After 9/11, there was a minor uproar from a small segment of the population that was furious that the families of firefighters and police officers were receiving the same compensation as the families of investment bankers. After all, they argued, the investment bankers paid much more money in taxes than the civil servants. Their families should receive a larger share of the settlement. Obviously, the idea gained no traction and went nowhere because it’s utterly ridiculous, but it’s a sign of how out of touch with reality some people are.
Yeah, I’m pretty bitter about how certain things in my life have worked out, and yeah, I feel a lot of resentment towards the elite of this nation who have looked down their noses at me their entire lives and dismiss the inequities of our society as the fault of those without. I heard countless times while I was growing up that education mattered, that staying in school and working hard would one day pay off. So far, that’s been an empty promise.
The haves use Social Darwinism to rationalize to themselves why they are successful and others aren’t. They are of superior quality; therefore they are successful. To them, it’s a simple equation. If you aren’t successful in this great nation, it’s your own fault. You are too lazy to get ahead. I’ve heard it all a million times. I acknowledge that there are plenty of lazy people in this country, and sometimes, I think they are much smarter than I am. Instead of busting my ass 18 hours a day in graduate school, maybe I should have laid around and collected welfare. I would be better off because I wouldn’t have a mountain of student loan debt looming over me.
Maybe the elites don’t understand the necessity of infrastructure. Society needs police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers, and other civil servants to keep things running, and the human beings who work in those professions need to earn a wage that allows them to participate fully in the economy of this nation. If we continue to slip deeper and deeper into second-class citizen status, the infrastructure will continue to erode more and more. The education system is already imploding. All Children Left Behind was the final nail in the broken system’s coffin. Each year, the students coming out of the public system are a little worse; those of us who teach in college see it and talk about it amongst ourselves. It’s not necessarily the fault of the individual teachers in grade school, either. It’s the system that has failed.
The haves will continue to defend their rights to greed and corruption, and one day, when the nation is gone, they’ll probably still blame the have-nots for not doing more to keep them in luxury. Those of us without, the ones who do work and contribute, will continue to struggle for our rights to participate in this system. I never expected to get wealthy teaching, but I did expect to earn a livable wage. So far, that’s not been the case, and I’ve taught for both private and state institutions. Maybe one day the elites will figure out that labor is not disposable, that the people who make them money are valuable and deserve just compensation for their efforts.
The reason the movement to give investment bankers more settlement money than the firefighters didn’t gain traction was because life is about more than the balance sheet, and the people who give their lives in service to others are just as valuable, if not more so, than the ones who generate vast wealth. We are not second-class citizens. We are highly trained professionals who deserve to earn enough money to send our children to college and save for retirement and own homes and maintain our health. Right now, for many of us, this simply isn’t the case. That has to change or the nation will fail. It is a simple equation.