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Who Speaks for The Working Poor? Essays from Inside The Big Box

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Who Speaks for The Working Poor? Essays from Inside The Big Box

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Oct 6, 2013


"Who Speaks for the Working Poor?" is a collection of essays written by a big box employee exploring the title question while illustrating what it's like to work inside the big box.

Would the answer to that question be the politicians, the clergy, the charities, the working poor themselves?

Most of the essays address the, often conflicting, interweaving interests of the Working Poor and pretty much everyone else. That includes the people we casually refer to as the Rich, the literal handful of ultra-wealthy people who use the Rich to achieve their aims, the middle class, politicians, media, corporations with allegiance to profit but not country, and others. Hopefully, you'll be inspired to question the way you look at yourself in relation to others as citizens of the USA and the world.

These essays reflect an unarticulated point of view from a segment of society that is too often misunderstood, often demonized, and mostly invisible. These are not just the people who work for the familiar “big box” stores, thus the subtitle; but also any one of many many impersonal multinational corporations or familiar chain operations making minimum wage or thereabouts so that their shareholders and top executives can earn scandalous incomes and live lavish lifestyles unimaginable just a generation ago.

Oct 6, 2013

Informazioni sull'autore

Eugene Ortiz is a freelance writer, rhetorician, and technical communicator currently living in Lockport, IL. He began teaching undergraduate writing in 1993, has presented papers on the subject at academic conferences, and was a pioneer in using online communication as a heuristic for undergraduate writing students. Before he began teaching undergraduate writing, Ortiz was Editor and Publisher of The Writer's Nook News, a nationally circulated, quarterly newsletter for freelance writers. Trivia: Ortiz has a black belt in Aikido and occasionally does background acting (a.k.a. 'extra' work). While living in Texas, he had a recurring non-speaking role as a Houston police officer on the hit NBC show, "Chase".

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Who Speaks for The Working Poor? Essays from Inside The Big Box - Eugene Ortiz

Who Speaks for The Working Poor?

Essays from Inside The Big Box

Eugene Ortiz

Published by Eugene Ortiz at Smashwords

© Copyright 2013 Eugene Ortiz

Cover art by Sarah-Jane Lehoux

Table of Contents

- Introduction

- It's your birthright to have more than what you need!? That's bullshit!

- Everybody Sells

- The Art of Peace

- Nobody owes anybody anything. Really?

- Why don't you put your education to work?

- Less is more? How much less?

- Critical thinking vs common sense

- The Seven Laws of The Samurai

- Sensata: a case study in disharmony with Nature

- Bussers. Don't call me 'Boy'!

- The once and future king

- Ethics in writing

- My first night as a licensed warehouse power equipment operator

- All that jazz

- Throwing the truck

- What lessons from Sandy?

- NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

- All the Space Shuttles are in Museums

- The Christian Left

- Gridlock

- Roommate

- Changing hearts

- Time for a new car

- Hope

- Regulation is not a bad word

- Dark money

- Gobi 911

- Workplace reform

- Never give in

- Fiscal cliff notes

- The dignity of a livable wage

- Alphas

- My new Dragon

- Taking what they're giving

- The struggle continues

- Right to work for less

- Greed, diversity, and mental health - part one

- Greed, diversity, and mental health - part two

- Stigma-free counseling

- Education as mental health care

- Falling Skies

- Logical fallacies

- Cigars

- We The Government

- Don’t tax the job creators

- Why argue?

- 40 cents

- Save the Post Office, save the country

- Shooting Bobo

- When wealth becomes unconstitutional

- Revolution versus rebellion

- Save the Rich?

- Reductionism

- Open source

- America for Americans

- Game of Thrones

- The new bullshit Senate filibuster rules

- A livable wage

- A new universe

- The Economic Bill of Rights

- The LINE Act

- Illegal aliens

- Rich v Greedy

- Fighting the Good Fight

- A contemptible disparity of fortune

- Send in the drones

- Corporations are NOT people my friend

- Small enough to fail

- Valentine’s Day

- Term limits and the revolving door

- We society

- Egocentrism v. Sociocentrism

- Labor news

- Asteroid apocolypse

- Too big to jail

- Prisons for profit – part one

- Prisons for profit – part two

- Socialism

- Health care and the Commons

- Downsizing

- Too much spent on the Poor

- The cancerous privatization of the Commons

- Sovereignty

- Semper Unloader

- Marketing 101

- Frack!

