That’s what all the people say. Okay, not all of the people. The usual context is someone older saying it in a condescending way to someone younger as shorthand for, “You don’t know how the world works. You’re complaining because you think it should be easy, but it’s not. You have to work and work and work, and, even then, you may not get what you want.”
Agreed. But we aren’t talking about life today. We are talking about decisions made by a handful of ***holes to benefit themselves at the expense of the circumstances for the rest of us. That’s not life. That’s people. These are decisions that one could have just as easily made differently but did not, and now everyone is responsible for the consequences.
**** those people.
Who are those people? It depends on the context. This is not about a vast government conspiracy or new world order. Sometimes it’s the group of parents running the local Little League. Sometimes it’s the school board. Perhaps it is the board of directors for a company or a town’s city hall. Maybe it’s the federal government. The point is, the number of people involved in the decision is far inferior to the number of people affected by the decision.
For example, let’s consider the recent Supreme Court decision that federal courts cannot intervene in questions of gerrymandering. I have not read the decision and I am not a legal expert, so I decline to take a position on the decision itself. However, I might point to the 5-4 result split along normal ideological lines and the history of SCOTUS appointments, especially as of late, and the implication that has. I might also point to the ridiculousness of telling Congress and more local jurisdictions that the onus to police the gerrymandering issue is on them.
Voters do not vote on district lines. Voters vote on representatives who set the district lines. When representatives gerrymander to manipulate the vote for a district, the voters cannot hold those representatives accountable. That’s the point of gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering, campaign finance law, voter turnout, voter repression – one could write volumes on any of these. The short version: how many people feel the country was already stolen from us? Love him or hate him, Bernie Sanders won primaries in multiple countries in 2016 – that should have translated to multiple states. Those states awarded the nomination to Hillary. I was a Hillary supporter in 2016, but if the will of the people in West Virginia was Bernie rather than Hillary for the Democratic nomination, why didn’t that happen? Because a handful of ***holes make the decisions. In 2020, even more West Virginians may stay home because they learned firsthand their opinion does not matter.
Then there is the question of employment and things that go with it, like health insurance.
For example, one of the things I see lobbed at younger generations often is, “Why don’t you do an internship?”
Well, let me tell you. It’s not laziness or a lack of appreciation. I can only speak confidently for myself, but I feel strongly that many of my contemporaries would agree we are 100% on board with the idea of an internship that results in experience we can use to further our career. Internships today present two key obstacles.
First, when these older folks first started in the workplace, an internship might have been the logical first step out of high school or even college. The market supported that. Today, graduating college means heaps of student debt from which not even bankruptcy can save a person. Student loan debt is perhaps the most tenacious sort of debt a person can have, and one receives it at the onset of the career path.
Even for me, a professional who worked full-time since the age of fourteen (and was therefore not entering the work force for the first time after college), attended community college for the first two years, and then chose a more modest university for my Baccalaureate specifically to keep down student loans, I finished with student loan debt that is hundreds of dollars each month.
Between my wife and I, we basically pay a mortgage every month that is student loan debt. Are you following? Before we do anything else – rent, cars, food, healthcare, avocados – we owe hundreds of dollars every month to student loans. That makes accepting an unpaid or low paying internship prohibitively unaffordable.
Yes, we could both work a second or third job, as many people do, but that has to balance with the internship in terms of schedule. If a conflict arises, one must choose between the internship (the financially inadequate position to further a future career) and the job (the financially supportive position that may do little for a future career).
We did not create this situation. It’s the reality presented to us by rising higher education costs, predatory loaning, and the nature of the employment sector today.
What do I mean by the nature of the employment sector today? For starters, it refers to the ubiquitous nature of a college education in the application requirements for positions. Most professions are now seeking a college education from applicants. Some careers do not require a college education, but those jobs are increasingly in the minority and not everyone is capable of performing those jobs, whether financially or physically.
Brief aside: my parents did not need college degrees. They graduated high school and joined the work force. They started in entry-level positions, proving themselves and acquiring skills that allowed them to ascend the corporate ladder into management positions. Of course, when their industry and others shrank during the 2008 financial mess, many of those people became unemployed and now had to compete for new work without college degrees, against younger people with college degrees. For some, their own financial obligations (mortgages, healthcare, children, etc.) made finding a new job that could meet their requirements even harder. My student loan debt and I empathise.
Then comes the question about moving, both for Millennials and others. “It’s too expensive to live where you do? Not enough jobs where you live? Move.”
