(Shuman’s writing has won a Gold Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards; her work is also included in One on One: Playing with a Purpose from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)
In the land of America, held within the confines of the sphere Earth, the lowest sector of human laborers is further divided into color-coded occupational groups—the blue/pink-collar workers and the white-collar workers. Much like the violent and non-violent race wars this country has battled throughout its existence, the so-called “Color Wars” of the 21st century have left the United Sates at a civil impasse. The white-collars, or the middle men, control the blue and pink-collars, though they themselves are subjugated by the higher forces that run the country—the money movers and the politic shakers. The Chief Executive Officers make the decisions for blue, pink, and white-collars as they own a majority of America. In addition, these CEOs (the acronym is more widely accepted on Earth) have a great deal of influence when it comes to the red, white, and blue shirts. The two main political factions of the state, the Republicans and the Democrats, each need money every year to launch their campaigns to rule the United States. Therefore they choose a collar, blue or white, and find a CEO whose company relies on that color group’s business. On Earth they call this Capitalism.
Because of America’s inclination toward a hierarchical system of employment, the governing officials of the commonwealth coined several terms regarding this inherent order: separate but equal (in reference to race; has since been repealed by aforesaid officials), equal pay (wages for men = wages for women), and “All men are created equal” (quote from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson; considered inaccurate). This country’s fascination with equality and ensuring that every comrade receives it has brought about the use of other vocabulary to refer to matters found lacking in equality: segregation, discrimination, and prejudice. In the American workplace, the white-collars typically earn more than the blue-collars who typically earn more than the pink-collars. White-collar jobs, however, tend to be less physically demanding than the other two though they do require higher levels of education. Blue-collar jobs (ones that get white collars dirty) are manual labor for men. Pink-collar jobs are manual labor for women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report for 2012, pink is not the new blue—women earned only seventy-seven cents to a man’s dollar. Similarly, black is definitely not the new white, with non-white Americans earning considerably less annually than white ones. A year on Earth, interestingly enough, consists of 365, twenty-four hour long days (an hour in the Milky Way contains sixty minutes, which contains sixty seconds). As a side note, once every four years the humans receive one more day. The Interplanetary Association of Housing Development for Aliens or IAHDA as the humans would call it (pronounced yä-də, as in yada yada), has released the following statement regarding the lifestyle of an earthling.
IAHDA: EARTH 2013
The following report will attempt to describe the pecuniary allocations necessary for sustainable life on Earth. The apartment is located in Riverdale, the Bronx, on the land mass known as the United States of America. The human earns twelve hundred dollars per month in compensation for its labor. The rent is eight hundred dollars per month and includes a washer and dryer and heat and water. However, electricity is not included. Assuming that the human will have to commute to his/her job, public transportation fees are five dollars per day resulting in total of one hundred dollars per month. In addition, utilities are approximately sixty dollars per month; however, the human cannot afford internet or a phone. The human also cannot afford health insurance, but there are several hospitals with emergency rooms located within a five mile radius. A Public Library with free Internet is six hundredths of a mile away. There is a shopping center within walking distance of the apartment, and the food allowance for the human is estimated to be two hundred dollars per month–$6.66 per day. The human retains forty dollars per month for miscellaneous needs.
IAHDA’s data shows the day-to-day (once again Earth’s solar time measurement is being used) cost for a basic life-form. These creatures usually work in eight-hour time frames, during which their pay stays consistent. In order to receive this stability, the humans had to fight the Union Wars. Approximately a century ago, these blue-collar workers fought for the right to a standard length of work day. They believed that their “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” (Thomas Jefferson, see above) was encumbered by too much work. However, instead of returning to the nomadic or agrarian means of life, the humans fought wars for the “eight-hour workday” (brought down from the twelve-hour workday, eleven-hour workday, and so forth). The humans view their jobs as a direct corollary to their success in living. They receive special educations so that they might excel in their chosen career and beat out the competition, and those who disagree with this primal practice are labeled Socialists (a term with negative connotations in America; often discussed alongside communism and healthcare). The blue-collar humans, those who do not properly learn how to live in the United States, still strive to defeat all other blue-collar humans and make their way up the food-chain to white-collar status. In doing so, they break this valued “eight-hour workday” so that they might work two or more jobs to earn more money. In America, wealth is a sign of competence.
There are times when the CEOs and white-collars pretend to be blue-collar workers (which the Socialists would call “the proletarian” or “second-class citizen”). The nation is so invested in understanding the daily life of these specimens that popular culture has been manufactured for the consumer. Television (TV) programs like “Undercover Boss” and books like Nickel and Dimed and Fast Food Nation have been mass produced. But who is the consumer? Is it the one-per-centers? The middle class? Or is it the blue-collar worker himself?
This is why I live on Mars.
Copyright © 2014 by Marit E. Shuman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.