While riding through Oakland yesterday on the way home from work, I noticed the massive cranes at the Port of Oakland silhouetted against the sunset, the trucks hauling containers shipped from all over the world to be unloaded by these modern metal dinosaurs rumbling alongside me on the crowded freeway. Which, if you have seen the tax rates out here, you will know is anything but free. But I digress.
Oakland is a blue collar town. It’s not much on upscale dining and trendy boutiques downtown. Gertrude Stein was not altogether inaccurate when she said there is no there there. Especially in City Hall. Yet Oakland survives, an unapologetic collection of concrete and steel built by and inhabited by people who do the work.
While I have zero affection for the modern labor movement and its money grabbing, power seeking, no longer needed to protect workers rights, economically illiterate ways, I have always respected the actual workers themselves. That is to say, those who actually do work rather than slough off hiding behind inane union contracts. The people who fit pipe, weld, hammer together buildings or forge iron and steel and copper; the people who stock the shelves and answer the same question fifty times a day without losing their minds; the people who till the land and harvest the crops; the people who stay home all day with the kids — these are people deserving honor and praise, for without them life as we know it would immediately stop.
Although I’m in the office world now, I put in twenty years at different retail outfits. I grew accustomed to the customers snide comments about my position in life and the looks from relatives wondering when I was going to actually do something with myself. I understood. It is ingrained into our culture that there is a strictly adhered to caste system, one where manual laborers and retailer workers share the bottom rung. Because, obviously, there is something wrong with either your work ability or ethic, otherwise you’d be in a white collar gig.
This came to mind last night while spending some time on Twitter. I noticed unrepentant former pornographer Lee Stranahan was on one of his philosophical/societal musing jags. Whatever. However, this tweet, part of a lengthy dissertation on how the left views labor, stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb:
I am wrong in thinking that a person who works as a pipe-fitter their whole life was less ambitious than someone whose career ascended?
He then added:
I said hard work is a virtue. It’s honorable. Beats welfare scams by yards. Don’t expect me to worship at alter (sic) of menial labor, though.
At which point, an anything but shrinking violet conservative named Becca had her Popeye moment (for the benefit of you young’uns, this refers to the moment in most every Popeye cartoon when he would exclaim, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”, open a can of spinach, and then open a can of whoop ass on Bluto) and fired back:
(M)enial labor? How can you be SO condescending? Trust this: it’s harder to be a welder than a corporate executive. I’ve been both.
At which point the two exchanged a few tweets, Becca noting how she has skills:
I have a bachelors in communications. I chose to go back to school to study welding because I hated corporate life.
And was far happier as a welder than she was in the previous ten years spent as a cubicle warrior in marketing (gulp). Meanwhile, Stranahan was being… well, Stranahan. Becca’s parting shot was a classic:
(T)his would be like me calling you a sex fiend, demented pornographer, objectifies women, will do anything for money… Etc. see?
I’m not seeing them exchanging Christmas cards this year.
No, Lee, people who do the work aren’t lessers. In any sense of the world. People who treat others condescendingly because of their profession, however…
PS: A final note. Employment in a lower ranked profession does not always indicate lack of ambition. I know a young woman who works at Walmart who in her spare time the past few years has assembled a team to create a sports blog so ambitious and well received the sport’s governing body has granted it status equivalent to that of any traditional media branch. So there’s that.
PPS: Okay, one more final note. Paul made tents for a living. Jesus was a carpenter. ‘Nuff said.
We can’t all be Lightning McQueen. Some of us have to be Mater. And, frankly, some of us prefer it that way.