Monday, October 15, 2012

Beware the Little Man

                I’ve always been taught and believed that if a person works hard and is diligent in their endeavors they will be rewarded with fair pay and the feeling of accomplishment when they finish their tasks they perform for money. This belief has served me all my life. My first paid jobs were mowing yards and shoveling driveways for five dollars a pop to the day paid under the table. Then when I was ten I took over my sister Debbie’s paper route in Green Bay, Wisconsin. My customers on my route had many demands on how early they wanted their papers delivered and I tried my best to get those daily news sources to their doorsteps before their pre-set deadline. My efforts were rewarded when I showed up on their doorsteps every month to collect the money for my work. Not only did they pay me the set price but I also received tips for being a decent delivery boy.
                When I got older, in my teen years, I suffered from the teen symptoms of not wanting to work but wanting money. I soon discovered this was wrong thinking simply because I had no money and no one around me was willing to just give me money. So I took on odd jobs of cleaning out store rooms, unloading tractor trailers, cleaning bricks at construction sites and basically taking on any job that would pay me. I even spent one summer in Indiana at a summer camp on the maintenance crew. I worked, I did a good job and I got paid.
                After high school I joined the Navy, worked hard, slept little, partied often, saw the world and got paid. When I left the Navy, every job I took paid me well and I worked as best as I could for my employers. I have often dreamed, like many of you out there, that one day I would like to own my own business, be it a restaurant, machine shop, train store or even as some sort of artist I would be equally paid for all my hard work and effort.
                This all being said… I like to read.
                I know, I know, the previous sentence makes no sense. Well for now it doesn’t. But please, bear with me.
                Some of my favorite books, books which I’ve read over and over again have been George Orwell’s “1984”, Aldus Huxely’s “Brave New World”, Ayn Rand’s entire catalog, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” and even Robert A. Heinlen’s “Take Back Your Government” are just a few of the books I enjoy and revisit every so often in my life. Now, if you’ve read any or all of these you know there is a common theme to these books and many others that fill my personal book shelves. They all deal with a dystopian society where the government has taken control of individuals’ lives, liberties and in some cases minds. They are also about revolution and the individuals fight to maintain their own sense of self.
                I’ve always thought there was no possible way for these story plots to come to fruition. But, in light of recent events in my life, I know this to be false.
                If you’ve never read any of those books you need to get off your ass and read at least two of them.
                Back on track…
                Recently, the past few months really, I have been witness, third hand that is, to some very disturbing buerrecratical abuse to someone who I respect greatly. A man who for a lack of a better term can be summed up as a “Producer”, he is a small business owner and has been acting in this capacity for more than thirty years. He even played a key role in the revitalization of a dying district here in the city in which I reside.
                He is a thinking man, an educated man and a man who has many interests in his life, a true Renaissance man. He is not well known, nor does he want to be. He has well thought out views and opinions on any issue you can think of. From politics to religion his thoughts are poignant and expressed with a calm demeanor, and if you have a question on any point of his opinion he will take his time to explain the hows and whys of his conclusions. Just talking with him on mundane tasks is a pleasure and a joy, but once you get him on the tastier tidbits of life… you will become enthralled by his reserved passion and the manner in which he gets his points across to you. So much so that one has a tendency to be not just drawn into his words and ideas but you will forget to ask a question that is begging to be asked.
                Some folks, early risers mainly, will often see him shuffling around the streets in the morning as he makes his way to work. And, if you see him, you would think to yourself “Here is a man who has the weight of the world on him and has been beaten down by life. But, and this is a big but, it is all a ruse. This man, the man I’ve seen and worked with four times a week for the past thirteen years, is far from beaten down. No one can measure what is inside a person’s head and to assume any detrimental thought about him is purely sophomoric and uneducated. I’ve seen politicians; lawyers and other business men seek out his council and advice. I’ve witnessed a debate between him and a seated State Representative about governmental policies and he has won with one well thought out phrase.
                This man, this bastion of intellect, has become disillusioned by small minded, government appointed, arrogant, self-professed know-it-all who has taken it upon herself to not enforce menial codes and regulations but to abuse them in a prejudicial manner. She has decided to make it her goal to break him down and put him out of business. A proverbial feather in her cap as a minor government employee trying to make a name for herself is the feel one gets when one meets her.
                You may be thinking to yourself right now, “Prejudicial? Pray it isn’t so.” But it is so. If this virago used the codes and regulations evenly and above board I doubt I would be writing this right now. But this is not the case. This is a blatant abuse of power by someone who is slowly grinding an ax against someone who has done no wrong what-so-ever. And this ax-grinding is getting on my nerves and the nerves of someone I respect. So much so that he is about to throw in the towel and go on strike as a producer, (Thank you Ayn Rand for that term.)
                I know he won’t go on strike, he is just frustrated right now, as we all are. He is however tired and upset. He needs a break but not from his work, which he loves, but from the petty enforcers who would not have a job if it were not for people like him. For it is the small and large businessmen of this country that keeps the cogs and wheels moving us all forward. The movers and shakers who are out in the world everyday supplying others with jobs and creating opportunities for any hard working individual who shows an aptitude for furthering their employers vision of a better life.
                Imagine a world where men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not allowed to invent or discover or even work in the fields they are so talented in. Imagine life without iPhones, iPods, iPads, laptops and digital resources. Or a life without a local book store, or writers and artists, or even a world where when you go out to eat all that is served is pabulum and strained peas that have been boiled in a bag or nuked in a microwave. Ask yourself, “Can I live on the bare minimum of what the government feels I deserve?”

                From the heart of the South.

                Skip Novak