B Is For Birthright
So to continue, on the drive to Costco the other day I mentioned to my Conservative friend that I was thinking of volunteering at a local organization that helps out people who need helping out.
You know who I’m talking about, the sort of people who don’t factor into The Economy, the God to which we employables must sacrifice ourselves so that The Economy doesn’t get angry and punish our wealthier shareholder class with reduced profits.
People unlikely to be reading blogs during the middle of the day, to put it in cyberspace terms.
Of course my Conservative friend (or chauffeur, I guess, now that I really stop and think about it) opined that I was just trying to assuage my middle-class guilt, although he didn’t use the word assuage.
He said get rid of or somesuch combination of littler words, not that he doesn’t know big words. He’s British, after all. And not mean. In fact, he’s really quite generous. He just believes, as Conservatives often do, in the entitlement and tough luck of birthright.
Sure you can strive for better, but being born into better means your genes earned better for you, while being born into worse means they let you down.
So it’s not your fault you’re poor, it’s the fault of your genes.
And it’s all good because we’re all where we belong on account of the holey family of Mother Nature, Father Time, and the invisible hand of Adam Smith.
To be fair, my financial circumstances due to joblessness are such that anyone, Conservative or non, might be moved to ask, “Who the hell are you to volunteer?” Then advise, “Get a job!”
Ah, but I’m aware not only of the immaterial benefits of volunteering, but also of the material benefits. Give and ye shall receive, but also the more you do the more you’re doing and one action leads to another and so on and so forth and more of the same et cetera et cetera and before you know it your nose is back to the grindstone, baby!
By the way, I saw an advertisement for a “generalist” the other day if you’re looking, dear unemployed Sooey Says reader(s). I’d apply but my skills, although not specific, aren’t general, either.
Why can’t I be paid to volunteer to help out people worse off than myself, myself being not worse off at all but in need of some sort of income to stay not worse off at all.
But the other day my friend, who is conservative in the sense that she wouldn’t in a million years vote for the Conservative Party, was talking about an in-law who recently took a buy-out and her husband who didn’t because he figures he needs to keep working in order to retire on the maximum possible yadda yadda blah blah.
In other words, wtf?! to the power of 11.
Meanwhile, they own a suburban home in Ottawa that’s probably worth close to a million dollars, can’t stand each other, and have hated their jobs for about the past 30 years.
Aside: I joked to my book club the other day, “I’m thinking of taking early retirement next year”. There was a brief uncomfortable pause, followed by much laughter. We’re pretty much the classic book club stereotype, although I put myself way out of their league when I ran away from my matrimonial home in the ‘burbs to be with a younger man, not unlike a character from an Alice Munro novel, now that I really stop and think about it.
Of course, if I’d really stopped and thought about it, I wouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. And for sure I wouldn’t have left Toronto and moved to Ottawa.
Ottawa? Jesus H. Christ on a poker chip, now that I really really stop and think about it, what the hell am I doing living in Ottawa?
I should head out West to Alberta and put a little socialist in the NDP, shouldn’t I. Anybody got a spare bedroom for me and my placard?
Anyway, my friend and I were shaking our heads about people we know and/or read about who seem to us to have more than enough by way of financial assets to survive on for the next 500 years or more but nevertheless insist on hedging their bets by working to earn money as long as they possibly can before retiring.
And you just know they’re all doing their commute in cars that cost as much as a house in Northern Ontario (the real one – in Northwestern Ontario).
I mean, really, if Canadians who own suburban homes and have secure pensions are worried about having enough money in their retirement, why are the rest of us even bothering.
Give it up. Down tools. And wait for the Apocalypse.
If Stephen Harper’s sudden desperate last ditch efforts at playing nice to get those Godforsaken tarsands developed (speaking of birthright), you just know it’s got to be right around the corner.
Of course, it’s possible that no one is suggesting to my friend’s sister-in-law’s husband, “Why don’t you spend an hour or two doing the math to prove to yourself that in order to run out of money you’d have to live to be 500 years old, then retire?”
True story (as opposed to all your other untrue stories, Sooey Says?!) I did that very favour for a boss at my previous job. She was having trouble deciding between slightly early retirement and having to find a new job at a very stressful time in her personal and professional life which had been a very stressful time for about two decades.
I said, “You’re over-thinking this. Go home, do the math, then retire.”
Anyway, she came in to work the next day, announced, “I did da mat’. I retire.” And that was that. Poof. She was gone. Which was great for me because it meant I didn’t have a boss.
Sadly, my term ran out not long after and I only got to enjoy three months of the boss-free work/life balance we all want in a job.
But that’s not what this entry is about because this entry is about a realization I had recently that I can probably do any kind of work now and not feel compromised by having a university degree I can’t possibly live up to. That’s because I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that my university degree is nothing more than a reflection of my birthright, as is the case with almost everybody I know, including all the young people I keep reading about (and know, personally) or see being interviewed on public television who are unemployed or underemployed (although “barista” sounds like a pretty cool job to me).
The thing is, when I was their age, living at home with my mom while I looked for suitable employment befitting a university graduate was not possible. That’s because my mom would have made it not possible by being an unaccommodating slave driver who would preface every order with, “while you’re living under my roof”.
And even at that I’d probably have had to become a prostitute, I mean, sex trade worker, just so that I could pay room and board, which would be set deliberately high to discourage me from thinking that living with my mom was possible even if it was.
So I hooked up to share expenses and did temp jobs, got a permanent job, broke up, quit, boyfriends, travel, permanent job again, quit, boyfriends, travel, hooked up, married, kids, broke up, boyfriend, temp jobs, unemployment.
It wasn’t until I was 50 that I had job befitting my education, the last job I had, in fact, the job from which I was laid off due to random and arbitrary cutbacks that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Stephen Harper or Jim Flaherty or some asshat politician deciding to balance the books, whatever the hell that means anymore.
My point is, and I do have one, there is no crisis of underemployment for young people with university degrees, there’s just an increasing insistence that young people with university degrees are entitled to a certain level of employment because their parents spent a lot of money for them to get it.
And there’s no crisis of unemployment for young people with university degrees, either. Young university graduates aren’t living on the streets begging passersby for spare change. They’re living at home with their parents, people like unemployed little ol’ me who can still afford to take in the odd kid or two or three, while my partner freelances to pay the mortgage.
This is all about birthright, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when one half of a couple worth well over a million dollars chooses to put off retirement because he’s worried about his financial future in a Canadian city that isn’t even Toronto or Vancouver, even though he and his partner both have secure pensions, we’re kidding ourselves if we think any of this means anything else.
More importantly, I’m kidding myself if I even try to catch up to my birthright now.
Seriously, a barista? I’d kill to be a barista. Now quit complaining and get me a coffee, kid.