Join 3,431 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I got it wrong about a lot of things, not just the testicles on my chin
December 9, 2009 4:16 AM   Subscribe

Mike Rowe gives a Ted Talk about an epiphany he experienced on Dirty Jobs and what he considers modern American society's war on work.

It involves, but is not limited to, castrating lambs the hard way.
posted by Turtles all the way down (99 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
With your teeth?
posted by awfurby at 4:22 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I watched this a few weeks back, and was once again awed by Mike Rowe's intelligence, charm, and dead-sexiness. Yes, I have a huge crush on him.

I very much agree with him regarding what a piss-poor slogan "follow your passion" is to teach ourselves. It feeds directly into the worst side of the consumer mentality, because it makes your job or your career just one more commodity that you need to shop for to become complete. Being complete isn't about filling empty holes in yourself with off-the-shelf dreams manufactured by Higher Education, Inc.
posted by po at 4:37 AM on December 9, 2009 [19 favorites]


Yeah.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:42 AM on December 9, 2009


But, we've waged this war on Madison Avenue. I mean, so many of the commercials that come out there -- in the way of a message, what's really being said? Your 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. -- Mike Rowe
---
Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined? -- Bertrand Russle
posted by delmoi at 4:42 AM on December 9, 2009 [98 favorites]


Oh, it was with his teeth. Good guess me.
posted by awfurby at 4:46 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Just bite 'em off."

Watching Mike Rowe is always a good time.
posted by bwg at 4:50 AM on December 9, 2009


If agriculture was a net leap in the amount of work humans had to do, isn't the rest of human history since then an effort to decrease the amount of work we have to do, thus meaning that Madison Avenue's not the one driving the "if I didn't have to work so hard" mentality?

But, we've waged this war on Madison Avenue. I mean, so many of the commercials that come out there -- in the way of a message, what's really being said? Your 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. -- Mike Rowe
posted by Captaintripps at 4:56 AM on December 9, 2009


Hang on a ball-biting minute. Is he saying that marketing & advertising types don't have people & society's best interests at heart? I'm not sure I can ever recover from the shock of this stunning revelation. I'm going to have to hide under the bed until spring time.
posted by i_cola at 5:08 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like Mike.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:10 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This was great. Thanks.
posted by lunit at 5:13 AM on December 9, 2009


Hang on a ball-biting minute. Is he saying that marketing & advertising types don't have people & society's best interests at heart?

Probably not in general, but I think I have to side with them against Rowe here. Now it may very well be that these guys enjoy their work. And there are lots of people who do for a living what they would do in their spare time anyway. But there are probably even more people who would do something else.

I really don't think that the vast majority of people only want to spend less time at work because of brain washing by advertising executives. People don't like working. They like sitting on their asses. Or they like working on hobbies or traveling or writing or art or making music or whatever. But they're not doing those things, they're sitting on their asses at some boring-ass office job, or they're working their ass off in a factory or whatever.

In reality it's the other way around. Society has had the "work ethic" deeply embedded into it. It's a social norm that works out really well for the rich who run things and depend on other people's labor, while often doing far less work themselves.
posted by delmoi at 5:18 AM on December 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


i do like that talk. i am surprised it hadn't been on the blue already.

and hooray for enjoying what you do.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:30 AM on December 9, 2009


a lot of the folks he profiles have got to love their jobs, but it is very difficult to buy into the idea that this love is universally held among all labourers, and that's the way his show presents it.

the situation is much more complicated than this, in that we like to work, we like to sit on our asses, we like to get dirty doing productive things, we like to kill time shuffling paper, and we like being creative. all of the above, from person to person, but most of all we like having what we do presented in an positive light on television.

i wonder how he is able to tell when people are happy because they love their jobs, versus when they are happy because they're on tv with mike rowe.

i'm not sure what he's saying is terribly nuanced or useful, the principles are too simple and applied too universally - except when he says that we shouldn't look down on people or jobs that are "dirty". he's completely right in that, almost to the point where i want to completely forget the areas of his reasoning i very much disagree with.
posted by striatic at 5:41 AM on December 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


It all depends on what you think the meaning of life is.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:49 AM on December 9, 2009


Mike Rowe, stop having sex with my wife in her dreams!
posted by chillmost at 5:52 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I admit that I'm not the richest or most respected man in town, but I've gotten a lot of satisfaction from working in a skilled but "Dirty Job" for about three decades. I feel sorry for people who work in an office but dread going into work every day.
posted by digsrus at 6:02 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Haven't yet seen the video, but I have to take issue with delmoi & striatic; I think you've got it somewhat wrong.

I don't know anyone who, given a genuine choice, would choose to sit on their asses or
shuffle paper for a living, if something more interesting and rewarding was available (and paid a livable wage)

To me the biggest problem with work today is that many jobs have been robbed of dignity and respect. For starters, basic, menial work will always be there, but we no longer pay a livable wage for that work, and we have stripped the benefits from these jobs by making this work all contract or temp. Which means those jobs are done by people who will take anything for a leg up (immigrants, illegals) and they jettison it as soon as possible, or the jobs are grudgingly taken up by those who can't get anything else.

Second, all through society there's pressure from all directions for higher education. That's not a bad thing, but it's not necessarily good for everyone's career, and the pressure is mostly towards degrees, at the most prestigious school possible, and a solid professional education (technician, nurse, teacher, chef, etc) is a distant second, and trades are still shunned, though this will be the biggest area of need in the future.

Related to this... where have all the apprenticeships gone? Unions and industry have dropped the ball here.

Finally, I work (when work is available) in advertising... and we have no real agenda one way or the other EXCEPT that you please buy our clients' shit, and if we could do that by praising garbage collection, we would.

I'm still wondering when the 30 hour work-week is coming. Right after the flying car in every garage, I guess.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:14 AM on December 9, 2009 [31 favorites]


Hang on a ball-biting minute. Is he saying that marketing & advertising types don't have people & society's best interests at heart?

The general criticism is that people are told constantly, "Do what you want, do what your heart tells you, follow your dreams," and thus they're either constantly pouring time and money following a career dream rather than a life dream, or feeling crushed by work.

The reality is, as Mike Rowe tells it, that while no one ever dreams of being a roadkill collector or a coal miner, these guys are happy because they see work as work. While they can be proud of what they do, and doing a good job, they're not expecting their job to deliver them tons of satisfaction. The key to happiness, as they say, is low expectations.

Work in America has been propped up to be either a pathway to self-actualization, or something to be loathed, a prison sentence. You're expected to bury yourself in it, be on-call with your Blackberry, and work your way to the top, or else hate it and see every day off as an escape from prison. So, why not treat it as "just work," something to be done because it's just got to be done, like laundry or taking a shower?
posted by explosion at 6:17 AM on December 9, 2009 [25 favorites]


where have all the apprenticeships gone? Unions and industry have dropped the ball here.

Most union construction jobs that I know of still have apprenticeships.
posted by drezdn at 6:32 AM on December 9, 2009


Having been just laid off, and having been preparing to BE laid off for a while, I've actually spent a lot of time thinking about how *I* am *not* my job.

