Re: Yes, yes, I'm privileged.

1

I think your friend is being overly touchy about poor as an insult -- I'd call someone with two shitty jobs poor as well, and I think 'working poor' is a valuable concept. (Which doesn't mean you're right about the specific people you're talking about, I can't tell from here.) It sounds as if she's hearing 'poor' as 'underclass' -- 'poor enough that you've dropped out of functional society'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:16 AM
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Possibly. But it's also possible that I'd have considered her family growing up to be poor.

It's one of those things that's hard to remember how exactly I'd classify people before this conversation, because it was something I was doing instinctively and now I'm guessing at what unconscious rules were operating.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:18 AM
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I think there's a fair chance that calling your friend's family of origin poor would have been reasonable, even if she doesn't identify that way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:21 AM
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Hmm, that's possible, too. I think her mom moved up from what I'd call shitty jobs to a pink collar job, over the trajectory of growing up, and her dad worked in a factory.

She also made the case that she knew people, growing up, who chose to live in trailer homes because they could save money, even though they could have afforded to live (more frugally) in a regular house.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:27 AM
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It's becoming a big mess in my head, because people have periods of stability and periods of instability, and there's a certain amount of luck with whether or not tragedy strikes, and there are certain situations which have a lot of upward mobility but financial stress, vs zero upwards mobility but less financial stress, and then there's also the context that most of this conversation was about super rural people in a context where nobody in town is wealthy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:30 AM
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Maybe the line is when it starts seeming like a good idea to vote Republican?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:33 AM
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HHS poverty guidelines for 2012.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:48 AM
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Well that settles that!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:14 AM
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My uncle had a trailer house, but it was a doublewide. They fixed up an old farmhouse before a tornado could get them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:19 AM
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Working class people aren't necessarily poor, obviously. Lots of skilled manual jobs, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, were relatively well paid and some continue to be so. It's a banal truism that class and income often correlate, but sometimes don't.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:23 AM
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How are these people set up for health insurance?

My uncle lives in a trailer, but he's actually a multi-millionaire, on account of never having spent a nickle more than he ever had to in his entire life.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:32 AM
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Is it a nice trailer?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:33 AM
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It its pretty nice, but he only lives there because he married into it. Prior to that he was living in a studio apartment. In Maine.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:40 AM
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11: If they have children, they should be able to get Medicaid if their income is under something like 133% of the poverty line in 7, but it's harder for single people and non-custodial parents. Nia's mom lost her coverage when Nia went into state care, though in our state and most or maybe all others kids in foster care (and after adoption from foster care) automatically have Medicaid coverage.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:42 AM
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10: I think there's a way in which class consciousness works differently in the US than in the UK. High-paid skilled manual worker in the US usually consider themselves middle class.

When I was a kid, I had a clear idea that being middle class was good, and being working class or poor made you a loser. There was an awkward conversation around age 12 where I tried insisting to my mother that we were really middle class, and she had to gingerly disabuse me of the notion.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:46 AM
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I think that's right -- it's like the Steinbeck line someone just quoted about how poor Americans think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:54 AM
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Isn't the correct classification "working poor"?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:04 AM
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If they have children, they should be able to get Medicaid if their income is under something like 133% of the poverty line in 7,

Do you mean CHIP? That's good, but it just covers the children, I think. The adult Medicaid eligibility threshold is ridiculously low in Texas, 25% even for parents of dependent children.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:05 AM
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he's actually a multi-millionaire, on account of never having spent a nickle more than he ever had to in his entire life

I'm sure you realize this, but this very far from a sufficient condition. My mother never spent a nickle more than she ever had to in her entire life, but she never had all that many nickels anyway.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:06 AM
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Thanks to CoinStar, I don't have many nickels either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:10 AM
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I think people tend to judge relative to themselves. So if you know lots of people better off than you are you don't think of yourself as rich even if you are doing well relative to the median. And if you know lots of people worse off than you are you don't think of yourself as poor even if you are well below the median. So lots of people think of themselves as middle class because they are in the middle of their local circle. Although people well above them might think of them as poor and people well below them might think of them as rich.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:12 AM
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The table in 18 is eye-opening for me, having only dealt with eligibility issues in Mass. This country is a fucking travesty.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:26 AM
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18: No, clearly you're right and I was confused, maybe by one of the suggestions for the what would happen under the ACA? So sad and ridiculous.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:28 AM
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21 is correct. It's something I've tried to be more conscious of when I'm worrying about finances and try to make Rory conscious of as she frolics in her life of luxury. In the big picture, we're really very fortunate.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:30 AM
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"I think there's a way in which class consciousness works differently in the US than in the UK. High-paid skilled manual worker in the US usually consider themselves middle class."

Don't think that's so uniquely American at all really. I'd guess upper working class people are mostly rightwing in a lot of countries.


Posted by: David the Unfogged Commenter | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:33 AM
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"I think there's a way in which class consciousness works differently in the US than in the UK. High-paid skilled manual worker in the US usually consider themselves middle class."

Don't think that's so uniquely American at all really. I'd guess upper working class people are mostly rightwing in a lot of countries.


Posted by: David the Unfogged Commenter | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:34 AM
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Some people so poor; all that they've got is money


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 7:57 AM
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25: voting right-wing is not the same as considering yourself middle class.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:00 AM
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See 6 - it's not totally joking.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:07 AM
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There ought to be a lot more nickels.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:07 AM
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I guess I think of the terms as measuring different things. Poor is about what you have. Working Class is about what you do.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:11 AM
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Regarding the poverty guidelines, I know quite a few people who would be overjoyed to ascend to the dizzying heights of wealth implied there. Many of my bohemian/@ist friends live on 12,000/year or less, even though they grew up middle-class and could go back to that if they really wanted to do so. And some friends have just always been broke and always will be.