Here’s how that works, and I want people to pay close attention to this piece. While I am coming from the perspective of a young, white male professional and I am about to describe the simple financials of this situation, we also need to discuss the systemic, institutionalised racism aspect.
The cost of living is higher in places where more people want to live – not because of the natural cost of the land itself. Major cities spring up near massive water sources like rivers, lakes, or the ocean. That is because the location provides access to a port, which allows for the easier access to ship and receive goods. The concentration leads also to a concentration of jobs because companies, not people, need the work done in these areas. The rising cost of urban living, where most of the jobs were, lead to the creation of the suburbs and commuting – again, proximity to the jobs.
Moving to an area with a lower cost of living is, by its nature, moving away from the jobs. Jobs exist, but they are fewer and less diverse.
The other side of that coin is that the further one moves from the job, the more likely that one has to commute to work. Commuting means either personal or public transportation. Personal transportation means purchasing a vehicle, registering it, getting licensed, insuring the vehicle, fueling the vehicle, and maintaining the vehicle. Public transportation depends wholly on the availability and reliability of said transportation. Some cities are better than others with that.
Again aside – we have plenty of public policies and associated private interest that works this system against people. Consider municipal violations where one might encounter a penalty of a few hundred dollars for something like speeding. If you earn a decent salary, one pays that fine and moves on with life. Many people do not have that money available though, and they become the targets of predatory lenders who worsen that individual’s cycle of financial problems in order to satisfy the legal penalty. This cycle, in some places, can result in forfeiture of driver’s license, making it harder for the individual to get to work and, ironically, pay the fine causing the problem. Meanwhile, voter registration loves to get involved in this process of seizing ID to preclude individuals from voting.
I mention this because the populations often targeted by this sort of thing are minorities. Okay, not minorities – poor people. Of course, in the United States that often means minorities because the history of virtually any place in the country reveals a pattern of outright racism against groups. Those handfuls of ***holes enacted policies that restricted individuals – where they could live, what they could do, where they could go. And they weren’t in the high employment sections of the city. This sort of thing is the institutionalised racism against which civil rights groups are still fighting today.
Same applies to sexism in the workplace. One might feel, “I’m not a bad person. I don’t hate minorities or women, but this political correctness and liberal social justice nonsense is out of hand” is missing these points.
The life situations faced by women, minorities, Millennials, and the like are not the result of bad decisions. They are not the result of laziness or a reluctance to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” (a phrase actually intended to indicate the impossibility of a task). They face these situations because a handful of ***holes weaponised these situations against them for their benefit.
Which starts to bring as back around to the second reason one might view internships sceptically. The point of the internship is that someone lacking experience receives said experience for no or lesser compensation. Internships involve grunt work whether unrelated, like fetching coffee, or directly related, like doing the work under the supervision of an experienced worker.
The problem occurs where companies honour the internship no further. The program becomes less an internship and more a source of slave labour where employees do the work for less than it’s worth while experienced employees who ought to be doing that work provide the supervision for less than it’s worth.
In a non-internship sense, my current position offers opportunity to learn additional systems and such. This should come in the form of shadowing and job rotations, which are brilliant programs – however, applications for many employees fell through. Projects stopped or changed, company demands shifted…whatever the reason, things did not pan out as expected.
Until the company saw a spike in resignations and laid off large segments of staff in a re-organisation. It left areas like mine understaffed and with the brilliant idea that employees such as myself could learn additional skills on the job by pitching in to perform some of the vacated tasks in the interim.
We supported that idea. We would get valuable experience with new computer languages and new platforms, proving that we could handle those duties to the company while they saw the work done by existing staff.
Then they realised that the work done by ten people could be done by seven. Why hire additional staff if we had things covered in the current alignment?
To detail the problem with this, I must distinguish between two categories: duties and responsibilities. Duties, in the sense that I use it here, refer to the list of things one would see in the job description. “Anyone who works in this position must perform these functions in order to stay here.” Responsibilities, on the other hand, are whatever gets asked of a person. The phrase, “That’s not my job” is not in my work vocabulary. If any member of staff says, “Can you help with that?” then the professional in me will attempt to assist.
Most of the Millennials I know fall into this decidedly not lazy category.
The problem is when a responsibility becomes a duty without changing the compensation. One might view it as ungrateful, but I view as poor business. If one hires a person to complete a list of duties for $20 per hour, one says, “We value the time, effort, and resources involved in the completion of those duties at $20 per hour.” By definition, if one were to then add duties to that list, the fair compensation is greater than $20 per hour. It’s simple math.