I watched plenty of people work 60 and 80 hour weeks until they worked themselves down to basically nothing, and all for the misplaced idea that they were their job, that it was their identity. Look, I loved my job. I am good at what I do. But I am not under the impression that my identity is or should be my job. Work is work. You are you. Your work may be important to you, but don't make the mistake of conflating the two.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:32 AM on December 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America has great insight on the symbiotic relationship between modern corporate culture and the self-help/motivation industry.

It won't turn you into a Rand-level asshole, but I'd think twice about reading the book in the middle of holiday-party season.
posted by djb at 6:38 AM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Haven't yet seen the video, but I have to take issue with delmoi & striatic; I think you've got it somewhat wrong.

I don't know anyone who, given a genuine choice, would choose to sit on their asses or shuffle paper for a living, if something more interesting and rewarding was available (and paid a livable wage)


How does that disagree with what I said? The reason people do these paper-shuffling jobs is that those are the jobs that are available. Blue Collar jobs often make more then low-end office jobs these days, but not everyone is in good enough shape to work in a physically demanding job.

I think physical labor can be more satisfying then a tedium office job. Really it's a balance of tedium, physical discomfort, and mental frustration that makes work suck. Someone who has a job that's low in all three will probably be pretty happy. Someone who has a job that's high in any will be miserable.

And of course, it's not the same for each person. One-person physical discomfort might not bother someone else. (A fat person can't stand all day; someone with back problems can't be doing a lot of lifting, etc) One person's tedium might be a chance to zone out and daydream for another person. And what's frustrating for one person might be a fun challenge for another.

My point is that "Idleness" isn't really idleness. It's a chance to do whatever you want. Some people might just plop down in front of the TV or surf the web all day, but others will have a chance to create and do what they want.
posted by delmoi at 6:46 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, we've waged this war on Madison Avenue. I mean, so many of the commercials that come out there -- in the way of a message, what's really being said? Your 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. -- Mike Rowe

Well, for a lot of people, this is entirely the case. A lucky few live the dream, doing what they love, while others grow to love their jobs. In between these two groups, you have everyone else. You make trade-offs as you approach adulthood, settling for a job that, while probably enjoyable, might not have been your lifelong dream. There were creative or just fun endeavors you used to pour your heart and soul into that have to take a back seat now to your 40 hours a week. For these people, yes, your life really would be better if you could put less time into work. It's not a war on work; it's a war on drudgery.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:48 AM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Work is work. You are you. Your work may be important to you, but don't make the mistake of conflating the two.

Well, that's indeed a very good point, but also, don't make the mistake of assuming that it will be easy to keep the two from being conflated. Ours is a society that encourages and rewards the conflation of the two and has for at least 100 years. Standing apart from that impulse is exceedingly difficult, and my hat is off to anyone who is confident and self-aware enough to do so, especially in times like these.
posted by blucevalo at 6:50 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not really sure how to accept this lecture as a whole; the minor parts are so often at odds with one another.

Follow your passion... it's probably the worst advice I ever got! Follow your dreams, and *go broke,* you know? Bob Coames, the pig farmer in Las Vegas, who collects the uneaten scraps of food from the casinos, and feeds them to his swine. There's so much protein, [...] that his pigs grow at twice the normal speed, and he is one *rich pig farmer.* [...] He's making a great living. If you ask him 'did you follow your passion here,' he'd laugh at you.

He didn't follow his passion, he stepped back and watched where everybody else was going, and he went the other way.


Got it. Innovate, and follow the money.

Those people who pick up roadkill whistle while they work... They're the happiest people I know.

I wouldn't suggest that the tech revolution is bad. Not to this crowd. But I would suggest that innovation, without imitation, is a complete waste of time. And nobody celebrates imitation. [...] Your iPhone, without all those people, making the same interface, the same circuit boards.


Got it. Imitate, and pursue happiness.

We have declared war on work. [...] We've waged this war on Madison Avenue. What's really being said? 'Your 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'

Got it. Our work ethic has been eroded by Madison Avenue; we're too complacent.

How many people here have their iPhones on them? I mean, we're plugged in, we're connected.

Um. Got it? We work altogether too much. We never punch out.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:51 AM on December 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


blucevalo, the funny thing is I think that "in times like these" it's incredibly important to know the difference between your own identity and your work identity. You're going to have to change jobs. You're going to have to be willing to move around, maybe be doing not exactly what you were doing before, doing whatever it takes to make money, make ends meet, whatever. I'd say it's more important than ever to know that you are you and work is work.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:04 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Medieval Maven: I watched plenty of people work 60 and 80 hour weeks until they worked themselves down to basically nothing, and all for the misplaced idea that they were their job, that it was their identity.

This is a good point and underscores the difference between a job and a profession for those who derive a great deal of their identity from their work. If you're a doctor working in a hospital and you get laid off, you're still a doctor. Not only are your employment horizons broad, but you're not beholden to your employer for your title.

Now, if you're a salesman or a truck driver that gets laid off, you're not a salesman or a truck driver anymore from the moment that pen signs the pink slip.
posted by dr_dank at 7:10 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've been thinking (half-arsedly, admittedly) about apprenticeships and higher education for a while. While apprenticeships still exist in areas like construction and plumbing (and pay reasonably well for what is a training period, from what I understand), we seem to have lost the idea of apprenticeships in other areas, especially but not limited to white collar work. In this context I take apprenticeship to mean a period of on-the-job training and learning sponsored by a company or union that pays enough to get by on while the apprentice gains the necessary work related knowledge to be a useful member of that profession.

Instead of apprenticeships, people with aspirations to many professions are now expected to pay out the wazoo for a college education that is supposed to, on some level, train them for work. We've switched the burden from the employers to potential employees. As an example, do accountants and computer programmers really need to pay for a four-year education that provides them with some job training but much that is extraneous? I'm not arguing and don't believe that college doesn't have other benefits, but making it a de facto requirement for many jobs places a tremendous burden on the potential employee.

Not only that, we've managed to make higher education responsible for both job training and self-actualization. Come to think of it, maybe that's part of the marketing for higher education. Come to college, you'll get job training, become well-educated, and find your path in life! And by investing all of this time and money into college in order to get a job upon graduation, it probably makes people more likely to conflate their work with themselves and their jobs with their lives.

Of course, this isn't true for everyone, and the college experience can provide more than just job training. But it seems like many people are ill-served, on the whole, by being forced to pay for the training (through college) of a job they think they want to have.

On preview - dr_dank makes an interesting point about professions. So are we paying for college for the chance to enter a profession versus having a job? And how does that work out for most of us?
posted by mollweide at 7:15 AM on December 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I may have a desk job, but at least I'm not castrating lambs with my teeth.
posted by mrbill at 7:27 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


(I do, however, admire and respect people who do)
posted by mrbill at 7:28 AM on December 9, 2009


Where have all the apprenticeships gone? Unions and industry have dropped the ball here.

