Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post No. 161: Back in the Day When a Man was Worth Something


© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

For years we thought that we learned more by talking more. However, after much pain and deliberation, we have concluded that some people learn more through listening to others, and we might be members of that group.

Despite some of the drawbacks of riding public mass transit, one has the opportunity to listen to the conversations of others; and learn something.

During a prior adventure on the bus, we learned what is wrong with the American education system. During our most recent trip, we learned what is wrong with the American male, or at least a large number of them.

We previously examined the types of friends college students should consider making in Hanging Out with the Right Crowd, and Hanging Out with the Left Crowd. We also discussed young couples getting past giddiness, tingling, and increased blood flow in There Has to be Something More. Today, we explore some Common Sense thoughts which young women should consider in evaluating their man.

There are times, when the Personal Responsibility Freaks of the Universe (including the Members of this Institute), take this responsibility notion too far. We all have to recognize that personal responsibility is a goal to which we should aspire, not a mechanical device on sale at Wal-Mart. But many environments in which we operate, frequently called “systems,” are more mechanical in nature.

The lady on the bus commenting about men of an earlier time was responding to a man alluding to the kind of relationship where the woman wakes up at 5 am to prepare breakfast for her man, before he heads to work. She suggested that she did not have a problem getting up at that hour, if the man had a job to which he planned to go.

But what if the man doesn’t? And what if the disparity between the wages paid a woman and those paid a man for the same task motivate an employer to hire women instead of men?

At one point in our nation’s history, when we were primarily an agriculture-based economy, a man and a woman might stake a piece of land, and try to make something of it. At a minimum, they generated food sufficient to put on the table, or produced enough offspring to increase that probability. Even if the crops were unsuccessful, at least the man had the opportunity to wake up every day, head to the fields, and try to generate something, along with the illusion that he was a man of some value.

But humankind’s greatest invention, cities, changed all that, initially for the better. When industry was everywhere, and jobs aplenty, men could at least fake some self-esteem, pride, and the ability to take care of their families. But as pointed out in Does Anyone in America Have a Real Job Anymore?, as we transitioned into a service economy, finding those clearly recognizable jobs became more difficult.

There used to be a day when a man with a 2nd or 3rd grade education could still respectfully provide for his family. That’s more problematic today. In many inner cities, the transportation and distribution of drugs have become the local economy, on which many young men depend.

Just last week, we saw one of the most powerful pieces ever produced by CBS’ 60 Minutes. It was the story of the dramatic increase in the number of children below the poverty line in recent years. At this point in our history, roughly 25% of children in America live in families whose incomes fall below the poverty line.

Scott Pelly interviewed the parents and their children, and it was apparent that these people enjoyed a middle class existence for years. Now they live in cheap motels in dangerous neighborhoods. You could see the anguish on Pelly’s face as he interviewed the articulate parents and their bright children.

Were the parents the slackers of the world? Drug addicts and other criminals? Entitlement seekers living off the government? Worthless minorities? Absolutely not. These folks were just like you and the Members of this Institute. Just regular, hard-working, law abiding citizens.

The children were obviously most acutely affected by their change in status. Many of them were ashamed of their fathers. “How could you have let this happen to us?”

So who or what is at fault when a woman perceives that her man, or any man, is no longer a man of value?

And has no worth?

Maybe, just maybe, finding someone with a stable job and prospects for the future might be more important than being in love. Maybe that’s the Personal Responsibility message.

But we as a nation need to figure out how to better deal with this issue, which has long-ranging ramifications.

22 comments:

  1. Hie! Thanks for dropping a comment in my blog. I like sharing and glad u appreciate it =)

    I think finding someone with a stable job and prospects for the future is as important as being in love. One thing less to argue about!

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  2. An outsider may ponder what is actually happening to American society. To what levels of 'poverty' it is actually sinking compared to the level it was content enough to see in other parts of the world without feeling particular distress.

    Wealth has surely been created by joint effort - invention, unskilled labour, skilled labour, organisation, distribution, etc.; it has obviously increased in volume over the last 200 years, but sharing it out has not been a joint effort. Not ever.

    You let an ambitious, greedy, clever minority control the distribution and use of this wealth, and nobody knows what to do about it.

    You have swallowed the lies about 'big government', 'socialism',and other ideas that would share wealth more justly.

    You allowed the rich to outsource your jobs to the masses controlled by dictators, and to hide their wealth abroad so it can't be taxed.

    You the middle-class i am talking to. You who had enough shopping-power not to think about the inadequates across the tracks, and certainly not across the ocean.

    'But we as a nation need to figure out how to better deal with this problem which has long-ranging ramifications.' ?. 'Figure' all you want - the power is in the hands of others, and THEY will do something when the stink and anger of poverty gets uncomfortable. For them.

