Friday, August 31, 2012

Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?

The Republican presidential nominee asked that question of me last night. Here’s my answer:

No, I’m not better off, because after working at a company for 20 years, my position was eliminate exactly one year ago for business reasons and I have been unemployed for the last year.

In applying for jobs these last 12 months I’ve learned that my skills are not easily transferable to the current marketplace and that employers don’t really care to pay for knowledge and experience, especially when they can pay a younger person much less to do what is deemed adequate. That lesson has been sobering and humbling and, although I’ve always empathized with those laid off for whatever reasons, I’ve come, after a year, to a deeper understanding of how demeaning and humiliating it is to be unemployed and unemployable for many of my country’s fellow workers.

The reason given for the termination of my position was financial, a business decision based on the economic downturn of the last few years caused by the bursting of the real estate speculation bubble and near-financial meltdown of our banking institutions.

It was a problem I did not cause nor profit from. It was caused by those who believe that true economic value comes from the use of capital and that the accumulation, buying and selling of assets are governing principles of our nation’s economy.

For 20 years of my employment, I received wages for my labor and my value to my company was my labor. My skills, knowledge and experience are my assets in today’s marketplace.

Four years ago the hope I felt and the change I hoped for was kindled by what I felt was a recognition that this country had chosen leadership embodying my values— the values that my labor, not what I owned, was what was worthwhile as a contribution to our country.

The man who asked me the question last night stands with many others for whom the accumulation of capital is most important, not the value of labor. He stands with many others who have, with money and influences, stymied reforms of the regulatory and financial systems that have failed to protect my interests. He stands with many others who would take us back to the very way of doing business in this country that brought about the very hardships he now promises to alleviate.

No, I am not better off than I was four years ago. But that is not because the hope I felt four years ago was misplaced or foolish; it was not and the value of my labor remains all that I can offer to this country. No, I am not better off than I was four years ago and I will not be better off in the company of Mitt Romney, his capitalist brethren and their lapdogs because in their eyes, I have no value, no assets, nothing worthy to buy and sell.

My worth is my labor— and I will work for and vote for and stand with those who believe the same.

--Mike Sato


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  2. As I understand the natural history of humans, one of our fundamental motivating influences, right up there with love, pleasure and survival, is to contribute to others, to participate and earn acceptance by deeds. In contrast, the prevailing philosophical belief driving our nation's and most of the world's politics and economy is best expressed in Ayn Rand's aggressive selfishness. In that economy one's loftiest goal is to embellish the allmighty self at the expense of others, to take and never give, to exploit and diminish other humans (and of course any and all of the natural world), and never deviate from aggrandizing the self, especially economically. These people tend to win, because they destroy their competition, and this drive to dominate all others has probably set the course of human evolution for millions of years, and may explain why there is only one species of hominid on the planet although there used to be several.
    By way of comparison, there are at least 28 species of dolphins in the world's oceans, co-existing without borders for millions of years, almost entirely without hostilities, including 20-30 distinct cultural communities of orcas, each a large extended family, each very aware of other communities, and each with its own language and specialized diet, minimizing competition between cultures. There's something we could learn there, if we could learn at all.