It is unusual when I write two posts in two days. This one begged me to write it.
I saw a facebook post in support of the current minimum wage, not for economic reasons as often purported by politicians, but because of the minimum wage earners lack of skills, education, motivation and contribution. It seems important to respond to a model of the world that fosters such a mindset.
I don’t think the persons who shared this post were stupid. They operate from a model that functions most efficiently at another’s expense. The model, not the individual, creates and supports a belief system that makes it not only preferable, but a requisite to act without compassion. I don’t think the people who shared these messages are heartless. Nonetheless, I do feel sad about this limited way of thinking, even though I trust this divine game we are all playing, and know that the day will come when those whose hearts are less open will become more available and understanding of the plight of apparent strangers.
Skills and education are not a birthright. However, by the accident of birth, some of us had access to skills and education denied to others. While some of us got dressed, ate a good breakfast and went to school, others were exhausted from nights spent baby-sitting siblings, or pouring parents into bed when they came home too drunk or drugged to get beyond the front door’s threshold. Some of us had clean clothes, or simply clothes that fit; others didn’t. Those who lacked access to something decent to wear often stayed home. If they didn’t they were bullied because they couldn’t meet the school or teen-imposed dress code. Some of us had parents or friends we could ask for guidance, for help with homework, some didn’t. Some of us were legally in the country, while our parents weren’t. Fear of discovery kept us at home. Some of us were raised in English speaking homes; some weren’t. English is a requirement in our school system even though we used to be proud to call ourselves a melting pot. Some of us fit the mold that society set out for us; others didn’t. Non-conformists rarely fit nicely in the box and yet they are a requirement of a healthy society, lest it rot from its own inflexibility. Non-conformists were told they were dumb, that they needed drugs to behave better, or were ignored until they became invisible ghosts walking the school corridors. They weren’t dumb at all. The teachers just didn’t know how to reach or teach children of non-conformist brilliance. From the model of the world that sees us versus them, a right way and a wrong way, the end result was the same—a lack of a socially approved education.
Motivation and contribution—well that’s another story. Many minimum wage earners work more than one job, often because they can’t get enough hours at one job. If they work too many hours, overtime and benefits kick in so they have to clock out before the witching hour. Some minimum wage earners work three jobs, some four, in an attempt to make a better life for their children. Minimum wage earners of all nationalities fill the jobs we Americans don’t want. They are willing to work at menial jobs to build a future, to contribute.
What makes their time and labor worth less than anyone else’s? Our valuation system is a lie. The CEO is worth more than a movie star, who is worth more than the sports player. The sports player is worth more than the doctor who is worth more than a construction worker. The skilled construction worker is worth more than the minimum wage earner and they are all worth more than a person who stays home with the children, since we don’t pay them anything. It is based on a skewed hierarchy we blindly impose on ourselves. That scam was devised long ago by people with power and wealth to protect, and we still play their game. We called them kings and lords. They earned their power by virtue of their birth or through brute force.
An hour is an hour out of a person’s life. It is an hour away from loved ones. It is an hour of contribution to our society. It is the same hour whether you are a sports player or a janitor, a CEO or are serving lunches at school. It is the same hour if you are a stay-at-home parent or a movie star.
Can you imagine a world without the minimum wage earner? If they simply quit showing up, the fast food places would have to close, at least until they decided to pay more. Lawns would go without mowing and weeding. Children would be home alone without baby-sitters. Hospitals and nursing homes would run without nurses assistants. Nurses and doctors would be changing bedpans and answering call buttons. The phones would ring and the first responders at 9-1-1 would not be there to answer, so some calls would simply keep on ringing and someone would die. The lifeguards of summer would vanish into the sun and sand, leaving the water a bit more dangerous. The list is endless. Talk of contribution. Few of us contribute as much. Nothing that has any reality makes one worth more than the other.
The model says it is okay to demean the minimum wage earner; after all they are strangers. Making them less than me, makes me more. Is anyone really a stranger? We share a planet. We share the air and water, earth and wind. We share the fate, as well as resources, of our planet. The molecule of air that fills my lungs was inside of another just a breath ago. That same molecule was inside Jesus, Buddha, and inside Hitler— generations gone—and will be inside generations to come. I drank the same drop of water that filled your cup yesterday. I soak in the same rays of sunshine that fall upon us all. I stand upon the dust that saturates the wind and fills the nostrils of the well known and unknown, the well-paid and those who suffer as a result of the model.
We share the basics, the requirements of being alive. It is insane to me that we don’t yet share the respect, the compassion, the resources and attitudes that make life worth living for everyone. If we did how much more inspired would we all be. Denying the basics of love and dignity to anyone, makes of us a bully. Statistics show that bullies are not happy. They are not motivated beyond self-protection. They cannot contribute openly to society. That requires an understanding of something beyond themselves. They lack the education and basic skills to be fully human.
I stand and say, “Hey! That is not accurate. That is hurtful. Look at how that feels.” As more people stop supporting the rhetoric with their silence, those individuals whose hearts ache for something bigger, for a world where one is not pitted against another, will learn. I trust that.