I want to address this to my generation and younger. The dreaded Youth of America. My fellow Young People. I think I'm still a member of this club, at least for a little while longer. These days childhood seems to extend for many people into their late 30s, so I guess if you use the Extended Adolescence scale, I'm only about 12 or so.
Thirty is the new 13, as they say.
In any case, I'm not sure what exactly prompted it -- might be a couple of Tweets I sent out about minimum wage this week, or maybe this person stumbled upon an old article of mine -- but I received a dire and depressing message yesterday. I'll show you, just because it makes for an excellent learning opportunity:
Dear Matt, you are uninformed about the minimum wage. I’m NOT saying anyone should just HAND me a six figure income but I DO have the right to live a decent, comfortable life and not go hungry. I am 19 and supporting myself on a minimum wage job and it is not easy. 15 dollar minimum wage would be enough at least that I could be comfortable. I wish you didn't see life through your privileged lense, then you might understand...
Wow. Jon's email consists of only five sentences, yet still he managed to cram in the word "comfort" twice (and "privilege" once, for good measure). He wants comfort, he says. He has a right to it. And those of us who oppose an increased minimum wage, thus standing in the way of his comfort, are privileged. This is the cartoon world he's been indoctrinated into; this weird, mystical realm where comfort is owed to him, but evil privileged folks prowl about looking to steal it away. That's essentially the social theory they teach in college, I'm told.
It's terrible to see a young guy already so bored, distracted, and unambitious that obtaining "a comfortable life" has become his objective. And not even an objective he'll pursue on his own, but one he wants the government to deliver effortlessly to him, like a candy gram left on his doorstep by a secret admirer. It's a heart wrenching spectacle to behold, but not remarkable. It's certainly nothing I haven't heard or read a thousand times before. Still, it made me reflect, not on the effects of a federal $15 minimum wage -- we don't have to speculate about that anymore, we've already seen how it destroys businesses in real life -- but on the tragedy of so many millennials, millions in my generation, wasting their early life overcome with a fatal obsession over, and desire for, this elusive comfort.
A quick search through Twitter shows how common the problem is:
How tf is someone supposed to live comfortably on minimum wage? I've done some research and I can barely afford a decent living space...— Matthew (@Matthew) 1438816041.0
Minimum Wage needs to be 10/hr honestly. People would live so much more comfortably.— Black Lives Matter (@Black Lives Matter) 1438704784.0
@Xythar nobody can comfortably live off of minimum wage in the US— 9V⚡️ (@9V⚡️) 1438299888.0
Who can live comfortably off minimum wage moe— The Original (@The Original) 1438090844.0
"Everyone deserves a comfortable life"? Is that really going to be our generation's rallying cry? Is this our revolution? "Give me comfort!" Our ancestors demanded liberty or death, but we've slightly modified the slogan, it seems.
[sharequote align="center"]Is this our revolution? "Give me comfort!"[/sharequote]
A Pew survey found that half of minimum wage workers are between 16 and 24 years old, and another 22 percent are 25 to 34. Then there are the workers near minimum wage (which means they'd also see a massive bump in pay if the federal minimum were increased to $15), and half of them are under 30. This is why I weep over the "fight for 15" movement. Most of these people are young -- their whole lives in front of them, a billion potential paths they could walk, an infinite number of opportunities -- yet this is their fight? Fifteen bucks an hour wrapping burritos at Chipotle? That's all they're after? Don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying they want too much. I'm saying precisely that they don't want enough.
Indeed, an increased minimum wage will certainly make many of them comfortable -- especially in the parts of the country where 1$5 an hour really translates to $19 or $20 -- and that's exactly the problem. My great fear is not that an enormously inflated minimum wage will unravel the economy, although it surely will, but that it might actually succeed in its goal of making a bunch of 20-something fry cooks "comfortable" in their jobs. This would be a profound catastrophe because these jobs are not supposed to make people comfortable; nobody is supposed to do them for years and years on end. You're supposed to get in and get out. Move in and move one. You're meant to use it as a platform on your way to something better, but the platform is not meant to be a comfortable place to set up camp and hang out for a few decades.
Comfort: a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety.
As the young generation, we are simply not at the point in our lives where we should be striving for "ease and satisfaction." Least of all should we be looking to derive ease and satisfaction from wearing name tags and microwaving Big Macs all day. These kinds of jobs are tiring and tedious and demeaning and they pay like crap, and that's the point. They're not comfortable, and they shouldn't be.
Besides, a "comfortable life" is by no means a human right, nor is it a need. Comfort, for one thing, is subjective. I'm sure wide swaths of humanity would consider every American, even our poor ones, comfortable. A roof over their head and safe food to eat are comforts to billions. Add in air conditioning, Internet, cell phone, TV, car, and running water, and by their standards you've reached the pinnacle of human luxury.
