When values conflict with paycheques

December 11, 2008

Many of todayʼs youth who are employed work in the fast food industry, the grocery business or in retail sales. These jobs are often taken to pay for food, school and other daily expenses, and rarely, it seems, with any kind of genuine enthusiasm.

Not only are youth willing to take jobs that they hate, but they might also find themselves working in an industry they otherwise speak out against – a vegan flipping burgers, for example, or an anti-sweatshop advocate working in a clothing store.

Cathy Zhao, a first-year University of Toronto student, served fast food in a mall for more than a year. “It sucked,” she says, as she confesses she would take a job that violated her personal views if she needed the money.

For some youth, the minute they put on their nametags, they are swept up into the consumerism that outside of work they might just as easily condemn.

Sue, who asked to not have her last name printed, has been working for a well-known corporate company for nine years, despite her anti-corporate views.

“I believe corporations are the root of all evil,” she says, “but I canʼt afford to look for another job.”

She says that corporations have played a role in war, poverty, even the financial crisis. But she, like most Canadians struggling to find a foothold in the growing void between rich and poor, has had no choice but to protect herself from a personal financial crisis before worrying about an international one.

Both of these people show that in todayʼs consumerist, capitalist society, personal views can sometimes be put on the backburner as youth get caught up in the vicious cycle of “adulthood.”

“It’s about survival,” Zhao says, and in Canada, surviving doesnʼt mean dodging bullets, avoiding religious persecution or having just enough food to live another day, it means having money.

Originally published on thestar.com as part of the Global Voices program

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