Before I get to the point at hand, I was thinking over the weekend about how and why my blogging output is down (a.k.a. I don't write as much), both in public and in private. Part of me feels quasi-guilty, in that I set this darn thing up so I should honor it with at least some content. Another part of me thinks that it is actually quite wonderful that I don't blog as much, because that means I have other things to do in my life (like actually living it). Regardless, even if I don't post for a few days, I do take some solace in the fact that I can write at any time, for any reason, on any topic here in this place. Life truly is grand.
On to the topic at hand.
Do we even care about labor any more in this country? The people that earn the most in this country fall, in my estimation, into three categories:
Those who "play" for a living.
This includes athletes, actors and other performers. Basically they get to do fun stuff for a living and get paid millions for their trouble. Not a bad big, but not exactly "labor" either. Yeah, I know, jocks have to condition (well some of them do...I've seen pro golfers who look worse than me...), and I know that acting involves long days, but let's be real: none of it is actually difficult labor. Oh, and the payoff is pretty damn good.
(Cut-away: This weekend Penn State won big and Notre Dame lost at home to an un-ranked team. 'twas a good weekend for sports in my book! Let's go Irish!)
Corporate CEOs & Assorted Big-Time Business Types
This includes all those high-level corporate muckety-mucks who make something like a thousand times what the average workers at their firms do. Worse examples are at companies like Walmart, where the average workers tends to qualify for Food Stamps. As someone in the private-sector business world (unlike many conservatives I know, by the way), I get it that these jobs require long hours, smarts and some serious image work. What they don't require though is a hell of a lot of labor. Heck, these are the folks who pay for expensive gym memberships so that they can sweat, mainly because they don't sweat on the job. Do some executives work hard? Sure they do, but I personally don't feel that work is consummate with how much most get paid. Again, not a lot of labor going on here, just big-assed payoffs.
Celebutards, Inheritance Cases and Just Stupidly Lucky Types
This is where I file the likes of every Kardashian (I don't care if I spelled that wrong), the Hilton children and many others. These people do not work for a living, and I don't care how many "businesses" Paris Hilton says she has going at any given time. Zero labor going on here.
How very sad we have become! Well sad in a sense I suppose in that we, as a society, seem to reward so much some that actually produce so little.
On the other hand, there are many who still toil for a living and manage to live a decent life. These are the folks that I suspect John Mellencamp was thinking about when he wrote the line...
...an honest man's pillow is his peace of mind
(from "Minutes to Memories")
This pretty much described my Mom during her working years, by the way. My mother worked her butt off raising her children, and what we learned from that, in part, is that there is honor and decency to be found in hard work. It was what one was supposed to do. Working hard just isn't something that you do in order to pay your bills; rather, working hard is something that you do precisely because it helps define you as a human being. In point of fact I like the fact that I have to work for a living. Now would it be nice to earn some more money? Sure it would, but you know what? In the final analysis. it's not how much you have in the way of money that defines you and determines how happy you are...it's how you view the world that makes the biggest difference in your own personal happiness. This is one of the biggest...all be it indirect...lessons I learned from my mother.
What I learned about labor growing up, coupled with what I have learned...and continue to learn by the way...as an adult can be summarized in a few statements:
You can view labor as a struggle or you can view it as your vocation.
You can envy the possessions of others or marvel in what you have earned (no matter how small).
You can see the future as filled with struggle or you can see it as full of possibilities.
So here's to all those out there who work...who labor...for a living. These are people such as a surgeon in a five hour long operation, a pest control guy ridding a dwelling of termites, a teacher trying to explain why Algebra is an important subject (it is...I use Algebra all the time), a Call Center representative explaining where your check is, those folks who work on a road crew when it is 90 degrees outside, that Compliance person helping you obey the rules, and your friendly neighborhood "pension guy/trainer/organization effectiveness person". Here's to the thousands of vocations, high paid and not-so-high paid, where people struggle because it is the right thing to do and because labor helps define them as persons.
Here's to the glory of labor.