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The Power of Many Little Cuts

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Commentary: Working with a budget, you renovate a house built in the early 1960s very slowly. Like everyone else who found themselves marveling at the condition of their house when they spent more time in it at the start of the pandemic, my husband and I also decided to do some renovations in the form of paint, lights and a new medicine cabinet in our master bathroom.

Unfortunately, our new, sleek medicine cabinet was just a bit bigger than the previous one. When my husband pulled the other one out and wanted to cut the drywall, he called me to come look at what he found.

"Is it money?" I called back. I heard the scoffing from another room. Instead, it was a pile of rusted razors on a wooden slat between the studs.

Turns out that back in the day, medicine cabinets had a little slot that we noticed only after we took ours out. Those slots existed so that when someone was finished with their razor, it could be slid into them for disposal. In effect, the razors would magically disappear and fill the empty space in your wall, only to be found by intrepid renovators decades later.

It's easy to see this as an example of a former generational habit of kicking a can down the road and highlighting the privilege of not dealing with your waste, but that's too easy. We are all swept into systems that keep us complicit in things that we should do and doing the hard work of being self-reflective is not encouraged.

I used to think a lot about Phil Collins' song "Land of Confusion." Stay with me; it's where I see a sentiment that feels very familiar to my generation, particularly with these lines: "My generation will put it right/ We're not just making promises/ That we know we'll never keep."

There seems to always be hope, particularly for the young, for enacting positive change. But an increase in age is where life compounds and people are stymied by the systems they ultimately find themselves in. Those are systems not only inherited but unconsciously bequeathed.

I'm not sold on the idea that an entire swath of people made decisions that they'd know would go on to destroy the future for their grandkids and great-grandkids. It's usually a handful of people, who may have no appreciation of a legacy beyond wealth, that has made decisions for the system.

Figureheads like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg shape their brands through their actions and outwardly kooky behavior, but they are the easy scapegoats to rail against online. They aren't the problem as much as the many more top-tier bosses who are nameless to us but who are still complicit in what would harm their community, and it is their community that should hold them accountable.

The fallacy is in thinking that we are in their community. We're never going to find those bosses in the school pickup line, where you could tap them on the shoulder and strike up a conversation. Their kids are not with our kids; we are not in their sphere of influence.

Our influence is tapping the barista on the shoulder and asking if we can help pick up their kids so they can go to a meeting where staff will discuss unionizing. It's asking a store manager, every time you shop, to stop stocking brands that are complicit in actions against their workers. It's pointing out during a meeting that talking about your pay with your co-workers is not illegal.

Particularly, try that last one. It'll make a Zoom conversation turn beautifully awkward, especially when the silence is filled by how some of the attendees (as former supervisors, of course) were told by their bosses to tell their employees not to talk about their pay.

Then, tell them again about how that's illegal. Be the little razor and make people deal with it now.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.