- Big Medical

- Who speaks for the Working Poor?


June 28, 2013

I started writing a blog for an online program in which writing a daily blog entry was part of the process. At first it started out as just an assignment and my entries were about the program and really written for others in the program (You may see mentions of Dave or Dave and Dave, who were the principle instructors of the program).

Over time these entries strayed from the narrow focus of the course and became a series of observations and thoughts evoked from my status as a highly-educated, under-employed member of the Working Class. Some might call the part of society I found myself in the Working Poor.

I've decided to compile these blog entries and essays written over a six-month period into one document because I think they reflect an unarticulated point of view from a segment of society that is too often misunderstood, often demonized, and mostly invisible. These are not just the people who work for the familiar big box stores, thus the subtitle; but also any one of many many impersonal multinational corporations or familiar chain operations making minimum wage or thereabouts so that their shareholders and top executives can earn scandalous incomes and live lavish lifestyles unimaginable just a generation ago.

I don't know what effect, if any, this will have on you the reader. I don't know if it will inspire you to show a little respect for the folks who are mostly invisible to far too many people. But you should know that without the labor of the Working Poor, our economy, our society, would grind to a halt because the people who crawl into tight, uncomfortable, and dangerous places to grease the wheels weren't there.

They deserve more. They deserve more respect, more dignity, and yes, more pay for their services. We all owe them so much more for their sacrifices to our way of life. And we can afford it because the fact of the matter is that these people make up at least 15% of the American population and they spend most of their income on basic needs such as food, shelter, and transportation. An increase in pay and benefits would not only be humane, it would provide a tremendous boost to the overall economy.


Empower Network Blog - Jump

Problems Facing the Working Poor - Jump

Best wishes to you,


Eugene Ortiz

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It's your birthright to have more than what you need!? That's bullshit!

October 6, 2012

I got this email this morning written from some guy who seems to think that prosperity is a birthright.

While I agree that having a lot of money does not make you a prick, there aren't a lot of roads to prosperity that don't require you to be a prick to get there.

I hear it and see it all the time. I see a lot of guys making two to three times what I make who think they have lots of money and are really self-absorbed, hurtful, mean, angry people. And this email I got talked about how poverty is mediocrity. Or more accurately, people in poverty are afflicted with mediocre thinking.

Well, if it's wrong to accuse rich people of being pricks because they have money; if money is really neutral; then people who have no money aren't stupid ignorant morons just because they haven't figured out a way out of poverty that doesn't involve being a prick.

I find it inconceivable that loving money for money's sake is a worthwhile goal for anybody. And maybe I am wrong for thinking that the guy who pulls up along side me driving a Jag is probably an ass hat, but I don't think so.

Don't talk to me about YOUR dream for money and fancy things. Don't talk to me about how the lust for the pride of conspicuous consumption is desirable and my birthright, because that's bullshit. Most rich people do suck. They're the gurus that tell you to buy their books and tapes and make calls and spend your time prospecting and work work work when they don't do ANY of that stuff. I am convinced that there ARE rich people who don't suck, but they make up maybe 1% of the 1% and are rare indeed.

Best wishes to you,


Eugene Ortiz

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Everybody Sells

October 8, 2012

I've been doing a little research on marketing and earlier this evening I was watching a video on the value of reading daily in which they were making the point that everybody sells. This was in reference to people who say that they don't want to sell or don't know how to sell or can't sell.

While giving examples of the kinds of things to read, they included sales letters or anything that was written to convince the reader to buy. The idea is to observe and absorb the kind of thinking and language of successful people, including successful business people and sales people.

This reminded me of one of the lectures from my Comp II class in which I state that almost any utterance can be considered persuasive to some degree. Comp II covers basic research and argumentation and in that class my students learn that the kind of argumentation they are probably familiar with, the speaker or writer is really talking past the listener or reader to a second audience. For example, in a debate, the interlocutors are not really interested in convincing each other of anything, but rather, their intent is to win over a third party, the audience watching and judging the performance of the debaters.

This adversarial argumentation is not the kind of argumentation I want my students to learn in my class. Instead, I want them to learn a second kind of argumentation in which the interlocutors come to the discussion intending not only to persuade each other, but also willing to adopt or include the position of the other if presented with the right evidence. This kind of academic or collaborative argumentation includes the element of truth-seeking along with the element of persuasion in an effort to work together to solve some mutual problem or achieve some mutual goal.