Industry definitely has gone off the deep-end when it comes to lack of training. Simply put, businesses no longer will train someone to fill the available position, blue or white collar.
I can't tell you how many factory jobs I see listed in the local paper that linger for months. In this economy, I would expect such jobs to be snapped-up in a matter of hours, but they stay listed for weeks at a time. The only reason I can see is that the listings universally require a person to have 3-5 years experience on this particular machine using this exact software package. Requirements so specific that one imagines that the only person in the area with that exact combination of skills was the very person who left the job in the first place. So, the job remains vacant.

White-collar jobs are just as bad, except they load the ads down with prattle like "hit the ground running" or "self-starter"...codes for "we will not train you. You figure it out"
posted by Thorzdad at 7:30 AM on December 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Too much generalizing and projecting.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:42 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


blucevalo, the funny thing is I think that "in times like these" it's incredibly important to know the difference between your own identity and your work identity.

I don't disagree with you, and apologies if it sounded like I did. But I do think that my point is still valid: whether it's "times like these" that we're talking about, or whether it's times when we're living off the fat of the land, the United States is a society that rewards, encourages, and pushes conflation of the identity that is "me" and the identity that is "my job." It is exceptionally difficult to separate the two. Not impossible. But exceptionally difficult. Not for everybody. But for a lot.
posted by blucevalo at 7:44 AM on December 9, 2009


1. Some people have on overriding desire to do a particular thing in life; others can find multiple things that make them happy.

2. Even your "passion" job will contain some drudgery and boredom.

3. College is vastly overpriced and for most professions, about 3-4 years too long. Apprenticeships and paid internships would be considerably more useful for most people.

4. 40 hours a week is an arbitrary amount, and most jobs could be either more flexible (during slow seasons, giving more downtime) or simply get the same work done in fewer hours. My job in particular could be done in 20 hours or less a week for about half the year.

5. Paying people per hour, as a consequence, creates the need for busywork or posting on Metafilter. Pay them salaries and give them raises based on their productivity (do they accomplish what they're assigned to do, are they competent), not how many hours their butt is at the workplace.

6. I am going to strongly encourage my son to pursue a trade or any other possible non-college path unless his chosen career makes a certain degree absolutely necessary. There are enough paper shufflers and unemployed PhDs in the world.
posted by emjaybee at 7:44 AM on December 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


mollwelde,
I think college functions more as a filter than anything. College is expensive and time-consuming for everyone, but it's a little more expensive and time consuming for people who aren't independent, self-motivated, intelligent, etc.

College makes way more sense if you view it that way. If you don't go to college, you're indicating that you weren't willing to bet 4 years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition money on your own career success. If schools were easy to get in to and cheap, they wouldn't provide that filtering service to employers.

This explains why the "best" colleges are staggeringly expensive, why online and night schools are derided by employers, why an English degree and a mechanical engineering degree both take 4 years even though the latter is vastly harder, why so many office jobs require a degree but don't care which one....
posted by miyabo at 7:45 AM on December 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thorzdad:I can't tell you how many factory jobs I see listed in the local paper that linger for months. In this economy, I would expect such jobs to be snapped-up in a matter of hours, but they stay listed for weeks at a time

Much of the time, HR has their own agenda for these postings. In the case of industry/engineering type positions, they use these "unfilled jobs" as satisfy the laughably low burden of proof that you tried to hire an american worker before importing an H1B at a fraction of the price.

Other times, these postings become a sort of smokescreen/lawsuit insurance when they hire the CEO's dimwit nephew, but must go through the charade that makes it look like they had a fair and competitive process.

At my old job, the company set up shop at a college internship fair doing on-site interviews. The trouble was that all of the summer internship slots were already promised to children of upper management. They interviewed kids all day who never had a prayer of getting one of these internships.
posted by dr_dank at 7:50 AM on December 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


miyabo, I disagree, somewhat. College is a filter, but I think it's an arbitrary one; HR departments can use it as a handly way to weed out applicants, because of the prejudicial assumption that college educated=smarter, better, employee. (HR departments in my experience usually being the least-qualified people to determine whether Applicant A can actually do Job B. But I digress.)

It is also a privilege-filter; if Potential Boss went to a particular college, then an applicant from that college has a potential advantage. Hook 'em Horns and Gig 'em Aggies and whatnot. If it's a prestigious position, say a Washington think-tank or the Mayo Clinic, then the chances are higher that the school in question will be an Ivy League or similar. People like to hire others like themselves.

Again, this may have little to nothing to do with an applicant's abilities; in their defense, though, the actual ability of a particular applicant to do a particular job is really difficult to determine via interview and resume. Some awful employees interview quite well and have good credentials. So interviewers tend to look for any feeling of connection that makes them feel good about the applicant.

The value of a given degree really depends on the value the potential employer gives to it; some employers went to Low Level State College, and don't really care. Some didn't even go, or went to night school themselves and think people who went to hoity-toity private schools won't respect them or be a good fit.
posted by emjaybee at 7:58 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is, I believe, the heart of Mr. Rowe's point: "For starters, basic, menial work will always be there, but we no longer pay a livable wage for that work, and we have stripped the benefits from these jobs by making this work all contract or temp. Which means those jobs are done by people who will take anything for a leg up (immigrants, illegals) and they jettison it as soon as possible, or the jobs are grudgingly taken up by those who can't get anything else."

We as a society depend on manual labor and menial jobs. The types of jobs worked by the people that pick up our trash, clean our floors, sweep our streets, keep our power plants running, recycle our junk, harvest our food, produce our goods, and so forth. These are arguably the most important jobs in existence, because nothing else wold get done if these jobs weren't being performed first. I wouldn't be on my computer, you wouldn't be driving your car, nobody would be using an iPhone, because all of that would break down in absence of these jobs.

But we don't tell people to value the jobs. Nobody wants their kid to aspire to some day be the night shift janitor at the steel mill. No one dreams of ending up as a pig farmer. We think of these jobs as the kind of thing you end up doing if you aren't smart enough or talented enough to do anything "more important" or "better". We put almost no importance on manual labor in modern society, even though modern society is built on a foundation of manual labor. The fact that we have spent the better part of my lifetime slowly exporting our manual labor overseas is probably a large part of that: We are turning into a service society, we don't see the factories and workers that produce most of our goods any more; at best, we see the people operating the vehicles that deliver our goods, and that's the closest most of us come to interacting with the manufacturing process. Precisely because we do not have a strong manufacturing base, we as a society do not see entry into this type of work as a viable option any more. A few decades back, a high school diploma could land you a steady job building cars. You would work your ass off and end up with a pension. It wouldn't be glamorous, but you'd have a steady living.

Now, you need to be in school until you are in your mid- to late-20s just to have a shot at applying for a job with the same basic pay scale and retirement options, but you're highly unlikely to spend your entire career in that position, and you are more often than not going to be working at a desk pushing buttons or paper. Your only real manual labor is going to be done at home, in your yard, during your time off. And in many ways, that's a shame, because it makes us feel like we're "better" than the people who didn't go to college, who don't have fancy degrees, who don't spend their evenings working on projects and deadlines and research that couldn't be finished during the workday. But while I'm still pushing paper, those guys are at home having a beer and watching TV with the family. What does that say about us?
posted by caution live frogs at 8:06 AM on December 9, 2009 [26 favorites]


If you are a blue collar worker, or are in some service industry, you will be treated with real disdain by people who are not blue collar workers, or who are not in some service industry.