I think one of the most confounding class distinctions in the US (and perhaps elsewhere) is between upper working class and lower middle class. You've got skilled manual workers in the former who can make $60K-$80K/year versus the lowly office drones in the latter who feel lucky to get $35K plus kinda shitty benefits. And yeah, the upper working class guy in a well-paying but non-unionized job is quite often an NRA dues-paying Xtian rightist, while the office drone is an earnest progressive Democrat.

But it's really the working poor who get the shittiest deal, both objectively and in the popular imagination.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:12 AM
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24. Let her play with this. My guess is you'll come well inside the top decile. I'm only just outside it on my pension alone, discounting any investments etc. Perspective indeed.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:15 AM
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33: Shit, I didn't realize so many people were richer than me. I should be aiming higher.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:18 AM
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6 -- Just saw this.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:20 AM
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That thing should really be cohorted by age. A 25 year old making $50,000 is not the same thing at all as a 50 year old making $50,000.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:22 AM
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35: That's super exciting to me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:23 AM
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I like it that Charley has dropped the pretense, and is now openly pushing his pro-nickel agenda.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:26 AM
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PENNY DELENDA EST


Posted by: Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:28 AM
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35 37

How compatible is this with pushing gun control?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:30 AM
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Huh, Jim Kolbe actually seems like a reasonably sensible guy. Unsurprisingly, he is now an Obama appointee.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:32 AM
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24,33. Huh, how open are people with kids of various ages about money? I certainly didn't know how tenuous my parents' finances were growing up, had heard from them only casual mentions of gross pay and seen piles of bills. I thought that they were super-rich based on overheard gross income figures and the prices I knew about, of fast food, pot, and stolen motorbikes.

I didn't realize how little of gross was left after taxes until I had a job that paid above the table rather than in cash, and had no idea how much it cost to maintain even a cruddy lifestyle-- rent, car expenses, and the like measured in chattel goods are really expensive, and the idea of a financial buffer is easy to say but hard to absorb. I am hesitant to discuss the figures of either gross, net, or savings with my 11 y.o. kid, since kids compare and talk to each other and money seems like a bigger taboo than sex. Weve started talking about college expenses, and there's an account for that which he knows about.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:36 AM
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33, 35: Apparently, the number of people in the entire world who make more money than I do is only 10% of the number who do so just in the US>


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:38 AM
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33

That calculator is pretty useless at the top end as it seems to lump everyone with a income over $200k together. And I don't believe there only 107565 of them.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:42 AM
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I think of "poor" as classifying how much income and assets you have, whereas "working class" classifies whether you work in a pink- or blue-collar job. For much of my childhood, we were working class, based on the jobs my parents held, but we we were actually poor for only part of that time. Maybe that's an idiosyncratic definition though.

I do think that categorically calling certain types of work "shitty jobs" is pretty offensive and terrible.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:55 AM
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45.2: Would you make an exception for manure shovelers?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:55 AM
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I do think that categorically calling certain types of work "shitty jobs" is pretty offensive and terrible.

Depends on how big the category is, maybe, but is it really so offensive to recognize that some jobs are difficult, unpleasant, physically damaging, and poorly compensated? The word 'shitty' may be offensive, but someone who is, e.g., getting RSI and risking maiming in a meatpacking plant for minimum wage has a job that you'd have to be very unusual to enjoy, and I don't think it's offensive to recognize that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:12 AM
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47: that you'd have to be very unusual to enjoy

I think the preferred term is "differently usual."


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:13 AM
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I do think that categorically calling certain types of work "shitty jobs" is pretty offensive and terrible.

This seems hypersensitive. I'm not calling the people who work them shitty people. I'm calling them poor shlubs who are getting fucked over by capitalism. Know them by their shitty jobs.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:15 AM
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If you do enjoy your job at a meatpacking plant, I recommend that you keep such information to yourself. "I'd use a pneumatic gun to slaughter cattle for the sheer joy of it" is a big conversation stopper.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:15 AM
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Wasn't that a line from Clerks?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:16 AM
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48: A person of different usualness.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:18 AM
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My dad took my mom to see Clerks in the theater, which is really amusing if you know my mom.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:18 AM
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53.last gets it right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:21 AM
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47. I take issue with categorically calling certain types of work "shitty." Your example of the RSI at the meatpacking plant is of a particular, identified job where a worker is affirmatively being injured while working at minimum wage. Yes, that situation sounds pretty shitty. But identifying a particular worker and job as being problematic is different from what the OP says, which is that cleaning houses and lunchroom work are "shit jobs," and that "jobs that ... basically suck" include most "custodial and retail."

Also, saying that a particular job has circumstances which it would be "unusual to enjoy" is different from saying that the type of work is categorically "shitty."


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:23 AM
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Person with job that shits?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:25 AM
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45, 49: Maybe the worry is that it's putting down jobs that are worse than those available to you and your friends, but sufficiently better than other jobs that some people, without the advantages you are used to, aspire to them?

Calling something "shitty" is implicitly disparaging anyone who wants it or aspires to it, and more or less by definition any job other than involuntary servitude is wanted by at least one person, whose feelings might be hurt if you call it shitty, irrespective of your own private motivation for calling it that.

To someone whose family or entire village is starving except for the occasional found (and probably pathogenic) bushmeat, a meatpacking job might not seem like a shitty job in any salient way, but instead a stable job with a steady salary.

I don't think I endorse the offense - I think we should be careful about getting offended on behalf of someone else - but is that so incomprehensible that someone might be offended at calling a job they'd prefer to have a shitty job?

Heebie, wouldn't you be at least a little put off if a tenured professor of math at MIT called your job shitty? There's no reason a meatpacker couldn't also have pride in their job, even if it's unpleasant and painful and they hate it, because it's a job and it puts food on the table.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:26 AM
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If you do enjoy your job at a meatpacking plant . . .

This just makes me think of the part in Facing Ali where George Chuvalo is talking about his father, an immigrant from Croatia to Canada, who had job in a slaughterhouse. He tells the story that at some point his father was forced to take a week vacation, because he never took any time off.

