Bezos, Smalls, and Bray: A Microcosm of Capitalism

Jeff Bezos, richest man in the world, is my neighbor (give or take a dozen miles). Not that I’ve ever met him, or ever will. I don’t travel in those circles, and I wouldn’t want to.

Another fun fact about Bezos is that, according to this article, as of April 15th, he had made 24 billion dollars (yes, with a B) more than he normally does, off the COVID-19 pandemic. Since we’re all stuck in our houses, we’re doing a lot of ordering on Amazon, and that lines Bezo’s pockets. Heaven only knows how much greater his earnings have been in the past month, since that statistic came out.

I would say good for him. It’s not his fault we’re bored silly and impulse buying online to remain socially distant. He deserves to profit off his company just like any other capitalist.

But.

He’s thriving while all the mom and pop stores are struggling and/or going belly up due to this virus. And I don’t see him stepping up to make any kind of a difference there. And his warehouse workers are treated abysmally, and they’re not being adequately protected in the workplace.

Enter Chris Smalls. He was a former manager assistant at an Amazon Warehouse on Staten Island. He saw that workers were not getting proper protection. He saw they weren’t being informed of active cases of COVID-19 in his building. He requested that work be stopped just long enough for the workplace could be properly sanitized. He led a protest. Not only was he fired for his trouble, but also a memo was leaked that was encouraging Amazon executives to lead a coordinated effort to say that Smalls was “not smart or articulate.” As if that means he doesn’t deserve to have his health protected. Insane.

Check out an interview with him here. He may not be a toastmaster, but I think he gets his point across just fine. And he’s not the only employee to have been fired from Amazon for organizing.

And then, enter Tim Bray. This former Amazon Vice President quit on May 1st. The final straw for him was the firing of workers who were organizing regarding their poor working conditions during the pandemic. He said there was “a vein of toxicity running through the company culture.” He said he’d “neither serve nor drink that poison any longer.”

Read more about his reasons for quitting in his blog post here.

So there you have it: three men who represent the three typical tentacles of capitalism the world over:

  • Bezos, the heartless capitalist who will squeeze every ounce of value out of the little people who make all the money for him, and then cast them out when they become a nuisance.

  • Smalls, one of the little people in question, who gives his heart and soul to a company and only wants safety, decency and reasonable pay in return, but rarely gets it.

  • Bray, the middle man, uncomfortable with what’s going on both above and below him. In this instance, he chose to take a stand, and I admire him for it. It’s people like him, those middlemen with a moral compass, who often cause companies to change whether they like it or not.

I just don’t get why Bezos can’t see his way clear to throw a couple of those billions at the problem, to improve working conditions, health, and safety, and increase morale. He wouldn’t even miss them, and in the end, he’d benefit too.

But he’s like a racoon caught in a loose trap simply because he won’t unclench his fist and let go of that crust of bread. Greed is like that. So in the end, Bezos is the biggest loser. He’s pathetic. At least Smalls and Bray have integrity.

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On Being Taken Care Of

I know someone who used to get really irritated when her husband took care of things for her. She was a strong, independent woman and it really bothered her when he’d step in and take charge. It was the main thing that would spark arguments between them.

I, too, am strong and independent, so I can kind of get where she was coming from. After all, one of my first full sentences was, “I can do it myself!”

But here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) In every long-term relationship I’ve ever had up to this point, I’ve been the one taking care of things.

I planned the trips, organized the doctors’ visits, and kept our financial house in order. I was the writer of lists, the finder of lost keys, the maker of reservations, the problem solver. I was the one to say, “Don’t forget you have that thing today.” I kept track of the birthdays. I bought the gifts. I turned off the burners on the stove. I made sure the lights stayed on.

Because of that, to others I looked like the nagging fishwife. I was the bad guy. What no one on the outside seemed to realize was that somebody had to drive this thing, or our ship of state would have foundered on the rocks.

It was exhausting. It was stressful. Unbalanced relationships always are. I felt more like a mother than a lover.

Now, for the first time in my life, I have someone who wants to take care of me. Man, this feels weird. I’m not going to lie.

In all of my 53 years, I’ve never known what that was like. Ever. I’m struggling with the notion that I deserve it. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. But I like it. A lot.

I like that he is willing to go to doctors’ appointments with me. I like that he likes to drive, and usually knows where we’re going better than I do. He remembers to put the concert tickets in his wallet. I like that he makes plans and lists. I like that he reminds me of things as much as I remind him.

Is this what it feels like to have someone give an actual sh*t about you? Well, alrighty then. I’ll take it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to turn into an albatross around my husband’s neck. I certainly know what that feels like, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

No. I want to do my part. I want this to be an equal partnership in the aggregate. (Realizing that on some days one of us is bound to be in better shape than the other, and that’s okay.)

But that will be a challenge for me. Because that means not doing every single solitary thing myself. It means learning to sit back sometimes and say, “Go right ahead, honey.” It means not having to worry about keeping track of everything. What a concept.

I’ve never been able to do that before. It feels like, for the first time, I have a chance to catch my breath. I think I could grow accustomed to this. I’m certainly willing to try.

I just need to learn not to feel so guilty when I’m not on point. I also need to make sure that I keep up with my end of things. I need to not lean too hard, and make sure that he will never doubt that he can rely on me, too.

Most of all, I never, ever want to take this for granted. Because, like a fragile flower, this marriage needs nurturing by me, too, in order to bloom.

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Are You Vacuum-Worthy?

Ugh. I hate house cleaning. I’m not unhygienic, mind you. I don’t have creatures residing in my sink or anything like that. But let’s just say that everything does not always find its way back to its place under my purview.

And yet, if someone whose opinion I care about is coming to visit, I will spend days vacuuming and straightening and organizing. Heavy emphasis on the “whose opinion I care about” part. I hate to say it, but the older I get, the less I care about the opinions of most people. Seriously, I just can’t be bothered.

If I ever have any doubt about the depth of my feelings for someone, I simply have to see how much effort I’m willing to put into gaining their good opinion. And that’s ironic, because those people, in general, are the very ones whose good opinion is pretty much guaranteed.

It kind of reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine decides who is, and is not, sponge-worthy. With me, the question is, are you vacuum-worthy? If you are, my friend, consider yourself in an elite group, indeed.

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Feng Shui Lite

Recently, a friend pointed out to me that, according to the feng shui bagua, my “marriage, relationships, and partnerships” region is located in my guest room. My guest room isn’t particularly welcoming. It has become the dumping ground for all the stuff I have yet to unpack. It kind of looks like the front yard in Sanford and Son, if I’m honest. This can’t be good. That is, if you go for all that feng shui stuff.

I do and I don’t. I’m not a feng shui extremist. I don’t believe, for example, that if I leave my toilet lid up and my bathroom door open, then I’ll lose all my money and energy. But I know, based on experience, that some spaces feel comfortable and welcoming, and some set me on edge.

I also agree, in theory if not in practice, that clutter is a bad thing. Neat and orderly rooms allow one to relax and breathe. They’re also a lot easier to keep clean and dust-free, and makes it actually possible to find stuff. That can only positively impact you.

Feng shui also teaches you to focus on your goals in life. It has you examine your existence in minute detail, and encourages you to make changes therein. I’m all for that.

So, if I organize my guestroom, do I believe that I’ll find love again? Not directly. I don’t believe in magical thinking. But while I’m doing all that organizing (if I ever do), somewhere in the back of my head I’ll be thinking about improving my love life, and setting that intention may cause me to make changes in the way I present myself to the world. Who knows what might happen as a result. At the very least, I’d have an uncluttered room.

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