When a Good Job Makes You Weak

-This is dedicated to my friend The Earl. I would mention more about him, but he, like any real OG, likes to keep it lowkey.

-A few years ago, I quit using Mozilla Firefox. This is because of what they did to their old CEO. He had donated some money to an anti-gay marriage (and thus un-PC) campaign some years back. For some reason, this was dredged up by some people who didn’t like him, and wound up causing Mozilla to let him go. Mind you, he was not canned due to poor performance, or theft, or tanking the company, or sexual improprieties, or anything you’d expect a CEO to be fired for. He was fired because somebody didn’t like something he did in his private, non-CEO life.

A year before that, some tech nerds lost their jobs because they unknowingly offended an eavesdropping lady sitting nearby.

For the last few years, ESPN has been letting go of various talent due to words they said, which were questionable, but ultimately should not have been major enough to be worthy of terminating careers.

Recently, a number of high-profile figures who made their money working for someone else have lost contracts or deals due to saying or doing things that some people thought to be offensive or not politically correct, like Dr. Drew. Some of the things these folks said and did were pretty nasty, and some weren’t really all that bad, but most of them should have been greeted with nothing more than a harsh reprimand and suspension, then reinstatement. Few of these bozos deserved to be straight up toasted just because they goofed on social media.

This trend of people being fired from their jobs due to saying stuff that might offend has been on the uptick in the last few years. True enough, this is why your folks tell you not to be outlandish on social media, but the principle of simple statements or overall minor, non-work related actions being enough to end people’s careers is disturbing at best. The idea that you must keep a squeaky-clean image and not lose yourself for a second, lest you make a stray comment that will come back on you, is sickening, but true. Even without the Net involved, it is not uncommon for people’s words to get them canned, like the tech nerds.

I posit to you that this trend of making employment more and more tied to people’s words, non-work actions, and other things not related to, you know, working, has knocked the viability of having just one job that pays all the bills down significantly, and has in fact made it a weakness of sorts. This is because of some of the effects of this “walking on eggshells” environment.

For one, this will make many people self-censor. One of the reasons this nation is ever more trending away from free speech is because speech is in fact getting more expensive by the day, and this is a main component of why. Many people are getting by on one decent job, and so they are hesitant to say anything non-PC, even if it is true, lest they be the next layoff or termination. As George Carlin said, “The poor are there to scare the sh*t out of the middle class.” The people most affected by this tend to be middle-class folks, especially those in debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck, who cannot afford to fall behind and thus get ground up in the rat-race. So, to keep their jobs, they are increasingly towing the socially and politically accepted party line, and otherwise keeping their mouths shut.

Secondly, this trend has an eerie similarity to the Salem Witch Trial era or the Jim Crow lynching era, in that simply being unpopular or disliked or accused is enough to threaten your job; this is why many people post online under pseudonyms; the Internet can provide a useful venting outlet when you know that using your real name will cause people who don’t like you to try to get you fired. This is the modern way of “lynching” people for their views; taking their livelihood from them, and sometimes making them unemployable, all because they said something that pissed someone off. Suddenly your job becomes not just your income source, but also your weakness; losing it means bad things, and people know this, so either you speak and do your craziness anonymously, or you keep you job status lowkey.

This is particularly galling to traditionally minded men; in virtually all cultures (even in our modern pansy one), men’s jobs have particular significance, as one’s job as a man tends to be tied to one’s status in society. This is why the insult of “unemployed and living in Mom’s basement” is generally directed at males; men have historically been primary earners of income. Now, the very thing that once gave men pride and the ability to woo a good woman and raise offspring is also a huge potential downfall and weak point. This is yet another way in which our culture is very much into silent emasculation. The best comeback to this is the mindset of Tyler Durden: “You are not your F***ing khakis.” Take note boys, as this sinister scenario of your job being your potential noose is set to get worse, which goes into the next point.

Third, this shows the increasing weakness in the American job market. America is facing a serious catch-22: Americans need jobs to have a decent lifestyle, but foreign labor is cheaper and much less regulated (a big part of why Americans are increasingly unemployed and underemployed), but foreign labor is creating cheap goods and services that many Americans rely on, but many Americans are having a harder and harder time affording them. In addition to this, Americans are becoming harder and harder to hire the more Uncle Sam regulates the job market (ala Obamacare) and technology and automation take more and more people out of the labor force, while not creating enough jobs to keep all of those folks employed elsewhere, but at the end of the day, we still live in a society where you must get a decent amount of money, somehow, to live.