During the week off the father would get up in the morning and leave the house as usual and the family wasn't quite sure where he was going and eventually they realized that he was going down to the slaughterhouse to just sit and watch the person who was doing his job to make sure that he wasn't going to be replaced.

One of the really interesting things about that documentary was that getting a little bit of background on a dozen highly successful heavyweight boxers you started to see patterns in the particular personality traits that would make one successful, and he clearly absorbed stubbornness and work ethic from his family.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:26 AM
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55: Do you work custodial or retail? I'm sure there are people out there who really dig working in those industries (particularly if they have strong union representation) but it doesn't jibe very well with the experiences of the vast majority of my friends who do that kind of work.

Let me tell you about one of my custodial friends: He got his job about 2 years ago, with high expectations, as it was a union position at a university. His commute is minimally an hour and a half, which is often stretched out to over 2 hours when they schedule him on weird shifts. His coworkers are all incredibly homophobic -- they called him a faggot for bringing salad for lunch -- and since he is queer, he's had to stay totally closeted there. He is regularly expected to race around to half a dozen different buildings on his shift. He has no control over when he's scheduled. He doesn't get any back up from the union, which is much more concerned with protecting sexual predators in its ranks than helping him have a decent work life. He and the other custodians are banned from eating in the staff lunchroom, due to the class bias of the faculty. He's got high blood pressure and several proto-RSIs. And the pay and benefits really aren't that great -- he's just scraping by financially. This is a very, very shitty job. No dignity at all. And he would be the first to tell you that.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:34 AM
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Let me tell you about one of my custodial friends

This sounds like your friendship was somehow approved or ratified by court order.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:36 AM
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Which is beside the point, but I've not let that stop me often.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:38 AM
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Yeah, most of my non-custodial friendships are with the condition of no same or similar within 6 months.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:44 AM
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The class-income thing always confused me and sort of still does. My family had no money until I was in high school. But we were decidedly middle class, because my dad, the first person in his family to go to college, and my mom, the first person in her family to go to college, both had PhDs. Still, there was no money, which meant that we never went out to eat, I didn't have Levis or Nikes, and for our one vacation/year, we drove to camp someplace relatively nearby. But then in my junior year of high school, my dad got a huge raise, and suddenly we had lots of money. Oddly, nothing changed.

At the same time, I worked in a factory/warehouse. But it was union shop (I like the idea of of a union shoppe), which meant that I made $24/hr. and time and a half pretty frequently (whenever any of the guys driving a truck did). I went to college with enough money to pay for all four years, which was nice. Anyway, the guys I worked with had to be making +/- $75,000/year, but they were all completely identified as working class and used to tease me, typically in a good-natured fashion, for being a college boy.

I think there's a point to all of this, but maybe I'm just reminiscing.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:50 AM
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I didn't have Levis

Antisemite.


Posted by: MH | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:54 AM
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Natilo, your 59 is ostensibly a response to my 55, but I direct you back that comment for my own response in turn. Basically, yes, your friend's particular situation sounds bad. That's different from categorically calling the type of work he does shit work.

Benquo in 57 gets more or less at what is driving my complaint, and much more artfully than I have been able to do. If you are concerned that a job is low-wage, difficult, excessively dangerous, or stressful, you can call it by those terms (and advocate for raising wages, revising OSHA guidelines, or changing workplace policies). Calling the job "shitty" is less informative and unnecessarily value-laden.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:55 AM
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Also, I suppose my job was shitty -- I pushed a broom for four hours after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and for six hours on Saturdays -- but it seemed fine to me. The guys were mostly nice, I was allowed to wear my off-brand walkman, and, perhaps most important, I knew I wasn't there for the long haul. I don't know for sure if the other guys thought it was a shitty job, but I don't think so. The truck drivers certainly didn't, as they were making great money. The guys on the floor probably didn't, as they were doing well and not in any danger -- though it was boring. As for the other janitors, I never really saw or talked to them, which I think is pretty common for janitors, who are supposed to be invisible.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:55 AM
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64: how dare you mock my childhood traumas?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:56 AM
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I did wear 501s pretty much continually when I wasn't in school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:02 AM
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Calling the job "shitty" is less informative and unnecessarily value-laden.

I do want to push back against this. I think it may be necessarily value-laden, or at least usefully value-laden. (I agree about the dangers of overgeneralization -- I'm sure there are good custodial and good retail jobs.) If it's too offensive to call a job 'shitty', then it gets harder to identify what it is about a job that should morally be changed, and shouldn't exist unless it's absolutely necessary. "Shitty" jobs are jobs that shouldn't be like that, and that we should be organizing to eliminate, preferably by transforming them into non-shitty jobs, and I really don't think it's an offense to the people who have to do them to identify them as such.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:04 AM
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what it is about a job that should morally be changed, and shouldn't exist unless it's absolutely necessary

This is somewhat helpful. By this definition, my job wasn't especially shitty. By another definition, though, it was very dirty and completely low status, which I think for many people constitutes shittiness.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:09 AM
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"Shitty" jobs are jobs that shouldn't be like that, and that we should be organizing to eliminate, preferably by transforming them into non-shitty jobs

