In just two weeks time, I will celebrate Christmas along with the one year anniversary of my first ‘career’ job. Rushing from the marbled pillars of higher education, I jumped into the workforce anxious to make a difference and be paid for it. Maybe I was naive. Maybe I had spent too many hours daydreaming in lecture halls and contemplating the ‘what ifs’ of social progress. But this first year of work was nothing like I had imagined. It was terrifying.
(image via drafthouse.com)
While I am no corporate executive, I would consider this year a successful year for my company. We made significant progress on several major projects and increased morale through internal restructuring. We were even recognized for our efforts in sustainability. Yet my colleagues today are completely different from those just a year ago. In twelve months time I have watched half of my coworkers leave either due to termination or resignation. And for what? Low quarterly profits.
This is what David Simon refers to as the ultimate tragedy of capitalism: “its dominance without regard to social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.” Earlier this year I met someone who missed his son’s sixteenth birthday just so he could deliver a project ahead of schedule. When asked if it was worth it he replied, “Yes. Because not only was I paid over time, but I could demonstrate my loyalty to the company.” He was laid off six months later.
Profit alone should not be our only measurement for corporate or individual health. Yet in the wake of the Cold War and McCarthyism, we have replaced our human ability to cooperate and build relationships with the calculating competitiveness that becomes capitalism. I do not suggest that we become socialists. Unfortunately the stigma associated with this term has polarized us into entitled egoists obsessed with selfies and individual greed. But what I do suggest is that we take a step back to examine where our values lie. Perhaps there are other metrics for success.
In just two weeks time it will be Christmas. And while I will participate in the gift giving and extravagant feasting that now accompanies this holiday, I hope I will not lose sight of the important things in life: wonderful family, wonderful friends, and wonderful memories.