Edition: 032317 – Words: 1030 – Audio: 08:32
We always hear this so often from politicians… something like, “Obamacare has failed hard working Americans”, or, “We need to cut taxes so hard working Americans can afford to live the American dream.”, or, “Illegal immigrants are taking the jobs away from hard working Americans.” (um.. if their jobs have been taken away, how can they be hard working? Nevermind.. not the theme of this post.)
Let’s add to that “All Americans want is their jobs back so that they can do an honest days work.”, or, “Let’s get those people off welfare so they can do an honest days work.” (the presumption there is that getting “free” money is somehow dishonest)
I suppose there IS a difference between “a hard days work” and “honest days work” but it politically still means the same. It’s usually populist patronizing phrases often used to identify common working folks, which is generally everyone who has a job. But it NEVER means the wealthy. Where did all this originate from?
I’m guessing these phrases became popular in the early 20th century but we seem to conceptualize the an image of Depression era, or some “Grapes of Wrath” dust bowl folks, we see in books. When it’s used politically the phrases conjure up an image of the average joe working in some trade… likely a production line or assembly plant or some occupation that has repetition to it; maybe even in the mines or in construction. An occupation that works up a sweat and is physically demanding. It’s a job he never dreamed of doing as a kid but probably does it because there’s not a lot of choice or it’s been the family occupation for generations. When he goes home at the end of the day it’s to a loving and dedicated wife (who doesn’t work) and two kids who live in a place just a level up from being homeless. He struggles to pay the bills and goes to church on Sundays. Oh.. and you have to have dirty hands/fingernails at the end of the day to illustrate how hard you worked.
Conversely, while we might have an image of what constitutes someone who does an honest day’s work, we might presume to guess what constitutes those people who don’t do an honest day’s work. You know the type.. those are the people who might get the feedback, “he hasn’t done an honest day’s work in his life.” I suppose one could presume to think that people who earn money doing illegal things, like mob bosses or hit men or international thieves or something like that might be included in that category. If “he” hasn’t done an honest day’s work in his life does that mean he’s only done a dishonest day’s work? Obviously it was part of a moral belief that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
Ok.. but if the image is one of an average joe in some hourly trade occupation where he works up a sweat, what about all us other workers in life who don’t have jobs in the trades nor work up a physical sweat? Are we suggesting that people who make a salary wage are all working a dishonest day’s work? Are they even doing a hard days work? I’m presently a security guard and likely the so called “average joe, honest-day’s-work” guy belongs to a union and makes far more an hour than I do, but because I am not in a physically demanding trade am I making a dishonest day’s work? In fact, how many security guards do you know that perform “a hard days work”?
But let’s return to this idea about 21st century Americans actually performing a hard days work. It’s likely if you work in hard-hat type jobs like construction or in the mines, harvesting the fields, or doing any of those “Dirty Jobs”, one might fit the image of doing “hard” work. But I think OSHA has pretty much stifled the vast majority of people doing “hard work”. I mean, we get daily breaks, meal times, casual dress days, regulated work environments; union shops have specific contractual work and production controls, paid sick days, lots of paid holidays, paid vacation days…even getting overtime pay. I mean, can anyone reading this actually say that their job is a personal self-sacrifice grind that physically exhausts you at the end of the day, that you would never do if you had a choice but you do it to support the family, and that you are the sole family income producer?
Now, to be sure some families might be economically on the brink and, in fact, there are sole family providers. But this is far from the bulk of the country these days. Financially struggling does not necessarily mean your job is a weary drudge of inhuman compliance in long hours for a paycheck. Even at the height of my career, working long hours was a choice because I wanted to do that. In fact, most of my career I was salaried… and I did have periods of working long hours, because I enjoyed the job and responsibility. I was never a prisoner of a paycheck.
Anyway… this post is not to cast aspersions toward those who do work physically hard jobs. I am just saying that I find it a very patronizing stance when politicians try to sound “in tune” with America by trying to identify with “hard working Americans” or folks doing an “honest days work” as if it was some noble character builder.
When some politician rambles on about how in this economy Americans only want a job so that they can work “an honest day’s work, for an honest day’s wage” to support their family, we can safely assume he really means Americans want a job that pays a lot for not doing a lot (the true American dream), but for now will likely accept a lesser paying job to pay the bills.
A “hard days work” is getting scarce.