Sunday, January 31, 2010

Haiti and Hope

Just my rambling again, but many of the problems brought on by the earthquake can be solved in a relative cinch if everyone had the right hearts and minds.

3 months for temporary shelter and a year for transitional shelter in Haiti is the reported plan for recovery. How quickly this would all be left to emotional trauma, jarring memories and fodder for historians if we and they all worked together, instead of thinking about the self. I mean, nothing can allay the shock of the massive death toll for the communities, but I’m talking about getting the country’s infrastructure back to what may even be a better existential basis than there was before the earthquake.

And by “thinking about the self”, I mean the people who see items in a dilapidated apartment or destroyed store and hurt other people to get it for themselves instead of sharing the items. I’m talking about the profit and non-profit organizations from every country who swarm to Haiti by the hundreds (good thing) and compete with each other to do services for Haitian residents to get their names in the media, using up time to argue amongst each other instead of helping (bad thing). I mean the government arguing amongst themselves to see who will head the rescue effort and draw up a plan, instead of collaboratively drawing up a plan and just sending whoever is equipped to whatever function to work.

A friend at my church who works in engineering told me one chilly night of the different ways companies build foundations for buildings to stand up. He told me of there being a way to put something like wheels under a building, so when in a natural disaster, the building can just roll back and forth across the land. Or, engineers can put something like a spring under the building, so that when there is an earthquake, the spring can absorb the shock and leave the building intact for the most part. These things can prevent large disasters like the one Haiti has now, but they are costly and mainly given to contracts and projects that can afford them. Anybody with a heart and 7th grade education can see that these things should be standards that go into the construction of buildings in places such as Haiti, India, the U.S. west coast, wherever.

The Haitian government, particularly Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, is saying that they need emergency short-term relief. Housing for the people, safe water to drink and wash in and food. But looters who are still in this competitive mind set, who put three things our pastor talked about last Sunday (Take, First, Do)1 as their primary motives of action, antagonize the healing process and make things worse.

Besides flying into the Dominican Republic and taking available roads into Jacmel and possibly Port-Au-Prince, what can we do about Haiti from here? We can donate money and supplies. Of course now, there is negligence in that area as well. Money/supplies can sometimes takes years to get to the designated causes. In the meanwhile, things keep decaying. And even when the money gets to wherever, it is seldom fully spent on what it's supposed to be spent on, in addition to the fact that only a part of the whole sum actually shows up. So things only get half done. Roads are relaid but not sealed. Areas of debris are just left to rot. And no one, for some reason, can account for where the other chunk of money has gone. Sending the money in text, or giving it to representatives of organizations on the street asking for it is great, but I think we should also begin to find ways to see if the cause or organization is holding itself accountable to the promised tasks (somewhere or other, I imagine someone is reminded of Obama with that last sentence).

Whenever there is a disaster, people rush to find out ways to secure their own wealth, which puts national/global/communal security at risk. But I think that, the less you think about yourself, the quicker you will be restored.

1) Just take what you want; Me first; Do something just to keep busy

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Forced on the Dole

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my bosses, a man of Hong Kong descent who drives from New Jersey to get here in the Lower East Side and manage employees. We began to, or I should say he began to, talk to me about a salesperson’s survival in the individual business we worked for.

The salespeople have a quota, a certain amount of sales that have to be made every month to be considered a worthy salesperson. I think, the (hypothetically) worst salesperson in there sells enough merchandise to make $50,000 - $55,000. To the impoverished and modest of heart, this would be a delicious annual earning [or maybe, just to me]………but it is not quota. There are (in reality) salespeople in there that make six-digit earnings, and others somewhat under that, and under, down to the 50’s. The mid-section of that whole spectrum would be the quota. If after a certain amount of months you rank in the bottom level, a manager takes you into their office to issue you a warning about staying on the bottom ranks, and urges you to be aggressive in attacking customers and forcing money out of their pockets for the sake of your sales increasing. If after another few months your sales do not increase, you’ll be “back out on the dole” as The Streets would say.

Of course, the problem here with the boss’s (who explicitly stated he’s only concerned with money and numbers, as is the person who runs the company) is that this shallow idealism crashes with reality and causes victims inevitably. Only about 10 – 12 customers come into the store per day. Half of those, if even that low of a number, go past the “window shopper” phase and actually buy some of the merchandise. The other half usually are returning stuff or canceling purchases. So, the salespeople, which number about 10, are structurally setup to step on each other for those 5 customers. Systematically, someone is forced to not make the cut for the next round. This kind of working environment is good………no, never good……..valid in a financially prospering nation where someone who doesn’t became some scavenger Spartan salesperson and just wants to make a living can fall and find another job somewhat quickly. Or more easily than they would in this economy, where forcing there to be employees for the cutting floor is ridiculous and anxiety-building.

There was a blog post on the Fox News website about how employers are swamped with hundreds or even thousands of resumes from people answering job posts that those employers put out1. Some companies have resorted to having programs on the computer that search for keywords in resumes and select those, then throw the rest out. One of the comments written on the post railed about how people who e-mailed applications were losers and that real people should be out networking with big wigs for opportunities. They railed on to say that people that thought things should just be handed to them had a really “false sense of entitlement”. And while I left whoever that was to figure out that this isn’t late 1930’s Germany, I started to think that if people aren’t entitled to a living (shelter, food, works), then this would mean that they’re entitled to being left out on the street to starve and have no input on anything. No voice or action. And if we’re to think that they’re not entitled to anything, we can deduct from this belief the subsequent one that there are people who are born to be meaningless to society. But I digress.

These kinds of beliefs and economic systems are setup for those who enjoy destroying other people’s living to make their own. I think it’s pretty obvious that this needs to change, but I feel like people are so used to things being this way that the word “change” frightens and unravels them, regardless of the fact that they know it would be for the better. Bloody hell, the creature of comfort will always be worse than the civilized person of revolt.

1) Why put out an internet post asking people to apply for a job, and then ignore them when they do? Jobs are scarce. If there is an open one and you ask people to apply for it, how many did you think you would get? If you don’t want people to e-mail or fax you their resume, why ask for it that way? Just to see who can get creative with getting your attention? Since when is the job hunt turned into “American Idol”?