~On consecutive days I wrote about young men who don’t like to work hard, and on consecutive days I’ve had readers come up to me at coffee to give me a piece of their mind. Young men tell me I’m “out of touch” with what jobs are like these days,
“They are dehumanizing” one young man said
This word “dehumanizing” seems to be catching fire, I’ve received at least 10 emails, numerous comments to my blog, and a bunch of young men at coffee who have each used the word this past week to describe the modern workplace.
Despite all the coffee I drink, sometimes my mind works a bit slow, and when it comes to this term “dehumanizing” I guess I’m not operating on all cylinders because I don’t get what people are complaining about in relation to jobs in the Western World.
In yesteryear, unless you were among the 1% born into aristocracy, the rest of the world all worked in agriculture. In fact, for thousands and thousands of years, the overwhelming majority of all humans worked in agriculture.
Have you ever worked on a farm? I have, and let me tell you, it is not like tending the cute little box of herbs and spices you are growing on your beautiful suburban patio. Working on the farm is smelly, boring much of the time, and a ton of hard work.
The minister I had coffee with every Saturday for nearly twenty years until his death a few years ago, was a lifelong farmer. He inherited nearly 200 acres from his father who was a farmer, and though the farm never turned a profit (he took a financial loss every year) it was in his blood to keep running that farm until the day he died.
I worked on his farm a number of times. I bailed hay, shoveled manure, climbed ladders, and learned that working on the farm was pretty damn hard work.
But for some reason the young men at coffee I’ve been talking to this week seem to think that working on the farm is some kind of male fairy tale fantasy;
“Modern jobs are all dehumanizing, working on farms back in the day was a much better way of life than what we have now. People weren’t bored working on farms, they weren’t dehumanized, they enjoyed life” said one young man who was sporting a flannel Abercrombie shirt, a flashy hip beard, and shiny boots.
Hmmm, hit me over the head with a wiffle ball bat, but I don’t think that young man I was talking to could last a week working on the farm that I worked at; having to get up at 4:30 in the morning, shoveling shit all day, doing the same monotonous tasks day after day after day, and then taking the animals to market and barely breaking even some years and losing money other years.
Anyone who has read the Little House on the Prairie books knows firsthand that life on the farm was long days, often with little reward. There were many years that the farm was barely making it, and Laura’s father had to go work on the railroad to bring money in to keep the farm going.
In the Post-Civil war era, within ten years a great majority of the now freed Southern young men gave up working on farms down South to move north and work in factories. I just finished reading five different history books by professors writing on the subject of sharecropping, free market wage laborers, and the other systems that were in place in the Post Civil War South, and all of the professors remarked, that despite the rough conditions down South that still existed, the masses of young men simply didn’t want to work on farms. A number of the professors argued that in the young man’s mind, “working in a factory was viewed as less dehumanizing then shoveling shit“.
Do you see what I’m pointing out; life is often about perspective.
For the young men of our era, they view all of the jobs available to them in our day as dehumanizing, and they view the jobs of yesteryear (working on the farm) as being a romantic Disneyesque fairytale. Yet for the freed black 20-something of the late 19th century, a job that paid minimum wage up North in a factory where all they had to do was sweep the floor for nine hours a day seemed amazing.
One of the reasons that so many people across the world left farm work during the Industrial Revolution is not because they were forced to quit farming (though some were) but because young men across the globe felt that working on the farm was beneath them; they leaped at the chance to work in a factory.
Young men have always been lazy. It is the real crux of the matter. No matter what the young man’s father did for a living, young men have a built in barometer that constantly keeps their eyes looking over the fence; the grass is always greener.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that feeds and nurtures the laziness of young men. There are very few Charles Ingalls out there who will leave their family for six months at a time to work a grueling job, to save his farm that doesn’t turn a profit, and keep things going.
Show me a young man that will work a grueling job that doesn’t make any money; there aren’t many young men like that who exist in this modern world. However, that is what my farmer friend did until he died at the age of 86 years old. His farm lost money for fifty years, and so he worked a full time job as a therapist for thirty years to pay the bills, and he was also a full time minister for most of his adult life.
“Kenneth, there was a ten to fifteen year period there where I don’t know how I stayed alive. To keep the farm going I had to be up at 3:30 in the morning to get the chores done before I left for my social work job. Then I had to drive home after work, have dinner with the family, and get the evening chores done. I almost never got to sleep before 11pm or Midnight; I literally operated on less than 4 hours sleep a night for over a decade just to keep the farm going” he would tell me. His eyes would start tearing up at this point and he would talk about God’s grace in keeping him going, and he would talk about the sacrifice his wife and children had to make as well.
No, there aren’t many men like that anymore. There aren’t any men who instead of complaining about work being dehumanizing, do what it takes to get the job done.
I think I need a coffee now,
Categories: Culture & Society