Bringin' home the bacon
June 9, 2017 12:20 PM   Subscribe

The Work You Do, The Person You Are The pleasure of being necessary to my parents was profound. I was not like the children in folktales: burdensome mouths to feed.
posted by strelitzia (8 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
That was a very insightful article. Not equating your self worth with your means of income is extremely good for the soul, especially when you find yourself unemployed.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:25 PM on June 9, 2017

I've been fighting the "you are the work you do" mentality a lot lately. What's funny is that it's all come from other people. I'm really firm in keeping a work/life balance.

Except once you mention you teach sex ed for Planned Parenthood that's all they want you to be.

Sure, run our banner high (especially right now), but I came to a bar to get away from work, not to fill you in on our funding status and soothe your concerned looks that in the next fiscal year or two I might be laid off. Even if I were, I'm still a person and I'll bounce back and find something else.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:58 PM on June 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

One of my biggest bugaboos these days is the popular ideology that work is somehow virtuous, that people are so morally, spiritually, and psychologically bankrupt that without wage slavery we'd all just turn into ne'er-do-wells. It's so deeply rooted, even in those you'd least expect.

I'm not the first to be bothered by it of course:

Bertrand Russell - "In Praise of Idleness"

David Graeber - "On Bullshit Jobs"
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:06 PM on June 9, 2017 [9 favorites]

I can't argue with "Go to work. Get your money. And come on home....You are not the work you do; you are the person you are." At the same time, it's OK to be righteously pissed off when your employer doesn't respect you and/or treat you fairly. Of course, Morrison's options at the time were limited by her race and age and her family truly needed the income, so her father's advice was arguably better for both her mental health and happiness as well as peace in the family.

In a better world, the work we do would be in keeping with the person we are. I'm not advocating everyone do-what-they-love-and-expect-the-money-will-follow bullshit, but people should not need to feel they are checking out of their real lives/selves for 40 hours/week in order to make a living, i.e., even relatively menial jobs need not be miserable worksites.

Related: when I was growing up I repeatedly heard "if you're a street-sweeper, be the best street-sweeper you can be". Even as a kid, I didn't buy this. Some jobs simply aren't worth our best efforts, i.e., "adequate" is just fine.
posted by she's not there at 5:04 PM on June 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

it's OK to be righteously pissed off when your employer doesn't respect you and/or treat you fairly

Fuckin damn straight.

when I was growing up I repeatedly heard "if you're a street-sweeper, be the best street-sweeper you can be". Even as a kid, I didn't buy this. Some jobs simply aren't worth our best efforts, i.e., "adequate" is just fine.

Hear, hear.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:05 PM on June 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is part of a genre of magazine essays that frustrate me in that they are too short, in that the conclusions reached at the end feel rushed and poorly supported. I'd love to see a longer, more thoughtful examination of the issues raised by this situation, including the idea that being treated badly at work is just something you put up with to get your money, and therefore somehow doesn't matter.

I did like the idea of her feeling necessary to her family. One of our kids, now 16, started taking up housework a couple of years ago explicitly because he wanted to contribute more to the household and help out. After I entered a long period of illness almost three years ago (still not out), all of our kids very willingly joined in to lift the burden on my partner, who was having to work a full time job, and do all the shopping, cooking, and any housework not being done by our bi-weekly cleaner. They all took up doing their own laundry, for instance, including the 7-year-old, as well as taking on additional jobs according to their time and energy. Our 16-year-old described his desire to do more around the house as wanting to feel like he was doing something that really mattered, that truly helped the family. Now that I'm unwell, they can see very tangibly the way that the work they do lifts their dad's burden. Doing the dishes every day isn't exalted work, but it is important, and the 16yo takes great satisfaction in it.
posted by Orlop at 7:15 PM on June 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

You'd probably love this, Orlop:

Venkatesh Rao, "The Gervais Principle"
The Gervais Principle is this:
Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.
The Gervais principle differs from the Peter Principle, which it superficially resembles. The Peter Principle states that all people are promoted to the level of their incompetence. It is based on the assumption that future promotions are based on past performance. The Peter Principle is wrong for the simple reason that executives aren’t that stupid, and because there isn’t that much room in an upward-narrowing pyramid. They know what it takes for a promotion candidate to perform at the to level. So if they are promoting people beyond their competence anyway, under conditions of opportunity scarcity, there must be a good reason.

Scott Adams, seeing a different flaw in the Peter Principle, proposed the Dilbert Principle: that companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to middle management to limit the damage they can do. This again is untrue. The Gervais principle predicts the exact opposite: that the most competent ones will be promoted to middle management. Michael Scott was a star salesman before he become a Clueless middle manager. The least competent employees (but not all of them — only certain enlightened incompetents) will be promoted not to middle management, but fast-tracked through to senior management. To the Sociopath level.

And in case you are wondering, the unenlightened under-performers get fired.

Let me illustrate the logic and implications of the principle with examples from the show.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:22 PM on June 9, 2017

The year I graduated I worked a lot in that summer. When the summer was over I had about $1,700 saved up. I was looking at the Salt Lake Tribune, and in the real estate ads there was an A frame cabin with two bedrooms, on 1/2 acre at Brighton Ski Resort, at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. It was for sale for $1,500. I asked my dad if I should buy it for the family to use during summer vacations. Did he think we would use it? He said, "No, I don't think so." He knew the divorce was coming, I could not have seen that. However, that land would be worth millions in today's market. Though likely it would have been zoned right out of our hands, for not much, by collusion with developers. Nevertheless I laugh when I remember that occasionally. I still treasure a piece of Murano glass I bought myself with babysitting money, in 1963. It cost me a big $3.50!
posted by Oyéah at 3:39 PM on June 10, 2017

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