"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, December 6, 2010

We want our jobs to have virtue, but. . .

Vince Bugliosi once wrote about the general level of incompetence around us. His purpose was to help us understand why the prosecution in the O.J. Simpson murder trial seemed to stumble. We shouldn't be shocked, he pointed out.
The famed prosecutor/author pointed out how lawyers have to "think on their feet," and how no two cases are alike.
He asked us to think about the kinds of incompetence we see around us all the time. He talked about contractors who specialize in one thing but who have to be called to come back and get a particular job right.
Let's cut lawyers some slack.
Fair enough, but lawyers get compensated well.
I'm surprised these days when I see indifference or incompetence. I say "these days" because unemployment is high. Everyone says you should be darn thankful to have a job. It's not the kind of economic climate where you expect to see slackers. But it does happen.
I recently dined at a local pizza restaurant, or at least attempted to dine there, and left after an unreasonably long wait. The waitress explained that "a couple of people didn't show up for work."
Bad timing. It was Friday night. Even with a magazine in my possession and my reading glasses at the ready, enough was enough. Kudos to the waitress who was friendly.
We are supposed to covet jobs and yet some people don't seem properly motivated. It makes me ponder the whole concept of work.
I have been out in the wilderness for nearly five years without a true job.
I'm not sure how much true respect you win having a job.
You work because you have to. I'm not sure it bestows any special virtue.
I do know that many of the big wheels in corporate offices don't seem to possess any special virtue. They don't have any special respect for the working class.
It's all about profit margin. When we as a society decide that Wall Street is going to be central to our lives, this is what we buy into. Nobody seemed to argue with it for a long time. People are reluctant to argue with it now.
We see media reports about the growing gap between rich and poor. But there's no real outcry.
People shrug about extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
A Senate candidate who questions the established model of Social Security almost gets elected.
Is it a case of people wanting to sympathize with the rich because we might end up there someday? Or is it a case of common folks being so pummeled and humbled by the business world, we accede to its agenda?
Common folks used to have a fighting spirit. We protected our sanctuary.
Today many of us join the ranks of the tea party. We rail about "European style socialism" as if it's a fate almost worse than death.
The thing I fear is that this argument, so representative of the tea party fabric, might actually be a cover for an undertone of racism. We have a non-white president.
There are aspects of the president's background that unnerve some people. I would argue that those aspects are a red herring.
Too many of us appear to be judging the president not with an objective eye to what he's doing.
I recall the infamous Star Tribune headline, "Parents wary of Obama speech." All the president wanted to do, was give a generic type of pep talk to the nation's youth at the start of the school year.
There was fear that he might project a political agenda. What, politics from a politician?
Even if he subtly reflected an agenda, we must remember he's the elected president of the United States.
The righties will have a chance to vote for Sarah Palin two years from now. We'll see how that goes. In the meantime, we'll all struggle philosophically over whether the very wealthy people should be allowed to stay protected behind a type of barrier.
The rallying cry for that seems strong. But I'll remind you: Barack Obama actually was elected president. Demonized as he is in so many quarters, he won.
The broad populace really isn't wary of him, the tea partiers' whining notwithstanding.
The tea party is regressive. Analogies are dangerous but let's just think about the Confederacy. The Confederacy has a romantic aura about it. Re-enactors prefer being Confederates. Confederate-themed artwork is the most valuable.
There is a very popular country music group called "Lady Antebellum." I was shocked when first hearing that name, because I knew as a Civil War enthusiast that "antebellum" is a term that denotes the pre-Civil War South.
The past is shrouded in a romantic mist. But it's "gone with the wind" as the movie title (and book) proclaimed.
We'll be fortunate if the tea party has the same fate. But right now these people have a fair amount of traction. At its origination it had some positive elements. But then too many of the crazies joined in.
Let's shift from macro to micro: At some point, I will probably have to attempt to re-join the workforce.
My previous gig was in a profession that went into a sudden and rapid tailspin due to technology. Technology and globalization have emerged as huge influences with the U.S. workforce. It seems we cannot even fight them.
But when Labor Day weekend comes, let's try to keep our spirits high. It's a holiday with no formal observance in Morris. Maybe that says something. Many people simply leave town on holiday weekends. It's a bookend holiday for the end of summer. With some luck you'll at least get a home football game that weekend.
I once attended a Catholic Church service in St. Louis Park on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I was the guest of a high school friend. I remember the priest talking about work from a spiritual perspective.
There are times when a spiritual push is certainly helpful for getting through the daily grind.
The high school friend is the same one who introduced me to Catholic bingo when I was young. I experienced this American institution at the fellowship hall (basement) of Assumption Church. I once asked him why the church had no problem accepting non-Catholics playing bingo, while apparently turning them away for communion.
"We'll take your money for playing bingo," he said with a laugh.
I have seen the sobering aspects of the world of work many times over.
A bounty hunter who I once heard interviewed, said the distinguishing trait of criminals is that they "can't take the 9 to 5 grind."
Hopefully one can resist any impulse to become a criminal. But those words rang with genuineness to me. A former general manager of the Minnesota Twins said there are lots of great athletes out there, but the ones who become big leaguers are the ones who can take on "the daily grind."
Women campaigned for years to have equal footing in the workplace. But I could have told them all along it's not all that it's cracked up to be.
A Monday morning status meeting must be a lot like getting waterboarded. Everyone is so cordial with each other but half of them would like to be at each other's throats.
A WCCO Radio personality was once giving advice to a young person on career choice. The advice was "pick something you like, because there will be days when you hate that."
I was in a career that I thought I liked. In the end that didn't do me any good.
Regarding work, forget about the virtue. You can even put the spiritual perspective at arm's length. It's just bare necessity. Watch your back at all times. Remember that the bean counters in some distant place probably hold your fate.
Try to keep your faith in people despite all this.
I still have faith in pizza! Hey, maybe there's a line of work. . .
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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