I never thought I would be one of those people. The people who get an expensive Master’s degree so they can start a career they like and can pay their bills but then can’t find a good job related to the field of one’s study, and then are forced to take a job they don’t want that won’t even cover the cost of their bills. But I have become that person. As much as I have tried to resist it and find another way … I am there.
Now I am one of those people who has to apply to jobs I am super over-qualified for. Now I have to hope I can get part-time jobs and string them together into one great patchwork that, hopefully, generates enough money to get me through another day. Of course I will keep trying to apply to social work jobs, but for now I am facing a reality of “do whatever it takes” to survive, and it sucks!
This all started when I was let go from my last job, had a hell of a time trying to get another one, and got my unemployment cut when Congress didn’t renew benefit extensions. So I got a contract job in my field, for which I was grateful. But that made me all of $1,000 in a month, which merely matched my unemployment. Then the referrals of clients dried up — a “slow period” they called it. I call it being effectively laid off, only there is no unemployment for me to claim this time.
So now I have a job that isn’t giving me any clients to see, which means I don’t have an income. It means my options have run out in terms of doing what I was trained to do — social work. Now I am finding myself applying to be a caregiver for the elderly and a receptionist at an animal hospital, which are both part time and lower paying than the job I was trained to do — you know, the one for which I am in 40K worth of debt. The loans I can never pay back because I can’t get a full-time social work job. When your options become which job would you like more out of two jobs you don’t want, things aren’t good. These are the craptastic choices under capitalism.
It reminds me of all the other choices people are forced to make in a capitalist society. It’s always a choice between “two evils.” Do I pay this bill or that one? Do I buy more unhealthy food that costs less or have less to eat but more healthy food? Do I not fix my car and try to live without it or fix it and have to go into more debt when I put it on a credit card? Do I get my medications refilled or pay my rent? Do I move in with family or friends, live in my car, or go into a shelter? Do I ask my parents or my friends for money? Do I skip breakfast so I can afford to feed my kids? Do I just skip my shower/meal/medications because I can’t afford to pay for someone to help me and I’m too frail to do it myself?
Let’s be honest, these choices suck! They aren’t choices anyone wants to make. They aren’t choices anyone should make, ever, period. The fact that we have accepted them as just a regular part of life shows just how much we have adjusted to a sick system. We “suck it up” and just trudge through the days acting as if this is just “the way life is” and there is no other choice. Many struggle in silence, never asking for help.
I think there are other choices. There are alternatives to such a cruel and inhumane system. There are policies in the short term that would ease our suffering. Things like universal health care, universal child care, universal tax payer funded higher education, guaranteed income, full employment, and programs that ensure that no one goes without food, clothing, shelter, or help for basic necessities of life. Longer term, we need a socialist transformation.
Capitalism offers no alternatives. It forces us to take jobs we hate — if we can even find jobs. Those jobs pay us crap because the greedy bosses steal it all from us and hoard it for themselves. Capitalism takes from us and gives to the rich, making them richer and making us poorer. It sets up a system of desperation and drudgery. It is not set up to meet human needs. Capitalism puts profit above people.
On the other hand, socialism is a system based on human needs, where we all can share the collective wealth of society. Socialism gives us better choices. Choices that give us dignity and work we enjoy. Choices that gives us enough money and enough free time as well. Choices that allow us to live, and not just get by. These are real choices. Capitalism forces us into choices we don’t want. Socialism gives us choices we do want. It’s that simple.
Some people have wishful thinking when it comes to capitalism. They think we can just get rid of the “bad” parts of capitalism and what’s left will be the good stuff. They claim we can just highly regulate capitalism and then it will be good for everyone. Sure, it could improve a few things, but it would still not be what we need and deserve as human beings. Capitalism creates hierarchies; and if we are ever going to be truly liberated, power must be distributed more horizontally, and not top down.
People trick themselves into believing capitalism can be reformed. It cannot be reformed out of its essential exploitative nature and its priority of profit above all else. It must be abolished and replaced with a better system — one that is based upon our social needs as human beings. I propose socialism, of course.
Some say, well socialism has been tried and it didn’t work. It has actually never been officially tried in the modern era in any industrialized nation. What was labeled as socialism, and what some people incorrectly perceive as socialism, was actually a mixed market economy of some sort, some countries with more capitalistic aspects and some with less.
Some industrialized countries, such as Finland and Denmark, could be called “socialistic” but still have capitalist aspects. They practice what we call social democracy, but not socialism. Moreover, some countries traditionally thought of as “socialist” were actually totalitarian societies ran with extremely hierarchical – sometimes fascist — dictatorships and were, thus, not democratic. Socialism is inherently democratic.
Some people raise another objection by saying “human nature” makes us “greedy.” Actually, what we call human nature depends on the society one grows up in. Culture not only changes our behavior, but it also literally shapes our brains as we develop. So we can make up our society in any way we choose and, thus, our “nature” any way we choose, and our brains will adapt. That can happen if we all get together and decide it needs to be different than it is now, and we make it so. That is our challenge.
We need to stop accepting this crappy reality and create a new one. The future is up to us. And I, for one, am sick of scarping by and experiencing unnecessary suffering when I could be much less stressed and much more happy. I need more people to join with me so we can all be less stressed and happier together.