6 Helping Hands From Groups You May Not Expect
There are certain people in society we expect to be good. Grandmothers at bake sales, pediatricians, Dolly Parton -- of course, those are the good people. But every so often, brilliant beams of wholesome positivity erupt from the last place you'd expect. Like if a volcano shot out bourbon and kittens instead of skin-melting Earth-guts ...
Skateboarders Are Apparently Fixing Infrastructure For Free
The recent remaster of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 has a lot of people in their thirties nostalgically going down YouTube rabbit holes of skate videos and wondering what Steve Caballero is up to.
By "a lot of people" I mean me, specifically.
Simultaneously, decades of trickle-down economics and gutting of public funds has led to collapsing infrastructure across the United States. How are those two sentences related? Because skaters are here to do what city governments won't.
Despite what your parents (and probably police, too) told you if you ever skated, there's strong evidence that skateboarding is good for cities. Besides being both a creative and athletic outlet for people and just infusing a sense of life to public spaces the same way street performers do, skaters sometimes lend a helping hand to municipal infrastructure. In Bristol, UK, skaters turned an absolute trash heap under a motorway (British for "road") into a DIY skatepark. During the X Games' 2020 Real Street Best Trick Contest, Nyjah Houston and his crew went and fixed up Clipper Ledge, a legendary spot that had been unskateable for years. In the same contest, Clive Dixon tightened up some random stair rail and filled in some concrete cracks for the sake of a trick he didn't even submit to the contest. There's even a nonprofit, The Build Project, dedicated to raising money to help skaters build and/or repair skate spots in areas around the world, with the caveat that "no one is trying to encroach on existing efforts."
Look, city governments usually have more shit on their plate than they have funding for or even local willpower to address. Turns out, instead of being the mischief-making rowdy teens they're often stereotyped as being, skaters can help sometimes. Might as well put those Vans-wearing, punk-rock-listening, infrastructure experts on municipal payroll.
There's a CEO Who ... Thinks CEOs Should Make Less and Be Taxed More?
CEOs are, by nature, greedy and exploitative. Even the "good" ones seem to always find a way to profit off of human suffering. You don't get to that level of money and power without a significant helping of unhealthy ego, a side of avarice, and a dessert of narcissism.
Cut to Dan Price, co-founder, and CEO of Gravity Payments, who in 2015 slashed his own salary from $1.1 million to $70k, so he could pay all of his employees $70k a year. His "maybe my org chart is a little unfair" awakening happened when an otherwise mild-mannered employee (making $35k a year) looked mad on a smoke break. Price asked what was wrong, and the guy bitterly told him, "you're ripping me off." After a few dark nights of the soul, Price raised everybody's salary. Employees literally wept with joy.
Since then, he's become a fierce advocate for reducing income inequality, constantly criticizing jagoff CEOs like Jeff Bezos and signal-boosting stories about decriminalizing poverty. Seriously, reading his Twitter feed makes you wonder whether if you've stumbled upon the thoughts of a freshman in college who just finished their first course on Marxism, not a Seattle-based CEO.
Forget CEOs; it's a rare middle manager that'll make a statement like this.
Moreover, the experiment is paying off for his employees, with many doing unheard-of things like shedding debt, starting families, and buying homes. I know it's going to sound weird for our Millennial and Gen Z readers, but having a job used to allow you to do those things. No, no, it's not a joke-- yes, this is a comedy website, but I'm being serious, no, stop laughing, really, I'm serious.
The WNBA Might Be Responsible In Helping Oust a (Terrible) US Senator
The WNBA is an underfunded league, where the average salary is roughly $100k (compared to their NBA counterparts, where the average is $7.7 million). Players frequently have to play overseas to make ends meet, and even then, making a huge life decision like getting pregnant means taking a year off. It's a precarious situation, which is a real bummer: imagine being the best in the world at your profession and being told in extremely explicit terms that you are worth a fraction of what your male counterparts make. Not only that, you're making money off your athletic ability, which takes a toll on your body, and while said male counterparts can afford time off for banana boat-related recuperation, you have to spend your time off in Russia or China putting more mileage on your body. What I'm getting at is this: WBNA players doing anything to piss off the boss is a risky proposition.
That's why it was so powerful when a bunch of Atlanta Dream players showed up to a game in August 2020 wearing shirts that read "Vote Warnock." Who's Warnock? Not many people knew before those shirts, but that would be Rev. Raphael Warnock, a candidate for the US Senate running against Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler is an unelected Senatorial appointee who may possibly have done some pandemic-related insider trading and who for sure doesn't support the Black Lives Matter movement. As of this writing, Loeffler and Warnock are battling in a runoff election that could literally determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate. Oh, and Loeffler is a part-owner of the Dream.
