Tag Archives: Good Morning America

The end of consumerism? Part 4 – Let us cease the devaluation of humanity

by Mariam Williams

This morning, Good Morning America featured a piece about trends in teen sexuality as depicted in the documentary, Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss. Pre-teen and teenage girls are engaging in everything from oral sex to prostitution.  Of the clips shown this morning, the footage of two particular girls has stayed in my mind: The girl who said she figured if she was going to have sex anyway, she “might as well get paid for it,” and the one who described offers of $20 for taking off her shirt or $100 for dancing on a table.

True, I can figure out how to make just about anything apply to this blog, the economy, and unemployment, but really, this topic fits.  At least, it goes well with my previous harps on consumerism and my over-reaching predictions about its end.  These young prostitutes apply to this blog because filmmaker Sharlene Azam said “the prettiest girls from the most successful families” are most at risk for this behavior.  Their parents aren’t those living life laid off; they’re just the people—or friends of the people—whose greed helped put our country in crisis.  (More on this after the definitions.)

After my dad read my post about the lure of an easy life through a sugar daddy relationship, he expressed interest in hearing my thoughts on what he calls “the psychologically programmed consumerist commercialism at the root of the whole phenom and the possible social consequence of its relentless, vapid, amoral, vampirish soul rape of bling-blinded youth.” (Does that sentence make so much about me make sense or what?)

About a month and a half ago, I read his comment again and focused on the word “consumerist.”  I looked up its root, “consume” (emphasis not mine):

transitive verb

1: to do away with completely : DESTROY

2 a: to spend wastefully : SQUANDER b: USE UP

3 a: to eat or drink especially in great quantity  b: to enjoy avidly : DEVOUR

4: to engage fully : ENGROSS

5: to utilize as a customer

intransitive verb

1: to waste or burn away : PERISH

2: to utilize economic goods”

I looked up “consumer”:

“: one that consumes: as

a: one that utilizes economic goods

b: an organism requiring complex organic compounds for food which it obtains by preying on other organisms or by eating particles of organic matter”

The cultural attitudes are manifesting themselves in 11-year-old prostitutes, but the bling blinded most of us.  Here’s what I think happened: a few brilliant people—owners of retail and real estate corporations for the most part—paid a few other brilliant people to convince us that we had to have it.  Our lives were incomplete without the car, house, pool, clothes, jewelry, handbags, gadgets, weave, beauty treatments, and gourmet food those few brilliant people were selling.  Things could fill voids in our lives.  Things could make us happy.  Not having enough money to get the things didn’t matter to most of us; happiness was attainable, even if it was only via loans and credit.  More brilliant people profited off our mismanagement and became people whose lives were incomplete without the money to get the things, and more money on top of that.  To those same people, the people using credit also became things.  They weren’t even customers anymore, just 9 or 16-digit numbers whose rates needed to be raised.  Ways to consume more.  Means to an end.  Prey to be devoured.  Pre-teen girls to use.  Teen boys and men to get cash from.  We might as well.

Many who opposed our President’s economic stimulus plan claimed they were horrified by the burden of debt and taxes that government spending would leave to future generations.  Seeing girls of any economic status or social class approach the removal of their clothes for $20 with nonchalance horrifies me, and not just because I hate to see women objectified.  It horrifies me because the STDs these girls may spread won’t help a healthcare system that’s already insufficient for a civilized nation.  It horrifies me because these girls won’t even notice that particular social consequence because they’ll probably marry affluent men who can afford the best healthcare.  It horrifies me because seeing people as a means to an end prevents you from seeing people’s needs.  It blinds you to the compassion needed to address the health and wealth disparities in our society and to radically change the consumerist economy that we have proven will crumble when any one element—wages, jobs, credit, responsible repayment of debt, or an insatiable craving for frivolity (consumer confidence)—is removed from the equation.

Equation.  That word indicates a call for balance.  Most viewers’ comments on the story faulted lackadaisical parenting, abstinence teaching, and generational immorality.  A few saw it as a cry for attention to parents who have been too busy working to watch their kids.  Others saw no difference between this and previous generations.  If girls whose parents already have money feel they might as well dance on tables for $100, I think it goes deeper than moral deficiency, and that it’s worse than lonely kids who just want love.  It’s a devaluation of humanity that will continue to perpetuate and is perpetuated by the idea that enough is always just a little bit more.

