Mike Rowe and the War on Work

Posted on March 28, 2009



(Photo credit: osmoothie.com)

Via the Anchoress and American Digest, we have a video of Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” speaking on our own preconceptions and on the value of hard work. You can see the video on either of these fine sites, and it’s well worth the 20 minutes to check it out, as well as reading the Anchoress’ own reflections on work in our culture.

Rowe comes across as a very humble and intelligent man, both on his terrific show and here in this speech. He has some thought-provoking words on the moment when you realize when your own opinions on what you thought was obviously right are turned on their side. But more interestingly, he talks about happiness, work, and how our society has disconnected the two, with the overriding message that less work automatically equals more happiness. And in a brilliant rhetorical moment, he calls this our “War on Work.”

His words really rang true for me. In this country we have absolutely forgotten the¬†intrinsic value of hard work and a job well done, of taking pride in what we do. And it’s absolutely true that we don’t value our skilled tradesmen and those without degrees as much as we should. We look down on them as hopelessly ignorant, and not an ideal to strive for. Mike Rowe’s show is basically all about people who do distasteful but absolutely necessary tasks, and do it cheerfully, experiences which he draws upon here to speak to the fundamental need for “dirty jobs” in all sectors of our economy in order to survive.

Mike Rowe’s right when he says we glamorize certain professions and categorize others. We seem to overvalue a college degree as mandatory to advancement in our society and for the acquisition of security and happiness. This economic crisis shows that not to be the case. All the while, we seek for ways to minimize the amount of work we have to do, since, obviously, the only way we can be happy is if we’re not working. Meanwhile, we demonize those who have happiness and security as having too much, as if hard work and determination won’t get you there, and the only way is to cheat yourself into it.

It was once implored, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The Protestant work ethic used to be something that was celebrated and strived for in this nation. In its stead, we now have a drive for comfort and convenience in every aspect of our lives, so much so that we in the end forsake personal responsibility and any potential bad consequences of actions to create for ourselves a false sense of security and happiness that in reality is as fleeting as anything else. Rowe’s words give us something to think about as we double down on our entitlement mentality, for we need to be reminded that we are our own best resource. Not government, not academia, not Wall Street or Main Street – ourselves.

Posted in: News, Politics