Maybe not disdain, I don't think that's the right word. Not contempt, either. I don't know right now what the word is. The fact is that you are invisible. You don't count. You are overlooked. Okay, here it is -- if you say what you think on some issue, or what you believe -- that is when the disdain is shown, and the contempt. It's like "Humph, what do you know, you're a ________ (enter whatever there; carpenter, waitress, the guy who bites the balls off of lambs, etc), why should I pay you any attention?"

Blue collar guy joke: Difference between a cactus and a Mercedes? Cactus, the pricks are on the outside.

Song: "If I were a carpenter / And you were a lady / Would you marry me anyways / Would you have my baby?

Unspoken response to the song: Marry you? No fucking way. Go bite the balls off a lamb, get the fuck outta here.

Where was I headed with this? I'm not sure myself...

hmmm...

I'm from a blue-collar family, I've been a carpenter, a sheet metal shop guy, a heating and A/C installer, a roofer, a drywall guy, blah blah blah, on and on. I've built cabinets and houses and stores, worked on high-rises, worked on cars, too, and trucks, blah blah blah.

Then -- drum roll -- I trashed my back.

Became a mainframe computer programmer, worked for banks and insurance companies and whatever, saved the world from Y2K, worked in management in high tech field here in Austin, instead of work jeans and boots that I got filthy I wore suits and wing-tips with those little tassels on them that you see those mopes wear, I had jobs where I had a card I could hand out to people, I had clean hands, blah blah blah.

You wouldn't believe the difference in how people treat you. You just can't imagine, not unless you've been there.

It's really schitzy -- I'm the same guy in here, I'm watching all this come down, it's comical, but it's not funny at all.

Sum: It's bullshit. People in jobs that are needed, doing work that you need performed using skills you don't have, skills worth as much or more as your skills are, get treated like second class citizens. You begrudge them the same money you make, you'll make snickering remarks about how plumbers are making $125 or $150 or whatever an hour -- well, aren't you?

Remember, out of that money you paid him he's got truck notes, insurance -- you did want a guy that was insured, remember? -- ladders, torches, hammers, wrenches, new jeans cuz he tore his others yesterday hauling some garbage out of the way in your crawlspace, he's got to have gone through years and years of training -- and please don't bullshit yourself that it's harder to be a programmer or an accountant or a lawyer or whatever, I've been there, it's like kisses from a pretty girl to go to college compared to slogging through the mud carrying tools when you're the apprentice, that apprentice has got TONS of stuff to learn -- and he's running a business, all facets of it, long hours, on and on. He wants to send his kid to the dentist, the orthodontist. You begrudge him the bread? Come on.

The TED talk was right on the nose.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:11 AM on December 9, 2009 [65 favorites]


I may have a desk job, but at least I'm not castrating lambs with my teeth.

Indeed. I don't love my desk job, but it pays a whole lot better and gets a whole lot more respect than any of those model-shop machinist jobs I used to work at. Plus I go home at night without metal slivers in my hands.

Almost every time I watch Dirty Jobs, I find myself saying "Boy am I glad I don't have to do that for a living." The people who do those jobs may be satisfied with them, but I mostly wouldn't be.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:11 AM on December 9, 2009


It's better to be educated and more in charge of your time and projects. Just being able to have your own budget and not having someone hassle you about clocking in or time sheets makes a world of difference over being a drone at the bottom. When I had my first promotion and was then given more leeway to bring my ideas to the table, it was like climbing out of the underbrush and into a higher vantage point. Why settle for being a robot? Some people don't like their office job and think that the grass is green on the other side, and that the people there are some how more noble, and that's fine. But to say we shouldn't try to pursue a vocation we enjoy and just be a 9-5er is kind of a drab outlook.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:23 AM on December 9, 2009


explosion: "Work in America has been propped up to be either a pathway to self-actualization, or something to be loathed, a prison sentence. You're expected to bury yourself in it, be on-call with your Blackberry, and work your way to the top, or else hate it and see every day off as an escape from prison."

And these two are not mutually exclusive. I've known people who seem to be in both boats at the same time.
posted by brundlefly at 8:29 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Almost every time I watch Dirty Jobs, I find myself saying "Boy am I glad I don't have to do that for a living."

All I think is how I'm totally replaceable at my office job. Anybody with a high school diploma could do what I do. At this point, I don't give a crap what other people in this country think. The regular people think I'm stupid because I'm not white and are surprised that I speak English when I open my mouth.

The richer people...well, I did all the schooling that makes well-heeled people go, "Wow" and it feels depressing sometimes to realize how cheap that admiration really is. I went to prestigious schools, but once I got into those programs (social sciences), they weren't hard. Everybody did really well with a minimal amount of work. If I were to be completely honest, it is just not hard to do well in a lot of programs. It doesn't require that much effort, just patience. So now, when people go "Wow" when they find out the degree programs I attended, it's really just superficial admiration. They don't admire me. They admire that I was lucky enough to borrow my way into getting a fancy master's degree that didn't require as much effort as the school it comes from would suggest.
posted by anniecat at 8:32 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


We as a society depend on manual labor and menial jobs.

I couldn't agree more, and this is why I'm not making a distinction between "menial" and "professional" jobs, but rather, between work we do because we have to (with varying levels of enjoyability) and work that happens to be our passion. Blue collar work and living the dream aren't entirely mutually exclusive, after all. I've had friends who aspired to be their own furniture upholsterers, to repair cars, to become electricians. There is an overlying assumption that these people are just not smart enough or not ambitious enough to do white collar, scholastic or professional work, definitely, and it's an attitude that should change. Not everyone can live the dream, due to logistics and other reasons, but doing what you love, wherever that profession lies, can only be a good thing, yes? If Rowe is saying we need to respect the blue collar professions more, I can definitely get behind that. But as has been pointed out, his delivery is scattered and pretty confusing.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:39 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Song: "If I were a carpenter / And you were a lady / Would you marry me anyways / Would you have my baby?

Unspoken response to the song: Marry you? No fucking way. Go bite the balls off a lamb, get the fuck outta here.


Completely anecdotal, but at least two of my friends who have fancy educations have married men who are skilled workers rather than educated office types. I have no idea why, but my theory is that the educated office types they happened to date weren't really up for long-term commitment and weren't into the traditional family life the women craved. At this point, the ladies (the ones who aren't going after athletes) are marrying any guy with a good character willing to love them and commit to them. Maybe not the sexy models catwalking on the streets of NYC, but given the number of women who are subsidizing their boyfriends' music career, a carpenter would be welcome.
posted by anniecat at 8:39 AM on December 9, 2009


Man, all you guys who are glad to have office jobs...I hate my read-metafilter-between-bouts-of-emergency desk job. When I built car washes, up on ladders, *building* something, freezing or sweating my ass off? the guy I worked for was a hall-of-fame-level asshole (same here in the office), but it was *fun*.
posted by notsnot at 8:49 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I picked up what I though was a how-to book on operating a machine shop, and it was, but it was also the reminisces of a man who spent his entire life perfecting his trade. His work required as much, if not more, thought and concentration and attention to technical detail than any "knowledge worker" position, and he needed good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity and a strong grasp of geometric formulas on top of that.

