It’s been a pretty busy week. I was quoted in The New York Times, and wrote about the experience. Thanks so much to Ezinne Ukoha, Susan Lewis, and Marley K. for their kind words of congratulations. Being included in the Times article brought more attention to my piece on The Joe Budden Podcast, and I’ve convinced Marley K. to check it out. She wrote (referring to Budden’s run-in with The Migos at The BET Awards, when Budden tossed his mic in frustration):
We are too old for this bull swanky 😂😂. I am right there with him. Grow up and be professional like business people instead of immature school boys. The GIFS tho 😂. Congrats sis. I need to tune in to see what I’ve been missing. Thanks for the plug.
Those gifs from the Everyday Struggle coverage of the BET Awards are some of my favorite pop culture artefacts from last year. I tell you, I YELPED like a purse dog the first time I saw them. I really, really miss Everyday Struggle. They captured lightning in a bottle. I can’t believe Complex let Joe Budden walk away. It’s such a huge L, especially in hindsight. At least he kept doing his podcast.
I’m an old, so I can’t keep up with what all the young people are doing, and Everyday Struggle was kind of my cheat sheet. The Joe Budden Podcast meanders more, but it’s what keeps me informed (and entertained). Joe’s an old too, so I appreciate it all being filtered through that perspective, but without the resentment some other older commentators bring to the table.
It was a good week for my entertainment plugs. I almost never get comments on my movie recommendations, so I was thrilled that Julian Mirijello is going to check out Ex Machina based on my review. It’s such a good movie. If you haven’t, you should definitely make time to see it.
I also stirred up some controversy this week with my story, The Secular Prosperity Gospel of #RiseAndGrind Culture. One comment in particular made me realize that I’d been remiss. I’d sort of talked around #riseandgrind culture without really giving a clear example of it. This comment from Jamie is a pretty good representation:
All the signs of our economy seem to be that there is an army of people wanting to grind, and if you’re not willing to grind then there is someone else who is. They might be an immigrant, they might be the 20-something who is trying to move up in life, or they could be the 30 something starting their first company for the first time. There is no job security when labor is cheap.
When people are entirely willing to drive 2 hours each way so they can Drive for Uber for 12 hours straight. Wages are going to be cheap. When there are people who are fully aware of the requirements of working in an Amazon warehouse, and do it anyway, labor will be cheap. For all indications there is plentiful labor at the low end of the job requirements spectrum.
“The Grind” is what is sometimes required to get out of the bottom of the skill tree. And it’s worth it to get out. Should we consider more free education? Yes. Should we consider more social safety net? Yes. Are we doing to in this climate? Probably not. Good luck convincing someone today that they need to pay higher taxes on their low wages so that they can support someone else’s “down on their luck” moment. And Good luck telling companies they should pay more when there are plenty of people willing to do the work at what they are paying right now.
“It’s The Market baby!”
Most of #riseandgrind culture boils down to re-stating Margaret Thatcher’s maxim, “There’s no such thing as society,” in cooler-sounding language. It’s not even trickle-down economics, though. Reagan and Thatcher at least pretended lower-wage workers might benefit from their nihilism. It’s not possible for everyone to “climb the skill tree” (a Ponzi scheme-worthy construction if I’ve ever heard one), and even if you can, wages in America have been stagnant for 40 years. Meanwhile, the cost of living (particularly rent) in most metropolitan areas (where the bulk of the skilled jobs are) has exploded. University graduates who have taken on debt the size of home mortgages because they were to told it would help them climb the skill tree are being compelled to work for free. Where do people think that’s going to end? Like every pyramid scheme, it’s going to blow up. Soon. And when it does, that army of people some think are ready to grind is going choose to do something entirely different, and it won’t be pretty. The conditions that preceded the Great Depression are teed up. You can’t “It’s the Market, baby!” your way out of a collapsed society. “Me, me, me, me” can’t sustain civilization.
Wyatt Edward Gates’ comment on the article offered this perspective:
It’s painful for someone to realize how little economic freedom they have. No one wants to think they’re up a creek for good. They want to think there’s some path upward out of the pit they’re in. Hopefully in the future more people will realize that the only way forward is to organize and work in community to protect others and in doing so build a society in which all people are provided for.
Unfortunately, this all sounds like socialism. That word makes too many Americans hysterical. Rapacious competition is too much a part of the American psyche — it’s why it lags so far behind its peer nations in every quality of life measure. Sadly, I think the bottom is going to have to fall out in America before enough people get on board with the notion that in a wealthy society no one should starve or be without health care, and everyone shrugging and saying “Good luck to you, may the best man win,” as they fight over scraps isn’t any way to run a functional society. They’re going to force themselves to learn the hard way that there’s a difference between income and wealth, and all the wealth is calcified in a small sliver of the population.
This ended on a darker note than I’d intended… But that’s it for this week. I’m working on a follow-up to my piece on EA erasing Colin Kaepernick from Madden NFL that I’ll hopefully be able to share next week.