CONSUME

————————————

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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An Economy of Humility

by Mariam Williams

At the time for prayer requests in my Sunday school class this past Sunday, I shared that I’m seeking God’s will and

applying for jobs with hat in hand ...

applying for jobs with hat in hand ...

direction in what to do with my life now that a new idea for self-employment, or sometimes just self-improvement, leases space in my head each day. The request spurred the following dialogue:

A mother of the church (church-speak for elderly, long-time, well-respected, female member who tends to speak her mind rather unabashedly) said, “You know the Census Bureau’s hiring.”

I shook my head as I replied, “I know. I don’t want it.”

“Oh. You don’t believe in taking something just to have something until what you really want comes along?”

Cringing and bracing myself for a harangue about my spoiled generation I said, “No ma’am, actually I don’t.”

Instead of the harangue, she said, “Well good thing you don’t have babies to feed.”

She’s right: it is good, and I said as much and recognized the same privileged status in a previous post. There’s a chance I won’t have full-time work before April.  Even if I get an extension in my unemployment benefits, I know the compensation will eventually run out, and that it may do so long before writers, copywriters, research directors, other media personnel, and creative types with unusable bachelor’s degrees come back into demand. As the church mother said to me after class, “It may be that you have to get some new training, go into a different field all together.” Others suggest an employment tactic along those same lines but even more extreme: humility.

In Good Morning America’s “Unemployment Rescue” segment last week, workplace contributor Tory Johnson suggested five part-time jobs to get back in the workforce or supplement underemployment: 1) substitute teacher or college prep course instructor; 2) staff member at major league baseball or indoor rodeo stadiums; 3) valet parking attendant or guest services worker for major healthcare facilities; 4) senior care companion; and 5) pet-sitter.  Hmm.

In the comments section of the story, a great debate rages between pride and survival. To some, going from a government “hand-out” to several jobs that pay between minimum wage and twenty dollars an hour is a joke. Others believe beggars can’t be choosers.

Also taking a stake in the game are the requirements for unemployment benefits. You can’t exactly supplement your income. In Kentucky, when you report income from any source – temp assignments, odd jobs, self-employment, tips, bonuses, reserve pay, holiday pay, etc. – 80 percent of the gross of that income is subtracted from your unemployment benefit check. So if you earn $100 house sitting one week, instead of getting your usual $415 – the weekly, pre-tax maximum in Kentucky – you get $415 minus $80, or $335. Your house sitting money makes your total for the week $435, raising your usual income by twenty dollars instead of one hundred. Temp assignments that bring in more than your weekly benefit check but that don’t last for very long have been known to make the automated system believe you’re now being selective and refusing full-time work, thereby at best delaying your benefit checks when the assignments stop. At worst, you could be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits all together, and if you make more than the benefit check at any time, you don’t get any benefit money that week at all. Hence, cash under-the-table is highly encouraged and honesty highly debatable.

I get it: unemployment benefits are to help discourage you from staying unemployed and living off the government. But that’s easier when the nation’s unemployment rate looks like this:

us-unemployment-rate-dec-2000-avg-map

Jobless rate: 4.0%

instead of like this:

us-unemployment-rate-dec-2008-map2

Jobless rate: 7.2%

These are different and difficult times. The savings account is depleting faster than you thought it would. You’re ignoring that weird sound the car makes every time you make a right turn. A health emergency will either bankrupt or kill you because your health insurance is gone. The past due notices are arriving in an assortment of colors. You know a foreclosure notice is next.  Even CEOs of The Big Three went to Washington with hats in hands, and they’ve made severe changes to their structure just to maintain their existence.  Why should you or I be any different?

