I heard the news about the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care in the car on the way to work this morning. I am thrilled. We are one step closer to joining the ranks of the countries that have affordable health care. Now, if only we could get rid of that pesky “for profit” part…
The cries of socialism are ringing, though. On my way into my office building, a co-worker told me that one of the guys who eats breakfast was ranting about how we’re turning into a nation of socialists.
But it got me thinking about people, specifically. Our democratic model is supposed to allow for involvement by all citizens. Of course, the better educated and motivated the citizens are, the better the democracy, which in theory will work in the best interests of its people.
There was a man standing on the corner on my way to work. He caught my eye because his Hawaiian shirt did not match his checkered shorts. He was holding a sign that said, “Honest work for honest pay.” It also listed his phone number.
There’s another man, wearing some sort of identification badge (as a way to legitimize his request) who stands on the corner where I turn onto the main thoroughfare as I leave work. He’s there every day, even in the hot sun, and his sign says that he’s an Army veteran and a father of four, willing to work.
When I was a child, the signs read, “Anything helps,” or “I’m not going to lie, I need a beer,” and while I don’t mean to make light of the homeless epidemic that has been a problem for longer than I’ve been alive, which is entirely related to our own lack of mental health care -particularly for our veterans – and other necessary services, I find the fact that the signs’ messages have changed to be an indicator of a far deeper problem.
Who are we as a society to put profit before people? Have we forgotten about the “general welfare“?
When a baby is born, it is a helpless individual in need of constant attention. While most of these babies grow up to be adults, the paths that they take (both willfully and unwillingly) are greatly divergent from their shared beginnings as infants in need of clean diapers, a warm bed, and food.
Somewhere along the way, some of these people seem to have forgotten that our fragile existence is dependent upon reliance on others. Reliance on others sounds like hippie nonsense, but it’s not. Every individual possesses unique strengths that serve as an asset to the communities in which they live. A community that is able to utilize these assets in the best manner possible has far greater strength and is a far more vibrant place to be.
People are quick to make assumptions when they see someone standing on a street corner holding a sign that begs for work. I urge you to imagine how you would come to that decision. It’s not a dignified action, the begging, and people know that. They have weighed their options and come up with nothing, and so, standing on the corner with a sign is their last attempt.
Say what you will about people who receive assistance from the government (and in doing so, I urge you to consider the bailouts of banks and large corporations as something similar, just for perspective), but at the core of everything lies the concept of humanity. If we desire to create a society driven by the pursuit of sustainability and progress, we must remember that each and every citizen matters, regardless of their ability to accumulate wealth or their social standing.
In our rush to actualize the American dream, we started valuing white collar jobs, and in doing so, began to devalue labor. Human labor is a necessary force for sustained growth and the success of a nation. People want to work. They want to feel as though their work matters.
Business can be successful when people matter, but the desire to drive the profit margin ever higher must cease. I work for a company that proves that human is more important than anything else. We have been providing software for decades (longer than I’ve been alive), and have maintained and grown the business without sacrificing the integrity of the people who work here. My boss always says, “We are not what we do,” and he lives by that. He once had to get up in the middle of a very important demonstration of our product to go attend to his family, and he did so without hesitation. I respect that.We work together, as a community. We share ideas, inspirations, and celebrate the good news. We are a support network during times of grief and sadness. This is a unique kind of company, and I’m glad I work here.
I’m arguing for or against socialism, but I’m arguing that as a country, we’ve begun to neglect of the most important facets of our society: our people.
The United States is no longer the greatest nation in the world. What we lack in education, human services (including health care), and global respect, we make up for in incarceration rates, defense spending, and bravado. In order to keep ourselves relevant on the world stage, we must learn to compromise between the corporation and the individual. We are a government “by the people, for the people,” and it’s time that we started remembering that.