Romanticizing Manual Labor

In today’s NYT,  White collar workers, thrown off their pace by the economy speak of “getting it real”  by working with their hands.

In the early heady days of renewed appreciation for “meaningful” physical work, of course, there are few on-the-job injuries and bodies have not yet  been worn down.  And, in these times when everyone understands that one’s own fate is  shaped  by things other than one’s innate talent and hard work, there may be less disparagement of those doing physical labor.  After all, in these days, a job is a job.

Yet even though it’s framed within analysis of economic turmoil,  articles like this still imply that one shapes one’s own destiny and the work that one does is a personal choice.

Perhaps, having recently worn a suit to work and to any number of  elegant restaurants after work, one has a different sense of self than someone who long ago was convinced that the best that someone like them could hope for was a life of physical labor.

I want to know not just that some white collar workers have rediscovered their souls by working now with their hands.  I want to know that an exodus into blue collar work is something other than just  another narcissistic move by people who do have exceptional choices in their lives.

I want to see a significant shift in policy, in attitude, in knowledge of the status of workers in this country so that even the pipe fitters, floor cleaners, and landscapers who do not happen to have  degrees in economics are worthy of such curious, respectful coverage in the New York Times.

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