Views on politics and current events

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Old Work Ethic, The New Reality

If you work hard, are loyal to your employer, budget your money wisely, and save all the money you can, you will be able to retire and live out your senior years in relative comfort.

In a nutshell, that is the work ethic that was taught to me and most others in my generation. It is a good work ethic, one that I followed for 30 years of labor in a steel mill. It was applicable during the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, and started unraveling in the 1980's, approximately. The unraveling continues. The Old Work Ethic no longer applies to many.

The economy has changed due to globalisation and many other factors. Loyalty to an employer is still stressed by some, but there is no loyalty returned from the empoyer to the employee. There are more and more people that have to budget money drastically just to lead a subsistent life. There is no spare money for most people to save. Many never get the opportunity to work at a job with decent pay. The plight of blue collar labor and more and more white collar labor is either to be forced to work until you physically can't work any more, or if you do happen to lose a well paying job, it must be your fault and thus you are not a very good prospect to be rehired. In either case, the workplace casts you out like a worn-out machine, and your life gets even worse.

But the Old Work Ethic continues, and is even quite vigorously supported. Sometimes by the very folks that are affected the most by its inapplicability. I have seen the result of the New Reality. Not only in an economic sense, but in a psychological sense. For the Old Ethic implied that if you did not work, you were not a productive member of society. If you worked at a low paying job, you weren't hard-working enough, or smart enough, or ambitious enough to better yourself. And that if you lost a job, it was your fault. Despite the continuing promulgation of these ethics, I do not believe this holds true for all of the millions of people out of work or working at low paying jobs with no benefits.

Until the people affected the most by this Old Work Ethic realize that it no longer applies, it will indeed continue. It needs to be examined, discussed, debated. It is my belief that until these things happen, and that awareness of the issue is increased, labor will continue to falter, politicians will continue to create legislation that benefits the already wealthy minority, employers will treat employees worse than a machine. In the long haul, the very core of what makes The United States great will continue to lose ground. The demise of this country will not come about militarily. It will come about economically. The beginning of that demise has already begun with the minimization of the value of labor in real and intrinsic terms.

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