When we say we have a right to a comfortable life, whose idea of comfort are we working with? The Ethiopian version or the lazy, pampered, materialistic American consumer version? And where is the comfort equilibrium? Once we all have apartments, cable, NetFlix, Wi-Fi, stocked refrigerators, and consoles with at least four video games? Is that when comfort will be achieved? But what happens when everyone realizes that standard of comfort? What if my greedy neighbor then goes out and gets another video game, and a faster Wi-Fi connection, and better food? Now, compared to him, I'm less comfortable. Should he be forced to give me some of his stuff to compensate? But what if that makes me more comfortable than him? Do I give it back? Do we just keep up this tug of war until we all fall dead in our comfortable houses and are buried in our comfortable coffins under six feet of comfortable dirt?
In this photo taken, Aug. 1, 2013, demonstrators protesting what they say are low wages and improper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Have we thought this through? Of course not, but you can't totally blame us. We live, after all, in the era of birth control mandates, Obama phones, free-speech zones, trigger warnings, and anti-discrimination ordinances. We are told every day that we have the right to feel comfortable, or at least to not be exposed to any ideas or circumstances that would make us uncomfortable. We're just following the cultural cues, and listening to the voices that tell us our aim in life should be the avoidance of physical and emotional discomfort, at whatever cost. But the voices are wrong, and they're leading us far, far astray.
Comfort is not a right or a need or even an appropriate desire at this stage. Sure, we can think about comfort when we're shopping for jeans or sweaters or beds, but comfort shouldn't be our entire goal in life right now. A comfortable lifestyle is for the old and the retired, not the young and the hungry.
[sharequote align="center"]A comfortable lifestyle is for the old and the retired, not the young and the hungry.[/sharequote]
"Give me $15 an hour so I can be comfortable!" What a weak and timid and disappointing banner to march under. We've got a world to conquer, for God's sake. We're not patients in hospice care. Now is the time to be uncomfortable.
Let's look again at Jon's case, for example. He's supporting himself, he says, which is great. But he used the word "job," singular, which tells me he only has one. Why? Why not get a second or a third? Instead of waiting for the government to force his employer to pay him about double what he's making, he could go out and do it himself. Two jobs equals double the income. I worked three at one point, just as many people have. I worked from 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. some days; that's 16 hours from afternoon to late morning. It was painful and uncomfortable and exhausting. It was awesome.
A while ago, the last time I wrote about the minimum wage, I heard from a guy who told me he's 22, single, living alone, and he works four jobs. Two full time, one part time, and one that's more of a freelance gig he does in his spare time (whenever that is). How is it that some people complain they can't survive on minimum wage, they can't find a better job, they can't find a second job, meanwhile that dude is out there with four of them? And, no, I assume he doesn't want to live like that forever, but he's living like that now so he won't have to do it forever. He's not worried about being comfortable.
So, a minimum wage hike? You're setting your sights too low, my friends. Here you are, complaining that the government won't force your employer to give you $15 an hour, when you could be putting a plan in place to make 10 times that amount in the next five years. Better yet, you could be figuring out what your passions are and devising a way to make a career out of them, regardless of the money.
[sharequote align="center"]So, a minimum wage hike? You're setting your sights too low, my friends.[/sharequote]
I think you should be chasing something bigger. We all should. Truth, beauty, fulfillment, love, success. Not comfort. And while you hunt for this larger game, what's the worst that could happen? You eat one meal a day? You go to bed hungry sometimes? You have to cut off the AC to save money? You end up pawning half your possessions to pay the bills? I've been there. It's not that bad. It's good, actually. It motivates you. It drives you. It teaches you to scrap by and survive and do what it takes.
Why worry about getting a raise at your crappy minimum wage job? You aren't planning on being there forever, are you? You don't think of minimum wage employment as a 30-year career option, do you? Right, I hope not. Forget, then, about asking the government to tell your employer to make you comfortable. Comfort is just about the worst thing that could happen to you right now, or to any of us.
Here's what I can assure you: Minimum wage won't kill you. You're not going to die. I mean, you will die eventually, maybe soon for all I know, maybe tomorrow or an hour from now, but it won't be from lack of income. The coroner report isn't going to list "minimum wage" as cause of death, I promise you.
So drop this "comfortable" thing, OK? Remove the word from your vocabulary completely. In fact, take out a paper bag, shout "I have the right to live a comfortable life!" into it, tie it shut so the words are trapped in there, then douse it in gasoline and throw it into a volcano. Murder that awful, hideous sentence with terrific violence. Ask for more out of life, and listen to the answer.
Life might not offer you comfort, especially while you're still working the late shift at Taco Bell, but there's the potential for something so much better, as long as you're willing to go out and get it.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.