The reason Comp I and Comp II are required courses for all first year students is to prepare them with the tools for participating as scholars in a collaborative classroom environment for the rest of their academic careers. Comp II introduces students to the idea that what they read in textbooks and what they hear in lectures is not intended as the final word on a subject, but rather an interpretation of the current understanding of a subject at the time. The author or speaker is inviting the student to participate in the process of truth-seeking. The goal is to ask students not to merely memorize and repeat, but to absorb and incorporate what they read or hear into their current world view and apply it in that context.

I think that's what the guys in the video were talking about when they said to read daily. The goal is not to get you to learn the way but to relax and let your mind deal with the experience as part of the process of becoming a successful marketer.

When I took Marketing 101, I was told that sales was only one part of marketing because marketing was really about finding a need and filling it. That means collaborating with the customer, not to persuade them to buy what you have to sell, but to find out what they need and adapt, or better yet, create, your product accordingly. To do that, you need to recognize that your audience, your customer, is not an opponent to be won over, but a participant in a process of achieving a mutual goal.

The difference is that in a debate or adversarial argument nobody really wins, but in a collaborative argument, everybody wins. The former seeks to dispower the opponent while the latter seeks to empower both parties.


Books by Eugene Ortiz - Jump

Best wishes to you,


Eugene Ortiz

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The Art of Peace

October 9, 2012

It's hard not to notice the role of nature in supporting a successful lifestyle. And by a successful lifestyle I of course mean a happy, content lifestyle.

On my desk is a copy of a pocket paperback, The Art of Peace, by Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido. It is a collection of quotations with the theme that the greatest warrior is one who seeks and spreads beauty and harmony with all things. It speaks of a recognition that we are all part of the same Nature. When we struggle to overcome nature, we are really struggling to overcome ourselves.

There are plenty metaphors to go around, but what comes to mind at the moment is a theme from ST:DS-9 in which a human-appearing character whose natural state is liquid discovers his origin was in a great lake. He was like a drop in this lake that was somehow separated. When he returned to the lake, he understood that living as a drop was not natural; when he joined in the lake he was able to access the consciousness of the whole.

Humans of course cannot shape-shift and meld like that character, but our origins in time are similar, and studies of DNA show us to be much more related to our surroundings than we might think. It offers an explanation for why we feel compelled to commune with nature and define paradise in the context of settings like the tropics of Costa Rica, Hawaii, or similar natural settings.

But I think what we can do, in lieu of melding physically with nature or each other, is seek to recognize and share the beauty of creation in all things. And yes, it may take the strength and courage of a great warrior to see and seek the art of peace. Or it may simply take making an effort to place yourself in the Heart of Mother Nature.

I think when we do that, concepts like success, prosperity, and sales take on a different meaning; just as argument, as mentioned in my last post, takes on a new meaning when seen as a collaborative rather than an adversarial process.


The Art of Peace - Jump

Best wishes to you,


Eugene Ortiz

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Nobody owes anybody anything. Really?

October 10, 2010

I admit it. I am a sucker for a pretty face. And when I met this woman last year at work I found myself smitten. It's my fault. She had been working there for close to six months but because I was working on my second ebook I really wasn't paying much attention to more than I needed to.

When I finished that ebook I decided to take a couple of weeks off before getting into the third (only half-way completed as I write this blog entry) and found myself engaging in conversations with people I hadn't taken the time to get to know. I was in a good mood having finished that ebook and was experiencing a minor high point despite the crappy job.

So, in this good mood, open to my surroundings, I turned a corner and WHAM, there was a pair of the most intoxicating eyes staring back at me that I had seen in a long long time. A few weeks later we went out on our first date and it went very well, but she had issues I eventually found I could not overcome despite my initial infatuation.

We still catch a bite to eat after work if we get off at the same time and we've got nothing better to do. And it was at our last late night dinner that she said something that did not entirely surprise me but I have been ruminating over ever since. It wasn't the first time I had heard it and I may have said it myself in the past during a moment of insularity. She said, Nobody owes anybody anything. I of course just smiled a bit and nodded a bit; not to say I agreed, but that I acknowledged her saying it. And then we went on to some other topic, like how was the food or something.

There are so many things to unpack in that statement, not the least of which is the irony given the setting, that I'm not going to even try to unpack all of them in this one post, but I will share my current related position on who owes whom what; and the more I think about it, the more I have become convinced that just the opposite is true.

