly as possible in the fifteen minutes they have been given for a lunch break. Or they just haven’t had a triple slopstack in a while, and it’s been a rough day, so fuck it, why not.

Prepare for the righteous, indignant fury that shall descend upon you if you ruin that for them, because HONESTLY IT’S JUST A GODDAMN BURGER, HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

So there are a lot of people who depend on that burger flipper, and so a lot of people are applying pressure to make sure the job is done right. Often while still insisting that you are doing nothing worthwhile with your life.

This is the case in a lot of minimum wage areas (which are not just burger flipping jobs, fyi).

These aren’t practice jobs for kids. Perhaps once upon a time they were, but it is clear that these days you are meant to treat it like a proper, for really-real grown-up job. At a practice job, you wouldn’t be pressured to come in when you are sick. You wouldn’t be on-call. You wouldn’t be fired for being unable to come in at a moment’s notice because you need to study for a test. It would be understood by the employers that these were not “real jobs”, merely training for a real job you will hold at some later date.

But that’s not the way it is. You are not expected to be a student first and an employee second – you are expected to be dedicated to the job. You are expected to work as though you anticipate sharing in the wealth you generate, with the understanding that you are greedy to actually demand more money. You are expected to be grateful to have the job and experience anxiety at the prospect of losing it.

If a wealthy industry prioritizes pushing employees to generate more wealth, they assign a level of importance to the task. If they expect an employee to take on the dedication and stress level appropriate to that importance, then they can certainly pay a wage appropriate to that dedication.

In reality though, the people opposed to a minimum wage increase (or to having one at all) do not look at it like that. From their perspective, they shouldn’t have to pay you very much because you are easily replaceable part in a machine. It is less impactful if you wear out, because there are a lot of spares.

From their perspective, you are an abundant natural resource. As such, you should be as cheap as the market permits.

From their perspective, the point is not how difficult, how dangerous or how significant is your work.

The point is simply this: Fuck you.

Fuck you, you tedious little plebs, and all the insipid things you need, desire or deserve.

People are not paid based strictly on their mastery of some skill or the utility of goods they produce. Neither are they compensated in proportion to the expense and effort involved in acquiring a skill or the level of risk or wear involved in a task. These things are only ever rewarded indirectly. We pay for skill measured against the scarcity of similarly skilled people. We pay people based on the value they provide measured against the avalability of others who might readily provide that same value. Or the willingness of others to take on the same risk.

That seems obvious. I honestly feel a bit silly stating it.

And with an ever increasing pool of people that are competing for these jobs, those hiring for them feel ever more comfortable pushing standards higher and wages lower. It doesn’t matter that you can’t afford basic necessities. So long as the overall machine doesn’t break, it doesn’t really matter if you do.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/22/pregnant-woman-robbery/26173521/
http://wdtn.com/2015/05/05/dollar-general-employee-suspended-for-failing-to-stop-robbery/
http://www.dol.gov/minwage/mythbuster.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_slavery
http://www.marketplace.org/topics/wealth-poverty/more-people-need-second-jobs-fewer-can-find-them
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/in-retail-life-on-the-job-often-leads-to-a-dead-end/
https://www.nytexaminer.com/2012/02/new-york-times-critiques-free-market-capitailsm/
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/homeless-by-choice-how-to-live-for-free-in-america/254118/2/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/27/fast-food-jobs-real_n_6028404.html
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-27/minimum-wage-increase-in-u-s-will-probably-promote-spending.html
http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/06/20/503112/studies-increasing-the-minimum-wage-during-times-of-high-unemployment-doesnt-hurt-job-growth/
http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/odnirast.html
http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/30/news/economy/fast-food-educated-older/
http://www.reddit.com/comments/j55wn
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=3993076
http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/04/02/3422111/wage-theft-poll-mcdonalds/

This is not about R. Kelly

But let’s talk about R. Kelly for a minute.

Columbus is hosting a ‘thing’ called the Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF). The headliner for this event was meant to be R. Kelly. This did not sit well with several people in Columbus, so they became very . . . present in the lives of the people organizing, sponsoring, attending or otherwise involved with the event.

Bret Adams (who handled the booking) said there was no issue with R. Kelly as the headliner. Why? Not because he was acquitted – that was not the crux of Adams’ argument. Not because he believes in R. Kelly’s innocence. He saw no issue because it presented a good opportunity. Because, fame. Because, money.

Look at the things he says – the things he emphasizes. He is telling you exactly what he thinks is important.

Adams, a Columbus lawyer and sports/entertainment agent, didn’t see a problem in the booking of Kelly, acquitted in 2008 for child-pornography charges — and who last week made headlines for an unreleased music video with Lady Gaga whose racy storyline appeared to condone rape.