It may be hard to imagine, but Loeffler's whole ... everything ... didn't resonate with a league full of black women, openly LGBTQ women, and women who are extremely underpaid. So players started showing up to games with "Vote Warnock" shirts and stopped saying her name in interviews, leading to Warnock surging ahead in polls for the first time. Not every Senate race becomes national news, and it's hard to unseat an incumbent, even if they're, again, an unelected appointee and COVID profiteer. So these political operati-- sorry, professional basketball players -- using their platform to elevate a candidate like Warnock might have consequences that reverberate throughout the US for six years, minimum. If Warnock can pull off the win in January, he'll have people whose primary goal is to put a ball through a 10-foot tall hoop to thank.
The DSA Fixed a Bunch of People's Tail Lights
Since Bernie Sanders's nearly-successful presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, the Democratic Socialists of America have gotten a lot of attention. Membership is steadily growing, and Congresspeople like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar openly identify as DSA.
All that increased attention comes with some scrutiny, which is easily apparent if you spend 30 seconds on Twitter. Conservatives reflexively burst blood vessels any time they hear the word "socialism." Centrist democrats condescend and scold. It's hard out there in a two-party system. But lost amid stupid Twitter wars is the fact that the DSA does real things for real communities. I know, I know, it's weird that a group describing themselves as socialists would care about social responsibility, but joining DSA requires committing to some sort of action, which is frequently something as vicious and vile and sinister as ... fixing people's brake lights for free.
See, having a brake light out can get you pulled over by the cops, and if you're a person of color, getting pulled over by cops can often mean ... Jesus, it's 2020, do we have to spell it out for you? But, as was a frequent talking point of Bernie Sanders' campaign, a near-majority of Americans can't afford a $400 emergency. Sure, brake lights aren't usually more than $150, but if you can't afford a $400 emergency, you're on razor-thin margins anyway. Why take time off work to go get a brake light fixed when you can just, like, drive more carefully for a while or something? Still, there's that ever-present risk of getting pulled over by the cops, which carries an ever-present risk of death. And the DSA will often just ... take care of that for you.
So the socialist organization often characterized as privileged and lazy election spoilers took meaningful action in their communities. Huh. Weird.
Subway Briefly Became a Grocery Store During the Pandemic
Let's get one thing clear off the bat: the way Subway's smell can linger for half a city block after you pass it is reason alone to classify it as a terrorist organization. Almost all of their meat is turkey, despite being sold as salami or pepperoni. And Ireland recently ruled that they can't even legally call their bread "bread." You don't go to Subway for the taste; you only go to Subway if you're trying to trick yourself into thinking you're healthy because you ordered a bunch of veggies on your $3.99 sodium bomb fast-food sandwich.
But when COVID-19 first hit the United States, Subway tried their hand at semi-altruism. The ubiquitous fast-food spot, the one with at least a big selection of semi-fresh veggies ... started selling groceries. Suddenly, people were able to purchase bulk groceries at comparable prices to supermarkets. It's hard to tell exactly how much an effect this had on stopping the spread of COVID-19, but cutting down on supermarket crowds sure isn't a bad idea right now. Sure, Subway has a profit motivation, but it is the sort of helping hand you simply don't expect from a big corporation.
The Mafia Supplied Tasty Food To Schools in Philadelphia
With all the murder, corruption, and intimidation, it's obvious that the Mafia isn't, say, the healthiest group of people to have in your town. You know what else isn't super healthy? School lunches supplied by cafeteria companies like Aramark. And according to Mat Johnson, a novelist, and Philadelphia native, the mob was much better at supplying school lunches than a corporatized institution.
In what seems to be a literal pick-your-poison story, Johnson grew up when the old school Mafia was being taken down by the federal government and replaced by far more polite yet strangely still-sinister corporations. The tradeoff, I guess, is less of a chance of sleeping with the fishes but a greater chance of coma from the diabetes. The Mafia-backed catering company, according to Johnson, had good bread, local ingredients, and fresh fruit, whereas Aramark came in with processed bullshit (and such small portions!) As it turns out, the Mafia may be violent and dangerous, but at least they can be somewhat invested in their community, unlike corporations, who are only violent and dangerous.
Admittedly, it's hard to source the catering company and their exact Mob connections (prosecutors usually have too much on their plate with organized crime to go after the people making plates), but Johnson was born in 1970 when Angelo "The Docile Don" Bruno was running the Philadelphia crime family. Angelo got that name because, for a mob boss, he sure did hate murder and drugs, preferring instead to solve problems with conciliatory measures and running safer schemes like labor racketeering and loan sharking. You know, the easy stuff. It's not hard to imagine that guy going all Jack Nicholson at the beginning of The Departed and trying to get the kids some decent cold cuts.
Personally, I'd take that over the company that can't even make edible prison food, but what do I know? Nothing. I know nothing. Just in case the Feds are asking.
Chris Corlew was never any good at skateboarding and is constantly beating himself up for not contributing more good to society. He does, however, have a podcast, an album, and a Twitter. You know, things that are good for society.
Top image: BigPixel Photo, Yanik88/Shutterstock