We're not going to eliminate all retail and custodial jobs. If we categorize basically all retail and custodial as shit work, it's hard to see how to transform them into non-shit-work.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:16 AM
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I worked fulltime at a drug store for 2 years after dropping out of graduate school. The pay was horrible, but in other ways it was my favorite job.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:16 AM
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65: I still think we can say that some jobs are objectively shitty, even with the understanding that a penniless Haitian immigrant would be happy to have them. Most retail these days is being Taylorized to the point of insanity. WalMart and Target enforce some really ridiculous levels of labor discipline, not for any rational purpose in terms of increasing sales, but just because they can, and it serves the interests of the ruling class to keep the people working there totally immiserated and abject. I think my friend's custodian job, or the retail/food service jobs that many of my other friends hold are the norm, and the jobs in those industries that are at least neutral are a minority and increasingly almost impossible to find. I think too that a lot of this has happened in my lifetime. I know a fellow who had a union server job at the restaurant in one of the hotels downtown. He did well enough to buy a couple of houses, which is good, because if he didn't have the rental income from the second one, he'd be pretty screwed, as the restaurant got spun-off and his hours reduced to something ridiculously low. Frowner's mentioned before how the cafeteria at her college was spun off to Sodexho, turning a really decent lunch lady job, with tuition benefits and the whole nine yards into a shitty dead-end hell of speed-ups and lowered wages. Those are shitty jobs, and if you have one, and you think it's not shitty, that means you've bought into the bosses' propaganda and you need to educate yourself and fight back. Sugar-coating the conditions of your exploitation with feelgood rationalizations never won anyone any wage concessions.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:18 AM
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72: Because free drugs?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:20 AM
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Natilo, again, I agree that some situations are just objectively bad, and I don't have a problem with saying that a particular identified job is, based upon the circumstances, shitty. I take issue with dismissing entire categories of work.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:23 AM
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71: it's hard to see how to transform them into non-shit-work

No, it's just not. Organize the workers, not the job. Don't sign away your rights in boss-friendly contracts. Build solidarity among different jobs and different industries. Build community alliances to offer mutual aid to people who are getting screwed over the worst. Eventually, abolish the wage system.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:23 AM
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Oh Christ Natilo, I'm saying that if you categorically term retail shit work, you can't transform it into not-shit-work because you've already dismissed all of retail. I do know about organizing. (We're not going to abolish the wage system, btw.)


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:26 AM
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There is obviously a bit of a gray area between working poor and lower income working class.

I draw the line something like this: How screwed are you when a significant unplanned expense comes up. If there is an unavoidable domino effect that makes your life materially worse/harder, you are poor.


Posted by: delurking | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:34 AM
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In my industry, snotty young people refer to helping ordinary human beings with legal problems as 'shitlaw' because ordinary human beings don't have enough money to enable a person helping them with legal problems to live like the top .1% income bracket.

I'm with jms: there are shitty situations, but I'd be hesitant to call those jobs objectively shitty.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:41 AM
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What's "shitty" isn't any job in particular, but any job with a wage that is not a living wage, or any job the conditions of which are harmful or unsafe (or that doesn't offset any irreducible lack of safety with correspondingly higher wages). Have a decent minimum wage and regulations of workplace safety, and currently shitty jobs will be less shitty.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:42 AM
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A custodial job doesn't have to have homophobic cow-orkers, nor must it me a 90 minute commute.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 10:42 AM
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I'm with jms as well.

On the original query in the OP, I speculate that Heebie's friend was upset because being unable to see the difference between poor and working class may well indicate that you live so far outside that realm that you can't see differences: people below a certain income level (the median? the bottom 30%?) are a massed blur of unfortunates. It means your privilege has made you blind: your baseline for what's normal -- average -- has moved.

It also erases the fact that being truly poor isn't just a "oh, life is a challenge for you, for sure" situation: it's dire.

I've been noodling over this comment for like 20 minutes, trying to avoid saying completely obvious things and/or sounding insulting, but I'm just going to hit post.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:08 AM
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Doesn't the "shitty" description of classes of jobs push back against the characterization of the poor and the unemployed as lazy and unwilling to work?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:13 AM
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If we took a poll of Wal-Mart workers, I bet more of them would take offense if you tried to shine sunshine up their asses and pretend their shitty retail job was really awesome.

I'm sure there are some for whom it's awesome and aspirational, and I'm glad it's a good fit for them. I'm still going to go ahead and assert that Wal-Mart is a shitty place to work.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:40 AM
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I'm still going to go ahead and assert that Wal-Mart is a shitty place to work./i>

To combine what jms and parsimon are saying, perhaps the complaint is for anyone who feels like they don't need to know the details of a job to classify it as shitty -- "oh, I'm just sure that's a shitty job."

In the case of Wal-Mart there's been a lot of documentation of the shitty ways they treat their employees, and I'm sure you've read some of that. But I think jms is right that it's important to be wary of painting with too broad a brush -- particularly when there's a class division between you and the people you're painting.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:44 AM
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Huh, how open are people with kids of various ages about money?

I don't explicitly discuss my net and/or gross income figures with Rory. But it's also become apparent to me that giving her perspective now is probably a good thing. (Such as, correcting the assumption she apparently had a few years ago that I was netting $100K/month. Oh, sweetie, our life would be so, so different...) I want her to understand some of the financial decisions I make ("I know my car is boring and not half as cool as your dad's convertible, but it's reliable, was reasonably priced, and I can put the money I saved into your college savings.")

She's actually been paying attention to college costs, has been comparing the schools she currently fantasizes about, likes updates on her 529 plan, and we discuss the fact that even if I can't pay her way out of pocket (which, pretty safe bet that I won't be able to), there are always options, including loans, financial aid, scholarships, etc. and we will work through it together when the time comes.

I want her to appreciate how fortunate we are so that she can also better appreciate that other people aren't as lucky. "We're donating to that music education charity your grade school teacher talks about because I think all kids should be blessed with music."

I know it's taboo. Maybe it shouldn't be? I only get a few more years to make sure she develops a responsible attitude toward money.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:48 AM
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Isn't one of the most immediate luxuries when you're upwardly mobile that you get more options of how to make money? If we graphed a little flow chart, we'd get sinks around the jobs everyone wants, and repulsion lines around the jobs nobody wants. SHITTY JOBS.

These jobs would not be shitty if they were well-compensated and safe and well-regulated and organized. You could obviously have the wage tied to inversely how little anyone wants to do the job, and somewhere on the wage-scale it would become a not-shitty job. But that is not this world, and those are shitty jobs.

