Working Hardly @ Market & South Van Ness, 3 March 2014, 12:49 p.m.

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Good Evening:

As the current boom continues to hit San Francisco like a financial and social earthquake, debates over current issue such as wealth and inequality tend to fracture into name-calling by people whose powers of speech have grown faster than their powers of thought. One notion that has regained currency for the first time since America’s previous Gilded Age is that rich people are rich, and poor people are poor, because the rich work harder.

I now present one such lazybones.

"I  SF" Elderly Asian Woman Taking Cans to Recycling Center, 3 March 2014

“I (Heart) SF” Elderly Asian Woman Taking Cans to Recycling Center, 3 March 2014

Hardly working? Hardly. More like working hardly.

Sometimes it seems to me as if each and every American has grown completely isolated, incognizant and oblivious to the worlds and lives of every other American. I am not so stupid that I will claim that the rich are a bunch of lazy bums who let someone else do their bidding whilst they complain of how much harder they work than everyone else. But I hire people for a living, and I assure you that poor people work much harder to get jobs than anyone else. They are the only job applicants who follow up with phone calls asking about the status of their applications and what else they can do to improve their chances. The applicants who apply for jobs paying in the six-figure range? Not so much. Hardly ever.

Too many people see what they want to see and disregard the rest. Come on, folks. Let’s let go of we vs. them. We’re all working hard.

Vonn Scott Bair

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3 responses »

  1. I basically agree with you, Vonn. Now some comments…

    “Sometimes it seems to me as if each and every American has grown completely isolated, incognizant and oblivious to the worlds and lives of every other American.”

    Probably, other than maybe family and other local tribe members (immediate friends). Then again, with 315,453,173 Americans as of 04:56 UTC (EST+5) Mar 08, 2014 (Census Bureau PopClock), that’s a whole lot of “every other American”s of whom to keep track! Then we get into the ironic social isolation of spending so much time online (often with “social” media), where people (at least many i’ve seen, and to some degrees, myself) seem to fall into “me too!” cliques of like-minded people who see the world in a similar way. Things become so “obviously true” to these groups that they have more and more trouble understanding others who don’t think like them. As i think about it, this dynamic probably also likely happened in the U.S. during certain eras like the post WWII suburbia boom, with people of a similar socioeconomic, religious, and often ethnic status gathered into physical neighborhoods, likely all understanding each other and not very well understanding those in quite different areas made up of other groups of people with very different backgrounds.

    It has also come to the point, at least for me, where i have been fed so many lies and deceptions over the course of my life in all sorts of media as well as sometimes from people i know that i’ve reached a point where i tend not to believe things i have not personally experienced or personally witnessed in real non-electronic life. Even there, as playwright and actor Vonn knows (and has occasionally shared here), appearances can deceive.

    “[The poor] are the only job applicants who follow up with phone calls asking about the status of their applications and what else they can do to improve their chances.”

    I tried that (following up on application status) once, in person, about 24 years ago. The HR person looked at me as though i was insane for coming to her office and asking, and appeared to be seconds away from calling security. I was dressed decently, as one would be for a job interview, but not to the level of a suit. Somehow i was supposed to “know” that their non-response meant “hell no!”!

    “The applicants who apply for jobs paying in the six-figure range? Not so much. Hardly ever.”

    Wouldn’t expect them to:
    a) They’re likely not hurting for money, thanks to vast savings from earlier jobs.
    b) They’re likely currently employed somewhere, unlike the typical poor person. No response from places they’ve applied = they stay where they are.

    “Too many people see what they want to see and disregard the rest.”

    And finding other like-minded people and repeatedly agreeing with each other amplifies this myopia.

    “Come on, folks. Let’s let go of we vs. them. We’re all working hard.”

    Yes! Thank you for typing this! Even those of us who haven’t had a traditional paying job/career in over 15 years.

    • S.P.: You’re really good at this commentary business, you know that? I think you can go further back to the great immigrations of Irish and Italians who clustered among themselves in the big cities simply because they could understand each other whilst the Americans already living here spoke disparagingly of people of whom they knew next to nothing.
      Although I do find it encouraging that people are trying break through social isolation by connecting online, I also have doubts if this is truly effective.
      So are we doomed to *not* connecting, no matter how hard we try, or perhaps *because* we try?
      Vonn Scott Bair

  2. “S.P.: You’re really good at this commentary business, you know that?”

    Thank you.

    “ I think you can go further back to the great immigrations of Irish and Italians who clustered among themselves in the big cities simply because they could understand each other whilst the Americans already living here spoke disparagingly of people of whom they knew next to nothing.”