Yet, he's "just" a machinist...

Not enough respect is given for a hard day's work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:50 AM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


anniecat: ", a carpenter would be welcome."

What's you phone number?
posted by dancestoblue at 8:59 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


your phone number

and just kidding around...
posted by dancestoblue at 8:59 AM on December 9, 2009


mollweide, I disagree that (most) four-year college degrees are designed to be job training at all, and wish that universities and everyone else would quit perpetuating this idea. Self-actualization and intellectual training, yes. Job training, no.
posted by desuetude at 9:00 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lou Reed:
These assholes wanna treat me for a book that's about cripples?
I'm the best qualified person to write a book about cripples in music?
Kill yourself man, that's better than be a garage mechanic, I think
As long as I keep thinking that, you know, and why, what's the truth I keep saying the Genie will appear and say:
"hey, schmuck! It was really groovy all the time being that garage mechanic out in Islip",
and I'll say "Oh, wow" Why didn't you tap my on the shoulder earlier,
because you wouldn't have listened,
fair enough
posted by morganw at 9:06 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been on both sides of the fence...*and* walked away from a stressful, Peter-principled deskjob to go back to a labor position, where I just slept better at night. But learned what the difference was.

I then thought to re-define my vocational expectations according to what I define as job satisfaction, and went back to school.

The result I discovered: Technical work happens to be perfect for me: laborious enough that I get to use my hands to fix hardware problems, and technical enough that intellect and smarts to work out the occasional abstract solution.

Our culture truly could not function without those who perform dirty jobs, but I'm always secretly hopeful that folks whatever their career strata, are satisfied, and their needs are met.

I particularly resist the idea of the "menial" job - I look many kinds of workers in the eye everyday when I say 'thank you' for a service, and it's usually from a perspective of complete empathy.
posted by uncorq at 9:06 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


My overriding goal in life was to never, ever have to set foot in an office*. It's working out okay so far.**

* Unless that office is set in a madcap comedy in the 40s. I can get behind that.
** Edmund White had an aside in "States Of Desire" about a lot of the gay men he knew where going into blue collar jobs. I wonder how that might have changed the stereotype or landscape if AIDS hadn't killed off an entire generation

posted by The Whelk at 9:08 AM on December 9, 2009


College is just a method to prove that you have the means or inclination to stick to something for a few years. Another method is to start at the bottom and work your way up.

Personally, I never held contempt for non-college-educated workers. My father was one. The technicians I work with are usually either veterans or started at a construction job right out of high school. A lot of the time, they can do the same work I do. They spent 10 years learning the ropes, and I spent 4 years proving that I could learn the ropes, and a lot of other things besides.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's because I read the subtitles instead of listening to the audio (to what seemed like a very entertaining talk), but the whole thing seemed juvenile and naive.

Can someone really be that amazed (at that age) that they get things wrong? Everyone gets everything wrong.

I second kid ichorous. Rambling blather. Do we need more protestant-work-ethic bullshit?

I think he's right about focusing our work around essential infrastructure (if that was one of his points), but overall our society works far too much. We are destroying our planet with our work.

I feel sorry for people who work in an office but dread going into work every day.

Just to offer a counteropinion, I've had office jobs, and I've had manual labor jobs. It's true that I don't like coming into the office, but nothing fills me with dread like showing up every morning to the construction site/lumber yard.

For those of us who want to work as little as possible, office work works. If we're lucky, we can watch YouTube, share music, play Flash games, and kill time here. It's also much easier to SMASH THE SYSTEM FROM WITHIN!

MetaFilter: Too much generalizing and projecting
posted by mrgrimm at 9:23 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I may have a desk job, but at least I'm not castrating lambs with my teeth.

I have a desk job too, but you can buy a pair of my signed, limited edition lamb's testicles on Etsy.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:24 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


College is just a method to prove that you have the means or inclination to stick to something for a few years. Another method is to start at the bottom and work your way up.

That sort of depends. If you want to be a lawyer, doctor, or nuclear physicist, college is essential. You cannot apprentice to get a medical license, (though you can become a laywer that way in some states), and you're not going to learn nuclear physics outside of an educational setting.

But for most of our jobs, yes, college is completely useless. I remember thinking about my first job: "I could have done this job straight out of high school. I could have done this job while I was in high school."

To be honest, your college degree says absolutely nothing to me. It says you had at least a rudimentary education and enough money (or enough debt) to pay for college.

I do agree with desuetude, though. There are lots of benefits of higher education outside of job training. I learned quite a bit in college.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The purpose of a liberal arts education is not to make a good worker, it's to make a good citizen. I have an engineering degree, and I don't use 95% of the course work for my undergraduate degree. The same is true for doctors, lawyers, and yes even nuclear physicists. Even for "professional" degrees, most of the course work is meant to teach you how to learn.
posted by muddgirl at 9:44 AM on December 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I thought mrgrimm's comment about office/manual labor comment was right on the money.

Do I like Mike Rowe as a TV guy? Sure, he's personable and entertaining.

But to mrgrimm's point, this whole nobility-of-working-with-your-hands, puritan ethic stuff is part of the problem, in my take.

I graduated with honors from a good MCB program- my first job out of school was hauling rocks for $11.00/hour. This was an improvement over an entry-level PCR gig at $8.72.

I ended up working in tech, where I am perfectly pleased to sit in a comfortable office and shuffle bits. I work with folks having Ph.D level CompSci credentials, and I work with folks who were entirely self taught. There is literally no difference in terms of quality of work, ethic, or learning capacity.

So I'd agree that yeah, higher education (outside of professional disciplines) is largely a tool to simplify hiring for corporate HR-types. That doesn't mean that manual labor is surrounded with a soft-focus glow of honor and dignity.
posted by mrdaneri at 9:48 AM on December 9, 2009


I am a big fan of Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs. Not so much his crusade on behalf of the workingman. He's right about a few things: not everyone can or should chase some illusory calling and there is a fair deal of value in honest work. But a man who gets paid a fair (and undisclosed) chunk doing voice-over work, pretending to do manual labor for a few hours at a time, and hawking overpriced pickups—and who made his start in the Baltimore Opera for (I'm paraphrasing) his actor's guild card and the chicks—rings a bit hollow preaching the virtues of unexciting physical labor.

Plus, I totally would be happier if I could work less or retire earlier. Although I'd spend my time doing something else at a high amateur level. And this is not a marketer's sown dream; I've hated working since I was a little boy.