I'm sorry everyone thinks that I'm secretly saying all poor people are dirty and gross. I'm not.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:49 AM
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I had heard guys say that becoming a sanitation worker was like winning the lottery; now I understand what they meant. . . . Early hours are a small price for steady pay, job security, benefits. "You'll have a paycheck for the rest of your life," we are told over and over. "This job will let you raise a family, buy a house, send your kids to college." The American Dream is laid out before us as shiny as the wet streets outside; all we have to do is hang in for 20 years.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts_and_life/diary/features/2004/_3/entry_1.html

Interesting perspective on the ultimate shitty job, the garbageman (unionized, which makes all the difference).


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:50 AM
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I had heard guys say that becoming a sanitation worker was like winning the lottery; now I understand what they meant. . . . Early hours are a small price for steady pay, job security, benefits. "You'll have a paycheck for the rest of your life," we are told over and over. "This job will let you raise a family, buy a house, send your kids to college." The American Dream is laid out before us as shiny as the wet streets outside; all we have to do is hang in for 20 years.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts_and_life/diary/features/2004/_3/entry_1.html

Interesting perspective on the ultimate shitty job, the garbageman (unionized, which makes all the difference).


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:50 AM
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I had heard guys say that becoming a sanitation worker was like winning the lottery; now I understand what they meant. . . . Early hours are a small price for steady pay, job security, benefits. "You'll have a paycheck for the rest of your life," we are told over and over. "This job will let you raise a family, buy a house, send your kids to college." The American Dream is laid out before us as shiny as the wet streets outside; all we have to do is hang in for 20 years.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts_and_life/diary/features/2004/_3/entry_1.html

Interesting perspective on the ultimate shitty job, the garbageman (unionized, which makes all the difference).


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:50 AM
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That which is not awesome and inspirational is shitty?

I've no doubt that there are people who would consider teaching at HU a shitty job, as there are definitely people who would consider my job shitty. I think it insults the both of us to tell us this kind of thing: either we're deluded because we don't recognize how awful our work lives are, or we're shitty people and this is all the better we can do.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:52 AM
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either we're deluded because we don't recognize how awful our work lives are, or we're shitty people and this is all the better we can do.

This is stupid. I'm not saying they're shitty people. I am saying that capitalism traps people in shitty jobs, and that's the best they can do within the system. Not all of them have to have awful work lives. Some of them do.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:54 AM
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87: I'm sorry everyone thinks that I'm secretly saying all poor people are dirty and gross

By "poor people" here do you mean poor people or working class people?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:55 AM
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Also, I like Rory to understand that you can have a shitty job that pays really, really well and you can have an awesome job that pays almost nothing and that you choose among them, to the extent you have a choice, based on a weighing of all sorts of variables and values. She'll probably make more money if she decides to be an engineer when she grow up, but she might be happier if she decides to be a music teacher. "Shitty" is mostly about how many options you have and whether you are happy to be where you're at, no?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:55 AM
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there are people who would consider teaching at HU a shitty job

There are very shitty things about it, yes. It seems like you're twisting h-g's meaning here, though.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 11:57 AM
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92 -- You write as if 'shitty' was an objective term. It isn't.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:01 PM
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So how should one refer to jobs that don't pay a living wage and have (as a consequence) low status without running afoul of the tendency to conflate someone's worth with their job?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:02 PM
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I wouldn't have expected to say this, but I agree 100% with everything in Parsimon's 82.

I don't think Wal-Mart workers would, for the most part, self-describe their job as "shitty." Nor would they call themselves "poor," at least not if they were not in fact poor in terms of their available assets. Many of them would complain about their salary and working condition, though, with justification.

I think the phrasing is pretty dismissive of categories of work, and also a pretty weird understanding of poverty, which is about available assets, not job title or position.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:03 PM
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86: That sounds super sensible and an awesome way to teach her how to manage her personal finances, and respect her like a full human being with the right to know about things that will affect her future.

I wish my parents had been that open with me about money when I was a teenager, instead of making it a black box that would output "can/can't afford it".


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:04 PM
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95 -- I don't object to calling aspects, situations, employers shitty. Whether a job is shitty or not is very context dependent.

I'm not saying that the way people who are poor fare in our society is in any way justified. I don't think adding insult to injury helps anyone.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:05 PM
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82: I don't even see poverty.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:05 PM
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96: I don't think her comments require an objective, positivist view of "shitty." They appear more to be based on social construction and the idea that "shitty" can be defined by social norms.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:05 PM
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102 -- Fine. Read that as 'you write as if there is a socially accepted meaning of 'shitty' as applied to jobs, and there isn't.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:08 PM
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I just think that this conversation needs more epistemology grounding.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:09 PM
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97: Low-wage jobs?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:27 PM
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I knew I should've put in more qualifiers because low-wage doesn't fully capture shittiness. Subtract out hobbies as jobs, add in some totalitarian management. Jobs that no one works unless they really have to. What do you call these if not shitty? This may be an entirely theoretical concern, since Charley assures us that shitty jobs don't exist.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:33 PM
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So how should one refer to jobs that don't pay a living wage and have (as a consequence) low status without running afoul of the tendency to conflate someone's worth with their job?

I don't know, start by avoiding language that when taken literally implies that those people are covered in shit.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:36 PM
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Low-wage / low-status jobs?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:37 PM
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See, that's not as catchy.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:38 PM
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Status Hugely Inferior, Terrible Take-home paY.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:40 PM
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Also, making "status" a part of the name cheapens it. It makes it sound like anyone who complains about such a job needs to get over their ego.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:43 PM
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"small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger . . ."?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:46 PM
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Low-wage + totalitarian management + stressful working conditions = shitty job. Taylorized jobs, you might say.

The low-status aspect of this rubs me the wrong way: "retail workers" (Heebie includes a caveat: not ALL retail) are low-status in the eyes of many, and it's annoying as hell. Remember the guy Oudemia, I think, linked to who's the fiction guru at the Strand? Retail worker. There are an awful lot of small business retail workers in the US who aren't remotely Taylorized.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:47 PM
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The low-status aspect of this rubs me the wrong way

I agree that phrasing doesn't work. I was trying to convey the sense that part of what makes many jobs unpleasant is that they are perceived as low-status, both within the organization and socially.

