All Work Matters

Without the wealth creator, there would be no investment, and without investment, there would be no jobs.

Without people to manage accounts and investments, businesses would fail and jobs would be lost.

If business leaders truly had only themselves in mind, businesses would fail in record time.

If traders and financiers ceased their proportioning of company value, confidence and investment would sag.

If entrepreneurs lost funding, or lost the business initiative to innovate, industries would fail or be trampled by overseas competition.

If small business owners lost the incentive to hire, or to expand, or to carry on, they would be forced to submit their talent to already thriving industries, and competition would falter.

What would we do without small business owners? They are the connective tissue of our working society.

How would we manage without the best teachers? If it's so awful that the worst, least reliable teachers can never lose their jobs because of Union representation, why aren't we just aiming to change the way that representation works, rather than outright denying these valuable members of society the representation and rights they deserve?

My teachers taught me to care about things beyond myself. I learned to apply myself with subjects my parents and peers had no way of passing on to me. The best teachers weren't teaching to a test. They inspired me to try again if I failed. They taught me patience and discipline. That is a parent's job above all, but as it applies to specialized knowledge, it is a teacher's job as well. That is a hard lesson to impart. They matter.

See yourself as a counselor. You've been trained to impart emotional knowledge, or financial knowledge, to your clients. Each client anxiously depends on you for advice that could make or break a marriage, or result in a legacy for your family that gives them what they need. Imagine the sort of importance they ascribe to your informed decisions and advice, and how that impacts your community directly. You matter.

Imagine twisting a screw thousands of times a day, or filling a tube that same number of times. Imagine wearing a hot suit, breathing through a filter and attaching parts to a microchip, or a car, or testing a tire, or stitching a shirt, or ironing fabric, over and over and over again until your hands are brittle and sore and your body aches. Now imagine doing it all day, every day, for the rest of your life. You matter.

Now imagine doing it without basic human rights. To me, you still matter.

Imagine being a coal miner in Western Virginia. See yourself shimmying through passages, absorbing soot and chemicals in the dark, stuffy confines of a tunnel, hours out of the day. Imagine that each day could leave you trapped, losing air, in a chamber far beneath the earth. Imagine entering that space almost every day out of the year, and exhausting yourself in physical labor. You never get the attention and thanks you deserve, but dammit, you matter.

The Gardener outside your window at 8:30 am sends the dead leaves sailing out from under the fresh foliage and out onto the pavement. His is a whirling dervish of leaves and branches and twigs, which he corrals into a large burlap bag. He snips at bushes; he snaps dead branches off the ground. He has five kids at home. His paycheck is barely enough to feed them, but without it, the system would swallow them up and his family legacy would fall apart. Every time he sees a police car pass his crew, a pang of fear hits him. His work matters.

The top floor executives feel a collective belly rumble at eleven am. The coffee, fresh fruit and lingonberry crepes she brought them earlier that morning weren't enough. The clients demand rose mimosas from that fancy place on the corner to seal the vastly important deal. Without them, the business takes a big hit. The restaurant doesn't open until 1 pm, but she still has to go and pound on the door. The executives can't get down to business without their liquid brunch. She, as always, comes through for them. She matters.

The cab driver from downtown must head uptown after his night shift, and delivers catered meals for business all across the city. If he's not shuttling people to where they need to go, he's feeding them. As for him, he barely has time to sleep more than one or two hours a day. He matters.

The maid dusts the chandelier, sweeps the kitchen, makes the bed, arranges the bathroom, scrubs the toilet, then goes home for a quick nap. She then goes out and does it all over again several more times before the day is through. Sometimes people leave her little gifts, and that is nice. In her exhaustion, she forgets to replace a dust cover and gets a nasty note from one of her employer telling her that she's replaceable.

Despite this, she matters.

The janitor carries a roll of toilet paper across the business park. One of the engineers smoking outside yells at him not to drop the T.P., and laughs. The janitor wonders: if the engineer were carrying a laptop across the quad, would the janitors yell out for him not to drop it? He decides no, that would not happen, and heads inside to scrub their shit and urine out of the grout. He matters.

She stays at home and looks after her child all day. She watches the infant while she cleans and organizes and gets caught up on freelance projects. When she has saved enough to afford more consistent childcare, she is going to get back into the workforce full-time, and make something of herself. After feeding her child, she sits for a brief rest, flips on the television and hears a man complaining about how welfare recipients need to stop being so lazy. She only has to glance at her child, at she bursts into tears of frustration.

She matters.

Work matters. Even when it is painful for some to admit, there is a vital place at the table for wealthy industrialists and investors and business leaders. They are easy villains but they do a service that is impossible to pretend does not exist, one connected with investment capital, job growth, and innovation in the private sector. It matters. The effort can - and does - trickle down.

This effort goes both ways, in fact, but is often rewarded and recognized in just one direction. When you ascribe a greater value to one kind of work than over another, you begin to run into problems. I will admit I harbor greater admiration for those who struggle, because speaking for most of us, that is our story, and we relate to it. Our labor provides a service that matters, that is invaluable, but the value ascribed to our work often devalues our very place in society. We are underrepresented.

For my money, there is more nobility in the tough struggles of working people. That story defines the largest percentage of us. Yes, some small percentage get lucky and retire early, or pay their dues and coast for the rest of their lives, but that is nothing more than a lottery. Who are we to ascribe more value to the work they did, because it resulted in great wealth for a few people?

Most of us struggle for most of our lives. This has always been the case in this country, which is why it's such a relate-able story. We identify most with the least visible, least paid, most taken for granted in our society because that is how many of us feel. That is us. The subtext is that the working class is there because it lacks the innate talent, intellect or value to progress any further in life. No one ever says it, but it's there - in whispers and allusions and a quiet, pervasive bias. Well, I don't believe that.

All work matters.


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