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Squid #457
(published October 22, 2009)
Ask the Giant Squid: Three Dollars of Betrayal, Three Dollars of Revenge
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid,

My boss lied to me and betrayed me. He hired someone at three more dollars an hour than what I make. Do I let him know I know and quit? Do I pretend I don't know and plot revenge? Do I just go look for another job and then quit? Do I quit first? Is there something I'm supposed to learn? I don't know what I'm supposed to do.


My Dearest Betrayed,

Were I to have had heard you typing this missive, I doubt not that even my stony heartstrings would have been tugged to stinging tears by the plangent dirge of your keystrokes; all the stuffs of human tragedy are present in your abridged tale of woe: betrayal, falsehood, neglect, desire unfulfilled, the snubbing, a hideous tri-lemma, justice's delay. Were there to accrue a pile of corpses by the fifth-act curtain, it would be Shakespearean; were your employer to thence terminate business, leaving your town bereft of employers, it would be a Springsteen chanty; were this deathless and lonely wandering employer to break down the door of your longhouse and devour your comrades, it would be a Viking myth-dirge. This is to say, you may take limited succor in the fact that your suffering is Universal Human Suffering; you have not suffered the petty slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but the epic pangs and grindings of the Human Condition (a condition, sadly, lacking in either efficacious prophylactic preventative or lasting cure . . . just yet. Genetic engineering—such as the splicing together of the monkey and the jellyfish into a more interesting monkey-fish-jelly—shall soon provide solutions).

To my vast and ponderous mind, a worker of good conscience and even minimum dignity has but one course of action—to level the imbalance of trade. Your boss's current actions make clear that, although your wage is some arbitrary amount $X, he values the work at a rate of $Y, which appears to equal X + 3. Since he has only deemed fit to furnish you X of those dollars, he walks away with $3 in unadulterated profit; nature abhors such an imbalance, for it is as though an island's rabbits suddenly took a fashion to wearing diminutive Dutch wooden clogs, hobbling their gait, while the local wolves adopted no such hinderance. Nature, being an attentive and painstaking bookkeeper, will not let the arbitrage persist: soon the fleet wolves gorge themselves on rich, fatty, clog-dancing hares. While the hares grow lean and few, the wolves bloat, develop aortic plaque deposits, and succumb to cardiac infarctions, which necessitate expensive hospital stays. The wolves are then bankrupted by their unpayable hospital fees, and must leave the island to live with wealthy relations until they are back upon their feet, during which period the rabbits are able to form an anarcho-syndacalist warren which furnishes all primary health care and facilities. When the wolves return, they find that, despite their unpractical footwear, the rabbits are strong and healthy—and have an armed militia of irregular volunteers—and the wolves are obliged to launch a costly guerrilla campaign of suicide attacks. In the end, come winter, they starve when the US military pulls all backing following an electoral upset.

Nature, likewise, she demands that you eliminate the terrible, unjust, and unnatural imbalance your employer has created. In this, you have two routes: Either increase your wage to match the $3 surplus, or decrease the value of your work until such time as the $3 surplus is negated by added costs or decreased revenues.

In the first case, note that any work demands the addition of value to base components (be these physical or conceptual). As such, by its very nature, a work place is full of nouns whose functions someone, somewhere values. Perhaps this someone is you, or perhaps it is your brother-by-law, his boyfriend, or the friendly neighborhood marijuana-monger to whom you owe $50. If you work for a full day—that is, 8 hours, less the federally mandated 1-hour lunch break, two quarter-hour cigarette intervals and three ten-minute elimination respites—at your depressed rate of $X per hour, you have most assuredly left (according to your numbers) $18 of uncollected labor value "on the table." Much as the fetal human, supplied insufficient calcium, gathers from its environment whatever nutrients it needs to recover the deficit, so should you look about you in your work place for a way to recover that $18 denied; for example, if you are an office human, you might consider allowing yourself to take with you two staplers per day, or three reams of quality copier paper, or 257 photocopies. A coffee-jerker might help himself to an additional 9 cups of brewed coffee, or 1.5 mocha lattes. A slaughterhouseman should take a pig head, 44 hooves, or 132 running feet of alimentary canal, and an automobile constructor—should her wage be depressed for long enough—may very well find herself one day in possession of a fine '49-'50-'51-'52 Psycho-billy Cadillac.

In the second case, hold foremost in your mind the simple fact that the nature of work is this: The worker handles, manipulates, or modifies items or ideas of lesser value in order to amplify the item's value. Since you receive a degraded wage to remunerate your service, then you had best degrade that service until such time as it fairly equals the wage. Work slowly and sloppily; permit the coffees to grow cold and bitter before rebreweing; permit the typographical missteps to persist in your own work, and add them to the work of your co-workers; fail to fully tighten bolts; behead the fodder animals in a sloppy and gruesome manner; leave enemies upon the field of battle only somewhat injured, rather than fully crippled and mewling, alternately, for their mothers and the sweet, sultry release of Death; mis-educate the children of others, and neglect the hygiene and feeding of your own. In short, let all slide to sloth. Any economy—large or small—is like a ship far out to sea: If you cannot extricate your due of rum, then it is best to scuttle the ship from within, and surrender its bounty to the denizens of the deep.

I Remain,
Your Giant Squid

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