Been having a rough go the last several days. I think most of my friends have been too. I just know something is bugging my friends, especially my bestie out in Denver. I rarely hear from some of my friends anymore. I guess I came from one of those very rare families where cutting people off and going completely silent just wasn’t a thing. I may have to tell my family numerous times or even yell at them occasionally, but we have never let the lines of communication completely die. It wasn’t until recently that I figure out that the vast majority of families aren’t like that.
I’m in my 40s and actually have a better relationship than ever with my family. I still find it unnerving that I can do things and say things to my family as a 42 year old man that would have gotten me in severe trouble as a teenager. I grew up in one of those families in 1980s rural America where things like yelling at your kids for yelling at the parents first, regular physical discipline, which I have zero problem with until it’s used excessively or as a first resort, parents always siding with the teachers, even when it was obvious that I was in the right, and ignoring things like bullying. I think it’s one of the reasons I became self sufficient as much as possible. Even on disability and being in a wheelchair (at least for long distances) I try to be as self reliant as possible. It’s just not worth the hassle to get other people involved.
I love using computers and typing even though my typing speed never exceeding 35 words per minute. I also love economics. Yet I never took computers and economics in high school because of the only teacher who taught such things in my dinky rural school just had it out for me and a few other students. She used to call me ‘stupid’ in front of the whole class. I took her for only one class in high school, typing. Got a C+ in that class first quarter. It was the only class my freshman year I got below a B+ in. Yet, it was enough to keep me off the honor roll. But, had I never gone to college I would have never discovered my love for computers or typing. I actually far prefer typing to writing. I find it encouraging that grade schools in my country are now teaching computer and typing skills to kids. I had an inkling that I liked computers as I started taking computer classes when I was in fourth grade. We had a good computer class teacher. But that one high school teacher that I had several run ins with almost killed my interest in things that I found out I have an ability for in college.
I cringe every time I hear someone say ‘college is worthless.’ In reality, being able to learn and relearn new skills even into old age is now more important than ever. It’s only going to get even more important in the future. The era of being able to specialize is dying, as many white-collar workers are figuring out with automation and AI. And it’s not just rich countries like USA, EU, and Japan that are automating. China is starting to automate much of it’s workforce. Probably why 1 in 5 Chinese recent college graduates are unemployed. Youth unemployment is no longer an American issue. It’s actually worse in China and EU. Multi generational homes are becoming more normal now. In the Renaissance, most rich families had as many as four generations living in the same house or on the same estate. The kids usually inherited the property and houses after mom and dad died. These estates and fortunes stayed in the family, and even grew larger, over the course of the centuries. The idea of children leaving home without support at age 18 and then getting sent to nursing homes as elders is quite recent. In fact, the age of adulthood even in the US was 21, not 18 for most of our history. The voting age used to be 21 until the 1960s. Even I wouldn’t have been able to vote for at least the first 50 years of my nation’s existence as I’m not a property owner. With as much as some politicians are trying to make voting harder to “counter voter fraud”, I imagine that someday some politician will propose changing the voting laws to allow only property owners and income tax payers the right to vote. As if the peasants, like me, who have to rent don’t have a stake in this country succeeding. I’ve read bloggers proposing this exact same thing as far back as 2013. I swear that we now have a society that actively wants to make things tougher than they used to be. Any wonder why there’s more hatred between the generations than there has been in recent history.
And it’s not just the different generations that hate each other. Workers and bosses hate each other too. It seems like that most people I know just can’t wrap their minds around the fact that no one can make it on minimum wage anymore. And any time workers try to unionize anymore, they are dealt with by firings, outsourcing, and automation. I wonder how long it will be before striking workers are getting shot and killed, like at the Homestead Steel Mill strike in the late 1800s. And that is just one example of strikers getting killed. Small business owners often complain “no one wants to work anymore” when in actuality people don’t want to work for unlivable wages dealing with unreasonable customers and stupid work policies that actually destroy productivity and morale. These kids you complain about “not wanting to work anymore”, many of them are working in gig jobs, starting their own side hustles, starting their own small businesses, and even becoming “digital nomads” by being able to work from anywhere in the world that has wireless internet service (i.e. everywhere on Earth anymore). I myself would have become a digital nomad if not for my mental illness. So I did the next best thing, I became a digital monk. Even one of my college friends recently suggested I would have made it as a monk. But, the church I grew up in didn’t have monasteries. I mean, a life of study, prayer, contemplation, isolation, and making money from selling anything from baked goods to theology books sounds like it would been good for me. Certainly better than trying to survive on minimum wage with retail jobs while waiting for disability to come through.
Many employers are downright ungrateful of the workers. And the customers are even worse. One of my best friends from college was laid off from an IT job in a major urban center even though he had been there for almost ten years, had two teenage children, and a wife with terminal cancer. And he was classified as an ‘essential worker’ during the pandemic. Caught covid at least three times. Still got laid off. I’ve already talked about my work experience in previous entries. What I got was mild compared to most people. And people, mostly under the age of 45, are using social media to talk about such problems. Since we are sharing our stories, and finding out that we aren’t alone, is probably why those in power want to shut down and regulate social media sites like reddit and tiktok. It has nothing to do with foreign nations spying on citizens. Every nation spies on their own citizens and everyone else. Besides, all of our online information has been public knowledge for many years. How do you think Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube remain free and their companies remain massively profitable. Pity they don’t share a pittance of that profit and pay us for said information. Even mining and oil companies in the early 1900s had the decency to pay land owners for the use of their land and mineral rights. We are truly living in Gilded Age, version 2.0.