“This is one of the biggest R&B guys in the country,” Adams said. “The guy headlined Bonnaroo.” 1

“I don’t even think [Kelly’s inclusion] was a debate. We don’t have a national R&B act, and we wanted to fill that void, and he’s one of the best-selling artists of all time. Why wouldn’t we?” said FMMF cofounder Bret Adams. “He’s good national press for us and Columbus. He’s a nationally known name. He was not convicted of anything. He was acquitted. If we wanted to limit our artists to people who never had brushes with the law or were not good people, then you can eliminate quite a few across the board. We’re running a festival to help brand the city of Columbus. We’re not the morality police.”2

And then he starts telling you who he thinks is important.

“[If] somebody from O.A.R. or Michelle Williams — who just retweeted all our stuff — or any of our headliners had an issue with it, then I may take a look at it,” Adams said. “Every artist is entitled to their opinion about performers [on the bill]. We feel differently about it. He was a great catch for a first year festival that had no track record, and we’re going to put him in Nationwide Arena.”2

So what he is saying is essentially that the guy is too famous to pass up. The fact that he fucks young girls and pisses on them for sexual gratification is irrelevant. But just in case the details of his past are bothersome to you, remember that he was acquitted (despite the giant pile of evidence), so technically, it’s ok.

He attempts to validate his reprehensible opinion with the fact that some celebrities retweet information about the festival, and he’s not changing his mind until someone that matters (hint: not you) takes issue.

This guy represents way too much of humanity.

As a society, we let the rich and famous slide. People who are well known and have a lot of money do not go to jail – they pay fines and settlements. Why?

Well, in the case of entertainers, imprisonment means someone is losing money – record labels, publishers and studios are motivated to keep their meal tickets out of trouble. Maybe we do that too. It could be that we are considering them not in terms of a person with accountability, but rather in terms of their value to us. If a celebrity goes to jail, they are not amusing me, and I might miss that.

But I think a part of it is that there is some understanding – we all want something that is inappropriate to want. Unfulfilled desire is the nourishment of fantasy. And though we might not act on those desires, most people don’t really ever let them go, either. Nor admit to them. Instead, we quietly imagine scenarios in which we get everything just as we wish. We fantasize about what it would be like to exist with no rules.

I think we like believing that there is some situation that lets us us have that. Some measure of accomplishment or power or status that exempts us from the rules, that lays out all the world before us like a buffet and says Here, enjoy without restriction. It’s what you worked for, and you have arrived. You have earned this. The average person typically feels exceptional anyway.

Rejecting transgressors, telling them that they are bad and wrong, and that there are limits to what wealth can get you out of is also telling ourselves that there are limits. We don’t want hard limits. Even if we rationally know we’ll never have that kind of wealth, it may simply be too painful to openly admit that some things shouldn’t be reduced to a monetary value.

To exist with other people, you must always consider the rights of other people. End of story. You will literally never have a break from it. This fact frustrates your id to no end, and it desperately searches for loopholes and exceptions. It hates being told no. However, the more advanced parts of the brain (aka super-ego) are usually able to convince it that compromise is the way to go – so long as everything is fair. It is easier to quiet your urges when you look around and see equality. When you have a comfortable life coupled with a solid understanding that those comforts are provided by mutual compromise, things can be stable. Any discrepancy, however, demands an explanation. Once the id has been told that there is a path that sets it free, it is done with compromise. It applies all the pressure it can muster to bring the whole mind into its service.

And that is what wealth does. It promises a place above everyone else. It says “You could have a little more, if only you were a little better.”

There are a couple of issues with this. The first is that it leads to thinking “Since I have more, I must be better. However I came by this wealth, it must mean that I am better.” Not lucky. Not selfish. Better.

Wealth is alienating because it sets you above everyone else. Looking around and finding no other like yourself, it seems unreasonable that their rules should also apply to you. That would imply that they are the same as you, which is clearly not possible. If they were your equals, they would have found a way to become wealthy too. You can’t really be blamed for taking more if you yourself are . . . more.

The second is that, given a limited pool of resources, one person having a little more usually means someone else must have a little less. No matter how well the entire group does, demanding a larger piece for me also demands a smaller one for everyone else. If the wealth of a few people grows unchecked, eventually, they don’t leave enough for everyone to survive. So now everyone else is scrambling to make ends meet. And some will. But because there isn’t really enough to go around now, some people are impoverished.

Poverty puts people in survival mode. It makes us desperate. To those who are making ends meet, desperation is unsettling. Desperation makes pride a luxury. It makes people discard politeness and actually ask – or even beg – for help. But the class of not quite poor, but not quite rich folks – let’s call them the middle class – are comparing themselves to the rich, so they feel poor too. Everyone is now clinging a little more tightly to what they have.

Poverty, like wealth, is alienating. Looking around, you find so many with advantages (not being poor) that you lack. You don’t really see a way out of your situation or how you got into it, but you know everyone thinks you are poor because you are lazy drug addict or a welfare queen. Wealthy and middle class alike see you as a little bit less – perhaps you begin to internalize this and see yourself that way too.

