It Is Not Good Enough

I find it interesting that we have a minimum wage, but not a maximum wage. The fact that people who are trying to live on $7.25 per hour are deemed deplorable, and yet there is a need to congratulate those who earn over sixty million a year begs the question: who are we? Granted, these are extremes on a pay scale that begins at ludicrous, and actually, surprisingly ends at more ludicrous. In a society’s desperation to find jobs that pay a living salary, in offerings where hours are long, and benefits are scarce, the scale that begins and ends in ludicrous gets lost in survival. If you stop for a moment to contemplate the enormous inequity in America, you will see the basic foundation that we attempt to build from, and the realization of its impossibility is a slap in the face of reality on one hand, and the surreal on the other.

My dad was forty-three when I was born. He had already lived over half of his life. The wiseness of his banter with me was invaluable in developing my view of the world, its grave injustice, and yet its unending hope. My dad, an executive educator in the public schools, was a progressive educationist who envisioned innovative pathways for students. His commitment to democratic principles, and his dauntless respect for teachers created, during his tenure, one of the most esteemed school systems on the East Coast. Not once in my childhood did my dad ever worry about losing his job. I felt anchored and secure in my life. My parents, without constant uncertainties, were able to give of themselves to not only our family, but also to the community I called home. My dad refused raises in an attempt to give more to the people he served. He was beloved, and he was in love with the people he touched. In his day to day conversations and in day to day engagement with people from all walks of life, their stories mattered to him. My family’s existence was not perfect, but it was always hopeful, and rewards were plentiful enough to create memories worth remembering. My dad broke bread with the wealthy, and recruited their participation in the work of doing good. He took time to converse with the vulnerable in an attempt to imagine their daily struggles, and then to create pathways to ease their suffering. He died without regrets. His life of intention, his mindset of service, a tapestry of kindness and a giving heart that transcends time and created a legacy.

Just a stone’s throw away, another man, a banker, was building the largest bank in the country. A man not seeking worship or a different landing place from the average man or woman, Hugh McCall was using his status to serve. His wealth was a means to generously improve the community in which he lived, as well as to share a better life with the people he shared space with. Hugh McCall did not hide away in a glass tower, he rather actively engaged with the vastly different lives around him. In an article by Michael Graff published in 2017, he wrote about Hugh McColl:

Meanwhile, down in Charleston, South Carolina, meet Joe Riley, the ten-term mayor who took a run down city in despair, and transformed it into a historical gem. Southern Living magazine shares this about Joe Riley after the heart wrenching Mother Emanuel shootings:

It is true he created a city, a canvas of irrefutable grace and beauty, that drew off the invisible strands of affection and respect that tie themselves to each another. Joe Riley’s ability to serve others over self recreated a city into a masterpiece.

The common message here is service. Many young people today have never experienced servant leadership. All they know is the relentless pursuit of profit at all costs. Their lives never considered, as their futures are tossed aside as unimportant, and their existence negotiable, only valued in the relentless pursuit for revenue, and never enough wealth. This economic mindset is unsustainable and abhorrent in its disregard for humanity.

This week, Bob Iger announced his retirement from Disney. Bob Iger made $65.6 million in 2018. He received another $26.3 million in stock after closing the Disney-Fox merger. In essence, he made 1,424 times more than the average Disney employee. Good leadership? My cousin was a dancer at Disney for almost twenty years. The working conditions were long hours, low pay, and little room for advancement. After working weekends, holidays, and double shifts, she finally left where she started. I cannot qualify Bob Iger as a good leader. In fact, I find his role at Disney the epitome of what is wrong in our country. Great leaders enjoy and assure the success of others, a concept that he either refused or could not create. Why are we buying into the normalization of ludicrous? I, in no way, want to devalue any person, but there is no person whose work is worth $65 million per year, while his employees live hand to mouth.

We are at a break point, where the middle class is failing into poverty, and the poor are dying from homelessness, opioid addiction, despair, and lack of healthcare. How is this even remotely a semblance of a great America? The great city on the hill is transforming not into greatness, but rather into the shithole country our current President claims to disdain. To be great takes leaders in all industries and all realms of public service to put self aside, and serve. Will the spoiled and intolerant baby boomers who fill the majority of glass towers in America, ever be able to fill those shoes that came before them in the short time they have left?

As we destroy our planet, disregard humanity, and worship money, we are watching the hoodwink of younger generations. They cannot afford apartments, they are indebted by higher education, they are addicted to technology, and they have problems discerning whether Amazon is good or bad, determining how Uber is changing the world, and accepting the gig economy as opportunity instead of uncertainty. As time passes, what was good in the past is lost to those who once lived it, and never mentioned by those too self serving to reuse it. The good life is not too expensive, too impossible, or too ludicrous to expect. Instead, it has been stolen by the greedy, and shoved into the museum of ideas that represent not the worthiness of humanity, but the audacity that all people desire and expect a life worthy of living, jobs that value their work, and a planet to enjoy and caretake. We are a broken society. Our values are being turned inside out and reprogrammed in a way that their meaning is unclear. We are being pushed to feel lucky enough just to have jobs, that roofs over our heads are optional, and that healthcare is not deserving in all cases. Many Americans are buying into a life that will not reap satisfaction or happiness, and are being told it is good enough. The truth is, we all deserve an arrival, a sense of worthiness, a time where our work is appreciated, and in our work, we land in a better place than where we started. The dying of America, is the burial of the grandest idea, that all men are created equal. Why on Earth are we settling, and accepting such a notion? When we congratulate the sixty-five million dollar man, we are, in essence, cementing our fate.

Photos — Unsplash

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