I like the word plethora; it means “a large or excessive amount of something.” When I say there are a plethora of topics to discuss, I really mean it. The apostles of do nothing are back in session. All of our public servants have been sworn in. I could write about that.
I could write about the interesting people I have met over the last couple of days. Michal Tehteh from the Community Cycling Center in Portland, or Lisa Detchman from Boomerang. Both are active with businesses that are doing good in their community, one is Portland and the other Vancouver. One person I want to talk to is Ryan Hurley of Detour Ministries who seems to have a vision for West Vancouver that intrigues me. I am going to try and meet with him.
I could write about Boeing. It had an incredible year both delivering airplanes, as well as getting new orders. There are still labor issues, but the company will be producing aircraft in the Pacific Northwest for many years to come. Of course, tragic events could change that, but hopefully these do not occur.
One thing that did catch my eye yesterday was a new book. The title “Labors Love Lost,” got me to take another look because of my love for reading and watching Shakespeare. The article in the WSJ that discussed this book started with “The American working class seems destined for the dustbin of history.” That seems rather negative. The author of the book, Andrew Cherlin, is a Sociologist and expert on the contemporary family.
Cherlin argues that the world of business in the United States has changed causing an angst for the modern American worker. The benefits of work in the US took over 100 years to develop as our economy moved from an agrarian base to an industrial one. “Only after the greatest generation returned home from a war that had disabled the competition from abroad did productivity increase, the family wage became commonplace and the lunch-pail worker emerged as a star in America’s story of progress.”
But now, the American worker is faced with a “global diaspora” of living wage jobs, being replaced with low-wage service jobs. Cherlin also argues the American male has become frustrated with the lack of wage advancement and subsequently has gone AWOL from the labor market. This in turn is leading to the implosion of “churchgoing American families,” who are experiencing divorce and non-marital births as routine. The reason given for this, at least from a political perspective, is dependent about one’s philosophy. Liberals believe it is because of the affects of economic inequality, and the conservative it is related to the loss of traditional “bourgeois values.”
Ok, we know we have a problem, but I am more concerned with how we fix it. Where do we go from here? The fact is the way we work has changed. Technology has done more to change the way work is done than the diaspora. However, I think the American consumer needs to change too. If we want to see better paying jobs for all, then we need to support small local businesses that hire a lot of people. However, if we can only afford to shop at Walmart, then we need to continue the pressure them to raise wages. This will need be a combined effort by consumers and government. I am not sure what that looks like, but I know if Walmart adds a few pennies on the cost of its product to raise the wages of its employees by a few bucks, everyone wins, even the investor.
I also think the investor, owner of capital, can change this too. They can put pressure on management teams to raise wages by instructing the board of directors that this is a priority. It may not be maximizing the return to shareholders, but it will optimize.
The social side, implosion of families, I think is a result of the culture shift in our country. Civility is in decline, connection is now done electronically and not F2F, and relativity has become the philosophical foundation of our country. I think that is a problem. This is where I think religious organizations can step in and begin to work with the people to develop a more healthy outlook on life. How can a guy, just cut off by a 72 year old man in traffic, feel like he has the right to follow the old man home into his garage to express his road rage? No wonder the 72 year old man shot him. I think our culture is in trouble.
To conclude my thoughts this morning, which are a bit random, I want to quote Phillip Yancey. “In the waning days of the empire [Roman], the watching world sat up and paid attention. People flocked to the churches, which stood out as caring communities. A fourth-century Roman emperor known as Julian the Apostate complained bitterly about Christians of his time” The impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also…Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity.”
There is a plethora of things to think about and take action on. My question to you is do you care enough to make a difference? Stockholders, and other owners of capital, do you care enough about the living standards of the people who work for you? Are you the Scrooge before or after the visions? Are you a man who has checked out of the process of life because you feel you are a victim? Or are you a church member who sits on Sunday and listens to a message that is meant to spur you on to service, but only reinforces your idea of exceptionalism? I think I have been, but now I want to change.
This is a new year and the key term is plethora. No one person can do it all. But the time is now to turn the page and make a difference Spiritually, Economically, Socially, and Environmentally.
And that is my thought for the day!