Matt Walsh at TheBlaze.com wants you to believe that being exploited early in life is an important life lesson. He wants you to believe that being forced to skip meals because you have little work experience makes you a better worker in the long run. Walsh states, “It’s fast food. It’s menial. It’s mindless. It’s not supposed to be a career. It’s not supposed to be a living. An entry-level position making roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s isn’t meant to be something you do for 26 years.” But my question for Walsh is why not? Why is it that some jobs are necessary jobs with high salaries and others are “starter jobs” that should force you to starve in order to earn the right to make a better living later?
The reason that fast food workers get so little money is not because some generous billionaire decided to help out these poor unfortunate entry level workers by allowing them the right to suffer in order to gain sorely needed life experiences. The corporate offices sell the franchise rights to individual store owners with promises of making their money back and then some by hiring under-experienced unskilled workers to do the work at the lowest legal rate. And like all good pyramid schemes the only real fortune to be made is at the uppermost levels. The workers make almost no money. The store owners are beholden to the franchise being forced to make exorbitant payments for the rights to use the franchises name and being forced to buy all their supplies through franchise regulated sources at franchise determined prices. The store owners are not even allowed to buy cheaper supplies if they can find them. The franchise owners are maximizing their profits by minimizing the store owner’s profits forcing the store owners to pay as little as possible to the workers if they ever want to make any return on their investments. So Walsh is right when he says that individual store owners “have a finite amount of money to spend on operating expenses.” But if fast food jobs did not generate a tidy profit the business model would not exist.
But according to Walsh, if the fast food workers do not like their compensation they can go find a better paying job. But although Walsh is wrong about fast food industry requiring no skill to work there, the skills that the workers do learn only qualify these workers to work at fast food establishments. So when these workers quit their jobs they learn the hard way that they do not qualify for any jobs that pay any better. So even though Walsh believes that these jobs are only meant to be starter jobs, many fast food workers mistakenly believe that they can work their way up the ladder to a better paying position in the industry that they have experience in. The problem with this model is that store managers usually make little more than the regular workers themselves. And while I do agree that $15 per hour is too high a starting wage for unexperienced fast food workers if they forced to try to make a living in a fast food there should at least be somewhere for their experience to lead them. But the problem does not end at getting better pay for fast food workers. The solution to the problem of people living in poverty starts with getting rid of the attitudes of overly entitled experienced workers like Walsh who believe that since they were exploited when they were first starting out in the workforce that everyone should be exploited. In reality, even Walsh knows that being exploited only serves to make you bitter and jaded exploitation does not make you a better happier worker.
Matt Walsh’s Article
You can take our slaves.
You can take our flags.
But you can’t take our racism.
Kate Chopin’s inclusion of the reference to Emerson creates an interesting intertextual dialogue within The Awakening. Emerson’s transcendentalism is an attempt to find knowledge, truth, and enlightenment through introspection and a one on one communion with nature. A follower of Emerson would retreat to a cabin in the woods and learn the secrets of the universe through direct observation of nature. Edna’s awakening follows the Emerson model in a few key ways.
Her process of awakening begins with her epiphany inside the ocean. She seems to have a miraculous shift from non-swimmer to swimmer (31.) But following Emerson’s logic, Edna did not miraculously or accidentally learn to swim; she had finally opened herself to the enlightening influence of nature. The ocean imagery shows where Edna’s sudden learning came from. Chopin writes, “The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in the abysses of solitude; to lose itself in inward contemplation” (16.) The next sentence goes on describing the touch and embrace of the sea (16.) The personification of the sea is not just a poetic flourish of language, but also the way of showing Edna’s transcendent interconnectedness with nature. Edna’s new knowledge was imparted to her from the seductive voice of the sea. And the sea is another source of solitude which is another of Emerson’s requirements for transcendence.
However, Edna’s strength to follow through with her Emersonian quest for transcendence is called into question on at least two occasions. Mademoiselle Reiz checks Edna for wings then says, “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings” (92.) This conversation brings into question Edna’s ability to follow Emerson’s path to transcendence. In fact, Edna had only been seeking transcendence through half measures. Edna seeks her solitude while still surrounded with people. While communing with nature in the ocean she is still surrounded by the rest of her party (31.) She glorifies in her solitude when her family leaves the house (80.) And in many other cases where Edna is alone she is able to see the world in a new perspective. But as Chopin writes, “Then Edna sat in the library and read Emerson until she grew sleepy” (81.)