But I'm convinced that isn't a good defining trait of what we're trying to identify.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:49 PM
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"retail workers" ... are low-status in the eyes of many Americans.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:49 PM
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Speaking of working conditions, my office is much nicer when there isn't a gas line ruptured outside.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:54 PM
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FWIW, when I had shitty jobs, I was quite happy self-describing myself as having a shitty job.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 12:57 PM
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Any description, other than a completely emotionless analytical one, is going to cause the same problems as shitty. The problem is American's self-worth is bound to their work.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:02 PM
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Is it really? I suspect people in genuinely shitty jobs have a sense of self-worth that's rather less bound to their work. Maybe I'm wrong, as I'm not American. But most of the people I know in genuinely crap jobs have the sensible view that 'this is just some stuff I have to do to [meet my basic needs/look after my family/have money to buy the stuff I like].'


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:04 PM
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I'd amend 118 to say that other Americans' view of their worth is bound to their work.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:04 PM
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I suspect some people on this thread have never spent any time in a hog confinement building.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:06 PM
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I have! My uncle accidentally killed a large number of pigs when his venilation system failed.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:08 PM
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Did they just get too hot or did they die of their own methane?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:10 PM
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The latter, IIRC.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:12 PM
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Low-wage + totalitarian management + stressful working conditions = shitty job. Taylorized jobs, you might say.

I'm okay with this. By "most retail" I was thinking Walmart and other bulk employers who generally shit all over their employees.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:17 PM
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Also I think this whole thing is beyond absurd. One can use a the word "shitty" once in a while.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:19 PM
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Reasonably unattractive jobs.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:19 PM
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Yeah, it seems wholly non-controversial to note that some jobs are shitty. It's also fair to point out that you might be wrong in considering someone else's job shitty -- they might actually consider it a great job. But still, some jobs are shitty.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:23 PM
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123: Your uncle was Master Blaster?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:31 PM
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I suspect some people on this thread have never spent any time in a hog confinement building.

122: I have!

Me too! My mom's cousin runs a giant pig farm in Iowa.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:33 PM
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126: Sure, but one wouldn't want to double down on it, in all caps. Benquo's 57 really gets it right.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:44 PM
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130: me three! Ironically, when I wasn't working in the fish ponds, which were, believe it or not, even filthier, I worked in one in Israel/Palestine. (Secular?) Israelis really love bacon.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:47 PM
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129: You would know. I looked that up and was surprised by the amount of required disambiguation.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:47 PM
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Running/owning a pig farm is a different thing than working in somebody else's operation. The owners would say things like, "Smell the money" and I'd be thinking that my compensation wasn't increased for stench.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:47 PM
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I was all prepared to get grumpy about classifying retail jobs as shitty, but then I remembered there are worlds of difference between working for a giant company (like Wal*Mart or even probably Gap) and working at a small independent shop. Clearly the answer is more independents, fewer big boxes! Less shitty jobs for just as many people!

(Or at least, I don't think my job is shitty. It is hard on the body, though.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 1:49 PM
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Di Kotimy, I also wish my parents had talked to me about the money the way you do with Rory. Mine managed to combine completely inappropriate oversharing about constantly living on the brink of disaster and fear of losing the house with failing to model appropriate budgeting and saving skills.

For people familiar with farms: in the area where I now live, it frequently smells awful outside, mostly in the morning. I know that there are mushroom farms in the area, and probably other types, too. Is it manure that I'm smelling? Other types of fertilizer? Something else? For those who know the Lancaster, PA area, it's the same sort of smell I frequently encountered visiting there.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 2:40 PM
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A cow-orker with a Lancaster background suggests manure and has no other hypotheses, but she believes you'd be sure it was manure if it were. (She also specifies that the manure smell may be stronger there than in other agricultural areas because Amish farmers are less likely to use modern/synthetic?/chemical? fertilizers.)


Posted by: joyslinger | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 2:49 PM
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Is there a cheese factory any place around? Visiting family in a rural area, I came across the most horrifying smell ever: smelled like a combination of shit and death. Turned out that there was an open pool of whey rotting away on the next piece of land over.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 2:51 PM
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Palatka, Florida always smelled godawful because of the paper mills.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 2:53 PM
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smelled like a combination of shit and death

That could be a Burger King.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:01 PM
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137: In Lancaster, I assumed it was manure, and that the cause was Amish farms. I'm unsure if other farms use the same amount of manure, or if they use fertilizer that smells equally bad.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:02 PM
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The whey was really the worst thing I've ever smelled: well past manure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:05 PM
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136: It's the smell of Godliness. I wouldn't expect you to recognize it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:09 PM
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Sugar beet refineries are pretty bad too.

There's one on the south side of Billings, and the smell during the 'campaign' permeates the city. And especially, I imagine, the trashy looking strip club next to the refinery. Working there seemed likely to be a shitty job . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:09 PM
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116: Speaking of working conditions, my office is much nicer when there isn't a gas line ruptured outside.