    Absolutely. I only meant to toss up one quick past example. A comprehensive study of similar past situations would be just that: a comprehensive study.

    “Although I do find it encouraging that people are trying break through social isolation by connecting online, I also have doubts if this is truly effective.”

    My personal experience is that it is effective in some ways and ineffective in others. Online connections seem to be extremely effective at connecting people with similar interests and/or life outlooks and/or beliefs who are physically remote from each other and would have had a low probability of meeting in real life in the past. This is especially true for non-mainstream beliefs, and i’d say even more so for “taboo” topics, one example of which for English-speaking “western” societies is sexuality. I have very strong non-mainstream beliefs in this area, and simply knowing that there are others who are in the same category of beliefs as myself via their frequent posts over time (a pattern hard to create by a machine, therefore created by a real human) very literally gives me a reason to live, which for a person prone to severe depression and occasionally suicide is important.

    My experience is that these connections can be excellent intellectually and to some degrees emotionally, but that they fall wholly flat physically. No amount of {{{{{{Hugs!}}}}}} from any number of people (nor video-blown kisses, etc.) can even begin to equate with a basic, actual, real-time, direct-contact physical hug from an at least partially caring human being. Physical social isolation is not addressed at all by the online world, other than to the degree it allows people to meet who otherwise would not, and facilitates their getting together in the offline world.

    “So are we doomed to *not* connecting, no matter how hard we try, or perhaps *because* we try?”

    Everything i’ve ever read or heard indicates that humans are social animals, and *will* try to connect, using whatever skills/tools they can manage. Even “loner” socially isolated people seem to have one or a few people with whom they occasionally interact, even if that interaction is limited (their ammo/survival supplies supplier, perhaps).

    We’ve created/had so much technology thrown at us (especially over the past 30 or so years) that we’re still figuring out what we want to do with it, and slowly establishing revised social standards of interaction using them—standards upon which there is not necessarily yet agreement. As a fan of the written word, i, for example, prefer to use email and blog posts and pretty much any other text box for the purpose of writing long missives, with more in common with paper letters of 100-150 years ago than most other “more modern” forms of communication. My circle of social contacts is vastly more likely to at least appreciate these missives if not also create their own. The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) crowd never gets past initially opening the message/page/whatever and seeing the sea of words they choose not to navigate. They’ll associate with others who like themselves prefer terse one or two sentence (if that) communications, likely abbreviated (LOL) to make typing on handheld devices with lousy keyboards easier.

    We are confounded in our communications by our different expectations and communications styles. The plethora of communications options has in some ways made this worse: some people expect/demand text messages, even though mobile phones and especially those with text message abilities and especially especially those willing to pay the text service fees are far from universal. This comes up on the Freecycle group i moderate: more often than not, it hasn’t even *occurred* to the person that not everyone is like them and not everyone can meet their demand to respond with a text message. Some people eschew the written word in favor of the spoken word; others like me are the opposite.

    The disparity of communications styles and expectations seems to me to rise nearly to the level of the disparity between human languages in terms of impeding free, easy communications between everyone. That’s not even adding in technical factors: does the person with whom i’m attempting to communicate share the same communications platform as myself? Or, to use a concrete example from my own life: “No, i won’t use Skype, because Micro$oft owns it. If you want to communicate with me, use email or let’s get together in person!” A lot of people i see posting to online fora who are under the age of about 22 virtually *require* people to use Kik with them, Kik, being a messaging service only available on handheld “smart” phones, not any “grampy” personal computer platform (parents: outta my communications environment!). So there’s also a bit of a generational divide in terms of communications platforms. Sometimes, as with insider jargon and slang, some of this may be *intentional* means of limiting communications to within a chosen tribe/group of friends/like believers/fellow travelers.

    Taking this all back to the point of “them and us”, i’m getting the sense that open minds tend not to be an innate feature of the human experience—they seem to develop (hopefully during childhood) in the environment. Certainly curiosity (which can later lead to scientific inquiry) seems innate, yet the whole life experience seems to start from the unconscious, automatic assumption that “everyone is like me”, which seems to me needs to be un-learned. Throw up the manifold roadblocks of communications styles, different human languages, different communications platforms, unexpected, sometimes stark differences in world outlooks/beliefs, then toss in the vast number of human beings we could try to understand, and maybe the question becomes how are we able to do as well as we are understanding (or thinking we understand) others?

    Maybe the key is keeping innate curiosity alive, along with the life-long nurturing of developing maximally open minds. These attributes seem as though they could/would provide the motivation to overcome the barriers to understanding.

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