Fast Company

Politics and Minority Micro-Business Encouragement

When I started my first business, I was five years old.  Five.  I could read and write (not print) by the time I was four.  I learned to write by watching adults and copying their writing, so I also learned to write in different "hands". I read about scribes and realized that the other kids in my kindergarten class were in pretty much the same canoe as the majority of people as little as 100 years before, and that if I made my ability to write available to them, they might pay me for my expertise.

I was right and 26 other 5-year-olds agreed with my thesis, so I was earning $2.60 / week at the ripe age of five.  Big money!  I knew I was "onto something".  It was exciting, folks!

Then the teacher, whose last name was DeBase, (so help me!) found out about my enterprise.  She took me aside and told me that I was doing something wrong.  I knew I wasn't, despite my lack of years in this life, and when she couldn't defend it other than to say, "it's just not done", I knew I was right and she was trying to pull wool over my eyes somewhow.

She insisted I return any money I had (none I would admit to) and apologize to my classmates.  I refused, on the grounds that I had done nothing adverse.  She sent me home with a note.  This was a pattern that set itself in "Quick-Set" concrete and it wasn't long before my shoes knew the way home without me in 'em.

My birth mother and I seldom got along, but she backed me on this..  the foster father saw the entrepreneurial nature of me, but said I had to follow society's rules, and apologize to the rest of the class.  I refused.  We argued this back and forth for nearly a week.  Finally he said that if I didn't apologize, he was going to tan my behind with a belt.  I told him that was child abuse.  He said that didn't matter; someone had to be in charge and adults are, not children, and that was the end of the discussion.

I could tell he meant it, and this was long before the idiocy of social workers trying to run everyone's life, so I gave him my best glare and said, "This apology won't be honest - I won't mean it."  He said that didn't matter, I just had to make one.  So I said, "It will be under durress and coercion.."  He agreed and said, "Just make it so we can go on".  I said, "To what? I'm already so far ahead of those kids they'll never catch up; why don't we just jump me ahead a few grades?"  He didn't care for that either.  As it turns out, it's what should have happened.

So the next day, the parents took me to school; I stood up in front of the class - all of whom were glaring at me, now - and said, "Two hundred years ago, most people were like you.  They couldn't read or write.  People like me, who could, were well-respected and paid for their services.  They were called 'scribes'. Today, busy executives use similar people and call them "executive secretaries". Before the adults pulled the wool over your eyes and persuaded you that I was doing something wrong, you thought what I offered you was great.  You were right!  So - I'm sorry you let the adults pull the wool over your eyes, but I'm not sorry for what I did, because it was just plain old-fashioned initiative and entrepreneurship of the kind that built America. It was honest, inventive, and good, and I deserve reward, not humiliation."

Then I folded my arms over my chest and glared at the adults (foster father, principal, teacher, and birth mother) and said, "And that's as good as it gets!"

The foster father bit his lip and said, "Kid, you're going to be a lawyer."  I replied, "Uh-uh! Lawyerin's dirty.  I'm going to be in business!  Business is fun!"

What this was really all about was the third of my Four Favorite Questions - 'What's really going on here?"  The answer in this case was, "too much initiative for an Indn kid".  I colored outside the lines then, I still do, and I've taught all of my children and grandchildren to do the same. No one can limit you unless you let them, the same as no one can make a doormat of you unless you let 'em.. But there's a right way and wrong way to do almost anything, so simply coloring outside the lines doesn't automatically indicate wrongdoing.

Back then, we dealt in the politics of 'adults' vs. 'inventive children'.  Today, we deal in the politics of 'party', 'ostensible power', and 'wrongly circumventing the rules for personal gain'.  Too bad, because when minoritys decide to build businesses, they don't tend to belong to a political party, and if they do, it tends to be the Democrats, who just aren't 'into' business encouragement and development in the way that Republicans are.

Unfortunately, Republicans tend to take the position that decent pay and working conditions and environmentally-friendly orientations are somehow anathema to "success" in business.  I utterly disagree.  And by the same token, Democrats tend to take the position that 'business' is a dirty word, while 'union' and 'jobs' aren't; and they seem to spend the majority of their energy on forcing businesses to scatter their energies on 'bookkeeping for the government' and regulations that inhibit intitiative in business.

There must be a happy medium between these two perspectives, and in this election cycle, it would be most refreshing to find true bi-Partisan efforts to overhaul perspectives and "policies" (a word I detest) so that 'business' and 'Republicans' are not automatically equated with 'environmental devastation', 'sweat shops', 'assaults on Indn sacred sites' and other repulsive concepts, and 'Democrats' are not automatically associated with 'social workers', 'excess government interference in private matters', and 'totalitarianism'.

When my Pipe took me to the state Legislative Sessions for 10 years, It did so in order to educate people about this, and I was so successful that the diehards among the backward ("conservatives") tried to limit my access to "everybody's citizen legislature"!

Such a change as I refer to above would result in larger numbers of minoritys starting businesses, thus decreasing taxes and welfare, drugs and gangs among youth, and in general improve life for everyone. And we wouldn't have to read nearly as many headlines about CEOs raking in huge salaries and huge-r illicit chunks of their companies' pies, which discourages many people from getting into business on the premise that "it can't be done honestly any more". Hogwash! 

We can go there, you know..  If enough of us decide we can. Those office-holders are not 'gods' of any grade; they are elected, not annointed.  And we are the electors; therefore we are their bosses.  If you have thoughts on this, make yourself heard where the runners are, as well as on blogs like this.  You do that that power.

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