Although I plow through my days without much regard for my own needs and zero regard for those of anyone else, I know the above argument rages in homes throughout the U.S. daily. At least one person who made comments on the Good Morning America segment has done the math and figured that to earn less than your unemployment benefit check just to say you’re employed seems silly. However, a certain amount of pride and dignity comes with having a job. A certain amount of pride and dignity also comes with having a job that’s sufficient to support your needs and the needs of those for whom you are responsible; with finally getting a job that required the degree that engulfed your life for several years; with being rewarded for staying out of jail, not using drugs, not having children before graduating from high school, being a straight arrow, and generally avoiding the trappings that tend to lead to government hand-outs or to working several jobs that pay minimum wage only so that you can make ends not even meet, but wave to each other from across the Grand Canyon from time to time. And a certain amount of pride and dignity is lost when you stand in line at the unemployment office next to former classmates who fell into said trappings. Once that happens, a little bit of pride is all you have left.

Well, I also have my beliefs. I believe that busying myself with things I am not designed to do distracts me from finding opportunities that lead down the right path. I believe I’ve wasted enough time that way and that before I reach the breaking point, I’ll find the right opportunity. It may turn out that the opportunity comes from a temp assignment or from meeting the friend of a friend of an owner whose dog I’m walking. It may even come from one of the good, full-time, self esteem edifying jobs to which I apply each week. Each person will make a decision according to his or her own situation and need. Just as much as I need food, I need to hold my intellect and talents in high esteem and not settle. I don’t think I’m regarding myself more highly than I ought; it’s just that I remember vividly the sense of sadness, defeat, disillusionment, and even hopelessness that settling caused me in the past, and I never want to be in that state again.

So I continue to look. And wait. Even if my strategy prolongs my time for living life laid off.

203518-1 203723 203835-1 203805 204358-11 203902

Hat in hand?  Nah.  I think hats are meant to be worn.

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.


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Filed under Economy, Health, Layoffs, Lifestyles, Mental & Emotional Health, money, Recession, Unemployment

The Greatest Time to be Living Life Laid Off

by Mariam Williams

I’ve seen and heard a few quotes this week that make me feel as though something good is brewing for me. The first is from my pastor, said at bible study yesterday:

“There are few things more exciting than when your life starts to make sense.”

Making sense of why certain events happen, understanding the of the order of things, bathing in the light of the “aha moment” … I’ve had some exciting insights since I began living life laid off.

It was actually several weeks ago that I came to the conclusion that’s also the title of this post. Okay, so there’s never a “great” time to be laid off, but if I had to be drafted to team jobless, I guess now is a pretty good time in my life to get the call.

Apparently, it was time for me to leave my job. It had started out as exactly the job I was looking for: an entry-level position in the field I wanted to go into that also made good use of skills I had already developed and would ready me for greater pursuits. But over time, the job became unchallenging and unsatisfying, and at the time of my layoff, I was already looking for work elsewhere. I’m sure God knew I wasn’t happy there. I’m sure he also knew that the one person in the whole building who really “got” me was going to be leaving for another position in another state, and I would’ve been employed without my confidant and mentor. To be honest, I’m thankful that I was spared that potentially distressing experience.

I’m also thankful that I’m in my late twenties, single, I don’t have any children, I don’t have a mortgage, and – I’m embarrassed to say – my mom still takes care of a lot of things for me, like my car. This means I have no major responsibilities sitting in front of me that demand that I take any kind of job that comes along, which is good, because I had any kind of job.

That solely personal responsibility makes this the closest-to-ideal time for me to be living life laid off. This is time that I can use to explore, to research every business idea that comes to mind, to learn new skills, to start blogging! And it’s a time to be excited. Within about a month of my layoff, I changed the quote box on my Facebook page to, “I am pumped about life’s new opportunities!” (No, it doesn’t say that now, but I’m still pumped.)

I hear from different news outlets at least once a week – about the frequency with which I can bare to watch such depressing programming – that this exciting time of exploration and opportunity isn’t just for unmarried, childless, 20-somethings. It’s for anyone willing to learn a new skill, start her own business, or think creatively to either save money or reinvent herself.

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=6730859

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=6644183

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96706838

I have a new idea on how to reinvent myself almost every day. And here’s the quote that’s made me feel I’m not alone in my thoughts:

“[A friend on Facebook] is pensive and taking ideas on what to be up to next in her life.”

