For 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, we as the new workers of the world push ourselves most every day to get people the goods and services they want and need. Ending the work week having nothing to show for it but paid bills and empty wallets. At the base level, we are the reason the economy exists and continues to function. We alone are the reason anything gets done. But, we are not treated as such. We hear stories of our own friends, family, and acquaintances living paycheck to paycheck for months on end. Contrasting this are the many news stories or paparazzi pieces posted ad infinitum online. Above all else, however, we are treated as if we are expendable.
When we get sick or an event comes up where we cannot come to work that day, we feel that keenly. I know I personally begin to stress out when I pick up the phone to call out of work. I worry what the manager or employee on the other end of the phone might say when I tell them I can’t make it. This is by design. This is how the estrangement of a worker under capitalism begins.
No one person has summed up this complicated situation better than Joseph Taecker-Wyss in his 2017 article “Democracy, Capitalism, and the Law. ” Taecker-Wyss makes the case that, “under capitalism, there are always more laborers looking for jobs than there are positions. Therefore, workers are always either desperate to be employed or, when they have a job, to maintain it. Thus, they are easily expendable and exploitable by the capitalist.” Capitalism strives to take the labor of workers and turn it into capital for the rich and wealthy few rather than the working majority.
The lifestyle of the rich and famous is what the capitalist wants us to strive for. They use media coverage of the upper crust of society gallivanting around in foreign cars, designer clothing, and attending galas like a carrot on a stick they can dangle in front of us at work and at home to keep us both hopeful for a better life and working hard. They want us to keep consuming. There is no justification for why images of the opulent life need to be shoved in our faces other than to distract us. Society’s foundation can only dream of such a life while they go out and actually live it with enough wealth left over in their bank accounts for the rest of us. We struggle in our everyday life to pay off houses we live in but don’t own. We have YouTubers eating 24k gold chicken wings for our entertainment while we have veterans, college students, and single parents working two jobs just to make ends meet.
Perhaps you are one of them, perhaps you are ALL of them. This is not a healthy society and it’s definitely not “just the way things are”. Why can’t you have a taste of the good life? Why do the wealthy and their affluenza stricken children get to dance on yachts on a Tuesday while you work your fingers to the bone? And more importantly, what can you do to bring about a change?
It is crucial you understand how powerful you are as a worker. In fact, all workers need to realize their power. There are reasons the 10% and the exploitative capitalists don’t want us to speak up or work together. They hate whistleblowers because having our voices heard is how the rallying will start, how we will begin organizing workers of the world and how we will get policy passed that doesn’t just benefit the few, but instead the whole. But if we don’t and we keep letting them push us around forcing us to work in unsafe conditions for less than livable pay we will have given up our rights. Not only making it easier for our children and further generations to be exploited but allowing that exploitation to become more and more dangerous. We need to cut this off at the pass; hard work does not build character being able to live life does. They know this, now we know this. It’s why we should raise our voices when we know something is wrong or unjust. We must speak up! It is our duty to ourselves to tell the boss we cannot work when we are sick. If we see a fellow laborer being strained mentally or physically to simply meet a bottom line. It is imperative we go over and talk to them.
We are all workers and we must be here for each other, especially if you are in a union or you have the ability to STRIKE!
Companies cannot hire a whole staff in just one hour, and if our fellow laborers agree to organize and walk out companies, CEO’s and even politicians will have to listen to us. Although looked down upon by the upper class and those who sit at their feet. Strikes are a powerful part of any labor movement.
In fact the fear of strikes landed the AFA-CWA (Association of Flight Attendants – Communications Workers of America) public recognition thanks to the wonderful Sara Nelson calling for a general strike when the government was shutdown by our president forcing anybody working for the government to show up and work but for no pay. Thanks to her rallying and hard work she was able to get better working conditions and PAY by striking against frontier airlines. However, unions are not an easy thing to found or even find in most workplaces. So as an average worker what can you do?
Start by educating yourself and your friends as to what’s going on around you. Read books like Four Futures: Life After Capitalism or for the more light-hearted and daring The Chapo Guide to Revolution [NSFW] or try listening to podcasts like the Majority Report with Sam Seder , ChapoTrapHouse, or even watching The Young Karl Marx, a movie available to stream online. That’s what I did, thanks to a lifelong friend of mine who was the catalyst in my political reformation.