Hey there's a gas line ruptured outside my office! Weird.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:18 PM
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122: A guy I worked for grew up on a pig farm in Iowa. As soon as he turned 18 he moved away and never ate meat again.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:20 PM
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I'm still not seeing a believable argument against categorizing some types of employment as broadly awful. Sure, there are good custodian jobs, and there's fast food jobs that aren't nearly as awful as the worst of them (stoner pizza place where employees, customers and management are all clearly stoned all the time, for instance), but those are outliers. To v. the a. ban, if I said "breaking up with your girlfriend via a text message is a shitty thing to do", I'm sure we could all find counter-examples where it was actually not shitty at all, or only in very small degree. Doesn't change the fact that MOST OF THE TIME, it's a shitty thing to do.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:28 PM
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82: being unable to see the difference between poor and working class may well indicate that you live so far outside that realm that you can't see differences

But this is exactly my point. There are very significant differences between what the working poor deal with, vs. the not-impoverished working class deals with. I would argue that they generally ought to support each other, but it's ridiculous to say "broad categories of employment can never be shitty", which does indeed elide the differences between the working poor and the worker who is getting by okay.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:34 PM
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Re the "being open with kids about finances" discussion, one of my chores as a kid, starting around age 9 I think, was to pay bills. I would tear off each invoice, write out the check, enter the date/payee/amount in the ledger, address and stamp an envelope, and then present my mom with a stack of checks to sign. This included the mortgage payment, student loan payments, and occasionally medical/dental bills, so I learned about things like capital and interest and copays and deductibles. I knew exactly how much things cost and how much my mom got paid. I think this was really valuable for me in terms of learning to be financially responsible and putting the costs of various items in perspective.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:36 PM
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145: They have to stick together or they'll be buried.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 3:49 PM
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I missed comment 82 altogether, but wow, what a pile of Fuck You I have for it.

First, the point of the entire post was that I had some stupid privilege based-biases operating. The very first sentence goes ahead and says "This is embarrassing". So I get that. But thanks for re-explaining exactly why my privilege irritated my friend.

And then specifically:

It also erases the fact that being truly poor isn't just a "oh, life is a challenge for you, for sure" situation: it's dire.

No it fucking doesn't. I get that life is horrific and dire for some people, and medium for other people. Give me a fucking break.

Since I now see Halford endorsed everything in 82, I'll extend a fuck you to him, too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:26 PM
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I don't see what's offensive about it. "Two shit jobs" is pretty obnoxious phrasing (for reasons rehearsed here many times already). The idea that working two "shit jobs" + living in a bunch of trailers stuck together + having a handyman for a husband = truly poor is a pretty weird theory of poverty, one that suggests an eliding of differences between the working poor and people who are really without assets. Maybe the point of the post is that you now realize that this theory of poverty was wrong, which, if so, great, but it really doesn't sound that way from the way you phrased the OP (actually, this just occurred to me when I read your last comment), so if you get pushback on that it's not really anyone else's fault.

IMO Parsi is usually pretty obnoxious on these subjects but here she was right on. But maybe I'm just feeling combative today.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:35 PM
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The point of the post was I had a big gap between what I knew academically and yet in practice, my instinctive biases kicked in. That's why the goddamn post title references my privilege. All over the place I said I'd been unthinking, was embarrassed, etc.

Anyway kids are home and I don't have time to write more. But sorry I wasn't sufficiently self-effacing and ashamed about my embarrassing riches.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:39 PM
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But I don't think the problem with the post was that you weren't sufficiently self-effacing or ashamed about your riches. That's usually Parsi's obnoxious complaint but it didn't seem to apply here. You seemed to be opening up a conversation about different theories of poverty, and advocating for one. In fact now (rereading the OP with 153 in mind) the self-effacing part actually got in the way of conveying your message, as did "shit jobs."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:43 PM
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suggests an eliding of differences between the working poor and people who are really without assets

I don't know. I think you can recognize that the struggles of the working poor without it necessarily meaning you fail to understand that circumstances are even more dire for others. The sense I'm getting is that Heebie is history's greatest monster for describing as poor anyone other than those facing the very direst of circumstances. That just seems to minimize the problems of poverty/income inequality because, hey, only a few people are *really* poor.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:50 PM
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I'm re-reading the last paragraph of the OP, and I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't see any theory of poverty there. I see me hypothesizing about what kinds of guidelines were guiding my biases.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:50 PM
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Also, L's mom is awesome.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:53 PM
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It's unclear in the OP and still is unclear (to me, anyway) what you think is an incorrect conclusion that is the product of your "bias" or a guideline thereof, and what you now have come to realize upon reflection is a correct conclusion. Are you trying to say, simply, that your friend was right and everything you had been thinking was wrong? Because I for one really really really did not get that from the OP.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:54 PM
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153, 154 -- FWIW, I regret my role in this one.

148 -- That said, Natilo, what makes your friend's custodian job shitty is not that he/she is cleaning up messes made by other people. It's the commute, the poor scheduling/organization by the employer, the asshole cow-orkers, the status consciousness of the 'higher' staff, failure of his union to look out for him, and insufficient pay.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 4:59 PM
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(He. Not he/she.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:02 PM
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So the broad category to which shittiness might be ascribed isn't 'custodial jobs' but 'jobs.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:04 PM
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I definitely got the sense that the post was saying to heebie and probably similarly situated people, there's a whole group of elicits a knee-jerk "poverty" response without taking into consideration the gradations that are obvious to the people living the experiences. I think Mara's dad's situation may be financially worse (one job that's never allowed to reach full-time enough he'd have benfits, plus an unpredictable schedule, plus presumably significant wage garnishment for child support) and yet the tradeoff is that he has a lot of free time that he enjoys and he's making enough that he's living in an apartment adjacent to the not-so-awful public housing rather than in public housing itself.

When Mara's aunt was raising eight kids in the shitty(?), falling down, dangerous public housing in the next town over plus being depressed and isolated and not able to hold down a job because of the kids' special needs, that's a worse kind of real poverty yet still not homeless and on the street. Nia's mon is about to lose housing because she no longer has custody of Nia and she has never worked and could potentially be in really bad shape.

All of those lives sound pretty miserable to me, but I think it's reasonable to rate them on different axes and lumping them all together and together with the situation heebie describes won't always be helpful but may be sometimes. (god, I'm banal and didactic, aren't I?)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:15 PM
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I definitely got the sense that the post was saying to heebie and probably similarly situated people, there's a whole group of elicits a knee-jerk "poverty" response without taking into consideration the gradations that are obvious to the people living the experiences.

This is a fair summary.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:23 PM
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of those lives sound pretty miserable to me, but I think it's reasonable to rate them on different axes and lumping them all together and together with the situation heebie describes won't always be helpful but may be sometimes.

