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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Exception

So I had a long conversation with a very good and old friend of mine the other day.  First time we had seen each other in years.  It was fabulous, great memories of great times, and lots of mutual admiration.  But there was one huge remembrance that I came away with that has been tough to move beyond.  She has become the epitome of the individualistic person that half of this blog consistently rails against, and presented that point in full throughout.  We were talking at length about society and how it functions and what people want and expect from it.  She is very wealthy at this point, talking of a second home on that beach that would cost a million dollars to just to build (let alone the existing property value).  Funny though, as I sit across the table from her wondering what the heck I'll do with myself and ate that day using food stamps.

She went down all the same familiar roads, about how people who work for things should be able to keep them, that taxation is what is stifling America's economy, that the poor are merely there because they don't want to put in the effort and are just looking for hand-outs, etc.  I was of course in her words "the exception".  I had told her of my efforts to keep moving, to stay afloat, of my inability to gain true employment, the side jobs on top of the part-time work, and my continual effort to come up with businesses to start and to try to 'make' my own living instead of waiting for someone else to give me a job.  She stuck to her line of thought, I was the exception.  Everyone else was just sitting there waiting for 'the gift'...

But I know this not to true.  I know people in my position, I talk to people on the streets, at the social services building.  I have studied poverty both personally and academically.  Think of how many people out there would like to start their own business.  I assure you that I am not the only one.  I think it is safe to say that if the system made it easy to start and maintain a business that most people would be very happy to be their own boss, run their day-to-day lives, and make money their own way.  No stretch there, we all want to control our own destiny.  BUT, here I am trying.  Yet I can't get anywhere.  And you know why?  Because I don't have any money.  I have several ideas that I have worked on this past year and over the last several years.  But without money, I / YOU CAN NOT DO ANYTHING.  And this is where we as a society, and my friend's logic fails miserably.

She kept talking about initiative and how no one would step up and really work hard to get their job, that their didn't seem to be a hard worker among anyone in the area there.  Now I don't know the specifics of it all, but I've never heard of such a thing unless there was some sort of catch, or the project wasn't really feasible.  But anyway, this isn't necessarily the point.  The point is, that it isn't about initiative, or desire, because there are plenty of people out there with that.  It is about support and financing.

The project that I am looking at now is straight forward.  It is a retail establishment.  It is a highly viable specialty shop in a $ 650 million market sector that currently has 713 stores nationwide.  Almost a million dollars per store throughout the country.  And the area I'm in has over a million people and one store that is not two years old and is doing a horrible job in both management and marketing.  I know this because I have worked in this industry off and one since 2003, and I currently work at that specific store part-time (for basically a local minimum wage) and I see us losing money and business daily.  The business concept is well researched, thought out, and written, yet I have no money.  So here I sit, another good idea (and this time a simple, well grounded one), yet it is most likely going to be highjacked by other people with no clue about the industry, only a view to a money making opportunity.  You get out what you put in, if you only put in money you only expect money in return, however, if you put in your soul, you would love to see it come out the other side in a better position.  And this is where our society has gone so far wrong, we base our value of things so thoroughly on money.  Everyone talks of 'well if I am putting up the money then I am taking all the risk, I should have a higher valuation'.  No, the person putting up the money is not the one taking the true risk, it is the person that is going to commit the next however many years of their life, time, and effort to it that is risking everything. Their heart, their soul, sleepless nights on the stores couch, missed wages, seven day weeks, and no time off or vacations.  This is a sacrifice, this is worth something.  Time, effort, struggle.  This matters, a few thousand dollars is important of course in our world, but   Money without an investment, will never grow, just as a business without money will never grow in today's world.  Neither can succeed without the other.  But I am sorry, though they are both needed, money is way to overvalued in our society.  It holds all the sway, and pulls all the strings.  If I am lucky, I will end up with a small minority ownership stake.  I will take all my experience and knowledge, work my ass off, and then other's that haven't put in any effort will see the majority of the rewards. That is the way our system works.  It does not actually reward the hard worker, it rewards the person with the money.  And yes of course, this money was made and the financial investors risk may have transversed a different course, but that doesn't make past risks any more important than present ones.  Risking one's sanity and soul should carry a greater value than risking one's money.  

So what then do I do?  Is it even worth it?  Is it simply another good idea that may just not be worth pursuing because the system doesn't actually allow the individual to really take the initiative, but more for those with the money to dictate initiative?  It is in fact, my friend that is the exception to the rule.  She is the one percent of the US population that has been able to get 'there'.  If such a small group of people is there, then it is them that are the exception to the rule - not the almost 40 million people living in poverty in the US, or the rangy middle class that struggles to make ends meet, those with no insurance, the 17% un/underemployed (in real terms).  It is the rich that are the exception, it is those people that 'worked hard' and have made so much money that they are the exception.  But it is not that they have 'worked hard', it is that they have worked in a certain manner.  She is against regulating the banking industry (yes, she has, and her husband does work in finance), the industry that started this financial crisis, and that I lasted barely six months in for my first job before the ethics of it nearly destroyed me.  No, fact of the matter is that it is not about hard work (if that was the case the 'ditch digger' would be paid better), but it is about incessant drive, focus on personal individual wealth and 'growth', and a subtle disinterest in others (or at least the ability to overlook there plight).

I am not the exception, I am just another person out there trying to find a way to survive in this world through my own or any initiative for that matter.  But this is not truly possible for all.  If it was, I would have already succeeded based solely on my effort, experience, and education alone.  But that is not the case, I needed money to make things happen, and I didn't have it.  So those few living the exceptional (American) dream should enjoy it, because its far nicer than my, our nightmare...  ;)

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