Not only do some people owe some other people something, I think we all owe everybody everything. Now, I don't mean this in a need-to-pay-you-back meaning per se, but in the context of how we have developed into who we are as a direct result of our environment. We are the sum, or the result or precipitate, of our experiences.

One of the implications of this relate to the concept of being all in. From my perspective, because we are part of Nature, we are already all in whether we realize it or not. Whether we choose to be or not. The question then remains whether we are going to accept it or resist it.

The Art of Peace, referenced in my previous blog post, would tell us that resistance is self-defeating. To resist Nature is to resist ourselves. Alternately, to be non-resistant is to be at peace. So, with that in mind, I would argue that commitment to peace or non-resistance is what we owe Nature, others, and ourselves.

Humans are social beings. To read, write, watch, listen, support, share, teach, and commune with each other is natural and empowering. These are things we do that are true to our nature. These core activities demonstrate our understanding and acceptance that Nature has us all in already. Daily participation in these activities recognizes what we owe to Nature and is a pathway toward peace or harmony or contentment (or whatever term you choose for it).

Best wishes to you,


Eugene Ortiz

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Why don't you put your education to work?

October 11, 2012

I get that question sometimes. What they are really asking is why I don't have a job as whatever somebody with a Master's in English Composition does. I have done the college professor thing and may do so again; but I also have a black belt in Aikido, and nobody ever asks me why I don't put that to use (i.e. get a job that requires a black belt) because most people think the black belt represents a skill or tool or ability that is available to be used when necessary. I have on occasion been asked if I have ever used it. That is, if I have ever had to physically defend myself and employ Aikido techniques to do so.

But these questions, on both counts, are misinterpretations of what the degree or certification represents. They are fair questions to be sure, but very shallow ones because they imply that the knowledge doesn't go beyond the ability to perform acts that mean no more to the practitioner than to someone observing or being the object of the act. They ignore the value of the process, the philosophy and theory. And they ignore how someone who has gone through the processes to achieve these certifications view the world.

I got to ABD (All But Dissertation) status while at Texas Tech. I quit the program for personal reasons, but learned a lot in the process of achieving ABD status. The transformation the process supported is mainly why I usually identify myself to others as a rhetorician and technical communicator. As such, I see the world as a crazy-quilt patchwork of conversations across time and space. Everything and everybody is saying something to whomever and whatever will hear. That's probably why I enjoy as much peace, quiet, and solitude as I can whenever I can get it.

This everywhere all the time conversation compliments the concept of Awareness from Aikido in which one must be aware of his or her surroundings at all times, not only to be prepared (from Boy Scouts?) to defend oneself at all times, but more important, to be open to learning and growing at all times. So, from that perspective, I find myself putting my education and training to work all the time.

Dave and Dave (Empower Network) discuss the importance of daily listening and reading because immersing ourselves in a relevant discourse stream is how we learn best. Like learning any language, there's nothing better than practice that leads to improvement. Daily writing and marketing is the practice of putting what we learn from listening and reading to use so others can benefit as well. It's a never-ending upward and outward cycle of learning and teaching that leads to improvement for all involved.

History is filled with stories of great events in which putting knowledge to use through salesmanship has played a critical role and regardless of what we think about salesmanship and our own abilities to sell, we are engaged in persuasive conversations all the time. They are all around us and unavoidable. And because these conversations are unavoidable, daily engagement in the process of educating ourselves through listening and reading, speaking and writing is only prudent.


Empower Network Blog - Jump

Best wishes to you,


Eugene Ortiz

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Less is more? How much less?

October 12, 2012

I rent a bedroom in a three-bedroom house. The other two rooms are rented out as well. We have shared access to the rest of the house. My room is off the kitchen so is convenient for heating up coffee, making something to eat, etc. The bathroom is on my side of the house as well, so that's cool.

I've been pretty lucky with roommates. Usually they work different shifts and keep to themselves. Nice guys, generally, but we rarely have an opportunity to find points of conflict anyway.

Since I work two jobs so rarely have a day off, my time to write is generally limited to a few hours during the late mornings or early afternoon hours. My style involves a ritual of simply relaxing and letting my mind wander a bit until it lands on something compelling. This is part of the writing process rhetoricians call Discovery or Invention. I've learned this is the way

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