What ever happened to public beatings? You know: the kind where everyone got involved, where social justice was at the hands of everyone—even your 6-year-old cousin. Back when I was growing up Catholic and scouring the colorful pages of my middle school history books, I remember thinking how terrible it was that people would be stoned to death at the drop of a hat; what an absolutely horrible thing—that people could participate in a mob mentality that could kill someone without due process is nothing short of a nightmare. It's still a terrible thing in my mind. I'm super senitive to that stuff; I have a lot of trouble seeing people in exruciating pain. When I was young, I wanted more than anything to be like one of the boys, watching skate videos featuring a campign of daredevil morons breaking their arms and legs like twigs. But, I just couldn't. I had to shut my eyes and look away, or walk out of the room. Even when I watch movies today, particularly violent scenes make me nauseous and I just want it to be over.
Yet, while I might not be able to stomach the watching, my adult experience has certainly convinced me of the efficacy of such archaic traditions of justice. And, that's the key word here: (Justice)
If I'm honest with myself, I can't say that I find much wrong with public humiliation, an exhibition of your peers that might force people to exercise a bit more mindfulness in their actions. Today's society has become a closed society, a prison block of distinctly segregated cells in which each person is free to act out their will under the assumtion that what they do is no one else's business. Individual freedoms and social liberation—all good things indeed. However, one can't help but wonder if, perhaps, in the translation from tyranny to liberty, we may have simply traded one evil for another: tyranny by fear and force, for, say, tyranny by negligence, or exploitation.
In recent news, CEO of the famous Papa John's pizza company, John Schnatter, was quoted saying that due to Obama's reelection, the resulting healthcare costs will force him to fire some employees and give fewer hours to others—ultimately resulting in their denial of healthcare. If you're unfamiliar with this dude, who happens to feature himself in all of his television commercials, he's everything you'd expect: a baby-faced Italian with dark wavy hair, lasting looks, and a charismatic smile that makes you want to order his damn pizza and maybe check out his wife. But, perhaps the most notable thing about his commercials are the environments he appears in and the people with whom he directly interacts. The resulting image is meant to project him as a community-minded, small-town pizzeria boss, gone unchanged by big corporate America. He's the kind of guy who might coach your kid's soccer team, or volunteer as a chaperone for that school trip that doesn't have enough daddies. He certainly looks the part, too: showing up at people's houses unannounced, laughing it up with the neighbors with that plastic smile all over his stupid face.
"Better Ingredients, Better Pizza…I'm a corporate tool"
Well, that's how he should end those commercials now anyway. But you know, before all of this shenanigans about not being able to find a BETTER way to afford rising healthcare costs, I might have given him a break for delivering me sub-par pizza—no one's perfect. But somehow, raising the prices of your pizzas to an amount higher than what's predicted to cover your deficit, just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And, after having contributed financially to the Romney campaign, it just seems like he's throwing a temper tantrum that punishes consumers.
Look, it's understandable that rising costs have to be mitigated in a business model. That's a given. But, as both Jon Stewart and this article have pointed out, one has to question the business savvy of a CEO that insists on on giving away 2 million pizzas for free, while his employees are forced to tolerate marginal healthcare and an average wage of just $6.41/hr. Mr. Schnatter, on the other hand, enjoys the spacious comforts of a 40,000 square foot mansion with two swimming pools, a 22-car garage—and probably his own brothel. In 2011, John came in at number 17 on Forbes Magazine's list of the wealthiest people in America (under 40 years old). Not too bad John. (CLAP, CLAP)
Now see, here's where the right wing-ed nuts get their panties in a bunch—and I saw this exact line of reasoning on several message boards. Conservatives insist on vilifying the middle class as petty agents of jealousy, whose only beef with the top 1% is material, that the middle class only mean to steal or destroy the wealth that they could never earn themselves.
I'd say I was sorry for laughing, but it's simply not true.
And this is a point that conservatives continue to struggle with because, in much of their one-minded pursuit and maintenance of wealth, they've forgotten their civil duties and have abandoned social consciousness. Papa John has certainly earned his wealth—no one denies this. I have never, in all my years of being a middle class citizen, heard someone say that a rich person doesn't deserve their wealth. It's just not a complaint we have. And, you know why I haven't heard it before? Because that's not the issue. Simple as that.
Being wealthy isn't the problem. The problem is: believing that having earned wealth also means that your countrymen should NEVER ASK anything of you. Being wealthy means exactly what it states: you have MORE than you need. In the case of Papa John, it might be asking him and the top brass to take a pay-cut, cancel bonuses this year, or, perhaps, not give away 2-million free pizzas so that middle class Americans can keep their jobs and have a better chance of staying healthy.
Why, as an American citizen, would you be opposed to participating in that kind of cause? Why wouldn't you want to be a part of that kind of goal?
Because at some point we have to talk sense: Papa John doesn't need another swimming pool or Ferrari, but some dude and his family might need to see a doctor this winter. Essentially, what Mr. Schnatter is saying is: "It's more important that I keep a predictable multi-million dollar income for myself, than someone else have any income or health insurance AT ALL."
To me, that is pure insanity. There is no bigger middle finger to the majority of your fellow citizens than saying: "Sorry guys, I need that 22-car-garage. Papa's gotta put those toys somewhere".
By the way, if you want to read about a real man who is super rich and has the humilitiy to take pay-cuts and give out lavish monetary gifts to those in need, check out the first part of this article about superstar actor Keanu Reeves. That's someone who understands the concept of "enough".
The Bottom Line.
While it hasn't been often that I order pizza from Papa John's, I most certainly won't anymore. I will also make sure to encourage others to boycott this brand as well and I hope at least some of my readers will feel inspired to do the same. Let me leave you with an emotionally charged comment I left on a message board earlier tonight when I first read about Papa John and his cries of economic ruin, brought on by the proposition of decent healthcare for all.
"This is pretty much what I'd expect from the corporate children of American capitalism. Spoil the children with three decades of tax cuts, and suddenly, they don't know how to go back to being socially conscious, back to a time when they had to (God forbid) consider a broader scope of society. It's precisely this kind of bloodsport coporatism that reveals "trickle-down" economics for the hilarious joke it is, as the high rollers of capitalism abandon civil obligation, pocket the difference, and continue to feign "losses" in the wake of record profit margins and the highest CEO bonuses in history. The absurd champions of the Republican persuasion can't understand this; they don't understand the true meaning of citizenship; they can't comprehend that: We, the 99%, aren't perturbed by the success of others. No, no. We're disgusted by the deliberate actions taken by the 1% that mean to EXPLOIT the disadvantages of the majority under their smug implications that this year's multimillion-dollar bonus just isn't enough, and that, if someone else is digging in the dumpster for a spoiled peach pit as a result—well that's their problem. Insanity. Pure insanity."