Blue Collar Discovery Exes?

From the MRW Water Cooler

Q: Everyone seems to be knockin’ the white collar guy!

Hi Nat,

That strikes me as a rather amazing observation. Please provide us with a few examples of how white collar jobs are being disparaged. I’m having trouble finding any.

“Don’t we need each other to reach our full potential?”

Of course. I’ve always maintained that blue and white collar should not be portrayed as opposites, but as two sides of the same coin. Have you read something to the contrary?

Rationally, we all know that a healthy workforce needs both blue and white collar workers. The real issue is the shifting criteria for what defines a “good” job, regardless of collar color. In other words, when we think of a “good job,” what do we envision? A welder? A plumber? An electrician? Do we see dirty hands and overalls? Do we imagine a hot stench, or comfortable air conditioning? With respect to work, and in general, do we aspire to clean, or do we aspire to dirty? Better yet, what do we envision for our kids?

For me, that’s the question that really frames the debate, because it forces us to confront our changing ideas of work moving forward. We have always wanted our kids to have it better than we do. Better education, better salary, better opportunities, better everything. It’s natural. But what exactly does “better” mean? Today, in terms of employment opportunities, I believe “better” has come to mean easier, faster, and more lucrative. Two generations ago, a skilled tradesman was a position of envy, something to aspire to. That perception has changed, radically. Unfortunately, it has changed faster than the needs of our infrastructure, and that’s affecting us all.

So the question becomes, what happens if we get what we want? What happens, if our standard of living never goes down, and our kids all have it “better” than we do today? And likewise their kids, and their kids, etc. Won’t we eventually become a country of Ivy league graduates and upper management types? Who will man the sewers? Who will keep the lights on? Who will repair the roads? Who will build the dams? Who will catch the fish? Slaughter the beef? Plant the corn? Who will hang the drywall and mix the cement? Who will build the corner offices? Who will do the heavy lifting, if we marginalize heavy lifting? Why can’t UPS find people willing to unload a truck for 20 bucks an hour? Why are we experiencing a labor shortage and high unemployment at the same time?

The answer, in my opinion, is because our realistic understanding of balance between blue and white collar workers is fundamentally at odds with our hopes and expectations. We need to reconsider our hopes.


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