The Luxury of Disappointment

This election is giving me high blood pressure… and I don’t mean the man in the Great Pumpkin outfit who is running for president. Most of us have resigned ourselves to a ‘Bitches over Bigots’ strategy*, rather than real change. Honestly, if Trump wins then this is not the place I thought it was and Canada will have to build a wall and make us pay for it!

No, my friends, it is the folks on “my side” who bring me despair. The blue-hairs and kids that can afford to work in politics and policy are of the same breed and dependent on the same hierarchy that they claim to be against. Case in point: in a moment of panic I recently volunteered at a local political organization. They told me they need to hire 5 part time people at $10 per hour. I have been unemployed for several months but I wasn’t there for the money (luckily). I happen to know a few folks who need the work so I referred them. What these people fail to understand, and this is true in the nonprofit world generally, is that a grown adult who is desperate enough to work for a pittance really needs the money. They need some commitment. They are facing food insecurity and other nasty things that we policy types can barely imagine. A part time job requires as much travel as a full time job and people in this situation generally have to juggle several of these to stay afloat. A two-fare bus zone in my area will cost over $5 alone. While many organizations may not be able to pay a decent wage, they should consider providing travel and/or lunch to these workers. I cannot fathom how an organization that supports the Fight for $15 be so incongruous.

I have experienced some disturbing things since I my graduation: A labor organization that continuously postpones filling a position without bothering to notify the candidates. An Executive Director who declines to pass along plumb job listings to the young lawyer who does pro bono work for her organization because she doesn’t “want to lose her.” And most recently, the aforementioned political organization wastes the time of its potential hires precisely because their wage is so cheap.

I get it. Social organizations operate on a shoestring, but this doesn’t have to mean that they should fail to value the time of their hires in other ways. Poor people are more time-constrained than anyone. Their time is the only thing they have to trade for money. They cannot hire someone to else to pick up the laundry. Many are caretakers. “Not my problem,” you say, “I have an organization to run.” An organization that gets its funded to help the very people it exploits? At what point does it become everyone’s problem? We have people going hungry during times of record profits? When do we step up and take responsibility, in our little corner of the world, before we too, are shut out in the cold? There are many examples in the past of problems that required an Act of Congress before people would recognize them as unacceptable, sexual harassment, disability accommodations, a minimum wage, to name a few. Low wages and inequality are not just morally wrong, but it turns out that they are bad for the economy. I am deeply disappointed that our best hope for change lies in a third sector that is rife with exploitation.

People bemoan the disaffected and disconnected youth. I have a few in my own family, operating on “Brooklyn time” and failing to plan ahead. What I have concluded through my own recent dealings with the welfare system (I try to think of it as Participant-Observation research) is that these kids are not stupid, they’re meditating to diffuse a malignant rage. Disenfranchised folks that navigate the system well are required to have the patience of Job. This requires shutting down whole portions of the self. They don’t have the luxury, the naivety—that I have displayed here—to be disappointed. They already know we aren’t going to change anything. That’s why they don’t vote.

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