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  3. Courfubob,

    You made two statements that especially interested me:

    You let an ambitious, greedy, clever minority control the distribution and use of this wealth, and nobody knows what to do about it.

    You have swallowed the lies about 'big government', 'socialism',and other ideas that would share wealth more justly.


    Wouldn't putting the power and means of distribution into the government's hands be the the same as letting "an ambitious, greedy, clever minority control the distribution and use of this wealth?"

    And wouldn't that be theft of someone's labor and its rewards? And wouldn't that lead to a lack of initiative on the part of the populace if you took away that reward for initiative and hard work?

    I remember, as a child, that I was bored in school. The curriculum did not advance as fast as I would like, we went over the lessons repeatedly and I became indifferent to it. I was told by teachers that they had to "teach to the lowest common denominator." Is that what you want society to do also?

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  4. Sue Lin:

    You're welcome, and thanks for participating in our forum. It's a little difficult in some instances today to predict whether someone will continue to have that stable job to which you refer.

    By the way, what would you say to returning to family arranged marriages?

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  5. CorfuBob:

    You made some very interesting comments and we will defer responding to them until we have an opportunity to hear from some others. Your comments were particularly interesting because you live outside of the U.S.

    Thanks.

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  6. Douglas:

    Thanks as always. Very good points you raised. We'll follow this one with interest.

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  7. True its difficult to predict. Another thing to look at will be the way a person makes decisions, on what basis they do the things they do? Have the researched it or are they simply using gut feeling?

    Personally i wouldnt want to revert all the way back to family arranged marriage. There are plus points for such things, these marriages are heavily based on astrology which can be really accurate! Lol.

    A negative side would be u'll probably end up with someone u practically grew up with, someone of the same race... or for certain ethnical groups u'll end up with someone from the same cast. No variety. And no love

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  8. Douglas - thanks for your smart questions.

    The anonymous rich who control your politicians and therefore the population are totally unaccountable.

    The state can be designed to manage the economy more fairly than individuals driven by greed only. Such a state does not have to be a dictatorship.

    People who think they deserve what they 'earn' are thieves to start with. Surely your home-grown model of 'free enterprise' has shown this by now! Everyone who produces wealth deserves a proportion of this as reward, but not a fixed proportion. Was not your own economy leading the world when Eisenhower was in power, and how much were the really high earners taxed then? 90% was it?

    '(take) away that reward for initiative and hard work' ?

    You are not a simpleton Douglas - i admire your knowledge and balance, but the hard-working are rewarded the least in your current environment, both in cash and respect terms. However the reason your question is artless is because it seems to limit 'reward for initiative' to cash reward.

    Also you have a huge and growing sub-culture of damaged young people with no chance at all of earning enough to live regardless of the incentives they are offered.

    And spending tax-payers money trying to correct this decline or help the sufferers is labelled as 'socialist' 'liberal' or worse - especially by those who avoid paying tax anyway.

    Yes Douglas, too damn right, i want the teachers to build up the less bright, and society to reward the low-achievers with cash and respect at the cost of the bright and ambitious. Tell us what you think is wrong with that - do you hold up your cities as an example of a better enlightenment?

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  9. Sue Lin:

    Charlie Rose once interviewed a young man who was part of an Indian family dynasty. Noting that the young man had been exposed to both Eastern and Western cultures, Rose asked the man whether he felt that family arranged marriages or modern marriages based on love were preferable.

    The interviewee said family arranged marriages because they took into consideration many societal factors beyond the issues affecting the two individuals involved. Additionally, he said that if the couple fell in love, that was "icing on the cake."

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  10. CorfuBob and Douglas: The concept of "proportionality" is one which enters our thought process with more frequency as we age.

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  11. I laughed when i read " if the couple fell in love, that was "icing on the cake." !!

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  12. Corfubob, I offer nothing except questions based on my experience and observations. No system is perfect so I tend to lean toward ones that offer the most freedom. Those (maybe not so) mysterious "puppetmasters" who control the politicians will still be there and they will still control them, regardless of the system or its design. The faces might change but they will still be there.
    I do believe that those who work hardest are often the least rewarded. I learned that as I wandered my way through life. But the opposite is not true, the ones who work the least are not the most rewarded.

    What I found was that I could work hard and move up to where I used my muscles less and my mind more. And, at each step, I was rewarded more. Not being ambitious or especially greedy, I sought my niche and found it. I worked my way up the chain. Most people do. The ones at the top, those "puppetmasters", did not simply appear at the top, they had to work their way there.

    In a world where some distant "others" (government) determine how much I should be rewarded, and maybe what I should be doing, so that wealth is equitably distributed, my freedom of movement would be restricted.

    Now, being a clever person, I would likely follow a path that allowed me the greatest reward and the most power within that system. I might become the "puppetmaster" or I might become a "puppetmaster's" puppet. It is human nature for some to seek power and control. And since all systems of human governance are designed by humans, and therefore prone to flaws, none will ever be able to prevent that.

