“If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there.” – Martin Blank, Grosse Pointe Blank.
It is neither your responsibility nor within your purview to tell me how many times a week I can have sex with my wife.
Got your attention?
Because I am sick and tired of The Hipster Capitalist trying to basically do exactly that. Don’t get it? Read on…
The conversation at the table next to me is one I’ve heard a million times…but this time, for some reason, it got under my skin more than usual. I was in the fun little bar where we gather each week before our IT in the D broadcast hits the air to talk about topics, discuss show notes, and just play a little catch up in general. It’s near Wayne State, which means there are college kids.
And they were sitting at the table next to me.
Hipster #1 looked at Hipsters 2 and 3 from across the rounded table, folded his hands over the top of his beer glass, looked left and right as if making sure no spies were nearby to overhear the trade secrets he was about to share with his close confidants (note: having earbuds in but not actually listening to anything is an awesome way to get people to let down their guard around you), and laid down this golden nugget of wisdom: “It’s all the Wal-Mart CEOs fault that the workers aren’t making a living wage, man.”
Oh god…here we go…
As if on cue, Hipster #3 comes to life to add “…[expletive] right, bro…it’s the Walton [expletive] family, bro. You have any idea how much that family is worth? How much money do you need, right?”
Hipster the First paused from checking his iPhone’s Instagram feed to shake his head, give a mighty sigh, and pronounce “All of ’em man…just…all of ’em. McDonald’s can pay people $15 an hour and not even miss it. Just cut the CEOs pay and…”
I reached down and pressed “play” so that I could listen through the intros and breaks for the show that night…I had to. It was the only way to keep from standing up, walking over to their table, slapping them each across the face while screaming Cartman style “GOD DAMN HIPSTERS!!!”
In my head though…oh, in my head, I had the perfect conversation with them.
My mind’s eye played the mental movie of me spinning a bit in my chair, saying “Excuse me”, and then when they were all facing my direction, I said “You don’t get to tell me how often I can have sex with my wife.”
They would, of course, both look and be a little confused. And so taking advantage of their stunned silence, I would continue…
“How many relationships have you had over the years,” I would ask.
They would probably still look a bit stunned, and so I would continue.
“Just humor me,” I would say, “how many relationships have you had in your life?”
Hipster the First would be the one to step up to the plate. “I don’t know,” he’d say. “Maybe something like six or seven?”
“And are you married,” I would ask, noting the lack of ring on his finger.
“No,” he would reply. “I’m not married.”
“Is marriage something you think you want to do some day? Get married? Have kids?”, I would ask.
“Sure,” he’d say.
“So out of six or seven attempts so far,” I would pick up, “none have gotten to the desired end result of marriage,” I would continue, leading him down the funnel like a venus fly trap.
“You would agree, wouldn’t you, that if I busted my ass courting a woman through dating, assumed all of the risk of paying for all of the dates we went on, invested money in gifts that I showered her with, and somehow, even though the vast majority of relationships fail before they ever even get close to marriage…that I could pretty much then be free to have sex with her whenever I wanted to, without, say, you three coming along and telling me that we need to take a week off, or that we were only allowed to have sex twice a month?”
They would exchange looks across the table, insinuating my insanity and wondering if I was a serial killer looking to cook them into a stew.
“Bear with me for just a minute more,” I would say. “We’re almost to my point.”
So they would laugh, shrug their shoulders, and then Hipster Two would pop off with “Sure. You can bang your wife whenever you want. Good for you, now do you mind if we get back to…”
“Well then who in the hell are you,” I would interrupt, “to tell a company that has assumed all of the risk of opening a business, when the vast majority of businesses fail, that has invested all of their own time, effort, energy and most importantly money into building something that surpasses what so many others try to do and fail miserably…who are you to tell them how much money they’re allowed to make? Or how much they’re allowed to pay people? Do you even realize that WalMart’s CEO made 6 million dollars last year, and they employ 2.1 million people…so you’re advocating the elimination of their salary to give less than $3 to every WalMart employee. Not per hour, not per week…total. Three dollars. If you eliminated every PENNY of WalMart’s $14 billion in profits last year, you’re still only talking about a dollar or two per hour per employee, and, reminder, the average WalMart employee makes $11.25 per hour, well above minimum wage already. You’re an idiot.”
