July 8, 2012

Mike Rowe: America Has a Dysfunctional Relationship with Work

"We need to stop hanging labels like 'shovel-ready' on opportunities that can, in fact, yield sixty, seventy, eighty thousand dollars a year."

HT: “We’re celebrating short-cuts.” @ Primordial Slack

Of Anagnorisis and Peripeteia: And here is a longer talk by Rowe from TED (HT to Kevin in the comments.)

From the vid: "And right here, guys; Silicon Valley. How many people have an iPhone on 'em right now? How many people have their Blackberries? We're plugged in, we're connected. I would never suggest for a second that something bad has come out of the tech revolution. Good grief, not to this crowd. But I would suggest that innovation without imitation is a complete waste of time. And nobody celebrates imitation the way Dirty Jobs guys know it has to be done. Your iPhone without those people making the same interface, the same circuitry, the same board over and over - all that, that's what makes it equally as possible as the genius that goes inside of it."

Posted by gerardvanderleun at July 8, 2012 3:29 PM
Bookmark and Share

Comments:

HOME

"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

This speech Mike Rowe gave at a 2008 TED conference is also very, very good, as is this testimony he gave to the House Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in 2011.

Posted by: Kevin Baker at July 8, 2012 3:43 PM

From that TED presentation:

We've declared war on work. As a society - all of us. It's a civil war, it's a cold war, really. We didn't set out to do it, and we didn't twist our mustache in some Machiavellian way, but we've done it. And we've waged this war on at least four fronts. Certainly in Hollywood. The way we portray working people on TV? It's laughable. If there's a plumber, he's 300 pounds and he has a giant butt-crack, admit it. You've seen it all the time, that's what plumbers look like, right? We turn 'em into heroes or we turn 'em into punchlines. That's what TV does. We try hard on Dirty Jobs not to do that, which is why I do the work and I don't cheat.

We've waged this war on Madison Avenue. So many of the commercials that come out there in the way of a message, what's really being said? Life would be better if you could work a little less. If you didn't have to work so hard. If you could get home a little earlier, if you could retire a little faster, if you could punch out a little sooner. It's all in there, over and over, again and again.

Washington? I can't even begin to talk about the deals and policies in place that affect the bottom-line reality of the available jobs 'cause I don't really know. I just know that that's a front in this war.

And right here, guys; Silicon Valley. How many people have an iPhone on 'em right now? How many people have their Blackberries? We're plugged in, we're connected. I would never suggest for a second that something bad has come out of the tech revolution. Good grief, not to this crowd. But I would suggest that innovation without imitation is a complete waste of time. And nobody celebrates imitation the way Dirty Jobs guys know it has to be done. Your iPhone without those people making the same interface, the same circuitry, the same board over and over - all that, that's what makes it equally as possible as the genius that goes inside of it.

And so we've got this new tool box. Our tools today don't look like shovels and picks, they look like the stuff we walk around with. And so the collective effect of all of that has been this marginalization of lots and lots of jobs.

Posted by: Kevin Baker at July 8, 2012 3:46 PM

I'm a carpenter getting a little long in the tooth and it is hard to find young'uns who are adept at simple manuel tasks let alone challenging skills.

Posted by: bill at July 8, 2012 4:01 PM

oops, my faux pas hits the nail on the cabeza. If you want someone to do manual tasks it might have to be Manuel (or Jose or Pedro)

Posted by: bill at July 8, 2012 4:03 PM

The precarious perch of modern civilization sits upon the shoulders of electrical, plumbing, and air engineers. I never want to live in a world without them.

It's why I never go camping.

Posted by: Joan Of Argghh at July 8, 2012 5:08 PM

Putting up Cell phone towers in all kinds of weather? Hard work (a friend of mine used to do that for a living).

Keeping a big coal-fired power plant running? Hard work, in all kinds of seasons.

Repairing power lines after a big storm? In summer, hot exhausting work, with a hard hat and steel toed boots on in 90 or 100 degree weather. In winter, cold and dangerous, up in a bucket truck, 20 feet or more off the ground.

Follow around the guys that pick up your trash. Hard, hot work in the summer. And go visit the landfill that they probably take your trash to. Hard, dirty work managing that. But incredibly necessary to keep a big city halfway sanitary.

And go visit a water waste-treatment plant, another dirty job that can frankly be disgusting, but all too necessary to keep our cities from dying from dysentary and a whole host of diseases.

Posted by: David at July 8, 2012 7:18 PM

Well, no wonder. Kids are shackled by the Labor Department from doing anything like actual work, save for bagging groceries. You need a license to babysit for a couple of hours. My kids couldn't even deliver papers until they were 13, and my 4 year old helped deliver papers, she understood the profitability of getting money at 4!

They have all but stopped teaching actual manly skills, forcing the teens into home economics, which is long on preaching fat and sugar free, and short on actual skills in food prep and comparative shopping.
My husband hired my son-in-law and taught him how to paint, hang dry wall, install electronics, run saws, use a trowel and other things that will keep the boy employable for his whole life.

They don't even teach girls how to sew anymore.

Posted by: Jewel at July 8, 2012 9:23 PM

He should turn down the glib a little - and the 'Barack' familiarity jarred (a supporter?;the second kit would never have passed muster when Shari Lewis was extant, either, but otherwise a couple of excellent soliloquies. Wish there was someone in the UK who could imitate his spiel, as it is equally relevant here.

Posted by: Frank P at July 9, 2012 8:13 AM

American educrats embrace the notion that when something is failing, what is needed is more of it. When Americans were "the best educated people on earth" (Alexis de Tocqueville) school was part time and work was not. Work is where you learn both why you are getting an education, and what its application is.

Posted by: james wilson at July 9, 2012 9:38 AM