People who have great need and a lowered opinion of themselves become a little more pliable than a person who lives in comfort and has a higher sense of self worth. A middle class person with comfort and a fear of losing it is a little more pliable than a comfortable person with no fear.

Here we see what wealth is. It is not just having plenty. It is having control. The point of wealth is to remove the word ‘no’ from the vocabulary of others. To bring other human beings into your service. To make their effort and sacrifice count more toward your indulgence than toward their survival.

So we say it is ok to let a celebrity rape and then offer a settlement rather than be made to face the same penalty a poor person would. And when we do that, we confirm that they are better than us. They must be, if even those beneath them will acknowledge that it is so. As far as he is concerned, he faced no penalty. Paying a million dollars for fucking a thirteen year old girl is not a penalty to him. It is a transaction.

These are the people we celebrate in America, while raging at the poor for feeling so entitled.

1http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2014/06/25/Music-Fashion-fest.html
2http://www.columbusalive.com/content/blogs/thelatest/2014/06/fashion-meets-music-headliners-announced.html

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/75529/r-kelly-indicted-on-child-pornography-charges
http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/12/read_the_stomac.php
http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/12/16/sexual_assault_allegations_against_r_kelly_now_online_thanks_to_jim_derogatis.html
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2008/06/long_live_the_little_man_defense.html
http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=5065392
http://www.businessinsider.com/r-kelly-sexual-assault-details-2013-12
http://www.mtv.com/bands/r/r_kelly/news_feature_051304/
http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/07/28/kelly-canceled.html
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2010/08/17/oedipus-complex-2-0-like-it-or-not-parents-shape-their-childrens-sexual-preferences/
http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/11/adolescentsexualactivity/newmedialitrev/index.shtml
http://www.avert.org/age-sexual-consent.htm

I could do without all the people.

Which people, you ask? All of them. Him. Her. You.

I’m well aware that people are prone to the occasional contretemps or miscalculation – I am generally a very forgiving person. But recent efforts put forth by multiple institutions to complicate my life have been, I assure you, nothing short of epic. I mean, I don’t want to come out and say conspiracy just yet, but it certainly bears a striking resemblance to a collaborative exercise.

Offense the first: Some weeks ago, I ordered pizza from a place called Hounddog’s in the campus area. The total came to $18 and change, including tip. A few days later, I went online to pay some bills from my bank, and I noticed that my account was nearly $1000 overdrawn. I didn’t panic immediately – figuring there was simply a charge that had been charged in error to my account. Indeed, it was so. Hounddog’s charged me $1,678 for a pizza. To be fair, it was a large pizza, but the charge still seemed off somehow.

I called my bank immediately – happily there were no overdraft charges appearing on my account just yet. I assured them the charge was a mistake and that I would call the merchant directly after hanging up with them. I called the restaurant – they said they caught the mistake seconds after it went through and they had already reversed it. Excellent. Back to dealing with the bank – told them the story and asked if I would be subject to fees since the charge had already been reversed and no fees had appeared yet. Unfortunately charges to the account go through immediately while credits take several days to clear, meaning that I would, in fact, be charged fees for each day my account was overdrawn.

“Sorry, there’s nothing we can do about that.” Goddammit.

In addition, I had made several other charges on the card, unaware that I actually had no money at the time. I got fees for each of those charges too. And since it was the restaurant’s fault, the bank wants me to get reimbursed for the nearly $300 in fees from Hounddog’s before even talking to me about what they can do to fix it. This all happened around June 25, and I’m still trying to get them to pay up.

Offense the second: My electric company grossly underestimated my bill over the last couple of months. So when they did an actual reading, I got hit with a $500 electric bill to cover the difference. That wouldn’t suck quite so hard if my checking account wasn’t $300 short . . .

Offense the third: After I switched my cell phone over to a company paid plan, I got a prorated bill from Verizon for the portion of the month during which the phone was still my responsibility. I attempt to login to my account on Verizon’s site to pay. However, as the account is not technically mine anymore, I no longer have access to the online utilities. Fine. So, I call them to make a payment over the phone. The woman asks for my phone number and looks up the associated account. She informs me that I’m not showing any balance on that account – it has apparently been taken care of. This sounds like good news to me, so I leave it at that.

A month later, I get another bill. I make another phone call. I get more assurance that I owe nothing on that account.

Today, I got a notice from Verizon that they are about to turn my account over to a collection agency. I try once again to pay the bill over the phone. I give the woman my phone number, my social security number and a number present on the nasty “you owe us money” letter. She finds the account – and says “Oh, you let this get very overdue – we’re about to write this off for collections.” I say, yes, I know. May I please pay it over the phone? This issue looks to be at rest now – I’m told I’ll get a receipt in the mail in a few days confirming it as a dead issue. Plus I have her name and a confirmation number, just in case I need to attach a name to a fuck up this time. You may yet hear from me again, Tammy.