“Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor
And there’s a mighty judgement coming, but I may be wrong
You see, you hear these funny voices
In the Tower of Song.”
There’s a full-fledge war between patronage and workers in Portugal. It has all to do with taxes and minimum wages (which now sit at 557€, even though there was an effort to round it to 600€, which, unfortunately, didn’t happen). Before anyone states the obvious, please let’s take under consideration and in the context of Portuguese economy. Our VAT taxes are high (23% is the regular, 13% the intermediate for food, transport, restaurants -and not for all products, some are taxed 23%; and finally the reduced tax of 6% for books (even tough music is taxed 23% and you see one industry thriving and the other dying) and first needs and basic produce.) Considering that around 300€ is the average cost of housing in Portugal (bank credit or rental) and summing up other expenses is not hard to see that people are barely making a living down here and are not so well paid as it’s assumed by the majority of bosses down here.
It’s true Portugal shows signs of recovery and prosperity, here and there (and thanks to a different government of the country) but the hard facts is that people make too little in ratio to what they have to spend and to the hours they put in. Productivity is always an issue against working people and for sure we need to do more and better, but it’s hard to invoke this notion when you have shit in your pockets.
Personally I know where I stand in this and it’s in favor of a better redistribution. If that makes me a commie or a liberal, so be it. I also believe in entrepreneurship, tax benefits, investment and profit but under the rule of fairness, of recognising people’s input and above all an intelligent management of expectations. Feeling poor or frustrated about being unable to buy a new phone it’s not the same as BEING poor and roaming the streets for a hot meal. I don’t intend to be innocent here, life takes many turns but let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that the choices we make are not the only cause to fail and fall in a rotten circle. Empathy and feeling something rather than indoctrinating online is still what separate us from beasts.
This past month, the subject was in the order of the day here in Portugal. The CEO of a bakery chain (#APadariaPortuguesa) had a rant about taxes and the difficulties of employers, raising hell online with his comments about the working market. One of our most famous, independent columnists (#DanielOliveira #Expresso) put it bluntly when he said that the worst about this was that the antenna time given to this CEO, that he used simply to discuss his personal case, without any view or care about the big picture that I tried to outline in the first paragraph.
The fact is that his company had a 10 million revenue and is reputed for hard working conditions, for disputing extra hours, and a few other facts still unchecked. The thing here, trying as best as I possible can to overlook profit and the greed for more flexibilization (to be read the lessening of workers’ rights), is that he wants more. And maybe that greed, not uncommon in businessman in Portugal, is back firing with many people threatening to boycott his chain in favor of a more traditional bakery, fortunately still around in every corner of our beautiful country.
This centralisation on ourselves, in our story to serve as an example of something is one of the biggest obstacles to fair communication these days. There’s a live recording of a stand up comedy by #TheMontyPython vs. #Rowan Atkinson (Mr.Bean, Black Adder) where they dispute who’s the poorer. The whole I lived in the shoe thing. Besides the fact that it’s a great piece of comedy, it really sheds light about a true problem. The fact that we are so quick to show around our new car, but when it comes to redistribute our profit, we are poorer than a Franciscan.
The life of real people is different. We might tell our own stories and rebel but we still know, and have to know more than ever, the principles of sharing, of living life to the full without compromising it with credit madness. They say the best things out there are for free and we will know it’s not true. Having a choice comes with a cost and slamming the door behind because the boss was an ass is better said than done; yet be sure that we have more dignity in the sweat of our eyebrows than rich people who play poor to get some (more) have in their business ideas, tricks and self-indulgent ties and jackets.