Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Late Decadence in the Reign of Consumer Capitalism

[The title doesn’t corollate perfectly, but I like the way it sounds.]

How can you not love Mike Lowell even more when he talks about why he stayed with the Red Sox?

"I enjoy Boston," he said. "My family enjoys Boston. Secondly, the Red Sox organization does everything it can to win a World Series - for my career, that's a big factor. Thirdly, before this contract I had financial security, so I like to believe that I'm not all about money." [more here]

On the other hand, it’s easy to say you're not about money when you’re making $12.5 million a year.

I was thinking the other day about baseball salaries, stimulated by A-Rod of course. $27.5 million a year? For hitting a bat and catching a ball? Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that this is totally out of control? I mean, I love Mike Lowell to death, and there’s simply no way to justify the fact that he makes $12.5 million a year for doing what he does. As far as I’m concerned, nothing anyone does is worth anything like that kind of money.

I’ve been hanging out with teenagers again. Poor inner-city Black and Latino teenagers. The ones newspaper articles veer back and forth between demonizing and pitying.

In real life, these kids want jobs. The other day one was talking about looking in three different towns and not finding anything. Another was all excited about getting an interview at a non-profit work program, until he discovered that it was for high school graduates. They share tips and grasp at irrelevant straws.

These kids are no saints. Is it possible that they walk into stores, heavy with attitude, ask if there are any jobs, and then leave when told no? Uh, yeah. In fact, it's likely.

S meets a lot of kids like that. He hires a few. Some work out. If a kid has a good work ethic, but no skills, he teaches her skills. If a kid has skills but no work ethic, he's usually gone within a few shifts. If a kid has neither skills nor work ethic, forget it. The rare kid with skills and a work ethic (and there are some) makes everything worthwhile, and he is thrilled to launch those kids into their careers.

White suburban kids have skill and work ethic issues too, but they are more likely to have cultural capital and connections.

When the headquarters of big local corporations leave town because of mergers and acquisitions, they tend, sooner or later, usually sooner, to give up their local philanthropies. No more sponsorship for Shakespeare in the park; no more summer jobs for local kids.

I should be able to connect all this to mortgages, credit, and recent high-level resignations, but, honestly, I don't really get that stuff.

I just know we've got some really big problems here.

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