What Color Is Your Collar and Does It Limit or Matter When Looking For The “Good Life”?

From the MRW Water Cooler

In reading some of your writings I wondered if you feel blue-collar workers are better, work harder or are happier than white-collar workers? Is wishing for a better life for our children limited to one or the other “collars” or is it just the universal hope for “the good life” for our families? — M

The reason I think blue and white are so tough to balance, has to do with he fact that we tend to see them as opposites, like weights on different ends of a seesaw. A healthy society knows that each end needs the other. At the moment, things here are out of balance. There’s too much on the white-collar end. Sixty years ago, there was maybe too much on the other side. Either way, it’s not the right metaphor. Blue and white collar should be viewed as two sides of the same coin. Like clean and dirty. Without one, the other has no meaning.

The desire to want a better life for our kids is not limited to the blue collar set. It’s a natural desire shared by just about every parent I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, it’s not realistic, because our definition of “the good life” is ever changing. Every year, our expectation is primed to anticipate an increase in the overall standard of living. That standard moves with alarming speed. In 1970, a clothes dryer was considered a “luxury.” Today, thousands of families with washers and dryers and color TV’s and cell phones and late model cars are counted as “impoverished.” What we call poverty in this country looks like poverty nowhere else.


3 thoughts on “What Color Is Your Collar and Does It Limit or Matter When Looking For The “Good Life”?

  1. I guess we have to ask ourselves questions about quality of life when we look at work; what it gives us – and what it takes in return. One family I met and befriended while living overseas really made an impression on me in this regard. The male head of this family had achieved a very high rank in management for an Asian automobile company; he worked incredibly long hours, and the family had lived on various continents over the course of about two decades. White-collar work at its best(with all the perks); but at what cost? Long hours, multiple relocations, extensive forced social networking that perhaps left them feeling numb, superficial and disconnected, along with the constant pressure of behavioral expectations – like an intricate, unscripted play. Did they earn the ‘good life,’ money, rank and privilege? Yes; maybe. But were those gains outweighed by the sacrifices overall?

    Too much of anything can become a bad thing no matter what color your collar is, and feeling trapped in one’s circumstances (especially employment) can certainly lead to discontent. That being said, it should not be a foregone conclusion that white-collar work is more preferable than blue-collar work, or visa versa. Still, blue-collar work has been relegated to a place in most people’s minds (and, respectively, their voices) as undesirable, objectionable, and suited best for the ‘less able’ in our society. All of this ~ certainly a complex issue that needs to be addressed from a number of angles! We, as a society have done this; how do we undo it? When will we again say, ‘Hey, that person has a job and is working hard at it. That deserves my respect and admiration.’?

  2. For me, the definition of the good life boils down to one simple question. Do you like what you do? The reasons for liking or disliking a job are as varied as the people who do those jobs. To say that a particular blue collar job is better or worse then a white collar job really depends on the individual. If you can answer the question, “Do you like what you do?” with the word yes, then it doesn’t matter whether it carries the label blue collar or white collar. You are leading the good life.

  3. I think the concern should not be whether blue or white collar is better. The concern should be why it matters. Both are equally important and both should be equally celebrated. Both blue and white collar workers posses skills and/or knowledge that the other does not. A successful company should have to ability erase the divide between blue and white. Unfortunately, for some workers, blue and white alike, this divide can never be overcome.

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