Saturday, June 8, 2013

Code Words and Bogey Men

I heard a worker say these very words at Walmart yesterday, "I always never stop until it's done..." What was she trying to say, I ask, tongue firmly placed in cheek.

Can anyone tell me why, in police procedural television programming, the guy who snaps when a bad guy gets off, grabs a police officer's gun and shoots the criminal, they always have perfect aim? They never miss, they never hit an innocent bystander, their aim is always dead on.

I'm an animal lover, but mostly a dog person. I used to have only cats, but that was many years ago. I have a neighbor/friend who has cats, and occasionally when she goes out of town, I take care of them for her. I know that women who are pregnant are told not to scoop their cat's litter boxes because they can carry toxoplasmosis.  I have noticed from time to time that when I scoop the litter for my neighbor's cats, the smell is so strong that it makes my eyes water. I feel I should do as I've heard the people needed to do in Haiti to avoid the smell of rotting bodies, which was to smear a liberal amount of toothpaste under their noses. My question is, could these fumes be an actual cause for an actual syndrome that could be called "Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome?" We've all heard of the Crazy Cat Lady, with multiple cats and no human friends, but what if it's a real illness, and gases given off by cat urine is the cause?

I have a question that makes me kind of sad. It came to me after reading an article on "Hyperbole Post" talking about just anemic our economic recovery has been. In the United States of America, we have historically been an extremely innovative people. Our innovations used to create great wealth, and middle class status for most of our people. Now there is a huge division between rich and poor, with more people falling out of the middle class and into the caste of the "working poor." My question is; have we come to the end of our ability to innovate? When I was in grad school several years ago, I believed I saw the beginnings of new areas in which we could create new businesses, such as green energy and building. But the fossil energy companies spend billions (possibly an exaggeration) to tell us that green energy is too expensive and will never work. If a green energy company takes some risk and loses (Solyndra) it becomes a buzz word for blind optimism and stupidity. They don't want innovation, they want to continue with the status quo that makes them hundreds of billions (no exaggeration) of dollars per year. The new inventions that we see are on poorly produced commercials, and are mainly fodder for comedians...and the occasional humorous comment from someone like me. Is it too late for the next big invention, such as the automobile, to lift the American people up from poverty into the middle class?

What do we learn from every president's second term? Here I propose an answer to my question; we learn (once again) that the entrenched powers that be begin to all look alike when they stay in power. This is a big reason why I would be for a female candidate for president, but not Hillary Clinton. The two party system has blurred into a one, fuzzy, morphed party system in which the peace presidents act like war presidents, and giving up individual liberty for the sake of security against an enemy that we can never see coming. The two party system is broken and corrupt, and by the second term of any president, we begin to see that the idealistic language they used to get elected was just that; purty words.

Many of us eat out. A lot! We don't think about the conditions in which the food servers work, though there is a movement now, beginning with an excellent book called "Behind the Kitchen Door," that has contributed to the (hopefully) start of a conversation about how our wait staff is treated in their work places. Most of them are still paid a bit over two-dollars per hour salary, the alleged thought being that the difference between that and minimum wage will be made up by their tips. Their paychecks are taxed as if that is true, even when it isn't. Most of them do not get paid time off, even when they are sick. My question is this; why is this okay? Does it concern any of us that the people serving our food might be sick enough to stay home and not make the public, or their coworkers sick? Line cooks make a bit more per hour, but if the wait staff has to come to work sick, and makes the cooking staff sick, they could start an epidemic s just by not having this simple, basic rule applied to them; if you're sick, stay home. Don't make yourself worse, or anyone else sick. But if a person works for practically slave wages, with no paid sick time, taking a day off til the fever breaks is not possible.

There was some discussion this week of women in the work force after a couple of things happened. The first was a report that in a growing number of households, women are the only bread winner. In some of these homes, the men are stay home dads, and in some the woman is the only parent, and bread winner. The other was when representative Marsha Blackburn, R TN, stated that  "women don't want equal pay laws." I'm not sure which women she is talking to, but that's what she said. A libertarian friend of mine jumped into the conversation with the notion that laws aren't necessary if a woman is hired because of her qualifications, she should just demand equal pay or quit. I never would have guessed that my libertarian friends are living in such an ideal world, where employers pay fairly, based on qualifications, and they choose the person best qualified, no matter the race, gender or sexual orientation. The fact is that women still make .77 to the dollar as their male counterparts. When that was pointed out, my friend postulated that probably don't have the same education, length of service, etc. Another truth here would be that women are graduating from college at a higher rate than men, but these pay and promotion disparities still exist. But the big picture that came to me during this back and forth was that the man who was taking the side of the men in this conversation was advocating for the continuance of the "good ole boy" network...not what you know, but who you know, not how well trained you are, but longevity with the company. I suppose there is some bit of the "good ole boy network" in place at most work places, but is that how we want the country to go forward? Especially with more women as the only breadwinner in the household? In the study I referred to, those households were not doing so well..because the women make less than a male in the same job would make. I don't believe that unfettered, unregulated businesses will EVER make the "proper" choices on their own, and yes, there is apparently a need for some kind of laws to allow women who have families to support get the same pay as a man in the same position.

A nutrition question: how can we say that? I talk a great deal about health and nutrition, and my friends and I talk about these subjects a lot. There are groups of people now who say that we need to eat lots of whole grains, and some others who say that our dependence on grains is why we are so sick. The anti-grain folks say that our ancestors did not eat grains, and therefore we did not evolve with the ability to digest them properly. The consumption of grains apparently exploded when we began to develop agriculture, which lead to communities, cities and so on. So, how did our ancestors decide what to farm? Did they just go out and say, "Nah, we can't grow berries and melons, so lets farm grains?" It may be that they foraged when they first left the trees, hunting and gathering berries and other fruits because that's what they could reach from their new place on the ground. But growing melons takes work, so I'm not sure that early man ate that many melons. But I also doubt that they just went out, saw a wild grain and said to themselves, "Hmmm, maybe we can make this grow;" and then went out and created ways to make it dominate our diets. Even if grains have only been a major part of our diet for six-to-ten thousand years, how can they say grains weren't a part of human diets until "recently?"

I was born in 1957. I'm not sure if it is still true, but there was a time that my birth year held the record as the year more babies were born than in all of history combined. The birth rate in the United States is declining, and in 2012 the greatest decline was in children born to immigrant women. The so-called "baby boom" is what the children born between 1945 and 1963 is called-roughly the years between World War II ending and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We are now in 2013, which means that at the end of this year, the last baby boomers will turn fifty. They are now at middle age, and will soon need bone density tests, their first screening colonoscopies, and will likely be on blood pressure meds, statins, and likely a number of other prescription medications.  My question is, how will our aging change the world? Will we actually have made a difference?

1. Saru Jayaraman is co-founder and director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and author of Behind the Kitchen Door. She was featured on Moyers & Company in February 2013.

2. Marsha Wedgeworth Blackburn is the U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 7th congressional district

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