Plus—ask those people Mike works with every day. They work because they have to. They do something they're good at and they slipped into, and they'll continue because they're good at it and it's easier than changing. Some of the jobs even have some charm or side-benefits. But they work, by and large, because they have to. (Entrepreneuers, like the Pergamon tanners, aside).
posted by adoarns at 9:58 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really don't think that the vast majority of people only want to spend less time at work because of brain washing by advertising executives. People don't like working. They like sitting on their asses.

Hence, MetaFilter.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:08 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


miyabo:If you don't go to college, you're indicating that you weren't willing to bet 4 years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition money on your own career success.

The problem is that some don't have tens of thousands of dollars to bet, and some bet tens of thousands of dollars that is not their own (ie, their parents pay), so it's kind of a crappy filter in that respect.
posted by cottonswab at 10:10 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The general criticism is that people are told constantly, "Do what you want, do what your heart tells you, follow your dreams," and thus they're either constantly pouring time and money following a career dream rather than a life dream, or feeling crushed by work.

Is it the advertising industry that tells us that? I mean, other than when they're trying to sell us vacations or investments? I'm not sure where the push is for this message but I'm not sure it's advertising. Maybe self-help books, Oprah, and folk wisdom.

So, why not treat it as "just work," something to be done because it's just got to be done, like laundry or taking a shower?

If a household chore took ten hours of every day from me, I'd be doing anything I could to minimize that impact, too. As is I take five minute showers.

Nobody wants their kid to aspire to some day be the night shift janitor at the steel mill. No one dreams of ending up as a pig farmer. We think of these jobs as the kind of thing you end up doing if you aren't smart enough or talented enough to do anything "more important" or "better".

I don't think that's because people don't realize that these jobs are important. Rather, jobs (and the people who do them) are esteemed in terms of how many or how few people can do the job. Anyone can sweep a floor. A limited number can do brain surgery. The person who can reliably sink three-pointers seems to get the most $ and esteem of all (or line drives, or aces). It's almost entirely about the rarity of the skill, and not at all what value it holds for society (hence the sports examples).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:13 AM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


That doesn't mean that manual labor is surrounded with a soft-focus glow of honor and dignity.

There's been a lot of construction across from my building this past year, and it has provided all sorts of opportunities for people to expose these sorts of sentiments. Meanwhile, I have a friend who has actually been working that site. He likes his job but isn't starry-eyed about it. Who is? Office workers.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:22 AM on December 9, 2009


I was so sure this was a double, but, no.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:28 AM on December 9, 2009


Mike Rowe had an epiphany when he bit the balls off that this was so clearly the better method, but did he take it any further than that? Did he look into how all these other institutions came to believe that the band method was more humane? Could there be reasons for that determination that are bigger than the fact that one rancher uses the ball biting method successfully?

I say, never trust an well paid hollywood guy on how the blue collar guys are the most happiest, just like his happy lambs.
posted by bonsai forest at 10:33 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this. As much as I try to convince my higher-paid, desk-jockey friends and acquaintances that hard, physical work makes me happy, and fulfills me, I still have trouble convincing myself some days that I wouldn't be better off a drone like them, just for a couple of extra bucks.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:36 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The pressure's just too great. You're ab...you're absolu...they're too important. All of them. You go in the door. I..."I got to close this fucker, or I don't eat lunch," "or I don't win the Cadillac..." We fuckin' work too hard. You work too hard. - Dave Moss, Glengarry Glen Ross
posted by porn in the woods at 10:36 AM on December 9, 2009


The Sons of Martha
posted by rocket88 at 10:48 AM on December 9, 2009


For those of us who want to work as little as possible, office work works.

Well, to an extent I agree. But something I've come to realize is that stuff ("watch YouTube, share music, play Flash games, and kill time") is ultimately not really fulfilling (and although I only speak for myself, I know it's true of many other people I know... /anecdote).

For a while it was fulfilling (I had not had very much exposure to broadband connections). When I started working I used to spend all my down time at work on metafilter, watching TED videos, etc. etc. Then I got bored because I actually wanted to do a lot of the things I read about online (example), things I don't necessarily have the time or energy to invest in when I'm off work and I'm tending to my relationships, going through all the mundane parts of independent living, and just relaxing.

So I started spending my down time figuring out how best to get out of this... trap? And then I came up with a plan. So now I spend my free time at work brushing up on my math skills, exploring technical manuals and getting ready to become an apprentice electrician. I really want to get a good background on all of the jobs that society could not function without, especially the trades (electrical systems, metal machining, welding, plastics, masonry, carpentry, plumbing/water/sewage systems, etc.) and agriculture which seem the most foundational. Unfortunately there is no university program anywhere that offers anything like a tour of these fields, so I'll just have to do it myself.

You say it's easier to smash the system from within, and although i take it that you're joking I personally find the society ("the system") we live in to be quite horrific on a number of levels, especially when it comes to how much we work, what kind of work we're doing, and how that work affects the broader world. Office work is a good start in working as little as possible (in that access to the internet gives you the opportunity to get an education on how the world works and how it could be better) but the only way to REALLY work less is to create a better world in which we don't have to work as much, and the only way to do that is to get out there and make it. Which is a lot more interesting than anything made possible by working less (hard) anyhow.
posted by symbollocks at 10:52 AM on December 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I love washing dishes. I do. Of all the menial jobs I've ever had, and believe me there've been plenty, dishwashing is the most satisfying. A constant stream of filth and clutter flows in, organized and gleaming clean plates and cutlery comes out. In the middle of that process is me; sweating, soggy, and usually smiling. There've been days when I worked as a restaurant manager that I PRAYED the dishwasher would call in sick so I could avoid the glad-handing and paperwork and above all the PEOPLE by donning an apron and jumping back into the dishring. If I could make $20 an hour, I'd happily wash dishes for a living.

Thing is, I hate responsibility. I hate being in charge. I hate it when others look to me for answers. But I also hate it when those in charge don't bother to fix the stuff that's broken or to deal with the people who'd rather goof off than work. So I would usually end up getting promoted beyond my comfort zone (the Peter Primciple in action) and then
fucking shit up because I'd reach a level of complete overwhelming task-paralysis.

Everyone wants to be a leader, seems like. Not me. I'm fairly certain that the only place I'd lead any given organization is right off a cliff. But I'm a hell of a follower. I'd just prefer to do so from back here by the Hobart, wreathed in steam, ankle-deep in muck, engaged in the process itself, for the sake of the process itself.

Fuck goals. I'd rather just keep my hands busy.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:02 AM on December 9, 2009 [33 favorites]


Mike Rowe had an epiphany when he bit the balls off that this was so clearly the better method, but did he take it any further than that? Did he look into how all these other institutions came to believe that the band method was more humane?

"According to research conducted in Great Britain, surgical castration is the most painful method of castration as lambs surgically castrated have higher amounts of cortisol in their bloodstream as compared to lambs castrated using other methods. Surgical castration also has the greatest potential for infection and fly infestation."

Source. (Caveat: I know nothing about castrating sheep, but I certainly wouldn't reach a conclusion on which is the "right" way without surveying at least a reasonable sample of sheep farmers.)

