Thursday, May 12, 2011

When a Game is Not Really a Game

May 12, 2011

There's a scene in the novel The Grapes of Wrath where thousands of farmers have migrated to California to seek employment. There are only jobs enough to accomodate a fraction of the workers, and the pay rate for those available jobs is a mere pittance--not enough to adequately care for a family. When the workers attempt to stage a protest, they are cast aside without regard, since there are would-be employees so desperate that they are even willing to work for a smaller wage, despite knowing it's not enough; it is, in fact, inhumane. It gives the employers a sense of power to be able to say, "You'll take whatever we decide to offer, and like it, too, because there's plenty more behind you who would be grateful to step in your shoes."

Here's the thing, though: that kind of power can change the way people operate. It makes them begin to manipulate situations to their own benefit (or for their own capricious whims), It makes them feel like they're playing a game to win. It makes them begin to see their employees as pawns in a chess match. It somehow allows them to distance themselves from the real live human beings they are affecting.

Being grateful for a job in this economy shouldn't mean having to simply accept whatever is being offered, even if it's unsatisfactory, even if it means no longer having a voice, even if it means not being respected as a professional, as an individual. It shouldn't mean being grateful because someone else might just be desperate enough to accept what, ultimately, isn't enough.

That's what I'm feeling like today.

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