You had a hard week at work. Everything that could go wrong did and at the worst possible moment. But that’s done with and you’re driving home, looking forward to spending a pleasant weekend with your family.
A few miles from your home the traffic turns into a jam. You think to yourself, “Well, that’s kind of typical of the way this week went.” And then you see the reason for the stall. There is a dark cloud of smoke ahead – and it’s coming from the neighborhood where your home is located.
“Oh please, God – please don’t let that be my house that’s on fire,” you exclaim out loud.
Your anxiety builds as the traffic crawls forward in the thirty minutes it takes to move one half way to the billowing smoke. Even with the air conditioner running at full throttle you can feel the perspiration dripping down the side of your body from your underarms. In the distance you can see the fire equipment which has been deployed to combat the blaze.
Another half hour passes. The police and a fireman are directing traffic on the street that feeds into your street. At that point you breathe a sigh of relief because you can see that the source of the fire is a house that is two blocks away from yours. Perhaps the week didn’t turn out as badly as it might have.
Most of us who found ourselves in this situation would probably, almost involuntarily, react the same way. “Oh please, God – please don’t let that be my house that’s on fire.” But what are we really saying in making that plea? Simply that we are perfectly content for this tragedy to have befallen one of our friends or neighbors – just as long as we remain unscathed by it.
We have asserted our moral superiority to prosper at the expense of someone else who is not as fortunate, gifted or entitled as we are. We have passed judgment that our interests are more important than the interests of others.
After the tragedy of this event we might find it in our hearts to make a small donation to the family who’s lives were affected or perhaps put together a bag of canned goods for them to eat. And in these ways we assuage our consciences and tell ourselves that we really are “good people.”
I offer this lesson in “situation ethics” as a prelude to a discussion about which there has been much and will be more conversation. That topic is outsourcing jobs.
As I see it, there are three categories of people who are involved in this conversation.
The first are those people who really don’t want to make the effort to get a job and find this a convenient excuse for their own idleness. As far as I am concerned, they are a part of the problem and in no way contribute to a solution.
The second are those people who have a job and are breathing a sigh of relief that their employment does not appear to be in jeopardy. They may have a view on outsourcing and indeed be empathetic to a co-worker who’s position was outsourced – but in their hearts they’re saying, “Oh thank you, God for letting me keep my position.”
The third are those people who are actively seeking work but cannot find it. They are bitter that a potential job has been shipped overseas. We hear a lot of this from OWS. They also have made the moral judgment that they have a greater right to life and prosperity than some other worker who happens to live in another country.
Now the facts are that many of these outsourced positions are low-level and low-paying. A large contingent of OWS protestors are frustrated people who are college educated and are unable to find work using their degrees. I suspect that none of them spent four years in college so that they could get a minimum wage job working in a fast food restaurant or in a customer service call center.
In fact, I doubt that if offered that kind of position so that they could support themselves until things got better they would even consider accepting it. I say this based on several conversations I have had with OWS members. The people with whom I spoke considered that type of work as being “beneath them.” Personally, if I were in their position, I would humbly accept the work and be grateful for it while I continued to look for something better.
So is outsourcing immoral? Let me introduce a fourth group that carries the most weight in this discussion. That group consists of our President and the Congress. You see, if they had the sense to understand the nature of the recession and to work proactively at fixing it – rather than spending two years going off on tangents and bickering, we might not be having this discussion at all.
As bad as the June Jobs Report was with an overall unemployment rate continuing at 8.2%, things got worse for the very people whom President Obama counts as his core constituency – blacks and Latinos. The rate of unemployment for blacks increased to 13.6% from 13.0% and for Latinos to 11.0% from 10.3%.
It is truly difficult for me to understand how these unemployed minorities can support a man who has done so very little to assist them – and, in fact, who has by omission, done so much to prevent them from entering the work force.
This fourth group, our politicians needs to tend to their knitting – rather than trying to blind each other with their knitting needles. They need to be honest with themselves and with us – and if they are incapable of that, they need to be replaced with thoughtful people who will work toward finding solutions. The blame game is not only not productive – it is counter-productive.
We have seen what happens when a people learn to distrust their politicians’ ability or willingness to address problems in a serious manner. That life study comes to us from a country called Greece. We saw the fires that raged in the streets of Athens – and those streets are only a few thousand miles and a couple of years away.
If we don’t take the responsibility to elect people of quality and vision this November I predict that it won’t be long before we’re all saying, “Oh my God, our country’s on fire.”