Well said, symbollocks. You are very right. Work (or avoiding it) for me is not fulfilling, though it can be a lot of fun. I do agree with you philosophically, and I once had similar dreams/goals. Now, I'm afraid I'm not a good enough person to actually do it. (I have a feeling that you're a few years younger, with quite a bit more energy and optimism about the world.)

Anyway, I wasn't joking about smashing the system. Well, maybe not smashing, but destroying slowly bit by bit. The all caps was a CALL TO ACTION. I will not go into any more details.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:34 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sound's like we need some Nash equilibrium. Everyone's going after the blonde, so soon no one will get laid.
posted by jefficator at 11:47 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, this book seems to be appropriate, given the topic:Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
posted by caution live frogs at 11:49 AM on December 9, 2009


bonsai forest: Mike Rowe had an epiphany when he bit the balls off that this was so clearly the better method, but did he take it any further than that? Did he look into how all these other institutions came to believe that the band method was more humane? Could there be reasons for that determination that are bigger than the fact that one rancher uses the ball biting method successfully?

My understanding is that the broad majority of ranchers find the band method to be inhumane compared to a sharp knife. IIRC the practice is actually banned in some countries. Look at it like a bandaid, better slowwwwwwly, slowwwwwly, slowwwwwwwwwly until it comes off, or better quick and done?

I am not a shepherd, but I have read several books on shepherding.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:55 AM on December 9, 2009


Fuck goals. I'd rather just keep my hands busy.

The thing with that is that if others didn't have goals you'd have little to keep your hands busy with (unless you set some goals and made some work happen). There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a worker, but it is wrong to somehow think it is any more noble or worthwhile than being the guy who makes decisions or brings new things to the table.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:59 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been a furniture-shifting grunt. There's a lot to be said for a mindless physical job. I've been a word-wrestling desk jockey. There's a lot to be said for a mindful, intellectual job.

IOW, balance is the real trick. Have a bit of both in your life, and life is better.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:01 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Love this thread.

I work as a sysadmin.
I grew up on a cattle ranch.
I just recently gave up on getting my MBA (mostly due to the incredibly shitty Athabasca University economics course).
I'm planning for a herd of goats for next year.
I'm not unhappy doing what I am doing.
But I suspect I'd be a happier goat farmer.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 12:23 PM on December 9, 2009


it is wrong to somehow think it is any more noble or worthwhile than being the guy who makes decisions or brings new things to the table.

Sorry for the offense, milord. If needed, I'll be in the scullery.

It wasn't my intent to impugn the value or question the necessity of those who work with their brains instead of their bodies. Just that I prefer the latter.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:32 PM on December 9, 2009


IOW, balance is the real trick. Have a bit of both in your life, and life is better.

I think you're dead on, fff, but what sort of jobs allow for that balance? The only one I've found that comes close is coaching athletics, but it's a bit of a stretch to call it intellectual. (And it pays virtually nothing (at my level).)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:54 PM on December 9, 2009


Holding two part-time jobs — probably a wise idea these days, given the likelihood that a job will be lost — is one way. Self-employment is another.

Or, you know, have a full time job, and make sure to work out in the garden or go for walks or something.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:07 PM on December 9, 2009


From Piano and Scene, a poem by David Berman in his 1999 collection Actual Air:
As advanced as we consider ourselves,
we still allow ad copy to pander to us.
The scam exposed, it endures with our permission
as a parallel narrative running beside our lives
where we sit with an unbuttered baked potato
and a warm beer in multiple versions of Akron
leavened with foreclusure, heartburn and rain.

[...]

Their genius was to let us criticize them
until it became boring and obvious to do so.

Meanwhile they were up ahead, busily constructing a world
in which boring and obvious criticism
was about the worst thing you could do,
and when we reached them in time they were waiting
with thier multiple Akrons,
always one link ahead in the chain of consent.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 1:10 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watch Mike Rowe deal with aforementioned sheep on youtube. He really is not happy about doing this.
posted by zaelic at 1:13 PM on December 9, 2009


I love Mike Rowe. I've given my wife permission to take a run at him if she ever gets a shot.
posted by SNWidget at 1:28 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having paid for the artist's education and paid and paid to keep the rockstar out of hock, I am very happy with my Master Electrician. After work his hands are rough, his clothes are dirty, and he smells a little wiffy in the summertime, but at least he has a job. And not in Philosophy, his college major!
posted by _paegan_ at 1:38 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I used to be an electrician. Now I'm a network engineer. I realized a while ago that one of the things I like is to work on the "boring infrastructure". The things where if it works, nobody notices. if it doesn't work, nobody can work. There's a parallel there among the two jobs. You don't notice that the light really works when you flick the switch, you don't notice that the network really works when you go to www.metafilter.com.

I will say one thing: Network engineering does have an advantage of heat in the winter, a/c in the summer, and indoor plumbing ALL YEAR ROUND.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:06 PM on December 9, 2009


work as hard as you can.

just make sure you're working for yourself and your family, and that you enjoy what you do.

there, done.
posted by luriete at 3:31 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't listened to the Ted talk yet, but I wanted to share another narration by Mike Rowe involving an epiphany of sorts, and about a man who helped inspire him to take the path that led him to where he is now. It's probably not really on topic, but it is a great story that further confirms the awesomeness of Mike Rowe.
...When he learned that I stuttered, he suggested I audition for the school play. (By “suggested” I mean “demanded.”) After stammering my way through a monologue, he stopped me.

“Mikey,” he said, “This character doesn’t stutter. Understand? Get into the character. You can stutter on your own time.” Without questioning the glibness of his direction, I simply followed it, and read the passage again—flawlessly. A light bulb flashed. New possibilities opened before me.
posted by Balonious Assault at 5:06 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mike Rowe was talked out of a stutter and into orally castrating a lamb. That is one suggestible fellow!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:23 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Girls/women love manual workers, anniecat, I think you raise a good point. I have a good well paid office job, not many people can do what I do, but I cannot mention it, girls are very disappointed.
posted by niccolo at 6:25 PM on December 9, 2009


“Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America has great insight on the symbiotic relationship between modern corporate culture and the self-help/motivation industry.”

I have a fairly ‘important’ type job. High pressure, makes a difference, all that. My mother in law sustained a brain injury a bit back. So I call in work and tell them I’m not coming in for a while. Had a guy above me that was one of these kinds of assholes. Wanted to know if I could come in that day to finish a few things. I explained, with much profanity, the general hierarchy I have in my head concerning my family and everything else in this shitpile. He was taken aback. Granted, somewhat by my ferocity (and both methodology of my profanity and specificity in insult) but mostly that I prized family over work.
I got away with it for the most part because I excel at what I do. But I see other guys get grief for their priorities. I mean, it’s not like I said “Hey, I want to eat some thanksgiving turkey with my kids.” My wife’s mom may have been dying.
I don’t know of anything other than being with her when she needed me that would be worth more. No amount of money. No work situation. Nada. If, perhaps, there were some sort of literal nuclear level threat or some such, but damn, how serious do people think their work it? Even doctors hand off a case if someone in their family is dying on them.
Anyway, last thing the guy said to me was “Stay strong.” Nice sentiment, but wtf does it have to do with anything?

