I have withheld much of what I’m sure I should be writing on the grounds that it might not be what my ostensible middle grade fantasy audience and their moms want to read, but the truth is those middle graders may not have much of a life to look forward to if we don’t fix some of the problems we are facing in these United States.
I’m a science fiction and fantasy novelist. As much as I would prefer to avoid political debate in the interests of not upsetting my readers, we’re rapidly reaching a point where nothing else I or anyone else does at our day job is going to matter. If we keep avoiding the room-sized elephant, the situation will continue to deteriorate. I’d like to think my characters and stories would influence society for the better, but I can’t help but wondering if I am holding one of those little battery-powered propeller fans on the beach during a category four.
So far, I have written around the edges of the problem. I wrote an article on the problems faced by gifted children and followed up with an article about the colorful personalities populating our workplaces.
Nevertheless, we live in a society where a man who wants to work and who is clearly qualified for many a vocation is treated with such skepticism that even amateur psychologists inadvertently bark the word “paranoid” when describing their associated hiring managers. It is not hard to imagine a man applying to work at a supermarket and being asked by an alleged grown-up if they have any shelf-stocking experience.
I have considered and may yet pursue a series of articles making fun of certain online job ads. In fact, I’ve recently written about the special kind of paranoia that inspires most employment ads these days. It is not hard to imagine the people engaged in this juvenile suspicion club to be participating in some kind of informal contest where actually hiring someone counts as a penalty. By all other criteria, they certainly have no interest in placing qualified people in productive roles.
You see, I grew up in an America where it took my mom a grand total of about 40 minutes to get hired into a career-track job she held for 36 years. It was no different for my father. My mom’s title was “Features Editor.” My father’s was “Investigative Reporter.” Their actual grown-up adult jobs with real paychecks and no layoffs or workplace stupidity are two of the main reasons I grew up in a four-bedroom house with a swimming pool and graduated from college debt-free. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived anywhere with four bedrooms that wasn’t a hotel. The opportunities my parents had, like jobs with grown-up titles and managers who were adults with character and integrity, are sadly no longer available.
The truth is our job market is a mental hospital. When combined with the total absence of job security, the chronic underpayment of employees and the tightening hand around the neck of the Internet in general, the future is becoming rather grim. One need only look at the recent news from Activision/Blizzard to see what happens to employees who do a good job. The senior executives at that company only consider their spreadsheets when they make destructive decisions like that. They don’t consider the corrosive effect it has on the rest of society. If doing a good job no longer matters, and the proof is being published under loud headlines all over the web, see if you can guess what happens next?
We’ve all been entertained over the years by extinction events on the big and small screens that populate the short-range distances between our noses and the rest of the world. This persistent disconnect between employers and the rest of us is exactly like that Texas-sized asteroid. There ain’t no Bruce Willis to save us this time, and that rock isn’t slowing down either. It is no different than the near-disaster the credit markets experienced after the housing crisis. Nobody trusts anyone else and everyone is trying to protect what little they have left.
With the credit market crisis, it was the end of capital. If nobody can find or keep a job, it’s the end of the republic.