Monday, September 6, 2010

What is "Labor" Anymore?

I don’t really know what Labor Day is. I don’t have a tradition of “celebrating” it. Do any of us? What is it to celebrate labor in this age when actual labor is no longer valued? In the U.S. we love the notion that hard work brings success but we all know that real wealth comes from having wealth. Wealth is built through investment, therefore, the only ones who are considered successful are those who have more than they need so that they can invest it and create more wealth for themselves.

In this article on Common Dreams, we see that, for some, greater wealth is created by depriving jobs to as many workers as possible:

Decreed by President Grover Cleveland, Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 following the deaths of several workers in a disastrous “incident” during a clash between striking railroad workers and federal troops.

The creation of a “Labor Day” may have been nothing more than a public relations bandage.

There was a time when unions were seen as supporting the rights of workers. Today, unions are vilified, even by those who could most benefit from an organized movement.

There was a time in which most Americans actually worked with their hands. That time is long gone and that kind of work is no longer honored. In the following, Ralph Nader considers the contributions of those who actually work with their hands, those who actually produce something:

But scarier than devaluing work, are these two stories that I read in the same week.

In this one from the LA Weekly, we learn that more and more women are turning to Nevada brothels to support their families:

And in this story about Montana Fishburne in The Hollywood Reporter, we learn that even well-connected children of privilege are using sex tapes to launch their careers in the entertainment industry:

Over a century since the rise of both organized labor and feminism and this is where we are? Both the poor and the privileged find the sex trade as their only options? In the case of the former, this is sad. In the case of the latter, it’s indicative of how little regard we have for actual work. Why be a sucker by actually working hard for success when one can just star in the equivalent of a porn movie to draw attention to oneself? Even the advantage of having a movie star dad isn’t going to fast-track this woman enough to suit her impatient ambitions.

Given all this, why wouldn’t certain young people sell drugs instead of studying hard and graduating from school?

Given all this, why wouldn’t unscrupulous mortgage brokers talk homebuyers into borrowing more than they really could afford?

Given all this, why wouldn’t certain personalities focus on spreading lies and misinformation if they knew that there was an angry audience ready to lap it all up and make them rich and famous instead of practicing real journalism by reporting facts and providing well-considered analysis?

Are we a lost cause?  Who am I to say?  My wealth accumulation plan/retirement plan amounts to playing SuperLotto.

Enjoy the third day of your three day weekend.


Jan Marie said...

Couldn't agree more.

In today's society those that use their hands are frowned upon. Less people use their hands to work and I sometimes wonder if this is contributing to the obesity problem we have here in the US.

This country's woes could be greatly reversed if we just started making 'things' again. But the people with the cash have other ideas and their idea is to have 2 classes...the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. Once this happens they will make sure that the 'have nots' stay 'have nots'.

We cannot stop this as long as we continue to elect rich politicans who enact laws that aid the rich.

Your post was spot on.

Enjoy your third day off.

Jane @ the girl in the brick house said...

Great blog! I'm your new follower.

Beatnheart said...

Yikes!! on that note please stop by and look at some of the pieces that my husband made by his own hands for his upcoming show. It is being held in Santa Monica and the opening is next Saturday...Would love to see you there...Cynthia and thanks for the birthday shout out!!!

Susan @ Your home, only better. said...

Excellent post. There is a satisfaction of a job-well-done and the ability to support yourself that appears to be forgotten these days. Oh goodness, I'm talking like an old person! ;)

NV said...

Hey, we have the same retirement plan! ;-)

It's hard not to get discouraged given the current state of things. The things that matter so much are devalued so quickly and easily today.

I guess the best that we can hope for is that people really DO try to instill a work ethic in their kids and that said youngsters will be able to find jobs where they can apply it.

TriPhiKip said...

Unfortunately this is the new world we live in and it came quickly. At least for those of us 'of a certain age'!

I took the job I currently have 15 years ago because the overriding goal was to do excellent work. We never considered a project ready until it was right. We were proud of the work we did and stood by it. At the time we were lauded for that ethic.

Now the overriding goal from 'On High' is to produce. Quality is not a factor and we are forced to 'complete' work we know is incomplete at best and doomed to fail at worst. We are told to 'fix it later' but never get that chance because we are constantly 'putting out fires' while siimultaneously producing 'more'.

Where once we were a happy team, now the morale of the wonderful people I work with is miserable. Not a day goes by where I hear many of them say "I hate this job but I've got a mortgage to pay." And I believe the majority of people are even less satisfied with their work life. Truly sad...

Beatnheart said...

Thank you house on red hill for your comment and visit....A trip to Sherry Frumkin Gallery this Saturday would be wonderful as I would get to say hello in person. Thank you so much for your interest..The show runs until Oct.9th so stop in if you are in the Santa Monica area...cheers, Cynthia

Why S? said...

Thank you to everyone. I'm glad we're all in agreement here. I just don't know what can be done. NV, I don't think instilling a work ethic in the next generation will be enough. They'll have to see some external reward or it won't sustain. Intrinsic motivation won't be enough anymore.

Why S? said...

@Jane, welcome to The Hill! I'm thrilled to have you along for the ride.