“But they’re evil and…” one of them would start.
“They provide 2.1 million jobs,” I would say, “in a time where tens of millions are unemployed.”
“They don’t pay enough to…” he would try and counter.
“Then people can choose to not work for them,” I would counter.
“Sometimes they’re the only place to work…” he would interject, thinking he had me pinned.
“So…you’re saying it’s better than people be completely unemployed than having some sort of job at all? Again, you’re an idiot.”
Not that I expect it would do any good, mind you.
No, I fully believe that even if things had played out in real life as they did in my head, the only things that would’ve happened are me feeling moderately better for having gotten that off of my chest, and them having a story to tell their friends at the next bar about the lunatic they’d just escaped from earlier who was clearly an unthinking drone for the 1%…
Of the three of us, I’m the one that gets called “a dirty feet Liberal” because I’m always trying to save the world and arguing on the side of people, but even I think this nonsense has to stop. And look, I get it. They were all too young to have seen Wall Street when it came out. Oh sure, they might have seen the sequel with Shia The Beef or whatever his last name is…and maybe they got curious and went and streamed the original to check it out…
…but they still won’t get it.
They won’t get that even though we understood that Gordon Gekko was “a bad guy”…he still got that money. He built his empire. He did whatever he had to do to make it to the top.
And his stumbling block wasn’t ethical in nature. It wasn’t that he wasn’t smart enough. It wasn’t that he didn’t plan properly.
No, Gekko went down because he left himself vulnerable. He over-estimated his control over someone in his inner circle…and when he made his usual moves, he didn’t even think that someone so close to him would be the one to burn him.
Hippies…err, Hipster Capitalists…watch Wall Street and see “the evil greedy man getting taken down like he should”.
Real capitalists and business people watch Wall Street and learn to better insulate themselves from risk, how to know when they’re pushing someone too far outside of their controlled air space, and how to better judge those around them.
Oh sure, they might remember that there was a polo match somewhere in there.
They might remember that George Constanza was in it and played a real jerk.
But not the business meetings. Never the business meetings.
As Richard Gere’s heart was melted by Julia Roberts and her “seventy-two inches of therapy”, he stopped being Gordon Gekko for a brief moment. Instead of a hostile takeover resulting in the dismemberment of the company that Randolph Duke from Trading Places had spent his life building…he realized that there was possibly quite a bit of money to be made while not killing this old man’s company and firing all of the workers.
But he was still looking to make a lot of money.
What’s my point?
Shut up about Dan Gilbert buying buildings. He’s made a ton of money. He can do whatever the hell he wants with it. If you and your death metal thrash band can’t afford to live there after he’s done renovating, then throw concerts to raise cash and buy the building yourself. It’s not his fault, it’s not his problem.
Shut up about WalMart’s profits. Don’t like it? Don’t shop there. Convince others not to shop there. Don’t work there, and convince everyone that works there to quit. If nobody wants those jobs, they’ll have to raise their pay to attract people, right?
Stop trying to convince anyone that McDonald’s workers “deserve” $15 an hour. Don’t like it? Don’t eat there. Don’t hit the drive through. Don’t cave when your kids want McNuggets and a Happy Meal toy. Again, have everyone walk off the job and see if McDonald’s raises their pay scale when nobody takes those jobs.
You want to do it differently? Go build a company of your own, build it up and be successful, and you can do whatever the hell you want the money coming in. And I promise I won’t tell you what you should do with it…or how often you can have sex with whoever you’re with at that point.
Stay out of my bedroom…and stay out of everyone else’s boardroom.
That’s all for this time…go read something else.