Last week we had dinner with friends at a local restaurant. Halfway through the meal, the woman next to me turned to complain about the workers who were coming to her house to do repairs or maintenance. It was not the quality of the work that bothered her; it was her inability to communicate and perhaps relate to them. All were foreign immigrants. "Where are 'our boys'?" she asked me.
In a civilized world I would have formed an answer for her but in the world where I live, a world where restaurants cannot provide a meal without loud music cascading from the ceiling, a world where fellow diners talk as if they were on cable talk shows, I did no more than shrug my shoulders and say "It's a problem."
Here is what I wanted to say:
American Society has spent at least three generations teaching our young people that manual labor is an endeavor that must be avoided. It is demeaning and unpleasant to work with one's hands. We told our children they can do better than that. They didn't need to 'waste their lives' when they could get a college education and do 'so much better.' We fed them TV programs, movies, and stories about fathers who were ashanmed of their jobs and wanted their children to have it better. Fathers were telling their sons to get an education so they didn't have to work in the mines, or fix automobiles, or labor on a farm. These stories told us that these fathers were sacrificing their happiness so their children could have a better easier life. Teachers and counselors reinforced these admonitions.
So we have millions unemployed who have never used a tool and can't fix things to earn money. Or won't.
I might have asked if she didn't see it happening.
I also might have inquired exactly what picture came to her mind when she spoke of 'our boys.'
But she is in her mid-eighties. Not enough time left to do or care anything about it. I know this because I am only a few years behind where she is now.
The Light Refreshment: 1957
3 hours ago