Friday, May 14, 2021

Working, 2021

Top off your coffee it's a long one

This is: A weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids and my great-grandkids — the Stickies — to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.

Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — A Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating intersectional triggering. Viewing with a tablet or a monitor is highly recommended for maximum enjoyment.  

Erratically Appearing Hallucinatory Guest Star: Dana — A Gentlereader  

"When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?' 
                                                                                      -Don Marquis

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies and Great-Grandstickies (and Gentlereaders),

Recently Amazon offered me a free copy of a best-selling book that came out in 1974 titled Working. I was a callowyute who had been working (at a real job) for three years at the time. I wish that I had read it back then, it might've changed my life for the better. 


Yes, Dana, but possible. It's loaded with life lessons.

The book was written by Lewis Terkel, a well-known man who was well-known as Studs Terkel. I'd be willing to give up a body part of lesser importance for a nickname as cool as that. 

Ironically, and as you know I'm all about ironicalities, he was dubbed Studs (the name of a character in a novel Terkel was reading) by the director of a play that he was acting in to distinguish him from another actor who was also named Lewis and it stuck. 

[So he wasn't actually a...]

No idea. Doesn't matter. The point is...

[Can we move on, please?]

(Heavy sigh) Certainly. Working is an oral history subtitled People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. Nowadays, it serves not only to provide insight into how ordinary people felt/feel about their jobs, it describes a pre-woke world that has changed dramatically. 

Which got me thinking about my working life.    

I only belonged to a union once, not a very good one, in the course of working full-time for 45 years or so at various and sundry jobs. And I never managed to cobble together an actual career despite a sincere attempt or two... maybe three.  

In spite of distressingly regular setbacks, I never fell back to my fallback position and attempted to join a Taoist monastery in China's Wudang Mountains.

I never gave up, although I confess to having once deliberately remained unemployed for as long as the checks kept coming. When they stopped I was working at a new job a week later. 

In my defense, I was still young enough to think I was bulletproof and ten feet tall — and having a helluva lot of fun at the time.

Several decades later I found myself on the dole again for an unexpectedly long time. It was the height of the Great Recession; I was in my late fifties; I couldn't buy a job. 

This puzzles me since it's illegal to discriminate against someone in need of a job because of their age and I had... 

[Is that sarcasm?]

If you have to ask, Dana, well... never mind.

I had plenty of experience in doing this, that, or even that, but I had to cobble together a clutch of crappy part-time jobs to survive till I could opt for early Social Security due to a busted hip and a major financial crisis or two, maybe three, here at Casa de Chaos.

I worked a lot more hours for a lot less money than I was making prior to the crash.     

I spent decades stumbling through the American occupational landscape, confident that a career, or at least financial security, was just around the next corner. However, no one in their right might would describe me as financially successful. 

But I got by. I'm getting by. 

I was only briefly homeless (long story) for about 24 hours, never lived under an overpass, and never had to brandish a sign that said Will Work For Food.

I'm grateful that I'm a member of the global 1% — just about everyone that lives in the U.S. — and have lived long enough to join millions of my fellow Americans in enjoying an underfunded retirement. 

The Industrial Revolution, which created the modern world that we take for granted, upset apple carts all over the globe. Granted, there were hooge honkin' downsides, aren't there always? But overall, life on Earth improved rapidly and dramatically.

The Industrial Revolution was the coolest thing to happen to H. sapiens since the Neolithic (agricultural) Revolution and led to the eventual widespread availability of bacon-cheeseburgers and french fries. 

[We're talkin' homemade french fries and certified Black Angus beef, right?]

Of course. 

Also, it created jobs for the masses, as well as a thriving middle class, at least in countries that adopted the tenets of what used to be called Western Civilization.

[Used to be called?]

Typing the words Western Civilization in Wikipedia's search box spits out an entry titled Western Culture.

[Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe?]   

Perhaps... but I smell a Wokie. 

[You're getting paranoid in your old age. A Wokie would use a title like Pasty Patriarchical Hegemonistic Euroimperialism (HT: Robert Greenberg).]

The Dizzinformation Revolution has created a handful of unimaginably wealthy oligarchs and a relative handful of good jobs for talented techies. The nerds have truly been avenged.  

These people are proud of the fact they found/continue to find all sorts of ways to make money by creating cool actual products to sell, and handing out "free" virtual products and services that people used to pay for.

How do you get around the proven concept there's no such as a free lunch? Reframe it. 

First, make the customer the product by harvesting the data accumulated by all those people using all those "free" products and services. 

Next, make the products and services as literally addictive as possible via applied science with the assistance of psychologists with flexible ethical standards. 

Finally, turn all this data into money by selling it to advertisers, using all that information supplied by "users" to sell stuff to — users.

A virtuous circle. Well, unless your job was destroyed by a free virtual product, or you used to make an actual product that's now being built by Chinese slaves.

[Oversimplification and hyperbole, sir!]     

Clarification and entertainment, sir!

The good news is the plague is slowly ending and there are now all sorts of jobs available. 

But in many cases, staying home pays better than all sorts of low-skilled jobs which is good news if you have one of those sorts of jobs but is also bad news because The Fedrl Gummit is funding the difference with borrowed money and driving up the largest deficit since WW2 but ultimately might be good news if you have one of those sorts of jobs because it might force firms to pay more which is bad news for their customers because prices will go up and then more people will want/need raises because inflation is a stealth tax on everyone and I'm getting a migraine I gotta go.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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