Musings, Thoughts and Creations

written down

Work ethic

on June 4, 2012

At my niece’s graduation party this weekend, Rob talked to an older man who had been a plumber for over 60 years before retiring. He told Rob how his wife complained that he never took a day off. He worked for 60 years and never just took the day off. I’m sure he took vacations, but didn’t wake up one morning, not feel like working and call in sick. Whether this is an exaggeration or not, and whether that’s healthy or not, it’s certainly admirable. He talked about growing up during the depression, and that everyone in his family, no matter how young, worked. Everyone could make a buck here or there to contribute.

That was definitely the work ethic of his generation. My grandfather moved out of his parents’ house when he was 14, and bought a vineyard that he would farm himself, when he was 90. We worked until he just physically couldn’t do it anymore. And I was just reading in the Benicia Magazine about a 93 year old man talking about his life. Same story. He worked until retirement, but then got involved in preserving the history of Benicia. He started the Benicia Historical Society and helped to start the museum. He wasn’t getting a paycheck, but he was volunteering and doing something meaningful.

This generation grew up in a time before the automation of household chores, modern conveniences, and government assistance. They grew up in a time where you worked. You just did. Everyone did.

We have some of that work ethic still. I see mothers who are raising kids with limited help from working husbands, doing household work, running businesses, running social groups. I am impressed by these super moms with an incredible work ethic.

And clearly there are men and women in the world of paid work that put in 12 hour days, then come home and read stories and do the dishes.

So I won’t say that we don’t have that Great Depression work ethic anymore.

But… I definitely see a lot of people who don’t. And I’m not sure who’s at fault for this. The goverment, for creating groups of people that live off government aid with little contribution to society in return. The baby boomers for having an easier life and spoiling their kids. The subsequent generations that spend way too much time in front of a screen.

This is not a good direction to be heading. If we want our country to get out of this economic slump, we are going to have to force people off their butts.

Don’t do away with government assistance, but make people work for it. I think unemployment is the biggest joke. When able bodied 20 year olds with no dependents are collecting unemployment, there is something wrong with that system. So you were a white collar worker who got laid off and can’t find a similarly paid job. Well, there are farmers whose fields need to be picked. There are tables that need to be bussed. No job is beneath you. 100 years ago you would take anything you could get and be thankful for it.

If there are literally no jobs in the town, then by all means collect unemployment and here is a list of community service jobs you can do while you wait for the paid stuff to come in.

So there are no jobs for uneducated, unskilled workers in your town. Well, you can move or you can gain a skill. The government can help you out while you are gaining that skill with education grants or welfare, but only if you are putting in the work.

And our education system needs to change in order to go along with this newer, better America I’m planning, but that’s another post (or 5o) for another day.



3 responses to “Work ethic

  1. Rob says:

    It’s a fallacy to think that the government is the cause of or cure for societal problems like this. Change needs to be bottom-to-top, with everyone on board. It can’t be top-down or bottom-up. How to make that happen is anyone’s guess. I think things just reach a tipping point and everyone’s efforts align to make something happen. We should add Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point to our summer reading list. : )

  2. Jill says:

    It would have to be a pretty big tipping point to get all of us on board. Which is kind of a scary thought. What would be big enough without being totally destructive?

  3. natalie says:

    when you collect unemployment, the amount relates to how much your last salary was. marc was laid off in portland, and to make our mortgage we needed that unemployment he got. he didn’t stay on it for long, but we wouldn’t have gotten by if he had a minimum wage job instead- we would have lost our house. i disagree with you on this one- not that some people are lazy, that is apparent- but that it’s the fault of the government, and that people should be shamed to accept help.

    if these systems wouldn’t have been put in place during the depression, i think people and society would have suffered irreparably. for me, part of the duty of government is to have a safety net for families and individuals- we are a community and should be willing and able to help each other.

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