Recommendation: If you have not read Ode #1, you should start there.
I cast the character in Ode #1 as a hotel worker because those who work in the hospitality industry are among the most underpaid and insecure in America. But they are not alone. Most of us . . . whether we work in a kitchen, on an assembly line, on a farm or in an executive office tower . . . we live tenuous lives.
And it makes no difference where we are on the organizational chart. The degree of education, experience or status offers little protection to most of us. I titled one of my classroom essays “Minimum Wage for All.”
One of my students was a highly qualified and productive techie in California when a gaggle of foreign workers were imported to replace her and her colleagues to “save money.”
This is a crazy world and we are in it together.
There is little relief in heaping the blame on the company or the boss because . . . even though I know you won’t want to believe this . . . they are not the roots of your problem. This is just what capitalism has come to. It is out of control and it’s ruinous for both business and labor. And it’s tearing our people and our country apart.
The villainy is not on either side; it is in the circumstances.
No one in his right mind would deliberately attempt to create a hospitable environment using people who hate their jobs, fear for their livelihoods or work as modern “scabs” who take jobs they don’t really want or care about because it is their last resort.
And no one with common sense would continue working under such circumstances if they had an opportunity to do better.
Our founding fathers crafted a very good Constitution to guide democracy, but they decided to leave capitalism alone (laissez faire). For a long time, unrestrained capitalism proved to be the greatest creator of wealth the world has ever known. But it ran amuck.
Capitalism got too big for its britches. Now the solution is in yours.
Very few people ever get out of the kitchen or off the assembly line. Most remain hidden somewhere in the office tower or they’re seen protesting in front of it. They hang on for dear life but they can never get what they want by appealing to someone else to do the right thing and pay them what they’re worth.
No. Not in a predatory economy.
Failure drives them deeper into depression. The downward spiral is converse to the rising wealth on Wall Street. There’s something wrong with this picture.
A pink slip is a great motivator.
Ode #2 is a transition. In musical terms it is a passage from one key, one motif to another.
The employee decides to take matters into his own hands. Before taking the bad news to his wife and family, he hits the streets looking for work, odd jobs, something to tide him over until he finds another unstable, dead-end job.
But he finds more than that. He discovers opportunity.
Yes, this is still a land of opportunity. All you need to do is get on the right side of economics and that doesn’t mean just “work harder.” Instead of being the chaff of capitalism you need to be the thresher. That’s the message you should be reading on the pink slip.
Oh, don’t get me wrong.
Becoming an independent entrepreneur is actually harder! But, if you are doing something you love and the love comes back in spades, you and your family are the richer and the happier for it.
And you are secure because your life and your work are in your own hands.
Without a job / He would not tell his wife
Began scouring the town / For another work life
Looked all around / For any kind of work
Janitor, messenger, / Waiter, soda jerk
He filled out forms / Until his hand hurt
No job appealed / Just the need for pay dirt
His inner voice said / Try another hotel
At first he rebuffed / Then it rang his bell
He widened his search / To towns nearby
The hotel owners / Threw hands to the sky
Manning the front desk / Reduction in staff
Buy this place? / They ask with a laugh
He makes a few deals / No one can turn down
For a share of the profit / He’ll turn them around
He completes the plan / In the unemployment line
He’s temporarily unemployed / Startup subsidy works fine!
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