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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Last night I was talking to my dad on the phone, just called for a quick hi and "I was accidentally billed for X-Rays; did any of you have them?", and my dad starts talking about an article he read about the work-life balance in a magazine called something like "Corporate Life", which, for some unknown reason, gets mailed to his school. Anyway. The article contends that there IS no work-life balance anymore, that employees work hours upon hours, and the key is to be able to switch gears the instant you arrive home, so that your scarce home-time is home-time. To me, this sounded like the brainwashing propaganda of The Man. I replied, "That's SICK" and talked about the European workplace, how Europeans work fewer hours than Americans but are more productive per hour worked. My dad started ranting about how Americans take everything for granted and in China and India they work multiple jobs just to afford things we take for granted and how those people are like the hard-working, upstanding immigrants to this country who "worked two or three jobs just to afford things we take for granted [note the theme] and still kept their foundations whitewashed every weekend [he actually said that!] and loved working because they couldn't in their own country and were happy just to BE here and didn't MIND working hard..." And on and on.

I tuned out pretty much after the whitewashing and returned to rinsing greens for dinner, contributing the occasional "mm" to the conversation. Dad said, "It sounds like you're cooking dinner." I replied, "I should probably get back to that." After I hung up, I realized that these eager, hard-working immigrants probably had wives who kept house and so didn't have to make dinner themselves after their third shift.

5 Comments:

Blogger Ann said...

The implication is, People living in poverty in other countries are content, therefore we don't need to do anything about the current system that demands Americans spend forty or more hours each week making money. We should shut up about having a life outside of our jobs because other people allegedly love working their asses off just to survive.

It's almost a non sequitur; it's definitely unnuanced. It says that no one should complain about X because people in positions of limited power and voice don't complain about X. (Hey, you don't hear poor women bitching about the wage gap, so you damn feminists should quit whining.) Worse, it pretends that people don't complain because they're happy. (There's a wage gap because women prefer "easy" jobs that don't pay well, like teaching and child care, instead of "hard" jobs like CEOs or politicians.) It absolves everyone else of any responsibility and preserves the status quo without asking any questions. That's just dangerous.

I'm kind of interested in reading this article, just to see what else it ignores...

11:59 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Thanks for expressing what I couldn't on the phone, Ann. I'd ask my dad where that article was, but I'd prefer not revisit that topic.

I'm not sure how much of the biog rambling rant came from the article. I think that the bit about immigrants to America in the last century and their whitewashed foundations was my dad's own flourish. His mother was an immigrant, as were his father's parents.

Moreover, my father, the educator, doesn't really know what the corporate world is like. Both my parents sometimes act as though they think Corporate Life is all Roses because the pay is better than in education. Granted, educators are not paid enough, but publishing doesn't pay much, if any, better.

1:04 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

P.S. My dad's attitude struck Greg and me as very Catholic. Be thankful for what you get and don't ask for more. You don't deserve what you have, anyway. Serve others without regard for yourself.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Oh, no, don't ask your dad about the magazine; I wouldn't want to be the reason for another discussion like that. (Disclaimer: I'm sure you agree that your dad's basicallly a great guy. He always struck me as a very nice man who genuinely cares about other people. His job, which I know he's very good at, pretty much requires it. But on this issue, he happens to be...mistaken.)

The thing is that the Catholic perspective has a grain of truth in it, in that you should be concerned about others' well-being and you should be happy for what you have. But that attitude in no way requires you to sacrifice other battles against The System--especially if those others about whom you're so concerned are being harmed by that system. Yes, there are more pressing job issues at stake, like living wages and corporate tax breaks, but that doesn't mean you should stop questioning, doubting, discussing the status quo. All battles complement each other, and, as you recently reminded me, Mr. Holmes' "Everything is connected to everything" is still true.

2:31 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you've said. :)

2:52 PM  

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