Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
Dear various open-letter writers,
You’re both terrible. Please stop. Just stop. Open letters are stupid, we’re all sick of reading them, and they never accomplish what you want them to. Besides, we all know the real reason you write them: because you want like-minded people on the Interwebz to shower you with kudos. If you really cared about getting through to the addressee, you would write a letter-letter, not an open one.
We all know that the world is full of both terrible people and terrible businesses.Sorry, should I give you some context for this diatribe? Allow me to mansplain my behavior.
First, one of you started this whole thing with your open letter to the CEO of Yelp! in which you complained about trying to live in the Bay Area on the 12-bucks-an-hour rate he paid you to answer the phones. (Personally, I’m mostly surprised to learn that Yelp! has a CEO—I always figured Yelp! was a horrific being of pure energy, born from the Internet’s insatiable desire for free meals at restaurants.)
And then the other one of you wrote her back to lecture her about the importance of work ethic and working hard and something-something-hard-work. (Granted, you probably know something about work ethic, since you had to claw your way up from serving cocktails to rednecks all the way to your dream job of writing for TV. Which is kind of a lateral move if you ask me, but there you go.)
And I’m just over here going, Ugh, can we stop having this conversation over and over again.
Look, ladies, I’m a Snake Person just like the two of you. I graduated from college right as the economy was tanking, and I burned through no fewer than seven jobs in six years. I know all about getting screwed by the system, and I’d like to think I learned a thing or two about work ethic as well. I also know what happens in the first two episodes of Fuller House, because I watched them yesterday and I’m overcome with shame for having done so. (That’s not really related; I just felt the urge to confess.)
Actually, I know someone just a couple years younger than I am whose experience closely mirrored that of a Yelp! peon. Fresh out of school, she couldn’t find a job anywhere, until Crocs, which is basically the Yelp! of footwear (insofar as their business model amounts to “Help terrible people be terrible until the whole world begs for mercy”), offered her an entry-level position if she moved to Boulder, which is basically the San Francisco of the Rockies (insofar as it’s a city of yuppies who think they can solve poverty by making it illegal to be poor). Within a month or two, she had run out of money and been laid off, because trusting your continued employment to the people who invented Crocs is kind of like trusting Italian culture’s continued existence to Olive Garden. She had to move back in with her parents.
Now it would be perfectly reasonable to point out that moving halfway across the country to work for a business that’s trying to build an empire on a clown-shoe-wearing fad is probably a bad idea. But regardless of whether she should have made the decisions she did, isn’t there also room for calling out the sort of corporate culture that treats its employees like they’re just as disposable as the industrial byproducts they make their shoes from?
But the point is this: when I was at my underfunded public school getting an evil gubmint education, they taught us about the fallacy of “false dichotomy,” which is when your whole argument hinges on implying that only one of two things can be true. For instance: either we have massive systemic problems in corporate culture, or these lazy, entitled Snake People need to stop whining and learn the value of hard work. But that’s stupid. We all know that the world is full of both terrible people and terrible businesses. Go to Walmart some Saturday afternoon, and you’ll see more of both than any reasonable person can stomach.
Even the Bible will back me up on this. (I have no idea whether either of you has the same appreciation for the Bible I do, but this site pays me to write about the Bible, so I have to squeeze this in. Bear with me.) That thing is full of verses about personal responsibility and work ethic, but it’s also full of verses about treating your employees like human beings. If even God thinks those things are both important, maybe we should all just chill out a little bit.
Because, here’s the thing: while I’m not here to denigrate any of our cocktail waitress friend’s achievements, I sincerely doubt she started her cocktail waitressing career with the enthusiasm for hard work she preaches now. A work ethic, in general, is something that comes only through experience. Some of us get that experience and go on to be productive worker bees; some of us never get that experience and go on to be CEOs of companies like Yelp! and Crocs.
Well, there you go, Internet. A self-righteous open letter. I await my kudos.
Image via dangquocbuu at Pixabay.