Happy 24th Birthday. I want you to know how proud I am of you!
You went to a good college. You got a degree in Business and Finance. The math and management skills you learned will always be useful one way or another. I hope you will keep learning. I hope you will apply what you learned to your benefit and the good of others.
You’re tall, handsome, fit, and you take good care of yourself. Keep up the good work.
After college you worked with me at the restaurant. I really appreciate that while you were in transition you helped me and your Uncle out. I hope it was a good experience for you. I watched as you learned to take pride in doing a job most would call menial. I saw you struggle with what a difficult, complicated, skill-heavy job waiting on customers can be and you mastered it.
You learned how to deal with some difficult and demanding people, who had no right to treat you in a demeaning manner, but felt they did. Most importantly, you managed to not take it personally and you kept your self-esteem. Not an easy lesson to learn. Bravo!
I bet you’re glad not to be waiting tables anymore! I’m glad too, but don’t forget that all work has value. Unfortunately, in America today, those who do some of the most trying and necessary work are not compensated justly. Perhaps that is the lesson of these times.
Well, I really enjoyed working with you, my son. And I’m happy you have moved on to a new, better opportunity.
Now, you’re working as civil servant and you’re a Teamster, fancy that.
Maybe this isn’t the perfect job for you. I know it’s not anywhere near the salary you would like. But, while you are at this job, building a career in these difficult economic times, I hope you will take continue to take pride in both your work and in being a Union Man.
Thinking of my son as a Union Man brings such a smile to my face, even if it’s a role you may someday retire.
You know that I don’t believe labor unions are perfect, hell I don’t believe anything is perfect, but they are important.
Last night at dinner my ears perked-up when you told me that you were reading about the history of Teamsters. There’s a colorful subject and an important one. Labor unions began their current demise starting just prior to your birth. It’s one of the reasons our country is not in the place it should be today.
And yet, somehow, you can thank the labor union movement for the job you have today. You, a college man with a degree in finance! Isn’t life wonderful?
I remember talking on one of our many rides back and forth from my place in New Jersey to your home with you mom in New York. I told you that capitalism was the best method yet invented to allocate resources to provide for everyone in society. I also told you that democracy was the best system of government. I still believe in both those ideas.
Unfortunately, what we have today is a hybrid call Corporatocracy. Simply put, the wall between our economic system and our form of government has been lowered to the point where money and corporations now have control of our government, so we no longer have either democracy or free markets.
Corporatocracy is its own animal. Once in power this perversion cannot be defeated through democratic means as it has control of the very government. It can only be eradicated by people willing to educate themselves as to what has oppressed them, make sacrifices, organize and take actions in the marketplace to regain their power as the ultimate arbiters of fairness and freedom. Labor unions fought against oppressive fascism and kept it in check for many decades.
I’m proud you’re a Union Man, college boy.
Marco, I can’t tell you how to find happiness in your life despite the powerful forces that will always hold sway to a greater or lesser degree.
I’ll be pleased if you use me as a sounding board as important decisions come your way. I’ll give advice if you ask for it, but I will not expect you to take it. In fact, I would rather have you use your wonderful, kind mind to think through every challenge at each crossroads for yourself.
But, I do ask you to remember these axioms that are currently buried under a morass of moral decline grown from greed:
1) All life affirming work has value, should be performed with pride, and deserves to be rewarded with compensation that provides for a decent living.
2) Democracy is the best system of governance, but your freedom and meaningful representation will be lost if you do not participate.
3) Free market capitalism can work, but be aware that this is an unattainable ideal that needs governance. Moneyed entities often pervert the market and, while masquerading as free markets participants, become criminal machinery that siphons a living wage from those who provide meaningful labors.
Why should you care? What’s this got to do with your birthday?
You were born of two families who were, and are, both business people and workers. They both worked diligently to provide for their families and the people who worked for them. As you have seen, there are forces at work today that threaten these same people.
Don’t forget where you came from. Whatever you do, do something you can be proud of, live a life that brings you sound sleep, have some fun, take care of those you love, and stay involved. The world needs people like you, my son, especially now. You are the right person and the right time. You are the salt of the earth.
On your birthday, give yourself a present. Commit yourself to living a good life.