Which reminds me, THERE’S A NEXT! That seems obvious, but when you were a dedicated employee, you had become an expert in your industry, you had become accustomed to a certain standard of life, you’re puzzled as to why the axe came down on you, your résumés are getting ignored, no one is hiring anyone with your particular skills and talents, and no one seems to know when we’re going to get out of this crisis, it’s easy to forget the existence of next.

It’s even easier to forget to be “up to” something. I remember in the 18 months before I found the job that I had for 18 months before being laid off, I filled my days with volunteer hours. I also remember that people and organizations that benefited from my skills and talents on a voluntary basis were more grateful than my former employer. I’m volunteering again and feeling helpful and appreciated again, but I know there’s still a next. I’m sure of that because of another quote I was reminded of yesterday:

“[My word] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – God

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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How far would you go to stop living life laid off?

by Mariam Williams

Last week, I saw a story on Good Morning America about the modern meaning of Sugar Daddies. At the end of the video, reporter Andrea Canning said, “So money can’t buy you love, but it can buy financial freedom. These websites say they’re actually seeing a spike in the number of members with the shaky economy – unemployed women looking for an easy way out.”

As I find fewer jobs each week that will hold my interest for longer than a month or that will be a step up in pay or skill level, and the expiration date for my unemployment benefits looms closer each day, I start to wonder how I’ll feel when the deadline actually arrives. I picture the humiliation of begging the state for an extension in benefits. I don’t know what the process is, but I can see a meticulous investigation into my job-seeking efforts for the past six months … A hearing of some sort to determine whether or not I looked hard enough for new employment … An official from the Office of Employment and Training telling me I will be required to lower my standards, to accept a salary below the requirements I originally stated on my unemployment benefits application and to accept work outside of my field … Sending the 30 days written notice to my landlord … Selling all the possessions that I won’t need in my mother’s house … Posting a picture of myself in full makeup and a form-fitting shirt, baby shorts, and stilettos onto a Sugar Daddy website … Surprising my landlord with six months’ worth of rent and a description of the new car now occupying my parking space … Hanging my head in shame the first time I see my Sugar Daddy out in public with his wife …

Nope. Not going there.

It’s not exactly a question of morality, and it’s not the Sugar Baby’s morals I want to debate. I willingly admit to occasionally having used feminine wiles to lure an unsuspecting (and sometimes fully knowing) man into paying for my drink, my dinner, or a movie. In the name of the semi-full, slightly narcissistic disclosure and invited voyeurism that having your own blog promotes, I’m also willing to admit that if I hadn’t found the job from which I am now laid off, my next step would have been to either join an escort service or start my own. (And I mean an overpriced date, not a prostitute.) But this time, I’m not willing to go there.

This time, I’m finally in a place where I’ve tried enough jobs that I thought would be careers to know much of what I don’t like. I haven’t zeroed in on the perfect combination of what I do like – at least, the scope isn’t precise enough for me to throw tens of thousands of dollars at tuition towards a masters degree somewhere – but I’m getting there. More importantly, I’m learning about God’s faithfulness and provision, and about my own spending habits that need[ed] to be corrected. I’m also rebuilding my confidence in my skills, gifts, intuition, and abilities. I know how to make an old apartment more energy efficient without asking the landlord to do massive, costly repairs that he wouldn’t do anyway. I’m writing consistently, for an audience of more than one, and helping other adults who haven’t written in years. I can sense, even from descriptions filled with euphemisms for boring, clerical duties, when I won’t like a job (and I don’t apply for it). And I’m able to withstand many quiet hours alone with my computer and a daily ambush of new ideas about what to do next. As much as I would like free rent and a new set of Manolos to go with it, a Sugar Daddy couldn’t buy me the perspective I’m gaining while I’m living life laid off.

However, I realize that this isn’t everyone’s point of view and that my relatively simple financial situation is probably not the standard. So if you’re registered on a Sugar Daddy website, contemplating becoming an escort, or otherwise thinking out of the box, leave a comment! How far would you go to stop living life laid off?

© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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