But people are not sentient creatures to “the business” – they are themselves resources, human resources. Whatever goods and/or services the business provides, the human element is a cost of doing that business and must be equal to or less than the price at which the business sells those goods and/or services. This is business 101.
Increasing profit, which I have railed against time and again, means either raising prices or lowering costs. While any price that results in a profit is too high, a business reaches a point where people will go elsewhere. The alternative is to reduce cost – we see that in the form of companies skirting environmental and social responsibility all the time, and also in the effort to get employees to do as much work as possible for as little compensation as possible.
It’s not the cruelty of your manager. It’s “business” (read: the greed of a handful of ***holes who aren’t satisfied with $1.00 if they can get $1.01). If the manager does not crack the whip to get as much production for as little cost as possible (i.e. their duty), the business will bring in someone else. I do not envy the position of my managers and always take care to explain my position is one of principle and economics, not a personal issue with them.
It leads to the phenomenon where one is over-qualified for positions and under-qualified for others. It astounds me how many of my peers have found their way into this valley – I’ve done it myself in both accounting and data science. Despite all prior success, when the time comes to find a new job every position is either several steps behind one’s current level (and companies decline improvement on those grounds – I am not saying the position is viewed as undesirable) or beyond one’s current capabilities.
Business do not want someone with the aptitude for the position – they want someone who already knows it that they can secure for the lowest possible price. Ironically, the world moves so fast now that even hiring someone who knows the current languages and applications will soon be obsolete if unable to learn and to adapt.
Millennials know this. That is a big motivation for the “lack of corporate loyalty” (you know, other than the utter lack of loyalty that companies showed to our parents and grandparents). What we need is not a job, what we need is a collection of skills that translate well to future positions.
The frustration comes from people trying to explain “the way of the world.”
“You see, James, we sometimes have to do things we do not want to do in order to get ahead. You need to be a team player here.”
No, I see that. But this isn’t asking me to be a team player. This is a company squeezing every penny out of a resource regardless of what it does to the resource. If the resource becomes ineffective or unusable, the company discards the resource.
You are discussing this like a human, as though we are partners in a business transaction. We are not. Society has shown us that time and again – welcome to our world.
More to the point, this is a world that prior generations built for us. It did not happen by accident. The attitude that, “This is how the world is and you have to learn to live with it,” is infuriating and insulting, especially when coming from a member of those generations. No, that specific person may not have been one of the handful of ***holes whose decisions brought us here, but we also do not need the defeatist attitude – “This is how the world is.”
No, people made it this way and we ought to be able to decide to do it differently when it’s not working for people. In fact, the income gap continues to worsen and leaping across that chasm becomes improbable. No amount of “working hard” will make 2 + 2 equal more than 7. The cost of existing gets higher the less income a person has, which prohibits saving, restricts spending, and limits opportunities.
The least – the very least – that members of older generations can do is be quiet and step aside. We know that many of you think this is all BS, too. You did not fix or change it, likely because the generations before you were saying, “This is how the world is.” Look at how things are now. We have to change things before we destroy humanity through an economic or environmental disaster caused by handfuls of ***holes strip-mining society for their benefit.
Global warming is a problem – it will not destroy the planet, but it will make it uninhabitable for humans if we do not deal with it.
Voter registration, gerrymandering, campaign finance – all problems that make it easier for the handfuls of ***holes to run roughshod over society (and, for the sake of seeming too diplomatic here – **** the Trump administration. They are not “draining the swamp.” They are the swamp and doing the same BS as administrations before them).
The way multiple industries currently operate, including the monopolistic, oligarchic nature of many of them is a problem. Fewer people control more of the resources, then wield that power to accumulate even more power at the expense of others.
College is too expensive, especially as a starting point for a career.
Healthcare is too expensive.
The answer to exactly none of this is privatisation. Do you know what the purpose of a private healthcare facility is? No, it’s not healthcare. It’s profit. Private interest in the healthcare industry is how we got here, not how we get out.
You didn’t like Obamacare because “the government should not be involved in our healthcare”? They were long before Obamacare. It creates a situation where you need to jump through hoops and do ineffective treatments for your condition despite the existence of an obvious and effective treatment because medical providers and insurance companies are set up to profit rather than to heal.
Do the people who work there want to help you? Absolutely. But somewhere we have a group of ***holes who need to see 3Q profits from the hospital you visited and the insurance company you used.
So stop telling us “that’s life” as people attempt to combat these problems. Help or get out of the way.