Utne Reader Jan/Feb99 Paul Brownlow

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Jan/Feb Utne Reader

Submitted by: Paul Brownlow

Breaking The Job Lock by Andrew Kimbrell, Utne Reader, January-February 1999, p. 46-49.

Andrew Kimbrells article discusses how society has designed the work world improperly. He opens the article by illustrating a typical Monday for many adults who go to jobs that are stressful and meaningless. He believes politicians should not only create more jobs, but they should create more meaningful jobs, which are good for mind, body, and spirit.

Many of the terms used to express work had negative meanings in early history according to Kimbrell. The term job came about after the industrial revolution in England. Many people were forced to work in factories rather than at home. This was considered a demeaning or criminal action (p. 48). Even the terms career and occupation had harsh meanings. Occupation meant to seize or capture, while career meant rapid or unrestrained activity (p. 48). The term profession is the term that we should be using and working towards because it means to declare what we believe and who we are (p.48).

Efficiency is in direct contract to the transformation of work to a profession. Kimbrell says even though we have moved from the assembly lines to modern technology, there is still a push for speed, productivity, and efficiency. The author states because of this push, More than 80 percent of Americans feel their lives are more stressful now than 5 years ago. He feels empathy for the physical and mental needs of the worker must replace efficiency as the paramount value of the workplace.

Many workplaces our run by strict managerial dictatorships. Kimbrell believes this has persisted because unions have not looked beyond wages at the bargaining table. He feels unions need to take a stand and make the workplace meaningful. Because of these harsh working conditions, many people have opted for self-employment, and it is these small business entrepreneurs that are making work environments more friendly.

Another problem with many large companies is there lack of commitment to communities. Corporation downsizing and relocation have caused people to uproot and leave communities they love to follow the jobs they need. Kimbrell says that employers and employees need to commit to each other rather than the almighty dollar.

Kimbrell knows that many people work the jobs they do because they need to pay the bills. Often times he notes, those bills accrue due to frivolous spending to help compensate for stress on the job. He states, We can no longer let wage blackmail run our lives. People must find jobs that meet more than the need of money. Although following this path may be difficult, Kimbrell believes the dividends will be more rewarding.

I enjoyed Andrew Kimbrells article because it does reflect the fast-paced world so many of us live in. For many, efficiency has become a way of life. If you do not get much accomplished in a day, you feel you are lazy. When a person has vacation time it is usually spent doing things around the house, rather than time to enjoy family and your own time.

I appreciate teaching because I do work for a dictatorship. I am able to make my own decisions and the work conditions are good. As a teacher it is nice to have holidays and summers off to enjoy the other things in life. I do agree that many employers do not offer their employees the security and environment that are necessary to meet the needs of their employees. They do whatever it takes to make a profit. When this happens, people are no longer seen as people, but as producers.

I share Kimbrells feelings about what has happened to our communities and families. As I reflected, I realized that jobs do dictate how a community operates. Neighborhoods seem to be a thing of the past because people are to busy working. They do not have time and are too tired to plan a gathering with the people in their neighborhood.

Something else that effects communities and families is the commitment or lack of by corporations and customers. I agree that corporations need to consider their employees before they decide to downsize or relocate. Often times they do this in order to raise their margin of profit, which is usually the bottom line for business. The same is also true for customers and community members. They must also be committed to the community they live in by supporting it however they can. That might be supporting the local hardware store even the cost of a product may be cheaper at the department store in the next town. Thus, commitment by everyone is necessary to keep communities and families from becoming detached.

According to Kimbrell, wage blackmail is prevalent in our society. People feel trapped in their job because they have to work to pay the bills they have accumulated. I agree that consumers, including myself, have become engulfed by the material revolution. There are so many things available to purchase that our spending goes beyond our means. Once a person realizes that material possessions do not grant happiness, they can begin to control their own destiny in the job market.

Work has always been a dreaded word. People feel it is just part of the daily routine which helps pay the bills. I do not think everyone will find a job they thoroughly enjoy, especially if they do not have any type of training. People, themselves, have to make the choices that either make their job better or move them to a better job.

-- Anonymous, July 07, 1999

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