Edna’s full transcendent potential is thwarted by an only partial adherence to Emerson’s teachings. She is not strong enough to remove herself from society completely, and therefore, she is continually held back from her goals of a happy fulfilled life. And in the end, when she comes to the conclusion that she must leave the city to truly commune with nature, Edna only makes it back to her family vacation home (125.) Since she is still surrounded by connections to society and her family life by the mostly empty vacation homes and her mostly empty happy memories, Edna is incapable of reaching the solitude and contentment. Because of her inability to let go of her past, the only way that Edna can reach total emersion in nature and undisturbed solitude is to strip naked and swim out into the ocean and drown (128.)
As paintings are generally considered to be examples of fine art, and fine art is intended for consumption by the upper class, I have a hard time reconciling it with the other forms of realism that we have been discussing in class. Photographs capture a scene in a short period of time with a high level of fidelity. Sketches take a little longer to capture a scene. And they do not typically capture the same level of detail as a photograph. But they can capture the motion that would blur in a photograph of the 19th century. Furthermore, due to the expense and difficulty of printing photographs to newspapers and magazines, sketches were a legitimate and respected form for the delivery of news. On the other hand, paintings take much more time to create an image than either photographs or sketches. Artists hire models that sit for hours. And painters require a knowledge of craft that far exceeds the needs of photographers or sketch artists. Therefore, photographs and sketches from the 19th century have a stronger association with “the real” than high art like paintings.
But paintings do have ways of creating reality effects. Like sketches photographs had the ability to capture the essence of movement. During the 19th century, painters began to pick subjects that aligned with realist sensibilities. However, the ability to create works of art in full color is one reality effect that photographs and sketches did not have.
The Fog Warning, 1885, Boston Art Museum, Boston http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winslow_Homer
Typical of naturalist or possibly regionalist content, Homer’s The Fog Warning depicts a fisherman struggling against the choppy ocean to bring in the day’s catch. The ocean and boat are highly detailed. Yet, the figure rowing the boat is painted relatively small and the man’s facial features are simply done. The focus on the boat and the ocean and the readily identifiable fisherman’s clothing shows that the occupation and the natural setting are more important than the identity of the figure.
George Bellows, Both Members of This Club (1909), National Gallery of Art. Bellows was a close associate of the Ashcan school. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashcan_School
George Bellows Both Members of This Club makes the two boxers in the ring the main focus of the painting depicting making them highly detailed large and centered. However, due to the positioning of the combatant’s arms their faces are obscured. Because of the hidden faces of the boxers, the focus of the painting is on the event rather than the figures. And the realist subject of this painting becomes both the occupation of boxer and the pastime of the city dwellers who watch the fight.
George Bellows, Cliff Dwellers, 1913, oil on canvas. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashcan_School
George Bellows’ Cliff Dwellers depicts the everyday struggle of life in the city. While there are many figures in the crowd on the street, they are rendered indistinctly focusing the viewer’s eyes on the crowd rather than on individuals. Most of the detail is focused on the buildings and the clothes lines, laden with drying clothes, strung from one building to the next. This painting seems to be focused on the unique struggle of daily life in the cities and the people’s fear of losing their identities among the faceless throng.
In “At the ‘Cadian Ball,” I noticed one of the aspects of realism that we have not discussed much in class. Characters in realist fiction are allowed to both portray more complicated morality, and accept more complicated morality on the part of other characters. After Calixta was observed poking fun at Bobinot, Madame Suzonne whispered to the woman next to her explaining what would happen if any of the other girls would have done the same thing. She says, “[Ozeina] should immediately be taken out to the mule-cart and driven home” (188.) The narrator follows the line up with the obvious interpretation, “The women did not always approve of Calixta” (188.) The narrator’s inclusion of the word, always, in this interpretation of the scene shows that there were times when the women did approve of Calixta. In fact, this scene shows that more often than not the other women approved of her by connecting the narrator’s statement about the women’s approval in connection with a specific event in which Calixta stepped out of line. But even if Madame Suzonne had felt that she had the authority to have Calixta punished for her flaunting of the social norms, she would only have been sent home to contemplate what she had done, and the next time they saw each other Madame Suzonne would not feel scandalized to be in her presence. Because of the realist filter on reality (which tries to communicate unfiltered reality), the other women at the ball are given the freedom to understand that people are not perfect and that occasionally straying from proper etiquette does not make Calixta a bad person. However, if this scene were written in the sentimental style, Calixta’s step away from proper etiquette would have been followed up with (instead of whispers and a flat statement of occasional disapproval) Madame Suzonne busting out into the center of the room, raising the back of her hand to her forehead, yelling out, “I declare,” and faking a swoon before working up the anger of the rest of the partygoers and having Calixta set apart as a pariah.
