The rain is falling here outside my window. It’s the type of weather that always seems to intensify my already imaginative brain. It brings in a heavy helping of nostalgia to mix with the ever stressful and complex holiday season. All these photos of beaming happy families carving Christmas turkeys or lighting Menorahs don’t always convey the real intensity of this time of year. I’m not trying to sound like a cynical Scrooge, but take a look around.
If you dared to do any shopping before Thanksgiving, you may have seen Christmas decorations already on shelves, or at least peeking through the storeroom window just waiting to storm the aisles. Then, Black Friday got too fat for its own pants and spilled into Thanksgiving Day itself. Why do I have a feeling that next year, places like Walmart will offer Black Thankgiving dinners served up nice and hot while you wait in line for their doors to open. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of saving money but this is all getting pretty ridiculous.
I often wonder about the value system that seems to permeate through the majority of the US population. I haven’t lived in other countries so I cannot speak for the rest of the world, but I will gladly discuss my fellow citizens. I know that some countries find it insulting that, when meeting someone for the first time in the US, one of the first questions asked is “what do you do for a living?” When you get to the root of it, I can see why it’s insulting. We don’t care about the actual job these people do, but we are sizing people up by how much money they make. Either that, or we are automatically judging their intellect, feeling either superior or threatened by them, jumping to conclusions.
It is this skewed value system that highlights the unfortunate fact that people in this country quantify success solely based on money and power. If you work hard as an entrepreneur, trying different businesses and failing, you’re not commended for the plethora of knowledge and experience you now have from your efforts, or the resilience you have by being able to start again. Instead, you are judged on how much money you made from the ventures. No money, then you must be a universal failure with no redeemable merit. Why don’t you get a real job. Oh, you’re a garbage collector? You must be uneducated and without motivation. But, do you see the great family that man has provided for? The opportunities he’s given to his kids? Oh, you work in fast food? You must be an immigrant supporting a large illegal family. Do you happen know that she is working her way up the ranks in order to own a franchise of her own?
We judge and label certain jobs with terrible assumptions so that, eventually, the only people who will take those jobs are the people who fit those assumptions. Thus begins the downward spiral. Consider how we regard teachers in this country, or public servants for that matter. Those positions used to attract quality people who wanted to make a difference. Finding that type of person in those jobs is rare. Now, they do it for the union money, the position of power (which is oftentimes abused), and the perks or pensions. They do it because it’s easy to get a job, no risk of being turned away, plus they can’t get a job doing what they really want to do. It’s a cut and dried path through life.
Imagine if we actually placed value on the good that people do, on the enrichment of our lives. Imagine if Forbes magazine released the 400 People Who Inspired The Most Children, or the 40 Most Life Experienced Under 40. Imagine what people would chase, if they stopped chasing money. How different would this country be?