spacious in the morning

I awoke and did yoga this morning. It is barely 8:30 and i can already sense the spaciousness in my body that feels differently. Rather than feeling cramped or tight, there is a lightness as a result of it. In muscles and joints that can be lethargic, especially after four days on the road in four beds in different rooms in two cities.

As much as I want to attribute this to a single thing, this is another instance where there are a multiplicity of factors culminating in this experience, in this moment. I may have slept in a more comfortable bed last night, which factored into choosing to stretch this morning.

Spaciousness accompanies flexibility and fluidity for me. I can hear my body flowing, which is a softer, gentler sound than the creaking that happens when I am slow struggling in the morning. My muscles feel limber rather than taut. Taut is a bizarre feeling when I have been awake and out of bed for less than 120 minutes.

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What’s ahead: quakes in the labor market

When college graduates cobble together employment between washing dishes, cleaning homes and working at a tourist resort on one hand. On the other, working 60 hours a week for a national trade association as an intern because the compensation of $200 a week (aka $3.33 an hour) as an intern?

There’s a generational schism at play. The differing realities make me think of the type of earthquake where one tectonic plate is buried or smashed underneath the other. It is easy for to personalize, making my generation of Gen Y the plate causing the Millennials to collapse, go underground — and seemingly perish — under the weight of the forces at play. However, I think that the hulking plate is actually that of the Boomers, who’s spending, entitled sense of self has qualified them for a bevy of entitlements without having to consider the bill, and who’s widespread hoarding has amassed mutual funds, multiple homes and the fallacy of consuming limitlessly.

Somehow, these behaviors became enmeshed and messed with the popular imagery of the American Dream. McMansion homes even after there were no children, and oftentimes not even a partner, to occupy residences exceeding 2,000 square feet. The delusion that 401ks, 403bs and investment portfolios would rise into perpetuity even though build on a tenuous form of global capitalism where “capital chases global labor, and labor chases global capital,” in the words of Hamid Dabashi.

Yet, this earth is a closed system so one generation has to be a counterbalance to another, just as one continental shelf subsumed another as global homeostasis is sought/maintained.

The current tensions reveal the tremors before larger quakes. Bigger shocks that realign and remake the map and the lands that we’ve known for generations. A seismic shift that may take as little as 10 seconds with a legacy that lingers for generations.

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Yet, just as some people live on less than $2 a day, others live on $20,000 a year. While others struggle to live within their means of $80,000 a year. I recognize that the cost of living, the status and expense of living varies greatly from one person to the next. And so, the work norms vary greatly between three different people. And, the norms that one generation was accustomed to are not the same as others.

The diverging classes demonstrate how young, middle class college graduates of today are not graduating or arriving into the same labor market as existed 15 years ago. The changing labor market has not only had stagnant or declining wages but fewer job benefits that accompany full-time employment. If health care is provided, the employee’s burden is greater than it was. Yet, my history lessons remind me that employer-based health insurance has only been a creation in the US for the last 70 years or so. And, that is not how most other societies in the world have constructed a social system to provide medical expertise, and health care.

An economy that needs jobs

Where do you send someone looking for work? Looking for just about any job?

Someone who is willing to do all sorts of work. Who has done work as a bartender and construction. Someone who is asking me where there’s work as he sits in the front seat of my car, within 7 minutes of flagging me down. It began with him motioning that I roll down the window. See David needed to talk because he needed to ask for assistance to get to district court. He had been waiting at the bus stop, and realized that he would not be in court in the 15 minutes that he had. I don’t know how much he could imagine how I appreciate having been asked to give some support.

The passenger seat of the car turned into a confessional as David told me how we thought it was 10:30, when it was 80 minutes later in the day. A lapse of time that could have resulted in a warrant for his arrest, barely a week after getting out of prison.

I pulled the car up to district court, with 3 minutes to spare. In 12 minutes of our interaction, I learned that David was (is?) an orphan, had stopped hanging out with his old friends, is staying with a friend, looking for work, and had been to the southside library once. That his siblings are all in Kansas, so it’s hard not having any of their support here. He stopped hanging with the old crowd because a fight got ugly, which got him a felony.

After asking me of anyplace that I knew of offering work, he asked me what kind of work I did. When I told him “working on community projects that create jobs,” he was amazed. He expressed his appreciation that there were people who do that kind of work. In this moment, he even said something along the lines of “I like how society works. That there are people out there doing stuff like that.” (That’s my memory’s version of verbatim, because it was so amazing to hear this man expressing his appreciation for this society.)

It’s basic, he’s looking for work so that he can “get his own place.” When we talked about how job listings were no longer in the newspaper and now on the internet, he told me how he had a nice laptop before being imprisoned. But while inside, a former girlfriend sold the laptop because of her addiction, so he cannot look for jobs and apply for jobs online unless he gets to the southside library.

His weekly meeting has a new name (other than probation), but being late would have resulted in his arrest. A justice system that seems adamant about seizing upon the slightest misstep by David and his caste of the formerly incarcerated. A reminder that this is a system driven by profits, rather than the common good. How many times have I, or any of us in the non-incarcerated classes, been a few minutes or 20 minutes late. By the fortune/luck of not having to get to a weekly obligation on Tuesdays, we don’t have the threat of a warrant or an arrest.

At 3 minutes before noon, David had enough time to thank me profusely. As he opened the door and stood outside the car, he turned and asked me for a card or my number. Now, as the holidays approach, I will wait and see how soon he calls.

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Meanwhile, we have a broken system, chock full of another class. A political class of two entrenched political parties who dilly dally over the fiscal cliff that Robert Reich describes as being “more like a hill.” But, the Echo Chamber of corporate media insists on repeating mention of that cliff. Sounds more sensational. More importantly, it furthers the fear-based decision making that we cannot invest more, because we must cut back. As if there aren’t billions of dollars out there, and thousands of millionaires who wouldn’t benefit from investments in schools, broadband, bridges, public transport systems, and an energy grid that would actually move the US into the 21st Century in 2012-2020. We couldn’t do so at the dawn of the 21st century because we didn’t have the leadership. It remains to be seen whether we have the leadership now, beginning with the POTUS in the WH.

Meanwhile, the two sides of the negotiating table dither over how much they have to cut social programs. And the other side pretends (or acts either confused or hesitant) to acknowledge the need to raise taxes in the richest country in the world. But, this is what starving the beast, looks like.

One of many blessings in this electoral season was the GOP demonstrating how dire they have become. That Dick Lugar’s toppling in the Indiana senate primary is collateral damage for a fanatical cabal who threw not only teachers but fire fighters and police officers and their unions under the bus. If we have our senses about us, we will recognize that the firefighters and police officers are with us. Instead of nitpicking over the differences that we have, a rabid opponent has given us a gift. A gift to recognize that we are all believers in a society that invests in public institutions, that recognizes that we need schools along with roads, sewer systems, hospitals and clinics. That we are in need of jobs.