This is very well said.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:30 PM
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I realize "misereable" may be opening me up to the criticism heebie got for using "shitty," but I do think I'd be stressed out and thus unhappy and not my best self, whatever that may be, in any of them.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:35 PM
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I'll take your word for it, but that's not at all what I got from the OP. it seemed to me like you were putting up a debate between you and your friend about the colloquial use of the term "poor" and opening it up to commentary/side picking.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:39 PM
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Read it again; it's pretty clear. A lot of past tense self-description, describing herself as unthinkingly misclassifying people, missing in practice a distinction she recognizes in theory.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:46 PM
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To disagree with Halford, I thought that, "unthinkingly" in the OP signaled that h-g didn't agree with her own position / reaction.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:46 PM
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I thought all of that was basically throat clearing and caveatting. And tbh I still can't tell whether we're supposed to be agreeing with hg's friend or not. But I'm totally open to the idea that I misread the post, and I clearly didn't get hg's intent.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 5:53 PM
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151: Heebie, I'm sorry to have offended you with 82: I said at the end of it that I'd worried that I was either repeating the obvious or being insulting. Note to self: don't post if you're dithering for that long.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:09 PM
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I guess I thought the pushback came from people thinking that Heebie had repeated the error described in the original post by referring, unthinkingly, to "shitty jobs."

I don't think that was terrible but I'm inclined to think that was worth catching and that it was good for people to mention that, even if it ended up creating a pretty muddy conversation.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:21 PM
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I don't like the phrase 'shitty job', because of too much association with people sneering at other people. My job is shitty, to an unemployed grad student, because it has a high teaching load and good lord how do you manage to get anything done. shiv's job is shitty, to an unemployed grad student*, because it involves manual labor and is thus beneath adjuncting.

And sneering isn't nice, but I didn't read heebie as sneering. But I'd agree that it isn't the nature of the work alone, but a combination of pay/autonomy/prospects for improvement/extent of identification with a job. shiv doesn't see his job as a calling; it's what you do so you can get money to do things that interest you.

*it's possible that my sample size is composed of jerks.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:23 PM
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126

Also I think this whole thing is beyond absurd. One can use a the word "shitty" once in a while.

Describing a person's job as "shitty" can be insensitive in the same way as describing their spouse, children, parents, house, car etc. as "shitty" even if it is objectively true in some sense. Which is not to say that you should never do it just that some discretion is advisable.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:25 PM
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Living as I do in a shit town in Arkansas about 60 miles from the beating heart of the center of the Wal-Mart empire, I have literally dozens of students who make their living (such as it is) working for the Wall, as we call it here. Every one of them would describe their job as a shitty job.

I'm just saying.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:48 PM
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174

Living as I do in a shit town in Arkansas about 60 miles from the beating heart of the center of the Wal-Mart empire, I have literally dozens of students who make their living (such as it is) working for the Wall, as we call it here. Every one of them would describe their job as a shitty job.

And how would they describe their older co-workers?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 6:55 PM
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A lot of past tense self-description, describing herself as unthinkingly misclassifying people, missing in practice a distinction she recognizes in theory.

Seriously, this. Not to mention the opening line ("This is embarrassing..."), not to mention the post title. As I read it, heebie basically said, 'Due to my privilege, I made the following mistake. After a conversation with a friend, I now see the error of my ways.'

And yes, some jobs are shitty (because of low pay, long hours, lack of autonomy, lack of benefits, dismal working conditions, or, most commonly, a combination of some or all of the above). To refer to a job as "shitty" is not (okay, not necessarily) to dismiss the job-holder as "shitty." Admittedly, "shit job" is sometimes used sneeringly/dismissively to refer to the job-holder as well. But I don't see heebie doing that at all.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 8:26 PM
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I dunno, we've been around in circles on this. I find the OP at best far from a model of clarity, and I don't think I'm a particularly poor reader, nor inclined to be uncharitable to HG. But whatever. Calling "cleaning houses" and being a "lunch lady" "shit jobs" does strike me as kind of offensive/annoying, not because there aren't jobs that have shitty working conditions but because put that way it pretty clearly is saying that there are entire categories of work that are just "shit," which strikes me at best incredibly counterproductive (would you ever say to someone you've met "oh, so you have one of those shit jobs! Nice to meet you.") But whatever, we've been over this.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-24-13 9:12 PM
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174: While some of my students are indeed (as you seem to be thinking) 18 to 22, what we call traditionals around here, most are not. See, the factories have been moving to Mexico, and the Wall has been driving local shops under.

So those students I was talking about are older workers, most of them older than 35, many with a couple of kids, and quite a few in their early fifties. They used to have Union jobs, many of them, so when they say shit jobs, they know what they're talking.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 01-25-13 12:08 AM
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I thought Walzer's discussion about this in 'Spheres of Justice', under the general category of 'hard work', was quite good. I was going to try to quote it, but realized that my pirate ebook is a non-OCR'd scan, alas. But here's the conclusion to the chapter.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-25-13 4:56 AM
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I do think that categorically calling certain types of work "shitty jobs" is pretty offensive and terrible.

True story. I once got kicked out of Burger King (Hungry Jack's) in Australia at about 1 am because I was there with a friend who told the cashier that she thought working at Burger King was a terrible job.* After we got our food, the security guard told us we had to leave, since apparently there is a level of rudeness that gets you kicked out.**

*The friend was French, so I'm gonna blame cultural differences.

**The friend was also the only black person there, and I don't know to what extent this was a factor, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was also a little racism, because I've seen a lot of rude people inside fast food places not get kicked out, and also parts of Australia are maybe the most racist places I've ever visited, or at least the place where being openly racist is most acceptable.***

***I have never been to the American South, which could be more racist. Also, I was in Ade|aide, which is kid of a backwater city, before all the Australians get mad.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 01-25-13 10:35 AM
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