Earlier this week I engaged in a discussion on the American minimum wage increase. I wholeheartedly support raising it in an incremental manner to $15 per hour. As anticipated, this spawned some heated debate.
…Two days of on-and-off heated debate.
Eventually, I bowed out of the argument, as it had become two people versus me in a circular game of she made another point, how can we repeat our baseless case in a new way, and I simply didn’t have anymore days.
Fundamentally, the premise of their argument was people should simply work harder.
When I responded that many of those who do work hard cannot afford to make ends meet, they argued that these people should learn a skill.
When I responded that many of these people do not have the time, ability, or opportunity to learn a skill, they argued that these people should not have made poor decisions to place themselves in hardship.
When I responded that plenty of people make thoughtful decisions and rational choices, and even still, face hardship, they argued that these people have no excuses and should think outside the box.
And when I responded, “Therefore, even if a person makes good decisions, that person deserves to starve (while contemplating abstract ideas for employment) because he or she should have known better. Right.”
Their response? Learn to work the system and stop looking for handouts. Back to square one.
I will disregard the fact that the very next point was an allegory about my second opponent’s own family, who were, as he described, historically both impoverished and on governmental welfare, and that his father struggled to find employment throughout the years. At this point, I had already exited the conversation. I did not ask him what his relatives would have done without the aid of the government. I did not tell him — badly as I wished to — that his allegory contradicts his very argument.
My greater inquiry is, why must we find methods of “working the system” when we can simply change said system for the better?
Why is it so often privileged, upper-middle class white people who insist that anyone doing worse than them in life has made poor decisions and must now live and die by them? If we all were damned to live by the decisions we made when we were eighteen, for instance, we’d all be headed up the creek.
I’m tired of the “survival of the fittest” argument. That’s not how a functioning government operates. Good leadership is not sitting back and watching people starve.
We can and will do better than this.