Thursday, April 1, 2010


Nobody in this country who is prepared to work hard, live with integrity and play by the rules should ever have to worry about a roof over their head, food on the table or the health of themselves or their children. 

Last night Victoria and I ordered pizza from our local joint. After waiting for what seemed like too long we finally received a call from a lady who was outside. She was helping out the delivery guy, she told me, and was outside in her car, having been unable to find our address, which sometimes is difficult to locate. 

In a mild state of annoyance I ventured out to find an older, hispanic lady sitting in a double-parked SUV. Upon seeing me, she became very apologetic at having made me leave my apartment. My countenance softened immediately, which usually occurs when I see an older person who has probably endured challenges in even getting to this country, now probably working long hours for not much money. She gave me the pizza and the coke I had ordered and  I parked them on the bonnet of the car while she was trying to find a pen for me with which to sign the credit card slip. As I sometimes do when pizza takes a long time, I checked the pizza to see if it was hot and was not surprised to find it barely lukewarm. At this point some irritation returned and I asked the lady if the pizza had been brought back to the restaurant because the delivery guy couldn't find my address, something that has happened before. She said no and asked me why. I explained that the pizza wasn't hot and she once again apologised, not however volunteering to return with a hot pizza, a decision which she may not have had the power to make at that point. I told her it wasn't her fault but turned to leave not particularly satisfied with the whole process. As I reached for the pizza, I knocked the soda onto the ground where the styrofoam cup burst. The soda was gone and so was I, thanking the lady and cutting my losses. 

Except that the lady wouldn't let me leave. She became even more apologetic and as I tried to tell her that my waistline would be better off without the soda, the whole exchange suddenly became about something else.

This woman suddenly had tears in her eyes and she was begging me to allow her to bring me another soda. I stopped, stunned by her plaintive voice whispering, "please sir, I will lose my job.". Shocked, I tried to calm her down by putting my hand on her shoulder, but that only encouraged her to plead more intently; she, in turn, grabbed my arm and looked deep into my eyes, as if I were somehow the deciding voice in whether or not she would go home to her family with her job secure. 

"Okay." I said, the sadness of the situation starting to take hold. "If you need to bring me another soda, that's fine."

She thanked me, saying muchas gracias over and over as she got into her car and drove away. I stumbled back to the apartment with cold pizza, no soda and a heavy heart.

Is this the best we can do as a society, a community? Can someone who is prepared to give full effort and be an honest employee with a good attitude really have so little job security? Are employers so happy to so grossly underpay immigrant employees and have them in such fear for their underpaid job just because these employees were unlucky enough to be born somewhere else?

I don't like to dwell on the circumstances of people like the kind lady who delivered my pizza last night - it creates too much internal despair. Outside of solving the political, economic and sociological problems that create the aforementioned mistreatment of people and the resultant fear and despair that exploitation produces, my greatest wish is that every single person on this planet, whether disenfranchised or not, understands that they carry an inherent value simply by the virtue of being human beings

No one should have to beg anyone for their job, least of all a stranger to whom they have been more than kind. Of course not all people can perform all jobs but given a much fairer distribution of wealth, both here in the US and abroad, there should be a job for every adult who is ready to work. Nobody should ever be made to feel as if they are incredibly lucky because they are gainfully employed, let alone ungainfully.

How can this happen? We must stop affirming the fallacy of hyper-capitalism which says that we will be happiest when we have more than the next person. In actual fact, as human beings we are communal creatures and as such we achieve far greater fulfillment when we are part of a healthy, generally more equal whole. Although very wealthy individuals in a capitalist society may apparently feel happy and secure in their riches, they will eventually have to confront the murkier aspects of the very society that enabled them to attain that wealth. It is a mathematical truism that there is only a certain amount of wealth at any one time to go around, and if huge hoarding of wealth is taking place at the top of the pyramid, simple cause and effect will tell you there must be equally massive scarcity occurring on the other end. 

Only when those who possess the wealth and therefore the political power are willing to share more of it can we hope to begin creating a healthier, more compassionate and equal society.

If you are a citizen of an industrialized Western nation who has a job, is reasonably educated and doesn't worry about where your next meal or dollar is coming from, that probably means you.

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