The problem of automation not creating enough jobs to reemploy those humans it obsoletes is something many will write off (“That capital has been freed up, and those people will find work”), but this ain’t like the horse carriage falling behind the automobile. The cheap, predominantly female-staffed, service-sector jobs being created in the wake of labor-saving tech are neither lucrative enough nor plentiful enough to fully reintegrate the workers who have been displaced. The evidence of this lies in looking at just how many Americans are not even bothering looking for work; our labor force participation rate is about the lowest it’s been in decades, and if our GDP growth is any indication, it ain’t getting any better any time soon.

There are 4 main answers we have come up with as a nation so far to answer this problem, and none of them involve people getting good jobs. One is to go on the dole; our social programs are a huge portion of government expenditures (about 35%-67%* according to this), and for many entire cities, that is how the people make it. For example, many Black inner-cities essentially run off of money from single mothers’ EBT cards. Of course, having more and more people choose to be takers and scavengers rather than producers is not a viable long-term solution, because all the dole is is a net drain off of productive labor, and as it has the side-effect, in its current form in America, of creating millions of unskilled, government-dependent people, it will tend to grow until not even the best technology will produce enough to offset its costs.

Second is the “gig economy”, where people try to do what I’m aiming for: become decently skilled in some area, and work freelance. We don’t work off the books, necessarily, though this can lend itself to that, but we choose (or in many cases are forced) to work like perennial temp agents. This is the negative way of looking at it, as the positive folks will call it entrepreneurship or subcontracting/contracting. Either way, there is some possibility in this way of making a living, and self-motivated folks can thrive here.

Third is the “perpetually in college” model. Basically, these are the people who manage to work in some low-paying (say, $15k-$30k/yr.), broke-college-kid, dead-end type jobs, which generally do not require high levels of skill. They are the spiritual successors to people like the Detroit factory workers of old, as jobs like theirs are the most commonly created kind. They are taking the service-sector jobs I mentioned above, and working those kinds of jobs (I had 3 at one point, so this is firsthand experience talking) can make you a bit of change, but ultimately amounts to sinking a lot of time and labor into earning not a lot of money, relative to how long and hard you have to grind to get it. After they take out taxes, it really amounts to a pauper’s wages. As the cycle of American labor obsolescence goes on and the economy keeps slowing, even these jobs are starting to become hard to get.

Fourth is, of course, the underground economy. I will use one of my old coworkers’ stories here: I used to work in a hotel. The job was actually pretty cushy, and I got free breakfast and extra sleep and do-nothing time quite often, but the pay sucked (I got one 25 cent raise in my 1.5 year tenure there, for the grand total of $7.50 an hour). Well, my coworker finally got tired of the drudgery, quit (she cussed out the manager AND one of the owners, a sight I wish I could’ve seen) and started doing hair full time.

I can’t say how much more money she made, but, (1) she bought a newer, much nicer car, cash, in about 2 months, (2) she claimed to be getting clients all the way from major cities 3-5 hours away, and (3) she seemed to care a lot less about the child-support checks from her baby daddy. Plus I never saw her more happy than the last time I saw her riding off in that whip of hers. I ain’t writing much more about the underground economy other than to say that more than a few folks are giving it a try, as the prospects of getting decent money in other, less shadowy methods are drying up faster than the Red River in summertime. Draw your own conclusions.

And this brings me back to the main point: I personally know people who have coped with this mess of a job market in any combination of those four ways, but all of them have something in common: They speak their minds when they want to. Yes, they (and I, as I am still in the “Poor college kid” bracket, a.k.a. dead broke) are either poor or off of the radar, but either way, they are free in a way a lot of suit-and-tie wearing S.O. Bs wish they could be.

As the job market continues to suck, and the oversupply of American labor continues to rise (things like higher minimum wages and mandatory insurance don’t help, by the way), employers can simply afford to be petty. Partially, this is due to our insanely PC culture, but mainly this is a symptom of the underlying nature of employment in America: Too many people wanting too much money, and simply not enough jobs. This pettiness is just another way the middle class and the career-holding class is getting strangled and squeezed.

Economically, this is a problem with no easy answer, but socially, at least for me, I think I’d rather not get one of those jobs and have PC culture pulling me around by my white collar and blue tie. Increasingly, many folks won’t even bother having to consider this, as the opportunity to wear said collar and tie slowly fades away. And you know what? Maybe that’s a good thing; we need some more unchained political Hell-raisers.

Peace.

*: Depending on what you count as social programs, estimates vary; I include Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and marketplace subsidies with social safety net spending for the 35% figure, as this is basically all social program spending, although some of it is in incentives (subsidies) and some is in healthcare. Ultimately, none of these things are rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution, and Uncle Sam should not be spending any of that money. Add to this Social Security and pensions and benefits for government and military employees and retirees, and that is the high end estimate, 67%. This will probably get a post of its own at some point.

 

 

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