I don’t see things getting better for workers and renters anytime soon unless we can elect some politicians who will actually get legislation passed to reel in the worst abuses of big business and landlords. We used to have such politicians even in the early 1900s like Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan. We don’t even bother to enforce anti trust laws, which have been on the books since the 1890s). That’s precisely why we have ‘Too Big To Fail.’ Greed is every bit as bad now as it was back then. We are essentially living Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ except we have computers and gas powered automobiles. I swear some people will fight against progress no matter what. The same people who complain about ‘no one wants to work’ were the exact same people who fought against labor laws. People in the early 1900s were worried about big businesses cannibalizing the world and killing democracy and capitalism. Changes in attitudes by a younger cohort of politicians and younger industrialists like Henry Ford and Milton Hershey might have saved capitalism from it’s own abuses, and thus saved democracy.
Unfortunately, even in the early 1900s positive changes didn’t start happening until elder cohorts of politicians and business managers started retiring and or dying off in large numbers. I see the same problems in the early 2020s. I say this in fear of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but it looks like just enough people in places of power and prestige want the current state of things. It like some people actually want civilization to fail. It’s like those in power don’t want the masses to learn for themselves. I think would be tyrants fear the thought of a few billion people all over the world figuring out how things can be a lot better than they are. People aren’t angry because they don’t have electricity and running water. This ain’t 1900 no matter how bad some want it to be.
People are starting to realize how far below our potential we are living. It’s why younger workers want more work life balance. They’ve seen their parents and elders work for decades at the same place, often to be laid off and outsourced due to management’s short sighted greed. They’ve also seen their parents pensions getting cut and their parents 401(k)s become near worthless. One of my best friend’s fathers worked as a travelling repair man for a tech company his entire career. He lost a significant chunk of his retirement when his company went bankrupt. Now he’s working as a museum tour guide to supplement his social security. These managers are intentionally killing the gooses who lay golden eggs. The younger workers know this. And they are very angry, especially since they found they could be just as productive working from home, get their work tasks completed in only two or three hours (rather than the minimum eight in an office), have time for their children, and have time to cook healthy, better tasting, meals. Heck, even I lost over 180 pounds in the last three years on a disability pension while not being able to exercise much due to heart failure. I did far better on my own and in long term care during the pandemic than I ever did with nutritionists and Weight Watchers. Now some companies are trying to get rid of the work from home option entirely. I’m glad the workers are fighting back. I think the managers know work from home is productive, they just don’t want to give up their power. Some of these companies should just remodel their office buildings into cheap apartments. The futurist Buckminster Fuller (pioneer of the geodesic dome and prefabricated housing among numerous other innovations) predicted work from home, downtown offices going vacant, and said offices being refurbished as low income apartments for displaced workers as far back as at least 50 years ago.
I’ve read some news articles about work from home people are sometimes able to work more than one full time job just from their home laptops and collect multiple full time paychecks. I see zero problems with this because we don’t stop people from owning more than one rental property or business. It’s the same principle except it’s the working class getting in on some of the action. Online investing platforms like Robinhood and Stash allow poor and working-class people to invest on their own. Pity these weren’t available ten years earlier. I’ve seen plenty of articles about students being able to pay of hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans by investing their stimulus checks or start small businesses off their earnings. Most of my friends invested their stimulus checks. I invested most of mine too, still have most of it in the market, and had over a ten percent year on year return, which is better than the whole market did. Half of hedge fund managers and financial planners can’t beat the market most years.
Some of my friends did better than even I did. Some more than doubled their money but still left it in the market. Before you dismiss that as the exception and not the norm, the Fortune 500s started out of garages are not the norm either. Besides, many successful business men like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, etc. got started by borrowing some money from their own families. Elon Musk came from a wealthy family in South Africa. Mark Zuckerberg was a college dropout, but even he dropped out of Harvard, not University of Alabama. The original modern business magnate, John Rockefeller, borrowed $1000 dollars in 1860s money from his own father to buy his first oil refinery. Even my dad had to borrow some money from his father in law to start his dental office in rural Nebraska because the banks wouldn’t lend him money. And he stayed in the same practice for 30 years, sold out to a young dentist, and that dentist is still practicing in the same office. The banks were too short sighted to see that our rural county needed another dentist. Sometimes the people with the most money aren’t the smart money. Even Warren Buffet missed out on the computer and internet revolutions. And his company is making the exact same mistake with AI. I’d invest even more in the market but social security won’t allow anyone on disability to have more than $4000 in savings at any time. Otherwise I’d get kicked out of the program and lose my medicaid. In short, I stay poor so I can keep my necessary treatments. That provision not only chaps my hide, it’s making me less prosperous and self-reliant. God forbid poor people be able to make a little more money and be a little self reliant. Used to be the US government encouraged self reliance and even enabled it through things like the Homestead Act and GI Bill. Those days are long gone.
Investing isn’t that risky, especially if one were to buy into dividend paying stable mutual funds like the Dow Jones or S&P 500 and just put in a little every time you get paid. ‘Pay yourself first’ is the advice I got from every business instructor I ever had in college. It’s a crime against humanity that money isn’t taught in most grade schools and high schools. It’s why guys like Robert Kiyosaki and Dave Ramsey are worth millions, they are merely filling in the knowledge gaps that our schools won’t. They recognized that the public at large didn’t know much about money. Their advice has freed millions of people from debts, allowed others to get out of dead end jobs and start their own businesses, and taught the poor and middle class how to make money work in their favor instead of against them. I applaud such people. I wasn’t required even a year of personal finance in high school. I hope that’s changing. Lack of knowledge about how money works can be just as destructive as unrestricted greed. Even poverty stricken people on disability are learning these lessons. I am far from the only person on disability who has had some financial education. Amazing what one can learn from a few books, youtube channels, and a few years. It’s why tyrants fear peasants with knowledge. Heck, tyrants might fear peasants with knowledge as much as they do peasants with guns.