Friday, July 16, 2010

Work As Beneath You

It's a very European notion - that work is beneath a civilized person.  It led to toleration of slavery societies (because, of course, the elite shouldn't have to work - good heavens, it's what God made the "little people" for).  It led to colonial societies led by Europeans, overseeing the labor of the "coolies".  It led to a very leisured society, full of non-functional dress, lengthy meals, and an exaggerated, complicated etiquette.  All designed to demonstrate the difference between those who had to work, and those who did not.  Who WOULD not, lest they lose their social status.

In America, it was always different.  Pretty much EVERYBODY worked.  Only the very wealthy did not physically labor.  Most of those did some work, even if only intellectual or non-manual (lawyers, businessmen, legislators).

Contrary to European tradition, many American youngsters worked in non-school time, without shame (dislike of it, sure, but not shame to be doing "menial work").  In my youth, I worked as:

  • file clerk
  • donut shop retail
  • babysitting
  • yard work
  • waitress
  • bartender
just to name a few of the jobs I've held.  There were compensations - freedom to spend my own money (and make financial mistakes while the consequences were low), pride in earning, experience getting along with bosses, learning responsibility for showing up and pulling my weight, and learning about people whose culture was different from my own.



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