The article “Doings of a sunbeam” by Oliver Wendell Holmes details how photographs brought home the gruesome reality of the Civil War in a way that had not been possible before. When describing photos of the war, Holmes writes, “It was so nearly like visiting the battle-field to look over these views, that all the emotions excited by the actual sight of the stained and sordid scene, strewed with rags and wrecks, came back to us.” But photographs cannot literally transport someone into the scene that they represent. A photograph is only a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional world. Photographs can only represent what fits within its field of view. And the image that is represented in the photograph has been chosen by the photographer to suit his or her needs. According to the Holmes article, the cameras of this era can take up to 20 seconds to expose the negative. Therefore the only reality that can be captured in these photographs is the reality that can sit perfectly still for at least 20 seconds.
The blurred image of the dog in this photograph demonstrates how the subject matter must be carefully chosen to avoid having a ruined product. Also the composition of this photograph implies that the photograph was staged. The figure on the top left of the photograph complements the figure on the bottom left posing with the dog. The fence cuts the photograph almost exactly in half, and it directs the eye from the first figure to the next. Since the photograph took 20 seconds to take expose, the photographer likely posed these soldiers to get the effect that he wanted. While the camera was able to bring home a greater since of the realities of war, it also brought several more ways to filter reality.
The blurred faces of the two people in the center add to the credibility of the photograph below as the capture of an un-staged event. If the crowd had been assembled just to take a photo the two men would have been instructed to stand still and their faces would not have been blurred.
This next photograph reminds me of Walt Whitman’s “Cavalry Crossing a Ford” but not just because they are both depictions of masses of soldiers crossing a river. Whitman’s poem sets up a snapshot in time. The entire poem is one sentence. The first line of the poem is a description only. The comma at the end of the first line as well as the capitalized letter at the beginning of the second line fool my mind into reading the first line as a sentence fragment. As a faux-fragment the line flashes in my mind as a stagnant image. Each following line adds another flash of image. With the use of words like hark and behold, Whitman further conjures the idea of a captured moment to pay attention to. This “Cavalry Crossing a Ford” seems to capture the candid feel that even this photograph can’t quite get.
About 10 AM this morning I received a call regarding an online job application for Enterprise Rent-a-Car that I filled out last night. The interview started fine. They asked how I heard about the company and things like that. Then, they began to ask what I knew about the position and the company itself. And they asked if I had done any research about the company before applying for the position.
When I answered the phone, all I expected was for them to schedule a time for an in person interview, so I was thrown off by the questions. The questions also started to feel more like I was answering questions for a poll about how much the public knew about this company because they asked me nothing about myself or my experience.
So I asked them why they were asking these questions, and Instead of giving me an answer the woman replied, “Wow, are you refusing to answer?” She sounded very coercive like she was trying to guilt me into answering the questions without her having to answer my question. So this was the morning after I had filled out an online job application and I had never received such a prompt response to any job application ever, the lady was asking me questions that I had never been asked to me in a job interview before, and now, she is trying to coerce me. But what really made me suspicious was when she asked me what other jobs I had applied for. I thought that this was none of her business what other jobs I applied for, so I assumed that she was referring only to what other Enterprise jobs I applied for. I told her that this was the only Enterprise location that I had applied for. She told me that she did not care about what other Enterprise locations I had applied for she only wanted to know what other jobs I had applied for, what competitors I had applied for, and what other industries I had applied for. So I thought that I might be getting scammed by someone that is hired by Enterprise Rent-a-Car to conduct polls for them. If I knew that I was participating in a poll, I would not have been so irritated, but I thought I was applying for a job.
So I told her that if she tells me why she is asking unusual questions, I will answer them. She told me that the questions were to make sure that I really was interested in working for this company. Her answer irritated me more because the simple fact that I filled out a job application for this job shows that I have a real interest in working at the job. So I told her, “I live in Mississippi where jobs are scarce, so research all the jobs that are available near where I live. I cast a wide net and hopefully I will find a job.” And she said, “Have a nice day goodbye.”
If this was an honest to goodness job interview, I really screwed it up. But if it was a polling company making fooling people into believing that they are applying for a real job I feel that I was not mean enough. If someone is getting my hopes up and wasting my time when I need work, I hope that they realize how rude and dishonest they are and mend their ways. If this is really how Enterprise conducts job interviews then they really ought to warn the interviewees that they will be asking unusual questions and why they will be doing it.