I manufacture Products for The Boss.
If I make a mistake and my productivity falls, I feel bad because I’m not making enough profit for The Boss.
As my productivity increases over time — as I get to know my machines more intimately and understand their temperament — I feel content knowing that I create more profit for The Boss.
I wonder how he feels.
Does he feel guilty if I make more than 1,200 Products per day, knowing that my hourly wage is a pittance compared to his profit?
Does he resent me if I make less than 1,200 Products per day, annoyed that I did not adequately contribute to his hoarded wealth?
When he built this small, family-run manufacturing business, did he consider if it was fair that his business model relies on hiring and exploiting a single, interchangeable, replaceable worker to run his machines and make all of his products and create profit for his family?
Of course he didn’t. He is 70-years-old and lived through the Golden Age of Capitalism. He pulled up his bootstraps his whole life and created everything with his own two hands. He deserves everything and more. He deserves the entire world. He is a White Man and a Capitalist and therefore entitled to exploit workers and exploit the Earth for the benefit of his bank account and his family and his legacy and his pride in perpetuity.
This is freedom.
In America, we have property rights and water rights in the arid Southwest and these are the words we use to justify the plundering of our most precious natural resource by a small group of people who LARP as Cowboys and Ranchers. This is their tradition and you can’t mess with it, partner.
The Boss owns a share in a water company and grazes three horses on his 16-acre desert pasture. During the worst drought in 1,200 years, he runs two rotary sprinklers for at least eight hours per day to grow grass for the horses to supplement their main diet of hay, which is stacked on a trailer next to his full-size RV and tractor.
But he tells me that margins are tight and he can start me at $17 per hour without any sick time or vacation time or health care or benefits of any kind. Margins are real tight, he says, looking out over his land and water and animals and vehicles.
He is a Boomer and Boomers never retire. Boomers never take time off because they don’t know how to rest. They don’t know how to stop making money. When you’re 70-years-old and lived through the Golden Age of Capitalism, you develop a certain type of mental illness. Profit becomes the only thing that matters in life.
If you stop working, you die. He tells me his retirement plan is a pine box and he’s got a lot of retired friends who are dead. He says he’s a firm believer in, “If you don’t use if, you lose it.”
I wonder how his daughter feels.
Seeing an old man, her own father, hobble around his workshop with his worn Cowboy boots and easy drawl and toxic masculinity. Does she want him to see his grandson graduate from high school? Is she concerned that one day she might come into work to find her father crumpled on the concrete floor, lifeless?
At least he would die doing what he loved. Making money.
One thought on “Products”
The man I’m working for is seventy-five, and he openly admits he already has everything he could possibly want. He’s told me his daughter is so loaded that giving her money won’t make much of a difference, so instead of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars to the grave with him, he’s going to pay a company almost 100k to freeze his brain. He says he wants to be resurrected as a blue-eyed, blond-haired man with the muscular twenty-year-old body that I currently enjoy.
He’s building an ornithopter and he says it’s just for the hell of it, but I know better. No one has built an ornithopter and the level of crude engineering he’s capable of will not get this thing off the ground. He knows it’s futile. But it’s a big project, and flight is symbolic of freedom. He wants to be more than mortal.
He talks about scientific advances in the area of prolonging life. He asks me with a smile whether I think they’ll be able to give him another fifty years on this earth. He told a young woman that’s going into nursing school that she should think about taking care of “all us baby boomers” because “we have all the money.” Yes, yes you do, and the best you can think to do with it is throw it away on dreams of immortality. I think to myself, god forgive me but I hope you just die and stay dead.
He’s giving me food and shelter and I needed a place to bide my time while waiting on someone, so I’m not complaining. He’s kind and considerate, and he’s not only allowed but encouraged a few sick days.
Still, it never ceases to bother me that all he really cares about is propping up an American dream that only he can enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with the ornithopter he’s building, but he also says he wants to go into mass production and outsource the labor to sweatshops in Mexico. You know, because those Mexicans will work for pennies. There’s nothing wrong with the tower he’s built, but he wheedles five dollars each off tourists “so we can build it up three more stories.” We won’t. It would be possible, but extremely dangerous. So why the money? Just because he can. Just because grabbing money is as automatic to him as breathing. He doesn’t need it for anything. He does it just because he wants to.
Thanks for the stories, drifter. Sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone.
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