Have We Declared War on Work?

by Owen Sechrist

Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs, did a presentation on TED.com last month.  If you're short on time fast forward the video to the 15:20 mark. I think Mike brings up some insightful points in his presentation. I also think he is still missing parts of the big picture. Many blue collar workers ARE either passionate or at least intensly interested in what they do. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about working in the trades is that you don't have to be very smart to do the work.  I would argue that you don't have to be very smart to perform work poorly.  To truly master a trade, be it plumbing, electrical, carpentry or tilework, requires the same investment it takes to become a master  musician, engineer, educator or corporate manager: dedication, education, experience...and a keen intellect never hurts.  Don't misunderstand me, there are many tradesman who prefer to perform routine and repetive tasks for routine pay, but there are countless others who spend their evenings reading trade publications, researching new products and procedures, and contemplating new paths to greater efficiency and craftsmanship. Secondly, though many earn a very good living working in the trades many workers are struggling to make ends meet in a society that is often not willing to pay for craftsmanship and durability.  This is the financial element to the "War on Work".  Instead of focusing on the pig farmer who was offered 60 million dollars for his business why don't we focus on paying tradesman a living wage for making our houses and businesses beautiful and functional places to live, work, and play? On one point I wholeheartedly agree with Mike: there is a great disparity between the image that many of us have of contractors and manual laborers and the reality of what wonderfully talented and hardworking people most of us actually are.

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