“I may have a desk job, but at least I'm not castrating lambs with my teeth.”
At least? Oh you mean like it’s a bad thing. ☺

“You wouldn't believe the difference in how people treat you. You just can't imagine, not unless you've been there.”

Weird. I’ve always treated blue collar guys better. But I’ve always enjoyed the company of people who do things. And my dad was one. I’ve caught it going the other way as well. Cut down a bunch of trees on my property (not to the Mr.T level, but…). Had a guy out to do the stumps (strangely the village took exception to my plan to use explosives), he asked me who I got for the trees. Didn’t want to believe I did it myself. Just me, some rope and trigonometry. Well, I had a tie on. S'weird how we don't expect folks to do more than one sort of thing with any reasonable degree of competence.

“….I personally find the society ("the system") we live in to be quite horrific on a number of levels, especially when it comes to how much we work, what kind of work we're doing, and how that work affects the broader world.”

Yep, who wants a job? Most people should have careers. Why does everyone have to work for someone else? Sure we should have some big outfits in certain areas. But I think we would have far greater production if there were more small business, even cooperative small business, and a system where if you work harder you make more money. Not that there’s a guarantee, but c’mon, why bust your ass if you can make the same take home if you just get your quota done? In whatever field. So all ‘jobs’ are in a sense ‘dirty.’
Not that I'd have any idea how to make any of that work.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:49 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to offer a counteropinion, I've had office jobs, and I've had manual labor jobs. It's true that I don't like coming into the office, but nothing fills me with dread like showing up every morning to the construction site/lumber yard.

To offer a counter to the counter, I've worked in sawmills, I've dug ditches, washed dishes, pulled wire, picked fruit, all the rest. And for the last couple of decades I've had a variety of jobs that had me sitting in front of a computer, or a class.

Despite being too old and soft now to reasonably expect to be able to do it any more, I sometimes miss those manual labour jobs. I learned a lot of lessons from doing them, good MikeRowe-ian ones, but I actually do miss being strong, using my body, escaping in some way into the work and letting my mind roam free while I flipped 100kg wetwood slabs on the conveyor.

Is it the creeping nostalgia of middle age? Perhaps, to some extent. But I think it is entirely possible to honour and even love work without conceiving of it as anything more than good, honest, hard labour that needs to get done.

And I know that the satisfaction I have when I build a website these days is not in many ways different from the satisfaction I had standing back and looking at the kilometres of cedar berm along the main road of my hometown, standing in ditches I dug by hand in the blistering sunlight for 5 bucks an hour.

Except at the end of that summer, I was made of leather and steel, and now I'm made of somewhat softer stuff.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:58 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I work as an electrician so I guess its manual labor
The thing I like most about my job would be just the sense of accomplishment standing back
and admiring my work after I have finished building something
seems silly but I even take pictures sometimes :-)
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 7:07 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's really strange that I haven't seen (m)any tales from science graduate students in this thread...

On the whole, we're legally paid less than the federal line for 'below poverty,' if we don't manage to win a grant from somewhere. The work is often repetitive and menial - if we don't have an overeager undergrad to do it for us (if we even trust them to do a decent job) - our supervisors/mentors (bosses) often ask us to proceed with overcomplicated things that we either already know or suspect won't pan out. (YourSupervisorWillDefinitelyVary) In my field, I've seen grad students work between 20* hours a week to 90+. The median is around 60-70. This is real work, not just surfing on the web all day, albeit a combination of strings of 18+ hour days for several months straight to 'dropping by to download a paper' a few days every so often skews this figure into popular meaninglessness.

Add onto that that we have to pay tuition even when we're no longer taking classes.

It's a "good" life, I guess, given how many people I know who aren't pushing their PIs to let/make them graduate.

Me? I'm sick and tired of being a student. But then again, with the economic climate there aren't a lot of funds to pay post-doctorates, much less funds to hire new academic professors...

Hopefully, I'll graduate before my funding (which was granted just before the big economic downturn which screwed a lot of funding agencies) runs out. Good luck to me finding fudning to go to a lab that I want versus a lab which has funding who also concomitantly wants me. Maybe the economy or politics will be favourable to increasing research jobs when I'm at the tail end of my post doc(s).

I'm not holding my breath.

Is my time in academics "worth" it in terms of what (relatively low) amount of money that I'll be able to earn? Is my time in academics worth my not being a garbage collector or toilet polisher?

As a toilet polisher, on average, I'll have the same total lifetime earning potential if I get a stroke at 50 as a toilet polisher who lives to city worker retirement age of 65.

*quite outside the norm, rather interested on how this person works out - graduate- ...eventually, ...on-time, ...on a 'I'm preggers'-I-have-enough-2nd/3rd/4th-authors,... or....?!
posted by porpoise at 9:17 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Er, crud - as a biological scientist, on average, rather.

Yes, I should have gone into toilet polishing.
posted by porpoise at 9:22 PM on December 9, 2009


All this being said, the conclusion to Office Space was satisfying, wasn't it?

Fuckin' A.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:00 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that we are inundated with some societal norm that begins at childhood and pervades until death that: we must hate our jobs unless we absolutely love our jobs.

In fact, our lives are filled with false dichotomies that should be overcome.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:36 AM on December 10, 2009


I had an epiphany when a link to an interactive map of the five boroughs (Google-fu is weak today) told me that a $40K a year salary is considered "low income" for NYC. That's $14K more than what I made when I first moved to the East Coast six years ago and by comparable standards, the fact that I rent on my own, am consistently paying off some credit card debts, and actually have some money left over before the next paycheck is good. This is based on having an English degree and six years of experience at various "office bitch" type jobs.

I bitch a lot about my job and I know that workers like me are a dime-a-dozen in this city, but at the same time, I am proud of what I know how to do well. This trade-off between what I want to do (edit/publish) and what I currently do (help rich people buy expensive apartments) seems so incongruous sometimes that it boggles my artsy-fartsy mind. The mental divide between my status as a middle-class raised, college-educated person and the clients we work with is so vast sometimes!
posted by TrishaLynn at 10:02 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Completely anecdotal, but at least two of my friends who have fancy educations have married men who are skilled workers rather than educated office types.

Counter data point (FWIW): a colleague of mine recently had a personal "issue" with regard to the man she was seeing, in that he's a "blue collar guy". Now, this could be code for several things, some more valid than others, but what this apparently breaks down to for her is that it doesn't bother directly so much as it bothers her what her friends think about it. Which, to me, makes her just a bit of an asshat. However, if she's correct (in what her friends will think about it), it certainly does present this as a thing, out there. Some kind of stigma.

Another female colleague of mine likes to talk about dropping law for various non-professional jobs. It took me a little while to realize that this was all fantasy; it would never happen. When I asked her why, I was a little surprised that she flat out admitted that status was at least part of her reasons for staying put. I thought the admission equal parts impressive (for its honesty) and depressing.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:42 PM on December 10, 2009


« Older A day with mental health professionals in North Lo...  |  Want to know what philosophers... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments