A coworker overheard me bemoaning the small stature of my paycheck and took it upon himself to set my perspective right by reminding me that I am earning more than most people in our part of the state. I really have no right to complain, he said.
My response was to smile and walk away. I do not usually feel compelled to calibrate my coworkers’ distorted perspectives.
If I did, I would have told him that that way of thinking is completely backward. Instead of being happy that I don’t have it as bad as some others, I should be incensed that others have it worse than I do! Who benefits from my complacency? Whose interests are being served if I am content to “count my blessings”?
Having a substantial portion of the population unemployed or underemployed serves a dual purpose: it keeps wages low and, by tapping into our sense of just-world fairness, it keeps us from demanding to be paid what we feel our labor is actually worth.
Of course, the real issue is the insanity of the capitalist frame that allows us to assign monetary value to labor in the first place.