Ramble, Here We Go

I was reading, “Making It in America” by Adam Davidson (The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2012) and it made me realize how lucky my mom is. She’s been working the line, as they say, for her whole life. She’s probably held every unskilled job their is in her factory (where they make chain links for chains that go in cars. Major car brands like Hyundai and Toyota.)

Thankfully, she’ll get to retire soon. It hasn’t been a smooth ride but she’s made a living that for a poor girl from Taegu, South Korea fulfills the American dream.

I know American manufacturing is in trouble, but I didn’t really know what that meant. (I spent a summer during college working at the same factory as my mom and I learned very little other than what is feels like to have my soul crushed. I was once tasked to spend 8 hours picking up cigarette butts on the perimeter of the factory building. Not surprisingly, a lot of laborers smoke.) This article was incredible insightful. There’s a huge gap between skilled and unskilled laborers–one that can only be breached with education.

Factory 101: Level 1 employees perform mindless tasks on the machines adhering to a checklist created by Level 2. Level 2 employees know how the machines work and can code and calibrate them when necessary. “Maddie [a Level 1] was training a new worker. Teacher her to operate the machine took just under 2 minutes. (65)”

Factories no longer train Level 1 employees to become Level 2 employees. So essentially, if you’re hired as a Level 1, it’s guaranteed you’ll be fired as a Level 1 (odds of retiring? Nowadays, unlikely.) The only way to be hired as a Level 2? School.

Recently, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum blasted Obama for wanting to put every child through college. (Obama advocates for both vocational and private higher learning.) Santorum called this education reform elitist. It’s not. Santorum prefers we have a permanent generation of Level 1.

I’m not sure where my mom falls in the spectrum. She’s had over 20 years of service, and she may have been one of the lucky ones that received on the job training to move from 1 to 2. (This doesn’t happen any more.) But I’m not entirely she’s a Level 2. So, after decades of service, she might still be a Level 1.

Maddie points out, “People like me, we’re not going to be around forever. (67)” What is their future? Poverty, no education, debt, early death. Truly, they won’t be around anymore.

I’m always one to be like damn it, why don’t companies just take a little less and stop lining their pockets?

And the article, somewhat addresses this. The manufacturing company is only a middleman. As money and power concentrates in the hands of a few companies, they hold more leverage on the middleman. Turns out, the middleman’s profits are already marginal. It’s the big clients–Autozone, Napa–that are forcing prices, wages, and standards of living down.

The article doesn’t address why those clients, so I’m still forced to beg the question, why don’t they lower their profits?

Standard (the factory manufacturer) CEO, Larry Sills, says “The main thing I think about is survival. (68)”

Side note: How come those in power have the world’s worst moral compass?

Problem-Solved?

Tax the rich. Seriously. Heavily. Individuals and corporations. Put that money towards hard education: math, science, technology and programs for the poor. Remember the days when altruism and character ruled? Now you don’t earn respect, you buy it. And that is disgusting.

What else can we do? Provide people like Maddie with opportunities for education. “Maddie represents a large population: people who for whatever reason, are not going to be able to leave the workforce long enough to get the skills they need. (70)” What about some sort of half-way home for single parents that raise kids in a community setting.

The other employee mentioned in the article, Luke Hutchins, a Level 2, got his education in just 2 years. Difference in pay grade? Between $7 and $17 more PER HOUR than a Level 1.

How come society can’t find a way to give Maddie two years for a vastly better lifetime – not only for her, but her child too. Seems worth it.

Ramble, Here We Go

Quiet

Life has been great lately. If I have some time, I’ll post about going to the chiropractor, which may have been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Right now, I want to write about Quiet by Susan Cain.

I have always been told that I’m shy, quiet, reticient, too sensitive, an over-thinker, etc. And it’s always been implied that all those things are bad. Well, not anymore.

Yes, I am an introvert. And I am tired of being spoken down to, being put down for, or ignored because of it. In society’s current “Culture of Personality” as Cain puts it, introversion is a failure. But how can society deem something that’s an innate part of a person — like skin color or height — a failure. There is room for all of us in this world.

Lest you think introverts are insignificant, Cain names a few: Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein, W.B. Yeats, Chopin, George Orwell, Dr. Suess, Steven Spielberg, Larry Page (he’s the founder of Google – yea, GOOGLE.). There are more too. Don’t believe me? Rosa Parks, Diane Keaton, Client Eastwood, Barbara Walters, Michael Jordan, Warren Buffet, Ghandi, Al Gore. And others!

An excerpt from the book:

Introversion […] is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.

She also discusses the introvert-extrovert spectrum and how that intersects with the anxious-calm spectrum (imagine a grid.) I’ve never thought about this, yes I’m introvert. And depending on when you met me in my life, would determine where I was on the other spectrum. As I’ve gotten older, and gained more self-confidence, self-love, self-worth, I’ve slowly wandered from anxious to calm. I’m a bit peeved to look back on things now and realize that much of that social anxiety I carried with me was because other people – teachers, bosses — put those labels mentioned above on me, loaded with all sorts of negative connotations. Had someone put their arm around me as an adolescent and said, You’re quiet, so what? Or I bet you’re not so quiet on the inside. Or You’re quiet, you’re probably planning something magnificent. Had someone decided to stop forcing me into uncomfortable social situations where I would only learn to feel like a failure, and pushed me to passionately and productively working on my own, I probably would have reached calm-introvert much sooner (not to imply that I’ve arrived now.)

What is introversion? It is not “a hermit or a misanthrope.” It’s hard to define – or rather so easy to define that there are hundreds of definitions. In Quiet, Cain gives a quick True/False test (which obviously isn’t scientific, but gives the reader the general gist.) I answered True to 17 out of 20 questions. It was like being hit in the face. Yes – I am an introvert. And in accepting this, I immediately felt less bad about it. If that’s who I am, I can’t change that. Nor do I need to. What I need to do is work with it. Make it an asset.

One of the questions I REALLY thought was thoughtful and hit the target: True of False, ‘I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.’ I enjoy going out, talking with people, eating, laughing, drinking, socializing, but there usually comes a point in the evening when I’m done and would like to return home. And it’ frustrating because when I’m alone, that’s the point in the evening when I leave. Poof, I’m out of there. But if I’m with someone, most often a boyfriend, I have to stay until he’s ready to leave. Given that most of my boyfriends have been extroverts of varying degrees this puts me into a sticky situation. I can leave and be deemed unfit by him and society or I can stay growing increasingly miserable. No one’s been very sympathetic to the idea that staying and having a good time isn’t much of an option. Would you be having a good time if you felt forced to do something?

Anyway, so far this book is magnificent, and I’m looking forward to the feeling of empowerment I’ll no doubt have once I finish. If you’re an introvert, of any range, you must read it. I’d recommend it to extroverts, because as Cain points out, “one out of every two or three people you know” is an introvert, it could help you connect with your loved ones. However, I don’t know if that’s actually true, I’m not an extrovert after all, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Quiet