I used to think, like most people, the world was black and white politically. And I thought that the parties other than Republican or Democrat did not have a chance or even a voice. I thought that most other third parties were dead on arrival, racists, or jokes like the Beer Drinkers Party. It wasn’t until a single action from my friend that I realized how wrong I was.
He sent me a YouTube video that was a clip from a Chapo Trap House podcast episode wherein they read a book by the one and only alt-right talking head Ben Shapiro. It was called true allegiance and it was BAD, like really bad but that’s not what stuck with me. What stuck with me was the critiques they made and how they would link what’s in the books to modern politics or express their political opinions on a matter. I was surprised not only because they were socialists but because I found myself agreeing with socialist ideas.
What I didn’t know at the time is that the socialist wave is strong, and I had just become a part of it. In fact Lehigh Valley, where I live, just a few months after buying my Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) flag had their DSA chapter get nationally recognized. It’s because of simple acts of the people educating themselves and looking past the status quo. Just like my friend did and what he urged me to do as well. Then I learned my grandmother was coming out of retirement to pay her medical bills for chemo. I decided any system forcing the weak or handicapped to labor in order to get the treatment they so desperately need must not only be corrupt and feeding off the exploitation of the workers but also must be made obsolete for a functional society to exist.
Currently, 10% of the people control around 90% of this country’s wealth. Not surprisingly among these rich are our policy makers. There is a sizable number of millionaires in our Congress and to an average worker that is an issue. How can those who speak for us know what we want if their lives are being paid for by our labor.
While they sit and write up policy to drain our bank accounts even more, we work hard dreaming of becoming a millionaire. For us laborers our chances of making that kind of money are a mere 1 in 22 chance compared to our representatives who have just a 1 in 2 shot. These people are not “our voice”. Neither are the rich and famous. Do not be swayed by pop culture political ads featuring famous actors or musicians. Think for yourself!
Celebrities are just as much part of the problem as the policy makers are. The upper 0.01% in our country have enough money to buy a Rolls Royce Phantom (base models begin at $450,000 ) 52 times over. Why should anybody have money like that squirreled away? To put that into perspective that amounts to a minimum of $23.4 million; , what could you do with that money? Paying off college debt sounds like a good idea. Or maybe finally getting that new heater for your home. Hell, treat yourself and pay off your credit cards and the house you don’t actually own.
But I don’t want to make the rich sound too bad. They do help others too. Or do they? In case you have never heard of him there is a gentleman named Bill Koch who is an oil tycoon in every sense of the word. If the name rings a bell, he’s less known brother of Charles and David Koch, who have made their names funding the far right wing with dark money, but I digress. Bill has built a realistic western town in Colorado. Since he is a capitalist he must have made it as a nice tourist attraction for the public. WRONG its private and not open to the public made for him and his friends alone. Well, at least his son Wyatt, a “fashion designer,” who designs by drawing in crayon “great” shirts like this beauty for his company, a company he has no business running since his father’s money paid for everything.
Wyatt did get some brief notoriety when investigative journalists uncovered that he – along with a bunch of other billionaires – donated to the Paradise Fund, The Paradise Fund was established in Palm Beach Florida to “ educate the public about the ongoing political, environmental, health, educational and social complications plaguing children throughout the world.” That seems like a good cause right? If it means that the rich are planning on giving away money to educate the masses I’m all for it. In fact if you check their website http://www.theparadisefund.com/ you’ll notice – Oh, wait. The website is down. and the only writing I have found online writes about the opulence of a ball the paradise fund threw for all their bougie party guests. I wonder if that has anything to do with the publication of the Paradise Papers: Secrets of the Global Elite, by the International Cortium of Investigative Journalists? Hmm. I wonder.
If by this point the misuse of funds that could have been given to those in need and flagrant exploitation of the working class does not boil your blood, I applaud and worry about you. But for the laborer who cares, Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see something wrong or unjust.
Since my friend had sent me that Chapo Trap House video, I’ve attended the PA Promise rally in the PA Capitol building, I’ve begun reading and writing more, but above all I have begun organizing. It all started with just one link to a video. You can make this kind of change in somebody too. You just have to reach out. The last thing I would like to leave you with is some of the lyrics to an old French labor song called “The Internationale” that I feel has a special meaning for the here and now.
“Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We’ll live together or we’ll die alone
In our world poisoned by exploitation
Those who have taken now they must give
And end the vanity of nations
We’ve but one earth on which to live”