    In other words, take away the current rewards and new ones will become apparent. The path to the top may be different but there will still be one. And the ambitious and the greedy and the power hungry will find that path and follow it. Always.

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  13. How does one define "work?" Sweat, caloric expenditure, time expenditure, the physicality of the activity, the ease or difficulty associated with the activity, the difference between the beginning status and the ending status?

    Does someone sitting in an office work as hard as someone working in a mine? Who deserves more for their effort? Should a poor kid who works his or her way up through the ranks be rewarded more than a rich kid who does whatever?

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  14. Well asked, Inspector. We sometimes forget that mind work is also hard work, or can be. I have met, along the way, those who enjoyed physical labor. They liked working in construction, the physical part. They disliked working in the mental part; the planning, the designing, the coordinating, and the sales. They didn't want to run a company, they just wanted to exchange their labor for a good wage.
    I also met those who saw the physical labor as a way to learn the business so that, one day, they would be able to be the contractor.

    Where I worked (a rather large telecommunications company), I found the work force pretty much divided in this manner:

    1. The "drones" - the people who did enough to get by, who had little curiosity and initiative. They were/are people who put out enough effort to accomplish assigned tasks but no more. These were the less than 80% productivity folks.
    2. The "workers" - The people who had some curiosity and initiative but still did not do more than was needed. These were the "100% but no more" types.
    3. The "Stars" - The people who routinely sought more to do, whose efforts exceeded the other two types. They tended to operate at 120%, picking of the slack from the "drones." Among these would be the ambitious who wanted to move up into management and become "important."

    At my level, all were paid the same, regardless of which category best described them. Equitable distribution of wealth.

    Is the soldier in the field more important than the aide in the General's office? Is individual soldier worth more than a the general?

    Is the worker on the floor of the plant an equal to the plant manager?

    We all have different talents and capabilities. Should they be ignored?

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  15. Douglas: Nice breakdown of the working force.

    In some businesses, the people are referred to as "grinders," "minders," and "finders."

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  16. Turner Classic Movies is currently airing a 1958 film starring Robert Mitchum, entitled Thunder Road. It is the story of moonshine runners in the Southeast who drove fast cars to avoid federal revenue officials, and later the Mob.

    During the movie, we thought about the fact that so many otherwise law abiding and God-fearing residents of Southeastern states were engaged in the illegal manufacture, distribution, and sale of moonshine. Did they do so because they were lazy, there were no other jobs available, or because they could make large sums of money?

    To what extent did they engage in this enterprise because of economic conditions? Did their women feel that their men engaged in moonshine business were worth something?

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  17. A lot of really good reading here, if more people read it more would be enriched.

    WORK cannot be defined simply as easy or hard. For each individual how hard work is depends on how hard he/she FINDS IT.

    Also, the reward earned is not simply great or small. It depends on the individual's needs and expectations.

    Relating these two indefinables is hard indeed. Decent morality could provide some guidelines.

    I detect a little defeatism in you acceptance of the status quo Douglas; you could perhaps be less apologetic for the grossest abuses of power and ability that are resulting now in a spiralling of social injustice in the States; the obscene rewards for proven incompetences given to the top CEOs, for example - the cynical purchase of politicians by Corporations through the lobby industry.

    You have not lived your life like this, but are you not aware of the trends excused in some of the reasoning i seem to hear from you? (along with all the common sense!)

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  18. Douglas:

    You indicated that different people have different talents and capabilities, and you asked whether they should be ignored.

    Although in some instances one might justifiably argue that they are ignored, we suspect that in many instances, the decision makers do not care, and in others, they choose to do so for ease of management and efficiency.

    The reality is that in many instances, people are lumped together in categories and pigeon-holed frequently because it takes too much time and energy for society to truly deal with them as "individuals."

    There are only so many hours in the human day, and humans have to also deal with their own individual frailties and imperfections.

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  19. "To each according to his need, from each according to his ability" One of the most precious jewels of common sense buried (unfortunately) in the grave of communism

    I do agree with the astute comment above - 'The reality is..........' We are all individuals - we have no choice - but to believe it gives us special status in society (as opposed to in Blogger) seems a bit naive.

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  20. "To each according to his need, from each according to his ability" One of the most precious jewels of common sense buried (unfortunately) in the grave of communism

    I do agree with the astute comment above - 'The reality is..........' We are all individuals - we have no choice - but to believe it gives us special status in society (as opposed to in Blogger) seems a bit naive.

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  21. CorfuBob and Douglas: The concept of "proportionality" is one which enters our thought process with more frequency as we age.

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  22. Douglas: Nice breakdown of the working force.

    In some businesses, the people are referred to as "grinders," "minders," and "finders."

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