Potential and Limits on this “War on Work”

From the mrW Water Cooler

Q: This is my first post ever on a website with my name on it. Hope it works. – Belinda

Hi Belinda,

First of all, you appear to have a pulse and a computer, which makes you part of the “target audience.” Congratulations. Secondly, I don’t plan to “glorify” work. I only mean to suggest that defining it as drudgery is screwing up the country, and wrecking lives.

In light of his recent post, it’s clear that his extemporaneous speech has provoked real action (characterized as both mercenary and missionary), evidencing that citizenship ideals do, in fact, still exist.

Maybe. I hope so. But it might also just mean people are curious to see what the hell I’m really up to. We’ll see.

…this is something near and dear to my heart and I think I could offer a few helpful suggestions.

Thanks – that’s exactly what I need.

Do not frame this campaign as a response to a “war on work.” Historically, when wars were declared on things other than countries (e.g., LBJ’s “War on Poverty”; Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs”), they fail miserably.

With luck, the War on Work will suffer a similar fate. I hope that defining it that way will make people more aware of the “casualties” of the conflict; i.e., the declining trades. It’s a Civil War, as well as a Cold War. And it is most certainly raging.

In short, they are divisive and fail to unify. We can’t be enemies with the people who we want to inspire and whose ideas we want to change.

We can be enemies of an attitude. Specifically, an attitude that routinely disparages a litany of crucial jobs that don’t require a college degree. People are not the enemy – bad ideas are. (You know, hate the sin, love the sinner, etc.)

Within a climate of heightened militarism (currently and historically), the use of war metaphors (enemies, casualties, etc.) don’t resonate well with those who face the material and emotional realities engendered by real war.

If you’re right, wont their anger will be directed toward those influences that have “declared” the war? That’s not me. I’m merely pointing out my belief that the traditional notions of work have been targeted by a lot of influential forces in our culture. I realize that no metaphorical war can compare to the real thing, but the feedback I’ve gotten so far from the military has been both encouraging and sympathetic to the expression.

War discourse as well as discourse regarding wage-laborers and the working class limits the participation of women, African Americans, and immigrants.

Those limits, in this forum anyway, are self-imposed. All are welcome here, and I believe a person’s backgrounds should be just that – background. In terms of advice, you are probably right – reaching out to a group of people traditionally marginalized is a good way to make friends with that particular group. It’s also a good way to marginalize other groups in the process.

I’m trying to be concise (not possible for someone who studies discourse), but in short, while all of these classes of people have historically participated in and constituted our working class (and our militia), they have historically been marginalized in working-class movements, to say nothing of how they’re underrepresented on Dirty Jobs.

I hear you, but correcting or even acknowledging the historical treatment of a particular gender or race is not a position I want to take. That’s the purview of a politician, or perhaps, a union boss. I prefer to try and make the case for the work itself. Because in my opinion, it’s the Work that’s being maligned.

Given that I highly value the inclusion of marginalized voices in this discussion, I suggest discussing jobs that aren’t historically and currently occupied by mostly white men.

I appreciate your view, but to be honest, I do not share it. All voices are welcome here. Those traditionally marginalized are no more valuable than Joe the White Middle-Aged Plumber, (or whatever his name is.) I just don’t care about gender or race.

Mike’s mention of plumbers, electricians, steam-fitters, pipe-fitters, brick-layers, road kill picker-uppers, etc., is significant, but occludes the types of jobs typically occupied by women, African Americans, and immigrants.

You may be right. Not much I can do about history. No offense intended.

Part of the problem is that these jobs might allow someone to make $150,000/yr as Mike suggests, but certainly not the day-laborers picking grapes in a vineyard, the women bagging rice on a farm, nor the women boxing bags of potato chips. Why aren’t these jobs being glorified?

My early comments re: “glorification” aside, those jobs are most certainly featured on the show. And the majority of people doing them are portrayed as cheerful and hardworking, which I believe them to be. That being said, I’m not going to try and convince anybody that day laborers should become the object of envy. Respect – absolutely, but not envy.

Mike limits his discussion to “skilled labor,” trades, and apprenticeships, in so doing, he perpetuates the very elitism he attempts to redress.

The enemy is not elitism. The enemy is stupidity. Dismissing a vast litany of vital careers because they “look like work,” is more stupid than elite. But aspiring to better yourself is neither. A PR Campaign for Hard Work is not a campaign against education. Training and knowledge, in some form or another, is a critical part of most opportunity, and always advisable – always. The Mercenary Position I refer to is rooted in Capitalism, and the belief that wanting to better one’s self is a good thing. Toward that end, suggesting that “Master Electrician” might be a more enviable title than “grape-picker” is not elitism. Suggesting that I am “too good” to pick grapes however, would be.

I realize my comments might be taken as criticism, but again, I believe strongly in engaging, contesting, and refining ideas through the process of debate and deliberation.

I’m glad you stopped by, and appreciate your advice. Welcome.


I fear there’s a very long row to hoe here, Mike. -Grasshopper

The road may be long grasshopper, but the hoes are plentiful, and easy to use. Never fear, there’s one with your name on it.


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